Mr. Speaker: I would like to call to the attention of the House a visitor at the table, Craig James, the Second Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees of the British Columbia Legislature, who is on attachment to the Office of the Clerk.
Mr. Swart: l just want to say that the two-day start of this legislative session certainly does not confirm the adage that bigger is better. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) is contradictory and confused on his free trade stance and options and the new Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. R. F. Nixon), who usually perfumes quite competently, has no handle at all on what he is doing with automobile insurance legislation. He does not even know what is in the bill he tabled yesterday.
On November 3 he informed the media that there was no capping of insurance rates in the bill. However, the bill tabled on November 4 contained exactly the same capping provisions, including the 10 per cent rollback for males under 25 and taxi drivers, as were in the bill his predecessor tabled last May. Today, November 5, the media are still quoting the minister as saying the 10 per cent rollback is not in the bill.
Prior to and during the election campaign, the Premier and the former minister flatly stated that the government would not permit rate classifications based on age, sex or marital status. Instead of reiterating that in his statement to the House or in the legislation yesterday, the minister said that rate classifications will be subject to “public consultation prior to finalization,” but he cannot see any change in position between that statement and the election promise of his leader.
Perhaps I am being too hard on the minister. I should perhaps be blaming his acting deputy minister, Jack Lyndon of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, who is obviously putting the words in the minister’s mouth.
Mr. Harris: The Premier (Mr. Peterson) and his Liberal friends are now entertaining a proposal to dramatically expand an existing wilderness area near Temagami in northeastern Ontario and he is giving credibility to what we believe is a self-serving southern-Ontario-based plan to ban all existing and future primary resource operations in the area.
It could eliminate an estimated 15,000 direct and indirect resource jobs in the north, which is about the same as wiping out about 200,000 jobs in Metro Toronto. It is hard to believe that is what the Premier and our Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) are now seriously contemplating. The minister’s waffling on this issue has already jeopardized and probably doomed 200 direct jobs and the entire mill operation at the Milne lumber company in Temagami, one more sign of the Premier’s willingness to put northerners out of work for political gain in the south.
The minister has already held up access to timber allocations in the area for close to a year. Sportsmen and recreationists have already discovered locked gates across access roads, and now the Liberals have appointed yet another committee to review the mess that they alone created. We do not need another committee, we need our jobs and we are prepared to fight for our jobs.
The Premier’s friends are welcome to canoe in our workplace, but at a cost of 15,000 jobs, or even one job, the current price of admission is too high. I call on members of this House to take a stand on this northern Ontario issue and to oppose this Liberal economic insanity before another job is lost.
Mr. Campbell: I wish to inform the House of an exemplary young Sudburian who has left his mark on the international athletic community. I am speaking of Alex Baumann. Last week he officially announced his retirement from competitive swimming at the age of 23.
Fourteen years ago, Alex began his career under the expertise of his coach and mentor, Dr. Jeno Tihanyi. The thousands of hours of practice time in the pool paid off. Alex Baumann has won numerous awards in his area of specialty, the 200- and 400-metre individual medley. Sudburians were extremely proud of Alex in 1984, when he won two gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics, the first time in 72 years that Canada had won a gold in the pool.
His immediate plans include completing his education at Laurentian University, where he is majoring in political science -- this is the second day in a row that we have had somebody majoring in political science; it is a field of the future, I would say -- and his forthcoming marriage in Australia next year.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Today I want to make comments, and very sad comments, about a gentleman in my riding who passed away the other day, Frank Pival. Frank was employed with Wyeth Ltd. pharmaceuticals at Windsor for 29 years. Throughout his employment, he worked with a multitude of harmful substances. One substance commonly used was formaldehyde, which he used for washing bottles and a number of other things that they use that chemical for in the pharmaceutical industry. Workers were required to put their hands in the substance without gloves. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic, and many of the other chemicals that Frank worked with were in the same classification.
On Tuesday night Frank died of brain cancer. He was 49 years old. Frank knew for some time that he was going to die. His hope was that if compensation came too late to help him, at least he would know that compensation would be available for his family after he died. If he had known this, at least it might have lessened the suffering he went through in the last several months.
In the last year and a half, our offices contacted the Workers’ Compensation Board 17 times without success. The Ministry of Labour has lost files. The Workers’ Compensation Board has lost files. The matter has been referred out to consultant after consultant and, as of today, there is still no compensation for this family. This is an outrage in Ontario.
Mr. Pollock: I would like to pay tribute to Harry Mulhall, who died yesterday at the age of 53. Harry Mulhall was the city editor of the Belleville Intelligencer and the dean of its staff. He started working with the Intelligencer in 1962 and before that had worked with a variety of northern papers and radio stations.
Harry had interviewed me on many occasions, and I always felt he was fair in his editorials and factually accurate. The Belleville Intelligencer under his guidance gave equal coverage to the four Ontario ridings in the Quinte area. Harry Mulhall was a credit to his profession and the community in which he lived and was a devoted family man. He took a keen interest in the workings of the Ontario Legislature and he will be sorely missed.
Mr. Tatham: In early 1951, the Parliament of Canada incorporated a company called Trans-Canada PipeLines. In 1953, it decided that the export of natural gas should not be permitted until it was satisfied that there could be no economic use, present or future, for the gas within Canada. This was a Canada-first natural gas policy.
In the fall of 1955, after the TransCanada pipeline company had suggested it could finance the rest of the line if the section in northern Ontario from the Manitoba border to Kapuskasing could be publicly financed, the governments of Canada and Ontario signed to establish a crown company to build and own a section of the pipeline.
The pipeline from Alberta was built and our citizens in northern and eastern Ontario had a supply of natural gas. Our parliamentarians had the vision to promote a great national undertaking which contributes to the preservation of Canadian independence and the strengthening of the Canadian economy.
Have we now changed our minds? When we read The Seven Sisters by Anthony Sampson or The Control of Oil by John M. Blair, do we not question the energy proposal in the free trade agreement? We live in an energy-intensive age and we live in a cold climate. In our deliberations, let us be forthright and encourage a Canada-first energy policy. Anything else would be tantamount to selling off our heritage. Are we not stealing from our children?
Mr. Reville: I want to reiterate again today that it is very much time for the government, and the Minister of Education (Mr. Ward) in particular, to re-examine the profound stupidity of Bill 127. I invite the minister to review, because he was not here at the time, the debate that took place when Bill 127 was rammed down the throats of unsuspecting parents, teachers and students in Ontario. Of course, that is the bill that requires joint bargaining between teachers and the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, which resulted in a strike and a stoppage of children’s education that would not have been necessary were it not for the existence of this absolutely dumb-headed bill.
It may be remembered that the purpose of the bill was to mask the underfunding of education, to reduce the accountability of school trustees and to try to shut out the trustees of the Board of Education of the City of Toronto. It is clearly folly to proceed with bargaining this way, and the minister had better get on to it.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would like to make a brief statement to the Legislature today. On October 8 the Premier (Mr. Peterson) announced several initiatives to put before the public the consequences of the draft Canada-US free trade agreement and to explain the reasons for Ontario’s objections to the proposed pact.
At that time, the Premier promised to release a number of background papers previously prepared by my ministry and subsequently reviewed and reassessed in the light of the information we received from the federal government on October 6.
This government believes the people of Ontario have a right to know the facts and the implications of the proposed free trade agreement and that Ontarians have a right to assess the proposal and all of its consequences.
l am pleased to announce that I am releasing the first of these papers today. Others will follow, as they are completed. The independent study is titled Dispute Settlement in the Canada-US Trade Agreement and was prepared by Philip Slayton and Jack Quinn of the Toronto law firm of Blake, Cassels and Graydon.
It is appropriate that this is our first report. It deals in detail with the foundation of an acceptable free trade pact, the fair and uniform application of and access to dispute settlement mechanisms by both nations. Both those in favour of the agreement and those opposed to it agree effective dispute settlement is absolutely necessary.
In April 1987, the Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, stated, “The US trade remedy laws cannot apply to Canada, period.” Mr. Mulroney stated in the House of Commons a month ago when he announced the agreement, “We wanted an agreement that guaranteed fair and impartial application of US trade remedy laws, and this agreement does all of those things.” In fact, the report concludes that the proposal does none of those things.
The report pinpoints four areas where the federal government has failed to negotiate an effective dispute settlement mechanism. Briefly, it does not impose legally effective limits on protectionist measures; it is not binding; it is not any more effective than what already exists and it does not involve interested participants, such as the provincial governments or the private sector. In fact, the agreement does not give us any assurance that we will be dealt with more fairly.
As the Premier has stated, Canadians may get the chance to examine the deck, but we will not be able to do anything about the fact that it is stacked against us. The report further states that the mechanisms in the agreement are flawed in ways that will result in our being denied access to US markets.
The executive summary concludes: “The mechanisms do not pre-empt US trade remedies… They do not produce binding decisions... They are not particularly workable... They do not provide for appropriate participation by interested parties.” Clearly, the federal government failed to gain what it wanted. Worse, it left Canada with little leverage in the future.
In other words, the original goal of the deal -- to secure access to the US market -- will not be realized under the proposed dispute settlement mechanisms. In fact, the mechanisms in this agreement offer Canadians no more avenues of protection from harassment than already exist. US trade laws remain intact and we receive no real protection from US trade harassment.
Hon. Mr. Scott: On Tuesday of this week the government introduced the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, 1987, as Bill 1. We thereby intended to indicate the priority which this matter should receive in the coming session of the Legislature. I wish to inform the House of the steps which the government has taken to guard against conflict of interest in the period before passage of the bill.
The government, on a voluntary basis, has determined that during this interim period the bill will be treated as if it were already in force with respect to cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants. The government has put in place two distinct sets of safeguards in order to ensure that compliance with the bill by cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants is complete and timely.
The government has retained the firm of Blake, Cassels and Graydon to interview cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants in order to obtain disclosure of their personal holdings, assets and liabilities and the holdings of their spouses and minor children. Interviews have also been conducted by the firm to ensure that ministers and parliamentary assistants have arranged, or can arrange within the time permitted, their affairs so as to comply with the bill within the limits it contemplates. These assurances were communicated to the Premier (Mr. Peterson) prior to the appointment of the cabinet by a senior partner of the Blake, Cassels firm.
One of the central features of Bill 1 is the establishment of an independent commissioner who will prepare public disclosure statements for all members and rule on situations of conflict of interest. In order to achieve the effective application of the bill to cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants prior to its passage the government has appointed the Honourable John Black Aird as interim conflicts commissioner.
Members will recall that in 1986 the Premier asked Mr. Aird to recommend a new set of conflict rules for Ontario. His report, delivered in the fall of 1986, formed in large measure the model for Bill 1. I am sure all members of the House will agree that Mr. Aird is an ideal choice to assume the duties of interim commissioner. The government has asked Mr. Aird to retain whatever assistance he requires to fulfil his duties, including the use of members of his law firm.
Mr. Aird’s first responsibility will be to prepare the public disclosure statements for ministers and parliamentary assistants. As of November 4, Mr. Aird had received a complete report on the holdings of ministers, parliamentary assistants, their spouses and minor children in accordance with section 11 of the bill. As the bill requires, Mr. Aird will meet with these members and their spouses in order to prepare the public disclosure statements contemplated by the bill.
Mr. Aird has advised that he expects to be in a position to file the public disclosure statements for ministers with the Clerk of the House by the end of November and the statements for parliamentary assistants by the end of December. During the interim period, Mr. Aird will also have the function of determining whether cabinet ministers or parliamentary assistants are in compliance with the bill and of reporting his findings to the government.
As was indicated in the speech from the throne, the people of Ontario must have confidence in the integrity of their elected representatives. I am confident that the measures the government has announced today will reinforce and enhance that public confidence.
Crime Prevention Week focuses public attention on police forces and members of the public who have worked together to make Ontario a safer place for all of us. It is a way of thanking them for past efforts and it is a way of strengthening the partnership between the police and the public.
That bond is paying real dividends. All around Ontario you see signs identifying Block Parent and Neighbourhood Watch communities. A variety of citizens’ groups is helping us wage the war against drinking and driving. Private businesses and service clubs have on many occasions helped to promote worthwhile crime prevention programs.
The public at large is reaping the benefits of that involvement and this week I have been experiencing that involvement first hand as I visit communities around the province to present special awards to some of the police officers and private citizens who have made outstanding contributions to crime prevention.
All told, my ministry will be presenting 253 people and organizations with the Solicitor General’s Crime Prevention Awards, a gesture by this government to honour leadership and achievement in the field of crime prevention.
Mr. B. Rae: I want to respond to the statement by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter). I do not think it should come as any surprise to anybody in this room that the American Congress has refused through the trade negotiations to give up its capacity and its power to effect its economic sovereignty, its ability as a sovereign body in Congress to deal with imports as they come into that country.
I have said for a period of two and a half years it was inevitable that the American Congress would continue to insist on its power and capacity to retain some kind of economic control over the economy of the United States. I do not think anybody should expect the American Congress to do what Brian Mulroney seems only too willing to do. He seems to be the only one willing to give up his capacity to intervene in the economy. The American Congress is not going to be so blind as to do that.
We appreciate the briefing from Blake, Cassels and Graydon. I am sure it is worth the price we are all paying for it. But the question I have for the government -- and I will have a chance to ask it again -- is simply, what is it going to do about it? None of this should come as any surprise to any of us. The question is whether or not Ontario is going to do what the Premier (Mr. Peterson) has been telling us for two and a half years he would do and what he said during the election campaign he would do. It would now appear, as more and more evidence is gathered, that what we have is a government that has been elected on false premises.
I do not know whether the consumer protection legislation that the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye) is going to be bringing down is going to give the people of the province a remedy against political fraud, but I would hope it would, because what we have here is a government that has been elected on an utterly fraudulent basis, saying it would do something about an agreement and when that agreement comes down saying, then and now, there is nothing it can do about it. That situation should be exposed. It is disgraceful. It is a fraud and we are going to continue to expose it in this House.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I would also like to comment briefly on the report that was issued today and commented on by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. I think it is rather unfortunate that the minister has not brought anything new to light beyond what is in the report.
The report tells what we all knew, that there is no dispute settlement mechanism provided for in this agreement. There is no effective remedy from American law for attacks on Canadian industry and we are going to have to bide by the provisions of American law when it comes to trade with the United States. We do not have any control of our own destiny in terms of our economic relationship.
The issue is: Why has the minister not said anything about what he is going to do about this deplorable situation? He reiterates everything we already know and says nothing about what he is going to do to live up to the commitment that was made by that government when it was elected less than two months ago. It was committed to do something to stop a free trade agreement that did not fulfill six conditions. These conditions have not been fulfilled, and this report clearly says that the key condition, which had been advocated by the Canadian government and by industries across Canada, has not been met.
It is unfortunate that the minister set a rather evil precedent by introducing this bill in this forum on the day when the speech from the throne was read. It is worse yet that he appoints a commissioner to handle conflict of interest before the legislation is passed. It is worse yet that he thoughtlessly implemented the legislation before he even introduced it to the Legislature.
I am afraid we are off on the wrong foot here entirely. What the minister seems to have missed completely is that this is not about hiring a good law firm or hiring a decent commissioner. It is about the perception among all members here, and the public at large in Ontario, as to whether he has handled the conflict-of-interest issue adequately.
Mr. Brandt: I want to take this opportunity to respond briefly to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and the legal position that he has put forward from Blake, Cassels and Graydon with respect to the dispute settlement mechanism.
I find it passing strange, and I share this with the members of the Legislature, that a very carefully crafted legal position that obviously took a number of weeks to develop was given to the members of the opposition, and a response was anticipated within minutes after having received the document.
I also find it strange that in the minister’s statement there is more left out than perhaps has been included. As an example, the minister makes no reference whatever to the fact that this really is a two-phased process. He knows full well that the dispute settlement mechanism that has been reviewed by Blake, Cassels and Graydon is the first stage of a process that will take perhaps another five years. Both sides have, in fact, agreed that there has to be a more firm understanding with respect to the dispute settlement mechanism, and that the actual framework or the time frame for resolving that very key issue will take some period of time, so that if there are any weaknesses which have been identified in a very careful way by the law firm that he had review this document, those weaknesses can be corrected.
The minister also fails to mention, in any way, shape or form, that the present mechanism that is being proposed replaces absolutely nothing. At the moment, we have no mechanism whatever. Even if this present mechanism is flawed, as he suggests, there is nothing on the table at the moment to help us resolve some of the disputes and some of the problems that we have between our two countries.
I listened with interest to the comments the minister has made with respect to the fact that we are totally and completely subjected to American laws, and yet he fails to mention that the Americans are also subjected to the same Canadian laws; those are in place as well. All we ask on this side of the chamber is that the minister be fair, honest and truthful with this issue and give us the facts.
Mr. Eves: In responding to the statement made today by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), we are operating here on the basis of proposed legislation. I think the members of this assembly are entitled to a little bit more respect than that under a democratic system, with all due respect.
We would like to know when Mr. Aird was appointed commissioner, for one, and why the Legislature was not informed, why we are being told about this after the fact. Why is the interim commissioner reporting to the government and not directly to the Legislature or the Speaker? Why is the responsibility being taken away from the Premier (Mr. Peterson) to look after conflict and given to a commissioner? Surely the responsibility of the Premier is to ensure the honesty and integrity of the members of the executive council.
The Premier’s statement in Windsor on September 18 stated that he personally plans to review the statements filed by every member of the executive council. We will presume on this side of the House that this has been done, and done to his satisfaction, already.
I think this proposal is the height of arrogance. This is not a dictatorship. It happens to be a democracy. There are funny things in here, I tell the Attorney General, called first, second and third readings of bills, debate and sending legislation out to committee, in which it may, to his surprise, even be strengthened and improved upon.
The onus on cabinet ministers and parliamentary assistants under this proposed legislation is much less than it was even under the Davis guidelines. It would have been much more prudent of his government at least to use the somewhat watered-down Peterson guidelines, which would have required filing of statements within 30 days instead of going about it in this backhanded fashion.
Mr. Cureatz: I would like to respond to the statement to the Legislature by the Solicitor General (Mrs. Smith) and congratulate the minister on again bringing to our attention Crime Prevention Week. It is important that all of us in our capacity of members of the provincial parliament encourage people across the province of Ontario to work in conjunction with our police forces, be they municipal, the Ontario Provincial Police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Of course, I have to refresh the memory of the minister that it was a long range of previous Conservative administrations that fostered this kind of encouragement in terms of Crime Prevention Week, and time and time again -- to the honourable House leader -- I have heard from that front bench, while pointing to us: “Those nasty Conservatives. What did you do in office?” I think it would have been only fair to have included that the Conservatives --
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The Leader of the Opposition raises an interesting point. I should tell him that if he had had the opportunity to examine the document and was not so concerned with pushing his particular ideological point, he would know that going into the discussions, in the preliminary round of discussions, the impression was left to the Premiers that they would have a right to OK the deal, and at that point the Premiers said, “If it is not the right deal, there is no deal.”
I can tell the member that I was in Ottawa with the Premier (Mr. Peterson) when we were briefed on the documents, and at that point the Prime Minister said that 95 to 98 per cent of the elements in the deal are not in provincial jurisdiction.
I should also tell the member that the American trade negotiator, Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, who was addressing the Empire Club, said publicly that if the provinces did not ratify this deal, there would be no deal. The media immediately asked the Premier, “What is your response to that?” and he said, “The deal is dead.” So what we have is a situation where we are investigating what legal access we have to preventing this deal to stop it.
Mr. B. Rae: It is curious. The Attorney General says, “Take another try.” He should not worry. We will be back, and if we on this side are being attacked because our position has not changed and because we have some integrity, then it is a curious position for the government that those people who have maintained their position are somehow being criticized.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The Leader of the Opposition will know that the auto pact was negotiated by the federal government, notwithstanding Ontario is the chief beneficiary of the Auto Pact -- everyone acknowledges that -- and we are severely impacted by anything that in any way detracts from that.
We are totally opposed to what they have done with the auto pact and we have made that statement. We feel they have gutted it, and we have voiced our opposition and are continuing to voice our opposition.
Mr. B. Rae: With great respect, if it is a Chevette, it is the Chevette the minister has been driving in for the last two and a half years. He did not say boo for two and a half years when Simon Reisman and everybody else said publicly that if the Americans wanted to put it on the table there was not very much that could be done about it.
I would like to specifically ask the minister: With respect to the auto pact, the Premier has been quoted as saying in the Toronto Star -- and these are not summations of what he said, this is a direct quote – “There is no way I would allow the situation to develop that would change the auto pact to the detriment of the province of Ontario.” Asked if he would exercise the power of veto if the auto pact were threatened, he told reporters, “The answer is very clearly yes.”
The government went to the people because it wanted to be able to stand up for them. That is why they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on these ads. What I am asking them now is, they have their mandate, they have their 95-member Red Army chorus; when are they going to put it to use on behalf of the people of Ontario and stop the free trade deal, as they spent two and a half years saying they would?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: This government has taken the position that, notwithstanding we represent Ontario, one third of the population of this country lives in Ontario, so we are not only Ontarians but we are also Canadians. As a result of that, if it is a bad deal for Ontario, by extension it is a bad deal for Canada.
Mr. B. Rae: Let me go back to the minister, then. Is he stating categorically here today, on behalf of the government of Ontario, that the government will not implement any aspect of the deal? Is that what he is saying on behalf of the government of Ontario; that there is not a single order in council or piece of legislation that Ontario is going to pass? Is that what he is saying?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: No, I am not saying that. I understand what the Leader of the Opposition is alluding to, but members should know there are other considerations. When we deal with beverage alcohol, we have an impending section 301 action by the United States, we have a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade decision of the GATT panel due down within the next couple of weeks, and we are assessing what our avenues of recourse are.
“During the election campaign, the Premier was standing in the shade and sipping grape juice. He made a sort of free trade deal of his own with Brian Nash, head of the Ontario Grape Growers’ Marketing Board. After listening to Mr. Nash plead, ‘Do not sell us out on free trade,’ Mr. Peterson promised he would not. ‘OK. We will shake hands on that one,’ said Mr. Nash, offering his hand.”
Just what is the Premier’s hand worth if the minister is not even able to get up on his feet and say that in one area where the province has jurisdiction -- where the government had said for two and a half years that it would not implement, that it would not do it, that it would not bring it into effect, just what is it worth if the minister is not prepared, once the deal has come down, to say that the Premier’s handshake is worth something? That is what they have reduced themselves to: the Premier’s handshake is worth nothing in this regard, nothing at all.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The leader of the third party will certainly know the precarious position the wine and grape industry in Ontario has been in. He will also know that this government and previous governments before us have supported that industry.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I apologize. Habits are very difficult to break. He looked so comfortable in the position of leader of the third party, but I do offer my apologies and I congratulate him on assuming his new post. Two of the losers flipped a coin and he won it, notwithstanding his bravado on election night on his great victory.
Having said that, I should tell members there are many implications affecting the beverage alcohol business. We have a spirit industry that sells $400 million worth of whisky into the United States and that is very concerned about our responsibility in dealing with that market. We are looking at all of the alternatives that are available to us. We will respond in a timely, responsible way when it is appropriate.
On Thursday, August 13, 1987, in the election campaign, the St. Catharines Standard said, “Premier David Peterson commiserated with the plight of Niagara fruit growers yesterday” -- I am quoting directly from the newspaper – “and promised to protect them from any adverse effects of a free trade agreement with the United States.”
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I cannot give an exact answer on what we are going to do because we have to wait to see how this plays out, but I will tell the member it has always been the position of this government that we will act responsibly and that if there has to be some adjustment as a result of what happens --
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am saying we are still committed to protecting those industries and those people who are going to be impacted by this agreement. I am talking about a worst-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, this government will fulfil its responsibility to the people of Ontario.
Mr. Brandt: I have a question to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology with respect to the document he tabled today, providing us with an opinion on the dispute settlement mechanism. I would like to ask the minister his opinion with respect to his statement and the legal opinion that he has received today.
Will he provide us with his views as to whether he believes even a flawed dispute settlement mechanism, as commented on by his lawyers in connection with what has been proposed in the current document, is better than no mechanism at all, as we have at the present time? I will make it very clear. Which does he believe is better: what he considers to be a flawed mechanism or no mechanism?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: With all due respect to the leader of the third party, we do have a mechanism. What we have is actually better than what we got. Under the present system, as I am sure the member knows, there is a process whereby there is an administrative action by the Court of International Trade and by the Department of Commerce.
The only thing that we got in this agreement is that, instead of referring it to the international court in New York for judicial review and appeal, which we can do now, it is going to this binational commission, which is made up of two Americans, two Canadians and a chairman to be appointed by either one.
What we have now, and one of the drawbacks, is only the length of time it takes to get through that process. But nobody was complaining about the process. What they were complaining about was the application of the administrative pressures at the lower level.
The reason that the old system is even better than the new one is that, if the member will see the document, we are precluded as a province and general members of the public are precluded as individuals from appearing before this tribunal, whereas now they can go to the court. That is a serious flaw. So all we have done is given up the appeal court in New York to a binational committee. Nothing else has changed.
I should tell the member that not only did we get a legal opinion from Blake, Cassels and Graydon but also we got a legal opinion from an American law firm, a highly respected law firm which is expert in trade law and which confirmed exactly the same thing. Before my hearings, Mark McConnell, the lawyer from Washington, said: “You got nothing. As a practicing lawyer in Washington I would not proceed with the case any differently than I am now, other than that, if it were appealed, it would go to this national tribunal.”
Mr. Brandt: The minister knows full well that the mechanism that is in place at the present time is totally unacceptable to those who have gone through the process. I can think of individual cases where, on the east coast as an example, the fisheries industry went through a cost of something like $1.6 million to resolve a dispute which took many years to resolve.
Let me offer the minister a second legal opinion, if I can, from the firm of Hogan and Hartson in Washington, with respect to the dispute settlement mechanism that his lawyers indicate is flawed. I quote, and I will provide this document to the minister if he would like and I will give him two minutes’ advance warning as he gave us:
“By application of this agreement, future changes in US law shall not apply to Canada unless the legislation specifically states that they so apply and the United States must offer Canada a right of prior consultation before such legislation is enacted.
“Further, the panel should operate more quickly and efficiently than US courts” -- and out of quote for a moment; what the minister was referring to -- “if outstanding legal issues are satisfactorily resolved.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: With all due respect to the leader of the third party, his statement is absurd. He has just quoted from a document that we paid for and the one I referred to. If he understood what they were saying, they were saying --
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Yes, but the member read it out of context. What it says is that if the United States is going to bring forward any kind of trade law that is going to impact on Canada, which is entirely separate from the dispute settlement mechanism, if it is going to bring that forward, it must name Canada in the law, otherwise it does not apply. It is a totally separate issue.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: No, but what I am saying is that they are saying we would not be included in any future laws unless we were specifically named. That does not get us any kind of relief on the previous laws.
The other thing the member should know, and I conceded this, is that the only benefit through the new process is that it will speed it up. It probably takes two years to go through the international court in New York, and under this binational commission it may take a year or less. That is a benefit, no question. That is all we got, but that was not the issue.
Does the minister agree that that is the case with regard to countervail cases or any of the other kinds of individual cases, because that is not what he is doing, and he is misleading in terms of the conclusion which the minister has drawn from this. If there is a binding decision, does that not give manufacturers in Canada an avenue which they have never had before with regard to American trade law?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member’s assumption is not correct. What it means is that the binational panel will do exactly what the international court in New York does, and that is review as to whether American law had been applied. It comes down with a decision, and when it comes down with a decision, either for or against the plaintiff, you have a situation where, if the offending country does nothing about it, the plaintiff has two recourses. One is retaliation, which is absurd when you look at Canada versus the United States; the other is to abrogate the deal, which again is absurd and means we have no leverage at all.
Mr. Brandt: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. Yesterday, in response to a question raised by the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens), the minister indicated that her ministry would be constructing 102,000 housing units, I believe she said by the year 1990. The campaign literature was referred to earlier as it related to free trade; there was other campaign literature that referred to housing starts and it indicated the year 1989, in terms of the 102,000 units. I will not quibble about the year. I will take 1990 and give the minister a year.
Hon. Ms. Hošek: As the member knows there will be an emergency debate on the topic of housing in the House a little bit after question period, but the answer I can give now is that our numbers are not divided year by year. There is a global projection over the three years.
Mr. Brandt: The minister was very precise in her comments yesterday that 102,000 units would in fact be built by 1990. Surely she should know some time schedule. One needs equipment, land, contractors --
Has the ministry made any kind of projections relative to time frames for the construction of the number of units that she has proposed and reiterated in this House are going to occur over the next three years?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The ministry has lists of the various programs under which housing will be both constructed and converted. It includes expanding rent-geared-to-income assistance to nonprofit housing, building additional nonprofit housing units, convert-to-rent, intensification initiatives, home sharing program, building under the support of community living demonstration projects, the Ontario home renewal program, the low-rise rehabilitation program, the home renewal program for disabled persons, and support of community living. Each of those has a three-year global time frame.
Mr. Brandt: That long litany of programs is very interesting, but I want to tell the minister what that long litany of programs has done in the past. It is interesting to note that her predecessor in office released a document to this House some time ago in which he indicated that from the years 1980 to 1985, the maximum number of units constructed in any one year was 15,574. Those are her ministry’s figures.
What the minister is suggesting is that, through some miraculous turnaround, through some new process that the ministry has never been able to work yet, the fact of the matter is that if the units were averaged equally on about a three-year basis, she is looking to more than double the number of units she is going to bring into the marketplace, double the previous year’s high for any period that I can recall.
How does she intend to accomplish this miraculous turnaround? Please do not read the long list of programs, because they have not worked in the past; I would fully anticipate that they are not going to work in the future.
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The Ministry of Housing has listed the various programs under which housing will be both built and converted. I have given the member the numbers as global figures over the next three years and my commitment that those housing units will be both built and converted.
Mrs. Grier: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. As a member of this House from Metropolitan Toronto, I have always deplored the reluctance of Metropolitan council to implement a meaningful recycling program. I therefore regret that this reluctance has once again brought Metropolitan Toronto to the point of saying that it has a crisis in garbage on its hands and therefore asking the minister to shortcut the environmental approval process.
I would like the minister to give this House a categorical assurance that no additional landfill will be approved in the region of Durham or anywhere else in this province without a complete environmental assessment that would allow all the various alternatives to be examined and to be exposed.
First of all, yesterday I did not get a chance to congratulate the member on being appointed as the deputy whip as well as the Environment critic. The only reason I say that is that it gives the individual an opportunity to be in a better position to ask questions. I remember when I was on that side of the House.
Specifically to the question my friend the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has asked, she would know, as I do, only through news media reports that a request was being formulated by the council of Metropolitan Toronto and was being sent to me. It would ask that consideration of the Brock landfill site, which I understand from news media reports would be for a period of five years, be sent to me. They would like to go under the Environmental Protection Act provision as opposed to the Environmental Assessment Act provision.
The member would know that as Minister of the Environment -- and I think she shares this with me -- one is extremely reluctant to give consideration to anything other than the normal process that one would require for a proposal of this kind.
There are a number of proposals that come to me for extensions of sites, for instance, interim uses of specific sites and so on. I do want to say to the member that I feel I must at least receive any representations which are made by Metropolitan Toronto and by the people who would be opposed to such a proposal and then make a decision. I do want to indicate to her that I do not like shortcuts, as she does not like shortcuts.
Mrs. Grier: May I thank the minister for his compliments and point out that I was not appointed deputy whip; I was elected to this office. I say to him that in future I would much prefer to exchange his compliments for some answers and some action, because that is what we are here in this House to get.
The minister was quoted last week as saying that he would consider forcing municipalities to recycle if they did not move towards doing it themselves. As he is not prepared to give me categorical assurance about the process if he is requested to shortcut the environmental assessment that he would approve, can he at least tell us whether he meant what he was quoted as saying and how quickly he is prepared to move to make sure that the biggest municipality in Ontario quickly gets on with recycling and reducing its garbage, rather than spreading it around into other municipalities?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: In answer to the two-part question that the member has presented, the answer to the first part about whether one would not give consideration to any representations which were made, which would be asking to go under something other than the normal process, I think she would agree with me that if I were to say I would give no consideration to that at all, then people on the other side of the House would say now that we have 95 seats, we are arrogant and we will not listen to anyone. So the member should know that we have at least to listen when those representations are made, but it does not mean we have to accept them.
In answer to the second portion of the question, which I think is equally important, I am very pleased to know of the support of the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore for my initiatives to get recycling moving in Ontario. From the reports of the recycling conference held in Hamilton, which I addressed, she would know that recycling is taking off in Ontario and all kinds of municipalities are involved.
Hon. R. F. Nixon: We think the legislation which has now been presented is good. It is far better than guidelines which were used in the past. If enacted, this is a law which will require the members of the executive council, the parliamentary assistants and others to comply. I think he will be aware that the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) in his statement to the House today has indicated that, in the terms of the bill which is before the House and which we hope will become law, all members of the executive council are in compliance.
Mr. Eves: I presume that there is not one single member of the executive council, including the Premier himself, who would have had to divest himself of any interest in companies doing business with the government had the Bill Davis guidelines been in place. Can the Deputy Premier undertake to this House here today and to the people of Ontario that is indeed the case? There is not one single member sitting in that cabinet over there who has any business interests that he would have had to disclose under the Bill Davis guidelines. If not, why not? Can he give us a list and can he file it at the next sitting of the House?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member will know that the interim commissioner is in possession of all of the reports and will table them with the Clerk of the House in the appropriate time. Then the honourable member and all members of the community will be able to examine those at their convenience and make their own judgements.
Is the minister aware of a statement the Premier made in Windsor on August 11, in which he said industrial centres such as Windsor could be reduced to no-industry ghost towns if the US succeeds in removing tariff protection for the Canadian auto and auto parts industry with the free trade negotiations. I would like to ask the minister if he still believes that and if he believes there should be no deal, as was promised by the Premier at that time, if it guts the auto pact.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member has asked a multifaceted question. As to the first part of it, we are very concerned that if the safeguards are not backed up with tariff protection, there is really no incentive for the Big Three to maintain production in Ontario. They could move it south. We do agree and we have said that we think, with the removal of the tariffs, the safeguards are meaningless and they have effectively gutted the auto pact. We also said during the campaign, and we say it now, we would not support any agreement that does that.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: Then what the minister is saying to us is that although there was a promise made in the election campaign, the Liberal Party had no idea how it was going to implement it, it had no legal opinion that would allow it to make that promise, and basically these ads that were taken out in the newspapers and the speeches that were given can only be described as misleading advertising in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member is wrong. What happened, and I am sure if he followed the negotiations he will know, is that there are many items that were perceived to be on the bargaining table and many items that were perceived to be off the bargaining table. At that time, the Premier was under the impression that the items that were on the bargaining table were in provincial jurisdiction and he would have the right to veto it.
Mrs. Marland: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. I listened very carefully to the minister’s reply to the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier), but I do not feel any more assured now than I did before he gave that reply. I share the very same concern the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore raised.
I remind the minister that while he says he will listen very carefully, he obviously has listened very carefully in the past to similar requests, because in the past he has granted in excess of some 60 exemptions to the Environmental Assessment Act.
Reminding the minister that the Brock South site is adjacent to one of Ontario’s major fresh-water watersheds, namely, Duffin’s Creek, and that the contamination would impact on this entire region of the province, I ask the minister if he cannot give his full assurance now as to what his position will be vis-à-vis the requirement for the full Environmental Assessment Act rather than the environmental protection procedure, then can he at least agree that in view of the fact that Metro has secure dump sites for at least another 12 years, until the end of the century, an application for exemption on the basis of a so-called emergency --
Hon. Mr. Bradley: In answer to the question of the Progressive Conservative critic, the real problem is that when municipalities make requests, I am in a position of at least having to entertain those requests. As I say, it is difficult, even when my own instincts may be in a different direction when many requests are made to me, not at least to give consideration to those requests.
I have not actually received that request on my desk in writing yet, but I did say I would at least give consideration to it, as I would most certainly want to give to the individuals who have strongly expressed their opposition at any time to the site that is proposed by Metropolitan Toronto.
I want a process in place, naturally, where there is a full public hearing, where people can air their views, not simply on a specific site but their views in a general sense as to the problems confronted by Metropolitan Toronto.
We want to examine all aspects of it. I want to assure the member that I will also want to determine just what kind of emergency is out there, because one cannot simply say, when a municipality comes to the minister, that it automatically is a situation where there is an emergency. I will certainly give all of those factors consideration, because I share the member’s concern that something not simply be bulldozed through.
Perhaps the minister would consider addressing the fact that the time factor for the approval process for new sites is tied directly into the new requirements. There are new engineering requirements for these sites, and this has added to the extended time to develop a new site. Will the minister consider assisting municipalities that now face five to 10 times more cost in this area with money that would then expedite the whole process for the approval?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: If money could indeed expedite the whole process of approval, that would be a very attractive proposal, but money alone cannot do that. The member will be aware that I announced in June of this year that there would be additional funding available to municipalities to assist them with their waste management obligations in a number of different categories.
I am hearing two different stories here. I am hearing, on the one hand, a genuine concern about the circumvention of any regular process. On the other hand, I am hearing a cry that says, “The process takes too long and the reason it takes too long is it is too costly.” The reason it takes too long, I may say to the member, is that they have to go through all the appropriate steps to get all the appropriate approvals so that we do not encounter many of the problems that existed in the past when things were expedited.
The member may recall in the past when it was easy to get a dump site, when it did not take a lengthy period of time and when there was not the kind of analysis there is today. As a result, we have a lot of remedial work to do in this province. I want to ensure through this process that it is necessary they go through all these --
Mr. Hampton: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. Recent studies by Greenpeace indicate that the toxic compound dioxin is a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process used in almost all Ontario kraft pulp mills. Tests conducted by his ministry and by American environmental authorities have found high levels of dioxin in the pulp mill sludge pond in Fort Frances and in fish taken below the mill from the Rainy River. Dioxins are believed to cause defects in humans and to destroy the immune system’s capacity to fight disease.
In view of the serious issues raised by the Greenpeace report, can the minister indicate what steps are being taken by his ministry to deal with dioxin contaminants that are a byproduct of the chlorine pulp bleaching process?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: The member will recall that our Ministry of the Environment released a report in July of last year that dealt with this particular issue. Our studies, I think, corresponded to the American studies, which specifically were done in Maine and which first detected the potential in these mills for the possibility of dioxin. We released the results of those studies to the public. We have some ongoing studies to try to pinpoint the source more precisely.
What is more important, and I think the member would agree with me, is that one of the promising aspects of this is that it appears there is a potential for process changes going a long way to eliminate the source of dioxin. The member will know that at present in Ontario in the bleaching process it is chlorine bleaching that takes place. The byproduct of that is dioxin; the companies would say in minute quantities and we would say that any quantity is too much.
I have what I would call an expert committee, and I think the member is familiar with it, that has travelled essentially to Sweden, Finland, the United States and other jurisdictions to evaluate the whole aspect of contamination that can result from these mills. I hope to have a report from them soon. I think the member will know, and this is what Greenpeace would agree with, that the potential for oxygen bleaching is one that has to be looked at seriously for eliminating the problem even being produced, let alone the need for catching it after it is produced. It is better to change the process.
Mr. Hampton: I can appreciate that the minister is aware of alternative technologies. The minister is probably aware that these technologies have now been used in Sweden for the last five years and have in fact reduced the levels of chlorine and dioxin contaminants substantially. What I would like to know from the minister is in view of the fact that these processes are already in place in Sweden, when are we going to see a move by his ministry, either by way of regulation or by some other means, to require the pulp industry in Canada and specifically in northwestern Ontario to move to the superior technology which is already proven?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: This expert committee not only looked at Finland and Sweden, both of which had converted largely to that process in those specific mills, but also looked at catchment systems in the United States and in other jurisdictions to determine whether the waste recovery system was beneficial in this regard.
I expect the report quite soon, I think early in the new year, which is a couple of months from now. That report, which I think is going to be extremely detailed, will deal with more than that specific problem, even though I think the member and I would agree that is an important problem in itself. When I have that report in my hands, I am prepared to see an implementation of the best system possible to eliminate those side-effects, even though there were no dioxins found present in the testing of the drinking water downstream. The very fact that we would find any dioxin in the sludge, as we have over a period of time now in various jurisdictions, should prompt that kind of action.
The member and I will be seeing that report soon, and from that report should flow the kind of action that will alleviate the problem. The municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program will also address that.
Dealing with the question of student housing, on September 2, during the recent election campaign, the Premier pledged $5 million for the construction of 5,000 new residence beds for university students. Yet Tuesday’s speech from the throne, unbelievably, did not mention this proposal.
Hon. Mrs. McLeod: The honourable member is quite correct. The announcement of funding support to universities in providing and building new residence beds for university students was indeed an election promise and it does stand as a commitment of this government. I trust that we are able to proceed with it at the earliest opportunity.
I would like to know specifically when the minister is going to make the announcement to facilitate students who are already in a position that they cannot find housing in Metro Toronto or in Kitchener-Waterloo -- right across this province there is a dearth of good housing for students. If they are going to have housing for when they need it next September, that plan should be announced today or tomorrow or within the next few days. It should have been mentioned in the speech from the throne. The minister should be getting started. She should be able to tell us now how, specifically, she is going to address this and when she is going to get started on it. Please be more definite.
Hon. Mrs. McLeod: I am not prepared to make a statement about the specific timing of implementing this announcement. I think we all recognize that good management requires the careful planning that this government is currently involved in.
What I would like to assure the member is that I will continue, as will my ministry, to make the concerns of student housing a very high priority. I have already met with student groups on a number of occasions. They have certainly indicated to me their concern for the availability of student housing.
I would like to underscore this government’s record in dealing with the concerns of post-secondary education as a priority, and perhaps particularly concerns expressed by student groups. I point only to two examples: the increase in student assistance and much greater access to university places. We will continue to deal with this concern of student housing with the same sense of priority and concern.
Mr. Allen: In the absence of the Premier, I would like to direct a question to the Deputy Premier. On Monday last, November 2, the Premier and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) were tried in absentia at a court of the poor at Osgoode Hall. They were convicted not only of neglecting but also of perpetuating the problems and the plight of the poor in Ontario.
Would the Deputy Premier not agree that the throne speech, with its absence of any sense of urgency around the problems of the poor and the poverty-stricken in Ontario, with its complete lack of any co-ordinated program or focus in this direction, let alone any overall objectives established in the attack on this issue, clearly confirms the correctness of the verdict issued by the court of the poor that he and his government, in point of fact, are neglecting and even perpetuating the problems of the poor in Ontario?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: I can only say that anyone who would accuse the present Minister of Community and Social Services of being inadequate and not having initiative simply does not know what he is talking about. In my view, there has been no time in my 25 years in the House when I have known a minister with these responsibilities who has responded more actively and effectively than the honourable gentleman referred to in the question from the member.
Mr. Allen: I am not surprised to hear the Treasurer defend the moral integrity of the minister in question. None of us has any question in that regard. But when one looks at objective performance, perhaps there is another question that has to be asked.
Is the Deputy Premier, when he rejects the verdict, for example, ignoring the simple fact that his government is postponing in its throne speech the report of the Social Assistance Review Committee until next spring, when it ought to be published this winter when it is completed?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: To set the honourable member’s fevered mind at rest, there will be no cutbacks. But he would surely also be aware that since the honourable member became minister in this extremely sensitive and important portfolio, there have been a succession of improvements -- I would be the first, as Treasurer, to say insufficient but substantial improvements -- not only in the rate of payment but also in some more appropriate approaches to solving the problems that the less fortunate people in the community are responding to.
Hon. K. F. Nixon: All right. It is paid every year for these children. It is not an insensitive approach whatsoever. Once again, as Treasurer I wish it could be more, but it is better than it ever has been and it continues to improve.
Mr. Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. My question has to do with the Rent Regulation Act, the new Bill 51. If she recalls, I asked her predecessor when I found out that the ministry was tabulating the size of rent increases tenants were experiencing across Ontario as a result of Bill 51. In fact, we discovered that it was documenting all those over 10 per cent. The minister failed to be forthcoming in this House and to the public with the specifics of that documentation.
I have with me in the House today a confidential document from the ministry that sets out the statistics for Metro Toronto, which I would like to share with the House. It indicates that there are 2,000 whole-building applications outstanding for the city of Toronto, of which almost 900 buildings, approximately 44 per cent of all applications, have increases and requests in excess of 25 per cent. We could be talking 60,000 tenants here, about 10 per cent of the entire city’s population.
Mr. Jackson: My question for the minister is: With 23,000 applications pending, being held up in her ministry, after 11 months, when can she assure the tenants of Ontario that she will be able to release and issue orders under this bill? When will she commit to announcing the orders under the legislation?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: Rental orders are being issued right now. I am committed to removing the backlog and assuring certainty for tenants and the public, but I should tell the honourable member and remind the House that one of the reasons for the backlog is that apartment housing that was built after 1975 is now protected under rent review as a result of Bill 51. It was not protected before that.
Mr. Jackson: The fact is, the government used rebates as an election ploy, but it has not announced a single whole-building review. If the government is having difficulty with the large picture, let us talk about Archie and Mary Dodd, a family about whom I raised a question here in this Legislature last May, a family in the riding of Oakville South, an 82-year-old pensioner’s family. This family was served notice with a 33 per cent increase. The Dodd family is committing 50 per cent of its income to its current rent. Under the bill -- and they were served notice -- it has risen to 67 per cent. They now today have received their second annual notice. They are now into the second year of a notice under this government’s legislation. They owe retroactively to their landlord $2,000 in back rent as a result of the application that has been outstanding.
Mr. Jackson: With families, specifically seniors, committing 70 per cent and more of their incomes for accommodation, when will the minister assure those individual families that she will be issuing the backlog of orders, when her own ministry is indicating it may take until next August to clear up the backlog?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: It is of course very difficult for people such as the ones the member is describing to deal with having to pay so much of their income on rent. That is a problem that other people share and which we are very concerned about. l recognize the backlog is a very serious issue. I am determined to resolve it. At this time we are actually working on increased staffing, more effective processing of applications, a use of superior technology for shorter processing and increasing our production of orders issued.
Mr. Wildman: I have another question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology with regard to the proposed free trade sellout by the federal government. Could the minister comment on the remarks of Roger Phillips, the president of IPSCO, who as the minister will know was a strong advocate of a free trade agreement between the United States and Canada until he saw the draft wording, and who stated -- without expensive legal opinion, I dare say -- that the agreement was wanting because of the lack of an adequate dispute settlement mechanism.
I would like to ask the minister particularly with regard to Mr. Phillips’s remarks about antidumping legislation. Does he agree with Mr. Phillips’s view that the current agreement proposed will in fact mean that antidumping measures by the United States not only will not be eliminated but will be more often used against Canadian steel producers?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I have a little difficulty with the question. The member says something about its being eliminated. What is happening with the steel producers -- and I am sure the member knows -- is that they operate under a gentlemen’s agreement whereby the steel producers export into the United States to the level of 3.5 per cent. The objection that the steel producers have is that they do not expect to get any more than that, but they feel that, without this agreement, that will be reduced. That is a decision they have to make. That was one of my concerns about it, in that they got nothing except the status quo.
Mr. Wildman: The minister will know that Mr. Phillips is odd man out among steel producers. He does not agree with the position taken, and expressed by the minister just now, by most of the other steel producers. He actually argues that, because of American legislation still applying to Canada and to Canadian producers, instead of somewhat reducing antidumping action, in fact Canadian producers will not be able to compete on an equal footing with US rivals and will be subject to more antidumping actions by their US competitors. Does the minister agree with that position or with the position put forward by the other steel producers?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I really have to take the association at its word. I am sure the member knows that most steel producers in the world are under what is known as a voluntary restraint action by the United States which actually stipulates what they can ship into that market. The Canadian manufacturers are at 3.5 per cent; during the strike they went up to seven per cent and they are happy with that arrangement.
I am not happy. If we are talking free trade then surely they should have virtually unlimited access to that market. Unfortunately the industry, when it appeared before my committee, said: “We do not have the capacity to penetrate that market more than 3.5 per cent, and we have no desire to do it. We are happy with our 3.5 per cent and all we really want to do is make sure we continue to have that.” That is their position; it is not mine.
Mr. Villeneuve: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. The minister must have surely been disappointed in the recent speech from the throne. Out of 28 pages, agriculture got one measly little sentence. It is a shame. The minister’s own ministry has stated that grain producers will suffer a 12 per cent decrease in income this year. What innovative things will he be doing to try to correct this?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: Before I respond to the question, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengany for his appointment as critic to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, without question the most important ministry in this government. When we stop to think about it, if it was not for the agriculture and food industry, all other government programs would be irrelevant so we can be proud that we are connected with the agriculture and food industry.
I have been proud, as the Minister of Agriculture and Food over the last two years, because we took a Tory agricultural budget of $328 million and we stepped it up to $563 million, a 72 per cent increase. We have introduced more than 60 programs since we formed the government over two years ago. Many of those programs are long-term programs. The honourable member would be less than honest if he stood in this House and said that he did not hear comments from the farmers in his riding that we have introduced some of the most effective programs the farmers have seen in years.
Mr. Villeneuve: It is about the umpteenth time we have heard the minister make that statement. We are getting tired. Grain producers are receiving a 12 per cent reduction in their gross income this year and they had an even greater reduction last year. What is the minister going to do for them?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The grain producers are eligible for the many programs we have in effect, the interest rate reduction programs. There will also be a deficiency payment this year from the government. I have to tell the member that we have worked very closely with the federal government to make sure that we get our fair share of that deficiency payment, much of which will go to the grain farmers of this province.
L’hon M. Scott propose la première lecture du projet de loi 7, Loi portant mise en application de la Loi type sur l’arbitrage commercial international adoptée par la Commission des Nations Unies pour le droit commercial international.
Mr. Villeneuve: Just as a brief explanation, the great riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, which l attempt to represent well, has been expanded to include portions of the county of Grenville. Because of that fact, Grenville is not recognized as part of this great riding, and therefore I suggest that the name be abbreviated to SDG and East Grenville, thus retaining the historic nature of the riding and recognizing all portions thereof.
Hon. Mr. Scott: The purpose of this law is to amend the applicable law to give to managers of trusts, executives of boards of trusts and pensions the option to disinvest in South African investments if they and their shareholders wish to do so under the circumstances that the bill contemplates.
Mr. Cousens: This bill will exempt members of the Canadian Forces, and their spouses and children who live with them, from the requirement of having resided in Ontario for the six months immediately before polling day for the purpose of being entitled to vote in an election in the Legislative Assembly.
“Therefore, the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the parliament of the province of Ontario to unequivocally mandate all sexual child abuse and related programs as no longer discretionary.”
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practice their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
Mr. Speaker: This might be the appropriate time to remind all members that when they are presenting their petitions, according to the standing order, it is not necessary to read all the “whereases.” I think the information is contained in the “therefores.” It might make business a little more expedient.
Mr. Harris moved that, pursuant to standing order 37(a), the business of the House be set aside so that the House might debate a matter of urgent public importance, that being the inability of the government of Ontario to sufficiently address the crisis of the lack of affordable housing and rental accommodation in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: Notice of this motion was received in my office at 11:26 a.m., therefore in time, and it is in order. I will listen to the honourable member for up to five minutes, as well as representatives from the other parties.
Mr. Harris: I might add that I placed this motion with the full concurrence of my party and particularly with the support of the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens), who, had it not been for this government’s inability to deal with the Don Valley Parkway, would have been here to sign the same motion before the 11:30 deadline. However, that is another matter.
The current supply of rental housing in our urban centres has reached unacceptable levels. Since this government took office in 1985, the vacancy rate is three times worse than when it took office. The waiting list for socially assisted housing is longer than it has ever been in the history of this province.
The number of new units constructed is less than what is needed just to keep up with the year-over-year increase in demand, let alone any move on the backlog. In short, by any standard of measurement, the housing crisis is far worse now than when this government took office in 1985. In fact, this housing situation is worse than ever before in the history of our province. The facts speak for themselves. We are facing a socioeconomic crisis, one which has seriously deteriorated over the past two years.
There are an estimated 10,000 homeless people living on the streets of Metropolitan Toronto. Winter is coming. There are young people who cannot find housing. There are seniors looking for rental housing. There are single mothers looking for affordable rental housing for themselves and their children. University and college students are facing a similar severe crisis. At the same time, they are having to compete for the same limited number of affordable housing units as the other groups I mentioned.
This is a crisis which hits our young people, our seniors, our single parents, those who can least afford it, those who are not benefiting from this great decrease in the number of jobless and from this great increase in economic activity that the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) seem so proud of.
What does the government plan to do about this crisis? Yesterday we asked the minister what she was going to do. She gave us -- she is learning quickly -- a nonanswer. She listed a couple of programs which her government had had in place for the past two years. Today she knows a little more about her ministry and she was successfully able to read a list provided by the ministry of a whole other batch of existing programs that have been in place for the last two years. I guess that is exactly the point of this debate and why we are moving it today.
For the last two years this government’s policies have put us in the position we are in today. The only answer we have is to read a list of those same government policies, that somehow, by some miracle -- they did not work in 1985, they did not work in 1986 and they did not work in 1987 -- are going to be the solution to build three or four times the number of units that have been constructed in the past few years.
Based on the minister’s responses to our question, we are forced to conclude that the government really has no plan to deal with this crisis other than the original policies which got us into the crisis in the first place. In fact, the 102,000 units was a figure pulled out of the air; it was required. “Why not mention that in the campaign? It will sound good. How do we do it? I do not know. Can we do it? I do not know. Do we have the money? I do not know. Who cares? Nobody will ask until after the election.” We are asking and we do not have the answers.
Not only is this a socioeconomic crisis, it is a crisis in confidence in this government and its ability to deal with this pressing matter. I urge all members of the Legislature to approve this resolution.
Mr. Breaugh: I want to begin this afternoon by saying we agree that we should set aside the business of the House and discuss this matter. As a critic who has looked at housing for some time now, l cannot recall an occasion in our history when the situation has been so bleak for so many people. It used to be that a housing problem, by its definition, meant that one sector of housing, as part of our economy, was in trouble. I do not recall a time when the total housing industry and almost every aspect of housing was in a crisis. It seems we cannot escape that, no matter where we look in that whole broad spectrum of social issues that people refer to as housing.
It is true that here in Metropolitan Toronto, this winter in the middle of this kind of affluence, people will die on our streets because there is no place for them to live. The real tragedy is that in another society they would simply say: “We have buildings that are warm, that have washroom facilities. It is an emergency. Why do we not open them up?” The truth is that here in our society we will say: “No, we cannot use the schools in the evening for this kind of purpose. No, we cannot open up the armouries for that kind of purpose,” or a whole range of other warm places that are available.
These people will spend their evenings in cardboard boxes and bus shelters and garages, and we know it, but the government has done absolutely nothing to resolve that problem. It will respond, mind you, and this is a sad commentary on our political system. Those who work with these people have already told us people will die this winter, without question. When they die, the newspapers will carry their photographs and their stories. We will raise the questions in the Legislature and the minister will stand and announce a brand new program. The sad irony is that we all wish she would listen to those who work with the homeless and respond to that need now.
A rent review system has been in place in Ontario for some time now. It has come to a complete and utter halt. From anybody’s perspective, rent review in Ontario is not working; it simply is not functioning. People who are tenants in Ontario have given to their landlords $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 too much over the last year or so. If one stops to think, will the landlords be happy to search out these tenants all around Ontario and give them back their money? No, I kind of doubt that. I really do not think that is going to happen.
If one looks at the price of housing for people who want to try to buy their first house, it is beyond their reach. If we look at the number of people we know of in Ontario who saved up their money, put their down payment on a new home, expected that the builder would have a legal obligation to complete the house, which is not an unreal expectation, and then we find out subsequently that the builder did not and the people who are responsible for seeing that the houses go on the market say, “There is nothing we can do about it,” and the ministry says, “There is nothing we can do about it,” we begin to have an appreciation of the kind of crisis that is there.
If one looks at the number of people on fixed income who are spending 50 and 60 per cent of the meagre amounts they get in pensions from government, it is becoming astronomical. This is, by my definition, a crisis. This is, by my definition, something the government of Ontario should respond to in a major way.
One has heard, again this afternoon in question period, the minister read off the list of programs. They sound good. The problem is they do not work. The problem is they do not add to housing supply. They may renovate, they may take some old factories and turn them into housing, but we now know that those programs do not function.
In fact, the reputation of the ministry, quite frankly, among those who are trying their best in their own community to provide housing for senior citizens or for those who are on limited income, is that the Ministry of Housing is one of their biggest single obstacles, to fill out its forms, to run through its hoops, to fill all its obligations. One would even say the Ministry of Housing is not very interested in the provision of housing stock for people in Ontario who need it.
I believe this afternoon it is worth our while to set aside the business of the House and to spend some time this afternoon reviewing these problems. I hope we will get a response from this minister which is far different from what we have seen from previous ministers. I want to end by saying we hope the new minister will bring some opportunity for programs that actually provide housing.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I have before me the motion standing in the name of the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) and I want to indicate at the outset that it will certainly be my intention on behalf of the government to see this debate proceed because I intend to be consistent with my position of yesterday, which will be at some variance with the position of the member for Nipissing.
I remind my friend from Nipissing that he argued a very interesting case yesterday in recommending that we not proceed with the emergency debate on the issue of the trade negotiations. I thought it was an interesting argument that he is obviously not advancing today.
The honourable member would surely want to share with me the view that we are setting back the opportunity for the throne speech debate to begin. I do not for a moment suggest that these issues of trade and housing are unimportant because, quite clearly, they are very important. That is what the government has indicated through its program, read by His Honour here earlier in the week. I am sure my friend the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) will be anxious to address this in her remarks later this afternoon.
It is quite clear that this government views the issues of housing and trade as very important issues facing the province and facing the nation, and, I might add, for my friend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale (Mr. Philip), someone whose views on housing I always listen to, along with the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley), with a very great deal of interest because I find the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale very knowledgeable from a particularly personal point of view on issues relating to housing. I am sure he will want to involve himself in this debate.
I want to say to the member for Nipissing that the government views the housing and trade issues as very important issues. That is why we have so very clearly and so very directly stated our position in the speech His Honour read earlier this week. One of the reasons I am happy, quite frankly, to have the debate proceed this afternoon is that we have in this caucus a Minister of Housing who brings to her responsibilities a very great commitment and an outstanding intellect that I think will show in a very real way the leadership this government is prepared to provide in this critical area of social and economic policy.
It is a pleasure, almost, to advance the opportunity that the Minister of Housing will have as a result of this emergency debate so that all honourable members will see just the kind of talent this government has to apply to these very important issues.
I would also observe that the member for Eglinton (Ms. Poole) and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Brown) are standing by to move and to second an address in response to His Honour’s speech. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin particularly has kept some of his constituents on standby, hoping he might have the opportunity to favour the assembly with his speech this week. I want to say as well that common courtesy would dictate that the member for Eglinton and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin be provided with their opportunity, as l expect the government will be provided with its opportunity to get on with its program.
I am, as the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) and the member for Markham know, a most reasonable person and I intend, in all reasonable ways, to accommodate the opposition. I think I know, as my friend the member for Markham would appreciate, what it is that inspires and informs the opposition in these early days of this, the first session of the 34th Legislature of Ontario.
Having said all of that, having made clear my sweet reasonableness where the opposition is concerned, I do want to ask members to realize that this government has a very important and active agenda that it wishes to proceed with. My friends the member for Eglinton and the member for Algoma-Manitoulin want to begin that with moving and seconding an address in reply to His Honour’s speech. We want to give all members of this assembly an opportunity, in the waterfront debate that is the throne speech opportunity, their chance to speak to these issues. Having said all of that, I hope that honourable members opposite in the opposition will now understand that while this emergency debate proceeds, the government’s agenda must soon be recognized.
Mr. Cousens: I thank other honourable members in the House for their remarks -- the member for Oshawa, members opposite and the honourable House leader -- as long as he does not think that by being so nice today we are going to support the speech from the throne. We welcome the openness to discussing a major issue in this province at this time taking precedence over other things that are of interest to all of us -- and certainly the speech from the throne is of interest. Along with others, I look forward to participating in the debate on that important document.
Unfortunately, we do have a crisis and a crisis, when you see it in terms of people, is one that manifests itself as a major social problem unless you begin to deal with it. There are so many people who are now impacted by the housing problem. They include young couples from all our communities, in large urban metropolitan areas, who want to set up home. In order to do that, they look for a place to live, and it is almost impossible to find one in large urban areas. So then they go further away from work, and the costs of transportation and just the difficulty to get started mean that they are putting off the marriage date and putting off getting started on the things they really want to do.
In cities like Hamilton, we are seeing single parents who have a great responsibility to look after their children and maintain their families but cannot find a place to live. We are seeing seniors in York region, where there is going to be a reduction in the number of nursing home beds, and when they have to leave their own home in which they have been living for many years, they do not have a place to go to. It is another kind of housing crisis, which is the nursing home crisis.
I know of a student at Wilfrid Laurier University who almost -- except at the last minute he was able to find accommodation in a student residence -- had to reconsider whether or not he would go to Wilfrid Laurier or go to another university closer to home so he could commute from his own home.
We are seeing the problems created for those who are psychiatrically sick, physically disabled or physically disadvantaged who are also facing a crisis of having accommodation that is near a hospital, near a family or near people who can help them.
There is another form of home crisis and that is the new home buyers. I am not going to touch on this one, but it is a crisis for those who are buying new homes. It was addressed in the speech from the throne and I look forward to seeing just how far this government will go to addressing those problems. But there are the problems of the rich, or those who have money, and there are the problems of many other people in our society, for whom the nature of the problem is so great that they cannot help themselves. They have to rely upon ourselves and the leaders of their community to give them assistance.
I have no doubt in my mind that the housing crisis in our province is the single most important social issue in our society today and we as legislators must deal with it. We must deal with it pragmatically, we must deal with it from all sides so we can attack the problem involving municipalities with the solution – developers -- so that we can involve home owners who might be able to subdivide their homes and so that we can bring out programs so that everybody in our province will want to be part of the solution.
It is a crisis that leads to personal alienation in a way. Families have a permanent scar if they have gone without a home or a place to live for a length of time. It so happens that the children of people who have been without homes or in public housing start in a cycle of having to live within that cycle, and they might never get out of it because they will rely upon public housing.
We have to find ways of giving them a sense of purpose and a sense of personal fulfillment so we do not have them put down, but we lift them up. We cannot allow people in our society to feel displaced, and yet so many are. We cannot allow people to ask what is the use of holding a family together. If it becomes such a struggle, does it not lead to some of the family breakups that are going on?
It leads to a cycle of poverty, this homelessness that we see in our society today. Once people give up, they start giving up more when they do not have a home. Is that not something that should be viewed as a right? Has that question been asked? I know it is not in the Constitution, but is it a right for a person to have a home? Maybe we as legislators should start to think about that because this leads to the very basic core of what the need of a family or of a human being is -- to have a roof over their heads.
The symptoms of this housing crisis are many. The one is the homelessness, the homelessness we see in Toronto, but it exists in Hamilton, in London, in Windsor, in Ottawa and in other large cities. In Toronto, it is considered that there are 14,000 to 20,000 people on the streets, some living in bus shelters or on the streets themselves, some in tents on campgrounds, some moving from hostel to hostel trying to find a place to live; a Band-Aid approach that is not working. Province-wide, it is a serious problem to have so many people homeless.
Another symptom of this crisis is the vacancy rate. The vacancy rate in Metro has gone down to .01 per cent, but it turns out that only the rich can afford to pay for dwellings or for apartments. The lower to middle income earners are being forced from their homes. They are unable to pay. This whole gentrification process is taking place within the large urban areas.
We are seeing something happen in Metro Toronto that has happened in New York City, where old subdivisions and old homes are being converted, taken over and those who are boarding or renting now have to move elsewhere and further away from the city. It is a certain class of society that becomes privileged to live in the city.
We are seeing abuse of the system because the vacancy rate is so low. One finds key charges and one finds people doing almost anything to get themselves a place to live. One is seeing an increase in the backlog of rental housing and one is seeing huge waiting lists. Yes, we have problems and they are symptomatic of the vacancy rate.
Another symptom of it is just the social and psychological trauma to those people who do not have homes. They are unable to cope and it just drives them further into a state of inadequacy. To what extent are the problems in an inner city such as ours today in Metro Toronto caused because of this problem of housing? I know it is not the only cause, but are violence, family violence, crime and certain other things that go on in this city caused by the housing crisis itself?
What about the food banks? Are they a symptom of the housing crisis? Yes, they are. When people who are on general welfare allowance today are spending in excess of 64 per cent for their home or their rent, when it should be around 25 per cent, no wonder they then have to go to a food bank to get help.
We have to go back to basics in society and respect the needs of all people. Through this crisis maybe there now is hope if this government -- having recognized in an election pledge of August 22 that 102,000 homes were needed in two years -- knows what is needed. It knows why it is needed. Now what we need to see coming from this government is when it is going to have some solutions coming to the fore. When are students going to get some of those 5,000 new places that were promised on September 2? When are those 102,000 homes going to be available for people who need them? When are they going to come out with an announcement that says they are going to do it right away and they have a plan going? Stop worrying about all the other things and get on with the housing issue.
She is the Minister of Housing and she has a great responsibility. I hope she will get support from the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) and the other members of cabinet so she can do what she has to do. They made the promise before she was appointed. Now she has to fight so hard in that cabinet that they know the member for Oakwood (Ms. Hošek) is the best cabinet minister there is because she wants it, she demands it and she is going to quit in two years if things are not done.
I hope she does not have to quit. I hope she is able to fight and succeed in winning the battle of getting those homes. She should tell us soon. Maybe today when she speaks she will indicate where they are going to be built. How many of these low-rental homes will be built in Toronto or made available in Toronto? How many in York region? How many in Peel? How many in Oshawa? She should give us a breakout of how many she hopes to have and where. We know about how many in Ontario but she should tell us how many there will be and tell us how she is going to do it.
Mr. Breaugh: I want to begin this afternoon by saying that on this side we have some understanding that a previous government decided housing was not the responsibility of the province of Ontario. It basically took apart its ministry and ceased to operate its programs. Perhaps we would have gotten out of that mess if the federal government had not at the same time said, “It is not our responsibility either.” The two senior levels of government, up until this point in our history, had been quite active and in fact had found it politically attractive to go and cut the ribbons at the seniors’ apartments, to open up new housing authorities all across Ontario and to build units and to operate them. Had they not both decided at the same time to abandon ship, perhaps we would not be in quite this serious a mess.
I think too from this side of the House we have said for the last two years that we understand the ministry was basically dismantled and that they need some time to kind of get things back in gear. They need to build programs inside. They need to staff programs and they need to make up their minds on how they want to approach this issue.
I wish I could say they have had a couple of years to get ready and they have made up their minds on how to do things and now we are ready to get down to business. I wish I could say that, but I cannot. I cannot because people still keep knocking on my door saying, “Here is a problem I have and I went to the Ministry of Housing and it is not interested.” Let me give a couple of examples. I know all the background so do not bother having the staff scramble around to provide the minister with notes.
A guy called me up and said: “I went to rent a town house in North York and a guy wanted $4,000 for key money. I went to the cops and they said, ‘Well, you know, if you pay the bribe, it may be a bribe and maybe not.’” Who of us has $4,000 change in our pockets this afternoon to pay for key money so a police officer can write up a charge? That is not very practical.
I understand the background that we are not quite sure which law is being broken here. We are not quite sure who should lay the charges. We are not quite sure who should do the investigation. But I tell members very simply, a Ministry of Housing that is aware that somebody wants $4,000 in key money and decides it is not interested in pursuing the matter is not a ministry which is very sensitive to the needs of our citizens.
Let me give another example. The ministry is aware that all throughout downtown Toronto there are developers who are taking apartment buildings and turning them into apartment hotels. The ministry knows they are gouging, and the ministry knows they are working very hard to evict all of their tenants and are saying to them, “We want a 20 per cent increase in rent, and you’ve got to pay it and we’ll hold on to it for a year and maybe give it back to you later.”
The ministry knows it is saying, “Well, it is now the tenant’s responsibility to pay the hydro,” which involves heat for the unit. The ministry knows that the landlords are pretty actively attempting to get people out, to the point where even though people have paid their rent, they receive a pretty official looking eviction notice.
The ministry knows all of this stuff, because I have seen copies of the correspondence going from the tenants to the ministry, but the ministry is not sure whether it can or should do anything and it is not doing anything.
The irony in these buildings in downtown Toronto is that the examples that have been quoted to me are examples of buildings that were put up with government of Ontario financing to provide housing for people in lower-income groups. At the time of their construction, they got additional densities from the city of Toronto on the basis that this type of housing was needed and if the city of Toronto would only increase its densities they would be able to provide more units for people who need some kind of assistance with their housing.
Government money built these units. Governments approved higher densities. Governments are now sitting around saying, “But there’s nothing we can do” when they turn around and evict the tenants and turn the units into hotel units because they can make a bigger buck.
I do not care whether it fits within the framework of any given law or program or not. If it is a ministry that is established to look after housing in Ontario, these matters ought to be of some concern to it.
Let me give a couple of other examples. There are a number of young families who went north of Toronto and put downpayments on houses and sold their own homes and moved out in anticipation that builders would actually do what the contract said: provide them with a house at a given date for a given price. When the builders walked away from the units, the people who are responsible for the building industry, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, said, “We’re not sure we can do anything either.”
Is it not a hell of a situation when the Ministry of Housing in Ontario and the developers in Ontario know full well that young families scraped together their downpayments, sold their houses, left their homes, the new houses are not completed and nobody could do anything for these people? Is that not a clear indication that we have not learned many lessons here; that there is a problem which maybe is not covered by existing law -- although I must say, from my simple point of view, it seems to me that if you sign a contract to buy something or to provide a service and people do not do that, that is what I call fraud.
If I bought a car from a dealer and at the time I went to pick it up the dealer said, “There is no car,” or “It costs more money; I can’t provide that,” I would be happy to go to court. But all these young families are not happy to go to court. They want a house. They thought they had done what was required of them to get a house, and when it comes time to move in they find the house is not there.
It seems to me -- and in this I mitigate my criticism somewhat -- we are going to have to take a look at the practice of selling condominiums, for example, that are nothing more than an artist’s concept, that have not been taken through the planning process, that are not there, that no one really knows will make it through the zoning bylaws. People in this city are spending $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 for condominium projects that are only some developer’s design right now. What will happen to those people when the city of Toronto says, “Maybe we do not want that kind of density on that particular site”? Maybe somebody will say, “Perhaps we ought to actually have a waterfront plan,” as every other community in Ontario has an official plan.
These projects will all have to conform to that, and we do not know what that waterfront plan will be yet. What are we going to do for those people? I have not heard much in the way of comment from the minister.
Let me give you some other examples, too, because I heard the minister run through her wonderful programs today. I have had the sad experience of trying to get some financing for people who are handicapped, for example, to make very simple adjustments to a house they already have so they can get a wheelchair in and out. It is about as easy to beat the Russians in a hockey game as it is to get money out of the ministry for this kind of stuff.
The programs are announced but the money seems to be totally invested in pamphlets. There does not seem to be a process at work whereby ordinary citizens can take advantage of programs that are being advertised by this government.
I suppose they have a legal right to get their member to come and fight the bureaucracy and a legal right to get a lawyer and go to court and see that the government delivers, but it seems to me that in these instances the government itself is more interested in advertising the program than actually making the program work. I will bet there is not a member in here -- there certainly will not be after a little while -- who has not gone through the same experience, because in our offices are all the government pamphlets advertising these programs.
People come in and say, “Mike, how do I get some money out of the province of Ontario so I can do a little work around the house and get a ramp put in?” We hand them the pamphlet -- we are kind of partners in this crime to some degree -- then, subsequently, they find out it is not quite as easy as the pamphlet says.
There are municipalities, community groups and church groups out there which are begging for some help from Ontario to put some housing on the market. They have been fighting ministry bureaucracy for more than a year. I know them. Why does the ministry not send the bureaucrats on vacation for a little while or, worse yet, let them do something positive for a while? Instead of designing the forms, why does it not have them fill out the forms? Why does it not have them do all the surveys they want? If that is necessary, let them do it. Let us do something a little bit more positive. I do not want the minister to resign. I want her, very simply, to get to work.
Hon. Ms. Hošek: I would like to take this opportunity to give the House an outline of our housing accomplishments over the last two years, and to touch briefly on our plans to build on the solid foundation of the assured housing program.
I believe this strategy indicates the aggressive stance the government has taken to address the problems of those many individuals and families of moderate incomes who are unable to afford adequate accommodation.
In Ontario, we have seen a variety of housing programs which use a package of initiatives designed to increase the supply of affordable housing. Our strong commitment to nonprofit housing programs symbolizes the success of our program. Let me give you a few examples.
Seniors, single parents, physically disabled adults and low-income families have been provided with quality housing through the federal-provincial nonprofit housing program. Since 1985, 6,700 new nonprofit housing units have been supplied each year, and we are pledging to maintain that level of support into the 1990s.
Decent homes are now being provided to battered women, low-income singles, people who no longer require institutionalized psychiatric care and others. These individuals are also being provided with sorely needed support services; 3,000 nonprofit housing units are being allocated through this special needs housing program, the entire bill for which is being picked up by the province.
Low- and moderate-income households will benefit from a new program creating 3,600 nonprofit housing units over the next three years. We unveiled this program in August, and again the provincial government is picking up 100 per cent of the cost.
A new program, the supportive community living program, will provide ex-offenders, substance abusers, the homeless and other special needs groups with quality housing linked to support services; 1,000 new units will be created through this program.
If you add up these figures, it means that by 1992 we will have made pledges for over 54,000 new nonprofit housing units over a seven-year period. When these 54,000 units are added to the 50,000 nonprofit units built in Ontario before 1985, the total rises beyond 100,000. In fact, by 1992 our nonprofit housing supply and pledges will outstrip our existing Ontario Housing Corp. portfolio of 84,000 units.
As an example of our commitment to social housing, we are funding more than 42,000 rent-geared-to-income units in a five-year period. This is equivalent to more than one third the total number of rent-geared-to-income units created in the previous 23 years. The government has not ignored the fact that there are 27,000 households on the Ontario Housing Corp. waiting list for assisted housing. The 42,000 units I have just mentioned will play a substantial role in providing affordable housing for families and individuals in need.
We provided new money to enrich existing housing supply and renovation programs and to launch several new initiatives. In the past few months, almost $60 million has been allocated through the convert-to-rent and home sharing programs to create new rental units.
Under convert-to-rent, an additional 8,000 units will be developed at a cost of $56 million. Under an expanded home sharing program that encourages shared accommodation of a family house or apartment, 22 agencies will be funded. This program, which is aimed primarily at the elderly, will produce about 1,500 matches over three years.
To ensure that older housing stock remains in a reasonable state of repair, an additional $12 million has been allocated to the Ontario home renewal program. An additional $1.5 million has been allocated to the home renewal program for disabled persons to make housing modifications that increase accessibility for a disabled occupant. The low-rise rehabilitation program will be expanded to include rooming, boarding and lodging houses. An additional $10 million will be committed to the program which offers owners forgivable loans of up to $5,000 per unit to upgrade older apartments.
We believe 2,000 units will be rehabilitated under these expanded provisions, and earlier this year, as members are aware, the government brought roomers, boarders and lodgers under the protection of the Landlord and Tenant Act.
On government-owned lands, 12,000 housing units will be developed over the next five years. More than 4,000 of these units will be moderately priced housing. We will encourage and work with municipalities to ensure that at least 25 per cent of new housing units created in the municipalities are in the form of affordable housing. The Ontario home ownership savings plan will enable moderate-income households to start saving for a first home.
Between 1985 and 1990, that means that 102,000 units will be completed through this program; 66,000 of these units will be new; 36,000 will be kept on the market through renovation and rejuvenation. This is the most aggressive housing strategy throughout the country.
The development pressures and the increased cost of land and construction in the greater Metro Toronto area are having an adverse impact on the developers of social housing. The capital cost guideline for a three-bedroom apartment in a government-subsidized, nonprofit building with four or more storeys was increased last Friday to $100,000 in the greater Metro Toronto area.
We believe this is going to make a significant difference. The people in Peel have said this will mean that 538 units they thought they would not be able to build are now going to be able to be built very soon. The government is committed to overcome the obstacles faced by social housing producers in the greater Metro Toronto area.
Turning now to another element of our assured housing strategy, we are committed to the new system of rent review as a means of maintaining affordable housing and protecting more than three million tenants throughout Ontario. We have put in place a rent review process based upon the unique agreement reached by a committee of landlords and tenants in 1986.
We have in place a system whereby for the first time all tenants in Ontario are protected by rent review, which ensures the viability of the rental housing market. At the present time, 80 per cent of tenants in Ontario will receive a rent increase during 1987 which is at or below the rent review guideline. The 1988 guideline has been announced at 4.7 per cent, providing many tenants with an even lower rent increase in the year ahead.
First, the elimination of unregulated rent increases. In the past, more than 100,000 tenants in newer rental buildings and thousands more in rooming and boarding houses had no protection from rent increases of whatever magnitude.
Second, we have reduced and will eventually eliminate illegal rents. It has been estimated that up to half the tenants in Ontario faced illegal rent increases under the old rent review system. The registration of rents has virtually eliminated this threat in all large rental properties. More than 80 per cent of landlords in larger buildings registered on time earlier this year. Many landlords of smaller buildings have registered their rent voluntarily. We will be ensuring that all landlords comply with rent registration.
As I said earlier, I recognize that each sector involved in housing development, private, public, nonprofit and voluntary, plays a critical role in the provision of housing. I cannot and will not promise quick fixes to all the problems we face today -- and I acknowledge that they are serious -- but I do want to assure members that this government intends to follow through with the commitments we have made since 1985 and the commitments we have made in recent weeks.
Last August, the Premier made a statement which captures, I think, the feeling of all members of this House. He said, “I believe that a caring and compassionate society such as ours must do everything it can to ensure that affordable quality housing is available to all.”
This government has already set a new course for housing through our assured housing strategy. In listing the initiatives we have started and the gains that have already been made, we cannot deny that much more needs to be done and this government is prepared and committed in taking on that challenge. We must ensure that assisted housing provides a roof within a community environment.
The provision of decent housing which people can afford is of paramount importance to me as Minister of Housing and to this government. I believe the programs established through the assured housing strategy have demonstrated the government’s active commitment. There is a great deal more that we must do, and we intend to search out innovative and creative solutions in order to do it.
The minister may not know yet, but Ontario sort of starts at Highway 7, and I hope she is able to get north of that on occasion to look after some of the programs that we think are important in that part of the country. It still includes part of the riding of my honourable colleague in front of me too.
I was intrigued by, and I think it is very important, the kinds of things the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) said about the number of people out there who are willing to go along with the minister’s programs but who are frustrated not only by the red tape that is involved but by the government’s unwillingness, when it really comes down to it, to fund those programs.
I understand the minister has various programs where the money was not all used in 1985 and probably again in 1986-87. It is hard for people in my part of the province, Simcoe West, to understand that there is money left over and yet the minister does not see fit to fund -- if not the minister, her predecessor -- the projects that are done by churches, legions, councils, groups of interested citizens and people who spend an awful lot of time getting the project ready, filling in the reams of paper that are put in front of them, only to be turned down because they do not meet the priorities of the ministry and the priorities the ministry sets.
I can understand that in a way, but I wonder why the government would not choose to give them a year when it would fund it. There is a lot of lead time involved in that. If it could not fund them in 1986, maybe it could do it in 1987, but it could let them know in 1986 so that they could get their cards all lined up and they would have that assurance.
Many of these people who would enter these kinds of facilities are single persons living in big houses in places like Collingwood, Creemore, Angus, Tottenham, Alliston or any municipality with a council that we could mention in the great riding of Simcoe West.
I think the government today has given a very glowing report of what the ministry has done. The minister is always very careful, as are all her colleagues in cabinet, to remind the public that the government has done so much in three years and that it has done more than somebody else did in the 10 previous years. I suggest the circumstances are much different than they were 13 or 14 years ago. The circumstances are different today, and just because she beat somebody else does not mean that she is doing her job. I think she has a big job to do. It is more crucial than it ever was.
In the rent control program, although the government makes the point she does, doing her duty as minister, the 1976 buildings are now covered. That really means absolutely nothing in the riding of Simcoe West because there is hardly a rent that goes above that, and because of the problems with getting assistance, there have not been that many buildings built since that time.
I am intrigued by her new program, the one that is going to allow people to save money for a house. Even in my part of the country, you really cannot buy a house for the price at which these people will have to buy one even to be able to afford it. According to the figures I have, when you take your $10,000 maximum, you take $1,000 per year for five years and some tax savings, it really says that a couple making $40,000 a year and investing $2,000 a year comes up with $11,700, which means that they can afford to buy a house for only $117,000. I do not know where you would get one for that. They are very scarce. You might get a town house in certain areas of the province, but you have to go a long way north of Toronto, to the east or to the west, I believe, to find a house today for $117,000. That is 10 years away. If you started today to save your 10 years’ credits, you could not buy one for 10 years, and who knows where the prices will be? Maybe they will be down. I would doubt that very much.
I would just like the minister to separate herself a little bit from the people in the ministry. From some things I have heard in the last two or three days, the people in her ministry are even saying that her target of 102,000 houses in the next year or two -- and now it looks like three years -- is a goal that is not attainable. There just are not the bricks, the mortar, the people, the land and so forth and so on; that is not attainable. She has set herself apart from the ministry. I congratulate her for that because even though they are saying she cannot, she is saying she can. That is the kind of determination we need in a minister. I hope she is successful. I will be the first to congratulate her if she attains that.
In her account, she has rolled in some things such as the Ontario home renewal plan, which is a good plan and does allow some people who cannot afford it to fix up their older homes and otherwise stay in them when they might have to vacate them. But even though she wants to put the interpretation of this moment on it, I do not think she can roll that into her 102,000 new units. I think she is stretching it a little bit, as she is in some of the other programs which she adds up to get the kind of tally she wants.
In summation, Minister, do not forget that there is a lot of Ontario north of Highway 7. Do not forget that there are a lot of people in my part of the country, as I know there are in all the ridings of all the people here but more especially in the more rural parts of Ontario, who are very keen to participate in projects.
I am very upset about the fact that the ministry seems to frustrate all the best efforts of many, many good people. They are there to help her and to help me and to help the people who need housing. Let us make use of them, and I hope the minister is a participant in that.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Thank you, Madam Speaker, welcome to the chair, and welcome to the minister in the hot seat, which will be hers for the next while, I would think, because housing is a crisis and this is one of those occasions when an emergency debate is warranted. The vacuous follow-up to a vacuous debate on the speech from the throne can well be put aside when we consider just the dramatic proportions of the problems that are out there for people.
In 1981, Ross McClellan, then the member for Bellwoods, and I went into the city hall garage in Toronto and discovered 22 people sleeping in the stairwells. That was in 1981. We are now in the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless at last, in 1987. In the last three years, at least one person a year has died in the city of Toronto, at least in part due to their homeless situation.
In 1984, as critic for Community and Social Services, I brought in a number of people who were on waiting lists for housing. At that point there was a deplorable number of 18,000 families in Ontario who were waiting for housing, some of them for as long as a year or a year and a half. Today, even by the minister’s figures, there are 25,000 families.
We all know that just spending 80 per cent of your income on rent is no guarantee at all that you will get housing, even within two years now. You basically have to be in an absolute crisis situation to get into housing. You have to be living in deplorable conditions. You usually have to have some kind of illness which goes along with it or be a battered woman to be bumped up on the list to get into housing in Metropolitan Toronto these days. If you just happen to be spending almost all your income on living in terrible poverty in Ontario today, you are not going to get into housing, and that is why it is a crisis.
The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) is here and I am glad to see that. We have continuing high numbers of people on social assistance in the province, even with our low unemployment. Most members, I am sure, are aware that less than 20 per cent of those people live in public housing. The rest of them are out there in the private market.
When you think of the amount of money it costs now for a one-bedroom, illegal apartment in a basement in Scarborough -- which my wonderful council is now trying to tighten up and close down -- consider that could cost $700 a month. The minister knows how much a single mum with one child will get from social assistance now in this province. There is nothing left for that mother but to go to a food bank to get food for her children. That is why we are in a crisis situation.
The vacancy rates at this stage are as low as they have ever been in the eight years since I have been elected. The student housing crisis, now that I am the critic for that area, is incredible. I am glad to hear the minister for that portfolio saying today she is going to respond to that, at least in part.
But in 1975 we brought in rent review because of enormous problems in rental accommodation -- escalation of rents. l cannot believe that the minister, new as she is at this job, today can act up and talk about how wonderful the new system is and talk about 80 per cent of the tenants receiving rates that are below the level or at the level that is established as a base, when she knows that 20 per cent of them are now getting hit with rates that are almost as high as they were in 1975. We now have a situation where landlords are getting increases of 20 per cent, 25 per cent and 30 per cent again, and we supposedly have rent review.
As the critic for our party has already said, there are thousands of people paying out large amounts of money, hoping to win their cases some day -- if they are ever heard, because the appeal system is still not working and will probably never catch up. It is truly a Kafkaesque situation.
I stand here today and listen to the litany of programs this government has to solve the problem. I do hope that the tally perhaps has more meaning than the old thing that used to preoccupy philosophers in the Middle Ages of tallying up the number of angels who could dance on the head of a pin. I hope it has a better connection to reality than that, but I doubt it and I warn the minister that she should not be making projections she cannot keep. Unless we have a major revision of our policies in Ontario, she will not make her 100,000 figure. She will never do it.
We just have to look at what happened to some of the programs over the last little while to understand how substantial the problems are and why these programs are not working. Look at the newest one. The last speaker alluded to this. I found it incredible that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) was not just massacred by the press in the last election when he came out with this absolutely preposterous notion of young, potential home buyers being able to put aside $1,000 a year for 10 years to be able to get themselves a good down payment on a home in Ontario. By 1997, they could have $10,000 to put down on a home.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) makes a good point. Where do they live in the meantime to do that and how are they managing to put aside any money at all? Given the amounts a lot of them may be putting out is one whole matter, but when you consider what you need for a down payment in Toronto at the moment, it is a ludicrous proposition. The average price for a home in downtown Toronto these days is over $200,000. Ten thousand dollars is meaningless in 1987, let alone 10 years from now.
If that is the kind of response this government has to the proposal that people in our province should still have the aspiration and the belief that in Ontario they should be able to aspire some day to owning a home, then I suggest it is fooling the people on that as much as it is in its protestations around free trade.
I remind them of the study put out by the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto recently which shows that fewer people, a lower percentage of people in our society, can afford to buy homes today than could in 1970. If their one program to try to change that around is this preposterous notion of $10,000 by 1997, think of what the figures are going to look like by then in terms of who is going to be able to afford the homes. It is going to be the people who can afford the $1-million-plus condominiums; it is not going to be the average worker from my riding.
I want to raise one other point and then wrap up. Last year, the last initiative I took on housing was around the disabled, showing how hard it is to get your home renovated to allow your home to be accessible so that you can stay in the community or for your family to do that for you. The government came through with a new program that looked as if it was answering all the questions. Now, when we start to try to make applications, we see that the fine print makes it just as restrictive as the past programs were. I ask the minister, in connection with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr. Mancini) to look at changing that program, because it will otherwise rule out a lot of people being able to participate.
The final thing I would say is that you have to look at this crisis, the fact that people may die this winter again, the fact that the housing conditions for many people are intolerable. The cost of housing is putting owning a house out of reach in the context that this government spends about two per cent of the total budget that it has to offer on providing housing to the people of Ontario.
I suggest it is time to change that around and understand that housing is a right in Ontario and that the minister is going to have to put forward a much better argument for a major increase in her funds than her predecessor has been able to do if we are ever going to be able to match the problems that are out there that need to be fixed so desperately.
Hon. Mr. Mancini: I am pleased to be able to join in this emergency debate that has been brought forward by the members of the Conservative Party. I know they are very interested in this matter; so interested, in fact, that they interrupted the regular business of the House, all of the regular proceedings, so that three of their members could be in the House at this time to be present and take part in this emergency debate. That is about how interested they are.
I also want to say that there has not been anything said this afternoon up until this point in time that the members across the floor could not have said during the regular throne speech debate. They have again put off the regular business of the House in order to have an emergency debate, and that is fine. That is a decision for them to make, and we are going to try to be as co-operative as possible. But it certainly looks, to me anyway, that they may not be as interested as they claim when they rise immediately after question period asking all the members of the House to put off the regular business so that three of them can be here to participate this afternoon.
There have been a couple of good points made by some of the members that I would like to respond to. I was particularly interested in what the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) had to say in regard to the programs for the disabled. I would like to know from him in more detail some of the cases that have been brought to his attention as far as individual families that have not been successful, because I am very interested in this program. My colleague the Minister of Housing and I want to make this program work. We are deeply committed to ensuring that the disabled can in fact live in their homes. I would like to hear more from him on a personal basis.
l just want to mention to him that my colleague the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Faubert) tells me that in his particular riding he has assisted three different families in obtaining funding. I am hearing two different things. I am hearing from one member that the program is in fact serving the needs and I am hearing from my colleague across the floor, whom I respect a great deal, something else. That is why I would like to hear from him.
The programs for the disabled are in fact very extensive, and because the election has just recently taken place, I do not know if members have had a chance to review in detail the number of programs that are in place for the disabled. I would just like to take a moment or two to explain to the new members of the House, in particular, some of the programs that we have.
There is the Ontario home renewal program for disabled persons, which we refer to as OHRP-D. This program offers assistance to disabled home owners or home owners with a permanent resident who has a disability. This program allows for modifications, and there are interest-free loans of up to $15,000. As far as I know, this program has been taken up by a lot of people and is working successfully. I would like to hear more, as I said, from my colleague who had spoken earlier.
There are a couple of others which I will not go into detail about at the present time. I just want the members to know that the government has moved on a number of fronts. We have been very active over the past two years and we have tried to address the housing needs of this province in a significant and sincere way.
This government realized immediately that housing is a social matter. That is why the Minister of Housing is a member of the social policy committee of cabinet. The first time that ever happened was two years ago. She sits on that committee with my colleague, the member for Kitchener-Wilmot (Mr. Sweeney) and others, because we know that housing is a social policy matter. So the House can see that over the past two years we have been aggressive in this area, we have introduced a litany of programs.
I guess I could say to my colleagues across the floor that they could criticize us in two areas. They could criticize us for not introducing programs or they could criticize us because the programs do not work perfectly. As part of this government, I would rather be criticized because the programs do not work perfectly than for not having introduced them at all. I think we are breaking new ground. I think the government is sincere in what it is trying to do.
We know that the job is massive and that there are many thousands of units to be built. We realize that. The Minister of Housing stated that early in her term of office. She stated what her commitments are and she is moving aggressively forward. So as far as the government is concerned, I do not think we have anything to be ashamed of. I think we have been on top of the job and we have our finger on the pulse. We know what the needs are and we are trying to make the programs that we have instituted work. That is our responsibility.
I also want to take this opportunity to say to my colleagues opposite that the issue of rent control, which was addressed by the House last year, has been a great boon to our residents. Many members will say that there are problems, but all of them must honestly say that until the Liberal government was elected, people who lived in apartment buildings occupied after January 1, 1976, had no protection. Today they have protection. All members know that there were thousands of applications put in for review, but had that legislation not passed, these people would have had no recourse whatsoever and they would have been subjected to unfair rent increases. It is going to be a matter of time before this backlog is cleared up and for the system to operate smoothly.
The honourable members sit across the floor and they chuckle, but I wonder if they realize just what a big job it is to create a rent registry so that every single apartment is registered and we can keep track of the units. If the honourable members across the floor are fair -- and I know the member for Oshawa to be eminently fair, grumpy sometimes, grumpy most of the time, I should say. He knows the difficulty in creating a registry. He knows the difficulty in handling the backlog of claims.
There were a number of rent review officers to handle these claims who were hired prior to the election. I am informed there may be a number more hired in the near future so we can speed up this backlog.
Hon. Mr. Mancini: I say to the member who brings up a matter about who is going to be hired or not -- I just want to remind him that we did not forget one of his colleagues who was recently appointed to a very prestigious board, just a couple of weeks ago. So I think we have been handling the appointments in a very fair manner.
I also want to say to my friends across the floor -- l am going to ignore the Conservatives altogether because any party that moves an emergency debate and then leaves three members in the House to conduct the debate for it does not deserve to be recognized. So I am going to address my comments to the members who have taken some interest in being here.
The rent review legislation which was put in place was put in place after consultation with tenant groups and with the industry, because they know as well as we know it is the industry that must build many thousands of these units. We have to have a system that is acceptable to both.
I was quite pleased when the tenant groups in my constituency endorsed the proposed legislation. The legislation was held up, I believe, for more than a year by committee and by other political wrangling in the House, so I do not think it is fair to say that we have this backlog only because the program is not working. Part of that backlog was created because we were a year behind schedule getting started because it took so long to pass the legislation.
Mrs. Marland: I must say at the outset that I would like to address the comments made by the member for Essex South. He referred to the fact that only three of the Conservative caucus were interested in this subject. I would like to point out to him that I am the fourth speaker and there is going to be at least one other speaker after me, which makes five. I would emphasize the fact that five is, in fact, a third of our caucus.
It is very interesting when he suggests that the regular business of this House has been set aside by a motion of this caucus. I would tell the member for Essex South that I am very proud of the fact that the Conservative caucus sees this issue to be as critical and as grave as it is and that, yes indeed, we placed a motion for an emergency debate and, yes indeed, we set aside the regular business of this House because goodness knows what the regular business of this House is going to be for the next four years based on the content of the throne speech that we were blessed to hear two days ago.
When we are talking about shelter, I would suggest to the member for Essex South that, after food, we are talking about the next single item for the survival of thousands of people in this province. When we are talking about the roofs over the heads of these people who are trying to survive, who are indeed homeless, we are not talking about the regular business of the provincial Legislature. We are talking about the regular business of people surviving in this province today, and I feel that it is a very grave statement for a member of the government to suggest today that this emergency debate is not needed and that to set aside the regular business of the House was superfluous and unnecessary.
I am very proud to stand in this Legislature today and continue the debate that I have stood in this House four times previously in the last two years and discussed. To be quite frank, I am concerned that for two years we have heard indeed -- to use the member for Essex South’s own words -- an introduction of “a litany of programs.” Those were his words, not mine.
It is perfectly true that this government has introduced a litany of programs and promises, and that is all they have done. We still have an increasing number of people who do not have homes they can afford and do not have alternatives for housing. That is an interesting aspect in itself. The very fact that we are here talking about affordable housing is an irony, I would suggest, because in fact what we are talking about is unaffordable housing.
I do not take credit for those words. Last Friday, just a week ago tomorrow, in the city of Mississauga -- the most progressive city, I would like to suggest, in this province -- we held a conference called How To Provide Affordable Housing: Actions, Plans and Solutions. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Housing was a speaker at that conference.
At that conference, Bill Grenier, who is in the business of building homes, in fact said that while we are discussing housing and the lack of it, we should be talking about whether it is affordable or unaffordable. The fact is that unaffordable housing is the issue. There are houses being built. There are houses that some people can afford to buy, but the fact is that there are no houses for very, very many people.
It is ironical, I would suggest, that today this debate is taking place in the same year when worldwide we have not the celebration, I would say, but when we are having the event of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. It is very interesting but very sad to know that not only in Ontario but, indeed, in this country we do share with the other countries of the world a very major problem.
I am sorry that I am still having to stand here and speak on this issue for a third or fourth time, because the points that have been made and been presented to this government over the past two years apparently have had no impact in helping this government find a solution.
Is it not rather ironical when we look at some of the so-called programs that this government has introduced? They decided that perhaps what they should do is put the victims of family violence at the top of the list for emergency apartments. That is great, and I must say that, as a former member of the board of the Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp., I was certainly aware of the long lists that we had for affordable units in the region of Peel.
I know that we now have in this Legislature the member for Mississauga West (Mr. Mahoney), a newly elected member. He has been chairman of Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp., and I am sure that when he has an opportunity, he will reinforce the tremendous need we have for housing in the region of Peel, based on the experience of that nonprofit housing corporation, where we have something like 2,300 families on a waiting list.
Now, the government decided that they would prioritize victims of family violence on these lists and they would go to the head of the lists. That I agree with. However, it does not change the availability of the units for those families. It means that they are at the head of the list, but it does not do anything to the waiting list. It does not reduce the waiting list; it just reshuffles the names and the priority of order.
The other issue that I think we have to talk about is what is equitable in terms of a solution. Is it equitable to ask everyone to double up their homes? Where we have single-family homes and we have established neighbourhoods within some communities around this province, are we going to say to them, “Well, the only thing is that we are going to have to have large units divided by two or three or four”?
Are we going to say that we are going to crowd families into a single-family home because there is nowhere else for them to go? Are we going to say to seniors who are taxed out of their houses “Well, you know, perhaps because there are not affordable apartments for you to move into now that you are taxed out of your home, what you should do is take in boarders”? To what degree are we willing to have an intrusion on people’s choice of accommodation in order to solve the housing crisis?
I would suggest that a government that is responsible would find very real programs and very real alternatives to solving the housing crisis and not suggest that everybody who lives in a single-family home will have to rent out their basements and change the very essence of a community.
It is very interesting because I would guess that probably the members of the government, without exception, live in either apartments or single-family homes, or perhaps they are fortunate enough to live in a duplex or a fourplex or a sixplex. But I would suggest the members of this government are not yet in a position where they are renting a basement apartment.
I would suggest they have as many calls in their constituency offices as I do where people are so desperate that they would share any accommodation anywhere in order to have somewhere to live. I could cite one example after another. One of the previous speakers this afternoon referred to the fact that we have apartment buildings all over this province that are being converted to apartment hotels. In Port Credit I have exactly that situation and I have an elderly widow who is in particularly dire straits. She has been a resident of an apartment building in Port Credit for 24 years, and now it is being converted to a hotel and she has nowhere to go.
It is rather interesting when we look at the kinds of figures that Peter Smith -- he is another person in the region of Peel, I must say, of whom I am particularly proud because of his particular talents and his ability. He is the housing commissioner for the region of Peel, and as recently as a month ago he chaired a conference in Ottawa to mark the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Mr. Smith’s own figures state that 50,000 to 65,000 people are homeless in the greater Toronto area.
With that kind of authority giving us those kinds of figures, it is a further reinforcement of the fact that we have done enough talking about this problem with this government for the past two years. I hope the minister will be able to do something that her predecessor was not able to do and that is to solve this crisis so we no longer will have to have emergency debates to deal with housing for people in Ontario.
Mr. Philip: I would like to rise to deal with some very specific issues that are related to this debate, namely the aftermath or the fallout from Bill 51 and how it affects the average tenant in this province.
The Residential Rent Regulation Act, Bill 51, which was so very long in coming, was given royal assent on December 4, 1986, and we have yet to see a rent review go through that process and come to a conclusion. The bulk of the administrative features on the legislation have yet to be put into force because, of course, they rely on regulation rather than on the act itself.
When you ask the residential tenancy manager in the local rent review office, “What is the application in this kind of situation?” usually he cannot answer you. During the two weeks following my re-election I spent every day in the Etobicoke rent review office going through landlords’ cost-revenue statements and files. They most courteously provided me with an office as I was going to be there every day and I had an opportunity to watch people come and go because the office was right opposite the reception area.
I found it interesting because tenants would come in and look at a file, spend 10 or 15 minutes and leave. The reason for that is not that the tenants are not concerned about the increases of 10, 15, 20 or 25 per cent the landlords were asking for, but rather that the system that was created is so complex, so bureaucratic, so absolutely beyond the comprehension even of lawyers who are specializing in this field, that the average tenant going into the rent review office feels hopeless.
I want to deal with some of the comments made by the previous minister when he went around the province saying: “The tenants are in favour of Bill 51. Look at all the protection it is giving.” In fact, it gives less protection than the former legislation brought in by the previous Conservative government. It is not by accident that the major tenants’ associations in this province, such as the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations in Metro Toronto and the Ottawa Federation of Tenants’ Associations, to name only two, have been absolutely opposed to it and say it is a step backward rather than a step forward.
A comment from the tenants’ bulletin published by the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations says tenants have received little in return and the bills that were so long in coming not only fail to deliver on the promises made by the Premier to tenants but also were giant steps in the wrong direction. Both pieces of legislation, namely, Bill 51 and Bill 11, put the landlord’s profits ahead of the legislation.
Not only are tenants confused by it; if you talk to the officials in the ministry, you will find that the act itself is quite confusing to them and that there are many questions still unanswered. Thus we have a situation where you pretty well have to be an expert working in the field of tenant law in order to represent tenants before the rent review hearing. This holds true for the landlords, but the landlords often can hire that kind.
If you look at the obsolete legal aid system we have, you find that if you happen to be a single parent with one child and earn over $18,000 a year, you do not qualify for a legal aid certificate and, therefore, cannot go to an organization funded through legal aid, such as Metro Tenants Legal Services, and obtain assistance.
Even if you happen to be below that very low poverty line, but through circumstance you could not find an affordable apartment so you rented in a building where 51 per cent of the tenants earn more than that very low cap, then you are disqualified also.
So you are faced with the situation that unless you have a very good volunteer, an accountant, a lawyer or an MPP who has studied the situation in great detail, you have virtually no representation on what is a very complicated and hard-to-understand act.
In the case of one building, 40 Panorama Court -- it happens to be a multiple-unit residential building; it is registered as a condominium under the Planning Act -- the landlord having made an application, having put in the file, I went down to ask for a copy of the file. Instead, the file has been withdrawn temporarily and four crates of materials brought back to the rent review office. He is applying under every shareholder under every condominium unit.
It is little wonder that a tenant is confused. It is little wonder that the legal aid services, even if they are able to represent these people, cannot cope with the volume. It is little wonder that the people in the rent review offices, who are genuinely trying to work hard and cope with the system, are unable to do so as a result of the bureaucracy created by this abominable piece of legislation.
As an MPP who has represented thousands of tenants at rent review, I suggest also that what is missing from this act, that at least existed in the old act, is a kind of dynamic that works to the advantage of both the tenant and the landlord.
Under the old system the tenants or their representatives, myself, would gather there and we would have the landlord or his representative on the other side of the desk. We would be able to ask questions to bring out facts about the building. There was a kind of group dynamic that, in many cases, was useful for the landlord because he found out about what was going on in his building and useful for the tenants because they could see where the money was actually being spent.
Under the new bureaucratic system, instead, a person like myself, or a tenant going in to represent himself or other tenants, is faced with a file in which the landlord makes a series of projections as to his capital expenditures, if he has had a lot of capital expenditures, or as to his losses if he happens to be filing under other items.
I, then, must prepare a written report questioning the fact that he has not provided adequate mortgage statements or adequate receipts. He, in turn, after reading this two-, three-, five- or 10-page document that I prepared on behalf of the tenants, prepares another two-, three-, five-or 10-page document in response.
The average tenant, I suggest, is not in a position to cope with that kind of system. So, then, we have a system which is the worst of all worlds. The majority of tenants, because of the legal aid system, do not qualify for any kind of representation. The average tenant, even if fairly intelligent and well organized, is still faced with a very bureaucratic system that frustrates the kind of dynamic that can bring about some understanding between the landlord and tenant. What you have is a system that is simply not working.
Then you have the great Liberal programs. We dealt with one of those Liberal programs to increase housing. Do the members remember the ones for which I tabled the figures in the House and we dealt with them in the public accounts committee?
One family would be subsidized to the amount of $179,000 per unit, and after 20 years the equity would not even be owned by the taxpayers. For $179,000, at the time at which this money was being spent, you could have bought two condominiums in the suburbs and given them to the particular family or you could have held on to them and at least after 20 years had some equity. That is the kind of way in which this government is frittering away the taxpayers’ money. We have a rent review system that is bureaucratic and unworkable and we still have no initiatives by the government to really create affordable housing for those who cannot afford it.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I am very pleased that the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) has seen fit to make affordable or unaffordable housing, whatever the term is according to the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland), a topic of special discussion in this House today. I am sure my colleagues will appreciate the fact that as the Minister of Community and Social Services, I recognize the way in which the lack of affordable housing impacts on the many groups of people we work with.
I want to point out, however, that it was no accident that in the throne speech there were essentially two key issues. There were a lot of other ones, but there were essentially two: education and housing. That was no accident. It was intended to send out a very clear signal that as far as this government is concerned, these two issues must be dealt with. These two issues impact upon the people of this province in a very particular way.
I also point out to my honourable colleagues that when the Premier of this province was choosing his cabinet, it was no accident that he picked the member for Oakwood (Ms. Hošek) to be his Minister of Housing. She is a member who has demonstrated by her own track record as a social activist, as an academic and as a businesswoman that she knows how to get the job done. Her record speaks for itself. That member, that minister, is going to get this job done as well.
I indicated that, as the Minister of Community and Social Services, I was particularly interested in this topic because it impacts so on the client groups that my ministry works with and it is for that reason that over the past two years, and for subsequent years, I have worked more closely with the Ministry of Housing than any other ministry of this government.
I want to share with my colleagues that both the previous Minister of Housing and this Minister of Housing have reciprocated. It has already been brought to your attention that for the first time in the history of the government of Ontario, the Minister of Housing is now a member of the social policy committee. The Minister of Housing in this province has recognized the social dimension of housing as well as the economic dimension of housing, and with that I am delighted.
My honourable colleague the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens) has already made an impressive statement of the need. He has brought to our attention the impact upon families in this province of a lack of affordable housing; the impact on a family spending far too much of its resources on rent and having so little left for other things; the impact on families that can lead to abuse, that can lead to teenage runaways, the impact on families that breaks down the stability that is so important for families to do the kinds of jobs they need to do, to be the foundation of our society, to provide stability for their children and for their communities.
We are all aware of that, but let me plead with my colleagues on the opposition benches. If they truly believe that, if they truly believe in the importance of housing in this province, if they truly believe in the priority it should get, then I hope we are going to continue to see that recognition over the next months and years as in fact we do allocate more resources to that.
Keep in mind, as each member knows from his own experience in this House, some of them as former ministers of government, that resources have to be allocated on a priority basis. When we make those kinds of determinations, we are going to be looking for their support.
I want to say very clearly that l disagree very strongly with my colleague the member for Mississauga South, and I wish she were here, in terms of the need to reduce restrictive zoning that exists in so many of our municipalities.
There are many families in this province that start out unable to acquire a home of their own. That has always been true here. I remember when my family started out, and I suspect there are many others on both sides of the House who had the same experience. Initially you share a house with someone else. Often when you get your own first home you share it with somebody else. There is nothing new in that. That has been going on for many years. I could go back 35 years in my own personal experience.
What really annoys me and I hope annoys many of my colleagues is people in communities and neighbourhoods who say: “I do not want that to happen in my neighbourhood. I have my home, I have my roof over my head, but I am not prepared to allow that to take place. I am not prepared to have one of my neighbours use the second floor of a two-storey home or use the basement apartment to supply housing to another family.”
I think if there is one thing we could all do in terms of attitude formation in all our communities, it is to drive home the point that everyone deserves a decent place to live. For many people, if they are going to acquire that, they have to be able to get lower-rent facilities so they can save money. That has already been mentioned by one member -- the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston), I believe it was. And I think also the member for Oshawa indicated how difficult it is to get the number of dollars together to put a down payment on a home.
That is partially our responsibility, all of our responsibility and each of our neighbours’ and each of our communities’. We have to eliminate or reduce this kind of restrictive zoning that prohibits that from happening.
I want to share with my colleagues the fact that despite all the problems, despite the need, things are being done. This government has committed itself, in co-operation with the federal government and beginning in 1986, again in 1987 and continuing to 1992, to build 6,700 units of nonprofit housing every single year, and a minimum of 10 per cent of those would go for special needs. That is why it is of particular interest to me. That is being done; it will continue to be done. That is a federal-provincial program.
This government has also committed itself to Project 3000, whereby 3,000 units will be built, totally financed by this provincial government, for special needs housing. In the first allocation of 1,000, clients of my ministry got 400. In the second allocation of 2,000, clients of my ministry got 1,800. I would say that is a pretty good indication as to where the priorities lie.
Members will know that in the rate increases I have announced for my ministry, shelter subsidies have been on every single one of them in a substantial way. We have much more than matched the rise of the cost of living or inflation. In September 1986, an additional $25 million was put into that program alone.
Today, clients of my ministry have available to them an additional $100 a month because of the increased shelter subsidy we built into that particular program. We have involved ourselves in the Ecuhome program, in co-operation with churches in this metropolitan area, whereby they purchase a home, we provide the resources and they provide the supports for the housing. We have co-operated in our ministry with the Ministry of Health to institute the Habitat program for housing and support for former psychiatric patients. We are launching immediately 1,000 units for supported community living for special needs groups in this province. That is already beginning right now.
It has already been drawn to members’ attention that $1.5 million has been allocated to renovate homes for people who are disabled. I certainly take to heart the comments that it may not be operational as well as it should be, and I give my commitment to work with my colleague in the Ministry of Housing to see to it that it is.
My own ministry provides $2 million every winter for short-term emergency hostel housing. That is not the basic need; I am not arguing for that. People need permanent housing, but when they are on the street without a place to go, we are prepared to move in and to help, and we will continue to do that this winter as well.
At the outset, I would like to say to the new minister and to this government that the issues involved in the housing crisis in Ontario today are not new. First, the government has had two and a half years to deal with them. They are not a new government. Two and a half years ago they were a new government.
I was pleased when I first heard that the member for Oakwood had assumed the responsibility for this most difficult portfolio upon arriving here at Queen’s Park. What I had understood about the minister in her private sector experience was that she had the necessary academic depth to understand this problem and she clearly had the social conscience in which to frame that academic understanding, and that she herself had the capacity to provide what was new and what was needed for this two-and-a-half-year-old government.
That is why I sat with some disappointment yesterday to witness her make the mistake that all politicians make: She got tied down to a figure. It is the worst thing we can do in the House. We got tied down to a figure of 102,000.
I listened with great interest to my colleague the member for Kitchener-Wilmot who, as a veteran, quite appropriately indicated about allocated resources. He talked about “committed to build” and about “projected achievements.” He was very careful. He is committing dollars. He will not tell us the numbers of keys that we have handed over to tenants in Ontario in the last two and a half years. No speaker from the government has advised that, in the first year of its ambitious housing programs, they underspent by 20 per cent, that they undertargeted by 30 per cent in their second year of operation. Now, either the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) of this province made a decision in cabinet that housing was not a priority, or there is insufficient uptake so that there is insufficient support on the part of the public sector in order to participate in the programs of this government.
Now, from where I sit, it is clear that the minister has an opportunity to bring her skills to bear in this ministry, which is in a considerable amount of difficulty. Now, when I had to leave the Legislature to go to my office, we are all provided with short-circuit TVs in our rooms and I was able to watch her speech.
I watched with interest as the minister read extensive notes, prepared for her by her ministerial staff, with respect to the old government’s party line on this subject. We are still looking for some new contribution from her as minister. It is unfortunate that she has been brought into this debate so early without having been given an opportunity to examine some of the facts that exist with respect to her ministry.
Mr. Jackson: This House is quite familiar with the fact that I did not support Bill 51. No member of the Legislature relishes departing from his party’s position on any item, but I felt so convinced and so strong that this bill was unworkable and unmanageable and that the government’s costs for this program would run at large that, in all conscience, I could not do that with the financial resources we are responsible for.
To illustrate, when the Conservatives left office, the rent review program was being operated at an annual expense of approximately $9 million. In the most recent estimates books that were published, which are now about eight months old, the request was for $26 million. Supplementary estimates indicate that this government’s costs could be in excess of $30 million.
Today in the House, in response to my question, the minister indicated that her solution would be to hire additional staff. It is quite disconcerting that, when the minister’s predecessor assured this House that the cost of implementing this program would not rise above $12 million from the previous $9 million, that is the legacy of the bill that her government is so terribly proud of.
As the minister is aware, there are several sections of this bill that have not been proclaimed. The chronically depressed rent section has resulted in landlords keeping units off the market, contributing to the fact that we have a low vacancy rate, waiting for the minister to implement the legislation to process orders so that they can free up those units. The section that indicates that orders must be issued 15 days from the first effective date of interest has not been issued. The “cost no longer borne” provision has still not been implemented.
What the government did do, however, was implement an advertising campaign. One of the Orders and Notices questions I presented to the minister’s predecessor was how much advertising had been spent when Bill 51 first came out. $1.3 million were spent in a three-week period to tell the tenants of Ontario how speedy, how efficient, how streamlined and how helpful this bill will be.
Today, in this House, I referred to a document from her own ministry which the minister is reluctant to make public, which states very clearly that in the city of Toronto there are approximately 2,000 buildings -- not units, but buildings -- waiting for whole building review. They are applications that are sitting within her ministry waiting to be processed. Orders have not been issued.
Of those 2,000, 900 are requests for increases in excess of 25 per cent. We could be talking of as many as 60,000 tenants in the city of Toronto who will be faced with increases of that magnitude. According to the legislation -- because for pre-1976 buildings all increases are paid retroactively once the orders are issued -- some tenants will be paying thousands of dollars in back rent.
I brought to the attention of the minister in the House an individual case, like many, in the riding of Oakville South, the case of Archie and Mary Dodd. Prior to the legislation they were paying 50 per cent of their income as retired pensioners in order to reside in their unit. In fact, with the 33 per cent requested under the guidelines of the government, this rent increase will go to 67 per cent. Now, the people cannot possibly have expected to continue along that course.
What was suggested at the time was that the government start to seriously consider shelter allowance programs for persons in order to narrow that gap, especially in the light of the fact that we have zero vacancy rates in most of the highly urbanized communities in our province.
It has long been a tenet which I hold very dear that when a government provides anything to members of the public who do not need it, there is always that much less that it can give to those who do need it, Clearly, the universal nature of this program and the costs that are running at large to administer it are going to continue to provide pressure for needy families.
I want to respond to the Minister of Community and Social Services to illustrate how the housing priorities of this government are not necessarily in check. The problem is the limited availability of properly zoned land for affordable housing.
The real, serious question is, is the minister going to be able to find sufficient zoned land to meet her targets? In Burlington we were able to locate a vacant school, which we were going to save by putting in a proposal under the ministry’s program. We were bumped by a community college that felt it was more important to expand a community college. It was the last piece of zoned land we had left. If we start today, it will take two to four years for us just to get zoned and approve the land. These are serious problems. When the ministry can say that the community and social service needs and its housing objectives are more important than a community college’s need for expansion, when other lands are available, when the government understands those matters, then it will be able to tackle this problem in the manner in which it should be tackled.
Mrs. Grier: I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate today and to wish the minister well. I think she certainly has been handed a very difficult job by the Premier, and I do not quite share the confidence of the Minister of Community and Social Services that this is one she will be able to accomplish. I have a horrible feeling it is perhaps beyond the capabilities of anyone, given the mess that we have got ourselves into.
As someone who has been a municipal politician longer than l have been a provincial one, I know only too well the resistance that exists in communities to the development of affordable housing. I would like to say to those who today see this as an emergency and necessary for an emergency debate, the resistance in communities to affordable housing is firmly rooted in the kind of housing policies that we saw from the Conservative Party for 40 years in this province. It was the development of enormous high-rise, subsidized buildings to the advantage of the developers, not of the ultimate occupants, that created an adamant resistance on the part of community groups to having subsidized housing or social housing or affordable housing or whatever the euphemism is these days in their communities.
I also know, as a municipal politician, that it is possible to overcome that resistance. I am very proud of the projects that have been built in my riding -- nonprofit, co-operative, senior citizens -- that did not elicit objections and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board but that took an enormous amount of time and an enormous amount of community development work. I think now we are perhaps running out of time.
I would agree with the programs and the kinds of comments that have been made about the programs that we have in place. I want to say to the minister that I agree with the member for Oshawa that one of the problems with those programs is the red tape in which they are enmeshed. My own municipality of Etobicoke, as I have indicated, has not been very enthusiastic about providing affordable housing. I was therefore delighted when last March the council applied for a $20,000 grant from the ministry to prepare a municipal housing statement. That grant was made through Metro and got caught up in its red tape, but was cleared, and went to the Ministry of Housing early last September. It has not yet been approved. When we inquired yesterday, we were told it would be another three weeks before the cheque would be issued. That kind of slow response to a municipality that says, “Let me get on and at least begin to look at my housing needs,” is entirely unacceptable.
The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) said everybody deserves shelter; yet we have for too long regarded shelter not as a right but as a commodity to be provided by the marketplace. In all our discussions, we seem to be assuming that affordable housing will only be provided by the public sector, because we develop programs to help the public sector subsidize and provide affordable housing, but we leave to the private sector the unfettered right to build luxury and profitable housing. Until we realize that the private sector, as long as it is the sector that is constructing the housing, has to be restrained in the kind of housing it is building, we are not going to affect the supply.
The market and the supply-and-demand forces of housing were recognized not to be working back in the early 1970s and so government intervened. It intervened by rent control. It was essential and it was necessary. I have heard all the comments about how it is not working. The point I want to make is that, on its own, that is not enough. We intervened in the marketplace for tenants; we did nothing in the marketplace about the provision of the supply.
We hear there are no sites, that there is no zoning, that it takes a long time. Yet we see all around us in the city of Metropolitan Toronto housing being built, but at a price that most people cannot afford to pay.
I find it really ironic that in my own area there is land waiting for housing to be built but it is considered that the land is too expensive and that only luxury housing can be built on it. The reason it is so expensive is that it is near the lake and there are beautiful parks that have been created in the lake by lakefill at public expense. We have by that public investment enhanced these sites along our waterfront to the point where the only people who now want to build on them or say they can afford to build on them are those who want to build luxury condominiums.
The minister said she wished to work with municipalities to ensure that 25 per cent of the housing is affordable -- a very laudable sentiment -- but the reality is that the mechanics of doing that are very difficult. If somebody owns the property and applies for a rezoning, the municipality has not in the past and is unlikely in the future to say, “You can only get your rezoning and therefore enhance the value of that land even more if you put some affordable housing on it.”
I want to suggest to the minister that there is a tool at her disposal perhaps to begin to do that which has not been used by many of her predecessors. In 1983, we got a new Planning Act in this province. Part of that Planning Act is the possibility of having Planning Act policy statements which send a very clear message to the Ontario Municipal Board, to the municipalities and I think to the development industry as to the kind of policy the province has.
It says: “Planning, by its nature, involves the resolution of conflicts between competing demands for land and resources. A municipality must therefore be aware of the objectives of other levels of government in order to establish a firm basis for its own planning policies. For some time, municipalities have called for a clearer indication of provincial policies in matters affecting local planning, and section 3 of the Planning Act, 1983, enables this to be done through the issuance of policy statements.”
A policy statement under that provision that clearly laid out the desires of the Minister of Housing to see affordable housing included in any approvals given by the municipality would send the kind of strong signal I think needs to be sent.
I have come to that conclusion reluctantly, as a municipal and community activist who believes very strongly that the community and the residents have to be involved in the process and have to have a say in what happens to their community, but there are occasions when the interest of the broader community has to override that. I think that if that signal was sent very clearly by the province, that the province felt that had to happen, then it would be easier for those working at the grass-roots level to work in the community and to ensure that we have support for the kind of housing that needs to be built.
To have that done would be a long process -- it would require circulation throughout the province -- but the fact that it was at least attempted would, I submit, be one way of addressing the problem. Until we look at that problem, we are not really going to come to grips with the whole question of the need for shelter in our major cities and all across this province.
The value of land is incredibly enhanced when a rezoning is approved and that value is often created by the public infrastructure that has been put there. I say to the minister that it is time we began to say to the development industry, “You can no longer skim off the top and only build the profitable and the luxury housing.” Until we say to the private sector, “You have a responsibility to meet the shelter needs of the people of this community,” we are not really going to come to grips with the problem. I wish the minister well.
Mr. Mahoney: l am interested to note that the people who moved this debate take place must now not consider it an emergency as there are only a few of them left in the House. I believe this government agreed to the debate because we are very concerned.
I believe we have realized the necessity of forming new partnerships in Ontario. These partnerships were recently talked about at a housing conference in the city of Mississauga which my colleague the member for Mississauga South referred to earlier. I would like to read to the House a quote from the Mississauga News in its editorial following the conference. They stated, “A viable solution can only be found if the private sector, all three levels of government, home owners and homeless individuals work together.”
Special needs groups should have the same choices as everyone else in our society. While still a member of city council in Mississauga, I dealt with the establishment of a group home for ex-psychiatric patients in the middle of a rather exclusive residential community and, I might add, after the nomination meeting for Mississauga West and just prior to the election.
The initial reaction in that community was quite predictable. The NIMBY syndrome, which the members all know is “not in my backyard,” came through loud and clear. The fears and concerns that came out at the public meeting were very real in the minds of the neighbours. But after working with the community, the Peel Mental Health Association, the city of Mississauga and the region of Peel, we were able to establish a community advisory committee that had the effect of getting that group home under way. It was a tough fight but a successful one that is helping to fulfil this government’s commitment to fund special needs housing projects to reinstitutionalize and re-integrate these people into the community.
What this is all about is new partnerships in solving the housing crisis. It was in that regard that the city of Mississauga and the Social Planning Council of Peel cosponsored the housing conference, referred to earlier, that was held last week to address this issue. Both city council and the Social Planning Council of Peel should be congratulated for taking the initiative to hold this conference and showing leadership in this area. It is only the beginning, I would add, of these new partnerships.
The Minister of Housing announced at that conference that the maximum unit prices, the capital funding, has been increased by 10 per cent under a new agreement. This specific announcement will allow Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp. to proceed with the construction of 538 units in the city of Mississauga. They will put these projects out for bids to the private sector. That is partnership and that, I submit, is leadership.
Here we have the provincial government agreeing to increase the funding, thereby allowing a public nonprofit housing corporation to enter into agreements with the private sector and then to work with the community and the local municipality to bring on stream over 500 units into that community.
What we need to do is educate the community, whether it be for family projects, senior citizens, ex-psychiatric patients or other special needs groups. We need to change, I submit, the NIMBY syndrome to what was referred to at the conference as the ALIMBY syndrome. That stands for “a little in my backyard,” not an easy transition but vital if we are to be successful in forming these new partnerships.
The public’s fear of the unknown is one of the main obstacles in providing public housing for the disabled, senior citizens, youth offenders or ex-psychiatric patients. We must work to change this fear to understanding, tolerance and compassion from the community.
This government is committed, in my opinion, to more private nonprofit and public nonprofit funding. Our other programs have been outlined by the minister, by the throne speech and by my colleagues here today, so I will not dwell on them.
Another aspect of new partnerships in housing must come from the private sector and the municipalities. We must work with these people to review restrictive bylaws which have been referred to here earlier. What is wrong, I ask, with a basement apartment? What is wrong with renting a room out to a student? Obviously, the neighbourhoods do not want to be converted to rooming and boarding houses, as referred to by the member for Mississauga South, that would lead to parking and congestion problems.
On the other hand, we must ask municipalities to enter into some of these new partnerships which I have spoken of to intensify housing and occupancy densities within acceptable guidelines in the community and to provide more housing within existing housing stock. This government, I believe, is committed to that process.
I believe also that co-operation between the private development industry, the municipal governments, the senior levels of government and the community can forge a partnership with everyone accepting their own responsibility. No one can do it alone. As the minister said earlier, there is no quick fix, but there are initiatives that can and have been taken by this government.
In summary, it is important that we develop understanding and compassion in the community. We must encourage more co-operative land use programs in the municipalities, more flexible bylaws in the municipalities and ensure that everyone is serious and committed to an overall housing strategy. It is interesting, from my perspective, how some honourable members opposite have a convenient memory that only seems to go back to 1985. Prior to that, I am led to believe, housing problems did not exist. In days gone by, everything was wonderful.
As a nine-year board member of the Peel Non-Profit Housing Corp. and a past president of that organization, I know that is not the case. It is only since 1985 that housing problems have been properly addressed. It is only in recent memory that I have actually heard people such as Keith McCreary, the current president of Peel-Non Profit Housing, and Peter Smith, the commissioner of housing for the region, say things like “l appreciate what this government is doing. It is a step in the right direction, and at last someone is listening to us.”
We are working with these people, we are moving in the right direction and I submit to this House that indeed we are listening, unlike many who sat on this side of the House in bygone days. In closing, thank God those days are gone.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words. Much of what I would like to have said I said during my five-minute preamble as to why this debate should proceed today and much has been said by some of my colleagues. However, I will see if I can contribute a little bit to the debate.
Mr. Harris: I thought it was a slippery trick for him to pull. I actually was in my office attending to some very important business, but I was watching him on TV and paying attention. If the member for Essex South is watching, I assume he will be here in a minute. I assume that he will be here in about 60 seconds from now to answer for his absence. Otherwise, I will assume he did not care enough to stick around.
Mr. Harris: It is an interesting little black book. I want to tell members, first of all, where I got it. It is a 1988 planning book, a calendar. It comes from the Ontario Mining Association. I got it with the compliments of the former Liberal member for Rainy River, Patrick Reid, who sent me this today. He is an excellent fellow, very labour oriented.
I was flipping through it, and as fate would have it -- and I am sure fate drew my attention to it -- there are little witticisms at the tops of the pages. This one did catch my eye. I thought I would bring it to members in the chamber today. This is for the first week of February. It says, “The rule on staying alive as a forecaster is to give them a number or give them a date, but never give them both at once.” That was Lane Bryant Quinn. I never heard of her, but I was just sort of flipping through.
I was reading these things and it jumped out at me that shortly I would be going up into the chamber to respond to the member for Essex South and to enter the debate. It jumped out at me right away that this rule of staying alive as a forecaster appears to be the rule of staying alive as a minister or as a government that the Liberals have adopted.
Mr. Harris: August 22. We have it. We just have not had it here to hold up. It indicated two things. At election time and in a short period of time, one can perhaps afford to pick a date and a number and put them together, providing that date is long beyond when people will be going to the polls. That famous ad said 102,000 units by 1989. Those were the numbers and that was the date. I expect those are the number and the date the people of Ontario feel, unless somebody was lying, that this government made a commitment to, that it campaigned on, that it would try to live up to.
We had other news today, since the member mentioned it. We will not be able to hire any more researchers. We are being treated in a rather arrogant fashion, unbecoming to any government that has just assumed power with this number of seats. We have been cut back. As combined opposition parties, we learned today that we are to be cut back by $800,000.
Members will recall that whenever a similar situation occurred, for example, in 1984 in the federal House, Mr. Mulroney at that time was very generous. He said: “Look, you still have the same job to do. You have the same number of committees to cover and the same number of ministers.”
Mr. Harris: It really is on topic, because I am short in research dollars as to how to get to it. He said: “You should get the same amount of money, opposition parties, as you had before. In spite of your numbers, you have the same amount of work.” That is not the way of the Premier and that is not the way of the government House leader and Minister of Mines (Mr. Conway).
Mr. Harris: That was OK for the election, but now we have to deal with the reality. We have a cabinet minister, a Premier and a government who really have probably read this book ahead of me and said, “We cannot stay alive if we keep sticking to that.”
This week we heard the date being juggled around. This week it was the date. It was not meant to be two years; it was meant to be three years. In fact, the date that came back to us was 1990. That is not the promise. That is not the commitment. That is not what the Premier intended. Perhaps after the minister took the portfolio she said: “Premier, we cannot do it. I have to start fudging around on some things. I will start with the date, Premier. I will start fudging and say we will slip it up to 1990. Maybe if that flies we will get it up to 1991 and then next week or maybe the week after that we will start playing around somehow with the 102,000 units.”
I guess what disturbs us and the reason for this debate, quite frankly, are three things: the Liberal record, the throne speech inadequacy and the answer to the first question that was asked of the minister yesterday, who indicated that the very same programs they had in place from 1985 to 1987 were going to carry us, through some miracle, to 102,000 affordable rental units by 1989. Here is the record that those programs produced. Let us go through a few.
March 1986: “Housing minister said he would make sure all of the province’s homeless have shelter by the end of ’87.” That was the former minister relying on the programs that were spat back at us today in what I thought was a rather arrogant fashion, particularly for a new minister.
We have maybe six or seven weeks, so that will be solved using the programs that were spat back at us today that the former minister said would solve it. Anybody who believes that really is not paying attention. In fact, the problem not only was bad from 1985 to 1986 when he made that announcement; it is far worse now. The statistics, I think, have been read into the record already and I have so much material to cover that I will not repeat them.
Let me give another one. In December 1985, the Liberals announced a five-year, $500-million assured housing program, the target being 43,000 new assisted rental units, 32,000 of which would be allocated to social housing. We have had lots of announcements and press releases and impressions that maybe something was happening, but by the end of March 1987, they had allocated funding for about 16,000; they had not built them. There was an allocation -- it had not all been taken up -- for a target of 16,000, not 43,000, and 5,480 at the most by all predictions could be considered to be rent-geared-to-income, not 32,000. Of course, the numbers are going up and up all the time.
Mr. Reville: Thank you, and congratulations to you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment. I can understand why you might be mesmerized by the soothing words of the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris). We often are mesmerized and quite often we never realize that they are not on the topic at all and that is just as well.
I want to offer as well my congratulations to the minister. Like the ever alert member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson), l too speculated about the precise reason why the Premier would make the particular appointment that he made and I worry, because I am a kind of worried person, that perhaps there was a tension here. Did government want a star to carry forward a serious response to that housing crisis or in fact did the government want a star to protect the government from the consequences of failure to respond seriously to the housing crisis? I guess the jury is out on that and we will all see.
Mr. Reville: I have stayed up to watch Dateline Ontario, as I often do, and sometimes see the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) on there. I am always fascinated by what he has to say, whenever I can figure it out.
There is no question that the government has an array of programs in its arsenal. There is no question, and I say this with sadness, that the piety exhibited by the third party as it discusses the housing crisis is perhaps difficult to swallow, given that in 1985-86, which was the last year for which that now-gone-and-not-lamented government was responsible for delivering housing, it managed the impressive total of 6,254 units.
It is often depressing to me to think that people are becoming aware only now of the emergency in housing. Without wanting to sound too pontifical, although I will take that chance, my career has had a lot to do with the housing crisis, and I began to be involved in these matters in 1972, so the failure of successive governments of different stripes to respond adequately to a crisis that has been developing for many years is shocking, and I do not know why. I will try to figure out why people have allowed those governments to get away with it.
Even now, Mr. Speaker -- and congratulations to you on your reappointment -- there appears to be among the rhetoric and among the recitation of programs a misunderstanding of what is going to be needed to solve the crisis.
I noted with some amusement that not a peep was uttered about the demise of Renterprise. I think it is totally appropriate for that program to disappear, because it was a hoax and a boondoggle of massive proportions, but we are still being beaten over the head with the glowing tribute to Project 3000, which is another monumental hoax and which will not in fact deal with very much of the housing crisis, if any part of the housing crisis at all, and in fact is precisely the wrong way to go about providing housing.
This should not be a surprise to the minister, because I am sure she has had a chance to read my speeches and will know that I told the government this was not the way to do it. Project 3000 was in fact a bribe that was paid to the tenants on the Rent Review Advisory Committee so that they would be calm about the other monumental hoax that was visited on unsuspecting tenants, and that was Bill 51.
What Project 3000 is delivering across Ontario is a host of many institutions which require a person to have a label printed on his forehead before he is entitled to housing. I think that is just shocking. I think what should entitle you to housing is the fact of your existence and that you do not have to be an ex-psychiatric patient or a battered woman or a disabled person or elderly or “homeless” in order to get housing, that in fact housing should be the right of everybody. The failure of the senior governments of this country to ever acknowledge that fact or to ever put housing into a sufficient enough priority that there was a real possibility that everybody who needed housing would get it is one of the massive failures of vision on the part of governments both here in Ontario and in Ottawa.
I always regret to hear the former Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling), the current Minister of Housing, or the Minister of Community and Social Services lament municipal resistance to social housing. This is a major copout. There is no question there is resistance to social housing, but the resistance to social housing does not account for its lack. What accounts for the lack of social housing is that the government has never been prepared to provide the money to build it.
Having been through many long, tedious meetings with communities as they resisted, at first, and slowly began to resist less -- so that you do build the social housing -- I know that the providers of social housing can never get enough units allocated to them and that the real failure here is the failure of government to be really serious about the supply program and by continuing to hang on to what is a vain hope that the private sector will somehow come to the rescue. It will not; it cannot. The private sector can certainly build housing. It can build fine housing, but it is going to build housing on a profit basis and most of the people in Ontario just cannot afford to pay the ticket.
There are really three pieces to a housing strategy. I will repeat them once again before I fall down from sheer boredom. You have to have policies that protect tenants. We do not. The government has refused to do that. You have to have policies that protect the housing you have. We do not. The government has refused to do that. You have to have policies and programs that will generate nonprofit housing. We do not have adequate policies.
Until this government gets off the pot and stops relying on the private sector to solve this problem for it, stops trying to blame R-1 ratepayers for their meanness and pretend that is the real problem, we are not going to solve this housing crisis and this government will continue to be indicted for a shocking failure towards its citizens by allowing them to freeze on the streets.
It is very popular to talk about homelessness during the winter. People die every single day of the year in this province because they do not have housing and it is not just from exposure to cold; it is the kind of exposure that occurs because you do not have a decent place to live, and somebody hits you on the head with a doorknob some June night because you do not have a place to live. Unless the government really takes a look at its priorities and really puts some muscle behind the rhetoric of its speeches, this housing crisis will deepen.
Mrs. LeBourdais: In providing a brief summation of the eloquent members who have preceded me this afternoon, I would like to assure all members of this House of the steady progress of this government’s aggressive strategy in addressing a most basic need of all Ontarians, that of affordable housing.
As a direct result of the assured housing strategy, more than 13,600 units of low- to moderate-cost rental housing were allocated in 1986 and 1987 to municipal, private and co-operative nonprofit housing groups in 92 municipalities under a federal-provincial program. An additional 3,000 units are pledged for 74 municipalities under a special nonprofit housing initiative funded solely by the province. The housing is primarily for disadvantaged persons.
In addition, almost 5,000 new convert-to-rent units have been committed since the beginning of 1986, and landlords of multi-unit projects are now required to offer up to 25 per cent of their units for use by local housing authorities, which also manage the Ontario Housing Corp.
The government has also initiated a low-rise rehabilitation program in which 110 municipalities have signed operating agreements to allow upgrading for more than 9,400 rental units to meet municipal health and building standards, as well as a home renewal program administered by over 100 municipalities to assist home owners to upgrade their homes with loans of up to $7,500.
With specific regard to home renewal for the disabled, the home renewal program offers home owners interest-free loans of up to $15,000 to make housing modifications that increase accessibility for a disabled occupant. Under this program home owners have applied for assistance regardless of their incomes. In 1986, some 500 home owners took advantage of this program.
The government believes those measures I have mentioned are just a first step towards addressing this area of ongoing and vital concern. As outlined in the throne speech tabled at the opening of the Legislature on Tuesday, we will continue to directly create and preserve low- and moderately priced housing through such measures as nonprofit housing, conversion to rental, upgrading, modifying and creating an environment conducive to increased investment in new rental housing.
The government realizes that the provision of low- and moderately priced housing must be and will be a continuing concern and a central part of the planning process. We will assist those with moderate incomes to realize their goal of first-time home ownership and to fill in the gap left by the withdrawal of the federal home ownership program with a new Ontario home ownership savings plan to assist young families purchasing their first home.
The government’s program is an ambitious one and one planned to meet the pressing demands of the people of this province for affordable housing, with a minister who has the conviction, the determination and the sensitivity to meet this urgent need of people seeking affordable and adequate housing for themselves and their families.
I might say to the member for Nipissing in closing that I have a modicum of sympathy with his need for further research staff. Certainly, if the notes and witticisms from his little black book today were any indication of the research capabilities, then l might act together with some of my colleagues and suggest to the Premier some assistance. To go on with such witticisms on a debate which he himself has called for on such a major and pressing issue is perhaps appalling.
I think it is interesting that during the debate we have heard exchanges from both sides, and we have heard some interesting contributions from new members on the government side, rather self-congratulatory. But I hope all of us, particularly those out-of-town members who have not had a great deal of experience in this city, will this evening, if they are still in Toronto and have not yet returned home, take it upon themselves around midnight or 1 a.m. to walk through the park just behind this building or to walk around some of the back streets around Yonge Street and Jarvis and see some of the individuals they might find lying on the street or in the park on a park bench, or some of the kids, some of the runaways, who are living on the streets in this city, and wonder whether the self-congratulations on that side of the House or even, for that matter, the rhetoric on this side of the House have really done anything for any of those people.
I wonder too whether the programs that have been listed on assistance for upgrading of homes for home owners and providing a certain percentage of new units in buildings really have done anything for those people. I submit that perhaps we are all a little too middle-class and a little too comfortable and it is about time we learned a little bit about how the poor live in this city and in this province and perhaps got away from the biblical injunction that they are always with us. It is our job to ensure that the housing needs of those people are met.
On Tuesday, November 17, and Wednesday, November 18, we will continue with the debate on the speech from the throne, and on Thursday, November 19, we will have throne speech debate in both the morning and the afternoon.