31e législature, 4e session

L133 - Fri 5 Dec 1980 / Ven 5 déc 1980

The House met at 10 a.m.




Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, when the Wine Content Act was first enacted in 1972 it allowed the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to regulate the amount of imported grapes or wine brought into the province for use in the manufacture of Canadian wine. However, the act contains a sunset clause and the most recent extension of the legislation is due to expire as of December 31, 1981. After this expiry date Ontario wine manufacturers will not be able to use imported grapes or wine for blending in the production of domestic wine unless the legislation is extended.

Both the Wine Council of Ontario and the Grape Growers’ Marketing Board have requested that a decision be made at this time regarding an extension of the act to August 31, 1984. This would allow Ontario wine producers to plan for the continued use of imported grapes and wine for not only the current vintage year, but also for the 1982 and 1983 vintages. I strongly recommend renewal of the act as quickly as possible in light of the production requirements of the wine producers of Ontario.

Later this morning I will be introducing the Wine Content Amendment Act, 1980.


Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Ontario government, members of this House and the people of Ontario, I would like to express to the people of Portugal, and particularly to the Portuguese community here in Ontario, our very deep sorrow for the tragic and untimely death of the Prime Minister of Portugal, Dr. Francisco Sa Carneiro, and other members of his party who died yesterday in a plane crash.

Dr. Sa Carneiro was first elected Prime Minister of Portugal one year ago and was re-elected last October. He was a very promising young politician who, in a life devoted to public service, had already made significant contributions to his country. He will be particularly remembered and mourned by the community here in Ontario because he visited Metropolitan Toronto a few years ago and is remembered by many Canadians of Portuguese origin who live in this area.

On behalf of all the people of Ontario, I would like to express our most heartfelt condolences to all those who are touched by this tragic event.

Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to add a word to the sentiment expressed by the government House leader. I want to associate ourselves with his comment and to say what a tragic event this is, particularly since all of us were so pleased to see the return of democratic government to Portugal. Anything which in any way threatens the ongoing stability of the way things are developing there is of great concern not only to Portuguese Canadians, but to all Canadians and citizens of the free world.

It is a personal tragedy for the late Prime Minister of Portugal and his family, and we wish to offer our condolences and very sincere hopes that the process of democratic government will, none the less, continue to flourish in Portugal forever despite this dreadful tragedy.

Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I would like to add my words of condolence to the family of Dr. Sa Carneiro and also express our grave concern at the tragic loss in Portugal of a promising politician in an election campaign. We join in the words that have been put forward by the government House leader.


Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question on the financial affairs of Ontario, but I am not sure what minister might answer. I suppose, in the absence of the Premier (Mr. Davis), the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) or anybody else, I will direct a question to the Deputy Premier. The title must mean something. He should do something to merit it.

Hon. Mr. Welch: If the Leader of the Opposition would like to have a full and complete answer, it is my understanding the Treasurer and Minister of Economics is on his way.

Mr. S. Smith: I am standing on my feet at the moment. Whether he is on his way or not is not much help to me. I am here now.

Mr. Speaker: We do not have a question yet. We have had a reaction to a question.

Mr. S. Smith: It is a reaction to a warning of a question.

Mr. Kerrio: A Friday morning question.

Mr. S. Smith: It is the second to last Friday; let us be reasonable.


Mr. S. Smith: Mr. Speaker, could the Deputy Premier tell us whether his government has any intention whatever of taking action to protect Ontarians, particularly those who run small businesses, those who work for small businesses and those who face enormous increases in their mortgage payments who, as a result of the tremendous increase in interest rates, are going to face bankruptcy or the loss of their homes? Will the Deputy Premier tell us whether the government intends simply to continue to preside over the decline in the character of economic life in Ontario or whether it has some plan to assist the people of this province and to reverse Ontario’s economic decline in the face of these high interest rates?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition knows that during the course of this week he has directed this same question to both the Premier and the Treasurer. He has had answers from both of them that have clearly indicated the concern of Ontario. The situation is being monitored. There was also my interjection that the Treasurer himself could be here to give the answer if the Leader of the Opposition really wanted an answer.

In fact, I am surprised the Leader of the Opposition is here. I thought he would be home resting because I know he is going to be in St. Catharines this evening and the four or five people who will be there to greet him are looking forward to his arrival at Sir Winston Churchill School. But I can assure him under the circumstances there is really nothing that can be added to answers already given to this same question in this House this very week by both the head of government and the Treasurer.

Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary: Notwithstanding the obvious nervousness on the part of the Deputy Premier, since we are going to nominate an excellent candidate in his riding tonight, one who will win the seat for the Liberal Party -- I can understand why his mind would constantly go back to that event because of the clear trepidation which he will associate with it.

10:10 a.m.


Mr. S. Smith: If I could ask the Deputy Premier momentarily to bring his mind back from that feared event in his riding to the question being asked in this House, I would ask him to recognize that each time I have asked the question I have been faced with a government that refuses to take the slightest action, other than waiting to see what is going to happen.

May I ask him now will the government take some action to protect the small business people? Is it not alarmed by the fact there were three to four times as many bankruptcies in Ontario this year as there were in the whole of Canada 10 years ago? Does the government really like to preside over Ontario as it becomes the bankruptcy capital of this nation? Will it take action when people are being hurt with regard to high interest rates? The government has helped some farmers. Will it now help some business people and some home owners as well?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the Leader of the Opposition does not really want an answer. He simply wants to posture on this matter. I remind him that he has had responses from the Premier and the Treasurer this week. He knows the Treasurer is going to be here, but he conveniently thought he would ask the question before he got an answer again. As soon as he gets a second question, he can rush out to the television cameras and get it all on television without any benefit of response. I know the tactic.

I would remind the member not to get carried away with all the cars he sees near the school he is going to tonight because they are all going to the Pen Centre to do their Christmas shopping.

Mr. S. Smith: I would have expected a supplementary from the NDP at least asking for a study of options again, but I guess they do not want another study.

Some hon. members: What is your position?

Mr. S. Smith: Apparently the NDP and the Tories believe it is strictly federal and nothing can be done in the province. I disagree. I believe the province can take action; yes, indeed it can.


Mr. S. Smith: I will ask a question of the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Speaker. Could the minister explain to this House why in the case of the region of Durham, even though the region was a proponent of the proposed waste facility in the first place and is now apparently in the process of changing its mind, the opinion of the region is to rule and the region will be able to get out of this particular facility, whereas in the matter of the region of Haldimand-Norfolk the region was never consulted and simply had the matter rammed down its throat? Could it possibly be related to the fact that in one case the region is represented in the minister’s caucus while in the other the region is represented in my caucus?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I think the member knows full well that the proposal in Ajax, as he said, was just a proposal from the regional municipality. That is a matter of record and that is the way it is. They can determine what they choose to do.

With regard to the second part of his question, the member again conveniently wishes to forget some basic facts. There was no question why that particular site was chosen. It was chosen after a great deal of careful consideration by a very extensive review of this province by MacLaren. There was a great deal of effort, properly documented. I want to say, as calmly as I can, that the member’s insinuation that this was motivated because of one caucus or another is totally incorrect. It happens to be the best site, and that is why it was chosen.

Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The Minister of the Environment is presumably the only person in Ontario who now believes that by coincidence the one site that John White and the Premier bought for this pollution-free community on the shores of Lake Erie turns out to be the best site in Ontario for liquid waste.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: You do not even believe that last statement.

Mr. S. Smith: I do not believe it. I certainly do not believe it, but the minister apparently does.

Since the minister is the only person who believes that site is the best one, when it was not even one of the 17 that were being looked at, would he recognize now that it is possible to have hearings done on that site without taking three years and the other nonsense he has been speaking of? We can have reasonably brief hearings and get the matter dealt with without destroying the environmental assessment legislation which has been trumpeted about this province for the last five years but seems to protect no one.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I must repeat what the Deputy Premier has said. I am afraid the Leader of the Opposition this morning is devoid of new questions. He is recycling a few old ones. It is just a recycle program he is on. He received those answers before. If he does not choose to accept those answers, of course it is his right. But the rules, I thought, were against repetition, and this is a repetitive question.

Perhaps I should send over the MacLaren report. He apparently has not read it because if he had, he would not have made the statement he did during the posing of the question.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The minister has already indicated over the last two weeks that the government intends to ride roughshod over the Environmental Assessment Act with respect to the project in South Cayuga.

We now are led to understand by the minister that the government also intends to ride roughshod over the Planning Act. Rather than complying with the Planning Act as the government normally does in the case of government-owned land, it intends to ignore it or to override it in the case of the land-use designation for the proposed liquid industrial waste site in South Cayuga.

Would the minister inform the House whether the government intends to ignore the provisions of the Planning Act? Or does the government intend to pass legislation that would suspend the regional municipality’s power to zone that part of its territory in South Cayuga? If so, when is that legislation going to come before the Legislature?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I think that too is almost a repeat. If the member looks at the appropriate legislation, there is a vehicle there. He should know. He has quoted the Planning Act. He should read it. I will be glad to send him another copy. The appropriate mechanism is in the Planning Act and other legislation.

Mr. Cassidy: Another loophole; that is what it is. You are the minister of loopholes.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: I can assure the member we have not run roughshod over anyone. I have not heard in this House any suggestions whatsoever of how the opposition would deal with this very significant problem. I really tried to search for one in what was said in the emergency debate. I have looked at that debate rather extensively. There is not one single proposal. I think if we talk about running roughshod over it, we should also talk about what somebody would do about it. The opposite side would do nothing. It is far too important a problem for us to do nothing about and we are going to do something. We are in the process of treating the problem and we will do the best that it is humanly possible to do.

Mr. G. I. Miller: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: The minister has indicated to the House this morning that the government is not running roughshod over the people of Ontario. Why is he not willing to accept the legislation as it is and provide it for the people of the region of Haldimand-Norfolk who have requested a hearing? Why will he not give them the opportunity to go to a fair hearing without it being hammered to them as he is doing?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: For two obvious reasons. One, we are working well within the act. The member may not like that, but it happens to be the very point of the act. This act says we can exempt an environmental assessment process if we choose. That happens to be the law. It has been the law for five or six years. In my time in office, there have been far more processes proceeded with than previously. That also happens to be a fact. All of them are important or they would not be under the environmental assessment process. Members opposite make light of the Samuel Smith Park. We happen to think that was an important one. The extension of highways has been important on occasion. Those are all important projects that have been under the act. They just want to ignore that fact of life that has been in this act for a long period of time. It is convenient to do so.

10:20 a.m.

Even more important, indeed much more important, as has been obvious, what they want is not to live with the terms of the act; they want to use that as a convenient place in which to destroy any possible way of dealing with the problem. They are not interested in solutions; they want to see this thing go on forever so they can make political hay. I really am convinced that is all they are interested in.

Mr. Isaacs: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Why is it that whenever problems arise in regard to liquid industrial waste disposal, be it our request for hearings in the South Cayuga incident or be it the problems they are having in Niagara Falls, New York right now, the minister immediately raises the spectre of illegal dumping of liquid waste in the woods, streams and fields of this province? Does the minister have so little faith in the liquid waste producers in this province, with whom his officials met on October 27, that he thinks they are going to engage in those kinds of illegal practices?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, there may have been one or two responses of that kind, but it certainly has not been the usual response. I do not remember giving that as a response this morning at all. I do not know why it is part of the supplementary question. There was no talk this morning in this House about illegal dumping. I do not know where the member comes from with that particular supplementary question.


Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Minister of Labour which relates to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce brief submitted to cabinet on Wednesday, December 3, 1980. The brief states on page seven, “It has been estimated that if severance pay was awarded on the basis of one week’s pay for every year worked, the annual cost to business in the province would be over $700 million.”

Does the minister realize that this estimate by the chamber of commerce is, on the most conservative estimate possible, equal to 75,000 workers being laid off and entitled to severance pay next year? Does the minister agree with that estimate? Does he not agree that if 75,000 workers are to lose their jobs next year due to shutdowns and layoffs there is even more urgency in getting an adequate severance pay provision written into the law of Ontario before the House rises next week?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I think the government’s position on severance pay has been made very clear. The Deputy Premier and the Minister of the Environment have already outlined it in great detail, so it seems repetitive to go over it again. If the member wishes me to do so, I will.

Mr. McClellan: Answer the question.

Hon. Mr. Elgie: I will. Just hang on, my friend. The member always likes what he wants to hear said first, but if he does not mind I will do it my way. Is that okay with him?

The government remains unopposed to the principle of severance pay. It thinks the committee did not do justice to the Legislature or to the public in reaching conclusions before it had gone through the process it had originally agreed upon. We are not commenting upon the validity of the concept of severance pay because we have no fundamental objection to that; so get that off the record again.

Secondly, I am aware of the brief from the chamber of commerce, but I personally am unable to authenticate the figures they have used. I have heard the figure of $700 million. I think that would refer to all cases of termination, but the amendment the member proposed earlier this week would have confined it to situations of mass terminations. Those are the very sorts of questions we expected that committee to look at. Please let them do it.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Since the committee representing all parties has said quite explicitly to the government that it is time to act now, and since the chamber of commerce estimates indicate there may be 75,000 workers hit by shutdowns next year as compared to about 46,000 so far this year -- in other words, they are suggesting the problem is going to get worse rather than be alleviated next year -- does the minister not agree it is time to act on the recommendation of all parties on the plant shutdowns committee and to initiate the amendment to Bill 191 which will ensure that workers who are hit by mass layoffs will at least be entitled to one week’s pay for every year of service as a matter of severance and as a matter of right?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, let us get back to some of the asides the member made. I do not accept that there are 46,000 laid off. The member knows the position of the Ministry of Labour on the figures it has before it. They would indicate there are considerably fewer people than the number the member used who are either on indefinite layoff or who have permanently lost their positions as a result of plant closures.

Let me now say again for the member’s benefit that this government has no objection fundamentally to the principle of severance. It remains anxious to hear the thoughtful consideration that the committee was supposed to give to the issue, which it now expects that committee to do.

Mr. Swart: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker, the minister must recognize that if these laid-off employees do not get severance pay, they will become a burden at some point on the public sector. The government has made a great fetish of reprivatizing the economy. Does the minister not think this is an area where he should transfer something from the public sector to the private sector and let it accept its responsibility by providing severance pay?

Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, as I look over the record of the more recent shutdowns and some of the earlier ones, I find no evidence that in the great majority of cases severance pay was not given. We are talking about application of the principle universally and mandatorily in legislation. I am saying that the committee had an obligation to review it thoughtfully and to hear all points of view before reaching decisions. We still expect that committee to do so.

Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, do the Liberals not have any supplementaries on this question?

Mr. Speaker: The questions are really repetitive.


Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell), I have a question for the Provincial Secretary for Social Development. I would like to bring to her attention the bizarre treatment of a native Indian named Fred Selby, who has been in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Toronto because of muscular dystrophy. Mr. Selby had his wheelchair taken away for the months of August, September and October of this year because of a disciplinary decision by the hospital authorities related to his drinking.

Will the minister investigate the case? Is the government willing to condone the taking away of the use of a wheelchair for three months from a patient as an acceptable means of discipline in a hospital, and will the minister inform the House what recourse to their human rights handicapped and disabled people have when they are treated that way in provincial institutions of Ontario?

Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the problem the honourable member has brought to my attention. I will certainly speak to the Minister of Health and see if he is aware of it. I am sure, like myself, he would be very distressed if such were the case. I can only assure the members of the House I will look into it immediately.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Would the minister also investigate how a patient, namely, Mr. Selby, could be transferred against his will to a nursing home, largely occupied by psychogeriatric patients, who were much older than he and who were certainly far more impaired in mental function? Further, could the minister assure the House that handicapped and disabled patients will have some recourse in cases like these, where inappropriate placements are being made, that there will be legislation in the Human Rights Code amendments or by some other means to give patients that recourse, and that an appropriate placement can be found in the case of this particular patient, who has not only lost his wheelchair for three months but has also been put into an entirely inappropriate setting?

Hon. Mrs. Birch: I think it would be very inappropriate for me to make comments on the information just presented because I have no facts at the moment. I have indicated that we will have an investigation immediately to find out the true facts of the case. I m sure the honourable member is aware that there will be amendments in the Human Rights Code that will indeed provide those kinds of safeguards for the handicapped people of this province.

10:30 a.m.

Mr. McClellan: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Surely, at the very least, if the minister is not prepared to make a comment beyond the commitment she has made to investigate, she can make a commitment to us here in the House that she will undertake to find a proper placement for Mr. Selby, who has been punished in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and, secondly, as a further punishment sent to an inappropriate placement at the nursing home for psychogeriatrics in question.

Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Speaker, I think I have already indicated I would like to have further information about the whole incident before I comment any further. If the facts that have been brought to my attention are true, yes, we will make sure there is a more appropriate placement for this gentleman.


Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of the Environment. In the light of recent evidence concerning levels of dioxin found in herring gull eggs throughout the Great Lakes, will the minister act to have a ban on the manufacturing of 2,4,5-T in the United States? Will he also investigate his own ministry’s monitoring of the Niagara River to be able to tell us why it has not shown signs of dioxins that are going from the upper Niagara to Lake Ontario without being reported by his ministry? Thirdly, is the minister going to have someone attend at two o’clock this afternoon at the hearings in Lewiston, New York, to see if we can convince them to reopen the hearings on SCA Chemical Waste Service Inc. and do his job because I am sick of doing it with limited resources on behalf of the people of Ontario?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: I really cannot believe this question, Mr. Speaker. That too was answered some time ago. Surely the member remembers asking me the question.

Mr. Kerrio: The minister is not finding the dioxin. What are his people doing?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: One cannot find what ain’t there. It is that simple.

Mr. Kerrio: It is in Lake Ontario and in the river.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: If the member reads the report, he will see the level of dioxin in herring gull eggs is significantly being reduced. Does the member agree with that? That is part of somebody else’s report. This is not my report. I am only repeating for the member what is in that report. The level of dioxin in the herring gull eggs is markedly reduced, dropped, lessened. That is good news. We are monitoring and we can measure to one part per trillion of the water supply. We have measured and there is no level of dioxin in the water supply. Surely the member does not want me to go out --

Mr. Kerrio: Somebody has to do it.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Would the member listen for a minute? We have the only provincial lab in Canada, as we should have, opened at great expense to measure for dioxin. We have done those measurements which show no measurable amount of dioxin in the drinking water. Does the member want me to take those measurements and then somehow or other say, “We do not believe them. There has to be something there because we have to prove there is bad news”? What nonsense!

The member knows we have measured. If he had listened, if he had called the lab or done anything besides shouting from that crazy position of his, he should have known that there is no dioxin in the drinking water of that area. That happens to be fact. He may not want the facts.

Mr. Kerrio: Is the minister going to the hearings this afternoon?

Hon. Mr. Welch: Alarmists.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Let me come to the last one, Mr. Speaker, and I just cannot believe it. The Deputy Premier is so right.

Hon. Mr. Welch: There is a big meeting tonight.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Yes, there is a big meeting tonight, so maybe we can understand the reason for the questions this morning.

Mr. S. Smith: The Premier (Mr. Davis) will go as a private citizen.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: May I repeat the answer I gave to the member a while back? We have been to Albany. We raised the question directly with the commissioners. He knows that. We sent a telegram instantly to the member’s party in Ottawa and we are still waiting for an answer. All we had was an acknowledgement. That telegram said very clearly that we believe those hearings should be reopened because of the threat of TNT.

Mr. Kerrio: Have him there at two o’clock.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: The member does not like to hear the facts on this particular matter.

Mr. Kerrio: I certainly do.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: He is not listening to them or he does not understand them. It is one or the other. We sent that telegram not only to the --

Mr. Speaker: Now the minister is becoming repetitive.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: You are right, Mr. Speaker. I am indeed. May I also say that we sent it to the commissioners and to the federal minister. We are demanding that those hearings prove to us there is no threat from the TNT at that site. We demanded that. Why do they not listen to what is being said?

Mr. Kerrio: I am going and I want to know if the minister is sending someone. Beyond that, is the minister embarrassed by the fact that at Ajax, Ontario, he is going to dump 8.8 million gallons into Lake Ontario? He cannot go over and point a finger at the Americans because he is going to add to the pollution of the Great Lakes system himself. Is that intimidating the minister?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: I am not quite sure what the member is saying in that last question.

Mr. Kerrio: I am suggesting he is going to dump into Lake Ontario from the Ajax facility and the people are against it.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Having made two statements in the House, I cannot believe that this was not very specifically cleared up yesterday. The proposal is under reconsideration by the region. It is that simple.

Mr. Kerrio: You better believe it; they are going to turn it off.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Fair enough. I cannot add to what the statement said yesterday. If the member does not wish to hear, there is very little I can do about it.

Mr. Isaacs: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Does the minister not realize that the reduction in the dioxin levels in seagulls’ eggs has not occurred as a result of any actions of his ministry and it is not known why that reduction has occurred? There could be a further increase at some point in the future unless someone starts taking some positive action to ensure that the sites causing the problem are cleaned up?

While the minister is to be commended for his testing laboratory, will he at least ask the federal minister if he can sit in on the meetings the federal minister has now scheduled so he can establish some formal and informal contact with his colleagues from New York state so these problems can be addressed on a joint level rather than always having to go through the federal government?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: I am sorry to be so repetitive, but maybe I can again tell you that we have been there during these discussions and not through the minister in the federal government. If I were still waiting on him, I am afraid I would be sitting, waiting and doing nothing.

The member asks what Ontario has done. No dioxin has ever been produced in this province. There is no way we will permit it to be produced. That is a fact of life. It is banned now. The member asks what more we can do. We are the watchdog on that river. Tell me where there is any other jurisdiction that can even offer to do that. We have completely banned it. There is no possibility.

I would support the ban on dioxin throughout the world. We have done it here in Ontario. There is nothing more we can do that has not already been done by us except to be the watchdog. We will fulfil that role enthusiastically because we have the tools to do it. I only wish other jurisdictions could tell me that in their own jurisdictions they have the facilities to do the lab tests we can do in Ontario. It is unfortunate they have not. If they had, maybe they would be as concerned and as serious about this issue as we are.

Mr. Gaunt: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Would the minister, in conjunction with the stated intentions of the federal Minister of the Environment, consider taking legal action against Dow Chemical of Midland, Michigan, as well as Hooker Chemicals and Plastics of Niagara Falls because of the environmental degradation they have caused in this province over the last 30 years?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: As a matter of fact, just before I came here this morning, I received a phone call on that type of matter from John Roberts, the Minister of the Environment for the federal government. He asked if we think it is a good idea for him to proceed by appropriate channels through the US Secretary of State and on his own behalf and with reciprocal agreement. We are unconditionally in agreement that such action should be taken. If they want any assistance of a technical nature from us, I have said previously they are welcome to have any of our facilities put at their disposal. We think that is right.

I noticed not long ago the federal government on a totally unrelated issue said it did not think the province should deal with a foreign country. I think the member, being the fair-minded person he is, would agree with that principle.

10:40 a.m.

If that is what the member is asking -- and I think that is exactly what he is asking -- I say unconditionally that Ontario will not only give lip service to that but will put our full resources at the disposal of the federal government as it pursues, with our total support, any action against any company in the United States. Fair enough?


Mr. Foulds: In the absence of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Auld), I have a question for the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development about exemptions to section 113(1) of the Mining Act.

Can the minister confirm, as I believe a report of the Ombudsman states to the employees of Canadian Smelting and Refining in Cobalt, that an exemption to section 113 of the Mining Act has been granted to Silverfields division of Teck Corporation in Cobalt? Not only that but can he confirm that a blanket exemption is prepared and there is a recommendation to cabinet that “would exempt all lands in the Cobalt-Gowanda area from the provisions of section 113 of the Mining Act”?

Hon. Mr. Brunelle: Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with the matter the member has raised. I would be pleased to look into it and either the Minister of Natural Resources or myself will provide an answer.

Mr. Foulds: Supplementary: As a former Minister of Natural Resources and as a member of the cabinet, would the provincial secretary not agree that such an exemption is a precedent-setting one for the cabinet? All previous exemptions to section 113 have been specific as to mine and site.

Will the provincial secretary have the Minister of Natural Resources comment on the allegation that the specific exemption to section 113 to Silverfields in Cobalt is contrary even to the present guidelines of the Ministry of Natural Resources for granting such exemptions? Why was such an exemption granted?

Hon. Mr. Brunelle: Mr. Speaker, that will also be taken into consideration.


Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Housing. I appreciate receiving from the minister the costs that are incurred by reason of the transfer of the package from Bloor Street to Yonge Street to establish the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority. Could the minister advise the House who is paying the $337,000 nonrecurring costs and the annual cost increases recurring in the sum of $553,000?

Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I do not have the entire breakdown with me this morning. The entire cost is absorbed by provincial and federal taxpayers. We split the costs of operation of our public housing portfolio on a 50:50 basis between the ministry reporting for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Housing through the Ontario Housing Corporation.

Mrs. Campbell: Supplementary: Does the minister not view it as rather strange, at a time of restraints when hospitals are closing and when other services to people are being cut back, that he would engage in this kind of expenditure for what are, in essence, administrative costs?

Hon. Mr. Bennett: I would be pleased to supply to the House a complete breakdown on the cost factors related to the establishment of the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority or any of the housing authorities. I am in the process of doing that right now and will commence giving them at 10 o’clock next Wednesday morning in the final two hours of my estimates. In presenting the breakdown, I am prepared to analyse the member’s question in full and give details. I am ready to supply them to this House.

We have gone into the process of establishing housing authorities across the province. There are some administrative costs in doing that. For a long period of time we have heard from the members in the Metro area and in other areas of the province, that Ontario Housing Corporation should not be administering the local responsibility; that in some way, shape or form, this government under this administration should try to transfer those responsibilities back to the local people, to those people who are nominated by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

In fairness, in trying to deliver the services at the local level, where there is the best understanding of the services required by the taxpayers of that community, we have taken this direction in establishing the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority, the Ottawa-Carleton Housing Authority and others. I do not have the specific details of the exact breakdowns the member speaks of this morning, but I am prepared to get them. I think this is money well invested on behalf of Canadian and Ontario taxpayers in making sure there is a degree of autonomy at the local level which the honourable members have constantly asked for.

Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Before the minister goes on too long about local autonomy and local participation, would he explain why in all the new housing authorities established by the ministry there has been consistent opposition by the provincial government to participation on the board of those housing authorities by the people who know the problems of public housing best, that is, the tenants who live in Ontario Housing across the province? Will the government now undertake that in every housing authority there will be at least one or two representatives of tenants who can be authentic spokespeople for those who live in public housing across the province?

Hon. Mr. Bennett: It is rather interesting, Mr. Speaker, that a member of his party happens to be the chairman of the justice committee which is reviewing the Ontario Housing Corporation’s annual report. I have said to that committee, and I repeated it again on Wednesday past at the estimates for the Ministry of Housing, that while I do not suggest tenants who are going to represent a specific cause be put on the board, tenants who represent causes of general interest in that community can certainly seek nomination to the board through the municipal, provincial or federal level.

Just to put things in their true form, if the member would look at what I have said over the last number of months and if he would look at the Ottawa-Carleton Housing Authority and some of the others across this province, including the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority, there happen to be people who are classified as tenants under that particular portfolio.

Mr. S. Smith: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: To get back to the question asked by the member for St. George, granted it is a good thing to have local authority in these matters, the question is -- and I am still waiting for an answer -- why the heck should it cost a third of a million dollars to make the transfer and a half a million dollars a year in recurring expenditures in additional administrative costs just to switch the authority from the province to Metro? Why is it going to cost us an extra half a million dollars a year to do that when there is not a whole lot of public housing being built that I can see?

Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, there are times when I wonder why the leader of the Liberal Party does not take his own advice in his own professional occupation. I told the member for St. George very clearly and very distinctly I would secure those figures and report to the House. Obviously, I do not want the House to hold budget estimates of my ministry at every question period of this House. Now that I am before the estimates committee, I would be prepared to supply that information in detail.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Etobicoke with a new question.

Mr. Philip: My new question was to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells), but I will pass to the member for Riverdale so he can ask his question.


Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of the Environment and relates to the public meeting held last night in Riverdale under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment with respect to the extension of the control order against Canada Metal Company Limited. Will the minister make certain that the decision is made before this House rises for the Christmas recess or for the prorogation, and will he take into consideration the seven items mainly related to the requests and demands made by the community on his ministry to provide for adequate assurance of health standards and health tests in the Riverdale area to ensure that low-level blood is not affecting the children and adults in that area?

10:50 a.m.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Yes, I will certainly try to make that decision, although that is a decision the director must make. I think the member is aware of that.

I noted at that hearing last night, which was, as you clearly said, at our instigation, that it is a contract problem and not a lack of commitment on the part of the company to do it. The contractors have run into problems. I trust we are agreed on that. That does not change the bottom line, which is whether there needs to be an extension. We will try to give the member that determination before this House rises.

With regard to the demands for health standards, as I said to the member for St. George (Mrs. Campbell) the other day, I think that question more appropriately should go to my colleague the Minister of Health (Mr. Timbrell). I have just recently written to him about that specific. With the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health, we need to determine those standards. We believe the standards will be met with this new equipment.

Once the company has met the standards, then I think it is for others, rather than ourselves, to determine the level those standards must meet in order to protect their health. At the moment, the company is meeting the standards which are set to protect health. I guess we can conclude that the health of the people around that area is being protected, but that whole matter of the appropriate levels should be and is under review by the Minister of Health and the appropriate people in the Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Renwick: By way of supplementary, will the minister refresh his memory about a question I asked him over a year ago and on which we have pressed the minister on a number of occasions privately, that is, whether or not he will, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children, design and carry out a study in that area with respect to the effect of low-level lead on children? Will he finally give us an undertaking that study will take place in the area?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: What I am trying to say, is that that study on health is not one I think my ministry should lead. We do not have the expertise per se on health, that we have on how to meet the standards that have been established.

Mr. Renwick: Nobody has expertise on health; that is the problem. The Minister of Health does not have any expertise. If you ask him for information, he does not have any.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Within the Ministry of Labour and within the Ministry of Health they have that expertise. I wrote to my colleagues and I think that kind of study is being done. It is not as though it is a unique one here in this province. The establishing of standards to meet the health needs of the citizens on the various components is a universal study. It goes on continuously. As we get new information, we update our standards. We have done that many times. It is not a simple matter to resolve what is the appropriate standard for the thousands of chemicals, metals, et cetera, that must be established to establish the health risks of all of these components. I really believe that among the three ministries we have assessed that and we will continue to update that information.

At the moment, the standards are such that we believe and the experts in the ministries believe that health is being protected, but that is under continuous review. I have just recently written to my two colleagues to see if something further can be done.

Mr. Speaker: That is the third time the minister has said that. The Minister of Industry and Tourism has the answer to a question asked previously.


Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I have the answers to two questions previously asked. Last week the member for Wellington South (Mr. Worton) asked a question regarding the financial arrangements being made with the former owner of a Guelph textile firm in relation to support my ministry or the federal government might be providing for that firm. I would like to confirm this morning, notwithstanding news stories to the contrary in the local media in Guelph, no financial arrangements whatsoever have been made between that firm and the Ontario Development Corporation.


Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, last week the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. B. Newman) raised a question regarding the recall of two sets of dies by Bendix Corporation from Central Stamping Limited in Windsor. The removal of those sets of dies is another consequence of the slump in the auto industry. To reduce excess capacity, Bendix decided to produce in-house the backing plate, which is part of the brake system, I am told, and the brake shell. Both activities were being supplied outside its own system by Central Stamping.

It is my understanding the set of dies used to manufacture backing plates was removed approximately seven weeks ago. The set of dies used to manufacture brake shells is scheduled to be removed this month. At this time, I am told, Bendix has no plans to recall any of its other sets of dies from Central Stamping. In addition, Bendix has indicated it does not intend to lower the proportion of Canadian content in its outside sources. We will continue to monitor this situation.

The member also expressed the opinion that the removal of these sets of dies was a violation of the auto pact. The answer to that question is no, since the automotive assembly companies, not the parts manufacturers, are the signatories to the auto products trade agreement and letters of intent, the two documents commonly referred to as the auto pact.

I should remind the member, and I know he is aware of this, we have been on record for some time as being opposed to the low levels of Canadian value added required under the auto pact in automotive assembly by the federal government and the letters of intent. More than seven months have passed since we last raised this issue and called upon the federal government to raise the CVA requirements from the current level. In most cases, it is currently 60 per cent. We have advocated 100 per cent of Canadian sales. That is the only thing that can solve this kind of problem.


Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. In light of the fact that on Tuesday a divisional court ruled that the certificate of approval issued by the Ministry of the Environment for the Ridge Landfill Corporation in Harwich was null and void, because a hearing was not held when the old certificate was renewed with substantial changes, will the minister ensure proper hearings are held in the near future if the corporation applies for a new certificate of approval?

Since the Ministry of the Environment has withdrawn its participation from the Browning-Ferris Harwich solidification proposal which the company intends to proceed with, and since the proposal was originally to go through hearings under the Environmental Assessment Act, will the Minister assure this House and the residents of Harwich township that a full hearing under the Environmental Assessment Act will still take place?

Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. On the first question, it is a pretty important decision that was rendered by the court. The last time I checked, which was late yesterday, the ministry did not have the written decision. I want to see it personally and I would not like to make any comment about that decision of the court until such time as we have had the chance to review it.

With regard to the renewal of certificates, I do not think there is any doubt that on a renewal the court decision is quite significant to that renewal as well. I think they were related questions and that I should not make any further comment until I have had a full opportunity to look at the court decision.

Mr. McGuigan: Since the minister evaded answering the question posed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House on Tuesday, I will ask the question again. Because the ministry’s proposed mega-liquid industrial waste facility in South Cayuga will be handling the lion’s share of the liquid industrial wastes generated in the province, does the minister not agree that the Browning-Ferris solidification proposal may be a redundant operation with respect to the solidification of inorganic liquid wastes generated in the province?

If this is so, can he assure that if the Browning-Ferris proposal is acceptable, no inorganic liquid wastes will be accepted either from outside the province or outside Canada?

11 a.m.

Hon. Mr. Parrott: I think that we would only put into any solidification process, wherever it would be located, the appropriate chemicals that go with appropriate treatment. There has to be a certain mix for the solidification process to work correctly. I hope the member accepts that. It is very important to have the proper mix of those chemicals to be combined in the solidification process or it will not work. I think it would be inappropriate of me to suggest we would have a process that would not have the appropriate chemicals in it. We would not want that to happen. It is absolutely fundamental to the process itself.

That being the case, I want to also say that it is the full intent of this government to have our facilities in place so that we can look after all of the wastes in Ontario in the appropriate technical fashion according to the best standards in the world. That in place, I believe other jurisdictions should follow the lead we are establishing and clearly have at the moment. We will continue to be in the lead. I would hope other jurisdictions would recognize their social obligations to deal with their waste as well as we are doing it in this province.


Mr. Philip: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. It has now been several months since the minister first received correspondence from the mayor of Etobicoke asking for provincial assistance to compensate those residents of Rexdale who suffered from a very serious flash flood on July 28, which created a great deal of damage in that area. When will the minister reply to the borough and residents as to what assistance the provincial government is prepared to give to them in that rebuilding?

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I have already replied verbally to the mayor explaining to him the kind of assistance that could be available if the flood qualified. In other words, since this is for damage to private property, if the damage qualified as a disaster, it could be declared a disaster area and they would then be eligible for the disaster assistance fund, which would be on a matching dollar-for-dollar basis.

The mayor and I have been having some discussions on this, but I have not heard back from him. I think there was some misunderstanding in the beginning that there were some direct grants available from the government. Of course, the only grant that would be available, if it was declared a disaster, is if money was raised locally it would then be matched dollar for dollar. I am really waiting for another answer from the mayor.

Mr. Philip: Do I take it from the minister’s answer that what the minister is proposing is a matching system similar to what was given in the area of his own borough of Scarborough when a similar disaster happened? Would it be possible for the minister to write to the mayor and council and clearly state his understanding of the present state of affairs at this time so that we could have something on record of these nice conversations that are going back and forth and something on record to know exactly what the government’s position is?

Furthermore, would the minister accept my invitation to meet with the two aldermen and myself sometime before the Christmas holiday so that we can discuss exactly what is going on, since these conversations back and forth seem to be dragging on and not producing very much?

Hon. Mr. Wells: I will be happy to write to the mayor. I think the member and the aldermen should talk with the mayor; then they should communicate back to us whether a matching grant type of arrangement is the thing for which they are really looking. That is the only kind of help it would be possible to give -- I just put the proviso -- provided it does qualify for declaration as a disaster.


Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Given the fact that the Premier assured the people of Ontario in his charter for Ontario only a short three years ago that 90,000 new housing units would be constructed in Ontario over a 10-year period, and since that commitment has never been met and less than half those units are being constructed, how does the minister reconcile the present dismal failure to construct new units with that commitment and assurance the Premier gave the people of Ontario three years ago?

Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Speaker, at the time the Premier made the statement the housing industry was flourishing. The expansion of population in Ontario was also in that direction. The need for housing was apparent and there seemed to be a very optimistic view by the industry and by governments at the federal and provincial levels that we would continue to require that number of housing units.

Then some degree of logic set in with both the private sector and governments. The market was analysed in relation to need and capacity. In the latter part of the 1970s, the industry continued to build a very substantial number of units and found themselves with a large inventory. As a result, some of them collapsed and went out of business. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation became heir to some of those properties. In relation to the market situation, the private sector industry adjusted its requirements accordingly.

I would like to make a comment relating to some of the units required in the rental sector. Over the last 18 months I have said several times that some real shortfalls are to be encountered in major municipalities in Ontario and across Canada. The fact remains that when we had the assisted rental program, multiple-unit residential buildings and the Ontario rental construction grant program, we were able to encourage a number of people in the private sector to get into moderately priced and low rental accommodation. As a result of a number of programs that have been taken out of existence by the last two federal governments, with only the MURB being reintroduced, there is not the incentive for the private sector to get back into the rental construction field.

I will be meeting with Mr. Cosgrove again this week and early in 1981 to review further requirements in the rental field. I have been saying not only to the federal minister but to the private rental section, the mortgage section and the building section that there must be some new incentive programs to get rental construction starts under way in 1981 for use in 1982.



Mr. Lane, on behalf of Mr. Villeneuve, from the standing committee on resources development presented the following resolution:

That supply in the following amounts and to defray the expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1981: ministry administration program, $9,112,000; agricultural production program, $105,386,000; rural development program, $11,150,000; agricultural marketing program, $14,977,000; agricultural education and research program, $31,665,000.

And be it further resolved that supply in the following supplementary amount for the same ministry be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1981: agricultural production program, $6,900,000.



Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the standing committee on administration of justice be authorized to sit on Monday afternoon, December 8, 1980, for consideration of its report on the Ontario Housing Corporation.

Motion agreed to.

Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the standing committee on general government be authorized to sit on Tuesday afternoon, December 9, 1980, for consideration of Bills Pr42 and Pr46.

Motion agreed to.



Hon. Mr. Drea moved first reading of Bill 215, An Act to amend the Wine Content Act, 1976.

Motion agreed to.


Hon. Mr. Henderson moved first reading of Bill 216, An Act to amend the Farm Products Payments Act.

Motion agreed to.

Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, section 3 of the present Farm Products Payments Act sets out the circumstances on which a producer may apply for payment from a fund. The new subsection provides that a producer is not entitled to payment from the fund in circumstances set out in section 2. Section 7 of the act provides grounds for the suspension or revocation of or the refusal to issue or renew a licence under certain acts listed in the section.

The addition to the Live Stock and Live Stock Products Act is complementary to the amendments to that act enacted by the revised statutes of Ontario, 1980, chapter 5. Section 3(8) of the act authorizes the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations. The amendment enlarges the authority to make the regulations.

Mr. Speaker: The minister is going through the entire bill. The purpose of this is just to give a brief outline as to the principle.

Hon. Mr. Henderson: I have one more line, Mr. Speaker. The Ontario Egg Producers Marketing Board is authorized to make payments to producers described in the section.


Mr. Foulds moved first reading of Bill 217, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.

Motion agreed to.

Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, this bill is specifically directed to allowing those who have lost their drivers’ licences or have had their drivers’ licences downgraded for medical reasons to have an appeal system and to be able to submit during that appeal specific medical evidence on their own behalf. It differs from the amendments put forward by the minister recently.

11:10 a.m.

Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, before the orders of the day, I would like to table the answers to questions 285 to 288, 306, 400, 401, 404, 406, 408 and 410 on the Notice Paper.


House in committee of supply.


On vote 802, administration of taxes program:

Item 3 agreed to.

On item 4, corporations tax and other taxes:

Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Revenue on item 4. Is the ministry contemplating any further changes in the corporation tax to be much more parallel with the federal tax? Instead of having two tax programs for corporations, so that they file one return for the province and one for the federal government, is there some way we can complete the paralleling of the two, so as perhaps to have the federal government collect the corporation taxes as is done in some other provinces?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: The member will probably recall that in 1977, I believe it was, we brought in a completely new Corporations Tax Act which is consistent in most cases with the federal Corporations Tax Act. We have already done all that.

The only exceptions are the areas where our needs differ from the federal government’s. In the main and in principle, almost all of the Corporations Tax Act in Ontario is now consistent with the federal tax. That work has already been done.

Item 4 agreed to.

On item 5, gasoline tax and other taxes:

Mr. Haggerty: Item 5 says “and other taxes.” I believe it was last Monday that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) was visiting members of the Fort Erie council. I wonder if the minister could inform the Legislature if any proposals have been given to assist racetracks in Ontario, in particular the Fort Erie racetrack. Perhaps a portion of the horse racing tax could be given back to the racing industry to increase the purses. Has any decision been made by any of the ministries?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That item really should come under retail sales tax, but I am prepared to tell the member there have been some consultations going on. However, that is a question the member would have to direct to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, under whose jurisdiction racetracks fall. I understand there are some conversations going on at the moment to see if something can be done.

Mr. Haggerty: Have any of the ministers, such as the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) or the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, consulted with the Minister of Revenue on this matter, or is the minister left out in the dark until a decision is finally made and then he comes in and makes the changes?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I have been involved in some of the conversations, but I am not at liberty at the moment to give the member any other information. That information must come from the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

Item 5 agreed to.

Items 6 and 7 agreed to.

Vote 802 agreed to.

11:20 a.m.

On vote 803, guaranteed income and tax credit program; item 1, administration:

Mr. Haggerty: I want to deal with the tax grant for seniors. I have had a number of inquiries at my constituency office, my office at Queen’s Park and my home. There are people who still have not received their tax grant. I understand the minister did say in his opening statement that there were a good number of persons who have not yet received them. One of the questions which apparently arises is that further inquiries would have to be made to the federal income tax division to get additional information. I may be wrong in that, but I thought that was one area in which the minister was lacking information.

A year or so ago, persons applied for their tax rebate, property tax credit, sales tax credit and so on, using the little pink sheet enclosed with their income tax. Pretty well everybody, particularly the pensioners, understood for a number of years how to fill it out. Normally when they filled out that application, they had somebody there who would assist them. This year, the difficulty was that many of them did not understand all the questions on the questionnaire they were required to answer. I think this is what caused some difficulty. Again, I suppose when the federal government was doing it, there was no cost involved to the province of Ontario.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes.

Mr. Haggerty: The minister says there was some. I do not think you would have the problems that happen now if you had followed the same procedure there and had increased your formula for those persons who would be recipients of the grant.

The Treasury critic for the Liberal Party outlined this in the budget debate, last April. He drew the attention of the government to some of the discrepancies that would take place following the introduction of the new proposals for tax grants for senior citizens. He outlined a couple of cases and he said, “Let us take the case of single pensioners with incomes of about $6,000 -- and remember that means they are not eligible for Gains -- who are perhaps fortunate to be living with...” their children. They are probably contributing or would like to contribute to their upkeep. “They claim no property tax credit and therefore would not be eligible for a grant.

“Under the old system those pensioners would have received no property tax credit, a sales tax credit of $43.10 and a pensioner tax credit of $110, for a total of $153.10. Under the Treasurer’s new system, they will receive no property tax grant and a sales tax grant of $50.” He goes on to mention a couple of other examples.

Just to show some of the discrepancies that have taken place under your new proposals, it has been brought to my attention that under the old scheme, some of the senior citizens in my area received higher tax credits in 1979 than they have this year. They still own the same piece of property, and they still have to live under the same conditions and so on. It is hard to explain to them why they get less this year. Is this new scheme fair? Is there equity in it?

When I look at persons on low incomes, such as widows who have their old age pension, and maybe Gains as a supplement, they may not pay quite $500 a year in taxes. The previous year they got almost $500. In some cases, this year they will be receiving $100 to $120 less than they did the year before. It is difficult for those persons on that income. Maybe you should have applied the tax credit to other low income areas too, such as those persons who are not 65 but are in the grey area and need assistance in maintaining their homes.

I think the critic from the NDP mentioned the people living in senior citizens’ homes for the aged and other institutions -- I should say foster care programs under the homes for senior citizens in the region of Niagara. Some of them contribute to their portion of the cost, and there are other persons who enter into a home but pay nothing. Those are subsidized for pretty well all the cost.

I think in an area like this, a person who is contributing to the cost of maintenance in foster home care or the homes for the aged in the region should receive the tax grant. They are paying their share. For those persons who are not contributing to the cost of maintenance, I think you are right in saying they should not receive it.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Maybe I could answer some of the questions. If we get too many piled up at once I may forget something. The member was asking about the applications for which people have not received cheques. There are still some 44,000 applications that -- but everyone has been contacted. We are waiting for information on some of them.

Mr. B. Newman: Not everyone.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Anyone who has an application in has been contacted. How can you be sure their application has not been in?

Mr. B. Newman: I’ll talk to you later.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: For the applications that are on file, everyone, according to what my staff have told me, has been contacted. Some of the applicants had to be asked for signatures or the application had to be returned because the forms were wrong, and so on. I am not suggesting everyone has received his cheque by any means. I am saying for the 44,000 applications that are in, those people have been contacted by telephone or by some other means. If someone knows that an application is in, it is pretty obvious that he has been in contact with us, or he would not know the application is there.

This has been a very difficult program to administer because in the whole program we have had almost 200,000 applications that were not properly filled out. It has been a very massive program; a total of 526,000 applications have been received. Roughly 40 per cent of the applications that came in had mistakes in them. But when it was done through the federal income tax people there was a mistake rate of 68 per cent, so we have not done that badly when it comes right down to it. Our figures indicate, from the federal people themselves, that income tax returns filed by people in this age group to the federal government had a 68 per cent mistake rate.

It has been a rather difficult situation for us. It is the first year we have had the program in effect and we have found ways and means that we can improve it for the next time around. I hope members will bear with us on this. We have done the very best we can. We have tried to get back to people as quickly as we could. We had, as discussed before, problems with telephones, not being able to get the lines, and that sort of thing.

I anticipate, now that seniors and other people who assist seniors in filling them out are familiar with the forms, that we will probably not have the same problems with them next year. The other thing is that we will have a longer period of time to work before the cheques go out than we did this year. We made every attempt to get as many of them out as we could by October 1, simply because that is about the time of year when the final tax bills come in from the municipalities. We wanted them to have the money in their hands to assist in the payment of those property taxes. We have had a great number of difficulties, but we look towards improving that system and I think we will.

I could give some more figures here but it would only serve to confuse the issue. I mentioned in my opening statement that 18 per cent of the applications we received were not complete -- simply did not have a signature on them. We had to get back to these people. We had to send the application back, they had to sign it and we pointed out the other mistakes whatever they might be. In some cases we had to send them a new application because the old one was beyond use. That sort of thing happens. It is a case of educating the people who are filling out the forms to do them as properly as they can. We have tried not to rush these application forms. We want to do it thoroughly.

11:30 a.m.

The members will recall when the ministry was in the Ontario home buyers’ grant situation, before my time as minister. Those applications were rushed through and not properly investigated. That is not a secret around this House. I do not want to go through that situation. I want the applications to be processed properly. It may take a little longer but I hope the people who receive the money will not have difficulties later on, waiting for us to ask them to return it. We want to do it right.

The member suggested the other program did not cost us any money. That is an error. The Ontario tax credit program, in total, cost us $4.4 million a year. We paid one per cent to the federal government to do that work for us. As far as the area of senior citizens is concerned, the share we paid the federal people to process the applications when they went through the income tax system was a little over $2.2 million.

Mr. Haggerty: How much is it costing you now?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I can get into that now if you want, or you can wait until I answer all the other questions.

I am not trying to be negative about this in any way, but these kinds of programs do involve a lot of work. As an example, the federal furnace conversion grant that was announced will not be delivered for a whole year. We have moved into this one fairly quickly for such a massive program. That has created some difficulties; there is no question about that.

Mr. B. Newman: Doesn’t the fact that you moved in quickly tell you something?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: No. I must advise the member we had been contemplating this for a year or two.

Mr. B. Newman: You could not have goofed as much as you did if you had been planning it for over two years.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: It has been under discussion by my ministry for some length of time. I can recall preparing a brief to cabinet at least one and a half or two years ago regarding senior citizens in homes for the aged and nursing homes, as an example, whereby there would have been a removal of the property tax credits in that regard because we felt those people are being subsidized through other means and are not paying property taxes.

We have been working on this for some time. It is not something that was done with a snap of the fingers by any means. It is still a very long and detailed program and there are going to be difficulties. I hope we will resolve most of them by the time the applications go out next year.

You wanted to know what the costs of this program were. These costs include expenditures already approved by Management Board together with a submission for additional funds, which is pending approval. The costs: general administration, which includes postage, supplies, furniture, printing of forms, et cetera, $788,500; planning and liaison staff, $148,500; communications and inquiries, $1,404,900; application processing, data entry and filing, $793,100; benefits control, $590,300; computer systems, $1,323,000. That is a total of $5,048,300, less the expected reduction in the federal administration costs we were paying before, which was $2,070,000, to be exact. The total administrative cost of this particular program is $2,978,300. This includes advertising costs of $934,000.

Mr. Haggerty: Was that $934,000?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That’s right.

Mr. Chairman: Does the member for Dovercourt have a point of order?

Mr. Lupusella: No, it is a supplementary question, if I may have your indulgence and the indulgence of the --

Mr. Chairman: The honourable member was asking questions and the minister wanted to answer something. There is ample time. The member for Erie.

Mr. Haggerty: A figure of $934,000 for advertising is just out of this world, is it not? How many are receiving the benefits?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: A total of 820,000 senior citizens.

Mr. Haggerty: That is almost a dollar per capita, I guess; quite a bit of mailing.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Seventy cents.

Mr. Haggerty: Seventy cents; not too bad.

Can the minister tell me whether he has collected the cheques issued in error to the 40 senior citizens of St. Anne’s Tower for Senior Citizens in Toronto? Was that ever returned to the Ministry of Revenue? How many cheques were issued in error in situations similar to the St. Anne’s Tower residence?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: My staff will get that for me in a moment. In the meantime, I thought the member would like a breakdown on the advertising. I might as well give him that information while we are here.

The total amount of advertising: newspapers, which included the ethnic press and all the weeklies, as the members know, were $418,109; television was $231,614; radio was $245,899; transit, which is the transit cards on the buses and so on, was $24,078; and display materials, posters, those kinds of things, $15,000. This gives a total of $934,700.

There were 83 in ethnic advertising, which did not include radio or television advertising. It was newspapers only. There were 83 of them and they were in all daily, weekly and semi-monthly papers in the province. I must say the total sounds like a lot of money for advertising, but this was a brand new program and the senior citizens had to be made aware of what was going on.

We tried to restrain our advertising budget, but I think members will agree that advertising was necessary in this particular program. I don’t think I have received much criticism from members opposite because of the advertising program, as they will agree the message had to be got across to the recipients.

There are 820,000 senior citizens, not all of them eligible for Ontario tax grants but all of them eligible for the retail sales tax grants.

Mr. B. Newman: They didn’t use your application to get the sales tax.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, but they had to be advised what the program was all about. If someone does not get the retail sales tax grant, he would like to know why he did not. They had to be told they were eligible. All senior citizens, as the member knows, were eligible for retail sales tax grants. Had we not advertised, some might not have received them through mistakes or other reasons and would never have known the difference. It was important initially that the program be well advertised.

I do not anticipate we will spend anywhere near this kind of money on advertising next year. We will probably revert to the kind of advertising we used to do with the Ontario tax credit program, which just draws attention to the fact things are happening. We probably will not go to TV and radio advertising any more. We will probably use newspaper advertising as we did with the Ontario tax credit program. I do not anticipate that we will be spending this kind of money each year on advertising. This is the initial cost, the startup cost, to make everyone familiar with the program.

11:40 a.m.

The member asked one other question: the number of pensioners who were paid in error to December 1. I think this may include more than St. Anne’s. But this is the total, I understand. Yes, there were two: St. Anne’s, and St. Hilda’s Towers Inc.

The number who were paid in error was 71. The number of recoveries we started action on was 64. I do not know at this precise moment how many have paid it back. When I say recovery actions, that does not mean we are suing them, or anything like that. We are making a reasonable attempt to get the money back.

I indicated earlier in the House it is not our policy to harass senior citizens, but I have a lot of faith in the senior citizens of this province. I think if most of them have received money and they do not feel entitled to it, it will be returned.

Mr. Haggerty: I have one final question and I will yield to the other members.

The ministry’s advertisement sent out to senior citizens says: “What will you receive next year? Starting in 1981 you will receive the property tax grant in two instalments. Early in 1981 a cheque for one half of your 1980 grant will be automatically mailed to you. Later that year you will receive an application form which when processed will make up the balance of your annual grant.”

Could the ministry not be more specific than “early in 1981”? Should that not be done by regulation, or something of that nature, to say they will receive the first portion of the grant in, say, March or April of 1981?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, I would agree with what the member is saying. At that time, we had not decided exactly when those grants would be mailed out. We will be setting a date. As a matter of fact, staff are now discussing that very matter. We have to work it in such a way that we clear all the other things on our plate, and are able to do it, and get the thing out properly. I am guessing at the moment, but I would think it might be in March. I am not sure at the moment, though. We will come to that decision and we will announce it ahead of time so they will know when to expect it.

To answer the other part of the question, of course, it is imperative that we have a new application each year so we know what their property taxes were, or how much rent they paid, to evaluate the amount they should receive.

One of the other points the honourable member raised in his initial question was that some people are getting less of a grant now than they were under the other program. That is quite true. That is happening. But if we look at it in the proper perspective --

Mr. Haggerty: They are the ones who --

Hon. Mr. Maeck: No, that is not so. They can get all their taxes back if their taxes are less than $500; that is the first thing. If they are only paying $200 or $300 they get all their taxes back. The member mentioned those with more than $6,000, who would not be covered by the guaranteed annual income system, and so on. The way the program is worked out as far as property tax is concerned is that those people who may not be eligible for Gains or the guaranteed income supplement have as much or more money at their disposal after the payment of taxes as the other people who get the $500. I am referring to people on Gains who get the $500.

Mr. Haggerty: Does the minister know what is going to happen in this area? I will tell him. I have already had some feedback on it. Where there are local councils saying they want to do some local improvements on a street, there may be a number of senior citizens resident there. If they want storm sewers and gutters put in they have to pay for that under local improvements, and they must have the signatures of the property owners. What is going to happen now is they are going to come back and say: “You can get $100 or $120 more a year. You can apply this against this local improvement.”

Does the minister see what is going to happen? If somebody gets the $500, they are going to have to spend maybe $2,000 on local improvements to get it. This is what will happen. The feedback is coming to me already. They are already telling people they can get the local improvements because they can get $120 from the provincial government to play around with.

Sometimes when we give a grant it could encourage some other government body to spend it in the wrong direction. That is what happened when the minister first came out with the tax rebate program a few years ago. It was given directly to the municipalities; of course, that was like a little golden egg sitting there. They said, “If we raise the mill rate so much this year, we have this little nest egg coming from the provincial government that can offset it.” A few years ago, it encouraged municipalities to spend more -- beyond their means in many cases. This is one of the reasons they have such high taxes today. Some of them have the Cadillac approach instead of the Ford approach.

The minister says he is not quite sure when he is going to send out the first tax rebate cheque in 1981; he is only guessing. Could I guess and say before the announcement of the next provincial election? Would I be hitting it pretty close?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That is quite possible. The member can guess that if he wants to. I might guess that it would not be. It is obviously going to come out before the next provincial election, unless something happens in this House in the next week and we end up trudging through the snow with our high boots on in northern Ontario campaigning. I suspect the announcement will come out before the next election.

As a matter of fact, the announcement is already out that early this coming spring senior citizens are going to get half of what they received this year, and then they will be asked to fill in another application form and we will balance the books when we receive those other applications. It is announced for the spring; no question about that. The exact date remains to be determined. But I do not think it will be very long before we will be able to tell members the exact date the cheques will be going out.

I want to be sure this time around, when the cheques go out, that we are prepared to get them out to everybody; so we do not have the same kind of problems we had in the last administration. I would like to see, when we mail these cheques, that all the senior citizens in the province get their cheques basically at the same time. We all know they belong to golden age clubs and senior citizens’ clubs, and they live in senior citizens’ buildings and all the rest of it. If one gets a cheque and the other does not, there is a great deal of pressure on all the members in this House, and on the ministry, as to why did they not get theirs when Mrs. Smith down the hall got hers.

I would certainly like to prevent that by getting all the cheques out at one time.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: The problem is it is four months out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple of weeks.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: You will get your turn.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: I know, but I’m in good spirits today.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Christmas spirit, is it? That is my goal as far as getting those cheques out is concerned; I want them all to be out at the same time.

Ms. Bryden: Mr. Chairman, the minister’s admission that there are a considerable number of payments to people who were not eligible, and the fact that many cheques did not get out for months and people were very confused as to when they were going to get them, indicate to me that the administration of this program is paralleling the administration of the home buyers grant by the Ministry of Revenue three or four years ago. That was considered one of the administrative fiascos of this province because all sorts of people were paid who should not have been paid. I think we may have only looked at the tip of the iceberg on this one.

I still want to have a complete total of the cost of this program. The minister says it is valuable to advertise to the people about the new program so they will know what is happening. It did not have to happen; the minister is simply changing the distribution system and incurring millions of dollars to change that system. It is true he was paying the federal government something for the collection through the income tax system, but he still has to pay that for all the people under 65 who will still be getting tax credits or who have to pay a large amount of it. But he incurred millions of extra expenditure in advertising, computer time, printing, contracts for services, telephones, mailing, cheque writing and auditing, and we still do not have a total figure for all those services. What we want is coverage of each one of those by item.

11:50 a.m.

I asked for that information in my opening remarks. I asked for a breakdown of the costs of telephone service, of the contract for services, of printing, stationery and supplies, of the advertising and mailing and so on. We want to know exactly what it is costing the taxpayers of this province simply to change the distribution system to get more political capital out of issuing these cheques.

The minister has to remember he is spending all this money to give the seniors a total net increase of $39 million in property tax exemption, according to the Treasurer’s own statement in his budget, and $9 million in sales tax. So, for $48 million worth of additional help to seniors, we are spending millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money in administration. I want to know what that administration is actually costing the taxpayers.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, I just read out a complete list of what and how much those expenditures were. I do not know what more the member expects to get. I have indicated to her that the total expenditures were $5,048,300 minus the administrative costs we have paid to the federal government. If we subtract that $2,000,070, the total cost as far as the administration is concerned is $2,978,300. I think I have given her that information.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: Plus the advertising.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: No. The advertising is included in there. It is all in there.

I read them out in detail. If the honourable member wants to know how many stamps I bought and how many pieces of paper I bought, I think that is a rather ridiculous request. She does not ask that from any other ministry. Certainly she would not expect me to come here equipped with 17,000 pieces of paper and 89,000 stamps or whatever to break it down in that sort of detail.

I have broken it down into general administration, and I have said it includes postage, supplies, furniture, printing of forms, et cetera, of $788,500. I have said we paid $148,500 for planning and liaison staff; $1,404,900 for communications and inquiries; $793,100 for application processing, data entry and filing; $509,300 for benefits control; and $1,323,000 for computer systems -- which gives the total I have already given. I have subtracted the amount of money we will no longer have to pay to the federal government to administer the Ontario tax credit program as it relates to senior citizens. I do not know what else the member wants beyond that.

The other point she is making has been argued many times. I have answered the questions in the House many times. She has indicated this is the same sort of fiasco, as she terms it, as the Ontario home buyers grant. She has said that in statements to the press and so on. I do not see any grounds for that whatsoever. I talked about 71 applications, and she says that is a great amount. Out of 526,000 applications, I do not see how the member could expect there would not be some disallowed. I do not see that as a fiasco at all.

I indicated, when I was replying to the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty), that we were being particularly careful with these applications so that when we do process them we can hope to assume they are right. In the case of the Ontario home buyers grants, they were handled too quickly and no investigation was made. That is why we had the problems afterwards in demanding the money back, because people got the money who should not have got it. That is surely a matter of making sure the applications are handled in a proper fashion.

That is what we are trying to do and that is why there has been some delay in the cheques going out to some of the senior citizens. If we were not careful in the handling of the applications, we would have the same kind of problems that the member indicated with the Ontario home buyers grants. That is what I am frying to avoid.

Ms. Bryden: While the minister has given us some of the costs, he hasn’t given us the number of additional employees who had to be hired and he hasn’t given us the printing costs or the postage costs broken out, which are a very important part. I estimated the postage costs were $500,000 just to send out all these extra letters.

As far as his net total is concerned, subtracting the costs that used to be paid to the federal government, has he renegotiated that deal with the federal government or is he just making an estimate of how much he may be able to cut down on his payments to the federal government? All the income tax forms will still have to be processed, except for people over 65, regarding the Ontario property tax credits. It seems to me rather strange he would be getting that large a reduction from the federal government as an offset.

As to whether it is an administrative fiasco, just the fact that about 40 per cent of the applications had to be put into the prepayment unit for further information indicates this kind of program is costly and difficult to administer with a lot of senior citizens who aren’t used to filling out forms in many cases, and who weren’t given a working copy of the form. There were so many reasons why they didn’t get their cheques, but the fact is, they didn’t get their cheques until months after other people got them. There was great confusion, unhappiness and uncertainty among senior citizens.

The whole fiasco could have been avoided if the government had improved the property tax credit system through the income tax, provided, as it had been, through information centres’ assistance to seniors in making out the income tax forms, and could have avoided what appears to be a large expenditure of money for no purpose whatsoever, except a political one.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: To answer the first part of the member’s question, she wanted to know about the staff. The cost of the staff is included in the figures I read to her; so this is not additional. I gave her the total cost of the program from the administration viewpoint, and not the extra money that is being sent out to seniors.

Ms. Bryden: What about the staff?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Dealing with permanent staff first, the new complement is 36 and, with transfers within the ministry which is another six, there is a total permanent staff of 42. The contract or temporary staff who have been processing the applications and so on will be there while the applications are coming in and will be gone when the applications are finished. In man-years, it is 89. In numbers, the contract staff at peak period was 238. When most of the applications came in, we had 236 contract staff processing applications and doing other work, being supervised by the permanent staff I mentioned earlier.

Two or three times the honourable member mentioned the 40 per cent mistakes in the applications. I don’t know whether she heard me when I was replying to the member for Erie. Last year, when this was being done through the federal income tax system, the mistake rate was 68 per cent. We probably didn’t hear about it, and she didn’t hear about it, because they were dealing with the federal government. But she shouldn’t think for one moment the senior citizens didn’t have problems when they had to file their income tax returns to get the property tax credit.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: Does that include the 26,000 who haven’t got theirs yet?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That has nothing to do with this at all at the moment.

Mr. R. F. Johnston: That is a major mistake, is it not?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Why doesn’t the member wait his turn and ask his questions like everybody else?

12 noon

Mr. R. F. Johnston: I enjoy annoying you.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I can see that. I am prepared to answer the member’s question when his turn comes, but surely he will allow me to answer his colleague’s questions. He is interrupting the answers to his own colleague’s questions. That’s what he is doing.

Mr. Lupusella: It was just a supplementary question.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am happy to answer a supplementary any time. But I just want to point out that mistakes were being made when they had to apply through the income tax system. It’s not something new. As a matter of fact, our mistake rate on applications is lower than when they had to do it the other way. Obviously it should be lower.

The forms we have used are a lot less complicated than the income tax forms that had to be filled out to take advantage of the property tax credit program. That was one of the reasons we decided to go with this program: to eliminate the need for most senior citizens to file an income tax return. They don’t have to file one as long as they are below a taxable income. That’s eliminated. They don’t have to do that any more.

We were hopeful that this sort of form and this sort of program would make it easier for them. That was one thing. The other reason, if the member will recall what I said in my statements and what I said in the House on many occasions -- as a matter of fact, in answers to questions -- is that we wanted to get the money to the senior citizens at the time their property taxes were due. We couldn’t do that through the federal system. I negotiated with the federal people to try to arrange that. They couldn’t do it. They said there was no way they could possibly accommodate what we wanted to do, which was very simply to get the cheques out in time for when the interim tax bill comes in in the spring, so they would have some money to help pay the taxes, and in the fall when their final tax bill comes out, so they would have some assistance to pay their property taxes.

That, to me, is a very logical reason why we would change this program to accommodate them. That is what we are trying to do. If there are some political marks in it, fair enough; we are all politicians. But the basic reason was to provide a better service to the seniors, and I regret there have been some problems with the applications. I would have liked to see them 100 per cent perfect, but we are never going to attain that. We are going to improve next year on the procedures we used this year; there is no question about that. But we will always have people filling in their applications wrong, and we will have to deal with those. That’s what we are doing now with the ones we are still working on. I think the member will find as time goes by that this will be a very good program and it will be an easier program for the senior citizens to deal with than the one they had in the past.

Ms. Bryden: One comment: The Treasurer in his mini-budget contemplated rather obliquely a tax credit for home heating fuels or the hope of getting such an arrangement with the federal government. Seniors undoubtedly have home heating if they own their own homes and they will have to put in an income tax form to obtain a credit of that sort; so we may not be eliminating the need for income tax forms for seniors. However, that is just a comment. I will let some of my colleagues ask their questions.

Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Chairman, in the first instance, I express my thanks to the minister’s staff for the way they have expedited problems we confronted them with from my constituency office. They were most courteous, very pleasant to talk to and, when they were able to give us an immediate answer, they did so. If they couldn’t they called back, which we really appreciated. Having said that, I can assure the minister that not everyone has heard from his ministry who has filed an application form for this senior citizens’ tax grant.

The question I am confronted with by constituents is how long they are still able to apply for the tax grant. Some of them just won’t believe there is $500 waiting for them. It just doesn’t sound right; there is some hook in the whole deal and, up until the time they find that other friends or relatives of theirs have obtained the money, they are extremely cautious and hesitant to apply.

I would like to ask five or six questions and I would prefer an answer to each one as I ask and then to continue up until the time I complete my questioning. It will not be too long.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, they have until December 31, 1981, to get their applications in. We are still receiving applications; the member is quite right. Two hundred or 300 applications a day are still coming in from people who have not taken the time to apply up to this time.

I think the member is correct that there is some hesitation on the part of some people. Some of them perhaps still think the income will be taxable, for example. But it is not taxable; there is an agreement with the federal government. People will pay no income tax on this money; it is a grant. There really are no strings attached to it.

If what we are saying today ever gets into the media, perhaps some more people will be informed. That is one of the very reasons why we tried to have this advertising campaign to make as many points as we could. However, not everybody reads advertising; not everybody watches television or listens to the radio.

There are those who are still waiting for application forms who had their birthday after July 1. They will get their applications in January. They are eligible for the grant for this year.

We had to do this in a way that was perhaps worrisome to some people whose applications contained a mistake. But we did set aside the ones where there was a problem and processed the ones that were correct. I remind members those applications that were correct were processed in a three- to four-week period, which is not a bad turnaround for a new program.

Mr. B. Newman: One of the problems we are confronted with is that, on getting in touch with the minister’s office, they generally tell us just to wait until the end of the month. When the party still has not heard, they tell us to wait another two weeks. When they still have not heard, they get very distressed at that. The first thought that goes through their mind is that maybe the application has not even reached the minister’s office. Maybe they inadvertently did not mail the application.

What answer can we give to the constituent who says, “You have already told me three times just to wait for a short while and I will receive my $500”? How do we reply to a question like that?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I am informed by my staff that there are 14,000 applicants who will get cheques dated December 8. They may not have been contacted, but their cheques have been processed and are ready to go out on December 8. Those people may not have been contacted because there was really nothing wrong with their application. But the 14,000 are part of the overall number I gave earlier.

My suggestion to the member is, if he has anyone who is concerned, we are now in a position to be able to give him an answer pretty quickly as to where that application is and what is holding it up. I suggest the member can call my office if he wants to, or any of the numbers we have given out. But there should be no reason now why staff cannot give the member a quick response as to where an application is.

There is always the possibility that an application was never received. We did have two mail interruptions. There is always that possibility. I think it is well worthwhile inquiring. I would think within a couple of days’ turnaround, staff could tell the member where the application is, what we are waiting on if anything or, if the cheque has been mailed, when it was mailed out.

We are down now to few enough applications that we can handle that kind of request. We could not do it originally because there were just too many applications in the system. But we have eliminated most of them now, and it is much easier to give relatively quick information on those files.

Mr. B. Newman: It was this week that my staff did inquire and were told to wait another week. That was for the third time. It may not have been the same individual, but it was the third time we have been told to wait a little.

12:10 p.m.

I appreciate the magnitude of the problem. I know we cannot come along and resolve a lot of these overnight. As I said in my first comments, the ministry staff has been most co-operative, but we would have preferred in the first instance if we were told, “It may take six weeks, not another month.” If we had told the constituent that, then he would have felt that much better because, as I said earlier, he wonders, “Did they get my application?” As the minister mentioned, there would be no problem in tracing it and informing us as to the stage at which the application happens to be resting right now.

Is there any provision for an individual who may not pay any rent but is providing services to a senior citizen? In other words, if there are two seniors living together, the home owner and another senior who acts as the custodian taking care of that elderly individual but who does not pay or, if she does pay, pays a minimum amount of rental, is she covered? One case we have is where the lady paid only $20 a month rent but provided services that might have been worth $150 a month, and that is excluding meals and so forth.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I think that is covered now. If someone is providing services in lieu of rent -- and that is what the member is suggesting -- if that is made known, that person will be eligible to receive property tax grants on that basis.

Mr. B. Newman: Would they have to provide the receipts from the home owner for that?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I think they would have to have some sort of receipt for the services rendered in lieu of rent because of the Income Tax Act and so on.

Mr. B. Newman: I do not question the need for the receipts, but I would like to follow up on that. Rather than 12 receipts, one for each month, would one receipt for the total of the year be satisfactory?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That would be satisfactory. If the ministry were to receive a letter from the owner indicating the person was providing a service in lieu of rent valued at so much for the year, that would be sufficient.

Mr. B. Newman: That takes care of the problem I had with several of my constituents. It was kind of difficult to try to convince the home owner in this case that she has to provide a receipt; she is afraid it is going to affect her own income tax if she has to declare that she is receiving $100 a month in services from the individual as income for income tax purposes. At least I have the answer for that from the minister.

What happens if an individual passes away in the middle of the year? Is there entitlement to the complete grant?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: We are not sure whether the federal government would advise us of that information. If we were advised that someone had passed away in the middle of the year, obviously there would be entitlement to the grant for the period of time up until the person passed away.

Mr. B. Newman: It is prorated on a monthly basis?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That is right. Whether it be rent or whether it be taxes would not make any difference, but I doubt very much that we would even become aware of it, to be quite honest, because I doubt very much if that kind of information would be passed on from the federal government.

Mr. Warner: Mr. Chairman, I will try again as I did earlier. I will change the tone. The message may be the same, but I will change the tone.

There is no question in anyone’s mind that, if there were any positive program that could be brought forward to assist senior citizens, all of us should support such a program. I think the minister knows well, as do other members of the House, that many senior citizens in our province continue to have difficult problems. They continue to go through difficult times.

A large part of the problem is that many seniors, when they reach 65, or, as one member in this House would have it, 70, reach a plateau in their income. Some of them have nothing more than the old age security, or perhaps the Gains. That is a fixed amount. Inflation erodes those dollars. Taxes increase on their homes; there are sales taxes, food costs, whatever it is. In total, the cost of living increases. The seniors find it increasingly difficult to cope with that. Anything a government can do or the Legislature voting unanimously can do to make the lot of the life for seniors a little better is to be applauded.

What bothers me is that I firmly believe the problems the ministry has experienced in this program could have been avoided. I acknowledge that no program is going to work perfectly; there will be mistakes. People will leave off needed information when they fill out forms; no question about that. But I think the failure rate was unacceptably high, for a very basic reason. I believe the program was brought forward prematurely.

The minister himself acknowledged that we are looking at approximately 800,000 seniors in this province, some of whom will not qualify but most of whom will. It is a brand-new program. The 800,000 seniors are scattered throughout the entire province, some in small rural communities and others in very large centres like Toronto. People who are unfamiliar with the program will take time to become accustomed to what is required of them. The forms themselves, to be filled out and sent in, have to be done properly. They must be explained in a lot of cases. Seniors will need help with that in some cases. The technical machinery required to make sure the program functions is a problem for the ministry and likely a headache as well. It is something the ministry has to do a lot of work on to ensure that it works properly. That takes time; no question about it.

The minister and I both know that in September we had an election scare. Rumours started to float around that there would be or could be a fall election. The rumours were unsubstantiated but, none the less, rumours. People get a little edgy. Will there be an election or not? The government obviously in a minority position begins to get a little edgy about it; maybe there will be an election this fall. Either the Premier would call it -- it has always been my theory from the day after the 1917 campaign that the Premier will determine when the election will be held; maybe the polls showed the Premier this was the time to go in September 1980 -- or perhaps they thought, when the Legislature reconvened in early October, the combined opposition parties would move a vote of no confidence and trigger an election. Either one of the two scenarios was possible. The Premier could call the election in September or at the beginning of October, or the opposition parties could gang up on the government and force an election.

So what can each ministry do in an effort to help secure some potential votes? One thing is to bring forward a program that will be popular with the people of Ontario. How can the government be more popular than to hand out money? The minister could go as far as to have his picture on the cheques that go out.

12:20 p.m.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I was thinking about that.

Mr. Warner: I imagine that crossed the minister’s mind. It is a tempting suggestion: perhaps even, “Greetings from Lorne Maeck,” or “Help yourself to some Maeck money.” It is mind boggling to think of the possibilities to exploit that situation.

None the less, the basic fact is that giving away money is a popular thing to do. Not only that, but how could a government go wrong by giving away money to senior citizens, who are amongst the most deserving people in our province? Surely it is not possible to go wrong while giving away money to deserving senior citizens.

While the program may not be ready in the technical aspect to avoid unnecessary problems in the mechanics, let us bring it forward now just in case there is an election. Wouldn’t it be delightful to think that several hundred thousand seniors would receive money from the government of Ontario, otherwise known as the Progressive Conservative Party, in the midst of an election campaign, with or without the minister’s picture and signature? What better tactic than that in the midst of a campaign?

That is why it was done. You and I know that, Mr. Chairman. The minister knows that. The election scare caused the program to come forward prematurely. It was not ready to go.

The Deputy Chairman: I wonder if the honourable member would come to his question. This is not necessarily a period for making speeches but to inquire into the estimates of the Ministry of Revenue. I have allowed a fair amount of latitude, but there are other people on my list who are waiting; so if you would come to the questions.

Mr. Warner: Mr. Chairman, I know you wanted some background for the question.

The Deputy Chairman: I do not mind a reasonable amount of background, but not necessarily a speech.

Mr. Warner: The question is one I attempted to raise during the main office vote. Who accepts the responsibility for having brought this program forward prematurely? Is it the minister, is it cabinet or is it some other person who is responsible for that decision?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I do not necessarily agree with the member that it was brought forward prematurely. If he wants to stroke that part of the question out, I will accept the responsibility for bringing in the program. I do not necessarily agree it was premature.

Mr. Warner: You do not believe it was premature?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: No. I do not know whether you were here when we were discussing this matter earlier; we talked about the fact there had been some mistakes. It works out to about 40 per cent of the applications being improperly filled out in one form or another. I did advise the members of the Legislature that when it was being done by the federal government through the income tax system, there was a mistake rate of 68 per cent, and that has been in place for years. There will always be mistakes in these kinds of situations.

I do not think it was premature. If one looks at our record, most of those cheques did get out in time to assist those people’s property tax bill. The prime purpose was to get the money in their hands in time to assist with the property tax payments for the municipality, whether one agrees with that or sees it as a political thing.

We are all in politics around this room. I am quite sure if the member were sitting on this side of the House, if he were contemplating bringing in a program such as this and if he thought he smelled an election in the air, he would do exactly the same thing as we have done. Let us not play games.

Mr. Warner: If we were on that side of the House, we would have such stable programs the little political gimmicks would not be necessary.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I admit there have been a lot of mistakes in the application and in the administration -- I have never denied that -- but I still find mistakes were being made on the old program as well. It is not something we are going to avoid in the future. I hope we will reduce that number of errors, but we will never get to the point where there will be none.

Mr. Warner: The federal Liberals are equally capable of making errors and running programs as are the Ontario Conservatives.

Mr. Ruston: I have a question with regard to the grants. Apparently the minister is now sending letters out to people who have not yet received their cheques, telling them their application is being considered. One of those letters has already been received by someone in my area, and I am wondering if that is necessary. When these applications are being processed, can you not do a lot more than send out a letter saying it is being considered? Surely they are all being considered. I was under the impression some time ago they would all be processed by November 30, but apparently that is not the case now.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: The reason for that letter is that there is some concern among senior citizens as to whether or not we have ever received the application. There were a couple of mail stoppages and other things during that period when we were receiving applications and sending out cheques. There are quite a few seniors who are concerned because they have not heard from us and they were not sure we had received their application. We thought we should make sure they were aware we had received them and were processing them.

In almost every case of that kind there is some mistake in the application. We have tried to get in touch with those people to correct it, but we want to acknowledge that we have it so they can at least be assured it is going to be processed. That is the reason for it. I do not think there are that many of them, but we have done this in some cases.

Mr. Ruston: About how many do you feel are now in the offices of your ministry being processed? Do you have a ball-park figure of how many are yet to be sent out?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I think earlier in the debate I indicated there was still something like 44,000. I indicated that of those there are 14,000 applicants who will get cheques dated December 8, so it is gradually being cut down. I am told there are another 11,000 cheques to go out on December 15 as well, so they are in various stages of process.

Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Chairman, the critic of the NDP claimed the property tax credit program was a fiasco. I do not want to use the same language. I just want to say that people are getting into constant red tape. First there is the problem of identifying the application and then the delay in processing the application until the money goes out to the applicant.

12:30 p.m.

I realize the minister is aware of the difficulties encountered in the administration of this program. I also realize his goodwill in trying to improve the program next year or in the future. The reason I am standing up today is to raise a few questions to make sure those improvements will take place and, also because I do not want people, in the near future, to get into the same frustrating process they have been getting into this year: (1) the number of phone calls made by constituents to your ministry; (2) the difficulties of locating the department to which application should go.

I think the major problem people encountered in asking questions about the delay of payments was the location of the appropriate department. The minister should give us certain guarantees now in order that this problem will not happen again. I am talking about constituents directly contacting the department looking after the applications.

I want to talk about myself. I have called your ministry several times in a month about certain constituents of mine, and the inability of ministry employees to locate the applications. I hope the minister will give us guarantees that the average individual affected by this program will, in the future, be able to get in touch with your ministry to make sure he or she knows the different steps implemented in his or her application, and will get immediate answers in relation to the final processing of the application, that is, the grant payment.

I do not want senior citizens applying for this program to get into the same red tape as they do at the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Their usual reply is, “I am sorry, we will have to locate the file. We do not know anything about it. We do not know what type of decision has been taken in relation to the particular issue before the Workmen’s Compensation Board. You will have to wait.” Waiting for the administration of this program, this year, has taken more than a month, after inquiring myself on several occasions through your ministry.

I do not want to say it is a fiasco. I think this type of red tape should not occur in the future when your ministry plans a different administrative process to make sure that payment will go out immediately. If a constituent or a senior citizen gets in touch with your ministry staff directly they should know immediately where the file is and what type of problems are encountered. If there are mistakes, that is fine. At least they should know a mistake has taken place and when the file is located by your employees in your ministry, eventually they can get new information either by phone or other means.

I hope the minister will give us this type of guarantee. We do not want further red tape on something that the public at large is relying upon. In the case of senior citizens, eventually the money will be very useful to pay property taxes and so on, and they should not have to wait months and months, spending so much time on the phone without getting a reply.

I want some form of guarantee or improvement, if I may use that word, so that in the near future, when claimants inquire about their applications, at least the employees in your ministry will be able to locate their applications immediately and the claimants will be able to find out what type of mistake has been made in them.

You mentioned that a lot of people were making mistakes when filling out their income tax forms before this program came into effect. Of course, now the Ministry of Revenue is facing the same type of problem -- a figure of 68 per cent was used and you may correct me if I am wrong -- with people filling out applications for income tax purposes. You are faced with the same number now, the same percentage of people making mistakes in filling out the application. Am I correct?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Less than that.

Mr. Lupusella: Less. A little bit less? How much?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I would say 40 per cent.

Mr. Lupusella: Forty per cent. Even though there is an improvement on that, the fact remains that a lot of people are affected by it. This year, we have been faced with more than 100,000 people?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Two hundred thousand.

Mr. Lupusella: Two hundred thousand people made mistakes on the application and that is why the big load has been increasing on that ministry.

I also want to ask the minister what he is doing in relation to those who receive the application for the property tax grant and who do not return the application for some reason or other. I refer particularly to senior citizens who are sick or very old, and who are unable to fill out the application; therefore, they do not send back the application which was previously sent to them by the ministry. I want to know what the minister or his ministry is doing to trace those applications in order that senior citizens, or other people who are unable for one reason or another to fill out the application, may at least be contacted by the ministry to be asked why they did not fill out the application.

For example, I was asked by a senior citizen who is 90 years old to help with the application on her house. She told me she did not know how to fill out the application, and could not get out at all even to mail it. I did the work for her. I was glad that I was just passing by her place during the summer when she was sitting on her verandah, and she called to me. I did the work for her and was able to mail the application for her.

I am just wondering how many people, as a result of these problems, did not return their applications to the ministry. Maybe the applicant has a serious problem and cannot fill out the application or is unable as a result of a disability to mail out the application for the grant.

I want to know, and I want a guarantee that the minister is going to follow up on those applications that are not returned to his ministry, to make sure everyone will be able to get the tax credit.

I also would like to show the minister my dismay at the fact that this program is not incorporating disabled people. I am just thinking of injured workers who are either 100 per cent disabled or partially disabled with severe disabilities that they encountered on the job and were compensable accidents, as a result of which they are unable to go back to the labour market.

12:40 p.m.

I guess those individuals can be compared to the people who reach the age of 65 but are unable to go back to the labour market to make further earnings. I want to know from the minister whether the cabinet or government is contemplating the expansion of these programs to those disabled people, starting with those who are 100 per cent disabled and receiving 100 per cent disability pension from the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Surely we are 100 per cent sure those people will not be able to go back to the labour market. They are on a fixed income. They will be receiving their pensions from the Workmen’s Compensation Board based on 100 per cent disability, and eventually the Canada pension plan if they are entitled to it.

The property tax credit should be extended to those people and also to those who are severely injured, who are receiving, for example, a 50 per cent pension from the Workmen’s Compensation Board, are unable to return to the labour market and are receiving just the Workmen’s Compensation Board pension and the Canada pension plan if they are entitled to it.

Why is such a program not extended to those who are in great need? Maybe the guideline that should be used is the principle of whether they are able to go back to the labour market. As long as they are unable to go back to the labour market, they should at least be incorporated in this program to get the property tax credit to alleviate their economic hardship, taking into consideration that property taxes have been skyrocketing in the last few years.

I hope the minister will give me some answers in relation to this to make sure people will be able to get an answer about locating their applications when they get in touch with this ministry, with the follow-up principle for those who did not return their applications and the extension of this type of benefit to disabled people across the province.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: The member has posed two, three or four questions here. He wants assurances that in future we will be able to locate an application and advise an applicant what stage his application is at in the ministry. What we are doing for 1981 is putting in a new system that will identify each application received and what area of process it is in. In effect, we will be able to accomplish what you are requesting.

I still have to come back to defend the Ministry of Revenue’s administration program because I think members will recall, if they think back a bit, that we also administer the guaranteed annual income system for senior citizens. There have not been problems of any amount in that program. When we get this one set in properly, I am hopeful this program will run as efficiently as our Gains-A program.

Members know they can phone for Gains information and usually get the information on the phone at the time they call. So can people other than members, if they call that particular branch of my ministry. This program may not be quite as efficient as that one because there are more technical problems with this one but I would hope we would become efficient enough to give an answer quickly as to where that application is, why it has not moved and when a cheque can be expected.

We had great difficulty this time around because once it got into the system it was very difficult for us to locate it in the program. We are going to correct that so we will be able to pull the file while it is being processed at any place within the system to give people who telephone an answer as quickly as possible. I assure the member, we are going to do that. We learn by experience and certainly we will improve that.

I am sure the member knows that the extension to disabled persons and so on is not within my jurisdiction as Minister of Revenue. As a cabinet minister, I do sometimes become involved in those decisions. The type of people the member is referring to are eligible for the Ontario tax credit program at the moment, so they are getting some assistance. In some cases, they could be some of those your critic has been complaining about who may get less under this program than under the Ontario tax program.

I have a great deal of sympathy for this subject. I agree those persons are not going to be productive any longer. They, have no opportunity to get out on their own and get a job. In effect, they are in the same condition and position as those 65 and over, as are all disabled people. I have a great deal of sympathy for those people. I feel we should be doing as much as we can to assist them.

All I can do is assure the member, if and when the matter comes up for discussion within cabinet, that his views will be taken into consideration because I agree with what he said. It will not be the first time I have said it, because I have some real sympathy for those people, although, as I say, they are entitled to the Ontario tax credit grant, which they still get. In some cases they might get just as much under that program as the new one.

I don’t know if there is any other question I have not covered.

Mr. Lupusella: There was another question in relation to those who received the application but the application was not sent back to your ministry for one reason or another. What type of follow-up is your ministry using to trace them to make sure the application will be filled out and that you are alerted if they need any assistance or that there are certain problems affecting them? Something should be done about it.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: I agree there could be people out there who have not submitted their application.

Mr. Grande: There are.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: If you want to be technical, sure there are, there are bound to be. Our problem is that in a lot of cases we sent out two applications to one family. They only send one back so we have no way of comparing the numbers we receive with the numbers we send out, simply because of the fact some are married and we do not have any way of identifying the applications that are not returned to us.

The only thing we could do is more advertising on that aspect. I think we will still have to do a bit of advertising for the ethnic people, the landed immigrants and so on, to find them as well. I am sure there are some who have not yet come to us for information about the program. We have no records within the ministry to find those people, so we will have to do a bit more advertising in that regard.

12:50 p.m.

I do not know how to reach the people you are referring to. We had the same problem with the Ontario tax credit program. We know there are people who never, ever filed an income tax return to be eligible for the Ontario tax credit. If it were just a simple case of sending out applications and expecting everyone to return them, everyone being eligible, it would not be so tough. But the fact is the way the system is set up, we do send out applications to a husband and wife, if they are both 65, but they have to send only one back to us. So we lose one in the process and it would make it very difficult.

I think the only way we are going to get these people is through more advertising or perhaps through community groups and so on. They might know who the senior citizens are in their areas -- the Golden Age clubs or senior citizens’ clubs or those groups that assist them. They could be very helpful in locating those who have not at the moment filed for their property tax grants. I do not see any other way at the moment. We will certainly look into it and see if there is a way we can do it. I, as much as you, want to see everyone who is eligible apply for it. They are entitled to it and I would like to see them get it, so we will do everything we can.

Mr. Lupusella: I understand. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask a last question. Why is the minister sending two applications for families? How difficult is it for him to get a list of those receiving old age security and mail out the application to them? Surely he must have a list of those who are receiving old age security. I really do not understand why he is sending out two applications when we can easily reach the senior citizens who are in receipt of old age security. Will the minister please explain why he is sending out two applications and why he does not use the general list of those receiving old age security? Why does he not mail just one application so at least he can follow the number of people filling out the application and those who do not?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: That is our problem. We do use the old age security list the federal people supply us with but that list does not match up husband and wife, Thus we have no way of knowing who is married to whom when we get the list. The only way we can be sure to cover everybody is to send an application to each one on the list. The instruction when they receive them is that if they are husband and wife, they need only send one back. It is because the computer tape might identify them as being married but it does not say to whom. That is our problem.

Mr. Lupusella: A last comment, Mr. Chairman: I hope the minister will be able to find other ways of reaching them. I do not have alternative ideas at this point but I hope he will analyse the problem and will find a way of reaching everybody.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Certainly we will do our very best.

Mr. Worton: Mr. Chairman, can the minister say if during the past seven years of the operation of the tax credit through the income tax there have been any studies done to indicate how a return of this rebate could be made with fewer problems? In other words, the government actually is giving money back to people which it has collected. Is there no simpler method? My feeling in dealing with people is that regardless of age, they seem to freeze when they see a cross to put here or a mark to put there or a figure to put here.

Have any alternative programs been put forth to see if there is a simpler method?

The other thing I would like to raise, does the minister feel there is any income level where it could be cut off so that some of those with smaller pensions or those with disabled pensions could be helped? The federal government has about an $18,000 cutoff, I think, where family benefits are concerned. The Treasurer was well intentioned when he said all of these have contributed to it and everybody should qualify. But I think you and I know it is still only money. It is the medium of exchange.

If some of that money could be put to the benefit of people with social service incomes or disablement pensions, it would be of far greater assistance than giving it to a number of people who really don’t need it. You must have some idea of that number -- whether it is 10 per cent or 15 per cent or 20 per cent -- in an income bracket of $10,000 or more.

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Mr. Chairman, we did look at various ways and means of administration, prior to implementing this program. My instructions to my staff at the time the decision was taken to implement this program were to bring in as simple a program as possible, bearing in mind that we were dealing with senior citizens in the province and that some of them would have great difficulty in filling out forms. The member is quite right. Some of them do have a real problem.

We did bring out a form we feel is almost as simple as we can make it and still have some check on what is going on. We are responsible to the provincial auditor and to the public accounts committee of this Legislature for the proper handling of money, whether we bring it in or send it out. There is certain information we really have to have in order to justify the payment. I think the form we have is about as simple as we can make it.

One of the things that disturbed me at the time I first saw the form was the request for the assessment number. That is why, if the member has seen the instruction sheet, we have not asked for it this year. We say, “If you have it, please give it to us; if not, save it and put it on next year’s return.”

The reason we want that is so we don’t have to bother anybody. If we want to do an audit, we can call the municipality; we can get the mill rate. We already have the assessment on file; we can do an audit to find out if they are really putting in the right amount of tax. It prevents us from having to ask them for tax receipts. We put that number in to simplify the procedure, yet that is a burden to some people. When many people get the assessment notice, it is gone. That is why I instructed staff not to press this year for the number but to ask people to be sure to save it for next year’s return. That is the reason that is there.

If the member goes down the application, he will find there is a good reason for everything on it to be there. We do have to have enough reliable information on those forms to satisfy the provincial auditor and to satisfy the public accounts committee of this Legislature. We did look at various ways of implementing this. But basically, to keep it very simple, we had to -- not only for that reason but for others -- eliminate income. That leads into the member’s second question.

In the Ministry of Revenue, we do not have the income of individuals. That is filed with the federal people. As long as they were administering the program, they had that information at their fingertips, because the people filed an income tax return at the same time as they made the application. Anything dealing with income, any adjustments we would make that would require us to know what the income of the person is, would be a very difficult thing for us to do. We would have to ask them for their personal income, and if we wanted to audit we would have to go back to the federal people to find out whether in fact that was what their income was.

Mr. Worton: Unless you establish a figure of $20,000 or $18,000?

Hon. Mr. Maeck: Yes, but how do we prove that is what they made? That is the problem. We don’t have that information on our files any more. That is one advantage of it being done by the federal government. When they were doing it, they had those kinds of figures at their disposal and they could easily verify income as far as the application was concerned.

Vote 803 agreed to.

On motion by Hon. Mr. Wells, the committee of supply reported certain resolutions.

The House adjourned at 1 p.m.