17 DÉCEMBRE 1990 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1330.
YORK REGION DISTRICT HEALTH COUNCIL
The role of a district health council is critical to the planning needed to ensure a first-class health system in York region. With the implementation of the significant long-term-care reform initiated by the former government, it is vitally important that the new council be involved in the planning for future health and social services.
The question that everyone is asking in York region is, when will the present minister announce the formation of the York region district health council? I say to the minister that time is passing us by. There is solid agreement in the health and social service community that a council is needed. What we need now is some action.
DUFFERIN AREA HOSPITAL
In 1987 the former Liberal government made a $20-million commitment to fund a new facility on a new site. For its part, the county of Dufferin pledged $6 million, and additional millions were raised and are still being raised and pledged locally to the project.
As recently as August, the government confirmed its commitment to the project by announcing additional funds to offset the effects of inflation since 1987. For its part, the local health community has undertaken a comprehensive review of health care delivery which has been highly praised.
Our health care community in Dufferin-Peel is poised to deliver modern, cost-effective health care to local residents. The staff at the Dufferin Area Hospital are without question some of finest and most committed health care professionals anywhere in the province, but they need to know, and indeed our entire community needs to know, the status of its hospital project.
The hospital is now awaiting word on whether it can proceed to the next level of planning for the new facility, the so-called functional program stage.
I would strongly urge the Minister of Health to reaffirm her ministry's and government's commitment to a new hospital to serve the citizens of Dufferin county and northern Caledon.
FEDERAL ECONOMIC POLICY
In a recent press release, the company stated:
"In response to the continuing high value of the Canadian dollar, high interest rates and a temporary slump in demand for its products caused by the current recession, Epton Industries Inc announced that up to 48 employees will be laid off, offered early retirement or have their employment contracts discontinued.
"When asked about future business prospects for Epton, Mr Michael Weedon, company president, expressed concern about Canada's high interest rates as well as the negative impact of the high Canadian dollar on exports to the United States."
In a very non-partisan way, I would urge all 130 members of this House to write the Prime Minister of Canada to voice their concerns over the devastating effect the federal government's policies are having on the thousands of workers across this province whom we collectively represent.
While this government is very busy putting together a well thought out package to assist individuals through this recession, it is counterproductive to have the province of Ontario move people one step ahead and have our federal counterparts push them two steps back.
During the accord period, the Mental Health Act was amended to provide for greater protection for persons suffering from mental illness to ensure that they had some say in the treatment they received. Parents were not given an opportunity to speak at these hearings.
The bill I will be introducing today is an effort to redress this inequity and allow public hearings to be held. As the members may or may not know, schizophrenics can lead reasonably normal lives if they take their medication.
The appeals from treatment orders can take up to six months. The purpose of my bill will be to reduce this to 30 days from the date of perfection. It also allows for interim application to a judge to have treatment continued. If this were not in place, people in larger metropolitan areas could spend up to six months virtually in custody without any treatment.
This bill is just a start. It is supported by the Friends of Schizophrenics. I am hoping that we will have an opportunity to have it dealt with and referred for public hearings so these parents may have an opportunity to tell the members just what a horror story it is to have a person suffering from schizophrenia and not being able to help them through the Mental Health Act.
Unfortunately, I am number 82 on the ballot. If anybody wants to swap, I would like to swap immediately.
As a result of the efforts of the local residents, the Minister of the Environment, Petro-Canada and my office, we now have a plan in place to reduce the emissions from this facility.
The residents of my riding would like to encourage the Minister of the Environment to bring in tougher standards for air emissions and tougher penalties for industries which break those laws. A committee composed of concerned citizens, the Minister of the Environment, Petro-Canada, the Halton regional department of health, the mayor and myself will be formed to monitor the progress of the plans to reduce the emissions.
This whole process shows very clearly, one, how concerned the people of this province are about the quality of the environment and, two, how the government, the people of this province and the industry must work together in order to provide the solutions to the challenges that face the environment.
I want to assure the people of Oakville South that I will not be satisfied until the desired results are gained and the air quality around the Oakville Petro-Canada facility has been acceptable to my constituents.
DURHAM AREA TRANSPORTATION
This is a start. We have acted quickly. We are listening to the people and we are responding to their needs and we will continue to listen to the people, working with them to find the best possible alternatives. These consultations will continue.
Public transport service has been held hostage by succeeding federal governments. The Liberals slashed the Havelock-Peterborough commuter train to Toronto. The Conservatives restored train service, then cynically cancelled it last January.
The New Democratic government is providing a reliable, cost-effective public transport service that balances the needs of all our residents. The new all-day bus services will serve more people in more communities better than one train service running only twice a day. Bus service also saves the taxpayers: $500,000 for a bus, $3.5 million for a train.
Again, I know not everybody is happy, but even Transport 2000, a national rail passenger lobby, agrees that at this time a traditional commuter rail service to Havelock-Peterborough is not cost-efficient --
Its current report, People and Skills in the New Global Economy, examines ways in which industry, educators, labour and government can work together to ensure that tomorrow's workforce is equipped with the skills it needs to compete, to adapt and to enjoy meaningful working lives into the 21st century.
A verbal commitment was made to the people of this province by the Premier in late summer or early fall that the Premier's Council would continue to be a high priority for his government. Yet to this date we have not heard any of his specific plans or any plans indeed regarding future meetings of this comprehensive forum of provincial leaders.
When does the Premier intend to convene the first meeting of the council on technology? What ministers of his executive council will be included in membership of the council? May we expect a specific announcement of a meeting of the Premier's Council on technology early in the new year? I will be presenting an open letter to the Premier at the conclusion of my remarks.
These programs are commendable, but I wonder if the Minister of Energy has considered involving the other players in the energy game. The executive vice-president of Imperial Oil told me recently they would be happy to participate in government conservation initiatives. Would cost-sharing not be more beneficial than burdening the taxpayers with the full cost of these programs through their hydro bills, which are already facing a 15% increase in 1991?
I would also like to comment on the Minister of Energy's statement that this program could eliminate the need for a new nuclear power plant. I would like to remind the minister it will only postpone the need for a new supply of energy.
In keeping the 8,000 audits to $ I ,000: Good luck.
AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION CONVENTION
Local workers were given a special training course in hospitality through the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. The Niagara Falls Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau organized the event with the help of city hall. Gala events such as fireworks and a laser light show over the falls were co-ordinated with the city of Niagara Falls, New York. Even customs co-operated.
The results: First, delegates were impressed with the hospitality and the hotel facilities on the Canadian side in particular. Mr Denis Stefaniuk of the visitor and convention bureau said: "We were told our hotels were superior to the American ones. We were told our hospitality was absolutely superb."
Second, past conventions in Indianapolis and Nashville have resulted in a three-year tourism boost. Tourism business in Ontario has been in a slump since 1988. So it is hoped that Niagara Falls, along with Ontario in general, will now reap the benefits of increased bus tours in the summer of 1991-92 and onward.
We welcome everyone to Niagara Falls over the holidays to see the Festival of Lights.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
CORPS D'ÉLITE ONTARIO
In just a few minutes, I will escort them to the Lieutenant Governor's suite, where they will receive the provincial Corps d'élite Ontario Awards in ceremonies presided over by His Honour Lincoln Alexander.
The Corps d'élite Ontario Awards honour outstanding recreation volunteers. By recognizing these three people, we honour all 372,000 recreation volunteers in the province. Their dedication makes our community stronger.
All three of the award winners here today have had a major impact on recreation in Ontario. I will mention only some of their accomplishments.
In 1986, Susan Mott helped to establish the first pony driving program in Ontario for people with disabilities. Pony driving is not well known in our province, but that is changing. Through the driving for disabled program, Susan Mott has introduced many people to the benefits of taking the reins of a carriage pulled by ponies. She is also the director of the Ontario Federation for the Cerebral Palsied.
Almost 20 years ago, Dr Paul Syme founded the Voyageur Trail Association. The trail stretches nearly 400 kilometres along the shores of Lakes Huron and Superior and is used by hikers and skiers. A tireless worker for recreation and conservation, Dr Syme has served in executive positions with Hike Ontario and the National Trails Association.
Kathy Wiele has shown great leadership and vision in 15 years of volunteer service to the Ontario Recreation Society and the Parks and Recreation Federation of Ontario. In all her efforts, she has consistently promoted training and professional development in recreation.
Mr Speaker, I would ask that you and the honourable members join with me now in showing our appreciation of all recreation volunteers by honouring Susan Mott, Dr Paul Syme and Kathy Wiele.
It has been two months since David Crombie tabled his second interim report entitled Watershed. The principles of the Watershed report and Mr Crombie's recommendations are fresh and invigorating. They have received broad support from municipalities, environmental groups, the media, the general public and from this government. I want to commend the previous government, and John Sweeney in particular, for giving the commission a broad mandate and for its support of the commission's activities.
The commission's findings have already prompted widespread debate, discussion and commitment to regenerating the waterfront. We responded immediately, supporting the report with enthusiasm, and we endorsed fully the principles put forward for the future direction of the waterfront area: a waterfront that is clean, green and attractive; a waterfront that is usable, diverse and open; a waterfront that is connected, affordable and accessible. These are values that we as a government share.
We intend to use these nine principles as a guide, not only for the waterfront, but to move beyond the waterfront to the greater Toronto area urban structure process. My colleague the Minister of Natural Resources and I will apply these values to the closely related greenlands strategy released earlier this summer by the previous government. We will provide a framework to ensure that greenlands and watersheds become an integral part of future plans for the greater Toronto area.
Our clear acceptance of Mr Crombie's principles should be viewed by municipalities and the community as a ringing endorsement of the ecosystem approach to planning as well as to the underlying values of the commission report.
The call for immediate action has been unanimous, and today I would like to outline how we intend to implement key recommendations of the Watershed report.
First, we will establish a continuous waterfront trail which will become the greenway that ties the GTA together from Burlington to Newcastle. It will link to the Bruce and Ganaraska Trail systems at either end. We see the waterfront trail as the highest land use for all public lands along the water's edge. The trail will be much more than a four-foot strip of asphalt. This trail will connect the waterfront with river valleys and source areas and link up areas of natural and historic importance along Lake Ontario. It will be a place for people, for families and children to enjoy the out of doors and the natural environment on foot or bicycle.
Second, we accept the idea of waterfront partnership agreements as a valid implementation vehicle for waterfront plans. We will negotiate agreements between local, regional and federal governments, along with conservation authorities, to prepare responsible development plans and implementation mechanisms for the waterfront consistent with the Crombie principles.
Third, we will establish by legislation a waterfront regeneration trust. It will be the responsibility of the trust to accept lands surplus to Toronto port needs, as well as adjacent provincial lands, and to co-ordinate regeneration activities.
Finally, we will move to halt the unnecessary privatization of the public shoreline and crown resources such as water lots. My colleague the Minister of Natural Resources will address this matter in the near future.
A significant portion of the Crombie report concentrates on the Etobicoke waterfront. As the local MPP, the minister responsible for the GTA and the Minister of the Environment, I am pleased that Etobicoke, Metro and the province will be working co-operatively to ensure that there is a comprehensive planning framework for new development in south Etobicoke, culminating in modification to the Etobicoke official plan, plus other implementation measures. The three levels of government have agreed on a program which includes extensive community consultation.
In the final year of the royal commission's work, we will ask Mr Crombie to address:
1. The feasibility of relocating the Gardiner Expressway, in consultation with Metropolitan Toronto and the Ministry of Transportation;
2. The pooling of lands and the integration of future plans for the Canadian National Exhibition, Ontario Place, Fort York and HMCS York, in consultation with the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation and the other authorities involved;
3. Finally, policies, practices, technology and methods available to regenerate shoreline areas.
These measures are an important starting point for ensuring that the waterfront and the natural environment of the greater Toronto area is preserved and enhanced for future generations. We will continue to support the work of the commission and we look forward to Mr Crombie's final report.
SALE OF FAIRBANK MEMORIAL PARK
I have now received the report. I am not, however, in a position to release it to the public at this time because the police have asked me not to, and it has been handed over to them as part of their investigation into the issues in the city of York.
Notwithstanding the fact that I am unable to release the report, there are a number of aspects regarding the conduct of business by York council that are a cause of concern to me.
The decision to sell part of Fairbank Memorial Park for development was made against the provisions of the city's official plan and apparently against the wishes of many residents of York.
I am concerned that the people of York stand to lose valuable park land when earlier city reports have in fact documented a need for more park land.
I am concerned that council decided to sell the land before it made any move to redesignate the land for residential development. This made public consultation secondary to an agreement with a developer over the use of a public asset.
I am concerned about the lack of public consultation undertaken in connection with this deal. Technically there was a process, but it appears to have been managed in such a way as to minimize any opportunity for a real public discussion of the project as a whole.
I am also concerned about the refusal of York city council to acknowledge that it has a problem that requires attention or to initiate any corrective action. Its only response to the controversies so far has been to hire a lawyer to protect the city from "allegations and rumours" in the media.
These are but a few of the concerns that have been raised about the way the city of York does business.
My government promised, in the speech from the throne, to introduce new conflict-of-interest legislation that would apply to municipal politicians and officials. It is our intention that this legislation will help restore lost public confidence.
In the meantime, I am strongly advising the city of York to bring in outside municipal consultants to undertake a complete administrative review. I would expect that review to result in new procedural bylaws for the city, including stringent procedures for the sale of municipal assets, particularly land. Clear, understandable rules for procedure would also help to reassure the people of York that their elected representatives are acting in their best interests.
Finally, with respect to the future of Fairbank Memorial Park, I would point out that before anything further can happen, the city will have to go through a very public process should it seek to amend its official plan and zoning bylaw. That process includes considerable opportunity for public input and offers objectors the option of appealing any such amendments to the Ontario Municipal Board. I want to let York city council know that I will follow that process with great interest.
As the minister responsible for good land use planning, I want to assure the members here that if I am not happy with the way the process proceeds, I will be more than willing at any time to exercise the powers available to me under the Planning Act, including a declaration of provincial interest, to see that the final outcome is in the best interests of the people of York.
Municipal governments provide a wide range of vital services. The decisions they make, particularly on land use issues, have a profound influence on the day-to-day lives of the people of Ontario. The people must be able to have confidence that the municipal decision-making process is completely fair and above board. It is my hope that the steps I have outlined will help rebuild some of that confidence in the city of York.
CORPS D'ÉLITE ONTARIO
As the previous Minister of Tourism and Recreation, I can tell members that these awards are looked at very carefully, and the people who receive them are certainly due them. I can also tell members that as the previous minister who travelled around the province to see the many volunteers who work so hard on behalf of recreation in the province, it is very rewarding to see that the minister and the government are continuing these awards.
A word of caution for the minister, though: It is not always easy to tell the Premier and the members of the caucus and the cabinet how important recreation is to this great province, so he will have to fight for funds for them. They need these funds and assistance to make sure we have top recreation within the province of Ontario. I congratulate him for continuing in this area.
We also welcome the commitment to establish a waterfront trail from Newcastle to Burlington. We are looking for additional information, including whether a provincial interest will be declared under the Planning Act and whether that activity will also include a complete natural history inventory, which we believe is vital for the appropriate development and regeneration of that area.
On the watershed partnership agreements, we see this as a forward-looking activity. We welcome that. We are hoping to hear some announcements relating to long-term funding. I refer the minister to page 84 of the Watershed report, which suggests that a financial and resource regime to support the implementation of the waterfront partnership agreements will be necessary.
At first look it seems to me that the waterfront regeneration trust seems to be a creative approach. We would be interested in knowing when legislation will be coming before the House and what kinds of provincial protections will be put into place for lands that may have been contaminated in the past. Will decommissioning, by example, be required before the trust acquires ownership?
The minister has referred to her own area, Etobicoke. I would like to put in a plug for my area and ask the minister if her view of the waterfront protection also includes the recommendations of Halton, which were accepted by Mr Crombie, for a Great Lakes science centre to be established there. Mr Crombie has suggested everything is connected to everything else. We see this as a positive start.
SALE OF FAIRBANK MEMORIAL PARK
These questions have been asked now since August. Not only have we not had any answers provided, but in fact there has been no action whatever. At the very least, today I think it would have been reasonable to have expected the minister to declare a provincial interest. I think it would have been reasonable for him to commit to release the report and also to commit to a public inquiry following the police investigation. These are extremely serious public matters. I would tell him as well that to me his response is particularly disheartening because I know how unacceptable that kind of action would have been to him just a few short months ago when he sat on this side of the House.
No one wants to interfere with a police investigation. Certainly the people in this party support that kind of due process. But I would say to him very, very clearly that he has failed to use the powers that he has. He has failed to understand the importance of what is happening in the city of York and how that needs to be opened fully to public scrutiny. An administrative review, from his suggestion, of the city of York not only displays his lack of understanding, but his lack of understanding of the need of the people of the city of York to have confidence in their municipal council.
I would lastly say that what upset me the most was the minister saying "if he is not happy with the planning process." Through this whole report he is concerned. What will it take to make him unhappy?
CORPS D'ÉLITE ONTARIO
I am also pleased to point out to the House that two of the recipients are from my riding of Simcoe West. Susan Mott lives near Angus in my riding, as does Kathy Wiele who lives in the town of Collingwood. Dr Paul Syme, unfortunately, does not have the good fortune of living in the riding of Simcoe West, but we extend our congratulations to him as well.
It strikes me that today's recipients are an example of good citizenship. The communities they live in, the people they meet and the places they work in are better for the very fact that they are there.
Once again, on behalf of our party and all of the citizens of Ontario, we extend our congratulations, and I will be pleased to join the minister in just a couple of minutes to watch them receive their awards.
Frankly, when the minister says that they will provide a framework to ensure that greenlands and watersheds become an integral part of future plans for the greater Toronto area, I think the message we really want to convey to this minister is that we are waiting to know what all the future plans are for the GTA and that we cannot deal with one aspect of it in isolation.
I give as a perfect example the fact that we have seen no real commitment yet from this government to deal with the most major issue of the GTA, which envelops all of this planning, and that is a commitment to the replacement of the infrastructure. Unless we have that commitment to the infrastructure replacement, it does not matter what we plan for the CNE grounds or the watershed or anything else. We will still have closed beaches next year as we have had for the last five years. We will have ongoing problems which cannot be corrected without a very real commitment by this government.
In fact, when we look at the government talking about the waterfront regeneration trust, admittedly it is federal land, but with the sale of the lands that are connected with Harbourfront, all of this has to be planned overall. We expect this minister for the GTA to make a very realistic analysis and come forward with the plans we have been waiting for now for some time.
In Etobicoke for 20 years, through studies on the motel strip, we have attracted nothing but cockroaches, rats and hookers. They are still there. It is still an eyesore in Etobicoke, and the Minister of the Environment, who was the local councillor for many years, knows full well that we are just going to have a continuing eyesore that has done nothing to benefit Metropolitan Toronto and Etobicoke.
One thing I have always said about Mr Crombie is that he has a great sense of humour. This report is not practical. It will never be implemented. The biggest developer along the lakefront that is using up prime waterfront property is the government itself on the Humber College properties and the psychiatric grounds. I think they had better look in their own backyard before they start determining what development is okay and what is not.
SALE OF FAIRBANK MEMORIAL PARK
First, the minister says in the first part of his statement that he is very concerned about the lack of public input. Then he says, however, that there is a process with "considerable opportunity for public input" still ahead of us. Second, the minister makes a threat that there is going to be a provincial interest without saying what it is. He is going to allow them to go through this whole process. He is making a threat to the Ontario Municipal Board; he is making a threat to the town; he is making a threat to the people. If he has a provincial interest, why --
He is aware, I am sure, that his Treasurer's commitment of $700 million is now a commitment of $41 million over the winter and there is a substantial concern that we are going to have people in serious want or in serious difficulties because of the inadequacies in this regard unless the government makes some announcements and takes some further initiatives in the next three days.
The money that has been allocated by the Treasurer, according to the information he provided, is going to be $6.9 million for all of southwestern Ontario and only $2.9 million for all of eastern Ontario. Surely the Premier would agree with me about the inadequacy of this situation.
I noticed that he was castigating the Prime Minister of Canada for promising a transitional program associated with free trade, and I believe the Premier is right in his criticism because no such program is coming forward. I am not blaming the Premier for the recession, although I may get around to that later in my political career, but I will tell him we are all of us looking at the situation in our own constituencies and we feel that it is totally inadequate at the present time.
Can the Premier indicate what further consideration is being given by his colleagues and by himself to head off at least some of the worst depredations of this situation?
I would like to further indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that the Treasurer has already raised with the Minister of Finance in Ottawa, and is going to be raising again this week in person at his meeting with the Minister of Finance in Ottawa, the need for this to be a program of the three levels of government: the municipalities, the provincial government and the federal government.
I am very proud that it is the provincial government that has led the way in terms of this $700-million anti-recession package, which is the largest investment that has been made anywhere in the country with respect to fighting the recession and which will be worth well over $1 billion if we can get the federal government and the municipalities to come on board. The sooner we can get that money into the field and into the communities, the better off we will all be. In that sense I agree fully with the Leader of the Opposition.
There is a clear indication that $41 million is the money that will be spent. The Treasurer can tell the Premier that the Ministry of Revenue takes that in before lunch seven days a week, 365 days a year. The $41 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you look at what it actually means when spread out across our communities, it is really not going to be effective. For the Premier to indicate that he is giving leadership for all of Canada is certainly not going to do anything about the employment situation and it is not going to do anything to mitigate the effects in our communities.
I would simply ask the Premier again, is he satisfied with what the government is doing now? Would he not agree with people on all sides of this House who feel that an additional commitment of energy and leadership is needed if the money is going to be available and it is going to be in the communities where it is needed and when it is needed? The need is certainly going to come well before this coming March.
We are going to do everything we can, everything that is humanly possible. We are going to be working as hard as we possibly can to bring these projects on stream. That is what we are elected to do and that is exactly what we are going to do. Let me assure the Leader of the Opposition, I am not any more satisfied than he is with the current economic situation in the province and we are going to be doing everything we can to turn it around.
With gasoline prices contributing to the increase in inflation, up to 5% according to Statistics Canada, with drivers paying 24.2% more for gasoline last month than a year ago November and with the petroleum industry reporting a 183% increase in profit year over year, would she not feel that there is a certain amount of gouging going on in the profit-taking of this particular industry during the last couple of months?
The one thing that concerns me is that so many of her colleagues were vehement in this regard in their previous incarnation. I think of the honourable member for Algoma, who is now Minister of Natural Resources, who said -- and this is so typical of the whole bunch of them -- "It is time we got away from this crazy and silly political posturing in this House and actually made a commitment to the consumers of this province that we are going to lower the prices in northern Ontario and deal with the ripoff the oil companies are providing to consumers." The honourable minister must surely want to support her colleagues, even though she was not here and is not responsible for some of the excesses of some of these people, but surely with the statistics before her it is not enough for her to simply say that she can say no more.
Surely the minister, now that she represents all of this goodwill and this strength in policy, is going to have to announce something to fulfil these commitments to the people of Ontario and particularly northern Ontario.
INTEREST RATE RELIEF
The Premier did not say that provincial response was to rant and wail and moan and groan about the federal government's interest rate policies. What he said was this: that he would use the borrowing power of preferential rates available to the provincial government, administer the programs using existing structures, and that he would offer reduced interest rate loans to three critical areas of Ontario's economy, all at no cost to the taxpayer.
During the election, that is what the Premier said his response would be. One of those critical areas in the three he outlined was small business. Given that, true to what the Premier thought in August, we are in a recession, can he tell us why he is waiting for this no-cost option to provide interest rate relief to small business?
We have made some other announcements apart from that, but, frankly, the overall dollar amount has not been enormous, and that has been basically because we wanted to get a handle on the overall economic situation in preparation for the budget before making any other major economic announcements. That is the reason we have decided to act in this way.
I think it is a wise course of action. I think it is consistent with what most people would feel makes a whole lot of sense. We are focusing on the $700-million package, and other announcements, frankly, are just going to have to wait a little while longer.
Second, the Premier offers the same type of assistance to farmers. He says 10.5% money will be made available to farmers -- again at no cost to the Treasury. I do not know why the Premier needs to talk to the Treasurer. Since the Premier had this plan, he knew we were in a recession, and he can do this at no cost so presumably there would be no financial impact on the province, why does the Premier not proceed with the plan to provide farmers with 10.5% low-interest loans?
Let me get to the third sector of the economy, which is the housing industry. There the Premier promised 10.5% loans -- again at no cost to the Treasury, no cost to the taxpayer, he is going to use the borrowing power of the government of Ontario. I assume that the Premier can do this at no cost providing the Treasurer is not planning to use up all of the provincial borrowing power for something else.
I would ask the Premier, is that why he has to consult the Treasurer? Is that why he has to wait for the budget, because he is concerned that the Treasurer and the rest of his ministries will use all the government borrowing power and there will be nothing left of the borrowing power to help farmers, to help small businessmen and to help the housing industry?
That is the decision that we have made. I think it is a wise decision in terms of looking at the implications of our decisions, not just for next year but for future budget years. As we head into 1993, 1994 and 1995, we have to be concerned about the long-term implications of every decision that we make. We are very much aware of that.
The Premier says they are going to stimulate the economy with private sector investment. I wonder if the minister can tell me what consultation he had with the mayor of Hamilton and the chairman of the region of Hamilton-Wentworth in reversing a 10-year commitment and planning decision in cancelling $400-million worth of work on the Red Hill expressway.
By way of supplementary. the minister says it is not $400 million, and he is quite right. There is already $100 million being spent; it is the other $300 million not being spent. Silly me for treating it as $400 million wasted when he is going to throw away $100 million that has already been spent on his roads to nowhere.
However, I would like to ask the minister this. All the planning in the whole region of Hamilton-Wentworth, all the planning for the last decade, all the residential zoning, all the commercial planning and all the industrial planning has gone on on the basis of this expressway going in the location where it was to go through, part of it the Red Hill Creek area.
A full environmental assessment was conducted. All of the moral decisions were decided by, I guess, two previous governments. Can he tell us what happens now with a decade of all the planning. all the zoning, all the houses that have been built and planned, the commercial development, the industrial development in all of the Hamilton-Wentworth region? Does he just forget it all now?
PURCHASE OF URANIUM
The Minister of Natural Resources, my friend the member for Algoma, in campaigning said, "We must buy 100% of the uranium in Elliot Lake; put people before dollars." We have 2,000 men and women in Elliot Lake unemployed. This is their promise. When is the minister going to live up to it? It has to be now.
We have not discontinued purchases from there. As I said, the difference is due to the falling off of demand. We are very concerned indeed about the problem of employment in Elliot Lake. My parliamentary assistant has recently been there and has discussed the problem with the mayor and other people there. The mayor happened to say, incidentally, while he was there, that the previous government had let them down.
We are looking at a whole range of possible things that may happen there. One is that as a result of our policies of energy efficiency, there will be job spinoffs in all kinds of other manufacturing and other areas which may benefit that area. Ontario Hydro is also looking at the possibility of putting electricity generation of a different type -- not nuclear -- into that area.
As I say, we are extremely concerned. We are working on it. We shall not leave the people of Elliot Lake abandoned to their fate. We are doing what we can.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
But I also want to say to the member that where alternative dispute resolution has been tried in the United States, it has been somewhat controversial. It has been controversial because in some cases it has been found to have been unfair to women, to the poor and to some minority groups. So while we want to explore and evaluate, we want to take great care in the projects that we do initiate to ensure that they are fair to the people in society whom we have to serve.
TRADE WITH MEXICO
This weekend, Edward Ney, the US ambassador to Canada, said that Canada must decide by I February 1991 whether to accept the United States and Mexico's ground rules for Canada's participation in a three-way free trade deal. Can the Premier tell us if his government is in favour of a Canadian free trade agreement with Mexico?
We now have the second phase of the American administration's agenda with respect to trade, and I say to the member for Wilson Heights as clearly as I possibly can that I do not intend to subscribe to that agenda on behalf of our government. Our government does not subscribe to that agenda; I have indicated that to the Prime Minister. It has been indicated to Mr Crosbie by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology how strongly this government feels that the federal government has an obligation to live up to its own commitments to the workers of Ontario and Quebec and Atlantic Canada and western Canada. It has an obligation to make good on those before it starts talking about any other arrangements that are going to be made which are going to leave our workers even more vulnerable than they already are under the existing arrangements.
In spite of these grandiose statements, the speech from the throne made no mention of what the Premier would do about the Canada-US free trade agreement. His government allowed 650 53-foot trailer permits to be picked up by Americans, to the detriment of Ontario manufacturers and users. He has just done a total about-face and issued another 400 permits without any provision that they in fact stay in Ontario for Ontario users.
The Premier called a Canada-US-Mexico free trade agreement: "...unconscionable. It is an absurd adventure inspired by US President George Bush." Could the Premier tell us what measures he and his government contemplate to effectively oppose what they have labelled an absurd adventure?
I know that there have been meetings by others who have been down to Mexico and met with the opposition in Mexico in terms of their views. It is my understanding that the leader of the opposition in Mexico may well be coming to Canada in the new year, in which case I can tell him and tell the member that I would be more than pleased to meet with him to discuss the real interest that we both share with respect to improving working and living conditions in our two countries, and these are actions that we are going to continue to take, because we believe that the federal trade agenda and the Republican trade agenda coming out of the United States are not trade agendas which serve the interests of the working people, indeed all the people, of this province. We are going to continue to maintain our position, to attempt to persuade others of its merits, to work with other groups that we want to work with and to do what we can to see if we cannot turn this strategy around.
Last Friday, the Treasurer, as the minister is aware, met with the Ontario Hospital Association. A report coming out of the meeting -- I am quoting from the Toronto Star now so as not to offend any cabinet minister over there -- said, referring to Mr Laughren, "He also suggested that an NDP election promise to pay nurses more could prove too costly during a recession." The NDP "'made a lot of promises in the campaign that were extremely expensive,' Laughren said."
Do they not realize what position they are putting the Ontario Hospital Association in with that type of approach? How can they expect the OHA to negotiate and bargain in good faith with the ONA when it does not know how much money, if any, the Treasurer is going to give it?
I am not sure what the member for Parry Sound is getting at. What I said to the Ontario Hospital Association was that I understood that it was its responsibility to bargain with the nurses of this province. I also said --
Has the Treasurer completed his response? Supplementary.
"The question is a commonsense approach to a problem which is one of health and of life."
"If it is not working well enough to attract and keep nurses, then as a government which is the paykeeper, as a government which is in fact responsible for paying nurses' salaries, that government ought to be there saying to the hospital association and to the nurses' association: 'This isn't working well enough. We want you two to get together and find a solution, and we are prepared to be the funders of the decisions that you arrive at.'"
The Premier says it is the Treasurer's responsibility. The Treasurer should talk to the Premier. He says the Treasurer funds what they decide. Is that correct? Does the minister agree with what the Premier said or not?
For the past couple of weeks since we announced our rent control moratorium, we have heard the leader of the third party, we have heard the honourable member for Dufferin-Peel speaking about how the poor, downtrodden landlords are being stepped on one more time.
We received information that the building of the residents at 506 Dawes Road in East York has been requested to undergo a rent review to the tune of 39%, and I wonder if the minister is aware of that request.
"I know that you are aware, as I am, of the very grave situation that exists in rental housing and the extreme hardships that result when there are rent increases of the magnitude outlined in Mr Courvell's letter. I know as well that you have undertaken to make changes in the rent review legislation to increase the protection for tenants."
This is the important part: "I trust that you will be proceeding with your contemplated changes without delay."
This letter came at the end of last week, and I appreciate this letter from Alan Redway, the federal Minister of State (Housing).
I am wondering if the minister could provide any suggestions to the third party on how it can provide a more coherent co-ordination of responses between its federal and provincial counterparts.
I would like to ask the minister about another aspect of affordable housing. He has said that 33% of tenants in this province are paying more than 30% of their income on rent and many of those people cannot wait several years for non-profit housing to be built. They actually need help now.
This minister and this government have said that they are the champions of these very people. If this is true, why has this minister not put a penny more into convert-to-rent programs? Why has he not provided any more money for rent supplement programs such as in situ placement? If the minister is so committed to social housing, why is he not providing any more money to these programs and providing it now?
In terms of other programs that exist, the member knows as well as I do that we are now in the process of developing an entire housing strategy, part of which is the Homes Now program, and social housing, part of which is an effective rent control system, and there will be other programs that will form part of that housing strategy, the reform of the planning process.
I would just ask the member to give us a few more months to pull that package together and develop for the first time in this province a comprehensive, all-inclusive housing strategy.
BRANTWOOD RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
My question is, advocacy groups for vulnerable adults are very much aware of the reversal of the Premier's position that he took when he was sitting here in the third party from that which he is now taking as Premier. They want to know why it is that he has betrayed his own social conscience when it comes to vulnerable adults in residential, provincially run institutions in this province.
I have read thoroughly the reports which are publicly available with respect to the circumstances at the Brantwood centre. There have been staffing problems with respect to feeding time which were well documented at the centre. I want to tell the member, we are dealing here with people of all ages who are extremely medically fragile. I would also urge him and any other member who is concerned about the care of anyone in any provincial facility to go and visit and see for themselves the work that is being done, the care that is being provided, and if he has any evidence with respect to concerns, to make those concerns publicly available and to bring them to the attention of the public authorities who are responsible.
I say to the member, I have been as true to my social conscience with regard to the care of developmentally disabled people as I possibly can. There is a coroner's inquest that is now ongoing. To compare that situation with the outbreak of an E coli bacterium in the Extendicare London Nursing Home five years ago is not a fair comparison. We are dealing with a very different situation, with a very different result and with a very, very different set of circumstances.
I would say to the honourable member, if he has any other evidence with respect to the care there or anywhere else, he should please bring it to the attention of the public authorities. He does not have to bring it to my attention; he should bring it to the attention of the Attorney General or anyone else, and if there is any evidence that the police -- the police are able to read these reports; they are publicly available. The Attorney General's department can read the reports; they are publicly available. If there is any evidence that anyone has died as a result either of deliberate malfeasance or criminal negligence, that evidence is something which should be dealt with, not on a political basis by the leader of any party, but by those public authorities.
The Premier's record is very clearly one in which he did not support the full extension of protection and rights for vulnerable adults in provincial institutions, and I ask him again on their behalf why it is that he has reversed himself on this critical position, especially in light of the deaths at Brantwood Residential Development Centre in Brantford?
I would like to say to the member for Burlington South that I think we are being truest to our principles in our party. We said very clearly in the throne speech what we are going to do and what we plan to do on advocacy and the kinds of measures that we want to take in that regard. I hope we have demonstrated that in terms of the speed with which we have responded to the situation at Brantwood, to all of the allegations with regard to what took place or the circumstances surrounding them which have been a matter of record since the mid-1980s.
I say to the member that to compare that with respect to the question of whether charges should be laid under the Nursing Homes Act with respect to the London Extendicare situation is just not a fair comparison. We are talking about two very different situations.
But I want to say to the member that there will be lots of things to be done with respect to advocacy, lots of things to be done with respect to rights. We have asked Mr Lightman to look at the question of the care of those people who are in retirement homes. We are moving ahead very directly with respect to the situation at Brantwood. I can assure the member that if he has any other evidence with respect to problems we would be more than pleased to hear of it.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Miss Martel moved that notwithstanding standing order 94(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item 4.
Motion agreed to.
RETAIL STORE HOURS
I have a second petition signed by various members of the business community in London who support the legislation designed to preserve heritage buildings in London and requiring that a building permit be issued by the municipality before their demolition. This petition has 51 names.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
MENTAL HEALTH AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Callahan moved first reading of Bill 27, An Act to amend the Mental Health Act.
Motion agreed to.
CLASS PROCEEDINGS ACT, 1990 / LOI DE 1990 SUR LES RECOURS COLLECTIFS
Mr Hampton moved first reading of Bill 28, An Act respecting Class Proceedings.
M. Hampton propose la première lecture du project de loi 28, Loi concernant les recours collectifs.
Motion agreed to.
La motion est adoptée.
I want to acknowledge at this time the work done by the previous Attorney General who worked very long and very hard on this legislation. I am pleased now to be able to present it to the House.
LAW SOCIETY AMENDMENT ACT (CLASS PROCEEDINGS FUNDING), 1990
Mr Hampton moved first reading of Bill 29, An Act to amend the Law Society Act to provide for Funding to Parties to Class Proceedings.
Motion agreed to.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT (MISCELLANEOUS), 1990
Mrs Boyd moved first reading of Bill 30, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Motion agreed to.
Was there a point of order?
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole.
MANITOULIN, BARRIE AND COCKBURN ISLANDS LAND ACT, 1990
Consideration of Bill 15, An Act respecting Land on Manitoulin Island, Barrie Island and Cockburn Island.
Sections I to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
1. In schedule 1,
(a) under the heading "Secondly" and under the subheading "Fourteenthly," by striking out the words "lots 20 and 21, concessions 20 and 21" and substituting "lot 20, concessions 20 and 21 and lot 21, concession 20";
(b) under the heading "Fourthly" and under the subheading "Firstly," by inserting after "by the" in the third line "shore";
(c) under the heading "Fourthly" and under the subheading "Eleventhly," by inserting after "T660" in the second line "and recorded in the land registry office for the district of Manitoulin as number 28"; and
(d) under the heading "Sixthly" and under the subheading "Eighteenthly," by striking out in the second paragraph, "Save and Except from the lots, streets and road allowances described as Firstly through Seventeenthly above, those parts of the said lots and streets," and substituting "Save and Except from the road allowances described as Firstly through Eighteenthly above, those parts of the said road allowances."
2. In schedule 2, under the heading "Fourthly" and under the subheading "Thirdly" by inserting after "where the" in the second line "westerly production of the".
3. In schedule 3,
(a) under the heading "Fourthly," by inserting before "as" in the third last line "all";
(b) under the heading "Fifthly," by striking out "lots 2 to 5" on the ninth last line and substituting "lots 1 to 5"; and
(c) under the heading "Fifthly," by inserting before "as" in the third last line "all."
Motion agreed to.
Section 8 agreed to.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT (PREGNANCY AND PARENTAL LEAVE), 1990
Consideration of Bill 14, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act with respect to Pregnancy and Parental Leave.
RETAIL SALES TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Consideration of Bill 1, An Act to amend the Retail Sales Tax Act.
I want to talk about that just for a moment, if I might, and ask the minister -- who spoke very eloquently on the introduction of second reading for this bill and actually summed up very eloquently -- what, if this is one part of the goods and services tax revolt, are the other parts of the goods and services tax revolt which might be included along with these early sections of this particular bill?
I think it would be only fair to have a complete tax revolt encased in this legislation if there are any other parts of the program that needed to be put into the Retail Sales Tax Act. Therefore, it is only fair that we now know the other components of the retail sales tax revolt with respect to GST so we can enumerate the necessity for amendments to this particular proposal.
The other thing that will come to light as soon as the GST begins to be implemented is that the federal government is not ready. Our not co-operating with it in the collection of the tax will create more of a revolt among the consumers and vendors in the province.
I would find it very difficult to accept that she is using freedom of information legislation now to expose retailers in this province who have been -- what will we say? -- disadvantaged with respect to the GST to her ministry's assistants, along with federal authorities, in tracking down unpaid GST.
Can the minister reconfirm what I just heard, that she will be working with the federal authorities to convict those people who do not remit their GST?
Can the minister tell us she will now amend this bill so that the federal authorities will not be assisted in tracking down people who through no fault of their own have not remitted goods and services tax? I think we all understand that this particular federal legislation is extremely complex and unusually slow in getting implemented, but the federal authorities have gone on anyway, and now this bill will allow the federal authorities to come in and use the Ministry of Revenue here, the retail sales tax branch, to find those people who are delinquent in paying federal money.
Can the minister tell us that she will want to amend this legislation to protect the retailers in the province of Ontario, thereby assisting in the tax revolt that her leader and she probably both campaigned on August last?
I do not understand how they can stand up and keep telling us that they are leading some kind of tax revolt when they are actually having provisions in these sections of the bill which allows them, the Minister of Revenue for Ontario and the NDP government, to assist the federal revenue gatherers under the goods and services tax. I cannot understand why the minister is not amending this particular legislation, now that we are in committee of the whole House, to exclude any kind of co-operative activity on the part of the Ministry of Revenue with respect to goods and services tax collection.
I am not going to curry favour with the two gentlemen who are there assisting the minister, but the Ministry of Revenue is probably recognized as the best revenue department in Canada that has been collecting retail sales tax and other things, and yet they are saying that because we need some co-operation with the feds, who cannot get their act together on the goods and services tax, that we have to co-operate with them to share our information about those retailers who probably have not sent their goods and services tax in. I find that extremely difficult to accept, when we are supposed to be seeing a government that is leading a goods and services tax revolt.
What amendment is the minister prepared to propose so we can protect the retailers of this province who have been put out and who in fact have been strangled by the goods and services tax debate and the requirement to upgrade their machinery and other things that allow them to remit the tax?
I cannot believe the government is actually going to assist the feds in convicting people who do not remit it. Would the minister not say that she should help those people if the government is leading a tax revolt rather than hindering those people who do not remit goods and services tax?
There is no way that this government, or probably the former government or even the other former government over there, wants to initiate and say hurray for the GST, and no one in Canada wants to say hurray for the GST. We do not want to encourage the GST.
I think as we watch the GST unfold in front of us, we are bound to see some failings on the part of that government.
Can the minister confirm that, far from a tax revolt, she is leading a crusade to harvest far more dollars from the retail tax remitting people of the province?
Effective and efficient tax revenue collection means they are going to get more dollars, and the information under the deal they have made with the federal authorities to get this money or this information will allow the federal authorities to do better on its collection of tax for goods and services tax purposes and it will allow the Ontario government to get more money more quickly, and with less pain to the government, out of the retailers of the province.
That is what she said, and I am discouraged that she does not have an amendment. If she says she does not want to help the investigation by the federal authorities, I am surprised she would not decide she would put an amendment in this thing that says no records shall be used at all for any purpose of investigation or of addressing charges for those people under the Goods and Services Tax Act. I think that would be the least she could do since the government has backed right away from leading a tax revolt but is in fact now in complicity in trying to raise federal revenue with these tax-sharing agreements between the Ministry of Revenue in Ontario and herself and her federal counterpart.
The $500 million of retail tax saving that is supposed to be the great benefit of this bill will in all likelihood be more than accounted for in the delivery costs and the administration and, hopefully, the public relations that the minister is going to take upon herself with both the consumers and vendors of this province.
Section 11 of the bill provides for the compounding of interest daily. That is new. We have not had compounded interest on the RST in this province to this point. Of course, we also have the extension of the ministerial powers in this area because it could be prescribed otherwise by the minister. This amendment, as I have said before and say again, is a parallel; it is a similar provision with the GST. It certainly is going to add to the bookkeeping costs of vendors across this province. It is going to add to their costs and their responsibilities. This is a technical compliance that harmonizes, as has been brought to the attention of the House this afternoon. The simplification that is talked about in this bill is really simplification for harmonization. There is no intent to simplify things for small vendors in this province.
I would like the minister to tell me -- as I had asked in my remarks before, but I do not feel I have had an answer -- what is she doing to help these vendors understand a division now of collection, a division which is going to in many ways change the way things have been done, in many ways is going to make the bill necessary for double bookkeeping because she is not going to harmonize, as she says, with the collection, but she is harmonizing in every other clause? That even makes it more difficult for people to understand.
What does the minister propose to do? I have again looked and looked and looked for something that tells the consumers and vendors of this province how this will happen in the stores in less than a month and how they will know what the price on which they are paying is calculated. I do not think that is clear in people's minds. I really feel there has been some negligence in explaining Bill 1 to the people of Ontario and I wonder if she could help us this afternoon on how she is going to do that.
The division of collection comes from the GST, not from the retail sales tax at all. I have talked to many small businesses and they are impressed with us in that we are not making it any more complicated for them. They are wise enough to see that the complication comes from the GST, not the retail sales tax. We are also providing seminars, bulletins and information packages to all those vendors and consumers so that they can see what we are doing and how we are taking a stand on the GST.
The area that I have a great deal of concern with is when the tire tax was brought in, it was not brought in as a dedicated tax. I argued vehemently at the time with both the Minister of Revenue and the Treasurer that it was unfair to the people of this province to impose this tire tax under the guise of all that money going to environmental programs and not dedicating it for that purpose.
It is very significant because in one year the tire tax amounted to in excess of $50 million. We have $50 million that is undedicated, that is in the end of the black tunnel, the general reserve account, the consolidated revenue fund, which is that no-name pot. We had that tax imposed on the people of this province and, frankly, supported by a lot of people in this province. A lot of people were quite happy to pay a tire tax if that money was to go to the safe disposal of tires in Ontario today.
At the time of the Hagersville tire fire, which was about nine months after the tax was imposed -- the tax was imposed in June 1989, if I recall correctly -- there had been $1 million appropriated to programs for the safe disposal of used tires and then subsequently, after the tire fire, there was another $15 million identified for research into programs and development of a technology for safe disposal of used tires.
As far as we know, of the $50 million-plus that has been collected in one year by the Minister of Revenue, and consequently the Treasurer in reverse, we still have a balance of $34 million that has not been identified for the very purpose for which the tire tax was established in the first place.
I ask the minister today whether she as Minister of Revenue would be willing in the near future to have an amendment whereby the money collected under the guise of taxing all new tires in the province for environmental programs -- it is probably hard to hear when she has her staffer talking to her at the same time as I am. I would be willing to finish and then wait for her staff to advise her as to whatever the answer is.
I simply ask the minister if she would be willing to make a commitment that the previous government was not willing to make. In fact, it used the tire tax as just another way of taxing the public and raising money for the general coffers, which in fact is a betrayal of the people of this province who think they are paying a tire tax to develop environmentally safe disposal programs for used tires.
Again, I said the other day in response to a statement by the Treasurer about the layoffs that are occurring in what used to be my home town -- I guess it still is my home town but I no longer live there. I know that the member for Perth has just heard over the past weekend about new layoffs in her own community, people who are losing their jobs not just temporarily, but in fact the plants are closing and moving away.
Reports in the newspapers are indicating that the shoppers who are out for the season's shopping are out looking for bargains or they are out merely looking and are not purchasing. That in itself is a very big indication that there will be huge, very severe revenue dropoffs for the Ministry of Revenue.
That being the case, is the minister prepared to tell us that as to her $500-million saving, which the Treasurer has given her and which her ministry staff would have been asked to provide estimates to the Treasurer about, as the problems of the recession increase, as people suffer from loss of jobs, as people suffer from the foreclosure of homes, as farmers find that they will no longer be able to keep themselves on the land, that they will no longer be able to buy the things they would like for their families, would she be willing to tell us, even just hint, perhaps would be willing to admit, that there will be a small, even a very small decrease in the savings that she has projected?
I do not think she can possibly tell the people of Ontario that they can expect to save $500 million when the whole world that some families have known up to this point evaporated when the announcements were made about the closure of their plants and the layoffs. Can she tell us that she will still stay tightly firm and convinced on the $500-million saving?
Those people perhaps do not have the numbers in front of them. They are expecting to collect more tax revenue. They are expecting to have a better shot at those retailers because the records are being kept longer and they will go back and do more audits. Can the minister tell us how much more money she is going to get from these changes?
I want to just pursue this for a moment. Has the minister got an estimate that indicates there will be a positive result to the Treasury from these amendments?
Can the minister undertake to tell the Legislative Assembly how many more dollars of tax these amendments will allow her to collect, and having said she will be able to collect more retail sales tax because of these amendments, under this so-called tax revolt that we have seen her taking the lead on, will she then tell us by how much the savings of the consumers will be diminished as a result of the enhancement of the provincial Treasury?
She said before that there were going to be some positive effects as a result of the amendments to the Retail Sales Tax Act in her ability to collect revenue for the Treasury of the province. Can the minister, when she is telling us how much of a positive effect that will be, tell us from where the estimates of the effect of these amendments were derived, when those estimates were made, and in fact by whom those estimates were made, so that we can understand who it was who told the Treasurer exactly what the savings could be estimated at for the retail sales tax not being charged on top of the GST.
It seems to me he is pursuing a line of questioning without making any substantive points. I have been sitting here for over 45 minutes listening to him and I fail to see the point he is trying to make. He should get to the point.
At this point, she does not know how much more effective in terms of dollars and cents, but there will be an increase in the efficiency and effectiveness just by the very fact that this ministry now will have four years of records, as opposed to three years of records, to deal with.
When the minister is telling us how much more money the Ministry of Revenue is going to collect, can she tell us whether or not there are any other arrangements being made, deals or discussions being held between her ministry and federal authorities about making it even more efficient and effective for the two departments to collect tax revenue in their jurisdictions, virtually in Ontario in this case?
We have also heard that the retail sales tax estimates of income are going down and that also the $500 million, about which that government party seems to crow so much, is probably going to be diminishing over time. Certainly, the people in the province will be lucky to save anything.
Can the minister tell us what the estimate is with respect to the cost for an individual retailer for increasing his record-keeping by an extra year?
I wonder if the minister has taken a survey or done any questioning at all on the different ways in which pricing will be administered. The policies of both the larger and smaller retailers in this province are going to be tackling this whole new endeavour. Has there been any examination of the pricing policies or any surveys taken? As my colleague has mentioned, some businesses do seem to be talking about putting the GST immediately into their prices.
I want to ask a question. We are talking and have talked this afternoon and seem to be certainly pointing in the direction that there will be some reduction in this $500,000 -- or $500,000 million -- that we have been talking about. It may turn out to be $500,000. We are talking about a complex implementation plan that has a variety of goods and maybe even a variety of pricing policies, and I want to ask the minister if she considers these things, which in our humble opinion and certainly in mine has very little in the way of data presented to it, as did her first press release, which talked only about section 1, real tax reform. I would like to know if she thinks this is real tax reform.
Section 1 agreed to.
Sections 2 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
"(m) prescribing the method of collection and remittance of the goods and services tax (Canada) on those transactions subject to both the goods and services tax (Canada) and the Ontario retail sales tax and any condition or requirement affecting such collection or remittance."
The motion that we moved here, that our caucus in fact has agreed to, is kind of cutting through the fat of the debate and getting right down to the bottom line. If this is the best the government can do for a revolt, it just is not worth it. It is not worth the aggravation. It is not worth the difficulty when it comes to separate collections.
I agree with "Don't tax on tax," and I think that is an acceptable procedure that we agree with and adopt, but it simply is not worth it not to continue in the past processes with the federal government when it comes to working in co-operation, because all this is going to do is in fact cost the taxpayers more money, a tremendous amount of money, in duplication of services.
The linchpin of the government's argument was that this is in fact a revolt and this is its method of showing it. It is going to cost the taxpayers tons of money. It is just not worth it. Why not just go ahead and adopt the amendment our caucus has put forward, thereby allowing the government and the cabinet to harmonize the approach with respect to collections?
Quebec in fact has adopted that approach. It will save the taxpayers money and, as I said before, the members opposite cannot really consider this a revolt. Nobody knows they are doing it in the first place and nobody understands this particular piece of legislation. I go around. I know. I speak to them on a daily basis. They do not really comprehend the government's whole point to this process besides the tax on tax. I applaud the government for that and we applaud it for that.
Beyond that, it is window dressing and the window dressing is going to cost the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars in duplicated service. I consider it somewhat petulant, and really, because they are petulant and because they do not want this thing to go through and because they blew smoke in the election claiming they were going to have a revolt and this is the best they can do, it is going to cost everybody millions and millions of dollars, and it just is not worth the expense for them to pretend that in fact this is some kind of revolt.
They can go back out into the public -- they do not have to take my word for it; they can go out there and ask them, "The fact is that we are not going to work with the government to collect the tax to keep it as inexpensive as possible." They should go ask the people what they suggest the government do. They are going to suggest, "Don't tax on tax, and keep the collection process as inexpensive as possible." That is what they are going to say. "Keep the process as inexpensive as possible and don't tax on tax."
Now, the government has made the first step. It has tried not to tax on tax, but it did not take the second step. In their backroom dealings, in their rice-pudding-filled rooms, they did not take that final step. The final step is, accept the fact it is going to happen, accept the fact there is nothing the government can do about it, accept the fact that there is going to be no revolt and accept the fact that there is a more senior level of government and it has control of this stuff.
As I have said before, when you sit on municipal governments, you learn that they were elected just like you were. I do not agree with it. The government should not tax on tax. It should adopt the amendment. By adopting this it will save the taxpayers of this province and it will save the taxpayers of this country millions and millions of dollars. I think that is a really good thing to do. That is the way our amendment would read.
I think it would make immense sense for this government that is supposed to be working for the people and small businesses that are declaring bankruptcy daily. There are many more this year than last year declaring bankruptcy daily and all the government does is send them a nice Christmas present. One, the government would make it simpler to comprehend and, two, it would make it easier for them to remit. How can the government suggest that is not a better process to use? Easier to understand and simpler to remit. All the minister is suggesting here is, "Let's make it more complicated." They have to hire a whole bunch of accountants to do it, and the government in fact is not going to adopt it.
It is going to be complicated and they are going to have to have accountants separate remittances and go through the books separately with respect to GST and the federal sales tax, etc, not one person collecting it -- it is going to be far more complicated. The federal government has to hire a whole bunch of new bureaucrats, in fact, to go out and recollect. Come on, that just does not make sense.
Is it the pleasure of the committee that Mr Stockwell's motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the nays have it.
Section 15 agreed to.
Sections 16 and 17 agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS AMENDMENT ACT (PREGNANCY AND PARENTAL LEAVE), 1990
Consideration of Bill 14, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act with respect to Pregnancy and Parental Leave.
Section 1 agreed to.
Is the minister saying that two people who are either male or female who might be declared gay can adopt and receive these benefits?
If two males adopt a child, which could happen under the Human Rights Code, are we in a position to say that one of the two will qualify for the benefits described under this bill?
The minister's answer to that question is obviously wrong and I think my friend's comment in that regard in terms of the definition is quite perceptive, to say the least. I would like the minister to check with his ministry officials. I see he is being handed an answer now. We now have the envelope.
However, Ontario currently has the most restrictive qualification period for pregnancy leave in all of Canada. Employees should not be penalized unduly for becoming parents. It is one of the many arguments we have made. The qualification period of 13 weeks will enable many more employees, especially women, to take time off to care for their newborn or newly adopted children.
Other Canadian jurisdictions have a 12-month qualification period. However, British Columbia and New Brunswick have never had a qualification period for pregnancy leave, and they have indicated in our calls to them that they have had no problems with this. Quebec, which currently has a 20-week period, is moving to a zero qualification period as well. I think there is no reason why we should discriminate against a large number, which is exactly what would happen if this qualification period were increased to six months.
My immediate reaction is that the legislation does not go far enough; it does not deal with all of the women of this province. Obviously we are talking about employment -- I realize that -- but we are talking about other areas that could assist the self-employed person, the self-employed woman or the woman who is actually employing people. It does not cover all the women of this province.
In his consultations with various women's groups around the province, did he get into that area as to why he would not cover all the women in the province?
Is the minister's legislation, including the portion dealing with this amendment, dealing with another form of downloading of provincial responsibility on to the small business people, the business people who are required to, whether it be into benefits or whether it be into being obliged to pay benefits during that period of time, or whether it be the hiring of qualified specialized people to replace the people who are going to be on pregnancy leave or parental leave, or the retraining of those people at the end when they return?
All of those things will take time and money, aside from the bookkeeping that is required. Is that not a form of downloading of provincial responsibility on to the small proprietor, the small businessman, who simply is incapable of handling all those duties?
"'A pregnant employee who started employment with her employer at least 26 weeks before the expected birthdate is entitled to a leave of absence without pay.'"
Clearly, unless the individual has very extensive skills -- and I am particularly concerned in the area of small business -- it would seem to me that if there is no specific clause addressing that issue, we could be heading for a problem. It is fine to say the Human Rights Code will protect us there, but the reality is that may not be the reason. You then get into hearings and all kinds of bureaucratic problems, misunderstandings, accusations and counter-accusations when perhaps it should be clarified right at the beginning of the bill, or perhaps this amendment indeed is in order to attempt to alleviate that concern.
I would like some assurance from the Minister of Labour that all women in this province will be protected and that indeed they will not be discriminated against. I am wondering what action the minister would be taking in this regard.
I would hope that Ontario's role in terms of protecting families and children and the rights of parents to spend some time in the first year with their children would be among the best legislation, not among the poorest legislation.
I think what the minister is creating, I suggest respectfully, is an élitist system. If he is coming from the point of view that everybody should have an opportunity that does not exist today, then I would suggest this bill does not do that. This bill creates an élitist system where people who can afford to do something in this province get to do it and other people, who cannot afford to, do not have that privilege. I think it is -- I do not know what the other word is other than "misleading." I am not able to use "misleading," but I think it is confusing to the public. I think it is unfair because of those families that are above a certain income; yes, they would be able to afford to take those weeks without pay in order to be parents at home.
I think the next question is, if you are home with your child for the first year of his or her life, what happens in the subsequent years when that baby still has to go unto outside care or care in the home with supervision from outside, a baby-sitter coming into the house? What is it that you are really doing here that is so beneficial while it is so discriminatory?
I apologize for the preamble, but my question is really as a result of the question by the member for Mississauga South. Is there any activity now being undertaken by the ministry and/or the minister to his federal counterpart with a view to increasing the regulations so that they are in step with the protections afforded by these amendments?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the nays have it.
"(1) An employee who has been employed by his or her employer for at least 26 weeks and who is the parent of a child is entitled to a leave of absence without pay following,
"(a) the birth of a child; or
"(b) the coming of the child into the custody, care and control of a parent for the first time."
All those in favour will please say "aye.'
All those opposed will please say "nay.
In my opinion the nays have it.
Do I understand that the definition of "parent" would include a situation where either two women or two men adopted a child? Is that right?
I want to say at the outset -- and I think his colleague to the left will appreciate this, having been in the House at the time of Bill 7 -- that I have no difficulty in terms of recognizing people's rights but I do have difficulty if that is the situation. Perhaps the minister's staff can tell me where in Bill 7 that right is conferred. I do not see it. There is a whole host of definitions here. Perhaps they can direct me to that section and I can satisfy myself that we, in fact, passed this already.
I see in there that in this section "spouse" means a person of the opposite sex to whom the person is married, with whom the person is living in a conjugal relationship outside marriage, if the two persons have cohabited for at least one year, are together the parents of a child or have together entered into a cohabitation agreement under section 53 of the Family Law Reform Act.
That is broad enough, I suppose, to cover the situation of people living in other than a heterosexual relationship, but until I am satisfied -- and I have asked the minister's staff to provide me with evidence that Bill 7 went that far -- I do not see how the minister can have the definition of "parent" left that way, particularly when it uses the word "includes," because by reason of legal definition if the minister says "means," I think his staff, if they are advising him legally, will tell him that the word "means" is a very confining word. When he uses the word "includes," it is a very broad word that can include a great number of other things that are not included in the bill.
Even looking at the definition of "parent," what the minister is doing is he is opening it up. Again, I say if it is for kids I can buy that, but if he is going to do it that way and if we are going to vote for it for children, we may very well see a situation where two women are living together because they are divorced and separated from their husbands or vice versa. That is fine. But if he is including in that what he has said, then I want a commitment from the minister and from the Premier that in fact we have not discussed the issue of whether or not that has opened it up for all the other rights that are being claimed by people who are outside the conventional type of relationship.
We have heard that they want it and it may well be that society at some point in time may consider it to be fair to do that, but if in fact the government is doing it by this bill, or getting one foot in the door, then I think the members of this House should recognize that.
We require a commitment. Does the minister intend that? I do not know whether that is a fair question or not, but I ask him that question, if he intends that as an opening up of this entire issue to situations such as family benefits, such as all the other things that stem from a relationship such as a common-law relationship -- which I think we have come to recognize and I appreciate that and I support that. The recognition of what happens today in our society is that there are in fact people who are living in that relationship and should be recognized.
What I want to know is, does it recognize and does it enlarge the opportunities for all of the host of all other social welfare programs that are provided to support either couples from a common-law relationship or from a marital relationship? Does it open it up for these people? I think we should have that right on the record.
If I have that commitment, I am content, because I think it is dealing with children and, as I said before, I have great compassion for children. They are not the authors of their own relationship, how they wind up. They are to be raised properly and I think that can be done very meaningfully in any type of a relationship. As long as I have that commitment from the minister, I can deal with it. I should add for the record that the minister's staff, if they check out the Human Rights Code, will find that was never -- and I underline the word "never" -- dealt with in Bill 7. In fact, it was talked about, but it was never dealt with.
Sections 3 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
The committee divided on Mrs. Witmer's amendment to subsection 36(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 18; nays 91.
The committee divided on Mrs. Witmer's amendment to subsection 38a(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, which was negatived on the same vote.
Section 2 agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Consideration of Bill 16, An Act to amend the Municipal Elections Act and certain other Acts related to Municipal Elections.
Surely the basic issue today in terms of what people out there are trying to tell us as politicians is that they are tired of spending money on what they consider to be unnecessary items.
Recognizing that and recognizing what has taken place in the last provincial election and perhaps will take place in the next municipal election, and what will take place for sure in the federal election, the voters are going to tell their elected representatives, "We are tired of wasting money."
I suggest to the minister, with the greatest of respect, that this bill, if it is making the changes it is making, should include such things as a permanent voters' list. It is not that difficult to do. It makes it far easier for the people who are running for office to identify the people who are interested and the people who are to be spoken to in terms of an election. It makes it far more democratic. It means far less cost to the citizens of this province, and it can be done as simply as we do with our driver's licence by requiring that the information be shared through a computer system to provide for a permanent voters' list.
I cannot remember the year, but I can recall when three elections took place all at one time: a federal election, a provincial election and a municipal election. The enumerators were out there knocking on doors, collecting the names, which were very similar in all cases, and being paid for it out of the public trough. We can ill afford to waste money that could be better spent on programs that are important to the people of this province.
I suggest this bill requires amendment in that regard. It also requires amendment in a further regard.
The minister speaks of election reform. A bill is not really a reform unless we add to it, in a similar vein as I put to the Minister of Education in her amendments to her act. In terms of replacing an individual who moves up to provincial or federal politics, leaves politics or whatever, we need an amendment to provide that the democratic will should be given full bent by recognizing that the person who polled the next highest votes in the election should be the person who takes the seat. The clubby, old-boy atmosphere that has existed in this province and in this country should be at an end.
The people of this province should be able to look a person who is elected as a member of whatever House, be it here or Ottawa, or municipal or school board, and should be able to say that they had some opportunity to make a decision in terms of the person, be it he or she, who got the seat. I for one, and I am sure there must be many members in this House who take the same position, object to the cost of an election at a time when people are homeless on the streets, when people are going to food banks for food, when young couples are losing their homes because of not being able to afford the high mortgages that they have taken on themselves to pay for the housing in this community. We have an obligation to make certain that the dollars that we spend in this Legislature and the Parliament of Canada, the school boards and the city councils are spent for the direct benefit of those people.
I suggest we cannot leave the act as it is now, where in fact councils can in many cases perform in a clubby fashion and decide to appoint a person to that seat which pays a fairly high honorarium these days. In the old days I guess they did it for free -- in those days maybe this situation was a good idea -- but today honorariums pay well, and I think the public should be aware that very often on city councils it can be as high as $50,000 or $60,000, one third of that being tax free, and on school boards a similar arrangement, perhaps a bit less depending on whether it is a separate or public school board. I think people want quality for their money. The only way they will get quality for their money is if we bring our laws into the 21st century.
I suggest we can do that the two ways I have mentioned. The first one is a permanent voters' list to make certain that we are not giving money to all those party faithful who go out and knock on doors and in most cases, with all due respect to them, screw up the enumeration because they are putting people on the rolls who should not be on there, they are collecting money for it, they do not go back, people complain they do not get their franchise because the people do not come back enough times to do it.
Surely, if we are going to be looking at An Act to amend the Municipal Elections Act and certain other Acts related to Municipal Elections, we should be amending it in a way that is going to benefit the people of this province, not just simply to do a little bit of glossing on the pumpkin, but in terms of making it a permanent, productive and cost-effective way of doing it.
The leader of the third party went around in the last election talking about taxes and the cost to people. The Premier went around the province talking about integrity. I suggest that both of those commodities would be engendered in amendments that I am suggesting.
I told the Minister of Education the other day I have two amendments that I will be presenting to the House, hopefully tomorrow, that will deal with both of these issues, but I think the House itself has to recognize that the throwaway money that we used in the past is no longer appropriate.
I am from a riding that is rural and urban. We have people, not that many, living on the streets in the city of Brampton. The Knights of Columbus of my riding have opened up a knights' table to be able to supply food to these people. I come down to Toronto and am absolutely appalled at the fact that people today have almost gotten like the people in New York. They walk by people who are lying on the street, who are perhaps living out of a bag, who they consider, I guess, to be odd. I would hope that members of the Legislature would never pass those people without remembering the fact that they are human beings and are entitled to the same dignity as all the rest of us. I think the final analysis of it is that we are required to be frugal, to make certain that if we are throwing money away and wasting it, that it should not be wasted, so that money is available to look after those people.
In the final analysis, we are elected not just by our ridings. We are elected by the people of Ontario. We are elected by people, and I underline the word "people." People are not just votes, they are not just people who put us here in these jobs that some say are cushy, and maybe they are. They are only cushy if you let them be cushy. But in the final analysis, I would hope the minister and his colleague the Minister of Education would look at it in terms of a permanent voters' list -- no more of this patronage junk, money being spent for no purpose, no more the clubby atmosphere of appointing somebody who happens to be the friend of the council or the school board. I should hasten to say that in my riding, my city council actually did appoint the person who won the second highest votes, so he gained the benefit of all of the things I have said.
I would hope the government caucus and its cabinet would see that this is the way to deal with an issue in terms of all the things I have said, and let's let the people of Ontario out there know, particularly at this time around Christmas, probably the most difficult time of the year to be homeless, to be poor, to be trying to find the next buck -- I am sure we have all had situations where we have had calls from constituents, young people where their husbands or wives were out of work and, in order to support the family, it was necessary for both of them to work, it has caused problems in the marriage and the final flotsam and jetsam of the whole thing are the children because they have to watch this at Christmastime, or any other time of the year, but particularly Christmas. I think we should give them a Christmas present in this province and maybe be a leader in terms of all provinces, in terms of coming up with amendments to this act that will be meaningful, not just the usual --
We should be in a position that someone sitting down here as an average layperson can in fact look at one side of the bill, look at the other side of the bill and understand what those amendments mean. I think too often, more often than not in this House, with the exception of the minister and maybe his or her parliamentary assistant, perhaps the staff are really the only people in this House who even know what they are voting on at voting time. That is not a partisan comment. That goes for everybody in this House.
I suggest to the Minister of Government Services or whoever is responsible that this is something which should be changed. It could be a very efficient change and it would allow us as legislators to in fact understand what we are doing, because there are people out there who pay our salaries and expect us to look at every jot and word as best we can in terms of whether we should vote for it or not vote for it.
Finally -- and I am sure I will get myself in trouble as I always did when I was in government -- the Premier should forget about the Constitution; he is not there, but he should forget about it. Let's look at the issue in terms of allowing people to vote to represent the people of their ridings. Let's forget about this seal program. I do not say that disparagingly to the people opposite because the seal program goes for whoever happens to get on that side of the House, and sometimes on this side here.
There should be much more undisciplined voting. The members should be entitled to question what legislation comes before this House. They should be entitled to vote the way they want to. The government should not fall because the vote does not come out the right way. I think the people of Ontario are telling us out there in this world that becomes very much more complex, becomes very much more demanding, that they want their representatives of this Parliament, the Parliament of Canada, as they do on municipal council --
The member for Mississauga South would confirm, as would anybody who sat on municipal council, that that in fact is how it happens. That is why people municipally vote for the person, not for the party. That is exactly why with section 1, which is the introduction of this entire bill, the minister has an opportunity to in fact create a new beginning. One is the first number, so let's make this an A-l year by looking at it in terms of trying to come up with a way that we can make our electoral process not only relevant, effective and economical, but in the final analysis, let's make certain that when the people we serve out in our ridings of Niagara or Kingston watch us, they are not watching us espouse a party line or clap because our minister said something which we probably totally disagree with.
I can say this because I occupy Sam Cureatz's chair and Sam used to say this almost as a preacher. He would say, "You represent and you are accountable only to the people who elected you." The members may think they are going to get into cabinet under Bill 1, but that is not necessarily the case. The way we will find their smiling faces back here is if they have the guts to change the whole system and they have the guts to be accountable to the people who elected them. If they do not do that, then we can turn on the lights, the cameras, the sound, put the Speaker in his chair -- and really what we are doing is right out of Charles Dickens.
We are trying to make changes in this House, changes that I personally, as other members do, find to be abhorrent. But the guts of it is to vote for the people who elected us. The government has a sacred trust, as we all do with section 1 of this act, and we have an obligation. We all have to go home at night and believe that we have in fact improved that system.
I urge the minister and I urge his colleague in Education to make certain that every time a piece of legislation is put before this House it has a number of hallmarks; first of all, that it is the most economical way of doing it, the most effective for the people of this province, the most honest for each member in terms of our ability to be able to vote for it the way we feel, not just on issues of great moral conscience, and that in fact the government does not fall -- which is kind of silly really. I mean that is great in England; maybe we should get rid of that -- and finally, the old expression, which I guess is a cliché, "Be true to yourself; that's the most important thing in this life."
I urge the minister and the Premier, who I think is a caring guy -- in fact, I watched him on the Air Farce and I want the minister to tell him that I thought he was great. Nobody is clapping. I thought they would all be clapping. He came across as a guy who cared, and if the perception is the reality, and I hope it is, then I would think that this message I have taken time out of members' lives to say is one that the minister would raise in caucus and fight strongly for.
By the way, Merry Christmas, everybody.
Section 1 agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
"(2) Subclause 2(a)(iv) of the act is amended by adding at the beginning 'trustee, commissioner or.'"
Motion agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 4 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 12 to 40, inclusive, agreed to.
"Subsection 67(5) of the act is repealed and the following substituted:
"(5) A person who has been appointed a voting proxy shall complete an application in the prescribed form, including a statutory declaration that the person is the person appointed as a voting proxy, and shall appear before the clerk in person for this purpose at the clerk's office,
"(a) during normal office hours; or
"(b) during the period from 12 noon to 5 pm on the Saturday of the advance poll held under section 66."
Motion agreed to.
Section 41, as amended, agreed to.
So it is that I feel it is opportune and appropriate this evening when I am speaking to Bill 16 that I remind the Minister of Municipal Affairs that there is much that he can do, not only as Minister of Housing but as Minister of Municipal Affairs, to ensure that that goal, which I believe we all share in this House, is a reality; that the municipalities have high expectations of him as Minister of Municipal Affairs; and that the people of this province believe that is an achievable goal over the mandate of this government: that is, that the homeless are homeless no more and that people have not only the right to vote in our society but the right to a roof over their heads.
I would challenge him tonight, with the passage of this piece of legislation. that by the election following the one which is coming up in November 1991 he commit himself to doing everything within his power to ensure that the provisions of this piece of legislation are unnecessary and that the people of this province will be able to be enumerated in their homes.
It is with those few comments that I conclude the debate from my perspective on Bill 16. It is a fine piece of Liberal legislation and I believe the minister is moving forward with it in an expeditious fashion.
Sections 42 to 116, inclusive, agreed to.
There are now, as I understand it, approximately 40,000 people on the waiting list for socially assisted housing in Ontario. That number has stayed pretty much the same for several years. There is a proposal from the Ontario Housing Corp to add to the eligibility list folks who are of refugee status, which she will be aware, from being in the previous government, has been an issue that governments have faced for quite some time without assistance from the federal government in trying to deal with the very real needs that refugees and new Canadians face in our province, and more specifically in Toronto. If those 50,000 were added, we could basically look at a waiting list of about 90,000 people in Ontario right now.
So it is very much a real and significant and major challenge and I hope we will be able to do our best to solve that problem to the best of our limit as a government, to the best of our limit as a society in our province.
It certainly is one of the most important challenges, if not the most important challenge, facing this province today.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported.
On motion by Mr Cooke, the committee of the whole House reported two bills without amendment and two bills with certain amendments.
RESIDENTIAL RENT REGULATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 4, An Act to amend the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986.
This legislation worries me, because I am afraid that small landlords will suffer badly. The intent of this legislation goes against everything I believe in. I am astounded that the minister and this government think it is perfectly all right to give blanket protection to tenants but none to landlords. The government is very concerned with the tenants' quality of life, and I have no quarrel with this, but I would remind the government that landlords are people too and are equally deserving of the same quality of life.
The minister may not believe this, but landlords have families, too, who need food, clothing, education and all other material comforts which this government so devoutly wishes for tenants. But this legislation will deny them this by allowing landlords only a 4.6% increase in rents. This, as the minister well knows, will not even give them enough to cover the anticipated rise in the cost of living, which even the government puts at over 6%. How will they manage? What will the minister do for the building owners? It is obvious the minister does not know and does not care.
It seems to me that the minister has conveniently forgotten that without landlords erecting and owning buildings, tenants in this province will have nowhere to go to live. This government seems to think that landlords have a duty to provide cheap housing for tenants and that tenants have some sort of divine right to pay as little as possible. I do not believe this.
Home owners in Ontario are rightly expected to carry their own burdens, to pay their mortgages and bills and to live in a fiscally responsible fashion. Why does this government not have the same expectation for tenants? What makes them more special? Could it be that they represent thousands more votes than those of landlords and that this government wants these votes again in four years?
Not only do I disagree in principle with this bill because I believe that all people in Ontario should be treated fairly and that no single group should be more special than others, I also disagree with the fact that this legislation, without even being passed, is retroactive to I October, almost two months before it was even introduced to this House.
I have a case in my riding which shows as clearly as anything can the basic unfairness of this retroactive clause. The Gorbet family of Owen Sound are small landlords. They do not own large high-rises. They have only seven apartments in a building that is 100 years old. Quite obviously, after 100 years some repairs were needed. Wiring had to be updated to conform to the fire marshal's code. New, more energy-efficient windows had to be installed. Copper plumbing was put in. These are not luxury improvements. These are necessary repairs needed to give the tenants a reasonable degree of comfort. The tenants were informed that the work would be done, and they did not object.
The Gorbets borrowed the money to do this work from the Bank of Montreal at 13.4%. The work was begun and the Gorbets, as required, appeared before the residential rent review committee. The committee approved the work and set the increased rent, but did not issue an order until 14 November of this year. The minister introduced his bill on 28 November and all of a sudden, because of the retroactive clause, the Gorbets find they cannot recoup the money they borrowed and spent.
How are these ordinary people. whom the NDP professes to speak for, to recover money borrowed at 13.4% when they are allowed to increase rents by only 4.6%?
I have another example of a small landlord, Allen Smart, again in Owen Sound, who purchased a 10-unit building for $400,000. To pay for this, he had to take out first and second mortgages at 11.75% and 14.25% respectively. His rental revenue is presently $49,000 per year and his costs for the mortgage and the basic maintenance are $65,093 per year.
He appeared before the rent review people and was granted increases to break even that were to come into effect on I January. As a result of this legislation, Mr Smart is facing personal bankruptcy. He has a wife and five children to support. He can see no other course of action but to offer his building for sale to the government.
He has sent the minister an agreement of purchase and sale. I would like to read his letter right now. It is dated 10 December, to the minister:
"Re: Agreement of purchase and sale.
"Due to your proposed legislation on the housing situation in Ontario, I will be unable to meet my mortgage payments thereby ending up in personal bankruptcy and putting my wife and five children out on the street. To avoid such a disaster, I am offering, through you, to the government of Ontario my rental building.
"Attached please find all pertinent information on this rental property, along with an agreement of purchaser and sale.
"Hoping you will make this a happy Christmas, I remain,
This was sent to the minister on 10 December. I hope the government is planning to buy this building from him so that his Christmas can be all right.
I have another letter from some other ratepayers in our area. This was addressed to myself:
"Dear Mr Murdoch,
"This letter is being written to seek your help to restore some sanity to the landlord-tenant situation that Bob Rae and this government are creating.
"Changes were certainly needed but this solution of victimizing the landlord is just swinging the injustices from the tenants to the landlords. Two wrongs never made a right. In the end it's everyone who will lose.
"I am only one small landlord, but I've put all my money and sweat and years of working into purchasing a 12-unit building, hoping it would be my retirement security. I spent 30 years working 12 to 16 hours a day, for eight months a year, away from my home and family to save for this. How many people do you know who would sacrifice like this? (Certainly not most tenants.)
"Now after all this struggle and planning, Bob Rae and his government are pulling the plug on us and it was all for nothing! Why are some people (tenants) entitled to apartments in good state of repair and free legal help if it isn't, at no expense to them? No one helps people keep their homes in good repair and updated, so, why wouldn't everyone be better off being a tenant?
"It's perfectly obvious, Bob Rae and his cabinet have never been landlords. I know of no other business where you are told how to run it and how much you should expect in return and all the rules are stacked so you can't even survive let along get ahead. You can't even sell it, because no one in their right mind would buy it and become a landlord.
"Russia found that a state-run society doesn't work. We are not learning this lesson very well. If this strategy is allowed to become law, it will become the financial ruin of a lot of people like ourselves in this province.
"Maybe we tried too hard to build for the future and should have been satisfied to live on welfare -- no worries -- no stress and free legal counsel if the landlord neglects something. Sounds good, doesn't it? And I won't even have to work for it.
"Please do whatever you can to stop this ridiculous plan before it causes grief and ruination for landlords and eventually hurts the tenants too. A person in this country shouldn't be encouraged to work hard and better themselves, and then have the government pull the plug on them.
"Last night we received a letter from the Ministry of Housing warning us as soon as they get this law passed we'll have to give back the $2 extra per month we were given from rent review starting October 1, 1990. Greed. They can't wait. This amount is $24 a year per tenant. This increase was applied for on July 1, 1990 for work done the previous year. How can they make us give it back? They weren't in power then and even if it is passed it should have no bearing on work done in 1989. Total injustice.
"Thanks for anything you can do for all landlords of Ontario.
"Keith and Lois White."
There are many more letters like this coming into our office every day. I am afraid that there are many other people in Mr Smart's position whom the government is ignoring.
This legislation is seriously flawed. The minister says that picking the I October date was not an easy decision. I am afraid it goes further than that. It was the wrong decision. I urge the minister to reconsider so that the landlords caught in the same situation as the Gorbets, the Smarts and the Whites will not suffer. Obviously, if they had known what the minister was planning, their renovations would not have been done.
That brings me to my other very real concern with this bill. Landlords who cannot hope to recover these losses will simply let their buildings go. No rational people, and I venture to say even some members of the NDP, would simply spend thousands of dollars to upgrade when they know that what they are paying is from their own pockets. It makes no sense.
I am afraid that we will become a province of buildings in disarray. The minister says landlords have a responsibility to keep the standard of buildings up, yet I feel he is totally out of touch if he thinks that anyone would do this without compensation, especially in a time of economic downturn.
As I have said, I find this legislation totally unreasonable. It will badly hurt small landlords and the tenants who live in their buildings, and will create a province of slum buildings. This is not a province in which I would be proud to live.
The thing that really bothers me also is that the NDP says it is for everybody. Well, the tenants are people also and I think the government members have to consider that when they are passing this bill. I hope the minister will look at this and look at his retroactive plan and make some changes.
I am concerned about a lot of things with respect to this particular bill. I see property rights being further downgraded and I see the ability of landlords to derive a decent return on their investment completely squashed with this bill. I am very, very concerned about the retroactivity aspect of it. I think it is going to be highly injurious to the economy. I am concerned about the deteriorating housing stock and the way this bill will really inhibit future repairs to our existing housing stock.
I think that rural Ontario never needed rent controls. I know, in speaking in my riding, that we have a situation presently where I feel rent controls have severely decreased the housing supply. In the town of Fergus, which is the largest municipality in my riding, there is currently a vacancy rate of less than 1%. I know the former government in its efforts to provide non-profit housing did make efforts to ensure that there was adequate non-profit housing in Fergus, but it was not able to fund projects such as Sunny Acres, which was an important application to the Homes Now project that was never realized.
The minister is not present, but I would hope that the members opposite will encourage their minister to reject the biases of their party's rhetoric and employ some degree of moderation in the amendments that are proposed to Bill 4.
They do not have to make solutions here for all over Ontario. They can look at different places. Rent controls in the rural areas have not been as big a problem. Some of the members mentioned some of the stories, that their tenants had been gouged, and now they are going to turn around and gouge the landlords. Two wrongs will not make a right. We have to look for everyone to see whether we can fix a solution.
I think that the members over there have to look within themselves to see where the problem really is. I do not think they can do that by picking on the landlords. I know there are problems in some places, but let us look at those problems and not make the landlords pay for everybody.
It may be the appropriate time, at the beginning of this government's mandate, to examine why the Ministry of Housing in Ontario is here and what we should be doing. Over the past 18 years -- possibly 15; I am not sure how far back the ministry goes -- various programs have evolved to serve the people of Ontario, sometimes with contradictory effects.
Do the various separate pieces fit together into a co-ordinated approach to housing? It may be time to ask this question. We have rent review. We have the Ontario Housing Corp. We have the non-profit programs the previous person mentioned. We have the Ontario Building Code which is part of the Ministry of Housing. We also have land use planning. These are some the various pieces that we are responsible for.
It may be time to ask, why is the government involved in housing? This is, I think, the basic question that some of the opposition people are raising.
I remember the first job I had. I was able to get an apartment. I wanted to save money because I wanted to go overseas to do further study, so I got an apartment for $50 a month. For an extra $10 a month they put some furniture in the second floor of the house and I was able to save quite a lot of money.
When I was first married we were in Hamilton -- this was about 1970 -- and we rented an apartment for $80 a month and were able to save up money to buy a home with $2,000 down. We borrowed from the credit union and in 1972 bought a brick bungalow in Grimsby, the best investment we ever made. Unfortunately, a year later we had to move away, so we rented out that house in Grimsby and bought another house elsewhere. That is the way to go, right? Grimsby 1972; wonderful.
Unfortunately, that type of situation, that type of market where you have a choice with regard to where you want to rent and where you want to buy is just not here. It is long gone. The reality is that this type of situation is just not here for our children. We have to come to grips with the question, is housing a right?
In 1948 the UN proclaimed certain human rights -- last week was International Human Rights Week -- and these were food, clothing, housing, education and medical care. We all recognize housing is one of the basic underpinnings of our own personal lives, especially for children who are growing up. Our home is our security blanket. Having a home is actually an enabling process. It enables us to do something meaningful with our lives. I would almost say that in a small way each of us can identify with that feeling. When we were first elected, all of us new people had a huge job to do in September to find out what was happening here in Toronto, but we were homeless in Toronto. Unless you have that base. you cannot reach out and do the job you are supposed to do and stabilize your life.
Knowing how important housing is to our whole society, it is up to this government, working together with input from all sectors, to put the pieces of the housing puzzle together in some meaningful workable way. Our government-owned housing is one of these aspects, as are our community non-profit housing, our co-op housing, our market rental units, our condos, our rooming and boarding houses, and of course single family homes.
We must look to the future of Ontario -- I believe that is what politicians were elected for -- and look at what kinds of communities we want. This is going to involve issues of transportation, land use planning, saving rural land, intensification of our cities to save infrastructure costs, revitalizing inner city land and working with the private developers.
I would like to say that with basic principles such as the integration of neighbourhoods, which I think nearly every one of us would agree with now, we have to get over that not-in-my-backyard syndrome. Principles such as environmentally sound development, new creative ideas and partnerships, I believe, are the way for this government to participate in the future of housing in Ontario.
An example of this was announced exactly two weeks ago. It was called Housexpo. This was planned for 1997. Original thinkers, such as Michael Melling and John Bussell, together forged links with bankers, developers, community groups and government -- in fact, all three levels of government -- to try to produce 100,000 housing units here in Toronto by 1997. The principles they were going with were innovative design, things such as small projects well integrated into neighbourhoods, building above stores on main streets. All kinds of new ideas are what we need.
Because the home ownership option is so limited these days, rental housing is an important part of the housing picture, and probably the members would agree that in future it is going to be an even more important part of the housing picture in Ontario with the way the economy is. I am not sure.
In rental housing there are several principles which are emerging that I think we have to come to grips with. First of all is the importance of control. I believe that tenants need some control of their lives, just like home owners do -- control of tenure, for example, so that they have security. Second is the principle of inclusion in the decision-making process about the unit they rent, and the principle of participation in their community.
Within this broad framework of housing strategy that we are hoping to develop with help from all people, where does rent regulation fit? The facts are clear, I hope the members would agree, that the existing system that we found when we came into government was not working. It was a shambles of complexity for tenants and for small landlords. It was too difficult to figure out. The mandate of this government was very clear, as every day the opposition points out to us. We must hold to what we promised, that we must, once elected, do something. We have done the only thing that was possible, and that is press down, put the lid on and give a breathing space to evaluate the road to the future.
We realize full well that a new fair partnership with the private sector must be forged as soon as possible, with serious and meaningful consultation. Of course, we have that dichotomy. We want to act now and we want to do it right, but sometimes you cannot have both. We want to make sure that we do it right, and yet the opposition is telling us we have to act now.
This long-term solution must be fair, it must be simple and it must work without a massive bureaucracy. There are several points of contention which have arisen. First of all, the question has already been raised with regard to the dating and timing of this putting a lid on, the moratorium. We could not go back too far, we could not go to the future too far. Thus, if we went to the future too far we would be letting a flood more of rent increases go through the pipe, and the number of 130,000 has been mentioned. We must fix a reasonable date and there was a lot of discussion on that, I can tell members. The date that was chosen was 1 October 1990. Of course, there is no one correct date that would certainly please all sides.
The second point of contention is the question of, what do rents in fact cover? Anyone owning a home knows that you have some light years in terms of your expenses and you have some very heavy years in terms of your expenses. Everyone knows you have to save for or at least expect that you would fix your concrete steps, as in an apartment building you would have to fix your concrete underground parking or your driveway, every 20 years. You must replace windows every 30 years or replace your roof every 15 years. Our position is clearly that these types of responsibilities belong to the owner, just like a home owner. You would include these kinds of expenses in the rent. It is his or her building and its value on the market depends on the quality of upkeep of the building by the owner. All of us in home ownership know that. The present system encourages landlords to neglect maintenance until a repair is large enough to justify an application through the rent review system.
I wish to address some statements that were being made. These letters did come to me. I received some letters too. This was last week, from a group called AFFORD. Bert Reitter says in part in his letter: "Landlords have already spent millions of dollars on vital structural repairs and major improvements which they will lose under this shocking retroactive bill."
I would like to say that home owners and every person with common sense would know that doing structural repairs and major improvements is not money lost. How can you claim it is money lost? Value is added to any real property when improvements are made. Let's not throw up a smokescreen of paper values. This is the real world. What better investment than real estate or land?
Second, I received a letter from Jack Tse of Fairwin Investments. He had some interesting things to say. This is what he said, "What the government is doing is no different from what some Third World countries do by confiscating private property without compensation." I mean, what kind of sensationalism is that? He goes on to say, "The inability to finance apartment acquisitions or construction will be yet another nail in the coffin of our industry." I would like to know, if they are trying to finance apartment acquisitions -- those are his exact words -- I would much prefer that they would in fact run these buildings instead of acquiring buildings. They are not in the business of acquiring buildings, which is what seems to be happening more and more. Why do they not get into the business of actually running them?
He also mentions construction. I would like to ask, since when have people in private industry been constructing buildings?
There are a couple of other examples. The vast majority of landlords, and of course the number was 85%, have increased rents by only the statutory amount each year, so this interim legislation will not affect them. It will affect only a few others, though.
Examples of these others: A year and a half ago, an Ottawa man with a $500,000 down payment constructed a $17-million building of 100 units. This man borrowed $16.5 million. This year he asked the rent review board to grant him a 100% rent increase, increasing the average rent in the building from about $625 to $1,250. In fact, he got an increase of only 20%, but what is happening in these cases is that the increase was granted -- mind you, only the 20% -- and tenants paid almost half of the landlord's down payment of $500,000 in the first year of operation. In any other business, if you borrow money like $16 million, you go to the market and you take your chances. You cannot just push your prices up because your revenues are not big enough. Do you expect that in your first year of operation you would make a profit? That is what these people are trying to do. But let's remember that 25 years from now when the tenants have paid the mortgage, the landlord will have the $17-million investment, much more than that of course, from his initial investment of $500,000. That is the type of thing that is happening.
In another case, the landlord will receive an increase of more than 23%, yet that same landlord had to be given a court order to enforce work orders that had not been complied with. Yes, the new legislation will hurt the landlords who have only one concern and that is the maximization of their profit, but the legislation will make no difference to the 85% of landlords who do not apply to rent review each year.
Last, I wish to explain that housing is in fact, I believe, a woman's issue for three reasons.
First of all, housing is a basic right, yet women have the most difficulty getting housing -- single parents, single women on low and uncertain incomes, elderly women who cannot cope on their own, women of colour, native women, women with disabilities.
Second, I would like to point out that the Ontario women's directorate began a study. It is a project that is taking 18 months to research the extent and nature of sexual coercion of women tenants. I would like members to take a minute to think about this. This is a very scary thing. There is no safe place now.
I would just like to quote a little bit from the NAC Housing Newsletter:
"The significance of safety in our home environment is of crucial concern to women. We have spoken of wife abuse and child sexual abuse mostly within the context of the patriarchal family relationship, but less frequently made the connection to our own housing forms as a parallel to that family model. What an irony that a woman who escapes such a home environment may be subjected to similar sexist abuse as part of her rental situation." Let's be clear about what we mean by this -- by landlords or superintendents, etc. We are only beginning to reveal "the connections between sexual violence and housing."
The third point: I would like to reaffirm what was stated on 19 November at the lobby of the transition houses of Ontario over at the Macdonald Block. At that time, they put forward a statement about violence against women and the connection with housing. The one line I would like to tell members says, "Too frequently women cite the lack of safe, affordable accommodation as the primary reason for extending their shelter stay" -- and of course we as a government are financing these shelters -- "and secondly, it is also the reason" -- because they cannot get other accommodation -- "why they stay in abusive relationships. Women must have affordable rental housing if there is to be any choice, any alternative to an abusive relationship."
To conclude, a new vision, a new strategy for housing in Ontario is needed. I think we would probably all agree, all three parties, to that. As part of that strategy, a workable, fair rent regulation system is needed and we are looking forward to working towards this goal with members' help.
However, I find the argument that capital costs should be included in rent fallacious, silly and wrong. The fact of the matter is, if someone builds a building and we have to decide what the rent for each of those units is going to be, to do it the way the government says it has to be done means that we have to sit down with an actuary and we have to say, "In 10 years I'm going to need new pavement on the parking lot, in 20 years I'm going to need a new roof, in 30 years I'm going to need a new parking garage," and we are going to go through new windows, new doors and every other capital cost that is incurred in the building. By the time we add up all those capital costs and put them in the rent, no one will be able to afford to live in that building.
If that was really what the government believed, then it would calculate its own costs on the same basis. In other words, when they gave school grants, they would not just give operating grants, they would give the operating grants and say, "You have to allocate those over all the years down the line so that when the school needs a new roof, then it comes out of the operating grants that we give you on a year-to-year basis." If the government really believed that capital is included in rent, that is the way it would do its own accounting for hospitals, for schools and for any other capital project in which it is involved. They do not do that and the reason they do not do that is because it is absolutely unaffordable to anyone.
That is the way they are treating landlords. They are hurting landlords, and by hurting landlords they are going to hurt tenants. Their argument is fallacious and it is wrong.
One of the problems, though, with this law is that a lot of the rental units have already dried up as a result of laws such as this. In fact, 80% of the rental units were created prior to 1975. What will be happening is that we will be drying up the market for the people we really, truly want to help -- the tenants.
I guess one of the other things I am concerned about is, what will have to happen is that we will have to spend government money on building new rental units in this province. What that will do will be taking away a lot of other money from all the other social programs that are needed very urgently in this province.
Another point I wanted to make was that the member talked about the control. I think that was one of the words she used. "Inclusion," "participation" and "fair" were some of the words that she used. Unfortunately, one half of the equation, which is the landlords, do not feel that is being done to them. I think what we need in this province are laws that will work for both parties, not only the tenants but the landlords, so that it will be long-term. So while I want to compliment her on a few points, I think there are a couple of areas that we disagree with.
Finally, the third point there is with regard to the women's issues. I know I feel very strongly. I had an opportunity to go to the same meeting that the parliamentary assistant did at the Macdonald Block, at different times, and one of the things that concerned me was the fact that there is the need for more shelters. But I think what we need to do is make sure that these shelters are built and that we do have the transition houses for women in need, but that we do not confuse it with long-term in terms of building some of the rental units that are needed.
On the one hand, the minister can talk all he wants about his long-range, big picture. If I have any criticism at all about this government it has to do with the failure of the government to take into consideration the macro view. They have taken an isolated view. They have said, "Hey, we're going to protect tenants." At any cost, they have done that, and the cost is great. The cost is especially great to those people who are involved in working in those apartment buildings, working on the facilities to make them better and to improve upon them. We are not talking about the outrageous, high, expensive marble items and so on. We are talking about sink repairs and plumbing repairs and heating repairs, roof repairs, and yet they are all impacted in a negative way because of this retroactive legislation.
I have gone to tenants' association meetings where the complaints have been consistent: No repairs are being done, nothing has been happening. This excuse about work having to get done and the money not being there, I cannot see it; and until somebody shows me that it has been happening and that the money is not there and proves it to me, then I cannot say, "Yes, landlord, you're right." Until such time, I will be saying that the tenants are right and that the tenants deserve a little more representation from their landlords, a little more compassion. This argument does not wash with me.
With regard to the question from the member for Markham about whether or not we received calls about the layoffs, I was outside last Tuesday morning around 10 o'clock and walked through that crowd to come to the caucus meeting so I know there were a lot of people there. Certainly I have heard that there are layoffs. We are very concerned about that, obviously. They are our neighbours. They are our constituents. We do have to recognize that the economy is in a state of job layoffs.
When we took over the government in 1985, what we did first before we came into this House was to develop a policy paper about our housing shortage. One of the main things we did was to find out who the clients were and who the players were in this industry. It was very easy to determine that. We know they are landlords, we know they are tenants, we know they are investors and we know there is the government. First, we must understand the players in this policy before we can put the policy out.
If there is one issue by the New Democratic Party that I associate its being so close and so passionately involved with, it is the issue of housing. Always, when I was in government, I thought they understood the issue, I thought they had researched the issue and I thought that if they ever should form the government one day, they would bring forward this housing policy. But they did not believe they would form the government, and I am not all that arrogant to believe that way. I believe in this democratic process and the people who choose, so I am not surprised that they did form the government.
Again, when they started speaking about the problems of tenants, I was not at all surprised, because they have been speaking about tenants and that they did not get their fair share for a long time, so I was not surprised about that. My shock came when they came about and introduced this so-called Bill 4. Bill 4 is a tragic disappointment. It is confrontational, it is adversarial and it is extremely regressive. I am sure, just speaking shortly on the regressive part of it, that we have one of the best civil service structures anywhere in the world. They are bright and they are hardworking and I am sure that the Ministry of the Attorney General had informed the minister that to have a retroactive bill is not the way to go.
But because they had no policy, no housing policy whatsoever, they went ahead and brought in Bill 4, and they have the audacity to almost want to call Bill 4 a housing policy and then to have long debates about the housing situation in this province, where it is going and who it is affecting. As members know, if they look at Bill 4 very closely, it is a bill that is trying to amend Bill 51, which was brought in in 1986. On election day on 6 September, I am sure the members opposite had housing in mind. They brought forward the first reading of this bill on 28 November.
Just to give members an idea. when Bill 51 was introduced, it was in May and we brought forward in June 1986 a very comprehensive rent review bill. The first remark I heard on Bill 4 -- when I realized it was so controversial -- was a play on words: we would not have a rent review policy, we will have a rent control policy. This bill is about tenants.
Bill 51 tried to have, as we said in 1985, a balance, a delicate balance recognizing all players, especially the tenants and the landlords, to make sure that the people who rent their property get fair value for the property or the accommodation they have and are not gouged by rent and abused by landlords, many of whom were doing that almost religiously. We brought forward such a bill, Madam Speaker, and I am sure you recall it and followed it very closely. I remember being asked at that time what I was going to do about bringing about a good market of affordable rental property in this province. I told the press and told the opposition of that time, who were extremely aggressive, that I did not have the answer. The answer lies with the landlords and the tenants, bringing them together and making a bill that is fair to both landlords and tenants; and we did so.
The members of the government were the opposition then, sitting on those committees as we went around the province debating these issues. The bill was drafted, saying that we would bring in that delicate balance, recognizing that landlords and tenants should be treated fairly. I want to remind the honourable member for Niagara Falls that it is the private sector that builds most of the rental properties in this province, and we, as a government, go about building non-profits or co-ops or assisting in the mortgage process and getting non-profits going. We then, as the Liberal government, built a considerable amount of non-profits and co-ops in the time that we were the government.
I was extremely impressed because I did also have the great confidence of the people of Ontario that Bill 51 would be fair, and I say that because I raise Bill 51 and compare it with Bill 4 and the process in which it is done. But when the landlords and tenants sat down to bring about this bill, and when it was about to be signed and they all agreed upon it, both sides said it was not a perfect bill but it was the best that could come about. Every single landlord signed it and every single tenant signed it, except one, after being pressured -- and I know that; if anybody wants to challenge me on that, I am prepared -- by the then New Democratic Party not to sign it. As a matter of fact, I keep this here, preciously, with me because it is my own copy, because Dan McIntyre, who did not sign it, signed mine. Surprising enough, hypocrisy sometimes can follow, because he then followed us through the hearing, was extremely impressed, but felt after being pressured a bit somehow that he could not sign.
I raise that point because it is extremely important that when we bring about a bill and we talk about consultation, let us be real about it; let us not play games and let us not say this is a tenant bill. This should not be a tenant bill and it should not be a landlord bill. It is a bill for landlords and tenants to work with. Bringing back the confrontational and adversarial aspects of it is the wrong way to go. I feel that the minister must start looking at this bill and at its process. I think it is time that he shed the clichés about consultation when he does not really mean it in any form. But I would say to him that he still has hope. I think he should have a housing policy first and then he can talk about having a rent control or a rent review process.
I do not think the New Democratic Party has a housing policy, and if it did, I think it is not doing justice to this economy, to the people, to the tenants, to the landlords or to us a province by coming forward with a bill like Bill 4.
In respect to the moratorium, when the minister talks about wanting a two-year freeze, it tells me very much. In fact, I am glad that the member for Niagara Falls pointed out that it is the first time she has heard that a housing policy would be available in February of next year. I hope, for the good of this province, that he does have in two months a housing policy to tell us where he is going in regard to developing a better strategy, because without it we are going to get into playing the manipulative games, as we are accused as politicians of playing on the minds of people. People are seeing through all this.
My colleague the critic for Housing has said that the approach of the Minister of Housing is becoming the minister of slums. I think what she meant by that is that she is giving a word of warning that the way we are going, and having this confrontational aspect of it, will drive this rental housing maintenance industry into a dive so that the landlords themselves will stop maintaining their buildings because of cost. I will get into that a little later.
I want to talk about this crisis that they see before us in the rental market, the tenants who are being gouged. Yes, there is strong evidence that some landlords are gouging tenants trying to get exorbitant increases in rents and people really cannot afford them. But let us look at the facts after the rent review process came in. The member for Niagara Falls did not use the statistics but I will remind her what the statistics are: 83% of landlords do not go at all to rent review, they take whatever the guideline is for that time; 17% of them go through the rent review process; only 5% of them get above 20%.
We are talking about gougers, so there is a crisis in hand here. We would bring in a lawyer to control that 5% right away. Immediately we say that the bill is the one that was introduced in 1986, that it was introduced there, that it is not working, it is confusing and all those remarks, but that 83% do not go through the rent review process and that 5% get over 20%.
If we are going to be fair to all -- as a government, we should be -- we should make sure that laws are not introduced for the minority who are violating the rules but they affect everyone. I presume when the government is in the game, the government is in the business of building housing -- I presume that maybe we are looking down the road -- it will build more and take the private sector out of it.
We believe strongly there is no fuzziness about how the Liberal Party stands in all this. We have a completely clear definition of how we stand unlike the Conservatives, who feel the private sector alone should be in this business. Of course, the socialist government over there would not say that, but it would like to build them all. We of course see that it is necessary for government and also the private sector to be involved in building, and that we do that fairly. We do not bring in legislation that is only for tenants in this specific instance. Let us be fair. I give a warning to the government of the day: Let it be fair to all; let it make sure that landlords play a role in this bill and, of course, the tenants.
Remarks were passed earlier on about the fact that it does not at all affect the building industry. We know that in any economy, when the building industry is taking a beating, it affects a tremendous amount of people -- jobs -- and there is a chain effect that happens, a ripple effect. If you are not building homes, you will not even sell drapes, you will not sell carpets, you do not sell fridges and on and on. It is one industry that really drives an economy.
We all know that at the present time we are in a recession. Of course, I freely agree with the minister that this bill itself is not going to make the building industry fold. That is not true. But I can tell him, it will have a tremendous impact on many of those who are in the renovation business and who were depending on this, because of the uncertainty of this bill, because of the two-year moratorium, because of the regressive nature and retroactivity of this bill, because the landlord who is investing in his building and wants to do some repairs cannot go to the bank and tell the banker, "Well, the process of recovering my money depends on the policy of the government, which hasn't yet thought about it, and which, I am hearing today, may be coming up for debate in February 1991."
I am telling you, Madam Speaker, it will not work. Try that at the bank some time. If you want a loan, they ask you how you are going to pay it back. If you say there is a husband or a wife working or some other income coming in or there is some business transaction that you anticipate but you are not sure about the policy yet, the bank will tell you: "As soon as you are clear about this, come back, because we want to guarantee that we are getting our money back. You must demonstrate to us how you will do that."
The uncertainty makes for a very, very poor approach to the bank. This is not good. I think we have to do better than that as a government. It is not in opposition any more. It must take responsibility. It cannot just say things and decide it cannot back them up without some structure. It did not set up a structure at all. It has a massive bureaucracy behind it, an intelligent bureaucracy that can come up with alternatives -- and it will. It assisted us to do so very much in 1986. It assisted us in our assured housing policy. If the government does not have any policy, it can do that.
Furthermore, in a democratic province like this there is the opposition, which will give other views of it. The government does not necessarily have to take them all, but in the meantime it must have something coming forward. It must not tell us that a moratorium is under way and therefore we should just wait and see when the government's policy comes out.
The minister is on record as saying, "I believe very strongly that there has to be a housing strategy in this province." Where is this housing strategy? Is this the strategy? It will not work, because it will put things in more chaos, and then we would be worse off and have to be settling fights between landlords and tenants.
Earlier on, in his comments to the member for Niagara Falls, the honourable member stated that all these funds that the landlords are getting because they are not doing -- the member for Yorkview had said that the landlords who are supposed to be doing repairs on their buildings are pocketing that money and it is not going into the rental units, so where is that money going?
I would like to remind the honourable members that there is a standards board that was established, and immediately they would jump in their seats and tell members it is not working. I fully agree it is not working and I can tell members why it is not working; there are not enough funds and it is not being policed properly, because the municipalities have asked for money and of course when we were the government they did ask for money so they could maintain and police the repairs in those buildings.
I think the government has a structure in place. It should not start to reinvent the wheel with the thought that they will honour the government four years afterwards because it has a new policy. It should use the things that are there. The standards board can work; it needs funding and it can work. Just to say that these people are pocketing their money is a poor, flimsy excuse in order to proceed on the path that they are going, blindfolded with rhetoric. The problem is that the New Democrats are full of more rhetoric and it has caught up with them now. I am telling them we are here to help, and I hope they will take the advice.
They could start by reading Bill 51. They could start understanding what the housing situation is all about. There is nothing wrong. Go back to Gerry Caplan's manual; he told the government to say: "I do not know. I will go back and be briefed and when I have the answer I will come back." That is okay. They have a mandate of five years maximum, or four years if they feel rather adventurous, before it is the time to come back to the people. They have within that time to come forward with a bill, not only a bill but a proper housing policy there.
The disappointment lies in the fact that it is not thought out. We in opposition here will not allow the NDP government to come and dazzle us with words and then to feel that is sufficient for us. Later on, my colleagues will be addressing other issues in non-profit housing, but I will just say one thing: The non-profit and co-ops are working very effectively in some respects.
I would say too that while the vacancy rate in the private rental stock is very small, many of those people who are in non-profit housing -- sometimes we do not want to say this -- who are getting very high incomes can go out and go into the private rental stock. Of course there are many who use that area in order to give their friends accommodation, and I will tell members how. The minister is not in the House now, but I hope members remind him that he could try this strategy: get one main waiting list from the non-profits, so he would know the priorities of all those who would need to come into the non-profit housing and say: "You need it badly. We'll put you there."
What is happening is that every non-profit and co-op has its own waiting list. If someone comes to a constituency office and we have to tell them to put their name on 15 or 20 waiting lists. That is not the way to go. If we want to have a housing policy --
I am surprised that the honourable member for Hamilton Mountain says they have already done that. I think he speaks for himself and not for the government, which quite a few of them are doing at times -- speaking for themselves and not collectively.
Many papers have been written on rent review and rent control. The rent review process we went through in detail in 1951 took all the complex parts, the cost and put it all together.
I remember at one stage we talked about affordability. I just want to address affordability for the time being and who should be affordable. On the aspect of the affordability for a tenant, we should also question, does the affordability lie in the fact that it is the landlord who is to determine that? When one cannot afford rental accommodation, I think there are many, many factors that cause this; not the landlord. But of course I and we on this side believe very strongly in rent review.
In summary, I feel it is time that the NDP government brought out a very clear housing policy to tell us in what direction it wants to go. It is time they shed that confrontational approach and to make sure they have something that is fair to landlords and tenants.
Many buildings around this province are in terrible condition and, as I said, that can be addressed by funding and making sure that the residential standards board is effective. It is the wrong time to be this draconian in its approach because of the recession we are in. Whenever we have a housing policy, we must be sensitive to the economic atmosphere or environment at the time. It is a different strategy we have to put in place today than what we put in place in 1985.
The 1,000 people who lined up and marched outside the Legislative Building about two weeks ago are concerned. They are people who have lost their jobs. They are people who themselves are wondering where they are to go next. If the government does not believe those people, I urge the members opposite to drive around the construction sites where the cranes have stopped and make sure they ask questions there to find out what has happened. It is the uncertainty.
If the government is bringing a bill forward, it should make sure it is fair, make sure it comprises both the landlords and tenants, make sure it is not as draconian, I would say, as it is and make sure this retroactivity is addressed properly.
I listened with astonishment when the former minister referred to Bill 51 as good legislation. He knows I was a member of that committee. He knows I travelled around the province. He knows I listened to every debate. He knows I voted against his legislation. The whole process was so complex that the public was doomed to ever understand what was involved with the residential complex cost index, the building operating cost index and all these other things.
We had a rent control system that cost $7.9 million in 1985. The minister and his staff faithfully promised it was not going to exceed $12 million, $13 million, $14 million. They started to turn the money off at $40 million to $50 million. That is what rent control is doing in this province. It is a bureaucracy gone out of control.
The rent registry has never worked. The computers do not work, as we are standing here in the Legislature. Several sections of his bill were either not proclaimed or proclaimed three and a half years late. I brought to this House thousands of 9-R forms that were shredded because no tenant in Ontario could understand them. That flowed from the fundamental right of tenants to go to rent review to determine what their legal chargeable rent was.
There is a whole series of problems with this legislation, and yet the former minister stands up and tries to suggest to us that it was good legislation. It was bad legislation three and a half years ago and it is still bad legislation. I will be pleased to talk to the NDP about how to fix it when my time comes.
He described for us how the Liberals rushed into Bill 51, and ever since we passed that piece of legislation we have been in a disastrous situation in this province -- not only a disastrous situation that has gone on for four years but a disastrous situation which, if it is not fixed, will force more and more of Ontario's residents on to the streets and into totally inadequate housing.
The member stood here this evening, and unfortunately his comments reflect that the Liberals do not even understand what balancing landlord-tenant legislation is all about. When you have two parties, one with significantly more natural power than the other, you do not balance their legal rights equally or you have given the advantage to the landlord. If you want to create balance in the rental sector, you have to give the weaker of the two parties in the relationship the strength to be equal to that with whom he or she is dealing.
The member suggested, for example, that his rent review system sees only 83% of landlords not going beyond the basic guideline, only 17% going over the guideline and only 5% taking excessive increases. The former minister knows full well it is not the case, that maybe 17% in any given year go above the guideline but eventually everybody goes above. The reality is it puts the lie to the position that the minister takes that this bill will hurt anyone.
We appreciate the intent that the government expressed when it introduced this bill, that it was to limit the outrageous rent increases and to say tenants should not have to shoulder the burden of luxury renovations. But while we appreciate the intent and support the principle, we cannot agree with how they went about it.
I have made suggestions for this interim legislation which would have accomplished the same thing of limiting the outrageous increases which were relatively few in number and it would have made sure that the luxury renovations were not supported by tenants. One thing would have been to allow only necessary repairs. The other thing we could have done was to bring in a cap. The third thing we could have done was to bring in provisions that would discourage landlords from deliberate ongoing neglect.
I made very specific proposals. I hope the government will take a look at them, because we do need a replacement for this badly flawed legislation.
Who was the member talking to? The member for Scarborough North is just talking to himself, and he did that for about two or three years when he was minister of the same ministry. I have to tell members, the people of Ontario have not forgotten the mess that the Liberals made of the housing and rental industry in the province. The member stands up here and sounds like an eloquent person. He is not, not when he goes back to the kind of behaviour he has conducted himself on when he was a minister of the same ministry.
I think the people of Ontario are not thrilled with the backlog, and I just want to commend the member for Burlington South for his way of bringing out that it was terrible. Now the member for Scarborough North comes up and sounds like a pontificate who is going after the NDP. I have to tell him, they are just as bad as him or maybe worse, but to have the member calling the kettle black is really something I find appalling.
I think the member and all of us have to sit back and understand that there is a real issue at stake here. It has to do with the tenants in the province of Ontario. I think we have to get on with that and deal with the real issue.
I want to tell the honourable member for Markham that black is beautiful. Bill 51 has been attacked by the honourable member for Markham; it seems they were asleep then, when it was going through, and they are asleep now, because there were public hearings all over the province, not this consultation, a select group of people, like what the NDP would do.
If the honourable member was saying he did not know when I was going around and I did not say anything at that time, where was he then? This went around the province and I as the minister went to every single hearing of the committee, even in Ottawa, when the NDP decided to bring out all the tenants and they applauded the way we were doing it. So I would say to the honourable member for Markham, no matter what side of the floor he sits on, he will still be sleeping.
As a matter of fact, the member for the NDP should wake up, get a policy in place and let us have some good debates and stop bringing in Bill 4 and thinking that is a housing policy.
Last Wednesday evening, when we were debating this bill, I must say that I listened with a growing sense of frustration with the NDP's lack of understanding of the points made by this side of the House. Perhaps the government also feels the same feeling of frustration, in fairness to it. Maybe they feel we do not understand their point.
The government has tried consistently to paint the Conservative Party as caring only for landlords and business. This just simply is not true. As a newly elected official determined to truly represent all of the people in my riding, I want to work with the Minister of Housing to develop policy that will provide our tenants with safe housing.
I recognize the depth of feeling of tenants' groups towards this legislation and I have sat with some of my tenants to discuss their concerns. In fact, the president of one very large tenants' group spent all of last weekend, actually the previous weekend, putting together a position paper which has been very helpful to me. I will be bringing forward these very thoughtful ideas when we are considering this in committee. I want. however, to make certain points in my time here today.
First of all, the present system does not work correctly. That is clear. Second, the problems of affordability and availability are not dealt with in this legislation. Third, the problem of repairs are real and must be addressed if we truly care about tenants. Fourth, there is a role for the private sector in the rental industry. Fifth, the NDP appears not to appreciate that retroactive legislation is detrimental to the economic health of Ontario.
The right to decent and affordable housing should be and must be available to all residents in this province. While the NDP likes to portray itself as the defender of tenants, the reality is that the Progressive Conservative Party has always cared for the wellbeing of tenants. In fact, it was our party that brought rent controls in in the first place. But we clearly differ from the government as to the manner in which these tenants' rights are achieved. Common sense, not ideology, is needed here. Unless home ownership becomes miraculously affordable and available, there must be a good supply of rental accommodation, and that means rental accommodation that is affordable, clean, safe and well maintained.
I want to repeat the remarks made in this House on 2 May 1990 by the then Minister of Housing, Mr Sweeney: "First of all, let us remember where the existing legislation came from. Let us remember -- and give credit where it is due -- that a change and a rewriting and a redrafting of the then existing rent review legislation was part of the accord between the New Democratic Party and the Liberals back in 1985 and 1986." So we know that this terrible legislation that everybody, apartment owners and apartment renters, are complaining about was a product of the NDP.
The 1986 legislation was a compromise between landlords and tenants with the intention of protecting the tenant from unfair rent hikes and unscrupulous landlords, and of giving the landlord a fair return on his investment in rental housing. It has been a failure on all counts.
I agree with the honourable Minister of Housing when he spoke at great length in this House on 11 December describing the faults of the present legislation. I disagree when he says that the present legislation offers tenants no protection. Perhaps a fairer description would be that it offers inadequate protection. It certainly is costly and I ask if we will see the $41 million spent annually on the present rent review process returned to general revenue or allocated to help alleviate the supply problem.
Bill 4, designated to buy this government time while it develops its own rent control legislation, will create more problems than it will solve. To replace the inequities in the present law with new inequities is neither fair nor responsible, and to cause increased hardships to tenants, the very people the NDP claims to be protecting, makes it ridiculous.
Tenants need a fair rent increase, but they also need safe and well-maintained buildings in good supply. It is a fact that only 20% of rental units have gone before rent review, and of this 20% only 5.7% have had large increases. So what we have is the Legislature tied up for days, an entire government department in a stalemate and our rental industry thrown into chaos in order to deal with abuses by a few landlords against a small percentage of the units.
I agree with the honourable minister when he says that these people need help, but this is the way to cause massive unemployment in supply and contracting industries, panic among potential investors and hardship for all tenants who want to live in safe, well-maintained buildings. I think that there are other ways, fair ways to resolve this problem.
The two vital problems of rental accommodation are affordability and availability. Bill 4 will only marginally affect affordability, while drastically reducing potential availability. Taking a position on the single issue of rent increases will not solve the current problem. What is needed is an overall housing strategy.
In a 19 April 1990 NDP press release, the Premier used the following statistics to illustrate the need for affordable housing: 200,000 households are caught in the cycle of homelessness. There are 41,000 households representing 71,000 people on waiting lists for financially assisted housing. Apartment vacancy rates for Ontario are 0.8% or eight apartments per 1,000. One third of Ontario's tenant households, which is approximately 380,000, pays over 30% of their income on rent. These problems of homelessness, poverty and supply are the real cause of the housing problem in Ontario. These figures prove a desperate and crying need for both affordable and available rental accommodation.
But what is the government's response? It is to restrict all rents, including luxury accommodation, to the rise in inflation. It is very curious that with the luxury condos which are freely available on the market and have not been covered by rent review, the rents are actually falling in a free market system. Why is the government rushing to pass a bill that will radically change the rental industry of Ontario? I would ask the Minister of Housing to explain why his energy and that of his department have been spent protecting the 73.4% of the tenant population able to pay market rents. These tenants have less than 30% of the gross household income in rent.
The rent moratorium will prevent substantial rental increases to both luxury and low-income units, but fails to address any of the real housing needs in this province. The poor families of this province will still be without warm beds this winter. In fact, the minister's failure to address the problem of availability in the face of a vacancy rate that is now at 1% means that tenants are kept hostage to their present buildings.
The Minister of Housing may say that the availability will be dealt with later. It is to be the second part of his housing plan. The minister should tell that to the homeless or those paying more than 70% of their income for rent.
I say to the minister that this is a far more complex issue than he would have us believe. Restricting rents to the rate of inflation will please some tenants' groups. Some tenants may accept living in run-down apartments in buildings clearly needing necessary repairs just so they can continue to pay low rents, but other tenants understandably want to have upgraded premises and to live in buildings where necessary repairs are done. Some tenants worry about the safety of their buildings when repairs are neglected. No one disagrees with the minister when he talks of tenants needing protection from exorbitant and unnecessary renovations, but the truth is that 80% of Ontario's tenants have never been before rent review. The minister's misguided legislation will see those apartment owners reluctant to plan major repairs, knowing that they will not recover any losses they may have.
Renovation costs are real. Eighty per cent of the rental units in Ontario are 20 or more years old and in need of major repairs. My honourable colleague the member for Dufferin-Peel spent a considerable length of time explaining the cost benefits of the maintenance of older buildings versus the replacement costs. The building operating cost index suggests that 15.6% be set aside for building maintenance, but many major capital expenditures cost 100% or more of the yearly rent.
Let's just check some figures. Take a 20-unit apartment building taking rents for each unit of $500 per month; 15.6% gives the owner just slightly more than $7,000 a year to pay for all renovations and repairs. Eventually old buildings need major capital expenses.
This hypothetical case gets a leak in the roof. A new roof costs $15,000. What is this government's advice to the owner? Let the tenants get wet? Oops, wrong choice. That is not an option because of the Residential Rental Standards Board. Go to the bank and mortgage the building? Oops, wrong again. That is not an option because the banks stopped giving loans for apartment repairs when the government made it impossible for the landlord to recover his expenses. The minister should tell me, what shall our owner do? Walk away and turn over his assets to the government? We have already heard a lot who are prepared to do this. Is that the only option this government has for all of the small apartment owners in this province?
What the government is doing with this legislation is driving the private sector out of the rental market. Is it the government's agenda to become the sole developer of rental accommodation in the province? Can we afford that direction?
Last week in the House, my leader and I pointed out to the honourable minister that government built and government subsidized units were costing the taxpayers of this province more money, in some examples more than twice the money, compared to units constructed by the private sector. Is this responsible government?
Is there a hidden plan to nationalize the rental industry in this province? If so, let the government then announce that platform, compensate apartment owners and explain the costs to the taxpayers. Governments cannot and should not bear the burden of developing housing that meets the needs of all of our population. Governments should be prepared to assist lower-income Ontarians who are unable to pay for decent, affordable accommodation. In fact, during the last election our party ran on a very clear platform that we believed in shelter allowances for those people in need of help.
Government should not be assuming a role in which it is not qualified to act and clearly, listening to some of the comments I have heard from the NDP, it obviously does not understand the economics of the development industry.
Michael Melling, former chairman of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, in an interview on CBL-AM stated, "I know and I believe that the vast majority of tenants and landlords in this province get along most of the time and the vast majority of landlords are not in any way attempting to take advantage of their tenants or treating them badly."
We all know and accept the fact that there are some landlords who have used rental legislation in a very negative way that people are paying for, but legislation should not just be to blanket those problems. We should address those in a more sensitive way, and there are ways of creating legislation that can do that.
It is the reality today in Ontario, direct from the mouth of one of the province's chief representatives for tenants. That reality does not fit in with the good guys, bad guys ideology of the honourable Minister of Housing, but it is a reality despite him.
While the intentions of this government may have been good, the consequences will be chaos. This intrusive legislation will drive investors even farther from the rental market. The supply of new units will decline and the shortage of good, affordable units will increase.
The Minister of Housing has removed the right of choice for tenants, the right to live in a properly maintained building even if it means an increase in rent to pay for the improvements. There is a price for safety. That is also a reality the minister may not like, but pretending it will not happen will not ease the situation.
If this government has as its true intention to protect tenants from high rents, will it not now commit to stop the imposition of market value reassessment on Metropolitan Toronto? This unfair tax system hurts tenants and will lead to an allowable increase in rents. Let me tell members how this works with rental housing. The buildings, including the buildings that have had the so-called marble entrances put in, are the ones that have already been through rent review, and yes, there are some buildings where they have gone back and back and back, and the rent has gone up. The government is not going to stop them. They have already got their rents at a very high level.
Under market value reassessment, I will tell members how it works. The assessed value of the building is based on the market value of the building. In an investment property the assessment is based on the income floor of the building. So those buildings which have already had the high rental increase will in fact get the highest assessment. The buildings which are in terrible repair and need work will get a very low assessment because they have low incomes because they have not been through the whole rent review process.
So the people who have gone through the indignity of having their rents increase over and over again -- and yes, there are examples of bad landlords who have really used the system -- are going to be hit again by market value reassessment, and they are going to have much, much higher taxes. It has been estimated that property taxes, if unchecked, will account for approximately five months' rent by 1995.
If this government is interested in truly addressing affordability, then it should address that as an urgent matter. I have asked in this House whether members are prepared to stick with the election promise and I have not got a suitable response from their party. I am saying we believe in affordability, but you have to have affordability of buildings that are properly maintained.
This government's legislation absolutely ignores the fact that some buildings have been through rent review over and over again and will get higher taxes, and the people who have not had repairs done will get modest taxes.
I am going to this whole question of retroactive legislation, and frankly I am surprised when we looked at retroactive legislation. It would have been very easy to have announced legislation in this House which said, "As of this day, we will not allow any further renovations until we have passed permanent legislation," and the effect of that would have clicked in in three months. Any rental applications with respect to renovations would have been honoured up to that point. Many landlords have gone ahead with renovations which were legal under the existing laws and in all good faith they went through with renovations, went to the bank.
I have a landlord who has a 35-unit apartment building. He and two other partners bought it. It is their sole property investment other than their own homes. They have gone forward with a renovation, which was needed, of $140,000. They have owned the building for three years. It is their intention to keep the building. They went to the bank and the bank said, "No, you haven't enough collateral in the building." They have secured the loan against their own houses and now they are being told that all of those expenditures, of the $140,000 that they were investing, they could only cut off at $135,000. They are going to be hurt by this legislation. I cannot understand this government, which says that it cares about people, making a cutoff date which did not at least acknowledge the people who had legally borrowed money for renovations up to that point.
If the government had said, "Okay, from this point on until we have the permanent legislation, we're going to cool renovations," I think it would have a lot less heat from these benches. It sends out the worst message to the whole of the world, and let us be under no misunderstanding: Ontario and Canada still rely on investments from other countries. When we send out the message that we -- and I am saying "we" in the sense of this Legislature -- will pass legislation which will retroactively take away rights which were legally given to somebody and under which he had created a financial structure, it sends out the worst message about our province. I have heard over and over again discussions in this House about a made-in-Canada recession. Indeed we are going to have a made-in-Ontario super-recession, because investment will not come to this province.
In summation -- and quite frankly I got two thirds of the way through my prepared speech and I just found I have to say these things that I have just said -- we have to make sure that we send the right message out to the rest of the world, and the minister has the ability even now to make amendments to his legislation so that it would not be retroactive. It is only a three-month window and he will stop people going into bankruptcy. If he wanted to be very, very selective and find buildings where they have not done the work, fine. I suspect that our benches would say yes, we can go along with that if they haven't done the work and they are putting in applications for renovations to be done. But those people who have spent money so far and have worked within the legislation should not be penalized.
The previous government tried this, and I must tell members it took almost two years before a policy was established. There were eight tenants and eight landlords who got together and determined, and I think almost at the end they agreed the best way to do this is through consultation.
I would think that today this government, by this passage of Bill 4, the retroactive legislation, not only is contrary to what had gone on previously, but I suppose it will have to reinvent the wheel. How do you go and establish a policy without consulting with the people? I would agree with that member when he says that yes, sending out the message to all the people of Ontario is not the best idea to cut back and to say to everyone that we will pass the retroactive legislation, the point being that something needs to be done.
There are some good landlords and some bad landlords, but in order to mitigate the problem you do not take a sledgehammer or a bulldozer to cut down a sapling. That is precisely what this government has done. I would agree certainly with the member for Eglinton, who has made the greatest policy recommendations. She has put forward a number of points. She said quite distinctly that we need to look at this legislation again. Consequently, that is the voice that should also take some precedence when we examine this legislation.
I would just like to draw him out further on that issue which pertains to tenant protection. I think one of the things that many people have accused Conservatives of, and accused them falsely and wrongly, is that we are not interested in tenant protection. I really believe that implicit to the whole argument that the member for York Mills is presenting is very much the need to protect tenants.
I would not mind if the member could expound further, and if even you, Mr Speaker, could extend his time limit so that he could elaborate upon that important aspect of his presentation.
There were a couple of comments that were made in regard to reinventing the wheel. I think it is not a question of reinventing the wheel; it is a question of trying to make it unsquare and make it round so that it is functional. I think basically that is what we are trying to do.
I think one of the important things that we have to keep in mind when we are talking about this is that what this debate is all about is not to talk about rent control legislation; we are talking about putting together a moratorium to allow us the time to be able to consult with landlords, tenants, other interested groups and other members of the House in order to fix some of the inadequacies that we find within the rent control legislation presently.
We all know that there are problems in regard to the whole situation, when it comes to the flipping of properties and how those increases can be passed on to the tenants. From this side of the House, and I think there are concerns on both sides of the House, there are some inadequacies that have to be answered. To be able to put ourselves in the position to do that, the moratorium had to be put in place in order to allow time for the government, all members of the House and various people who are interested to sit down and talk with those people who are affected in regard to putting together good rent control legislation that reflects the 1990s and reflects the needs of the tenants, and as well some of the needs of the landlords.
We recognize that if this had not been done, if we had just sat back and said the moratorium is not going into place, we would have had a situation where some of the landlords would have jumped the gun somewhat and tried to pass rent increases on to their tenants that would have been more than what would have been allowed under our legislation. We are put in a position, by putting together this moratorium, which allows the government and allows all the members of this House who are concerned on this very important issue to sit down with those people who are affected and not to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to rent control legislation, because we recognize that there are some good points about the old legislation, but to turn around and put the legislation in such a way that reflects the concerns of both tenants and landlords of this province and moves into the 1990s.
I know the member would say, "Yes, there were changes made after the accord" and I recognize that. Nevertheless, there was a framework under which landlords were allowed to go to rent review and they would undertake renovations which were needed, and many of those renovations are very costly. If you get into underground parking garages, $1 million is not a small amount of money. It can easily go just on that renovation alone. They went to the banks and they borrowed it in the absolute legal framework that they were allowed to pass that back.
We are now saying, notwithstanding that they have spent that money, "Tough." There are many people who will go bankrupt, and the government may say: "Ha, ha, no problem if they go bankrupt. They are all fat-cat landlords." There are many people who own one building. This is their life's savings and yes, they have bought it maybe with not a huge amount of cash down, but I say to members they bought it legally with an amount of cash.
The objective of this legislation is to facilitate equity and fairness for all involved parties. I would also like to remind the House that there are many honest, good landlords in Ontario. These landlords who have not used the 1986 Residential Rent Regulation Act to avail themselves of a financial bonanza at the expense of tenants need not fear the minister's amendments. Those who have not behaved fairly with tenants of this province will certainly have cause for concern, and so they should.
In Middlesex, I have been contacted by tenants who have become the victims of the 1986 rent regulations act, victims of landlords who used this act to gouge and intimidate the people who are their tenants. It is time someone stood up and said that these tenants matter, that the victimization will stop. I believe that this moratorium announced by the minister is the first step in that kind of positive action, and I also note that he and this government are committed to making sure that the citizens of Ontario are victimized no more.
The current rent regulations act allows landlords to seek rent increases over and above regular repairs. These landlords can force tenants to pay for not just luxury renovations but all manner of equipment and paraphernalia if the landlord indicates in his rent review application that these expenditures are connected to the rental accommodation.
In this regard, abuses of the most excessive nature abound in Middlesex, as I am sure they abound in other areas of Ontario. There is an apartment complex in the eastern part of my riding where the landlord has undertaken elaborate renovations to the lobby and stairwells of his building. The cost of new carpet, paint and lighting fixtures has most assuredly been passed along to the tenants, many of whom are seniors, single parents, disabled people and minimum-wage earners. The increase commonly experienced by these people are in the 30% to 40% range. In the meantime, their apartments are in a disgraceful state of repair because the landlord has not bothered to repair the roof. The damage caused to units make many of them unliveable. Plaster and insulation is missing in some units, and the exterior bricks are plainly visible. Windows in other units deteriorated to the point that even modest rainfall leaves the apartment flooded.
Some of these tenants, many of whom are long-time residents, have become so frustrated that they were and are paying for their own repairs. The landlord's investment is not only secure, but these people are upgrading this building at their expense. Where is the justice in that? I say that the opposition members who rise to cry out for these poor landlords who the opposition insists will not be able to finance proper maintenance should recall this situation and cry out for the tenants.
There may be some inside this House who might respond to the situation I have described with the suggestion that these people simply move. For many, the cost of first and last month's rent, in addition to moving expenses, is simply impossible to finance. These people are elderly, poor and alone. Some are even frightened at the prospect of leaving a home that they have had for a number of years. Their needs, their situations must be considered by this government.
There are others in Middlesex who have been victims of nothing less than psychological terror from a landlord determined to maximize his profits no matter what. This landlord has not broken the letter of the law or the regulations of the 1986 rental act. What he has done is behave in what can only be described as an immoral and despicable manner. He has, quite legally, purchased excessive equipment -- snowplows, tractors, trucks, cars, mowers, graders and a satellite dish -- representing hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenditures, all financed by senior citizens. Their rents have increased by as much as 100%. When these seniors protest, he produces an eviction notice, complete with creative accusations. This landlord watches with whom these people visit. He monitors their tenants' association and he harasses them wherever and whenever he can.
All of these actions are technically within the law, technically all right with respect to the 1986 regulations because he claims he behaves within the obligations of a watchful landlord protecting his property and his tenants. Yet these actions are in truth unconscionable to any fairminded person.
These are the people of my riding. These are some of the tenants of Middlesex. They are not unique. People in this kind of situation live in Essex, Kent, Chatham, Metropolitan Toronto, Sudbury and Ottawa -- all over Ontario. The time is long past for protection for these tenants, for real rent control.
Let us all save our outrage for the injustices committed against these tenants rather than for those poor, poor landlords alluded to by some of the honourable members opposite, landlords who are so economically oppressed that they can only afford to buy a $4-million apartment building or a 41-unit apartment building or only three buildings at a time.
Let's also allow our priorities to take these tenants into account. It is time.
With respect to equity and fairness for all parties, I would say that this piece of legislation which the government brought in does not exactly do that.
Very quickly, I would also like to say with respect to this piece of legislation that the minister should have made amendments that distinguish between luxury repairs and renovations and necessary repairs and renovations. I think the legislation we are dealing with today does not do that and effectively treats all renovations and repairs as things that should be ongoing and does not distinguish between luxury and necessary repairs.
I think back to my days as a tenant activist. I was the founding vice-president of our apartment complex's tenants' association. I was a tenant in the early and mid-1970s, a time when people were extremely concerned. In those days we talked about gouging and we talked about unjustifiable rent increases. We knew that the housing market was very, very tight and that there were many situations of landlords taking advantage of tenants.
I remember, as a member of that tenants' association, arguing that something had to be done. Tenants, while they were and are very reasonable people, wanted to ensure there was justification for rent increases. Tenants wanted a well-maintained, decent place to live back in the 1970s, and they still want that today.
As a tenant, I also remember that I wanted the opportunity to have a choice in where I lived, and I was very concerned that the vacancy rate was limiting choices for people who did not have the choice of home ownership. I remember saying that what I wanted was fairness, a reasonable rent, a clean and well-maintained home and to be sure that my neighbours and I could count on a system that was in place that would ensure fairness.
We founded a tenants' association. We were very supportive in 1974 when the rent control system was brought into place, and it was not long after that we started to realize that the very system we thought was there to protect us was creating some problems in and of itself. We saw our buildings begin to deteriorate. We saw that maintenance was not kept up. Things we had taken for granted in the beautification of our courtyards, our walkways and so forth started to deteriorate.
When I decided to seek provincial office and run in the riding of Oriole in 1985, I remember one of the issues in that campaign we discussed often was how we could understand the different points of view and the different interests. On the one hand, the tenants wanted fair and justifiable rent increases, they wanted a clean and well-maintained building, they wanted to make sure they were not being gouged but that their homes were being maintained. I remember saying, on the other hand, that we understood landlords on the whole wanted to be good landlords and wanted a chance to participate, although we were very sceptical.
In 1985, following the momentous election in May and the change of government, I was part of a process that encouraged nine tenant representatives and nine landlord representatives to come together to see if they could reach an accommodation that would achieve some common goals.
Some of the people in this House might remember that I was a member of the committee that examined then Bill 51 in detail. I took the opportunity to review that record as we were beginning the discussion on this new Bill 4. I remember at that time those of us who served on that committee -- and I see some of my colleagues here who participated in that debate -- talking at length about the fact that this was a delicate balance of often-competing interests. I remember we all strove for those same goals so that tenants and landlords both would be treated fairly.
We agreed that a rent review system had to be in place to protect tenants. We rejected absolutely the kind of free market environment that we had experienced in the early 1970s and that tenants -- and I was one -- rejected, saying, "This does not offer us fairness and protection."
During that discussion and debate in 1985, I was very impressed by the goodwill between those dedicated citizens, representatives of tenants and representatives of landlords, who came forward with a proposal for the government and said, "We think this is fair."
As we went through that discussion and the clause-by-clause debate, we said time and again, "We are enshrining in legislation that which will be difficult to change, because it will require an amendment to the act." We talked about how there might need to be fine-tuning of that legislation and that only time would tell if it was working.
I recently noted with interest an article on the editorial page of the Toronto Star. It spoke to how that legislation, enacted in 1986, was working and the debate and the discussion that had gone on since then. It put the facts, I thought, very succinctly. I would like to quote some parts of the article.
"Premier Bob Rae exploited the tyranny of words effectively to push all the right buttons when he campaigned for tighter rent controls during last summer's election campaign. A wordsmith without a policy, Rae authored a Marxian drama in which downtrodden tenants were sacrificed by the Liberal government's rent review legislation to a landed class of villains.
"In the rich texture of our emotive language, Rae transformed the Liberal rent review process into a form of economic eviction. This was the debate that we had last summer in this province. From anecdotal evidence, Rae compiled his class warfare statistical base. While Rae defended the oppressed with his gifted tongue, nobody bothered to ask what the precise if sterile numbers actually had to say."
I want to cite the figures contained in that article; they were sifted from Statistics Canada's "mind-numbing, machine-readable Canadian socioeconomic information management system database," according to the article. It said:
"The former government brought in its rent review system allowing landlords to apply for a pass-through of cost to their tenants in 1986."
That is the piece of legislation I was very active in, both in policy formation -- in bringing together landlords and tenants -- and as a member of the legislative committee that reviewed the legislation in detail.
"In that year. the consumer price index for Toronto rose by 4.7% and the consumer price index for rent in Toronto increased by 5.0%. The following year the comparable figures were 5.0% and 4.3% and in 1989, the overall consumer price index and the rent component in Toronto increased respectively by 6.3% and 6.2%. As of October 1990, the year-over-year rate of inflation in Toronto stood at 5.3%. The rent index was up 3.6%.
"These numbers, of course, are averages, but they do suggest that there has not been any class warfare. The average landlord has not been exploiting the average tenant over the past five years. Nevertheless, anyone as skilled in metaphors as Mr Rae will tell you that people have been known to drown in a river that is on average only a few inches deep. Some people, no doubt, have drowned in rivers of rent increases. Many of them did not have a lifejacket that a decent income provides."
Another important part of this article says:
"The Liberal rent review process was an acknowledgement of this basic fact and, on average, it seemed to work. Because it was abused by a few landlords, Rae, enamoured with his own class-warfare election rhetoric, has hammered all landlords over the head for two years while he tries to find yet another system that will inevitably have to allow landlords to cover their costs. In the meantime, landlords will find a way to match what comes in with what goes out. Since their inflow will be rigidly regulated, they will tighten up their outflow by allowing their buildings to run into the ground. Stripping away all of Rae's emotive language, the precision of mathematics suggests that Rae's control equals Toronto's slums."
I point to this article because it appeared in a newspaper which has been very supportive of rent review and, back in the early 1970s, of rent control. We know, however, the tenants want a balance. They want to make sure that their rights are protected, that their rents are justified and that they have a clean and a decent place to live.
This particular piece of legislation, Bill 4, will give tenants security over the next two years. However, does it do what the NDP promised to do during this summer's campaign? I would like for a few minutes to review what actually was said and how we arrived at this place today. I think this is extremely important because I have said this bill will give tenants security and I think what tenants in this province need right now is some security.
On 2 August the Globe and Mail reported:
"Bob Rae promised that an NDP government would insist annual ceilings for rent increases not be exceeded and that adequate maintenance be ensured."
On 18 August, An Agenda for People stated:
"The New Democrats would bring in rent control. That means one increase a year, based on inflation. There would be no extra bonuses to landlords for capital or financing costs. It's simple, it's fair and it avoids the bureaucracy which has frustrated both tenants and small landlords."
Implicit in that promise was the elimination of the rent review process.
On 7 November, after assuming office on I October, it was reported in the Toronto Sun that the new minister, the member for Windsor-Riverside, said: "No decision has been made on how the government will deal with Ontario's rent review system."
On 8 November, in a number of papers, there was this quote from the new minister: "I believe you can't ignore capital improvements. We're going to have to come up with a system that recognizes that."
The NDP is in fact retreating from its hard line, the promise that it would limit landlords to one rent increase per year. This statement on 8 November, I would point out, was a significant policy reversal from the position taken by the NDP in the election just a few months before.
As I said, 48% of my constituents are tenants, and tenant issues were debated during the campaign. I remember my opponent from the NDP espousing the policy from An Agenda for People -- I call it now An Agenda for Votes -- and he was convincing people that if the NDP formed the government, this was exactly what they would do.
The minister said: "My recollection was that we had talked about dealing with a capital fund. That's certainly how I talked about it." Well, I want members to know that is not how we talked about it in the riding of Oriole during the election campaign of this summer. In fact, there is no record of the present minister discussing such a policy during the campaign or in Hansard between 1987 and 1990.
I would say with all due respect that the minister created the environment in which we find ourselves today where tenants are very uncertain about the policy of this new government, what it is going to do and what tenants can expect. Can they expect An Agenda for People? Can they expect elimination of the rent review system and its replacement by stringent rent controls?
The delicate balance we dealt with during 1985-86 and the discussions around Bill 51 gave tenants security. Yes, it was cumbersome. Yes, nobody really liked it very much. Time and time again we heard that the tenants felt it went too far in favour of the landlords, and the landlords felt it went too far in favour of the tenants. The committee came to the conclusion that those nine tenants and those nine landlords who had worked so hard to achieve that delicate balance had done a pretty good job.
The evidence, some five years later, suggests that this legislation probably, and I will say most assuredly, would need some fine-tuning because, yes, there were some abuses. But as a tenant back in the 1970s, I can tell this House that the other thing which the tenants of this province want is to make sure they have a choice to live in a rental apartment that is not run by the government. Not every tenant in this province wants to live in Ontario Housing and not every tenant in Metropolitan Toronto wants to live in either Ontario Housing or Metro Housing.
They were very, very clear about wanting to have those kinds of choices and about wanting a housing policy that would be fair and equitable and that would deal with their concerns to have a decent, affordable, clean, safe place to live.
In this province there are about 1.2 million private apartments housing over 2.5 million people. As everyone knows, there are about nine million people in this province; so, in fact, there is a significant number of tenants in the province of Ontario. We know, as well, that this particular sector employs almost 300,000 people in the province of Ontario.
We also know that over the course of the last few years the existing rent review system saw almost 85% of those tenants in this province receive increase that were at or below the guideline that was established.
I can say, as we discuss Bill 4 which is before us today, that I believe this piece of legislation will in fact be temporary. I agree with the minister when he says that this is not a good idea for the long term. I believe it will have the same kind of devastating effect on the rental stock in this province that the Progressive Conservative rent controls had in 1974. I believe we will see buildings start to crumble. I worry that North York will start to look like New York, that Oriole will start to look like the Bronx or Detroit. I worry about that because the Minister of Housing knows very well what Detroit looks like. I know his home constituency allows him the opportunity to view the slums of Detroit whenever he wishes.
During this moratorium that will bring stability to this province, I would urge that he reconsider the crazy policy articulated in the Agenda for People. At the same time, I think he owes an apology to my constituents and to the people of this province, both he and his leader who told them one thing during the election campaign and are now doing something that is completely opposite.
I hope that during this discussion they will start to understand that tenants are very reasonable people, that they want to make sure they are paying a fair and justifiable rent, that they do not particularly like the rent review system because it is cumbersome. On the other hand, they know that in order to have their buildings well maintained, in order to make sure they have a decent, clean and safe place to live, in order to make sure that their underground garages are safe and not corroding with salt and that when their balconies and their windows need replacing -- whether it is for the safety of their children who play on those balconies or for the future of their children that they want to look at energy conservation as a real alternative in this province -- those kinds of necessary and needed repairs must be encouraged and supported in a way that is fair.
I would agree that tenants are very concerned about luxury accommodation, and they should be because there have been some examples of abuse under the legislation. I think that is an issue that can be addressed during this moratorium, and it must be addressed. But I believe that tenants want value for their money. They want to make sure that their children also have a place to live and an apartment that they can rent.
Following the enactment of this piece of legislation, which I will be supporting, I look forward to the kind of discussion and debate that will lead to a rational housing policy that will include tenants in the debate, that will ensure that we as a society make it our business to house those people who are homeless, that we as a society ensure that there are affordable housing options and choices for the people of this province, that the people of Oriole who I represent and have the honour to serve in this House will understand that we are searching for that delicate balance which balances the interests of those who would build and run apartment buildings with those who would choose to live in them, and that they would agree with me that this is an opportunity for us not to be led down the socialist path of government-run housing, just as we are about to see government run a lot of things in this province that we did not think we were going to see.
I note that the members opposite are applauding the thought of government-run housing. I can say to them that my constituents in Oriole do not all want to live in government-run housing. I will stand in my place, day after day, time and again, to remind these socialists that in fact that is not what the people of this province want. Not everybody wants to live in an Ontario Housing Corp complex. People want choices. They want action and they want opportunities.
I can say that this legislation which is before us today is not fair and is not equitable, because it does not respond to those needs in the long term. I can say, however, that it does provide stability in an environment that requires stability for the time being. But I would hope that we would have a proper debate, a proper discussion and a proper consultation so that we can have the kind of approach to housing policy in the province of Ontario that I will be able to fully support and explain to the people of my constituency, and convince them that in fact all of their interests have been considered as we ensure that tenants have a clean, decent, affordable and safe place to live in this province.
The fact is that it is too complex. Under the first set of legislation up to 1986 there were 10 pages of regulations governing this bill and under the Liberals there were 125 pages of regulations. To make matters even worse, the government has made veiled comments in its conversation in this House during this debate which indicate that perhaps there were a few cases of abuse. Well, I say to the minister that both the current Minister of Housing and myself on a regular basis brought those cases of abuse forward in the Legislature and yet we had no indication from the government that it was prepared to look at those seriously and modify them.
Now we are faced, yes, with draconian legislation, but for two and a half years we have known about this situation and did nothing to stop it. Now there are whole sections of the legislation that still have not been proclaimed, and tenants are relying on those. We have done a disservice to both landlords and tenants by not having those sections proclaimed. They are another sense of broken promises from the former governing party.
There are also issues for Toronto residents as well. When taxes go up, they are passed on to the tenants. But under market value assessment there are whole sections of Toronto that will get serious tax reductions. Nothing in the legislation says that those tax reductions will be passed on. So there are serious flaws here that badly needed to be addressed and I would like the member for Oriole to be reminded of that.
The government of Ontario is not in the position where it is trying to go out and start up government housing across the province and eliminate the private sector. She alluded in her comments with regard to what she was saying that what we are trying to do is eliminate the private sector from rental units and that is not at all what this government is trying to do.
What the government is trying to do, and I think we need to be honest about this, is to plug some of the holes in the former legislation. Again, it is not a question that the whole legislation was totally inadequate, but there were some holes in it that you were able to drive a Mack truck through. Basically what we are trying to do is close those holes and give some protection to the tenants of this province.
I would like to thank the member for her comments. I think there is merit in what she is saying to a certain extent, but with regard to trying to imply that this government is in a position of trying to buy up all the rental accommodation out in the province, that is not at all what our intention is. Our intention is only to fix the rent control legislation so that the people of this province are able to get proper service when it comes to being able to rent units at an affordable price in this province.
This bill is a very fine bill. It protects the people of Ontario, and contrary to the member for Oriole when I went around in the election the people asked me if we were going to bring in some sort of legislation like this to protect the old people, to protect the pensioners and to protect the people on low fixed wages. I said that we would and I am very proud to stand here tonight as we debate this bill.
I have been an apartment dweller for 10 years and every year without fail the landlord put it to me. I got out of apartments and I bought a piece of property. I have come to Toronto and I have had to take an apartment here. I said to the landlord, "It needs redecorating." He said: "We don't do that. You'll have to do it yourself or we will do it for you." I said, "How much?" He said, "It's $500." The tenants of Ontario are still doing the inside maintenance of the buildings and nothing has changed, until this bill comes in and we get the legislation.
If that is the policy of the government caucus. then I say to them that the scenario of people living in government owned, government run apartments is not farfetched. It will be up to them to say whether or not that is their policy as we enter into a housing policy debate when they table their new legislation following this moratorium.
My colleague also had some very interesting points that I think could have resolved many of the issues that were raised and some of the abuses of the existing legislation that I think we all acknowledge. She suggested a total cap on rent increases that would be allowed in any single year. That kind of an initiative, the kind of initiative that says you can have amendments whereby landlords would have to get pre-approval, to ensure that items were genuinely required or where tenants could have more of a say in approving of those items in the building that needed to be replaced or where there could be some forum to ensure that you would have the maintenance maintained to an appropriate standard, all of these issues were addressed in her very fine remarks. She talked about the fact that there is an opportunity for us to work together because what tenants want is value for their money and a housing policy that will respond to their needs.
I would like to tell the House about these constituents who have contacted me to discuss Bill 4. As their sad situations demonstrate, this bill certainly will not solve the crisis in affordable housing. It will not lead to the construction of more rental housing stock or the maintenance and improvement of existing stock. Instead, Bill 4 will do just the opposite, because the bill will no longer allow capital expenditures to be recovered through rent increases. Fewer units will be built and building owners will be unable to afford necessary maintenance and repairs to their existing units.
I have heard from a retired couple who own a small building which they had hoped would provide a modest return on their lifetime investment and an occupation for them in their retirement years. They are conscientious owners who consulted their tenants about necessary repairs before making them. Because these building owners applied for rent increases after I July 1990, they will be unable to recover the costs of those repairs and stand to lose a large amount of their retirement savings.
Certainly the retroactive nature of this bill is one of the most unfair aspects of it. This couple was planning to live in this building and be the superintendents and caretakers of it themselves. They had the support of their tenants for the necessary repairs that were made.
Under free market conditions, these constituents might be able to recover some of their capital expenditures upon the sale of their building. However, if Bill 4 becomes law, there will be no incentive for people to purchase rental buildings and the buildings will be unlikely to appreciate in value. In fact, they will probably depreciate.
Another constituent recently spent $75,000 repairing his 20-unit town house complex, all with the authorization of the tenants. I think this is singularly significant. It is not the story of a huge landlord, a huge conglomerate company, that is gouging the tenants. These examples I am giving are of the small property owner who did consult with his tenants.
He gave them a choice of having a small increase in their rent and having a nicer place to live. It was the choice of the tenants. He too submitted his application for a rent increase after I July. He too will be unable to recover his expenses through rent increases. This constituent is likely to lose his family's income and his family home because of his financial loss. Is that fair? If we think about the amount of property and the number of tenants involved and the fact that all of the money of these two families was put into these two building complexes, now where will they be?
What about the thousands of people in the construction and manufacturing sectors who will lose their jobs when the demand for repair work and supplies disappears and new rental housing starts are virtually eliminated?
Another situation that has come to my attention involves a young couple who would like to provide rental accommodation by constructing an apartment in their house. Because of the strain of their large mortgage payments, they had hoped to build an apartment in their basement. They would have provided much needed rental housing and the modest income from that apartment in their basement would have enabled the wife to stay home with the baby they would like to have soon. Now they cannot proceed with the renovations since they will be unable to recover their costs. Their family plans are on hold too. It is rather ironical, since the former government was encouraging intensification by the construction and introduction of basement apartments and accessory apartments in single-family homes.
It is ironic that when we badly need more rental units, any incentive to build them has been eliminated by this NDP government. Can the NDP not see that rent control causes a shortage of rental housing and leads to the deterioration of rental units unless there is some provision for recovering capital expenditures through rent increases? Now, I say very carefully that when I am talking about rent increases, I am not talking about blanket, unjustified, illegal rent increases. I am talking about reasonable rent increases at the rate of inflation.
Does the NDP want to turn whole neighbourhoods in our province's large urban centres into the slums that exist in other cities which have experienced rent controls for many, many years? We are talking here about absolute rent controls without reasonable increases. I mention London, England, because it has large areas of abandoned, rotting houses that would have lasted for centuries but which at controlled rents do not pay the owners even the cost of maintenance. And so the buildings are abandoned. Accommodation that could have been housing for thousands of people is simply in an abandoned state. It does not exist any more as a place for people to live.
In the south Bronx district of New York hundreds of acres formerly devoted to rental housing are now abandoned. Everybody knows that. You see it all the time on television, and the problems that neighbourhood after neighbourhood of abandoned buildings present.
I want to emphasize that I do share the concerns of tenants. I share the concerns of those tenants who have advocated a system of rent control. I do not know a tenant who does not want to be protected from huge rental increases. But I also do not know a tenant who does not understand that this year it is going to cost more to heat and clean his building than it did last year, the same as it does for everybody in any other kind of housing. Those of us who are in town houses and apartments that maybe we own as condominiums, certainly all our increases are going up, so how come the rental unit costs do not go up?
Anyone who is renting accommodation accepts that there has to be a certain increase in cost. That is why those people in turn ask for an increase in their salaries and their wages. Goodness knows, the people across the House from us here know better than we why unions negotiate for increased wages: because costs go up, whether it is food costs, transportation costs, clothing or, most of all, shelter. Some of them have held offices, I think, in some unions in this province. If they understand why wages and salaries are negotiated for increases through union executives, they must also understand surely that it is because costs are increased.
Therefore, people who have invested their lifetime savings in buildings -- and I must say, I am not talking about the examples of offshore money that has come into Ontario and bought large apartment complexes and keeps flipping them and remortgaging them. Frankly, I do not support their applications for rent increases at all, because I see that as a system of gouging the public. I am talking about the majority of owners of rental stock in Ontario, and the majority of those owners are the small landlords. They are not the big corporations, as I said earlier.
When I tell you, Mr Speaker, that I share the concerns of tenants, I want to say that many tenants, as you and I both know, live on small, fixed incomes that are steadily being eroded by inflation. They truly feel the pinch of the rising costs of living and simply cannot afford escalating rents.
There are people in the workplace today who live in rental accommodation who are blessed with increases in their wage package every pay period. But there are a whole lot of people out there, a lot of seniors and other people on fixed incomes, people on permanent disability pensions and so forth, who simply do not have any increase to fall back on when their rents go up.
As well, many tenants have had bad experiences with landlords who collect the rent cheque but do not carry out necessary repairs on their homes. Naturally, these tenants resent paying more for rent each year. There have got to be ways that those people are protected. This bill does not do anything about that. This bill does not get at the heart of the problem. All this bill does, in fact, is create a whole new set of problems.
Tenants need and deserve a balance between the amount of rent they pay and the standard of accommodation they receive for that rent. Also, they should have the choice. If they want to pay more rent and have a more luxurious accommodation, that should be a choice. Today, with a less than 1% vacancy rate in rental accommodation in this province, there is no choice. People are lucky if they get somewhere to rent.
The ideal situation is to pay a reasonable rent as a tenant and live in a home that is well maintained. I do not think that is asking too much. The majority of fairminded business landlords in this province today want to be able to do that. They want to offer well-maintained accommodation in return for a fair market rent. They are not asking to gouge tenants as a captive payment.
What good will this piece of legislation do, this Bill 4 that we are debating tonight? Even more rental units will become run-down and substandard. Tenants do not benefit from rent control if their homes are no longer acceptable places to live. That is what is being lost in this debate. When Bill 4 aggravates our already serious shortage of rental housing, more and more tenants will be unable to find reasonable accommodation in places where we would think it was fair for people to live.
We, the legislators who must provide leadership, face a quandary. On the one hand, tenants who need or want low rents support rent control; on the other, we know that rent control hurts future generations of tenants by leading to severe shortages of housing and substandard accommodation. I believe we must protect both the needy of today and the future victims of rent control who have no voice in this debate; namely, our children, who will not be able to find affordable, decent rental housing. This will require a difficult political decision, because to protect both means to compromise. If compromise is the solution, surely we all have the intestinal fortitude to face that and make that decision and protect everybody.
There will have to be short-term adjustments before everyone will feel the long-term benefits of dismantling our rent review system. That rent review system we have had since that infamous Liberal bill was passed is a farce; it is an absolute farce. The kinds of rent increases that my tenants have had -- I go to rent review, I want to tell members that. I am not speaking of something with which I have no experience. I go to rent review hearings with my tenants and it is an absolute farce. The appeal system is a farce. The evidence that the proponents for the rent increases put in is sometimes so convoluted you cannot even find out who owns the building. It is numbered so-and-so company, owned by X partners and you try to get it all out and you find they have sold the building that year at arm's length, so-called, to another company which is so incestuously related to the company that already owns the building that it makes a laughing stock of the whole process of the existing rent review.
Frankly, I think there would be long-term benefits in dismantling our rent review or whatever we want to call it, our rent control system, because it is not working. It is not protecting tenants today and this Bill 4 is just going to make everything that much worse. Frankly, I think we could all learn a lesson about political courage from the Soviet Union and the nations of eastern Europe that are making the difficult transition from communism to capitalism. Their people have the will to live through a period of adjustment for the longer-term good of their society. Difficult times in the interim, but those people have made the choice because they have the vision and the intelligence and the insight to see that although it is a tough decision today, it is the solution in the long term.
It really is a pity that this NDP government could not show the same courage in solving our housing problems. Ironically, just as these countries are rejecting communism and moving to a free market system, Ontario's new NDP government seems bent on a socialist non-solution to our problems. Why did the Minister of Housing not consider a creative solution to our housing crisis? For instance, he could protect the needy during a phase-out of rent control by offering subsidies to those who spend more than one third of their gross income on housing costs. Once again, new rental housing stock would be built and free market forces would establish an equilibrium between supply and demand. Sadly, we know why the minister did not consider this option: It is because his government lacks vision and political courage. We can only hope that the good advice he is being offered during this debate will make him and his NDP colleagues change their minds about Bill 4.
In summation, I want to say once more that this bill is not the answer to protecting tenants, if that is what this new NDP government is preaching. If it is saying this is to protect tenants, then I have to tell it that it is not the answer to protecting tenants. How can it be? All it will do is put landlords out of business. Then where will we be? Who in his right mind would invest in rental accommodation?
Unless somebody is willing to invest in rental accommodation, where is the rental accommodation going to come from? It is not going to come from anywhere unless we are going to have it coming from the government. God forbid that is the solution. God forbid that is the road down which this government is planning to go, because we have already learned what it means when the government gets into the housing business. It subsidizes luxury condominiums that are already built. It subsidizes them at a rent in excess of what most landlords are asking for just the straight rent. The subsidy alone has been $800, $900, $1,000 or $1,100 a month. The subsidy alone has been that much. On top of that, the tenants have paid another $400 or $500.
I simply say to this government, why put public tax dollars into a business that the private sector is perfectly willing to offer for a fair return, because the fair return is going to cost less than half as much as it will cost us to allow the government to get into the business of building and providing rental accommodation?
I just have one comment to say to the member for Durham East. Actually, the member for Durham East is someone I respect and admire on a personal basis, and I particularly enjoy his sense of humour. When he stood in the House a few moments ago and said we have got to protect the pensioner, he was absolutely right. We do. But this bill is not going to protect the pensioner. I should know, I have a large number of them in my riding. There is no way that this bill will protect anybody on a fixed income. When the member for Durham East says "the pensioner," that is the person he is concerned about. It is also the person that those of us in the Progressive Conservative caucus are concerned about. We have been concerned about them for a long time when we were concerned about the legislation that the former Liberal government brought in.
All I can say in closing is that the solution is not this bill; the solution for affordable housing is not this bill. Nor is the solution for the government to subsidize luxury condominiums or to get into building housing stock in this province at the kinds of prices that it has been demonstrated exist when the government is in that business. We simply say to this government, do not try to fool the people of Ontario that Bill 4 is going to do anything for the housing crisis, nor is it going to do anything to protect those tenants.
Ask the tenants themselves whether they would rather pay a fair increase in their monthly rent and have a clean, well-maintained building to live in, or would they rather live in a place that is deteriorating and pay less rent? I think that is an insult to the people of this province. Frankly, as someone who has been into some of the older buildings that are not being maintained -- and I have seniors in some of those buildings because that is all they can currently cope with. I have gone in and I have unplugged kitchen sinks and I have put washers in taps and done very basic maintenance, which I guess because I grew up with three brothers I am able to do. I have been doing that because the landlords, as they exist in some of those buildings, have not been able to do that kind of maintenance.
With this kind of bill, people will be lucky if they ever get an electrical appliance replaced or repaired, because the landlords will simply not have any money to do that. Do not give me that line that they get the money in their rent to do it, because they do not get the money out of their rent to do it unless you give them a margin of increase to meet the costs of inflation in operating those buildings.
Operating a rental building is the same as any other business. I think that if we have a conscientious government, it will respect that. They will recognize that anybody who makes an investment, no matter what the business is -- and in this case we are talking about rental housing as a business -- is entitled to a fair return on his money. This is not a communist bloc country. Why should we, in the province of Ontario, start stepping backwards into the dark ages, when those countries in eastern Europe have stepped out into the sunlight?
I simply say that Bill 4 is not the solution and we hope that this government will very soon come to its senses and recognize where the economies are.
However, I do have a problem with one of the comments that the honourable member made, and that was comparing union wage increases and landlord affairs. How can she possibly compare the two? Just off the top of my head, cost of living and compensation are the two main reasons for making a profit for the owner of whatever company we are talking about or for whatever raise we are talking about. How can she compare those and reasons for somebody wanting a raise to a landlord who is making all kinds of profit and who wants to take more and more money away from the tenants who live in the building?
Like my colleague the member for Durham East, I get ticked off and I got ticked off at that.
As far as rent control and rent review are concerned, I think all three parties in this House are at fault. It was the brainchild of the NDP, it was the implementation of the Progressive Conservatives and I think we had a little bit to do with making it worse. Now I think the NDP is giving the death knell to that.
What I would like to get back to is that the honourable member for Mississauga South referred to the USSR and the vision, courage and intelligence to tackle its problems. I am afraid they were backed into tackling their problems. It was not courage, it was not intelligence, it was not vision. It was the fact that they bankrupted their system by employing methods similar to what Bill 4 is all about. That is why they have been forced into tackling their problems.
The people with vision, courage and intelligence are the leaders of the satellite states, the ones who are leading the democracy movements over there, the ones who are putting their lives on the line by agitating for free elections, by organizing for free elections and by putting their names on the ballot in free elections. I am referring to the people of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine. I would like to take my hat off to them because it is people like them who are leading to the liberalization of the Soviet Union because the bureaucracy, the status quo, just wants to maintain the power it holds.
The important thing to realize -- and I do not think either the opposition party or the third party realizes it -- is that Bill 4 is a stopgap measure on the part of this government to stop the excesses that are going on, not by every landlord but by landlords out there who are simply seeing loopholes in the present legislation that they are finding it very easy to take advantage of.
I would like to say that as the government of the day, we are going to be looking very seriously at putting together policy that will work for everyone. In the meantime, we have to stop the kind of gouging that is going on out there: that is why we put the two-year period in place. The two-year period is going to be shortened dramatically, subject to how well we as a government receive co-operation from the other parties in the House. That is very clear to me. Why do we not understand that? Why do we not listen and understand that? We are going to shorten that period as much as we possibly can.
On a personal note, believe it or not, my father was a landlord. He owned a building in Dundas. He told me he always said: "I'll buy the building and I'll treat the tenants right. I'll make sure that included in the rent is the ability for me to carry on with the ongoing maintenance of the building." He was not a rich man, but at least he had the sense to do that.
Over the weekend, the Minister of Labour made a comment in response to one of the landlord organizations which referred to the tens of thousands of jobs that would be lost as a result of this legislation. The Minister of Labour responded that this was not because of Bill 4; it was because of the recession. He has no facts to rely on that. I think that is the problem with all of this legislation; there are no facts being set forward. Also, as the member for Scarborough North commented in his remarks, the government simply has no policy; it is shooting before it thinks.
The government continually talks about consulting. It has not consulted with everyone. It has not consulted with the construction industry. It has not consulted with the tenants. It has not consulted with the landlords. It has its dogmatic approach as to how it is going to solve a very serious problem, but it has not analysed all the issues.
I think the member would have to admit that the major cost of living for all of us is housing, then food, clothing and so forth; so I ask him, is it fair to ask people who own property to invest in that property as a business investment without getting a fair return on their investment? That is simply all we are talking about. Is it fair that people who can afford to rent an apartment that may be nicer than another apartment do not get an opportunity to do that? If he wants to take everybody down to the lowest common denominator, that may be the choice of his party. I can tell him that our party is in favour of giving tenants a choice of accommodation and, most important, that it is well-maintained accommodation.
I say to the member for Norfolk, when he talks about a stopgap measure, that is exactly what this government is providing, a stopgap measure, and it should be ashamed of that because we are not talking about rich people. I ask any of the members who went out to our front steps a week ago and saw the people who were out there, pleading with this government not to bring this bill forward, to show me any one of them who is a rich person. They are the average men on the street who are simply saying, "Help us, as tenants and landlords."
We have heard a lot of debate today, and I am somewhat confused. I am confused that the opposition really does not understand the tenants' feelings. Tenants' feelings are important, very, very important. Landlords have feelings as well. I am not saying they do not. Yes, they have feelings and, for the most part, a lot of them have money as well.
We have heard that the NDP will turn buildings into slums. That is another phrase that really annoys me. I do not blame the NDP, and nobody should blame the NDP, for this legislation. This legislation is called for. If buildings turn into slums, I say it is because of neglect by the landlords. I say it is because they do not want to clean, repair or properly maintain their buildings.
I am looking forward to a year from now when this argument comes up, as I am sure it will, and when I, as the Yorkview representative, will make it a point to enter the building when somebody calls me and to check out what has been happening and whether or not somebody has been cleaning or maintaining the building as he should. It is not being done now. Day in and day out, I am sure all of us are getting calls in our constituency offices telling us they have problems. They phoned for a stove, the burner on their stove is not working and it has been three months and nothing has been done.
What I am hearing here is that landlords cannot afford it and will not be able to afford it. It is their responsibility to find a way of affording it and, if they cannot properly manage their building, then there is something wrong.
My government has responded to the desperate need to stop the wave of unnecessary rent increases which the previous governments carelessly allowed to be put into effect. They did not listen. The tenants have been crying. They have been crying for years. They did not listen, and now we hear about the landlords crying. We are prepared to listen to anybody, and we are prepared to listen to the landlords as well. We want to be fair to everybody. We are listening to the cries of the tenants and we are doing something about it, a lot more than the previous government did.
A lot of tenants are out on the streets because of the Liberal rent review system. A lot of tenants in my riding may be out on the street in no time because they cannot afford a 55% increase -- that is just as an example; they cannot afford a 35% increase -- and they cannot afford it because they do not have the money. The landlords have the money.
I too have gone to rent review hearings. I too believe there is a fault in rent review, and I have seen it. In response to the people in my riding who are complaining about why the rent is going up in their particular unit, I say that they should investigate as well. I am not just standing up here and talking for no reason. They will find that, for the most part, it has to do with neglect. A lot of the work being done in the units has to be done because of neglect by landlords. When a driveway needs resurfacing or a roof needs to be redone, I say investigate it and find out why these necessary repairs have to be looked after. The chances are it is because of neglect. We are protecting the tenants from this sort of behaviour, this sort of neglect. This legislation does that.
Across the province, 330,000 tenant families have had to face rent increases above the rent review guidelines -- that is a lot of families -- increases that at times have been even more than 100%. That is incredible. How can somebody take that particular blow? It is incredible. Our previous legislation allowed that to happen.
In the last three years the average rent increase allowed by rent review was 11%, way over the rate of inflation -- and that is just an average. The statistics are incredible. If I may just relate to my riding for a minute, almost 7,000 people have been affected by the previous legislation; 7,000 people in Yorkview have had increases because of the rent review system allowing that to happen. I am not talking about just average increases; I am talking about increases because of neglect.
We talk about landlords suffering and contractors losing out on jobs and having to lay off workers. There was an article in the Globe and Mail today, I believe it was. There is a quote from Julie Davis, who is the secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour; it starts: "When tenants pay rent, some of it is supposed to go to the maintenance and upkeep of buildings. So if jobs are lost, I think it's the responsibility of the landlords, rather than the legislation." That is true.
During the campaign I had the privilege of visiting a number of buildings in my riding as well, and I remember one particular building that is having a problem with rent review and one particular tenant who talked to me out in the hallway and who showed me the renovations that happened in the building. He pointed out the carpet, he pointed out the lights, he pointed out the stucco work and he pointed out how luxurious it was and how unfair it was for him to pay for that luxury when he did not have a say as to whether it should be there or not. That is happening. It is happening all over the place and, yes, I have a problem with that as well.
Due to its complexity and costliness, changes had to be made to the Residential Rent Regulation Act of 1986. Tenants were at the mercy of their landlords for too long, unfairly hit with ridiculous, unjustifiable increases in the last few years. When I hear statements from the opposition that tell us we do not understand about housing, that ticks me off as well. I may sound like a ticked-off man, but I think I have reason to sound like a ticked-off man. I do not understand why the opposition is opposed to this. I do not understand why the landlords are opposed to this. We will listen to anybody. We will listen to landlords. The minister has made it quite clear that the door is open. This legislation is protecting the tenants.
I really believe that once this legislation comes into play, everybody in this House and everybody in Ontario will be pleased, providing that we work as a family and as a unit. If landlords are going to take the position that they do not want anything to do with the government after this, they do not want to do anything with maintenance and they do not want to do anything with their tenants, then there will be a problem. I want to address that now, because later it will be a problem, so I ask the landlords out there, as well as our opposition across from me, and everybody else in Ontario, to please put our heads together, put our thoughts together and work together.
I would tell him, at the same time, that those very same tenants do not feel they have value for their money today, and those are examples which are not the norm; those are the exceptions. I have seen them. We have appealed to the rental standards board for work orders through the municipalities to have those rectified. The overwhelming majority of the buildings in my riding, and I believe in his, are maintained. The fact that there is no incentive in this new piece of legislation, this moratorium, to encourage any kind of better maintenance which the tenants in my riding are looking for, I think is something which is of grave concern and I am very surprised that he did not mention it in his comments.
This legislation, he says, will encourage the kind of maintenance which my tenants in the riding of Oriole want and are hoping for. There is no incentive in this legislation for that to happen. He says the door is open. At the same time, my constituents are saying to me, "We are expecting a rent control system that was promised in the Agenda for People," and they say, "You'll see, Elinor, this new government is going to do what it said it would do." I am going to be very distressed when I have to go back to them and report what I am hearing from the government benches opposite. The tenants want protection. They want value for their money. They want fairness, but they also want good maintenance.
The way I read this legislation, it is a very wide net and it simply catches those speculators who have been allowed to run rampant by the previous governments, both the Conservative government in its day, followed by the Liberal government in its day. That is who it catches, those people who pick up on a dilapidated building and do nominal improvements to it in the hope of going to rent review to have large increases in their rents, and they can turn around and sell their apartment buildings for large profits.
I do not understand the honourable member for Oriole. First she says she understands there are all kinds of minor repairs that have to be done in units, and then she says that the majority of the units are being properly maintained. I have a problem with that. She says she has knocked on all kinds of doors. Maybe she has, but I do not think she has understood the residents and their complaints and the problems that exist in the buildings. When she is saying, on one hand, that she understands that minor repairs have not been done and then she is saying, on the other hand, that the majority of the units in her riding are being maintained properly, I am sorry, I have a problem with that.
Landlords are responsible for the repairs. Landlords are responsible for the health and safety of their tenants as well, when it comes to repairs. I personally am going to note that when I personally do some visiting and inspect the units to find out whether or not they have been done, and start logging to make sure they are not playing games.
In response to the honourable member for Oriole, I say it is the responsibility of landlords to repair the buildings. Health and safety are very, very important.
When legislation of this type is introduced and it affects so many people and it is so far-reaching, the government must know the intended result and it must know the consequences of the legislation. The consequences must be fair and they must be equitable. A lot of members in this debate have been talking about the fairness and the equity.
I was pleased to see that the government side is listening very carefully to the suggestions of our critic, the member for Eglinton, to the former minister, the member for Scarborough North, and even to the third party. They have been contributing very positively to this debate.
It is important with this type of legislation that we understand what might be falling through the cracks. There are two areas, significant areas affecting a lot of people in Ontario, that are falling through the cracks with this legislation. Does this bill address the pressing needs of all Ontario tenants? No, it does not. There are over 100,000 tenants in Ontario who are not covered by this legislation, and I will refer to them in a minute.
Another matter which is falling through the cracks in this legislation affects the municipalities. There are significant issues affecting municipalities which are falling through the cracks with this legislation. Hopefully, the government will look at that when this particular legislation goes to committee.
First, I want to refer to those 100,000 tenants who are not covered by this legislation. The members opposite will know that the tenants of the Ontario Housing Corp are not covered by the Residential Rent Regulation Act. That is a very significant point, particularly when we look at the issues of this temporary rent control bill.
It is important to my riding, Mr Speaker, and it is important to you as well, coming from Ottawa-Carleton. In Ottawa-Carleton we have over 11,000 Ontario Housing Corp units with over 30,000 residents. In my riding alone there are some 4,000 tenants of the Ontario Housing Corp and I work very closely with them. As a matter of fact, in my constituency office, about 75% or 80% of the time of my constituency assistants at this point in time cover problems with Ontario Housing tenants. I feel very strongly about legislation which affects these tenants and I feel very strongly that they are falling through the cracks once again.
I am speaking to the Minister of Housing, who is chatting with his colleagues on the other side and not paying attention. The Ontario Housing Corp tenants under the Conservative government, in large measure, were falling through the cracks and to a large extent under the Liberal government they were falling through the cracks, and now with this legislation, with the New Democratic government, they are falling through the cracks once again.
I want to refer to one particular issue, and it is included in the explanatory notes of the minister's bill. I will read from that: "The criteria the minister is to consider in making an order respecting a tenant's application for reduction in rent" are certain criteria: "(a) A deterioration in the standard of maintenance; (b) a discontinuance or reduction in services or facilities; and (c) the degree to which the rental unit complies with maintenance standards."
Although essentially 95% of Ontario Housing Corp tenants are in units with rent geared to income and do not have to deal with these so-called bad landlords increasing rents, they have to deal with the bad landlord who is cutting back on services and maintenance. That bad landlord happens to be the province of Ontario. The Ontario Housing Corp tenants have been getting the short end of the stick for the last number of years under three governments, three different parties.
I am going to talk on behalf of those tenants in my riding because they need help. I am going to refer to a submission which the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority made to the Liberal government just before the election. They have made the same request to this government.
I urged the former Liberal government to respond and I am urging this government to respond. I want to read from a submission that was made by the chairman of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority to the then Liberal government and now to this New Democratic government. I hope members will bear with me. It is a fair bit lengthy, but I think it is important that the issue be dealt with. It is important to me and my 4,000 constituents who are tenants of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority. I am reading from the memo:
"The Ottawa Carleton Regional Housing Authority, through a management agreement with the Ontario Housing Corp, is responsible for the property management of approximately 8,600 family and senior citizen rent-geared-to-income housing units located throughout the region.
"The portfolio, which has an estimated replacement value of over $692 million, has an average age of 18 years, with the family units being closer to 20 years.
"The total operating budget for 1989 was $50,324,000 with a revenue of $23,050,000." Obviously, there was a subsidy from the province, which I will not go into. "...we are seeking support for funding necessary to accommodate the ongoing needs of this valuable resource that we have been entrusted with.
"The 1990 proposed budget contained $15,118,200 in capital or non-recurring items. Following successive reviews by the ministry, this was reduced to only $7,861,200. We are certain you can understand the impact this will have on our 58 communities and the over 30,000 people residing in them.
"We have a responsibility to provide our tenants and your constituents a safe, secure and comfortable living environment. Without adequate funding, however, our abilities are very seriously impeded. In this regard, we are asking for your support in assisting us in our efforts to get funding approval for the attached list of jobs which we would like reinstated this year.
"We are currently preparing our budget for 1991 and it appears that we will again be looking for approximately $15 million in capital or non-recurring funds to accommodate much-needed repairs, replacement and retrofit as identified throughout the portfolio. We would appreciate your support in this regard as well."
They are looking at somewhere in the area of a $7-million shortfall in funding. The point I am making is that these people, over 100,000 of them, do not have the protection that all the other tenants have in this province. The previous legislation and this legislation refer to being able to apply for rent deductions for lack of maintenance and cutback in services. I want to make the point that in point of fact, this landlord -- namely the province of Ontario -- has been receiving --
The other point that is important to recognize is that this particular landlord is saying it has an $8-million shortfall in capital funding to make important renovations, and yet the housing authority confirmed to me today that it has been receiving an inflationary increase every year over the last 10 years to cover off its maintenance.
Why the shortfall for these capital improvements? I am asking this government to answer that question. I am not sure I have the answer to that question, but when they are talking about this short-term rent control legislation and landlords are saying they cannot cover capital improvements, I am asking this government to look at itself as a landlord.
This government is the landlord of over 100,000 tenants, and it is having a capital funding shortfall in spite of the fact that it has transferred to these housing authorities across the province inflationary increases for maintenance in every year. So there is a fundamental problem with the premise they are talking about in terms of what landlords can and cannot do, and I ask the government to please look at that in a consultative process and in committee.
In terms of my constituents and their request for funding or, the flip side, the fact that they have no recourse to apply for a reduction in their rent, they are second-class tenants in this province. I want to point out some concrete examples of tenants who have written to me recently.
As I indicated, 65% or 70% of the time in my constituency office is dealing with Ontario Housing tenants, and significant numbers have to do with the maintenance problem of Ontario Housing.
I want to give some examples. The member for Niagara Falls indicated very clearly that housing is a women's issue. It is a women's issue in the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority where 65% of the family units are mother-led tenants. They have a problem, and I am going to refer to some of them.
Here is correspondence to me from a tenant. Mrs X -- I will not use the name -- wants the Premier to act on the following. Three years ago they were promised new windows. They do not have them yet. They are told an effort is being made to put it in the budget. Mrs X says: "The problem is serious. The wind whistles through and when it rains they leak." The province is the landlord of that unit. The housing authority in Ottawa-Carleton is asking for funding to rectify that situation, and I am asking the minister to respond.
Another example -- I am going to quote from a letter from a tenant in my riding, a Foster Farm tenant:
"I am writing this letter in regard to OHC maintenance. We have lived in OHC for 11 years now in the same house. We have been having our yearly inspection and for the past five years we have been told we need new kitchens, new kitchen cupboards, new flooring throughout the house."
I am having trouble reading this because it is in the person's own handwriting, so bear with me.
"Every time we ask, we're told it is not in the budget. For two years we have been waiting for a basement window. These houses are around 20 years old and are in bad need of repairs. We were told we need a new bathtub, but because we have glass shower doors, they won't give us one.
"These are just a few of the problems. I am sure if I had the time to go through the community, you would understand that there are a lot of things that are in desperate need of repair."
That is from a member of the tenants' association of that OHC unit. Something has to be done. There is a desperate need.
I repeat, to put it in context, these tenants are falling through the cracks with this legislation. This government had the opportunity to consider the needs of these 100,000-plus tenants in Ontario, and it missed the boat. I am here to remind the government that these tenants cannot fall through the cracks any more, and I am urging the Minister of Housing to please address this urgent need.
I know the night is moving on. I have other concrete examples, letter after letter from my tenants indicating the dire need of Ontario Housing units in my riding of Ottawa West. Something has to be done, and it has to be done urgently.
The member for Yorkview surprisingly, I noted in his biography, was a maintenance superintendent for OHC, and out of the mouth of this member for Yorkview, "A landlord must find a way." He was saying that landlords are giving excuses that they cannot honour their commitments to tenants to maintain the buildings. He is saying the chances are it is because of neglect.
I say to the biggest landlord in Ontario, the province of Ontario, and to the Minister of Housing, why did he leave these 100,000-plus tenants out of his legislation? When other tenants in Ontario can apply for a rent reduction if they are not getting the services, why are these tenants of OHC being treated as second-class tenants, as they are, by the Conservative government, then by our past Liberal government and now by this New Democratic government?
Governments have to do better on this issue because the tenants are hurting in my riding and in a lot of OHC units across this province. I am pleading with the minister to do something about it and to give some protection to these OHC tenants.
I am saying that to the Minister of Housing, who is heckling me. Is he going to stand up on a platform and tell those 4,000-plus tenants of mine in Ottawa West that they cannot have protection? What is he going to do about it? The minister did absolutely nothing in this Bill 4. In the consultative process, he had better do it because these tenants need help and they are pleading for help. The minister is waving, saying I am nuts. Those 4,000 tenants will be getting this Hansard and they will be at the minister's doorstep because they need help, and they need it desperately.
I repeat again that the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority, on which I sat as a member for five years -- I had some experience in the field; I had all kinds of submissions come before me when I was a member of that board -- is looking for some avenues to assist its cause. The housing authority management is excellent. In all honesty, I cannot say to the general manager of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Housing Authority that he can do any better. He has limited funds. He has been crying at the door of the province for financial assistance to be able to maintain the housing stock.
The point is that this landlord, the province of Ontario, is in dire need of capital funds for renovations; yet in every budget year it received the inflationary increase for maintenance. I think it is very, very important that we look seriously at this particular issue.
The last point, very briefly, is that we have to look seriously at the impact of this legislation on our housing stock. The housing standards committee of the city of Ottawa had a meeting last week at which it discussed this legislation and it expressed great, great concern.
The chairman of the housing standards committee, whom I spoke to today, indicated that he has already received feedback from landlords and property owners who are under order to renovate, saying they cannot raise the funds. He has confirmed to me today that on a regular basis where there are orders for significant improvements in the housing stock, he is told that the landlord, the owner, has to apply for funding. He has indicated to me that he has already had landlords indicate to him -- these are landlords who are under order -- that they are having their source of financing cut off.
I will not go much further, other than to say that in addition to the over 100,000 tenants who have fallen through the cracks in this legislation, another matter is the serious problem facing the housing standards boards in all the municipalities across the province. I urge the government, when this goes to committee and in its consultative process, to really consult with the housing standards people in the municipalities because this is something they did not anticipate. The bill was brought in in a hurry, it was very draconian, and it was not fine-tuned; the sooner we can put a permanent bill in place after consultation, the better off everyone will be.
I urge the minister and the government to consider those two items which I think have fallen through the cracks, but of particular concern are the 100,000-plus tenants of OHC units who really need help in this province.
However, I must express some concern about the recent announcement by the minister. I believe that in many ways the minister has put all landlords in one category. I think there is no doubt that in this province there are some landlords who are less than good, but there are many, many landlords who do have and have exhibited a great deal of responsibility not only to their profession but to their tenants, who want to work closely with their tenants to provide that type of security, that home which is very much a home, which is a place that lends itself to a good quality of life.
The announcement by the minister: I do have some concerns about its retroactivity with respect to the impact it might have on the renovation industry and, of course, on the job sector. I am glad the Minister of Housing is in the Legislature this evening, because I have received a letter from a constituent, who writes to say that the minister's proposed legislation on freezing capital improvements is devastating to the industry he works in. This person is not a landlord. This person has a job and wants to maintain his job, and he worries about the impact of the announcement by the minister.
The people in OHC units who are secondary wage income earners are forced to pay rent now as well. The member sits across from us and says he is concerned about people in OHC, but his government when it was in power did absolutely nothing for them when it came to this sort of thing. As a matter of fact, they allowed them to implement this program, and now the minister has to look into this and deal with it.
As I said, I have knocked on the doors and visited many of my tenants, and I can tell members that those people who are tenants of the OHC buildings in my riding are not generally satisfied with the level of maintenance in those buildings. They tell me many of the same kinds of stories that my colleague brought to the attention of the House.
I suggest to the members opposite that they pay heed and tell the Ontario Housing tenants of this province that they do care about them and that they appeal to their colleague the Minister of Housing so he can address the important issue of essential maintenance for the tenants of the province of Ontario.
The fact of the matter is that they know as well as I do that in housing projects in downtown Toronto and elsewhere across this province, but particularly in the greater Toronto area, there has been a significant problem with security and a significant problem with the increased use of drugs that has been in the papers across this province and in this community in particular.
Just a few weeks ago I visited Regent Park, where people can walk in the side doors, the back doors and through the buildings. There have been security problems there for many years. There has been an attempt in the past by the tenants in that area to come to their government and to try to get capital funding so this problem can be resolved. What was the response from their government? Zip, nothing at all to help those tenants.
I was up in the Jane-Finch area a few weeks ago as well and visited some buildings. I agree with them that the condition of those buildings is inadequate. What did their government do about it? Nothing.
Look at the makeup of the housing authorities across this province and of the Ontario Housing Corp board; tenants are not represented on the housing authority boards and they are not represented on the OHC board. It is an understatement to say, having heard from the member for Oriole and the member for Ottawa West, who have never spoken on this issue in the five years that I have been here, that it is just a bit phoney to hear their speeches tonight.
It is very easy for the Minister of Housing to stand up and point his finger at what the government did not do in the past, but he has introduced a bill when all he had to do was add about seven or eight words by way of an amendment to the existing legislation.
The legislation he has proposed indicates that tenants who are getting less service, a deterioration in standard of maintenance etc can apply for a reduction in rent. All he has to do is to say that this applies to tenants of the Ontario Housing Corp. But there is a problem; he has to go and talk to the Treasurer, and he is in a conflict of interest, because he happens to be the landlord and he has to make good on the repairs.
Really, what he is doing is looking backwards and he is blaming the Liberals on this point. Maybe the Liberals deserve some blame on this point, but that does not let him off the hook. He has the responsibility today and he should honour it. Is he or is he not going to give protection to these 100,000 tenants who are getting shortchanged because they are being underfunded by him, the landlord? He can point backwards all he wants, but we are here today and we are here tomorrow and that is where the buck stops, right where he is sitting, in his seat. He should do something about it and he should do something about it now.
I think the first one I want to make is that when people look at us on TV they are going to be saying: "There they go, criticizing the government again. All you can do when you are in opposition is criticize, criticize, criticize." To me, one of the important things in opposition is to make sure that in this House we have balance and recognize that the government is going to do some things right. When they do, let's have the strength of our convictions on this side of the House to compliment them on it, as I have already done when the Minister of Transportation came out with his transportation guidelines for the greater Toronto area and for commuter services and continuing Highway 407. I strongly endorsed it and applauded him from this side of the House.
When we saw the Attorney General make an announcement to try to do something about the backlog in the courts, which quite candidly has become a very serious problem -- we discussed it in public accounts. I thought there was a solution on the way through the previous government. It did not happen and then we started having cases thrown out of court that should not have been. Although I do not think throwing money at the problem is a solution, at least the present Attorney General has recognized it as an issue and is trying to do something about it. To that end I say congratulations, because we have a terrible problem in the courts and we have to take some action on it.
When we see the government doing something about food banks -- I would like to make sure we eliminate food banks within the next several years and when the government has a strong social agenda that is going to recognize poverty, I will be there to compliment the government on it. I think a balanced opposition has to have, on the one side, the time to say, "Good work." But then we also have to come back to what we are doing here tonight and take a moment or two, or as long as it takes, to make sure the government understands that there are problems with the legislation that it has before us today. When there is another piece of legislation that we oppose, we will stand up and speak our minds in the democratic way in which our electorate has given us that responsibility.
Likewise, the government will hear from us on education issues when it has made the wrong move. It will hear from us on environmental issues when its new Minister of the Environment fails to understand the full environmental assessment process or public involvement. The government will hear from us when it has maternity leave and some of the plans under the Minister of Labour that go beyond the range of what I think is common sense. It will hear from us on the auto insurance policy. That, indeed, will be a balanced opposition.
I just trust that the four points I want to make tonight on Bill 4, though some of them have been made before, are worthy of just emphasizing in these few moments that I have, because I know there are many others who still want to speak. We will be going until at least midnight and again tomorrow night until midnight, whether this or another one is the issue.
The first one is retroactivity. I just wish the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs was still here, but the Minister of Transportation is and he would remember this: How often did these cabinet ministers, when they were in opposition, support retroactive legislation? How often did they stand up and compliment the government when it came forward and say, "We're going to bring in this new law but it is retroactive to a date," some time before? I venture to say, though I have not dug out the illustrations, that they, like me and like the Liberals when they were in opposition, said: "Don't do things retroactively. Deal with the present and the future, but don't try to change things from the past."
What the government has done is go back on one of those fundamental things that it enjoyed criticizing members of other governments for when they were in charge, doing the same kind of thing now, doing something retroactively. It is a repressive, regressive, backward kind of move. Not only is it backward in putting the clock back, but they cause tremendous problems to the people who are involved in trying to interpret the law. Instead of having confidence in what they are doing, they are going to say, "I wonder what this government is going to do next?"
Let's face it. They have 25 ministries, they can start doing anything they want retroactively and there are not enough of us in this House to stop them because they have got the power, the number of seats to say, "If we want to do it, we'll do it." So they can have a new tax law that comes out when they bring their budget in next year. They can have some new plans in health care. They can do whatever they want retroactively, and that is wrong. It is wrong because it takes away the confidence of the whole of the province in saying, "We know where this government is going," because they do not know, and they do not know if what they are doing today is going to be legal and valid.
I believe that we should have another act passed here that says there will be no laws, bills or whatever passed in this Legislature that are retroactive, except I suppose these fellows will say that there will be something that comes along. I say nothing retroactive. They should make sure that they then live with the present and the people who are out there saying: "Well, the Ontario statutes are complicated enough. You don't have to come along and start second-guessing and saying, 'Well, this is what they're going to do.'" I think that when they start getting into retroactive laws they really cause a breakdown in trust, a breakdown in trust that will cause outside investors who are looking at investing in the province of Ontario to say: "Well, I'm going to think twice about it, as a company with money from outside the country. They did this."
One of their first pieces of legislation, number 4 on the list, is a retroactive piece of legislation. Why are they doing it? Why did they not instead say, "Okay, three months in the future, we will have this take effect," so that all those who have invested in their apartment buildings and their activities are not going to be impacted in a negative way. I have to say that I find this one of the most repulsive parts of this bill, to come along and say that effective 1 October, the day that the cabinet was sworn in, that is the day it is going to happen. What a day to remember their swearing in by. I am going to be swearing at them for choosing that as the date and so are the people in the province of Ontario who are coming along and saying, "Well, that's the day it happened." It is not fair and it is not right. What it does in the long and short term is cause great uncertainty for those people who like to do business in Ontario. What would they lose if they went and said, "Okay, effective 1 March or 1 January, or some day after we have had a chance to debate the bill more fully, that is the date it is going to take effect"?
I hope and pray that when this bill goes out for public hearings and public discussion. which I am going to help make happen, there will be an opportunity for this government to rethink the whole issue of retroactivity. It is not a simple issue. It has far-reaching implications and it is something that should be reconsidered by the decision-makers around here. I know that the Premier likes to do all the public relations good things. Let him do something on this one -- rethink the issue of retroactivity.
I am also very, very critical of the way this government has failed to have the big picture, the macro view of what this government is all about and what the province is all about. By making this one decision on whether or not a landlord can include improvements in rent increases, what they have done is cause a ripple effect that is still being felt across this province.
The one illustration -- and I am not going to give many because the distinguished and outstanding member of our caucus who has become our Housing critic has done a tremendous job in outlining the platform that our party has discussed in our own caucus; the member for Dufferin-Peel has done that eloquently -- is I had one constituent who was a plumber working in an apartment building in North York and he had four people working for him. They were going to be installing new sinks and then they were also going to be putting in a whole series of faucets for those sinks, plus valves for each apartment, so that, in other words, when the apartment building had to do any repairs in its plumbing, instead of having to turn off all the plumbing in the building. they would be able to have each apartment have its own service turned off separately and independently of the rest of the building.
What do you think he ended up having to do? When this bill was declared -- and I have it here today. It was announced on 28 November. On 29 November, my constituent received a phone call from the apartment owner, who said, "Stop work, take them off, cancel the order," He ended up cancelling the order for sinks and $1,000 worth of valves and tax and laying off the four employees who worked for him in that apartment building. He laid them off because he had no work for them.
They are talking about the ripple effect of so many other small business people across the province who had to cancel jobs on 29 November because of the government's retroactive legislation. What that has caused is people being laid off. They are no longer working. They are apartment owners and they are not even going to be able to pay their rent because of the legislation that came in. Who are they protecting? They are not protecting anyone with that kind of legislation. They have got to have a sense of balance and the bigger picture, and what they have done with this is cause a whole set of dynamics that have taken off across the province.
If the member wants to talk, he can talk when he has the chance, but he should be sitting in his own seat, and I hope the Speaker punishes him seriously for it. These fellows are new to the House; their comments are the same ones that we have heard before.
We need to have a total view of what business and prosperity are in the province of Ontario. Here we are into tough economic times, during what we are calling a recession. I hope we get out of it soon, but with this kind of decision the government is driving us deeper into the hole.
With the legislation, the government accelerated the downward curve in the history of its career, because now people are going to remember 29 November as the day they lost their jobs because the New Democratic government came in with a piece of legislation that was going to help the tenants. Well, I say it did not help a lot of other people.
When you start looking at the ripple effect of the sinks that got cancelled, that means the factory that no longer can produce them, the ripple effect on the faucets that are no longer needed and all other services that are part of it, I just have to say they have caused one set of problems.
What about the tenants in that very same apartment building? The landlord has decided to stop work in the middle of it. "Don't even repair the plaster." He has just left it unfurnished, so the people in those apartments are going to be living with something that just was not as nice as it would have been. The improvements and changes that were being made by that were going to be helpful and good.
The big picture? This is a government that says -- and I heard one of the previous members of the New Democratic government talking about some landlord gouging. If he has a problem, and if we have a problem in the province of Ontario with some landlords that are gouging the tenants, let's go after them. Let's find a way of making sure that they are not allowed to do that. But why paint every landlord with the same brush? That is not really fair, that is not right. If the government has got an isolated problem with a group of landlords, it should deal with them, and I will help it deal with them. But if it is going to come along and treat them all the same, as if they are guilty of a crime, then I believe it has misinterpreted its role as a government in trying to find balance and specific answers.
Government is a complicated business and I respect that. But I say the government should not come along and think it is solving the problem by taking a micro-picture when it should be taking a macro view and having the whole full view of it.
My third point, and I want to cut it short because I know others want to speak, is process. This government wanted to have this Bill 4 passed quickly before Christmas and then get it over and done with. No way. I just laud the efforts by our leader, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, who helped force that whole process. We will be standing in this House to make sure that this goes out for public hearings and that the government has to hear from the landlords and the tenants and the other people of this province who do not like what it is doing.
I will tell the House, it is a complicated bill. When you start reading it -- and I was looking through it before I stood up to speak. Canada already has four times the number of lawyers for its population as does Japan. I think I am going to want my kids to go into law.
The process means the government should take time to discuss it properly, take time to do it right and put the quality into what it is doing as a government so that it does not just have to come along and ransack our pockets by virtue of having a quick decision. It should take the time to make sure, when it comes forward with legislation, that it is well thought out, that it is well balanced and that it has the total, broad, full picture. This does not. It is full of flaws and I will tell the members, when we come out for public hearings, which fortunately we are going to have, the government will begin to see that there is need for change and hopefully this government will make changes.
My last point is a point that was brought up earlier by the member for Mississauga South. She was speaking about the whole problem of slums that could begin to be a problem with our apartment buildings in Ontario by virtue of the fact that the landlords are going to be removing themselves from the proper maintenance procedures which are part and parcel of maintaining quality places for people to live. What we are really doing now with this kind of legislation is leaving that option open that we will have a Harlem somewhere and we will have apartments that begin to deteriorate.
What the government is also doing is saying to the landlords: "We really don't want you. We really don't want to work with you. We're going to sort of work in isolation from you." That is not the way good government works. Good government should be operating in co-operation with the tenants and the landlords, the whole public sector. By virtue of the process that the government has initiated here, it has turned a blind eye to that other group that is a large part of the solution, to the whole rental need that we have in the province of Ontario. The government has to work with the landlords. We want to get private enterprise to invest in more apartment buildings. It is not going to find it in Ontario and it is not going to find outside investors to invest in the province of Ontario with the attitude it is exhibiting with this.
The government should not try to do it just as a government. It should try to be one that involves the whole of society in the solution. If it does that, it will begin to do several things right. First, it will not do things retroactively; second, it will begin to get the big picture and it will consult with a wider group of people; and third, it will allow the due process of how it handles things in the future to involve a wide cross-section. It will allow public hearings and it will allow members of this Legislature to take the time to do it right.
I just have to tell members that this bill is full of problems and it is a bad example for this new government in beginning its tenure for the length of time that it might have as a government. I hope it will take the time now to reconsider it and will allow amendments to be made that will revise this bill to somehow address some of the concerns I have raised tonight.
The minor problems are not the issue. I am talking about major renovations. I am not going to use the far too often used example in this House, but when we are talking about major renovations that require a lot of money -- maybe it is roofs and maybe it is parking garages so people can park their cars safely underground and even drive into those underground garages safely -- we are talking about thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the building. That is the responsibility of the landlord.
How does the member for Yorkview expect landlords or anyone else in business to be able to afford to run their buildings as a business, keep them in good repair and maintain a standard of environment for those tenants unless they can have some appreciation on their money? Why would he expect them to invest their money?
We in northern Ontario have watched the free market system at play in southern Ontario over the last five to 10 years and watched the cost of housing double, triple and quadruple over that period of time. We wonder at the problem of people in southern Ontario being able to make needed renovations at the price of housing as it now exists, while landlords in northern Ontario -- who do not get near the return on their dollar that the folks in southern Ontario get -- can actually afford to maintain their buildings, and we do not have near the number of people on the streets that you have here in southern Ontario in your so-called free market system.
Under the existing legislation, there is an allowed amortization period for various works. Notwithstanding what they are saying about "Oh, they are supposed to put some money away," it is allowed and it is contemplated under the existing legislation that it should be a future cost and that the interest rate is included so that it is contemplated that you will go out and borrow the money and then you will amortize it. If the minister reads the legislation, there can be no doubt whatsoever as to that fact.
So much for all of his comments about it being the landlord's fault and all of this. Simply read the legislation and understand that the existing legislation allows a landlord to go out and borrow money for any work that has to be done and, depending on the work, he reads off a table as to how long it will be amortized over. That is the correct answer. It is not subject to opinion. That is the legislation. If the minister can read the legislation, let him do so.
I have learned one thing very quickly -- and I think all new members are on a learning curve -- that as a member of the government side you are very much a moving target. If on legislation like this you decide to pass some interim temporary measure in order to break the cycle of madness that has taken place surrounding this piece of legislation and then you go out and consult the people, you are criticized for passing legislation and then going out and talking to the people. We have been criticized for that.
However, if, on the other hand -- and a prime example would be the auto insurance legislation -- we go out and consult the people and then want to come back and bring in some legislation that is going to serve the residents of this province well, if we take that approach, we are criticized by the opposition parties. So this government very much is getting mixed messages from the other side.
Let me be very clear that the acid test in this legislation will not be the platitudes and the political rhetoric or how people vote. I think the acid test is going to be what is contained in the opposition members' Queen's Park Reports as they blow their bugles about how hard they have worked in this Legislature to get some fair legislation that is going to protect the tenants in this province. I think that will be the acid test of the legislation, not what is said here tonight. I would be very interested to receive a copy of everybody's Queen's Park Report as they do their tenant mailings in the next round.
I take great pride in being able to stand here and, hopefully, give a perspective. If what the member really is trying to say is that we should not do that -- and I do not think it really is, but I question where he is coming from if he is saying we should not be here to combat what his government is all about.
His government is coming through with a very unbalanced position. I believe that to do something retroactively is still wrong. I hope the member will stop and think about it. Enough members opposite are new to here that they might be able to have some impact on the Minister of Housing and on the Premier to bring back that as a point of view that they would share with us, and that they might well also understand that there are other matters in this bill that will benefit from public dialogue and discussion.
If we are going to have good legislation in this province and the government thinks it can only do it by itself, then it is wrong. I think if there is a good opposition that is honestly trying to come forward with another perspective and another point of view, and out of that listen and work through the compromise that will work, then this can be a better province.
That is the way it has been in the past and I think it can mean a strong government in the future. That is where opposition has an important role to play. I want to play it fairly and honestly. I am prepared to laud the government and give it plaudits and compliments when it is right, but I also feel obliged to stand up and say what I believe.
I have said it tonight and I hope to have the opportunity to say it in the future, unless those guys come along and use some way to shut us up.
It is absolutely necessary to provide the stakeholders with a level playing field. Some members opposite may disagree, but the members too must understand that the rental market has been in crisis for some years. Tenants felt that they were powerless and insecure about their housing needs without the intervention of such a piece of legislation. Even in a riding such as St Catharines-Brock, tenants have experienced exorbitant rent increases.
While there are landlords who are fair and concerned about the rent increases passed along to their tenants, tenants in my riding have been inflicted with 85% rent increases. We must remember the average working person, a person who cannot afford to buy a home in a market of high interest rates and unemployment. Renting is frequently the only option for those people, as well as for young couples, working families and our seniors on fixed incomes. Without this legislation, these people would be forced into further serious economic hardship. It is essential to pass this legislation.
In Metropolitan Toronto alone there are over 300,000 tenants, tenants who have let it be known that in this time of recession and creative financial deals they have in turn been made to suffer economic hardship. The real estate flips of a few years ago continue today. They continue without obstacle or control because they continue unchecked. There is a crucial and immediate need for this legislation and for all members of this House to pass it as quickly as possible.
This House has now heard comments from the opposition parties in which they have loudly expressed concern for the maintenance costs experienced by some landlords. Those remarks are nothing more than obfuscation -- smoke and mirrors. When the opposition had the opportunity to firm up rent review legislation, it dropped the ball, missed the train, did not take up the challenge.
Rent review of one form or another has been in place for some 15 years. Where was that concern for the low-income families in this province? I can tell you, Mr Speaker, their concern created a massive complexity which has ensured huge profits for many landlords and banks and left tenants fearing the loss of their homes. This government was elected to help tenants.
We have brought forward legislation that will allow the tenants of this province secure housing. This government views housing as a right. I advocate that this House pass this legislation quickly to protect hundreds of thousands of tenants.
I wonder what the urgency of this bill is when, according to the records of her government, 8,000 units out of a total of 1.2 million are affected; 8,000 units go over 20%. In other words, 8,000 out of 1.2 million is the equivalent of one out of 150. Yet the same government has ignored the urgency of the unemployment situation.
I have here a Toronto Star headline that says, "NDP Misses Bill Deadline -- Wage Fund Left in Limbo." The unemployment rate is 7.5% or more in this province, which means 10 times as great as the number of units affected by gougers or flippers in this province. They have allowed the chance to do something about the unemployed to slip through their hands because they will not be able to touch it until the spring, yet they have decided that this is of such urgency that they have to act on this now.
As far as levelling the playing field is concerned, what they have done is they have changed the rules. They have changed the rules of the game after the game has started. I have here before me a fax from my constituency office where a letter was hand-delivered from a person who is $118,000 in debt playing according to the old rules. Right now he is in trouble with his bank.
Very briefly, Mr Speaker, I would like to respond to the member for Kitchener indirectly through you. I know that in his comments he talked about going out and consulting with the people. I just would like to say that there has been enough going out and consulting with the people and I hope that this new NDP government will not follow the previous government and that is all that it does. It does not have to go out and consult with the people to ask them whether or not there is a shortage of rental housing stock in this province. How much consulting do members think it takes? They should just read the papers and they will find out what the 1% and less than 1% in some parts of the greater Toronto area mean in terms of availability of rental housing stock that is affordable.
The government should not say that it has to go out and consult and, as one of the other members said earlier, this is a stopgap measure. None of those things is needed. We simply say to the government, if this is its way of governing, that it is going to follow the suit of what the people have had in this province for the last five years -- one member mentioned auto insurance -- $4 million in reports that were simply filed in the round file. The people in this province are fed up with being asked their opinions and then ignored. They do not need to be asked any more. We know what the solutions are, we simply ask the government to act and stop consulting.
The member very earnestly exhorted us not to have acted so precipitately. He said we should have spoken to and we should have consulted with those many excellent landlords in our community. I am not quite sure which of those members is representing the caucus but certainly we have an opportunity now with this bill going into effect of protecting landlords and having a period during which we can thoroughly work out a program that will be effective for all groups in our community. I hope that will meet both the opposing demands of the PC caucus.
Also, this government is on record -- our Treasurer is not in the House at the moment but I know he is in this building. He has definitely put forward a plan to expend $700 million over the next few years to make sure there is an active program of job creation. So I would suggest to the member opposite that this government is very much on record as regards improving the economy, definitely not to see it go any further into a recession.
Also, with the banking rules that presently exist and the kind of rent review legislation that his government allowed to be passed, they have allowed a lot of fancy real estate deals to go down. People with absolutely no proper financing to buy buildings get themselves into an economic quagmire and then decide to put their problem on to the backs of a whole lot of undeserving tenants who in fact now find themselves made responsible for the landlords' problems. I do not think those people, found in a very unwitting state, should be made responsible for the lack of proper financing.
Let me say at the outset that I do not carry any brief for landlords who gouge. I do not think any of my colleagues do. I do not carry any brief for people who flip houses or apartment buildings. I think that is a common statement that would be made by any caring person. Those people prey on society.
In essence, what the New Democratic Party has done -- and it probably considers that it is a popular item -- is the same insane thing that the Prime Minister of this country has done at a time when the economic downturn is so significant that we are not in a recession but in a depression. In fact, he brings in this insane goods and services tax. The NDP in the same way is casting a net to catch 15% of the landlords and is going to punish the other 85% of the landlords.
They are going to destroy jobs. We have seen real people here demonstrating outside the Legislature. If the government thinks that thing was a setup, it is crazy. If they took a look at the combination of people there, there were workers, material men, landlords and tenants. Do they just dismiss that? Do they just ignore that? Do they say these people are all just a façade and acting out the program? They should just think about it.
They are trying to deal with an issue which involves 15% of the landlords. They are going out to catch a fish with a giant hook and in the meantime they are hooking 85% of the people. Many of these people are people who have invested their livelihood in it.
I will give an example. I received a letter from a soon-to-be constituent -- or perhaps not, because of what has taken place here. These people are from Sudbury, and I am sure the member for Sudbury would be pleased to know that one of her constituents who was planning on retiring in the beautiful city of Brampton may well have to think twice about it. I want to read a few of the comments from it:
"Dear Mr Callahan:
"I am enclosing a copy of a letter we sent to Premier Bob Rae regarding his new rent control policy. We want you to know how we feel, because the building is located in Brampton.
"My husband and I purchased this building in 1987 with the intention to move to your city in a couple of years when he can retire from his construction job here in Sudbury."
"He is a handyman, able to do most repairs. The building is 26 years old with 66 units. There is plenty of work for him. We worked and saved hard all our life to have some financial security for our old age and won't have to depend on government handouts. Don't get me wrong, we are not greedy landlords. We did absorb a lot of repair costs without asking for extra rent increases in the past three years."
There are many people who did that. We heard during the debate on the former government's bill that there were many people who cared about individuals, who liked their tenants and who did not even bother to get the increases that they were entitled to, and they fell behind. The government has destroyed those people, absolutely destroyed them.
She goes on to say:
"We don't know what is going to happen to it now. We weren't planning to ask for an increase in 1991. However, our elevator cannot be repaired without a major overhaul, which will cost us over $50,000 in the next few months. The money has to come from somewhere. Present rents do not justify those kinds of expenses. We know that we can't recover this money instantly but over the several years to help us pay our loans. We would understand if Mr Rae wants to stop luxury renovations to raise rents and flipping the property."
So they agree with what I have said.
"Ours is a long-term investment. Now, we realize that it would be better for us if we had our money in savings bonds and collect interest. At least we would be getting something in return and no headaches. We don't know where you stand on this issue."
Well, I am telling members where I stand on this issue. I think these are real people in Ontario, real people whom the government is hurting and hurting significantly.
She states, and I believe it:
"Well, many landlords are just hardworking people who invested their hard-earned money in the properties here in Ontario. Now we are treated like criminals, being punished for our investment."
They go on to write to the Premier, who is the Premier of everyone in this province and not just the 15% who he says are gouging, or who the facts say are gouging, but the 85% who are honest landlords, who care about providing housing, affordable housing in many cases, to tenants. In fact, what the government is doing by its legislation is condemning them to death at the same time that it tries to kill the 15% who are gouging.
If they geared their bill in such a way that they were just dealing with the 15%, I would probably vote with them, because quite frankly I find that abhorrent. I think housing is a matter of right. As I said earlier today in the House, there are people sleeping on the streets, and we also have single parents who cannot find accommodation. Now what is going to happen when these people who are doing it for investment purposes decide it is not worth the game? They will just get rid of it or they will let it become run-down.
The government says on the one side of the coin that it is going to require these people to keep these buildings up, as is the case, and it is going to prosecute them if they do not. There are minimum maintenance bylaws in most municipalities. These people are required to keep these properties in good repair. How does the government expect them to do it? On the one hand it is chasing them out of the investment they have got and on the other hand it is saying, "We're going to hammer you if you don't do it."
I suggest to the government that if it does not do it under the minimum maintenance bylaw, it can be done and added to the taxes. In fact, I suppose, they can get those repairs paid for through the back door by all the taxpayers of that community. I say that is not satisfactory.
The government is also breaching probably one of the oldest principles of English justice, that you do not expropriate, nor do you legislate retroactively. It is a principle of law that they may legislate retroactively for procedural matters but not for matters of property. They have in fact allowed these people to make their plans based on a system that was in place; then simply because a miraculous event occurred on whatever date that was and their government was elected, the roof suddenly caved in. That is exactly what is going to happen to these poor souls: the roof is going to cave in, the boiler is going to explode, other things such as elevators are going to have to be repaired, and the government has taken that right away from these people.
I do not know how they can sit there in such a self-righteous way and believe they are passing legislation that really has any true merit or any honesty. What they are doing is attempting to fulfil, probably for the first time, one of the items in their Agenda for People. Well, bravo. But I suggest they should look before they leap and make sure they are not destroying this province by doing it.
I suggest they are doing exactly the same thing as I said the Prime Minister is doing. In a time of very serious depression, they are killing jobs. They are perhaps putting a big dent in businesses, material people who might be supplying the goods to look after this particular building, and in fact they are doing it at a time when it should not be done. They should think about that.
The minister says it is for two years. Obviously even the minister realizes that perhaps a state of disaster may take place in two years, so he is giving himself the opportunity of being able to say, "Well, two years or less." I do not know anybody in his right mind who would plan an investment, particularly a retirement investment, if it has to be based on a whim or the length of the Minister of Housing's foot. That is really what he is asking to happen.
I think most people make their decisions based on plans that are in place and governments that pass legislation that allow them to look at them and decide what they should do in the future. By one stroke of the pen and by the vote on this by his government, the minister in fact has destroyed the plans, I would suggest, not just of this couple from Sudbury whose letter I have read, but of many more senior citizens, many people who have invested legitimately in housing to provide adequate housing. The minister is destroying the dreams of people who were fair and, as landlords, tried to play the game fairly, and he is doing that to get 15% of the landlords. That to me seems to be absolutely nonsense.
I worry. If the minister passes bills like this -- in an effort to get the minority, he is going to punish the majority -- I wonder what he is going to do with his insurance bill; I wonder what he is going to do with any future legislation in this House. Is it always to be that if some of the people involved in the particular business make an exorbitant profit, he is suddenly going to decide, "That's a bad thing and we're going to destroy it"?
If that is what he is doing, then I think the people who voted for his government in the last election are going to find very quickly that they made a mistake, that they did not elect people who are democrats but people who are autocrats and who in fact really do not care about people.
I suggest that members take a good look at that before they vote for this bill.
As I said when I started, I do not carry a brief for landlords who cheat or perhaps look for exorbitant profits. I do not think that is the way this province or this country should be run. I would like some day for my children to be able to afford a house. Obviously, through some of the carryings-on with housing, the housing prices have gone through the roof.
In fact, the minister may be placing some of those homes that were owned by this older couple in Sudbury in the hands of those people who do exactly that because they will not be able to keep it up so it will fall into a power of sale and someone will buy it up. The minister is eliminating housing, I suggest, and he is putting more people on the street. He will not know that until he sees the fallout from this, and when the fallout comes it will not do us any good over here as the opposition to say, "We told you so," because that does not get anybody into accommodations that they can afford overnight.
What do we say to these people as they call us up in our constituency offices and ask, "Where am I going to sleep tonight, Mr Callahan?" I am going to say, "I don't know "
We have been questioning the Minister of Energy for at least the last two weeks and asking her what she is doing about living up to the promise that was made by the Premier on 10 August that he was going to set up a board to make certain that gasoline prices were monitored to avoid gouging. Now, in essence, what is he doing here? The Premier is jumping on to what he calls the free enterprise system, 15% of the landlords, and from what we have heard from the Minister of Energy in her answers to our questions during question period, the Premier has done absolutely nothing to look after the gouging that is taking place in terms of gas prices.
How can they say on the one hand, "We're going to let them get away with it -- that's free enterprise -- but we will let them gouge and do nothing about it even though the Premier of this province promised it before the election," and on the other side of the coin say, "Because these people, a small number of landlords, are gouging or purported!y gouging, we are now going to stamp out everything.
I suggest that it is an inconsistent process --
I think it would have been fairer if the Minister of Housing had said, "Here's a ceiling."
It would have been fairer if the Minister of Housing had said: "Okay. There will be something there for capital expenditures. It will be a minimal ceiling." He did not do that much. But the members in the government opposite will say: "That's what rent is for. Rent is to pay for these unexpected capital renovations."
In other words, if the roof falls in, then you are supposed to pay for that out of your retained earnings from rents. That is absolute nonsense. If the boiler blows up or goes on the fritz, you are supposed to pay for that out of rent. Let's say the landlord does not have the rental payments to pay for the boiler to have it fixed. Does that mean all the tenants are supposed to freeze because the Minister of Housing has said he cannot spend capital funds to fix that boiler? If the roof caves in, does that mean they have to live with permanent air-conditioning throughout the entire winter, that it cannot be fixed because the rental payments are supposed to be for that purpose?
That seems absolute nonsense, and yet that is the essence of what that government over there is saying in terms of the legislation it is bringing forward. That does not make a lot of sense to me. I am sure it does not make a lot of sense to the small landlords such as the people I have referred to from Sudbury. I have many letters like this from small landlords who have invested their funds in building housing.
My colleague the member for Ottawa West also indicated he had numerous letters to read and was not going to read them because he wanted to give other members the opportunity to speak. That being the case, I will not go into -- I may go into the letters if the member who is staring at me at the moment -- go sit down, Margaret; I will be finished --
In fairness to the people who wish to speak to this matter, I am not going to prevent them from doing that. But I want to say finally, as Sam would say -- and I occupy Sam's seat -- the government does this in cabinet, in vacuum. Did it ever ask members in caucus what their feelings are about this? Did it ever ask them? Does it? Did it ever tell them? How many are in their caucus? That caucus room is jammed to the rafters; they are shoulder to shoulder and all that stuff. The members never get asked. The cabinet comes in and tells the members what is in the bill. Then it tells them to come into the House, and the whip keeps them in order and makes them applaud when things are said. They support legislation which some members have probably not even read. Some of them have probably not read it.
The opportunity for them to make history and to be able to go home tonight with a good feeling and feel that they have done a service for the people of this province is to stand up and be counted. They should not be like a bunch of sheep led to slaughter. They should not let the Minister of Housing take them to the slaughter, because in two years' time, when the roof collapses and the boiler blows up and the housing is gone, they are the people -- all of them, each and every one of them -- who will have to go back to their ridings and account for that. I suggest that they will have grave difficulty.
Also, I have one of these wicked landlords who says:
"Our building is 22 years old. We hired an expert consultant...and borrowed $118,000 at interest rate of 15 3/4%.... We did everything according to the rules and regulations of the government and application was approved and all work was completed before the end of September 1990. We did not install any luxury items.... Unfortunately, I did create financial problems for my corporation and I am in problems with" the bank. I did not want to name the person because this was hand-delivered to my office. I did not clear it with him to put his name on the record, but these are real people. I am having a meeting with this person on Friday to see what can be done. This just corroborates the story that the member for Brampton South has said, that real people are involved, both as tenants and as landlords, because on the one hand they are losing jobs; on the other hand, they are being bankrupted.
I welcome the opportunity to join the debate this evening concerning rent controls. While the importance of rental housing cannot be disputed, the government's response to the problem suggests that this province may be in more trouble than at any point during the previous five years of Liberal mismanagement. When the Minister of Housing rose in this chamber and announced a two-year moratorium on the provisions of the existing rent review system, he sent a profound message to all Ontarians who hoped this government would move the province out of a deepening recession. What the minister has accomplished with this moratorium is to sentence Ontario to an even deeper recession. But in time the public will see through this shortsighted populist path towards permanent rent controls.
Hope will rapidly turn to despair because, with the announcement, the minister has stated that, first, the NDP has no desire to manage with the interests of all Ontarians in mind and, second, the NDP has a limited grasp of economic concerns and no idea of how to restore this province to a sound economic footing. The sounds that I hear echoing in the background of the Minister of Housing's announcement are the tug of nails being pulled from boards, ladders being strapped on to trucks and paint cans clanging as workers beat a hasty retreat from jobs half done.
What the minister has done is to have effectively silenced the renovations industry and slammed the door shut on future investment in this province. In sweeping the NDP to power on 6 September, the voters of this province were not embracing a socialist prescription to cure what is eating away at Ontario. They voted for a government that could respond with sensitivity to all Ontarians. In one of its first major decisions, what does this government do? It thrusts a socialist solution on to the backs of all Ontarians, a solution that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars to fill the vacuum of rental stock created when private investors stumble all over themselves in their haste to leave the province.
I ask the government to tell this House how it plans to offset the economic loss to this province when $533 million of repair work is summarily halted in the wake of the moratorium. What employment opportunities are available for the thousands of contractors left jobless as the result of the minister's moratorium, and what guarantees are there for tenants that repairs will be undertaken swiftly and in more than just a patchwork fashion? The decision to impose a moratorium and introduce rent controls at a later date is both discriminatory and destructive. Not only are rent controls a simplistic response to a complex problem, but the timing of this announcement flies in the face of logic. With a dark cloud hovering over Ontario's investment climate, the minister's announcement will only serve to hasten and prolong this economic storm.
It is difficult for Rad Whitehead, a constituent of mine who owns an apartment building on Second Street in Collingwood, to believe this new government has credibility with all Ontarians. In the last six years, Mr Whitehead has sunk over $300,000 into his building. His return on this sizeable investment is $3,300. I think even Karl Marx would have difficulty painting a picture of capitalist exploitation with this paltry profit margin.
But if Marx were alive today, he would recognize the errors of his ways and realize that socialized housing does not work, witnessed by the fact that countries that have it are trying to get rid of it. Where is the comfort or dignity for tenants in being clustered in block houses or slums? Eventually, that will be the benefit that most tenants derive from rent controls. But there is more to the Rad Whitehead story, as I am sure there is with many other landlords who own buildings in this province.
How is Mr Whitehead supposed to recoup the $50,000 in repairs he recently laid out to upgrade his building? He applied for this rent increase on 30 June because the Ministry of Housing instructed him to undertake his repairs first and apply for a rent increase later.
The new government is telling us that it has seen the enemy and it is landlords. What they are doing is holding up landlords as a scapegoat for their own and the previous government's failure to come to terms with the rental crisis in this province. Does the minister's moratorium, announced as compassionate legislation for tenants, contain any mechanism of compassion for landlords who applied for increases and invested thousands of dollars in the belief that under the current rent review system they should repair first and seek permission to increase rents later?
Mr Whitehead is asking himself, as are landlords across this province, why enact this moratorium immediately? Where was the consultation, and at the very least, why not give landlords two years of lead time to adjust to a system of rent controls if the government is so determined to implement them?
The real solution to the rental crisis has been begged by this government. Although ideologically this solution may be uncomfortable for my New Democratic colleagues, the answer lies with the private sector. If the government is to play a role, it is to ensure that the private sector is provided with incentives to invest in the rental market. Rent controls act as disincentives. They do nothing to bring down the high cost of rent and they will proceed to suffocate the low levels of vacancies currently on the market.
This government, in a manner befitting the Great Train Robbery, has served to devalue Mr Whitehead's building by about 25%. Contrary to what the NDP government would have tenants believe, rent controls will not come to the rescue of tenants. What they will do is guarantee that the citizens of this province who cannot afford to purchase a home will have an impossible time finding a place to rent. Under the current rent review system, the province's rental stock has been depleted dramatically. It is risky to invest during the best of conditions, but it is suicidal to invest in a climate where investors can have their equity stolen from under them.
The effect of the new rent control system will be to eliminate the private sector from finding solutions to the vacancy crisis that has plagued southern Ontario under rent review. Not only will this crisis worsen, but the renewal of rental stock will be solely the responsibility of the Ontario government. As taxpayers, we can look forward to the government placing its hands deeper into our pockets to construct rental stock.
Perhaps I can provide this House and the taxpayers of Ontario with an example of what they can expect in the wake of rent controls and rabid socialism. This government, in all its infinite wisdom, decided to construct nonprofit housing in the town of Alliston Homes Now program. The total cost to build 56 units is to be $7 million. This equates to $125,000 per unit, or a staggering $50,000 above the local average price to buy a similar unit that is being built by the private sector free of government intervention. The end result would be taxpayers subsidizing the difference to the tune of $50,000 per unit.
At the end of the day, if all we have left is rent controls, the private sector will stop building and the government will be forced to rely on rental units that are built through huge amounts of taxpayers' money under programs like the one I have just described.
The Homes Now program is another glaring example of how this government and the Liberal government which preceded it are out of touch with the average person on the street. Not only has the Homes Now program not fulfilled its mandate to create a large number of non-profit housing units, but when it does create them, it does so at a ludicrous expense to the taxpayers. This again comes as no surprise to the people of Ontario, who have become accustomed to government spending without any realization or concern for market prices. Instead, cost is subordinated to political expediency.
With the announcement of the Minister of Housing, we stand at the edge of our embattled economy. After the announcement, the United Tenants of Ontario stated, "Tenants of Ontario voted for change and this is a good start." I ask the tenants of Ontario to think again. Layoffs to all sectors of the economy are mounting and the announced moratorium will only compound this vast social and economic problem.
Rent controls have dealt a mortal wound to the renovations industry at the worst possible time. This guarantees that the lineups to collect unemployment insurance and welfare assistance will continue to grow. It will also help to keep us in a recession for a longer period of time.
Not long after the final words had escaped from the Minister of Housing's mouth were staff at businesses that supply contractors being told not to bother to come to work the next day. Their prospects for returning to work in the face of rent controls are slim at best.
Rent controls will strangle an already depleted rental stock and, in so doing, will not assist the 360,000 tenant households that currently spend in excess of 30% of their income on rent. It offers nothing for the 40,000 families who are on waiting lists for subsidized housing.
Rent controls and the announced moratorium will ensure that our precariously high bankruptcy rate will escalate. Where is the NDP compassion for apartment owners who have borrowed money to finance renovations only to be told later they cannot recoup their losses? Not only does this shame the capitalist work ethic that helped build this great society, but it violates the right of individuals to work hard and make an honest living. We are not dealing with strict profit margins here. We are dealing with fundamental principles that underline our society.
Rent controls will extinguish hundreds of millions of dollars in repair work that would normally help to fuel our economy. There can be only one result, and that will be diminished quality of life for all Ontarians. Rent controls will not solve the problems of housing in this province but will exacerbate them.
This government has demonstrated that it would rather govern by polls and do what is popular than balance the interest of all Ontarians. Members of the NDP caucus must awaken to the fact that they are now on the other side of the House. The decision to place a moratorium over rent review indicates fundamentally that this government's commitment to consult widely before acting has all been a sham.
Once again, political rhetoric has replaced the people's desire to be consulted, and in turn, we are all the losers. I am afraid in the next four years we will all reap the consequences of this government's myopic decision to place a hasty moratorium and move towards rent controls. I sincerely hope the process whereby the government arrived at this decision is not typical of how it will proceed over the next four years.
On motion by Mr Cooke, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 2358.
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