STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES RÈGLEMENTS ET DES PROJETS DE LOI D’INTÉRÊT PRIVÉ
Wednesday 26 March 2008 Mercredi 26 mars 2008
The first bill is Bill Pr4, An Act to revive 872440 Ontario Inc. The sponsor, who is here today, is Ms. Laurie Scott, MPP, on behalf of Garfield Dunlop. Would the sponsor and the applicant please come forward. Would the applicant and others introduce themselves for the purposes of Hansard.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I am here on behalf of Garfield Dunlop. Rosemarie is here with her solicitor. He’s just been introduced and he’s going to make a brief statement in respect to Bill Pr4, An Act to revive 872440 Ontario Inc.
As a result of changes of ownership in the corporation, a solicitor who was involved failed to file a notice of change. The board of directors had changed. The Ontario government business corporations branch was not advised of the change. As a result of the corporation having no directors registered, the corporation was cancelled.
Notices of impending cancellation were sent to an old mailing address and not brought to Ms. Bain’s attention as the new owner. As a result, Ms. Bain is now seeking to have the corporation revived, because at the time of cancellation it did own the property.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to compliment the member who has sponsored the bill. The Ministry of Finance has no problem with the bill. The Ministry of Government Services, the Ministry of Housing and the Public Guardian and Trustee as well have no problem. I don’t have a problem. I don’t see any members having a problem with the bill, so I’ll be happy if it goes through.
Mr. Paul Miller: Yes. I’d just like to know—I guess there was a communication breakdown between the corporation and the government. Are there any guidelines that we may recommend in the future so people could get proper notification and this unfortunate incident won’t happen again? Are there any possible recommendations that we could make?
Mr. Paul Miller: Yes, well, I realize it’s not up to the government, but the guidelines should be established so that either side is not responsible for the lack of communication so that in future we don’t have to put these people through this again.
Mr. Owen Thompson: Coming into this matter after the fact and replacing the original corporate counsel, I do believe that the failure was on behalf of Ms. Bain’s former solicitor to file the necessary corporate return. The only comment that I may add to your suggestion is that when I sought to revive this corporation—there are two methods of reviving a corporation, depending on what the reason for cancellation was. One is a fairly simple matter of making sure that all corporate tax returns are up to date and then filing with what used to be the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations articles of revival. That was not available in this case.
Unfortunately, in doing the research on this process I did discover that this is a fairly common occurrence across Ontario and there appear to be a number of these matters coming forward every year. Perhaps a suggestion could be made to somehow take this revival process out of a special bill or a private bill, requiring a law of the province, and amend the Business Corporations Act to provide for a more efficient and reliable process.
The Chair (Mr. Michael Prue): The next item is Bill Pr6, An Act to revive 716056 Ontario Limited. The sponsor is Norm Miller, MPP. Norm and the applicant, as well, please come forward. For the purposes of Hansard, would the applicant please introduce himself.
Mr. Mario Sergio: It’s a very similar situation. I wish that there would be an easier way which would save time for the applicant and for ourselves, as well. The ministry doesn’t have any concerns with respect to the application, and we are supporting it.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: Would the committee consider requesting counsel to prepare a report for us itemizing the matters that do not come under the act—the right of revivership, which is an administrative remedy—and perhaps we can then consider whether some of them should and make recommendations to the ministry? Is that a fair thing to do?
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: We’ve had a number of reviverships coming before at great expense and time—I think time is unfortunate—and perhaps you could take a look at them to see why they would not fit under the administrative remedy rather than this remedy.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I remember being in this committee about 20 years ago, and the same issues keep coming up. We’re going through the same process, and in the end, we end up here with the same situation. I want to refer you to one thing, and that is to study the recommendations of the cut-the-red-tape committee. Have a look at that and see what recommendations they came up with a few years ago.
The Chair (Mr. Michael Prue): Okay, we are now on to Bill Pr3, An Act Respecting St. Andrew’s Congregation of the United Church of Canada at Toronto, sponsor David Zimmer, MPP. Would Mr. Zimmer come forward, along with the applicant or applicants.
Mr. Martin Campbell: I’d be pleased to introduce our group. My name is Martin Campbell. I’m chair of the board of trustees of St. Andrew’s United Church. To my right is Reverend Dr. John Hartley. He was minister of the church for some 20 years and retired last year. Our counsel, J. Paul Mills, is also present.
Mr. David Zimmer: I’m very pleased to sponsor this private bill. It deals with a sought exemption of some church lands owned by St. Andrew’s Church on Bloor Street. They’re seeking an exemption from the Religious Organizations’ Lands Act. I’m going to ask Mr. Campbell, chair of the board of trustees, and perhaps his counsel, to elaborate just what’s involved here.
Mr. Martin Campbell: Thank you, Mr. Zimmer. Mr. Chair, members, thank you very much for hearing us this morning. In addition to the members you see before you, I should also give the regrets of our current minister, who’s now on study leave and wishes he could be here this morning to see this through.
I should also just mention Dr. Richard Davidson, who’s been associated with St. Andrew’s for over 90 years. He’s looking forward to the next 100 years. He’s sitting just behind in the public gallery. So he has had a very deep interest in this bill.
In essence, this is an application for an exemption of St. Andrew’s commercial property from the 40-year lease limit set out in the Religious Organizations’ Lands Act. You have before you a sketch map of the site with photographs showing the property. You’ll see on the sketch map there are two parts to the church lands: the commercial part, which is the top half of the property, and the church part, which is the lower half of the property. We want to get exemption for the church part of the property for 100 years. Right now, the land is leased commercially. We derive significant rents from the land. We use a vast portion of those rents for charitable work in our community. You have a brochure before you which lists some of the recipients of those grants.
The Religious Organizations’ Lands Act applies to unincorporated associations. St. Andrew’s is unincorporated. The act prohibits organizations such as ours from leasing commercial land for anything over 40 years. As you can imagine, if you take a look at the building in the photographs, that’s a substantial building, which is really going to be there for well over 40 years.
When the church first entered into the ground lease some 25, 26 years ago, the then trustees of the church understood that the 40-year provision of the Religious Organizations’ Lands Act was applicable and provided for a change in the law that would enable the tenants and the landlord to continue the lease. So we are today appearing before you to ask for exemption from the Religious Organizations’ Lands Act so that we can continue our lease for approximately 100 years. If you have any questions about it I’m sure our team can do our best to respond.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Again, with this bill here, it’s minor considerations and specific exemptions. Both ministries, finance and the Attorney General, as well as municipal affairs and housing, have no problem with the bill and with their request for the exemption. Therefore, we will support it. I want to thank the member, David Zimmer, for bringing the bill forward.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: I have a question for counsel. I’m not familiar with the act, in particular section 10, which deals with trustees of an organized religious group. But dealing with that act, I assume that in 1981, when Bramalea leased it, they obtained the necessary severance, so there’s no mention of that in any of the material here. I take it the church’s lands are adjacent to the commercial property.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: Yes. So I assume the severance was obtained, because the lease was for more than 21 years. However, this act deals with a 40-year limit, which I assume deals with mortmain, and perhaps you might tell us the public policy behind the statute.
Ms. Susan Klein: I’m not sure I could. In the materials, I think there’s a letter from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee that sets out the policy behind section 10 of the Religious Organizations’ Lands Act, but this is not my area of expertise. This isn’t a policy that I’m familiar with. It’s toward the back of the compendium, a letter dated Tuesday, April 24, 2007.
Mr. J. Paul Mills: I think the answer really is, Mr. Martiniuk, in the letter of the PGT. We had extensive discussions with that office in part of the process. Ultimately, they were satisfied to recommend approval of this exemption in the particular circumstances. The Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act which you refer to is long gone, fortunately. ROLA is a partial holdover from some of the provisions of that old act.
It’s hard for me to understand what the legislative intent of this old statute was. There are various explanations about why the 40-year limit. It seems to me it’s quite arbitrary. It could have been 50, it could have been 30, it could have been 100, but for some reason there was a 40-year limit put in it, and it only applies to unincorporated religious organizations.
So if I may, I think really what today is about and what this private act is about is fairness. Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with Holy Trinity Church, which appears in the middle of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. That’s an Anglican church. They had the ability to enter into what I believe is a 100-year or 99-year lease with respect to its property without going through the process we are because it happens to be part of a corporation—the Synod of Toronto, I think it’s called, or something like that—and that legislation specifically allowed leasing. St. Andrew’s United Church is not part of a corporation, and so it gets caught by this particular act. All we’re trying to do is what others have, and Holy Trinity is but one example; there are a number of other churches, Catholic and Anglican, that have been able to do what we’re seeking to do, simply because they happen to be part of a corporation.
Mr. J. Paul Mills: Virtually every United Church congregation—I mean, there is a United Church of Canada Act. But that really only applies—it sets the ground rules for individual congregations. All of the property of the United Church is owned by the head office, but it’s held by trustees of each congregation, with the provision that the congregation has the right to use the land and the buildings as long as they’re part of the church, but if they ever fold up or decide to not be part of the United Church of Canada, the land reverts to the federal corporation.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: I thank you for that explanation. I don’t have a problem with it. I do suggest, however, that the government do consider taking a look at this act, now that it seems to be highly prejudicial to certain religious organizations within Canada, whereas others do not have to abide by a 40-year-old rule. Perhaps we should be eliminating the total act rather than dealing with it piecemeal.
Mr. Paul Miller: I just want to wish you luck. A lot of congregations are struggling throughout Ontario, and you’re very fortunate to have a piece of property like that that can generate income for the church, because congregations are dwindling and things are a struggle. I just wanted to wish you all the best. You’ve got my support. It appears that you are doing a lot of good work and you’ve got a lot of supporters in the community that are happy with your financial aid. I wish you all the best and God bless.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I find it absolutely amazing, looking at the outreach mission that St. Andrew’s has done in the past. I think it would be appropriate, Mr. Chair, that Reverend Hartley, who has been at this church now over 20 years, you say, and a former minister is here with us today—whose name, unfortunately, I didn’t catch.
Looking at the various aspects of the outreach mission, how does it actually work between the central United Church, which is on St. Clair Avenue, and St. Andrew’s? This commercial property must bring in a substantial amount of money for you to be able to do all these wonderful things. Can you tell this committee what the budget would be, roughly, to do all of this?
Mr. Martin Campbell: Perhaps I can speak to it, but Dr. Hartley can also add to this. In a given year, our ground rents are $370,000, but we have an escalation clause. Every seven, eight, or 10 years it will be increased to better reflect market rents. So in a given year, we would receive approximately $370,000. Of that money, depending on the budgets that we may have in any given year, we put some of that revenue towards the maintenance of our building. The church building itself is provided rent-free to quite a number of groups, from the Sunshine Centres for Seniors to Alcoholics Anonymous and others who meet without paying any rent to us. The location is superb for that. We’re on the criss-cross of the subway lines.
Of the other $170,000, we give direct grants to a number of organizations in our community, and some of them are listed there. Those grants can vary enormously. One year we gave $25,000 to the Fresh Air Fund, but with another organization we might give $2,000 or $3,000 for a specific project—a refrigerator or some one-off donation to enhance a program.
We have a committee set up to examine the best way to use the money. They assess applicants and keep track of the money and so on. So it has been a long-standing policy of the church to use as much as possible of the rents for this larger community purpose.
Rev. John Hartley: As far as the United Church of Canada is concerned, through the Toronto south presbytery, of which we are a part, St. Andrew’s has the blessing of the United Church to go forward with the ministry we engage in.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: Well, please accept our thanks and congratulations for what you’re doing. I hope that in the future there may be some kind of a co-operative arrangement between the government and some of these outreach programs. It would be great. Maybe you want to consider that. Thank you very much.
Mr. Mario Sergio: I just have a quick question of clarification. I wasn’t so sure about what you said with respect to the 1940 special act. Is it because of that particular act that you are here today, that it’s working against the congregation?
Mr. Mario Sergio: It is in the material here, which indicates that the charity was exempted from mortmain. That is, from obtaining a mortmain licence to hold land, but not from the requirement that it must use or occupy the land for its charitable purposes.
Mr. Martin Campbell: That may be a special act that may refer to that specific congregation, but I’m guessing at this point. If it’s a matter of some interest, perhaps we could get back to you with a letter or something that expands it further.
The Chair (Mr. Michael Prue): Okay, when we get to that. There is a motion I think all members have before them that has been circulated—I’ll read it for the record, if someone wishes to move it—“That the committee recommend that the fees, and the actual cost of printing at all stages be remitted on Bill Pr3, An Act respecting St. Andrew’s Congregation of The United Church of Canada at Toronto.” So if there is a mover, when we get to that, I will recognize you, Mr. Ruprecht.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I move that the committee recommend that the fees, and the actual cost of printing at all stages be remitted on Bill Pr3, An Act respecting St. Andrew’s Congregation of The United Church of Canada at Toronto.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Just a question of staff. I have no problem with the motion. How would the committee be dealing with further or similar circumstances if we were to face the same situation in the future? Would this cause difficulties for us?
The Chair (Mr. Michael Prue): If I can just explain for the members of the committee and those present, it’s my understanding that this is done on a case-by-case basis. It has been recommended in this case because it is a charitable organization.
Mr. Martin Campbell: If I may, I just wanted to thank Ms. Klein for presenting such a clean and concise draft. I’m also very, very grateful to Mr. Zimmer for his support and guidance through this and to his assistant, Ms. Lauren Consky. They made what could have been a very esoteric exercise very clear, and I’m very grateful to them. Thank you.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: Before you wrap up, I’d like to add just one item. If we would pass Mr. Craitor’s motion, this would be an historic motion. Never before has a member walked out of this committee room with money in their hands.
At the time of the next meeting—I’m not sure whether it will be next Wednesday or at some subsequent date—I wonder if we might also have a subcommittee meeting of representatives from each of the parties to discuss the private members’ bills that have been forwarded to our committee, and whether we’re going to deal with them.
872440 Ontario Inc. Act, 2008, Bill Pr4, Mr. Dunlop T-3
Ms. Laurie Scott, MPP
Ms. Rosemarie Bain
Mr. Owen Thompson
716056 Ontario Limited Act, 2008, Bill Pr6, Mr. Norm Miller T-4
Mr. Norm Miller, MPP
Mr. Wayne Wolfe