Mr. Speaker: If I could have the attention of all honourable members for a moment, I think members of the House will wish to welcome a distinguished delegation in the Speaker’s gallery from the Tynwald of the Isle of Man. The Manx Parliament last year celebrated 1,000 years of parliamentary government. The delegation with us today is headed by the Acting Speaker, Mr. Clifford Irving, along with Mr. John Radcliffe, a member of the House of Keys, and Mrs. Radcliffe; Mr. Norman Radcliffe, also a member of the House of Keys; and Mr. Robert Quayle, Clerk of Tynwald.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would permit me to bring to your attention, sir, some information that one of our guests brought to our attention earlier today. The Assistant Speaker from the Isle of Man indicated that in their jurisdiction, which is independent from the United Kingdom, they have no income tax and this year are reporting a budgetary surplus of seven million pounds. I wondered whether, while they are in this jurisdiction, they might have a word with our Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller).
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fitting for all members of the House to acknowledge that on this day 25 years ago, on June 9, 1955, our former leader, my friend and colleague the member for York South (Mr. MacDonald) was first elected to the Ontario Legislature. At that time, he was part of a caucus of only three members in the Legislature.
I think all members of the House would want to join with me in paying tribute to the member for York South for his unflagging optimism and for the contribution he has made over so many years, not just to this Legislature but also to public life in Ontario. Incidentally, he is going to be nominated this evening -- I think that’s another certainty -- and re-elected in the general election whenever it happens to come. I think members would also want to join with me in wishing him many more fruitful and productive years in the province on behalf of the New Democratic Party, on behalf of the working people of Ontario and on behalf of the province.
Mr. Nixon: I would like to bring to your attention further, Mr. Speaker, that 25 years ago today, June 9, 1955, also saw the election of our great friend the member for Wellington South (Mr. Worton). I think it is significant that he is wearing a red rose for valour while our good friend the member for York South is wearing pink for socialism. I would also like to point out that the member for York South is giving the victory signal in association with that.
I also want to say just a word or two about the member for Wellington South. As all the members knew, he was elected at an early age as a councillor for the city of Guelph and soon moved on to become its mayor. He was a successful businessman as a baker and as an investor, and we often turn to him for advice in many fields. During my years as leader of the party, I always arranged to have his office as close to mine as possible, because there were occasions when I needed his advice and moderation.
The only political promise he ever made was to put more raisins in the buns, and that was good enough for the people of Guelph. Together with good service, that has guaranteed his re-election for these many years.
There is only one regret I have, and that is that he has not yet had an opportunity to serve as a cabinet minister. But I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, we are looking forward to that happening in the near future.
A measure of a man’s accomplishment must surely be the esteem in which he is held by his friends. Certainly in this House the member for Wellington South is held in high esteem on both sides and in all three parties, and that is true for his friends and neighbours back home.
Finally, I want to say how proud we all are to he associated with him and his family. His wife, Olive, his son and his daughter, their wife and husband, and his grandsons are sitting in the front of the gallery, and we want to welcome them here on this great day.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I would like also to draw to your attention today another important event. This is the beginning of the fourth year of the 31st Parliament -- something of a record, I think, for those who will record future Ontario history. Contrary to certain reports that some people have heard on the radio, the Premier (Mr. Davis) is not calling an election today and we expect to be around here for a good many more years.
On behalf of the government, I would like to join my friends in extending our best wishes to the member for Wellington South and the member for York South. We have only one regret: I am sorry to say that the member’s last wish for the member for Wellington South will not ever be fulfilled, but we will still welcome him around this House.
It is very significant that when these two very distinguished gentlemen first came into this Legislature, they came in here with 84 Progressive Conservatives in 1955. We just want to tell them that feat is going to be repeated again soon. We want to assure them, however, that we will be happy to see them among the small number of opposition who will be here at that time.
The member for York South was a leader of his party for a number of years, first the CCF and then the New Democratic Party. He came into this House as leader in 1955. He had great energy, he has had great capabilities, he is a very excellent orator and speaker and is very persuasive. I think he raised the membership of that party from three to about 20 during his time as leader and I am sure it is because of his abilities.
The member for Wellington South has likewise had a very distinguished career for 25 years now as a member of this assembly. Unlike the member for York South, he cannot be credited with having taken up too much time with his speeches, but he has contributed in a very significant way behind the scenes. I am sure, through his great acquaintanceship with the various cabinets of the day, he has served the constituents of the riding of Wellington South and the people of this province in a very exemplary manner.
I think it is also to his credit that he has survived five leaders of the Liberal Party. I had intended to have a few words with him earlier to see whether he was going to stay for six, seven or eight, but I did not have time to ask him about that. He also has contributed greatly to this chamber.
Mr. Worton: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to express my appreciation to my former leader and to say a word of appreciation to my friend from York South both of whom I have a great admiration for. The boutonniere I am wearing came courtesy of the member for York South, and the only way I can repay him is with something liquid, maybe after six o’clock.
It has been said by the government House leader (Mr. Wells) that possibly we will be here in the opposition again. But, as I always told the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon), it is a long road that hasn’t got a turn. I might say that one should not look back, because I recall in my early days I was a little more difficult to get along with than I am now. I guess I have mellowed.
The late Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable George Dunbar, indicated in 1956 that I was an overnight guest here and would not see another election. But having seen a few, I am very grateful for the support the people of Wellington South have given me. I am also very grateful for the support I have received from members of all parties, and I want to pay particular tribute to the civil servants of this province who, in my judgement, have treated me fairly at all times.
A member can often get inflated and deflated in a very few words. Much to my surprise, my family is here. There are two little girls who are not old enough to be here. My son-in-law and daughter live in Simcoe, in the riding of the member for Simcoe East (Mr. G. E. Smith).
As one of the two remaining members from the class of 1955, I join with him in thanking members for all their kind words and all their best wishes, even if there is some measure of qualification on them when they come from the other side of the House.
I must be frank with members. I have a growing affection for this institution. On occasion, I am perplexed. On occasion, I am dumfounded. On occasion, momentarily, I am even disillusioned. But all those are emotions one has to cope with in life, and on balance there is no other place I would rather be.
So much so, as my leader has indicated, that my riding association has organized a 25th anniversary bash for tonight. But they have insisted on tucking a nominating convention in there, and I intend to be back, God willing and the people of York South concurring, of course.
For a moment, it might be useful, for members who are of shorter vintage in this House, to say a word or so about the perspective of 25 years. Human beings always complain about the little irksome things of any given hour, particularly the present hour. I can tell members, for example, that when I came into this House in 1955 it took me six months to get a full-time secretary, even though I was leader of a party, albeit a party of three. I had an office -- the government whip will be interested to know; it is the office he is in now -- and it was not as plush then as it is now. But it was adequate. There was a nice fireplace in it. I sat in one corner and my secretary sat in another corner, and my other two colleagues sat in the other two corners. We were all in the same office.
It was very interesting, if we had guests or constituents, or people who wanted to talk privately, to talk over the clatter of a typewriter and the eavesdropping of two colleagues. However, I am not lamenting. The Tories had an even worse situation back then. As I recall, they had no offices at all. They had a lounge, and they were all clubbed together in that lounge. There were a couple of little cubbyholes that were available for offices if they wanted to interview somebody. I suppose it was on a first-come-first-served basis. We have made some progress.
There is only one element I want seriously to put to my colleagues in this Legislature. As an institution, totally, we have made some real progress. But for reasons that mystify, perplex and concern me, this chamber is in a state of eclipse, compared with 25 years ago. It was impossible then for a leading spokesman of an opposition party, even if it was a party of only three, to get up in a throne speech or a budget speech, for example, without having most of the cabinet there, lined up like Big Berthas on the front, shooting. It was the centre of action.
Back in those days, private members had no privileges at all in terms of resolutions and bills they could introduce. Today we have those privileges, but nobody is interested. Nobody attends. There is nobody at debates on private members’ bills. We flock in for the votes because the whips have whipped us into shape, so to speak, whoever has decided what is going to happen on that given bill. I am a little perplexed as to why that is the case.
However, there has been one real measure of progress. As my classmate of 1955 reminded the members the constant taunt on that side of the House was, “You are an overnight guest.” They were wrong. The three of those days is now 33, and one day it will be 63 or 73. I do not know when the people of this province are going to bring an end to a one-party rule, but one day it will happen and I hope to be around when it does.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the Provincial Secretary for Justice. Is he familiar with the report that was commissioned by the Justice secretariat in January 1976, entitled Alcohol Use in Ontario, which sounded a very grave warning at the rapid increase in the utilisation of beverage alcohol in the age groups 18 to 21 years? Is he further aware of the policy statement made by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea), on March 30, 1978, controlling advertising on television for beer in this province, which said as follows:
“All such advertisements shall not imply that social acceptance, personal success, business or athletic achievement may result from the use of the product being advertised. The advertisements must not suggest that the consumption of alcoholic beverages per se may be a significant factor in the realization of the enjoyment of any activity; nor may advertising suggest that consumption of alcohol in any way enhances performance or enjoyment of these activities.”
Is the minister not aware that policy obviously is not in operation and that beer ads from Toronto now exceed those from Buffalo by a count of about four to one, and that under their lifestyle persuasion the utilization of beer in this province has gone up 4.3 per cent to 160 million gallons at a time when the population has gone up only a bit more than one per cent?
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, I have a passing knowledge of the report of January 1976 put out by the Justice secretariat. Of course, I am aware of the policy that was promulgated by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in 1978.
As to the precise figures the member has cited, I am unaware of those. I am aware, however, that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations would want to speak to him on the matter and probably deliver and put to him a more profound statement.
Mr. Nixon: Is it not the responsibility of the minister in charge of the Justice policy field, particularly since the minister is not following the policy and, as a matter of fact, is going directly counter to it, to see that this matter is raised either publicly or otherwise? If the government’s policy is to encourage the kind of lifestyle advertising which indicates that the use of beverage alcohol, particularly beer, is going to improve your athletic prowess, your good looks, probably your sex life, we should know about it, because obviously there is a tremendous difference in what the government says and what the government does. Will the minister take any responsibility for this, or is his position as Justice policy secretary simply a meaningless title?
Hon. Mr. Walker: The acting leader of the Liberal Party is well aware of the fact that the line ministers are directly responsible for each of their own policies. We tend to act as policy secretaries in the co-ordinating field. Now that he has raised the matter, we will see that the matter is placed on the agenda. Indeed, we will mention it this afternoon during a regular meeting of the cabinet committee on justice.
Mr. Warner: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Ziemba), who has fought this issue for a good number of years: Since it was government policy stated in this House, and the minister is supposed to be the provincial secretary for that policy field, why does he not state clearly that there will not be any more lifestyle advertising for alcoholic beverages on television? Surely the minister has the authority to make that clear statement here today.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I have a question I would like to direct to the Minister of the Environment. I have not heard anything from the federal authorities about the utilization of the plasma arc method to burn and destroy PCBs and other polluting chemicals. Can the minister assure the House that he is either going to contact the federal Minister of the Environment or that he is going to act on his own to bring about the utilization of this research that has taken place in Ontario? The method can burn up the PCBs rather than spending the $5 million that is now projected as government policy for interim storage.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the answer to both those questions is yes. We have spent a lot of time on this. Our preference, as a matter of government policy, would be to have a method whereby we could destroy PCBs on site to reduce the hazards of transportation. Also, I have spoken to the federal Minister of the Environment and will continue to do so.
I do not know whether I can report much more than that. I can assure the honourable member that in this instance money is not a problem for us. I do not think there is that great a demand in the first instance. I guess it would be a great help if we could have our machine -- the TAGA 3000 -- do some mere assessment on that. It is one of the areas we are considering, or at least we are hoping to have some assistance from that machine to determine the complete safety. I do not know what more I can say in the way of assurance.
Mr. Nixon: A supplementary: Will the minister indicate that the utilization of the plasma arc method is one he prefers rather than storing the PCBs? Does he realize the significance of such a statement, particularly since the Supreme Court of Ontario has found that Mississauga validly excluded PCBs from that municipality? I would think therefore that any other municipality could do the same thing.
It looks as if it is going to be practically impossible for the government policy to be carried out unless they switch it and direct it towards burning the PCBs as they come out of service and where they are, rather than transporting them to central storage.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, our objective has always been to destroy PCBs by incineration. Storage was only an interim measure and never the final solution. So let me be as clear as it is possible to be. Yes, it is government policy -- we want to destroy PCBs by incineration. There is a caveat to that which I think is awfully important. We want first of all to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt -- and that is the reason for my reference to the TAGA machine -- that they can be destroyed as completely as it is humanly possible to do so.
So I say two things in summary: Destruction of PCBs by incineration is the position of this government and that is what we want; whether it be in the plasma arc or another way, we want destruction -- and the best bet is incineration. Second, we want to be able to guarantee to the people that destruction is as high 100 per cent as it is humanly possible to do.
Mr. Kennedy: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Would the minister clarify precisely where this plasma arc research or process is at the moment? The minister mentioned he conversed with the federal minister. Does the minister have scientific staff involved in this experimental or research work? Would he just clarify where we are with it?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, we do not have staff doing any research on it. That is being done by members of the Royal Military College in Kingston. We have staff assigned to do the assessment of that research and more particularly we will give a great deal of time and effort from our ministry to assess the effectiveness of that method of destruction.
Mr. Hall: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: In this prolonged interim period while the ministry is storing PCBs and is unable to destroy them in the manner it finds best through plasma arc, could the minister give us assurance that the ministry will only store PCBs originating in Ontario and not bring them into the province from other parts of Canada?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Liquid PCBs are banned from the border crossings now. I do not know of an application for those to be stored in the area of the member’s interest. As he knows, the appeal board heard the case last week. I suspect, and I am sure, that in the very near future it will be recommending the conditions under which that particular site could accept material in an emergency, as the member and I have discussed on many occasions.
Ms. Bryden: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: Is the minister aware of a recent article in one of the American scientific magazines suggesting a hydro-thermal method of destroying PCBs which would allow it to be done in small plants close to the source? Would it not be preferable to work towards that kind of a solution so that there are no transportation problems in bringing PCBs across the province into a centre and having the transportation hazards that come from transporting this dangerous substance?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: I may have missed something along the way, but it seems to me that the hydro-thermal method is not dissimilar to the plasma arc method. Whether they are synonymous or not, I am not 100 per cent sure, but they are very similar. The conceptual basis is identical. The conceptual basis is simply to destroy the materials where they are at present stored. The vast majority of those are stored all over this province. We would take the machine to the sites and destroy them there. That is our preference because it has all the advantages.
I can’t repeat often enough -- and I think this is very important and the key to the whole situation -- that until the safeness of this is demonstrated by the TAGA 3000 beyond any shadow of doubt, then we cannot support their destruction in less than as perfect a way as technology can advance today. We have a double responsibility. We have to find the means of destruction by using the best technology. The other side, which is also equally important, is to demonstrate that it is safe and efficient. The prime responsibility of this ministry is not just to look for the technologies, but to add the extra dimension of their being safe for the people of this province.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Education about educational opportunities in northern Ontario for Franco-Ontarians. Can the minister explain why there are no courses offered in French in commerce or engineering at Laurentian University when Laurentian is meant to be the bilingual university for northern Ontario?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, Laurentian University is funded in precisely the same way as all other universities. Decisions made about course offerings at the undergraduate level are decisions that are entirely the responsibility of the board of governors of that institution. When a bilingual institution does expand a program, we provide additional funding for a French-language program. We have done that for Laurentian in a number of other areas and for the University of Ottawa as well.
Mr. Cassidy: Does the minister not consider there is a responsibility on the government to ensure that there is education in northern Ontario in such important areas as commerce and engineering for Franco-Ontarians and that it be available in French? Particularly when there are now 26 high schools in northern Ontario for Franco-Ontarians, why can’t students get into the areas of the economy when they graduate by taking courses at their own university of Laurentian? Why is the government insisting they must go either to the University of Ottawa or to Quebec to get instruction that should be available in the north?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, there is no such insistence at all, as the honourable member very well knows. The decisions about course offerings at any university are decisions made by the governing body of that university. We can point out the need to them, we can demonstrate for them as much as possible that it would be appropriate to provide those programs; but we cannot insist to autonomous boards of governors that the programs be provided.
Mr. Sweeney: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker: I wonder if the minister could indicate how close her ministry is to making any decision, one way or the other, about a fully French-language university in Ontario?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am sure this matter will be discussed by the Ontario Council on University Affairs. We have had no recommendation at all from that body at this time, nor from the Council of Ontario Universities.
Mr. Cassidy: Supplementary: Does the government have any plans to carry out its responsibility to ensure there is training in northern Ontario for Franco-Ontarians in commerce and in engineering, or does the government intend simply to stand back and let the low-cost programs in arts be offered to Franco-Ontarians at Laurentian but not require that there be the courses in commerce and engineering, which is where the jobs are and to which Franco-Ontarians should have the right just as much as English-speaking Ontarians in the northern part of the province?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: If the honourable leader of the third party is suggesting there should be a total change of policy vis-à-vis the relationship between government and the university community within this province I wish he would say so directly.
What he is in actual fact saying is that the government of Ontario, or the Legislature of the province, should tell each of the universities precisely which courses it should offer, precisely the number of people and to whom they should be offered, and when and where they should be offered. That is a totally foreign concept as far as the universities of this jurisdiction are concerned and it is one I believe we really would have difficulty in persuading, not only the university community but the vast majority of the people of Ontario would be appropriate.
The universities of this province are indeed sensitive. They are understanding of the problems, and I believe that in almost all instances they have been moving in the direction of attempting to meet the societal needs of this province in the most appropriate way.
While it is admitted there is an additional amount of funding going into Laurentian University, isn’t the minister aware that when one has a bilingual university that is an emerging university, if there isn’t extra funding -- and there is some extra funding, I have already granted that, but there isn’t sufficient funding -- to provide the number of options that are necessary to entice students to go to Sudbury, students who rather than going to Sudbury, are going off to Ottawa? The handwriting is on the wall for Laurentian University as a bilingual institution if the additional funding isn’t forthcoming to allow those additional courses which give the students the options they need to get a full degree in French.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Laurentian University, in the entire university system in this province, has the highest basic income unit of any institution. It is provided with additional grants from at least two other sources. It certainly has been funded with additional moneys to try to provide for French-language educational programs.
I think what the honourable member is suggesting is that Laurentian University be isolated and demonstrated to be a totally different kind of situation from any others. That has already been done. We are providing additional funds in order to try to meet the needs, the specific needs of, first, the northern location and, second, the bilingual characteristics of the community to be served. That action is in process.
I do not really believe the honourable member wants me to say there should be one university in this province that is treated entirely differently from all the other universities. I think he would think that would be wrong if he were to consider it seriously.
Mr. Cassidy: Mr. Speaker, I have a new question for the Minister of Labour about the proposal for a race relations division in the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a proposal that was made six and a half months ago at a time when the minister said we cannot be complacent about the imperative of providing respect for visible minorities.
Since the Premier confirmed last week that a race relations division has not yet been set up despite six and a half months’ delay, can the minister explain the reasons for this unconscionable delay and say what action the government intends to take and when?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, that is not quite accurate. A race relations commissioner was appointed on that same day and -- I do not have the exact number here -- a number of staff were assigned to him. At the same time he was appointed, a consultant was reviewing the administration and reorganization of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The final allocation of certain responsibilities has therefore been left in abeyance but, as the member well knows, that commissioner has been very active. He was personally involved in the Chinese community-CTV issue and I think, with all humility, he can take personal credit for achieving a resolution of that particular dispute.
I cannot agree they are inactive. I think they are very active. He is involved in many areas in a preventive way in this community and throughout the province, and I cannot agree with what the member said.
Mr. Cassidy: Does the minister not recognize that announcing action raises expectations and that unnecessary delays in establishing this race relations division, announced six and a half months ago, breeds cynicism? It leads to a lack of faith on the part of ethnic communities and all people in the province who are concerned about racism and want to see action by the government to stamp out racism in the province.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: First of all, as the member knows, by order in council a race relations division was established, a chairman was appointed, he has some staff, and he has been very active. He has been intimately involved in situations that brought him a great deal of acclaim for the quiet and discriminating way in which he dealt with problems effectively. I think the member is quite out of line to suggest there is not an active and involved race relations commissioner and division.
Mr. Cassidy: Can the minister then explain the confusion? We learned from the human rights commission that the race relations division was not yet established. The Premier told the House last Friday that the race relations division is in the process but is not yet established. Now the minister claims it is established. What are the facts? Why has it been delayed so long? What action does the government intend to take this summer in the light of fears that there may be more racial incidents to follow the incidents that took place over the course of the spring?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I think the member is confusing two situations. First of all, there is a race relations commissioner. He is quoted very frequently and, as the member knows, he is involved in activities throughout the province.
The member is probably confusing that with the fact that a consultant has been reviewing a major reorganization plan within the human rights commission. That has no effect on whether there is a race relations commissioner in place, whether he has some staff and whether he is active, which he is.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Two weeks ago, during the committee hearings on the annual report of the Workmen’s Compensation Board, Ontario, the minister indicated the much-heralded Professor Weiler would not be holding any public hearings in his full-scale study of the board. Rather, his terms of reference seem to centre around the internal workings of the board.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, the member is not reporting the entire conversation we had at estimates. He will recall the order in council appointing Professor Weiler indicated that he was appointed technical consultant and adviser to the Minister of Labour to study and make recommendations with respect to the system of workmen’s compensation in Ontario. His terms of reference are broad and give him freedom and leeway to investigate any aspect he may wish to.
In particular, there were four subheadings of particular matters that we requested he look into specifically. At the resources development committee hearings I committed myself to making interim and any other reports submitted to me by Professor Weiler available for public scrutiny. I will continue to support that position I took.
Professor Weiler has not been directed as to the manner in which he is to conduct his review, but he has made it very clear that he is prepared to meet with anyone to discuss the problems. To date he has met with a wide variety of people. He will be commencing his duties on a full-time basis during the summer, and during that period of time he will continue to see and speak to interested parties about the issues relating to the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
Mr. Van Horne: In the course of the minister’s response to the committee a couple of weeks ago, it was not made clear whether there would be public announcements as to the time that Professor Weiler might be available, whether he would be available only in Toronto or in what locations would he be available. Could the minister please make it clear whether there will be any opportunity for public forum presentation to Professor Weiler in his study?
Professor Weiler had told me he had already made some contact to visit Sudbury, for example, and meet with some people and he had raised the possibility of visiting other parts of Ontario. I indicated to the member at the time of those hearings that I would forward the transcript of those hearings to Professor Weiler so that the views of the committee would be known. The member expressed his views very clearly and there is absolutely no desire on anyone’s part to not have a full understanding of the problems. I am sure he will be pleased to meet with anybody.
Mr. M. Davidson: Mr. Speaker, does the minister not understand, given the role that has been assigned to Professor Weiler -- that is, a review of the Workmen’s Compensation Act and the operations of the board -- that he cannot possibly do that without holding public hearings? Will he not now accept the suggestion put forward by the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) that hearings be held in the major communities throughout the southern parts of the province and in the northern parts of Ontario, so that those who have an interest in the injured workers of this province can meet Professor Weiler and discuss with him publicly what they see as the problems that exist within the work-men’s Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: I have indicated very clearly that Professor Weiler is someone who has been universally accepted as very appropriate to review the structure, function and philosophy of the board. He has not been directed as to the manner in which he discusses problems with interested parties, nor do I intend to give him that direction. I think we have to have that kind of confidence in a human being.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Is the minister concerned about the excessive promotion in this province of United States-grown fruits and vegetables just prior to the same kind of products coming on the market here? In particular, may I ask him if he is aware of the massive promotion of fresh strawberries, incidentally -- by Ponderosa? It is part of a multinational with many tentacles and has been doing this promotion now for 10 days or more, just before our own Niagara strawberries are to come on the market. If the minister knows about it and is concerned about it, what contact has he had with retailers and food outlets like Ponderosa to stop this practice, which is injurious to our farmers?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I was not aware of the advertising that the honourable member is referring to. I am sure he is fully aware that I support the advertisement of Ontario home-grown products at every opportunity. I do not need to put my position forward. I am sure all members know it.
Mr. Swart: I will send this card over to the minister so he can look very closely at the card being used by Ponderosa. There are many other cards, much larger, advertising these fresh strawberries. He will note that nowhere do they give the nationality of the strawberries. Does he not think that it is rather an unsavoury sales practice, perhaps even underhanded, trying to confuse it with the strawberries that are grown here at this time of year, and does the minister not think it is time he had some discussion with his Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) and pressured him to ensure that in instances such as this the product is clearly designated as to its country of origin?
Mr. Speaker: Order. While I was having lunch today with our guest in the gallery, Mr. Clifford Irving, he said it was unheard of for anybody to interject in the House of Keys. Perhaps that may be something you would want to --
Hon. Mr. Henderson: This morning I approved for the press a note from the minister advertising that the season is now on for Ontario-grown strawberries. I have my press release right here if the honourable member would like to see it. I would be glad to show it to him.
I would just point out that in the release it says we can look forward to enjoying them throughout the rest of June and into July. I am sure the honourable member is well aware, as is anyone sitting here, that any of the proposals he has put forth comes under the government of Canada, not under this Legislature.
Mr. Hodgson: I would like to ask a question, Mr. Speaker, of the Minister of Education. When can the school boards across this province expect to be notified of their allocation for capital expenditures, since the season to get construction done is wearing on?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, the capital allocations for 1981 will be made known in a limited way to all of the boards within the province within the next week, except for Metropolitan Toronto, which still has some questions to be resolved before that final decision can be made for the boards involved within the Metropolitan Toronto area.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the minister on the same line. Will the minister respond affirmatively and immediately to the 2,000 people in Unionville who have sent a petition, which was presented by this member to the Premier (Mr. Davis) in this House on April 14, regarding the establishment of a secondary school in Unionville, and will the minister give them a guarantee that they can have that school immediately?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is asking for the impossible and he very well knows it. One cannot guarantee that immediately. The decision is in the process of being made at this time.
Mr. Riddell: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Mr. Speaker. Is the minister aware of a task force, which was established by the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman) in January, and a report, entitled the Consultative Task Force Report on the Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industry in Ontario, which was released in July 1979? If the minister is aware of this report, would he indicate to the House the nature of the report, the recommendations and the action that the government is contemplating based on those recommendations?
Mr. Riddell: Would the minister then familiarize himself with this report and would he table the report, since a lot of work has been put into that report and for some reason the government seems to sit on it rather than bring it to the House and let the rest of us know what it is all about?
Mr. MacDonald: When the minister is considering what he might do in the light of that report, would he mind reviewing the representations that were made by the budget critic in this party last year? At the time our critic pointed out that one of the areas of decline in our manufacturing and processing sector was in the food industry. I think the minister may have a prescription there as to how he might implement the report and reverse the trend.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Solicitor General. Can he assure us that an inquest will be held into the drowning that occurred on the Mississagi River this weekend? Apparently it related to a sudden onrush of water as a result of Ontario Hydro opening a sluice gate which led to the swamping of a sport fisherman’s boat and the drowning of an Etobicoke man.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the tragic incident to which the member has referred. I will look into it and report back to the member. Without having some more details, it would not be reasonable to give an undertaking at this time.
Mr. Stong: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Education. Is the minister aware that a proposal will be debated this evening at the York County Board of Education which would require children from grades one to five, in the German Mills area of Markham, to be based some 16 miles away to the Jefferson Public School beginning in September? This is because the ministry has steadfastly refused to provide sufficient funding for a school in that rapidly growing area.
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I was not aware of the specific recommendation of the board. I had heard that there was going to be some discussion this evening. As I said earlier, I have also indicated there will be information provided to all boards outside of Metropolitan Toronto this week regarding the allocations that can be made for the year 1981.
Mr. Lawlor: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Labour: I am becoming increasingly concerned about the Arrowhead strike in New Toronto, the old Anaconda plant. It is turning into a very nasty situation. Is the minister monitoring this situation closely and will he offer his good offices in an intervention?
Second, will the minister consider working closely with the Solicitor General to lay down guidelines and some degree of co-operation between the union, management and the police forces of Ontario so that we can get some guidelines as to police operations? The picketers on that line feel that the close relationship between management and the police is acting detrimentally to their interests and to the solutions involved in that strike.
Hon. Mr. Elgie: Mr. Speaker, I have been aware of the strike at Anaconda and have had mediation staff in touch with both parties. They continue to be in touch with the parties. If the member is suggesting that there is something to be achieved by intervention beyond keeping in touch with the parties, awaiting some opportunity when there seems to be a reason to call them together, I will be glad to look into that and make inquiries from both parties.
Mr. Kerrio: Mr. Speaker, a question of the Minister of the Environment before he leaves the assembly: Is the minister aware of a situation in New York state where there is a lawsuit pending against SCA Chemical Waste Service Inc.? In the event that lawsuit is successful, that company may not be financially able to carry out the mandate that was given them as it relates to the disposal of dangerous toxic wastes.
Is the minister in turn protecting the people of Ontario with adequate bonding so that, in the event of a failure of a chemical waste disposal company, the people of Ontario will have adequate protection to see them through to its conclusion and the ultimate destruction of the chemical?
We will have -- and I would have hoped the honourable member might have been aware of this -- a perpetual care fund. As the member knows too, in Bill 24 a substantial commitment was made both by the government and by the requirements on industry to protect against any spill into the environment. That is one aspect.
The other aspect is, if it were not a spill but a harmful environmental result from a landfill site, the perpetual care fund would look after that. On both fronts, the government and the ministry are attacking very vigorously, and the citizens are protected.
Mr. Kerrio: Are the regulations in place now, or are they being contemplated? Am I misunderstanding the direction given to me that there is some question about whether those regulations are all in place so that it is mandatory to be bonded, or are they in the process?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: The bill is passed and the regulations are soon to be in place. But there is no doubt about the total commitment. The perpetual fund regulations will not be in place quite as soon as the regulations on Bill 24. Nevertheless, the government has seen fit on many occasions to honour these kinds of problems.
Perhaps the classic case in point is the one at Dowling. I received an extremely pleasant letter from the mayor of Onaping Falls, indicating the complete satisfaction he has with the government in protecting his community through the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars.
On an ad hoc basis the government is very clearly doing this kind of protecting. In the near future it will not be on an ad hoc basis, but in a very formal way through Bill 24 and the perpetual care fund.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us the reasons for the foot-dragging on the perpetual care fund? It has been 18 months since this was recommended by the resources development committee. The minister accepted the idea, but we still have not got it.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Mr. Speaker, these are pretty involved regulations. It is easy to put the concept forward, and easy to accept it. But to finalize all the regulations is a matter of some degree of difficulty. There is administration. The concept has to be put into intimate detail. It will be here soon. There is no foot-dragging, let me assure the member.
Without doubt, we have identified all the major sites. I cannot possibly conceive of a major site of any size or significance that has not been identified. I am sure the program we have been on in the last two years is a very significant program to identify those sites and to assess their relative hazards, if any. But to go to the next step and say it is 100 per cent, I guess, will never happen.
The basis of our program was to make a very significant attempt through public relations to ask people to come forward. That is why I welcome this question again if it is given publicity. If anybody knows of an area where he or she thinks a site might have existed, we want to know and we will investigate it.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Transportation and Communications. My question concerns Wheel-Trans which, as the minister knows, is the Metro Toronto transit system for the physically handicapped. I want to ask the minister whether he is aware of the resignation on May 27 of Professor Leonard Theodor from the Wheel-Trans advisory committee. Also, is he aware of the concerns that have been expressed by Professor Theodor and by a number of people over the past eight months or so with respect to the number of accidents, inadequate training of the drivers at Wheel-Trans, inadequate safety inspection procedures at Wheel-Trans by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and rigidity of the scheduling system? If he is aware of these concerns, could he tell us, either now or by way of a ministerial statement at a later time, what action his ministry is taking?
Mr. McClellan: The minister did not deal with the concerns that have been raised by Professor Theodor and in the press. Let me ask him specifically, perhaps to help him acquaint himself with the problems, will he table for us a report on the number of accidents that have occurred over the past 18 months within the Wheel-Trans system? Can he table, as well, the results of MTC inspection reports where those reports have indicated a safety defect in a Wheel-Trans vehicle or in Wheel-Trans procedures?
Hon. Mr. Snow: Yes, I will be glad to get the honourable member what information we have, or what we can obtain from Metro, as to the number of accidents that have taken place involving those vehicles. I am sure we can get that information for him.
Mr. Blundy: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a further question on this matter. Is the minister considering having the Urban Transportation Development Corporation look into the development of a vehicle that would include all the safety standards that are now known for the transportation of the disabled? Would he put some concrete thought and action behind this problem of transportation for the disabled?
Hon. Mr. Snow: I would have to say we are not considering having UTDC develop a new vehicle for the transportation of the physically disabled. One thing we are doing is working through the committee of all 10 provinces and the territories of the Canadian Conference of Motor Transport Administrators to establish some specific standards for safety equipment, hold-down equipment and that type of thing, which could be legislated as necessary for the transportation of citizens in wheelchairs. We are working with the CCMTA to come up with a universal standard across the country for that particular area of concern.
I have also instructed my staff to work on some proposals or some guidelines that could be made available to all systems that are running handicapped transit as to the training requirements or special training that might be necessary for the drivers.
Mr. Ruston: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Attorney General; possibly it will go over to the Solicitor General to some extent. It is with regard to the amount of crime and shooting that has happened in the Windsor and Essex county area in the last few weeks. Many people are quite concerned that some people who were involved in motorcycle groups have now disengaged themselves from those organizations and are fearful for their lives and are saying they are going to have to arm themselves.
Can the minister give us any assurance of any assistance -- background, underground or whatever he wants to call it -- from his police force with regard to the serious situation in that area now, especially since we are counting on so much tourist traffic from the Americans at this time of the year?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, the activities of these motorcycle gangs have been of great concern to the police forces in Ontario for a considerable period of time. I want to assure the honourable members that the activities of these gangs are being monitored very closely. The number of charges that have been laid against members of these gangs in the last year or two has increased dramatically and we have witnessed a number of serious and successful prosecutions. I want to assure the members that the matter is taken very seriously.
I have not had an up-to-date report on the activities to which the member has particularly referred, the four shootings in the Windsor area; I expect to have a report very shortly. But I have said on other occasions that there are very few members of these motorcycle gangs whose activities individually are not monitored very closely by the police. While the rash of killings is very disturbing, we have no reason to believe this is going to continue.
Mr. Ruston: Since the minister is in charge of justice, I assume he must have some contact through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with regard to the drug traffic. Since that may be related, will the minister make an extra effort to contact the RCMP to see that they are a little more active in that area?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I can assure the member, because of the RCMP involvement and responsibility related to interprovincial and international drug traffic, that they are very much involved in that situation.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Mr. Wells) and in the absence of the Minister of Industry and Tourism (Mr. Grossman), I will direct my question to the Minister of Labour.
Presumably the minister and his colleagues have had discussions with the federal government about the possibility or question of grants to Michelin Tires (Canada) Limited in Nova Scotia. Precisely what position has the government taken in terms of the possibility of those grants? In the light of the $56-million grant that has been announced, does the minister have any estimate of the number of jobs that are going to be lost in Ontario as a result of this proposal?
Hon. Mr. Elgie: No, Mr. Speaker, I have not been involved in any of those discussions, but I will be glad to give the Minister of Industry and Tourism and the now-present Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs the message the member has given me.
Mr. Charlton: Perhaps I can redirect to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In the light of what has happened, is the minister prepared to go to Ottawa and demand some kind of financial support from Ottawa to support the tire industry in Ontario and to protect Ontario jobs?
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the best way to answer that is to indicate that this whole matter has been of concern to this government. My colleague the Minister of Industry and Tourism is not here today to answer for himself, but I think he can tell the member some of the things he will be prepared to do, because he is thoroughly reviewing the implications of this grant for the tire industry of this province.
I also want the members of this House to know that my colleague did write to the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion to express the concern of the government of Ontario. This government requested the federal government to consult with us first about the potential detrimental effect to this province and to other provinces. Unfortunately, I am informed the government of Canada acted unilaterally. In other words, the consultation that had been requested was never carried out. Therefore, the minister of that area is now assessing what further reviews we will have to do in this province and what further representations will be made. I am sure representations will be made to point out very forcefully that the consultation we had requested was never held and that there are potential detrimental effects to the tire industry in this and other provinces.
I want to add that I am informed that in the case of grants to the pulp and paper industry and to other enterprises through our Employment Development Fund this province very scrupulously ensures that any assistance we add to these industries is not going to detrimentally affect jobs in other provinces. We try to take that into account as one of the criteria when looking at making loans under that particular program of this province.
Mr. Isaacs: Mr. Speaker, will the minister in his role as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs set up procedures with the federal Liberal government to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again and that the federal government does not shift jobs out of Ontario to union-busting companies like Michelin in Nova Scotia?
Hon. Mr. Wells: I would be happy to tell my friend that I will do everything possible to ensure that we have even better lines of communication -- obviously they have not been good in this particular instance -- on all those things between this government and the federal government.
Mr. Sweeney: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Correctional Services. Can the minister advise us what plans he has to resolve the conflict between the public inspection panel’s view of overcrowding in the Waterloo jail and the view of his regional director, particularly when the panel says the jail should not have more than 60? It had 83 on the inspection tour, and the director says it can always get more in and has had as many as 100. How does the minister resolve that kind of conflict?
Hon. Mr. Walker: Mr. Speaker, in the same way as one does not build roads for rush-hour traffic, we have the same problems in corrections. During the spring we invariably have a heavier usage of our jails than we do at most times.
Hon. Mr. Walker: The member for Niagara Falls suggests putting them out fishing, but I do not think we can do that. A week ago last Monday I was actually at the Waterloo Detention Centre. That particular day the counts corresponded with the actual capacity; so I was not at all concerned. There is a certain fluctuation that continues to go up and go down. We have to accept the fact that we cannot always provide for the maximum usage. By about the middle of June, the usage in that particular facility will start to wane and over the summer it will go down well below the capacity level. It will probably build up a bit more towards the fall.
I do not think it is anything to be too concerned about. I looked at the facilities, specifically with the overcrowding in question, and I was satisfied that the pressures would not be substantial, even with a degree of overcrowding. Once we open the Wellington Detention Centre -- the former Hillcrest -- which is now being renovated and will be open, I believe, in December of this year, that will undoubtedly take some of the pressure off there and solve most of the concerns and alarms the member would have.
Mr. Sweeney: Is the minister aware of the comments by staff inspector David James that there are times when the local police are advised to use greater discretion in arresting people if they have been warned in advance that there is crowding at the jail? What kind of a system of justice is this where the determination as to whether a person is going to be arrested and jailed depends upon whether there is space in the jail to hold him?
Hon. Mr. Walker: I think it is very wise for us to allow the police forces in the area to be well aware of the details of our own particular pressures at the moment. In fact, that would suggest to the staff inspector that some of the local lockups might be more used in that case than might otherwise be the case. In other words, they can keep one or two people in the lockups over the weekend until perhaps the pressure is off.
The fact is that we cannot build jails in this province to meet the highest pressure. We have to accept the fact that from time to time there is a buildup. I would be glad to make an arrangement for the member to tour that facility. I think he would see it can cope quite comfortably with some additional increase in the number of people who are incarcerated at the time.
In fact, when there are periods of overcrowding, when there are periods when the capacity is surpassed, all that means is that each one does not have his own bedroom. What it really means is that the odd one or two must sleep in other accommodation. That amounts usually to a mattress provided in the day-room area outside the cell area which is perfectly secure. The public in the member’s area can be satisfied that security is not in any way endangered. I think he will find, if he takes a tour of that himself, it can accommodate some overcrowding with no deleterious effects on inmates. I have not had one comment from one inmate, and that is unusual for an overcrowded area.
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to increase the representation on the Metropolitan School Board from the Scarborough Board of Education from two members to three members effective December 1, 1980.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I have no prepared comments, but I would refer the House to the statement I made at the time of the introduction of this bill. I could go into some length, but I have made the two critics aware of an amendment I would like to make in committee of the whole House. I have informed them that I am quite willing to accept the recommendation made by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, namely, that the time for registration of present land owned by nonresidents be reduced from two years to one year. But I would be very glad to answer questions on any part of it.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, needless to say, I was very happy to welcome this government bill. It means we are finally going to have an opportunity to find out how extensive foreign purchase of land is in this province. The next step will be legislation imposing limits if that appears to be necessary.
I have been pushing the government to take action on foreign land ownership since 1978. I have been supported in my endeavours by the agricultural community, municipalities, individual owners and farm organizations.
Just by way of history, members will no doubt recall that on December 5, 1978, I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Food if he was aware of the widespread and serious concern about block purchases by foreign investors of agricultural land in the counties of Bruce, Huron and Kent. I also asked if it was true that foreign interests were circumventing the land transfer tax by forming Ontario corporations and whether the minister would undertake a survey of current foreign ownership of rural land in Ontario, as well as monitoring all new land transfers to private or corporate foreign ownership, as had been recommended by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture at its annual meeting.
For the last five years at least there have been periods of intense buying of farm land by non-Canadians. The latest increased activity in this connection appears to be concentrated in Huron-Bruce, but there are also reports of relatively significant activity in other counties throughout Ontario.
Recently, a person dropped into my office and left a copy of a deed on my desk. It was a deed for the sale of 1,073 acres of agricultural land in the regional municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk to a German purchaser. This land was sold for more than $1 million in cash. It was interesting to note that no land transfer tax was paid on this transaction.
I am sure that most of us have noticed the frequent advertisements in Ontario newspapers which lead to thousands of acres of farm land being sold to out-of-town cash buyers who have no intentions of farming. Many of our Canadian farmers who wish to expand their operations or who want to make room for their children are worried because these foreign investors drive up the price of land until it is out of reach for the young farmers.
Few people would feel justified in suggesting that non-nationals should be prohibited from owning Canadian real estate or farm land, but understandably there is considerable anxiety about large amounts of foreign investment frequently being concentrated in sizeable blocks of holdings. While some immediate problems arise from the escalating foreign land purchases, the overriding concern is with respect to future control of Canadian resources and communities.
A past director of the National Farmers’ Union would like to see a province-wide farm land classification plan with all prime land excluded from foreign ownership, because he fears that in the long run rural municipalities will die unless the trend of corporate ownership is reversed. In his opinion, corporate farm owners will buy in bulk from wholesalers or manufacturers with complete disregard for local towns and villages. Moreover, food prices will increase because these corporations will insist on profit all through the chain and, by virtue of their strong grip on supply, will be able to force the issue.
Many people fear that because these corporations have no particular stake or interest in the community, public buildings will be neglected, schools and churches will be forced to close. Already there are complaints of corporations refusing to co-operate on drains and fences, thus hindering the efforts of neighbouring farmers to improve their land by effective tiling.
Regrettably, there is very little statistical data on foreign land ownership in Ontario. The last systematic survey done on the subject was by the select committee on economic and cultural nationalism in 1973, at which time only about one per cent of Ontario real estate was owned by non-nationals. I would like to remind the House that the interim report of that select committee recommended that: “future acquisitions of land by individuals, including agricultural land, and the opportunity to farm in Ontario should be restricted to Canadian citizens and landed immigrants resident in Canada.” I would also like to place on record that the Minister of Agriculture and Food once removed dissented from this recommendation.
We are aware that this problem of escalating foreign ownership of land is not unique to this province. However, it would seem we have been unique in our provincial government’s determined reluctance to come to grips with this situation.
I once again raised the issue in this House on April 17, 1979, when I revealed that a West German family actively seeking to purchase agricultural land had enough money deposited in Huron county banks to buy the equivalent of two townships of land. At that time, both opposition parties urged the government to establish a provincial foreign investment review agency. However, the then Minister of Agriculture and Food told us he would need more facts and figures before taking action. He also deemed it necessary to remind me of the 20 per cent land transfer tax on the sale of land to non-Canadians and that many buyers are coming to Canada to farm the land themselves. To all appearances he was prepared to slough off the specific case I had raised.
You may recall that I had received a call from a local farmer with the story of the West German family which had solicited the assistance of a real estate agent to buy his 1,000-acre farm. The German family was apparently in the cement business in Germany and worth about $750 million.
Belgian and Dutch money is also coming into Huron county, one of the counties where there seem to be considerable land-buying activities on the part of foreign interests. The usual approach is to buy the land at $1,200 to $1,500 an acre, although there are reports of land being sold to foreign investors for as much as $3,000 an acre. Frequently, the land is leased back to the farmer at $100 an acre annually.
The minister was sceptical about the anxiety which I expressed. He said the ministry did a survey in Kent county, and I want to quote his words: “When all of you were making a great deal of noise about the takeover by foreigners, it turned out to be about one per cent of the land -- and that was not necessarily foreign ownership; they could have been Canadians who were resident somewhere else.”
That was the end of his remarks at that time. My colleague the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) asked whether the minister had a plan of action in the event the study allowed there was more foreign ownership than expected, but the minister replied: “We have looked at the foreign ownership of land from the last survey we did. We do not feel there was any major problem to be concerned about at that point in time.”
The minister may not have been concerned. I certainly was and I still am; so are a lot of people in Huron county, and so are a lot of people in other parts of Ontario and in other parts of Canada for that matter.
Already four other provinces have laws restricting foreign ownership of land. Already there is legislation on this subject in the United States. In the fall of 1978, the United States Congress passed a law that would force all foreign owners to register their land ownership. At least 25 states have enacted constraints of some kind on foreign land holdings.
Legislation has also been introduced to close tax loopholes which encourage foreign investors to buy United States farm land because, working through subsidiaries registered in tax havens, such as the Netherlands Antilles, they can invest in American farm land, rent it or lease it and pay no United States taxes. Moreover, when the foreign investor sells the land, he is exempt from capital gains tax.
Many of the foreign investors come from countries that have tax treaties with Canada. They do not have to pay income tax; instead, they pay a withholding tax. In cases where there is a treaty with Canada, the rate is 15 per cent. In other cases it is 25 per cent. The only other tax they are likely to pay is capital gains on real property. Canadians, on the other hand, have to pay regular income tax, frequently in excess of 15 or 25 per cent, plus half of the gains tax.
Foreign ownership of land is a matter of some controversy in the United States, where Germans and Italians are the heaviest investors, followed by the British, French, Belgians and -- note this -- Canadians. There are people in the United States who, like Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, believe there is no cause for alarm or even concern. After all, they say, most of the buyers are good neighbours who often lease the land back to Americans and pour in development money to introduce modern small-farming techniques. Supposedly, these foreign investors are not primarily interested in making a profit. They simply wish to protect their capital against the ravages of inflation and the spectre of creeping socialism.
Mr. Speaker, you may be interested in the response of a San Francisco-based expert on farm real estate when he was asked why a foreign investor would believe he could possibly make $2,100-an-acre row-crop land pay, when the local farmer says there is no way. I want to quote what he said: “If your money is sitting in a bank in Lugano or Zurich, if your money is sitting in that economy, in Spain, for instance, with 25 per cent inflation last year, you’re losing capital. If you can invest in something that is going to produce long-range inflation protection, as compared to a negative return in the Swiss bank, you are going to do it.” However, we in this House are not directly concerned with the situation in the United States, although indirectly what happens there affects us.
The Minister of Agriculture and Food may be more interested in excerpts from a Windsor Star editorial, following the exchange between myself and the former minister on April 17, 1979, on this subject. I would like to place these comments on record. I quote what that article stated:
“If Newman” the former Minister of Agriculture and Food -- “really believes that a 20 per cent land transfer tax would discourage large-scale land purchases, we must assume he is a very naive minister indeed. If he really believes that German or Dutch or Belgian industrialists would sink millions upon millions of dollars to buy thousands of acres of land in Canada because they want to farm it, he must also be a very gullible minister.
“If Newman continues to rely on old studies on the matter and is willing to give purchasers of land the benefit of the doubt as to their nationality, in reply to Mancini’s question, without having made certain of the existence of reasons for that doubt, he may be said to be not a very serious minister, and that could be a disastrous combination for the provincial government.
“What if, one day, the opposition’s claims prove to be true? What if the German owners of 40,000 acres of land in Huron county decide to subdivide the land for residential or industrial development? What if they start scraping off the topsoil and start digging out the limestone beneath it to roast it and grind it into cement? The least Newman can do, if he takes the job seriously, is to investigate the opposition’s claims. They may turn out to be unfounded, but they may also hold some surprises, and a surprise now would be far easier to take than a future shock.”
On April 17, 1979, I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Food, “What in the world is it going to take to move you on this subject?” I am pleased that the present minister has finally taken some action. But his seriousness might be questioned considering he is giving foreign investors two years in which to register.
Despite the apparent reluctance I perceive, the minister, who not only represents a rural riding but also the farmers of Ontario, knows that the leading topic of conversation and concern in our rural communities is about Ontario farm land being sold for record prices, in many cases at prices far above the going rates, and being bought by foreign investors.
Small-scale farmers complain they are being priced out of the market, and larger-scale farmers say they simply cannot compete with the special tax advantages foreign investors have. I have alluded previously to that tax advantage.
Yet no one knows how much land foreigners have bought or are buying. Let me make it perfectly clear that, by foreign-owned, I am referring to persons nonresident in Canada. I was interested in hearing the results of the Rural Development Outreach Project, which were revealed last Thursday night at a meeting in Huron county. The Rural Development Outreach Project has been going on for more than a year, and I trust they have submitted a report to the minister. I don’t think I am giving away any secrets at this present time.
They used township assessment roll data, augmented by registry office data, and indicated that foreign-owned land amounted to about 0.95 per cent. There also was land that was owned by non-Ontarians but residents of Canada, which amounted to 0.1 per cent. Land owned by nonlocal people, but resident in Ontario, amounted to 3.8 per cent. There was what they called local urban land, which amounted also to 3.8 per cent. This local urban land investor is one who lives in a town, village or hamlet within the township in which the land is located or within its adjacent township.
The story revealed that 8.7 per cent of the land in Huron county is owned by nonresident farmers. They drew the conclusion that this can have serious effects on the structure of the local communities in the same way that foreign investors affect a community.
I am sure it will help him to realize we are doing the right thing by disclosing the amount of land in foreign ownership. We may even find out, at some time, how much of this land is owned by nonresident farmers.
I have no objection to foreign people coming to this province and competing with our own farmers in the purchase and operation of farm land. Most of these people have made a very great contribution to the agricultural industry in this country. These people live on the land and they farm it. What I do object to is the investment type of purchase of property, where foreign investors do not live in this country, do not participate in the production of the land and just reap the profits from it.
I know there are those who are concerned about nonresident farmers per se, period. There are some who are prepared to say that any investment in farm land should be only by those who are prepared to come and farm the land and compete with our own farmers. I am not prepared to go that far, but there are many whom I have talked to who are really concerned about this 8.7 per cent of our land that is owned by nonresident farmers. They may be living in other places in Canada, other places in Ontario or in other communities within Huron county, but not necessarily living on and farming the land they own.
I believe most people would agree that large concentrations of nonresident owners in any one area can affect the whole social structure of a community. While in many cases the practice seems to be that the land is usually leased back to resident farmers, I am inclined to believe that foreign investment will accelerate the demise of the family farm unit. Moreover, in most cases the rent being charged for the land that is foreign controlled is unjustifiably high from the standpoint of even hoping to make a profit on the land.
The main objection from farmers is that foreign buyers are paying excessively high prices for the land. That in turn pushes up the value of land owned and prevents young people from entering farming or expanding in the business. What that means is that the younger generation of potential farmers would be reduced to nothing more than tenant farmers.
I don’t think that when the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Henderson) talks to the graduating students at the agricultural colleges across Ontario he can convince them the thing they should be doing is going back to the land, renting the land from foreign investors and never hoping ever to own that land eventually. Once that land is sold to a foreign investor, it is going to be very difficult ever to get it back under Canadian control.
I would hate to think these graduates are going to be reduced to what I call tenant farmers. I do not think I would have ever gone farming if I did not think I would be able to own that farm at one time, and I am sure young people look at it the same way I do.
Some farmers feel their land is their pension, and they would like to be able to sell it for the top dollar regardless of who will eventually own it. This point is well taken if we choose to disregard the future of this country. The eventual conclusion, however, is that if our agricultural industry becomes foreign-controlled, we could find ourselves at the mercy of other countries for the food we need for our own domestic consumption.
Surely we have learned a lesson from the energy situation in which we find ourselves today. We are so reliant on the nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for our oil that we have very little to say in the price or even the assurance that we will continue to get this source of energy, which we cannot do without at this time.
I know the minister is going to say they cannot pick this land up and take it over to Germany or whatever countries these investors are investing their money in. But we will have very little control over what they do with that land. If they choose to grow a crop that is more lucrative to sell on the foreign market, or even take it back to their own country, they will do that. The first thing we know, we will become less and less self-sufficient in food production in this province.
Surely we do not want to lose control over the primary resource we still have, and that is land. We have sold the shop in everything else. Most of our industry, as we must admit, is now foreign-owned.
Much of the concern over foreign ownership stems from the lack of knowledge about its extent, the source and nature of such large amounts of ready cash, the long-term intent of foreign purchasers regarding the use of the land and the lack of any effective controls over these purchasers. It is far from easy getting concrete evidence.
There is growing evidence that land-buying is done through Ontario-registered companies. This arrangement avoids the payment of the 20 per cent land transfer tax and gives the impression that little buying of farm land has been undertaken. It is with these concerns in mind that I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Food last year to conduct a survey of foreign investment in Ontario farm land. The only figures compiled so far by him on the extent of foreign, nonresident ownership in this province were released in a report tabled in the Legislature on June 22, 1979, entitled Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land in Kent and Huron Counties.
The report which the minister released just last week was based on the questionnaire which the minister sent to the clerks of the various municipalities throughout Ontario. The tables in the Kent and Huron counties report are based on data that are far from comprehensive and are, in many cases, inaccurate. These statistics on individual foreigners are from the farm tax reduction list which are based on assessment rolls. These rolls, however, do not have accurate recordings of nonresident owners since the assessment notices may be sent legally to local agents of the real property owners. The address in this case would be listed as the address of the Ontario-incorporated company, and the foreign company would further be able to receive the 50 per cent farm tax reduction. The Minister of Agriculture and Food has not made any inquiry into holdings by Ontario foreign-controlled companies.
The other sources used to compile the data were data gathered from the payment of the Ontario land transfer tax. This law was amended in 1974 to assess 20 per cent of the value of the purchase price to foreign buyers. However, the Ministry of Revenue has emphasized that the tax is not conceived as a deterrent to foreign land purchases by non-Canadians and, hence, no effort is made by the Ministry of Revenue to monitor such purchases.
The figures last year for land purchases by foreigners were insignificant, as far as their tax revenues go, with almost all their money collected with regard to cottage and recreational property purchases.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food data conflict with information we have been receiving. In Huron county, for instance, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food report indicates that 1,248 acres were owned by German firms in 1978. But the local federation of agriculture has compiled information on 1,870 acres of German-owned land in Ashfield township alone. In neighbouring Howick township, about 1,000 acres have been bought since 1975 by a registered Ontario corporation whose principal director is a citizen of West Germany.
In Perth county, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food reports no European-owned land and some 689 acres owned by Americans. However, the local federation of agriculture has so far uncovered 2,600 acres owned by foreign interests in five townships, with information still to be gathered from six other townships.
In Prince Edward county the figures of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food show only 100 acres owned by Swiss interests, as the extent of European foreign ownership. However, figures compiled by the local paper in the area, the Kingston Whig-Standard, show that 1,658 acres are foreign-owned and all but one parcel was owned by German interests. In fact, 208 acres showed up in the tax rolls which seem to have gone undetected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food researchers.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: Would the honourable member repeat those figures for Huron and Perth? I believe I will have to differ with him, but I would like him to repeat them.
In Huron county, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food report indicates that 1,248 acres were owned by German firms in 1978. The local federation of agriculture compiled information on 1,870 acres of German-owned land in Ashfield township alone. In neighbouring Howick township, about 1,000 acres have been bought since 1975 by a registered Ontario corporation whose principal director is a citizen of West Germany.
Then I went on to talk about Perth county and how the minister’s figures indicated there was no European-owned land and 689 acres were American-owned. The local federation of agriculture in that county uncovered 2,600 acres owned by foreign interests. That was in five townships and information is still to be gathered from six other townships. Then I was just going on to say that in Prince Edward --
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I want the House to study the picture. For Huron county, my report says there were six properties totalling 899 acres owned by people residing outside of Ontario, but in Canada. My report says there were 36 properties in Huron county totalling 5,002 acres owned by people residing outside of Canada. The member has not quoted those figures or anything like them. That is the report.
Now I am going to Perth county, where the member has said there is no foreign ownership. In Perth county, I have said there are eight properties totalling 640 acres owned by people residing outside of Ontario but in Canada. I have said there are 32 properties totalling 3,662 acres owned by people outside of Canada. So, Mr. Speaker, I would have to ask the member to read the report.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, I have not got to that report yet. I am talking about the report that was tabled in this Legislature; that report was based on Huron and Kent counties. This report the minister is alluding to is a report that came after that; it is the municipal report.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. MacBeth): I think we are referring to two different reports, and so it is not surprising that the figures are different depending on the point of view of time and other elements. However, I think you will have your opportunity, Mr. Minister, to make those points you are trying to make, and I would ask the honourable member to proceed.
I am coming to the questionnaire. The response to the minister’s questionnaire to the clerks of the municipalities indicated that approximately 0.68 per cent of the agricultural land in Ontario is foreign-owned. Am I quoting those figures right?
Mr. Riddell: Good. Eighty one per cent of the clerks replied. They are to be commended for their efforts in providing information to the minister on the amount of land which they believed was foreign-owned. However, it would be impossible for the clerks to know where the capital came from for the purchase of land by Ontario agents or Ontario corporations. Therefore, it is impossible for the clerks to know who the true owners of that land are. That is why once again we have to consider that those figures are inaccurate.
I believe these few examples illustrate only too clearly the lack of any concrete and reliable facts gathered so far by the government on this most important question. Even the government’s own limited data show that in 1978 close to 100,000 acres of Ontario farm land was owned by American nonresident interests.
The bill we have before us is a reasonable facsimile of my own private member’s bill, which in turn is based on similar legislation found in the United States. I am going to ask that the bill go to committee as it is my view and that of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture that two years is too long a time in which to require existing nonresident owners to file a registration report. Since the principal purpose of the bill is to do an inventory of the extent of foreign ownership of agricultural land in Ontario, the sooner we can require all foreign owners to register the better. Thus we feel that a maximum period of one year should be sufficient for registration.
I might point out that the United States requires all foreign land owners to register within 180 days. It may well be I will be amending the section of the bill dealing with the number of acres that a nonresident person can acquire, hold or maintain an interest in before he is compelled to file a registration report. It may well be that a 25- acre farm no longer exists in Ontario. But I am sure that a farmer with a 25-acre orchard would consider this to be sufficient land to generate a fairly significant part of his income.
I know that at one time land was severed into 10-, 15- and 25-acre lots. I believe that in many cases farmers have rented this land for the purpose of farming it. I also believe that the United States requires registration of land of one acre and more. At this time I fail to see the rationale in exempting 25 acres or less from being registered. The minister may well comment on this in his reply. If I can be convinced we should be dealing in 10 hectares, or approximately 25 acres, then I will be prepared to accept it.
My bill contains a section which spells out in detail the information that should be contained in the registration report, whereas the government’s bill leaves this matter entirely to regulations we have not seen. I would like to ask the minister what kind of information he will be requesting on the form of a registration report.
My bill also contains a section providing for public examination of the report submitted to the minister and requiring the minister to table in the Legislature annual reports on the extent of foreign land ownership. No such stipulation is made in the government’s bill. I would like to ask the minister what the government intends to do with the reports when it gets them. Will it be compiling the information in a report of its own and tabling it in the Legislature on an annual basis?
Let me conclude by saying I wholeheartedly support this bill. I am pleased the minister has finally come to the realization that farm land in Ontario is a prime and limited resource. It is surely the government’s responsibility to see that the farming industry does not go the way of so many other foreign-controlled industries throughout Ontario.
Mr. MacDonald: Mr. Speaker, the concern which the government is finally reacting to in this bill is of even longer standing than the member for Huron-Middlesex has indicated. We can go back into the 1960s, if not before, with the odd voice crying in the wilderness. But in the 1960s not only was there a growing concern in general with regard to foreign ownership of lands and industry in this country, as was studied federally and examined in a cursory fashion provincially, but also in Ontario the select committee which had been referred to look at this whole issue in a very detailed fashion indicated the seriousness of it and, therefore, the need for the government to react.
In the election campaign of 1915, Stephen Lewis, the leader of the New Democratic Party at that time, fought a campaign with regard to agricultural land which highlighted the 26 acres an hour of prime agricultural land that was being lost, but which laid a great deal of emphasis on the foreign and nonresident ownership of Ontario’s prime agricultural land.
I can remember that in those days our research staff took a look at some of the concessions in the eastern section of the province and found that farm after farm had gone into either foreign ownership or nonresident ownership by somebody who was living in, say, Montreal -- a retired air pilot, or you name it -- who had decided to invest his money in agricultural land.
To put it in a general perspective, what has happened throughout the 1970s, with the skyrocketing inflation rates and price increases, is that Canada, and particularly Ontario, has become an inflation haven. We know about tax havens; the E. P. Taylors and the K. C. Irvings of the world, who made their millions, if not billions, in Canada, went to the Bahamas and elsewhere where there was a tax haven that made it possible for them to escape a good deal of the tax they would have paid had they stayed in their native country.
What we have is a variant of that in terms of an inflation haven and in a fashion I am not going to repeat, but which the member for Huron-Middlesex has spelled out. People from many countries in Europe and people from Japan have come to Ontario to invest because, even if they do not make anything in terms of a return from the farm, anything of any serious consequence, they are making money by countering the negative effect of inflation since they come from countries where inflation has ranged to 20, 25, 30 per cent, or more.
The concern that arose in a serious fashion in the 1960s was reflected in a select committee that reported in 1913 or 1974. It was a major issue in the election campaign in 1915. The honourable member has reminded the House that since 1978 he has had bills on at least one or two occasions which spelled out how the problem might be tackled as it has been tackled in other jurisdictions.
As on so many issues, the problem has been that one cannot solve a problem if one first will not acknowledge the existence of the problem. That has been the difficulty with this government. Minister after minister has said there is no serious problem. After some sort of cursory, inadequate, superficial survey, they have come back and said that only one per cent of the land was in foreign ownership or was moved into foreign ownership in the previous year and therefore what were we concerned about? That was the kind of stand we got earlier with Bill Stewart when he was the Minister of Agriculture and Food; it was the stand we got with the member for Durham-York (Mr. W. Newman) when he was the minister.
I suppose one must at least give a minor bit of credit to this minister. As quickly as he was sworn in as minister he started to grandstand on the issue. I say, “grandstand,” because he said he was going to go over the heads of the bureaucrats in his ministry who had been working on this issue and was going to seek another survey from the clerks of the various municipalities to find out how much land was in foreign ownership and how much was being transferred, for example, in the current year.
The minister must have known -- otherwise, he was as naive as the Windsor Star contended his predecessor was -- that the mechanisms the clerks had to find out how much was owned, really owned, by foreigners, were not adequate. They were not complete; they were not efficient enough. Therefore, it is not surprising that, having made his survey and got a somewhat more detailed picture, he came to the conclusion that he finally had to bow to the pressure that had been building constantly over a period of 10, 15 or 20 years, not only in this House but also outside this House.
Anybody who has read the provincial dailies across Ontario knows that the Kingston-Whig Standard, the London Free Press, the Windsor Star and paper after paper have written not only editorials trying to arouse this government but also long series of articles in which they went out -- granted, facing again the inadequacies of a mechanism for getting the information -- and at least got ad hoc bits and pieces of information to indicate that there was this significant transfer to foreign ownership.
Now the minister has brought in a bill. I share the view of the member for Huron-Middlesex, that the fact the government was willing to wait for two years to get an answer to the problem is an indication that, even having awakened to the problem, it was not willing to grapple with it with the kind of vigour and speed necessary. I am interested and pleased to hear the minister indicate that he has no objection to the proposed amendment brought by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture; when we get into committee we will be able to deal with that amendment, as well as with the minister’s amendment and, conceivably, with others.
However, let us recognize that what we are doing here in this bill -- and the details of the bill are not as important as its overall principle and thrust -- is finally providing the mechanism for getting the basic facts.
As the member for Huron-Middlesex pointed out, both opposition parties in the Agriculture and Food estimates two or three years ago, when the then minister said in effect that there was no serious problem, said “Why do we not have a report every six months or every year so that we could get some sort of trend picture as to how serious the problem was?”
What we are going to get in this bill finally, at long last, is an indication -- and I hope it will not be too little -- as to exactly what the picture is in Ontario. When we have that picture, then we can come to further conclusions as to whether we should begin to put restrictions on the amount of land a foreigner can come in and buy up and to define the circumstances exactly.
I believe four other provinces have already moved in this direction, each in varying degrees, depending on the seriousness of the situation. In Prince Edward Island, where foreigners were coming in and buying up a good deal, not only of the shoreline but also of the agricultural land, they have moved with considerable vigour. Three other provinces have followed suit.
I have only one serious reservation about this bill. I am not going to push the thing now; it is beyond the jurisdiction of this bill. It is that the government has finally awakened to the requirement as far as prime agricultural land is concerned, but it has not awakened to the broader problem. I would like to see a bill brought in some time soon which would examine the whole issue of foreign ownership -- a foreign ownership review board of some nature, not just in reference to agricultural land -- so that we might be able at least to alert the public to the kinds of consequences that can flow from a gradual loss of control of our own resources. It might be in the production of food for our own needs, or in the maintaining of rural communities so that they do not get so degutted that they become nonviable, giving the few remaining farmers who are residents a tax burden that gets increasingly beyond their control.
In short, at some time, once we have the picture which I hope this bill will provide, we must then take a look at the broader, longer-range problem that was addressed very significantly in considerable detail, and with the support of many members on the other side of the House, when the select committee examined this whole issue in 1973 and 1974.
Obviously we will support this bill. We will support it because it is something we should have had at least 10 years ago. I am a little curious as to whether the penalties are as great as they should be. Games can be played when lawyers get into the picture. It is a question whether the penalties now in the bill indicate it are ones that are going to discourage somebody who feels that the inflation haven, which Ontario represents, is the kind of place he is willing to sustain losses in and even have a bit of a penalty imposed upon him for not living up to the requirements of the act. Perhaps with the benefit of the experience of a year or so, we will find it necessary to make that penalty so big that there will be nobody who would dare for a minute to defy the purpose of the legislation.
This bill was introduced for first reading on April 29, 1980; however, my interest goes back much further. On Tuesday, November 6, 1979, I had the privilege to second a bill presented to the Legislature by my colleague the member for Middlesex (Mr. Eaton). The purpose of this bill was basically the same as that of Bill 60.
On several occasions, both before and after this date, I have had the opportunity to discuss this perceived concern of nonresident ownership of agricultural land in Ontario. I have discussed this with many of my constituents in Wellington-Dufferin-Peel, as well as with many other individuals and interested groups from other parts of Ontario. When I mention “perceived” concern, there is absolutely no question that many people do perceive that there are many large sales taking place to nonresidents.
The member for Huron-Middlesex has shown his interest in this subject and has raised many questions that require answers. I have had some people tell me about large sales of this nature that have taken place and yet when we tried to substantiate the sales, we could not do so. I am not sure if we have a problem or not, but I do know that there is a perceived problem. I, for one, support the idea of trying to clarify the situation and we, as legislators, should have the clear, hard facts to make a concrete decision.
I believe that Bill 60, with the amendments proposed, should give the true statistics that we need at this time to make knowledgeable decisions. If it is proven that we have a problem, then it is time we pass legislation that will preserve our agricultural land for our people, the people of Ontario and Canada.
The foreign investors have spread right across the province and into my county and Grey as well. I believe that, as my colleague stated, Huron county has been concerned about this for some time. That is, they have considerable good farm land in that area and these foreign buyers seem to move in where this land is best for agriculture and have picked this up at what was strong prices for us, but seem to be very good prices as far as the foreign buyer was concerned. The prices in these other countries are very much above our land prices; so they can come over here and purchase this land at what they consider is a bargain.
The immediate concern is that because it raises farm land values here -- to our Ontario farmers and to their sons -- even though it is a good buy for these foreign owners, it puts the land here out of reach of our own farmers. It is just too high to be fair or economical to continue to buy it at those prices and continue to try to pay for it. Therefore, our farmers are forced to contain themselves within their own boundaries as this foreign ownership goes on. It is nice to see this bill come in. Although it will not stop it, it will keep a watch on it. Perhaps some time in the future we will have to take stronger action.
It also has the effect of taking land out of agricultural production when foreign buyers come in. Some of them rent it to neighbours and the land carries on in agriculture, but others just buy it and go back home and let it sit there. One of my neighbours sold his farm to a person from Switzerland who rented the land out for five years but has now gone back to Switzerland for the next five years. What is going to happen after that nobody knows. My immediate neighbour has been approached by Arab money to sell out. He has one of the largest dairy farms in the county. This seems to be the type of operation they like to buy, one that is going full force and is an outstanding setup. He was offered a very large sum of money, but he turned it down.
We have not got too many people like this in Ontario who go to these lengths to preserve agricultural land. Some farmers will do this. No matter what price they are offered, they will not sell their farms for various reasons. One of the reasons is that it is a homestead farm and it is the third generation on that farm. This is similar to the one near Hanover this past couple of years, owned by Mr. Magwood, who fought vigorously to retain his farm. In this case, it was not being bought by foreign interests, but the town wanted to take it over.
It is hard in most eases for farmers to resist the high prices that are being paid unless, as I say, they are like my neighbour who is dedicated to staying there at any cost and is willing to give up the big dollars just to remain on that farm. From the way things have been happening in the last year with the high cost to the farmer, the expenses he has had, the high interest rates, and the low beef and hog prices, he has been put in a position where it is hard for him to refuse these big prices now when they come alone.
The longer-term concern about foreign ownership of land is that our agriculture could some day be controlled be foreign interests, if they owned enough of the land. As my colleague from Huron-Middlesex has suggested, they may produce food and send it overseas. This puts a strain on our agriculture here and promotes more imports as time goes on.
I am glad to see that the government has taken a step in this direction to monitor the land now. I hope it takes a serious look at it at the end of each year to see what further action might be taken. One part of the bill that concerns me is the definition of agricultural land, if it is zoned agricultural or assessed or actually used. I suppose if it is “and/or,” it is all right, but there are quite a number of farms in our area now which, even though they are zoned for agriculture, are not assessed for agriculture. Buyers come and if they do not farm it, it is then changed to recreational-residential assessment.
I would hope that would not let them off the hook as far as being registered is concerned, because it is still agricultural land even though it is not being farmed. The assessment is then changed to residential with an increased assessment on the property. No doubt this will happen to some of the farms bought by foreign owners.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill. It is funny; I suppose we all sound like we are getting on the bandwagon, saying something is finally being done and we should all support this. I find it somewhat funny to hear the Tories espousing this bill, talking about the member for Middlesex (Mr. Eaton) and his work to promote this bill. It was pretty obvious that it was not until it became quite an issue in the farm community and the farm press that the Tories even listened to this whole concern. It was not something they were looking at initially and attempting to find an avenue to deal with it. Rather, they thought it was getting to be a big issue they had better deal with and react to or they would be in political trouble.
I also find it amusing to hear the party of C.D. Howe, to my right, espousing an attempt to protect the economy of this country and this province against foreign ownership, when we look at the record of successive Liberal governments since the 1940s. They have sold off every industry it was possible to sell to foreign interests and given control of our natural resources, mineral or whatever throughout northern Ontario, and oil in the west, to foreign interests. To have them now suddenly become the champions of this province against foreign interests and foreign control of our economy is somewhat amusing.
Having said that, I am glad to see a few initial steps by these two parties towards conversion, towards nationalism. They are finally becoming concerned about the effects of foreign control on our economy and they want to do something about agricultural land.
I do not think any of us in this party have to feel at all embarrassed about any of our spokesmen over the last few years who have talked about foreign ownership. We have been consistently concerned about the fact that governments at the federal or provincial level, Tory or Liberal, have not done anything to try to protect our economy against foreign control.
Although I have said I support this bill, I think we should be quite honest in assessing its effects. Obviously, as the previous speaker, the member for Grey (Mr. McKessock) indicated, the bill only looks at the problem. What we are going to have here is the registration of land ownership to make it possible for us to look at the problem. We will be able to determine, in the words of the previous Minister of Agriculture and Food, whether there is a problem. He did not think there was. What we have now is a bill that will make it possible for us to find out, by registering land ownership, whether there is a problem.
There is a long tradition in this province that when there is a political problem we are not sure exactly what to do about, we look at it. We eye it seriously; we study it. We have a long tradition of doing that.
As an aside, a lot of people think we have a resource-based industry in northern Ontario. In fact, the largest industry we have is consultants’ reports on northern Ontario. Every time there is a problem we set up another group to study it. That is what we are doing here, in essence: studying it. It solves nothing. It does not do anything about foreign ownership except tell us the extent of it. I hope it will do that.
Mr. Wildman: No. That is true. Nor as large as Timiskaming, which is a very rich agricultural area. In my area, as the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) will agree, we have a viable and important agricultural industry, both in Algoma and in Manitoulin. As a matter of fact, the previous Minister of Agriculture and Food used to point to the north as the future for agriculture because he could not seem to do anything about the eating up of agricultural land in southern Ontario by residential and industrial development.
However, in our area the purchase of agricultural land by foreign interests seems to have had some serious effects. In our area it is not so much European investors; although we have had reports of German money interested in agricultural land in our area, it has been mostly American money. Many farms have been purchased, apparently for recreational or summer estates, by well-to-do Americans from Michigan, Ohio or other parts of the United States who wish to use the land largely for recreational purposes. A number of others have invested in the land simply as a hedge against inflation. They purchase land that may increase in value and then, at some future time, will sell it for a profit.
These kinds of transactions have had the effect of inflating land prices in our area so the land prices of agricultural land have gone up significantly. That is a serious problem for the future of agriculture in our area, because young farmers wishing to get into the business often have to borrow money from Farm Credit, or wherever. It is very difficult for them to match the kinds of prices that are being paid by foreign investors.
One of the arguments that has been alluded to by other speakers against any action about foreign ownership has been the old argument that farmers are land-poor, which is basically that their land is a pension. There is no contributory pension plan for farmers, as there is in many other industries; so the farmer sees his land as a way of protecting himself in his old age. After he has finished active farming, if he can sell it to the highest bidder, then the money he gets from the sale will support him and his wife in their old age. You can have some kind of sympathy for that kind of argument when you consider that he has worked all his life, often having to deal with situations where prices and costs are higher than the amounts the farmer is getting for his produce.
On the other hand, if we believe in the future of agriculture in this province, we have to do something to protect our agricultural land and ensure that good agricultural land remains in agriculture and does not simply go to waste, or grow up in poplar bush as so much of it does in our area. In order to do that, obviously we have to take some kind of action that is going to protect the farmers so they have a decent income while they are farming. Perhaps that is something that this government should be looking at further. I know all the programs that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has for farmers but when it comes to changing the situation in terms of the boom-bust cycle, whether it be in beef, hogs or whatever, this government is doing very little. The stabilization programs have helped somewhat, but all they did was maintain price at a level where a farmer, instead of drowning, was able to tread water. That is something we should be looking at.
In terms of the bill itself, I support it because at least we are going to look at the problem and see the extent of it. But I support it only in the view that after a year, after we have some idea of how much land is owned by foreign interests in this province, we can expect this government to do something, to take some real action, to bring in a bill that will do something along the lines of what has been done in the western provinces or even Prince Edward Island -- which is far stricter than anything that has been proposed in Ontario -- to protect our agricultural land and to protect our farms from inflated prices that make it difficult for young men and women to get into the industry.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, I support the legislation; I hope it will pass quickly. But again I want to emphasize that it is somewhat ironic that we have the two parties most responsible for selling off all our resources suddenly grabbing hold of the bandwagon and trying to jump on to protect our land against foreign interests.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in this particular debate with a feeling of déjà vu. It was some 10 or 11 years ago that I was standing in my place in the Legislature talking about the foreign ownership of crown cottage lots, or cottage lots in northwestern Ontario particularly.
Mr. T. P. Reid: They certainly did. The government made a mess of that. The perambulations and twistings and turnings on that particular policy would have confused even Houdini. Now we have this bill before us at the instigation of a lot of members of the Legislature, particularly my colleague from Huron-Middlesex. The bill is probably the second stage in what I hope will be a program to deal in some reasonable and comprehensive way with the whole problem of foreign ownership in Ontario.
I might say, before I deal with the bill itself and the principle, that I would like to make comments related to that. I would agree with my friend from York South and others that it is time the Legislature took another look at the whole issue of foreign ownership in Ontario, whether it be land, mining, forestry or manufacturing.
I well recall the select committee, although I was not a member of that. I read those reports with great interest. The only thing I can see that the government has done in reaction to those reports of the select committee on economic nationalism was to proceed with a program of giving companies in the pulp and paper industry some $200 million presumably over the next few years to update their facilities.
When we talk about land, it is interesting that it is probably the one thing more than anything else that defines a people and gives character and personality to the people who reside in that particular territory or community. Here we have been engaged in the province for some time in selling that land out from underneath ourselves -- whether it be cottage lots in northern Ontario or on Lake Erie and now also probably the prime agricultural land that we have in the province. The government has been pulled, kicking and straining, to where we are today on Bill 60, which, as I say, is probably only a secondary step in at least identifying how large the problem is.
My friend from Huron-Middlesex took issue with some of the preliminary figures that the government had in regard to the extent of this problem in some of the townships in southern Ontario. I would like to indicate the northern perspective and outline for the House the size of the problem as it exists particularly in my constituency of Rainy River district.
I thought the member for Huron-Middlesex covered the area quite well in that he indicated why there was the pressure on us in this regard that there is in the present day. We have a lot of people in a lot of countries outside of Canada, outside of the United States in many instances, who are sitting on large pools of capital which they wish to protect from the ravages of inflation. They are investing that money in land. As Mark Twain said many years ago, “Buy land; they’re not making it any more.”
It is obvious with that in the back of their minds that many of these people, individuals and corporations, are embarked upon protecting themselves from inflation by purchasing land, whether it be agricultural land, commercial real estate, golf courses or cottage land. It is the one commodity that will always be in demand and has consistently kept pace with or run ahead of inflation. We only have to look at the costs of housing, for instance, in the province and certainly, in the city of Toronto to see what inflation has done to house prices. We can all look at our own constituencies to see what effect inflation has had on the price of land.
I say parenthetically for my socialist friends that on the weekend I was reading their former colleague’s hook; I believe it is entitled How To Beat Inflation, by Morton Shulman. One of his suggestions is that one should buy land because it is the best hedge against inflation that money can buy. Of course what Dr. Shulman never mentions in any of his books on how to make a million is that it certainly helps if one starts with a million when one starts investing. But that is another story.
Obviously all the authors and books on the subject -- whether it he Ruff’s How To Prosper From The Coming Bad Years, or Shulman, or Harry Browne, or whoever it is -- recommend that one invest in land. As I say, buy it; they aren’t making it any more.
There is going to be continuing and increasing pressure, particularly on our agricultural land, particularly in those areas around cities where they may ultimately be developed by those people outside of Canada’s borders buying an inflation hedge. If one lives in Japan or almost any European country, the price of land in Canada is dirt cheap -- pun intended. Compared with what they can buy property for in their own countries, we are practically giving it away.
But as my colleague from Grey and others pointed out, not only are we losing control over what should be the very pith and substance of our country, but we are also not mortgaging our future and the young people’s future in this province; we have sold their future, because they themselves will not be able to purchase the land if they want to into farming or tree farming or what have you. The prices are being inflated -- with the inflation rate and by the fact that there are so many people in the world with large pools of money who can and do bid up the price. It gets so high that Canadians will not be able to buy the land back.
This brings me to another topic that bothers me. It seems to me this should be addressed in this bill, and perhaps nay colleague from Huron-Middlesex will give it some thought. I have been concerned for some years and have raised it -- but not lately, I must admit -- about the H. M. Dignam Corporation Limited, Canada Estates Corporation, these kinds of companies that are advertising tax sales in Ontario and abroad. They are simply picking up properties at tax sales.
A lot of them admittedly are not very good properties; some of them are worthless, but often people forget to pay the taxes. There may be a death in the family and the property might go into an estate. The taxes are not paid, and after a two-year period Dignam, or Canada Estates, or one of these companies, get control of the property and then advertises 400 acres of beautiful farm land n northwestern Ontario or in southern Ontario, or wherever it happens.
I would say that one of the measures the government should be taking to outlaw that kind of thing. In terms of the nonpayment of taxes, the province should get into the business of setting up a land corporation -- we already have that mechanism in place -- get the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Administration involved again in this, if you like, buying up these farms, rather than allowing them to be purchased by nonresidents or purchased by these companies that are reselling them and speculating on this property. It often ultimately gets into the hands of foreign buyers who sometimes -- and I suppose it is caveat emptor -- never see the property, but once it is bought, and it is bought at a ridiculously low price because of it being a tax sale, it is impossible to buy back from them at any kind of a price once it gets into their hands.
I am trying to have this map duplicated so I can send him a copy, but I have here a map of the agricultural area of the Rainy River district. I think the minister can see it from here. This map was done, I believe, by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Rainy River chapter, I think under one of the student employment grants, about a summer ago.
The minister can see the areas that are coloured various colours, but I draw to his attention that the areas coloured in red on this map, covering thousands and thousands of acres, are American-owned. Not all of it, obviously, is prime agricultural land. Some of it, as I said, has been bought through tax sales and some of it is, frankly, moose pasture, but some of it isn’t, and those farms are American-owned and controlled.
The areas coloured dark green, which is obviously a much smaller amount than the red, is also foreign-owned; in other words, it is other than American. The yellow is resident Canadian-owned, and the light blue is government-owned, either crown land or ARDA land.
But I think the minister can see from where he sits -- he had his glasses off and on; so I presume that one way or the other he has been able to see the map, and I will send it over to him to have a closer inspection when I am finished -- that there is a substantial amount of land in the Rainy River district, in the agricultural area, that is owned and controlled either by Americans or some other foreigners. I haven’t counted up all the plots, and I don’t have the right sizing tools, but I would say that about a third of the land in the Rainy River district is owned and controlled by Americans or other non -- Canadians. So that gives a small indication of the size of the properties.
Attempts have been made by the farmers in the area to buy this land back, particularly if they have adjoining farms, but it has been impossible to do so, because they either purchased it cheaply to begin with or they are holding it for speculation, as an investment in the hopes that inflation will keep increasing the price of that property, so that while the money aspect of it goes down the property in real terms will maintain or increase its value.
I say to the minister that in my part of the world this is a serious problem. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Rainy River branch, is obviously very concerned about it. Individuals are very concerned about it. I would hope the bill would be amended to indicate one year. I would agree with my colleague from Huron-Middlesex that I see no reason why 180 days or six months should not be in the bill to require them to register the land so that we will know exactly the size and scope of the problem. I believe it is a problem and a very serious one. It is growing every day for the reasons I have outlined, because of the desire of people to protect themselves against inflation. It is going to be an increasing problem in the next year or two as inflation continues, as most analysts and economists say it will.
I would recommend to the minister that he amend the bill to require that registration be done within a six-month period. At the same time, while the minister has that six months from the time the bill is passed, his ministry should be dealing with the problem of the disappearing farm land -- because to some extent it is disappearing from the heritage of the people of Ontario who might expect it would be available to them -- and we should have a policy in place or ready to put in place when we know the scope of the problem.
I reiterate, this should be only a piece of the whole puzzle dealing with foreign ownership in Ontario. We should have a provincial strategy to deal with foreign ownership not only of the land but also of our natural resources, industry and commerce.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Speaker, I would like to dispel a rumour going around that this bill is related only to the rural communities of the province. In fact, it has a profound effect on the urban population. The people I represent have a great deal of concern about agricultural land. If the land disappears so that we are no longer producing food, all us city folk know we will end up paying higher prices, because we will have to import more and more fond. Anything that affects the agricultural land in this province is of great concern to people in the cities.
Unfortunately, we know we are losing the battle to retain our home-grown food so that we do not have to import food. With each passing day our stores become more inundated with foreign-produced foods and higher prices. There seems to be no protection against that. Over the years the government has not had any particular interest in protecting us against the invasion of foreign foods, and there is no sign they are going to do anything.
While some of my colleagues and I are pleased to see the bill, we are puzzled as to why it is just one small timid step forward, why the government does not have a little more courage than it has shown. Of course, we would like to have the registration. Naturally we want to know who owns the land around the province. The government has known for some time that it has the power.
I refer the minister to the case of Morgan versus the Attorney General for Prince Edward Island in 1975. It followed from legislation introduced in Prince Edward Island in 1972. During the 1975 case the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a statute of Prince Edward Island providing that no person who was not a resident of the province could acquire holdings of real property of more than a specified size, except with the permission of the provincial cabinet. The qualification for unrestricted land holding was residence, not citizenship; so the prohibition applied to nonresident citizens as well as nonresident aliens. That decision was upheld some five years ago.
The government has known full well from a constitutional standpoint it could move into the area of ensuring that the ownership of land in Ontario would be by residents of Ontario, and yet it has done nothing until now when we have this timid step forward to require the registration of nonresident interests in agricultural land in Ontario. That timid step was taken only after a tremendous amount of pressure was applied on the government by many members of the House, including in the forefront of the pressure the member for Huron-Middlesex, who has been quite relentless in his quest on this issue and has done, in my humble opinion, a first-rate job in bringing forward the issue.
Some members of my party have done a good job as well. Our previous leader, Stephen Lewis, spent a lot of time working on the issue of the foreign ownership of land. The member for York South (Mr. MacDonald) has likewise been concerned and expressed those concerns over many years.
It is only under a tremendous amount of pressure that the government takes one timid step forward. As has been expressed here, that is not going to be good enough unless we have a commitment, say a year from now or whatever time the government wants to specify, that there will be some companion legislation based on the registration. The companion legislation should be along the lines of what they have in Prince Edward Island or perhaps what they have in Saskatchewan. The minister perhaps knows the fine details a little better than I do, but I understand in Saskatchewan the residents have first option on land which comes up for sale. Following that, if there are no takers, then the government of Saskatchewan has second option. Only following those two options would the land be allowed for sale to a nonresident.
There are protections there. In other words, that government sees that the residents should first have a chance to own the land. Following that, the government, representing all of the people of the province, would have a look at the land to see if it would be of some value to it. The nonresident having an opportunity is third choice and is down at the bottom of the list, and that is the way it should be.
The minister knows by now the dimensions of the problem. I suspect we do not need the bill for the minister and government officials to know the extent of the problem. The minister is not about to share that information with the members of the opposition, which I understand, but the problem is severe in the country and to varying degrees in the various provinces.
Prince Edward Island felt obligated to move quickly in 1972 when the people suddenly realized what was happening to their land. It would appear they had simply lost control over their own land. Americans were moving up and buying beach front and everything they could get their hands on. The problem was severe.
At the same time, the members should be aware, as I am sure many of them are and perhaps most of them are, this problem cannot be isolated. There is a very important link between the ownership of land and the ownership of our country. As my colleague from Algoma so rightfully pointed out, it has long been the tradition of successive Liberal governments in Ottawa and Conservative governments in Ontario to aid and abet the takeover of this country by foreign interests. Liberals in Ottawa and Tories in Toronto have been only too willing to help the Americans buy out our economy by the ownership of our companies and of our natural resources. Ultimately, what is left? The land. That is the one last visible aspect, the land.
I would hope the government could do a couple of things. First, as I mentioned before, I hope they follow up with a companion piece of legislation similar to either that which is in Prince Edward Island or Saskatchewan. Second, I hope they put the bill into the framework of our economic situation in this province. In other words, how can we ensure that we are going to look at this bill as part of basing a better control, by Ontarians, over our Ontario economy and link this in with the development of our industries and perhaps also with a better development of our agricultural industry?
When I leave my house and travel to my mother-in-law’s place, which is up the road a few miles in a lovely little village called Victoria Square, I drive up through what has always been some of the most productive farm land in this country. In fact, part of that farm land was the old Massey-Ferguson farm and was used for the international ploughing match not too long ago. It was the area where my wife grew up, and it was the area I fondly knew for many years when I was going to high school.
There were only farms there, and they were productive farms. It was some of the most beautiful farm land you could find anywhere. It was the experimental farm for Massey-Ferguson and from there, no doubt, they developed many useful strains of various grains and so on they were working on.
Mr. Warner: That is right. Asphalt forms. What makes it so sad is that is what is happening in this province. It has happened for years, continues to happen, and the government sits idly by, watching the farm land disappear. They are not about to do anything about it. I know that, and you know that, Mr. Speaker.
We fought a provincial election partly over the issue of the disappearance of farm land. I don’t know what the figure is today. It was 26 acres an hour then; it is probably 27 or 28 now. Perhaps the minister can tell us. The land continues to be gobbled up for nonagricultural uses. I would think that the minister should be outraged about that, quite frankly, but he seems complacent; the government is quite complacent. But it is a crime in my books, an absolute crime, to have agricultural land disappear in this province, and that will continue unabated.
Mr. Warner: Maybe. Do not put the farmer in between. The farmer cannot win either way when you put him in between the interests of all of us in terms of our food needs and his own personal concern of how to arrive at a decent pension. Do something for the farmer. Make sure that he does have a good pension; make sure that he is guaranteed a decent income for his work from day to day. This province has not done that. There isn’t a guaranteed farm income, there isn’t the Farmstart program and there aren’t the kinds of guarantees that farmer needs. There isn’t the lower interest rates so he can purchase the needed farm machinery and so on.
We are just miles behind what other provinces do for the farmers. Instead, we leave them in the middle. On the other hand, the people in the city, some of whom I represent, know that if we don’t have agricultural land, we buy imported food and we pay higher prices for that food. That’s on the one hand.
On the other hand, the farmer is attempting to extract for himself and his family a decent living and a decent future when he retires. He can’t do that; so he ends up selling the land. This government sits idly by and does nothing, except bring in a bill, one timid little step forward, that will record the names of those who own the land. Big deal. If that’s all they’re going to do, big deal.
While I asked before that a year from now they should bring in the companion legislation, I don’t sense there’s anything in this bill to indicate they’re going to do anything more. In fact, in the purpose of the bill they’re talking about the registration report expiring five years after the day on which it is filed. That says to me we’re not likely to see anything more on this issue for another five years.
Sure, we’ll support the bill. Who wouldn’t, Mr. Speaker? If we’re going to support this, they might as well bring in a bill and ask us to vote against Mother’s Day. No one in his right mind is going to vote against the bill. But I want the government to know very clearly, from someone who represents city people who are concerned about the production of food, the cost of food and saving our agricultural land, that there had better be something more than just this timid step forward. A plague on their house.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I support the bill as well. Along with a number of other members here, I can recall the debate having gone forward in the House for a number of years. Along with other members, I thought back to some of my own excellent speeches and looked them up in the record. Actually, when I reread them, I didn’t find them quite as inspiring as I remembered them.
But I can remember one of the times when the issue seemed to be pressing in rather strongly. I was speaking in the budget debate of 1974, and I know you’ll want to look this up, Mr. Speaker. On page 86, I said as follows: “German, Swiss, American, Japanese and British investors have all been attracted to Ontario’s buoyant property market, but their demand for real estate has resulted in inflated housing prices for Canadians. Last year, the Urban Development Institute revealed that 13 foreign-controlled companies owned half of the land available for housing”
-- that is developed land -- “between Oshawa and Burlington.”
I recalled some of the circumstances about that. When the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere got up I thought perhaps he was going to indicate there is some concern as to the ownership of land other than farm land, particularly the land between Oshawa and Burlington, the area of which he represents a small part, where foreign interests have dictated the rate of development and to some extent the cost of the development for a good long time.
I know there is a very special concern about farm land. It’s evident among farming people, but as the honourable member has indicated, the people in the city are concerned about it as well. When he was referring to the fact that so much farm land has gone into development, it brought very forcefully home to me the fact that farmers normally would prefer to farm their land and make a profit out of it.
If they were going to make a profit anything like what would give them the net income of a teacher, a lawyer or a businessman in the urban area, the cost of milk would probably be twice what it is now, the cost of eggs would probably be at least double, and chicken would probably be three times what it is now. It is very difficult for the government to be urged to keep the farmers from selling the land at the same time as it is urged to keep the cost of food down and dropping, as compared with the buying power of the urban people.
It is a problem for those of us in the rural areas. Certainly farmers have shared to some extent in the more buoyant economy. But if you were to equate the cost of food with the earning power of the urban citizenry, you can prove very readily that the farmers have not shared in this.
To a great extent, this leaves the pressure on farmers not only to sell their farms as a pension, but also the pressures of the economy as they are now tend to pressure them into cashing the land if there is some reasonable chance to do so.
The member for Huron-Middlesex has put forward the facts and figures that have been made available to us in this connection. I think he has done an excellent job. I know there is plenty of farm land for sale in my own area. The very next farm, which is a tract of 100 acres, can be bought for $1,800 an acre, and “for sale” signs have been on it for a good, long time. I have a feeling that the owner, while he might not welcome a German, Swiss, Italian, Arab or Japanese buyer, would not look at the nationality of the money but would sell it darned quickly if somebody came forward with an offer. There are areas that have been shown to be more popular with foreign buyers. It is a matter of grave concern.
I agree with those who have said to the minister that this bill does little or nothing towards coping with the problem that we see. I personally believe that we have lost most of our good recreational land along Lake Erie. In the northern part of Ontario, in Muskoka and in many other areas, we have lost that land to foreign buyers. The member for York South owns a small piece of it, and a few others have some of it, but there are many lots and large tracts of property that were sold out to foreign owners long ago and will not be sold back. The same is true of the developable land. I have already referred to that in my remarks made in the House earlier, and I believe the same is true of farm land.
I believe we should have a companion piece of legislation which controls the sale of our land to foreign interests. It is no just farm property I am talking about, but all property. This might not represent the view of all my colleagues, but I have stated it in the House as long ago as 1974 when I called on the Premier (Mr. Davis) to take some action in this connection. I believe we should have land available for leasing to anybody from outside who wants a good recreational property or an industrial site, but I believe it has been a mistake over the years to allow the title to so much of our property to have been lost.
The minister, who is so involved and interested in this debate, is probably trying to show by the passage of this legislation that the problem of foreign ownership is largely imaginary. I do not believe that is the case. But by the time it is proved to him that it is a significant problem we will have already lost a good deal more of the property which we should be controlling.
Mr. J. Reed: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak to Bill 60 today and hope that it is the start, as my colleague from Brant-Oxford-Norfolk says, of a much closer scrutiny of what is happening to land in Ontario.
In the longer term, if it is possible for politicians to observe the longer term -- and sometimes we are criticized for taking the short, expedient view -- the future, in my view, of Ontario farmers is at stake here because of the situation that has arisen over the ownership of land. I think the arguments that have been put forward by the members speaking to this bill have explained most of the conditions that exist in Ontario. The truth is we do not know, at this time, how extensive this problem is.
My colleague the member for Rainy River was able to bring a map with him of a study done in the Rainy River area, and it showed pretty conclusively that about one third of that land in the agricultural area belonged to noncitizens, nonresidents of this province.
What is happening in Halton is also interesting to note. We do not know at this point how extensive foreign control is on the land there, but we do know that what we are recreating in Halton is a situation that became commonplace in the United Kingdom hundreds of years ago which ultimately resulted in the migration of many thousands of people to a new land where they could own their own property. We in Halton have become a region of tenant farmers in many respects where the land is held by absentee landlords and farmers, in order to expand their operations and make them economical, rent that land from land owners.
The price of land in Halton, of course, has been influenced to a large extent by the ultimate expectation of development. This has forced the price of that land to the point where farmers in many cases simply cannot afford to buy it. If anyone wonders why someone from Europe, for instance, would come over to Ontario in order to buy land, the answer is obvious. Even if the land were to stay in lung-term agricultural production, all you would have to do would be to consider the price of food in Canada and compare the percentage of annual income spent on food by Canadians, with the percentage of income that is spent on food by people in various countries in Europe and it is very easy to understand. Productive agricultural land in Europe is much more expensive. The forcing up of that price and the establishment of that new relationship so that Europeans will come over and readily pay what for them are low prices for agricultural land is quite easy to understand.
We, as Canadians, should be agreeable to pay a fair price for food but it seems to be rather unfair that the consumer should be required to pay the extra high prices to include the cost of land in that food. The farmer receives no benefit if he is trying to produce that food on his soil because he has to pay the interest on what are becoming prohibitive sums of money.
I am concerned with the direction that this kind of exchange of capital is taking at the present time. I believe if it is not stopped now -- if we cannot stop it in the next year or two -- perhaps in a matter of 10, 15 or 20 years we will find ourselves, unfortunately, in a similar position to those tenant farmers who were forced to leave Ireland, Scotland, England, or wherever, to come to a new land to try to make it on their own.
The ownership of farm land is fundamental. The ownership of land is fundamental to our nature in this country. Sometimes our friends to the left may not agree with ownership, but it seems to me incredibly important we recognize that the ownership of land represents a real stake in this country.
I would urge the government not to stop with this hill, which is desirable so far as it goes, but to express their concern about the other areas of land ownership so that we may not ultimately become a land of tenant farmers and absentee landlords.
However, I would like to bring to the attention of the minister, if he is not already aware, that foreign land ownership and the owning of farm land by people who are not farmers is a real problem in my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk. It has been going on for many years now and, as our colleague the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk pointed out. he spoke on it back in 1974. It has been brought to the attention of the government for many years. Only today, the member for Huron-Middlesex indicated that 1,000 acres in the town of Dunnville have been turned over to a buyer from Germany.
It just points out one more time that the policies of this government have not been encouraging our young farmers to go back to the farm. They have not been able to survive because they cannot make enough money to make the payments. They cannot compete with industry and with the speculators who have been moving in. So I would just like to point out that this government may have been around 37 years too long. They have not been receptive to the needs of our young farmers and agriculture people.
I think our young farmers do not have a pension to which they can look forward for their retirement. As a farmer myself, the only thing we had to depend upon for our retirement was either the sale of the farm, or our family’s taking over from us and supporting us, as we did our former generations. My mother still lives in town, in the village of Jarvis. We are supporting her. She has a home of her own and, fortunately, has had good enough health to look after herself up to this time. That has been the only way we could survive. We certainly had planned on doing the same thing for our young family, our young people coming along. We have two boys farming at present, but I know that unless they can have some plan or provision made for them, they are not going to be able to retire after spending 25 or 30 years, as I did myself. I started a farm in 1945 and farmed with three brothers until 1973 or 1974, or, as a matter of fact, until I was elected to the Legislature. We certainly did not have anything on which to fall back.
I would like to point out that our area is going from rural and agricultural to urban and industrial. I think the province is the largest land owner in our particular riding. I think it has bought something like 25,000 acres and, fortunately, I think all that land is being worked at the present time, with the exception of maybe 1,000 acres in the Townsend town site which is now being developed for housing and being prepared for that possible use.
As I have pointed out, I can support the bill. I think it is only a beginning. I would also like to point out that several acreages have changed hands, and it has been a blessing in disguise that these people have come along to purchase it; I can name about six or seven farms that have been sold only within the last two years for health reasons and for other reasons. It has been a blessing in disguise that the money was available, that they could take them off their hands, so that they could retire and live respectable lives.
The point is, we have to make sure our agricultural land is used properly and, along with industry and agriculture working together, it is going to be good for the economy of all Ontario and Canada, particularly in a time when only today I noted on the agriculture news on CBL that starvation is the largest destroyer of life in Africa. There is a need for food. The world markets are there. It is only a matter of getting a price they can afford, getting the food to them and providing them with the knowledge to use their soil properly. I think Canada and Ontario have a responsibility. I think we should protect that responsibility, and I think this legislation is a beginning in that regard.
Mr. B. Newman: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the bill and to make a few comments concerning it. I am strictly an urban member, so you might wonder why one from an urban area would be concerned about agricultural land. I happen to live across the river from Detroit, and every Friday you can see the large fleets of cars that come over to enjoy the nice atmosphere and the fertility of the soil of Essex county. Not all of them are necessarily farmers, but at least a lot of them do possess large acreages of farm land in Essex county. The amount and extent of their ownership is unknown. However, through this legislation, at least we will know that.
I would be remiss if I did not commend the member for Huron-Middlesex for his untiring efforts over the years in his attempt to get government to move. Mind you, this is only one small step in the giant steps that we look forward to being implemented, if not by this government in a short period of time, then by a Liberal government in the not-too-distant future.
The American who purchases land in Essex county in many instances does not necessarily farm the land and, as a result, that land is taken out of production. Others, naturally, go ahead and do farm the land; so we don’t lose the use of that land. But he buys it for several reasons: one, as an investment, because he can buy it there a lot cheaper than he can buy land in his own country, and also it is in many instances a shorter distance for him to live in Essex county and to work in some area in Detroit. He has a shorter distance to travel. He has the added advantage now in the fact that he is paying about 37 cents to 50 cents a gallon less for gasoline than his American counterpart; so it is substantially cheaper for him to be living on acreage in Essex county than in the city of Detroit or the suburbs.
Then again he doesn’t have the problems that are prevalent in large urban areas or large industrial areas. His place of work is close to him. He is safe to walk our streets and throughout the countryside, with no fear of being bothered or threatened by anyone the way he might be in his own country.
Even in downtown Windsor many of the apartments are occupied by Americans, because all they have to do is walk three or four blocks to the tunnel entrance, pay a 50-cent fare on the tunnel over to Detroit and they are at their place of work if they work in the Renaissance Center in the downtown area; that is the big development you see as you near the city of Windsor, the four circular towers with one tower in the centre jutting into the clouds.
Besides the production of food, for which land is essentially used, you will find it is being used as an investment by many foreigners. I know of an individual who sold his farm within the last year or so for $2 million. He did not invest any more than $75,000 or $100,000 when he first purchased it years ago. Who do you think purchased it? We wouldn’t mind if it were a Canadian, but it was bought by German interests. You can rest assured it is not going to pass into Canadian hands. It is going to be sold in the German market. Yet we really don’t know, because no legislation has required the indicating of the nationality of the ownership of that land.
There is another type of land in the country that should be brought under control, and that is marsh land. People in Essex county have been accustomed to hunting in the marsh area for years and years. It was such a common type of recreation that many wealthy Americans saw it would be a nice idea to purchase a lot of this marsh land to use as private clubs for hunting purposes. Ford Motor Company had substantial holdings at one time. That was raised in the Legislature maybe eight or 10 years ago and we didn’t have legislation to control it. Even with this legislation we won’t control it; all we will know is the nationality of the individuals who own the land.
The bill does not refer to them, but beach properties are being bought up more and more by other than Canadians. If that trend continues, we are going to find the residents in Essex county will have to pay to swim in Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. If it weren’t for the fact that the government developed Holiday Beach in the Essex county area and the federal government developed Point Pelee, we could rest assured our American friends would have bought that out simply because dollars don’t seem hard to come by for many of them.
I commend the member for Huron-Middlesex for his untiring efforts. I appreciate the fact the minister did introduce this bill. I hope he uses it as only one short step in eventually not only knowing who owns the land in the county but also having some types of controls over it.
“The bill requires persons who are non- residents of Canada to file a registration report on any agricultural land in Ontario in excess of 10 hectares in which they acquire or have acquired and retain an interest.” From that I could say the only purpose of the bill is that a nonresident foreigner buying land in Ontario has to file with the registry office. It doesn’t solve the problem as it relates to young persons who want to get involved in the agricultural industry in Ontario.
Without a healthy agricultural industry in Ontario, you can almost see the complete economy backsliding today, particularly in the manufacturing of farm equipment. The intent may be there, it may resolve some small measure there, but it does not resolve the whole issue.
I can recall, as a member of the Bertie council, that we had some difficulty there as it related to foreign interests purchasing land within our township. They were buying it and actually subdividing it later on so that each member of the family would get a portion of it.
This bill does not plug that loophole. It still provides 25 acres, or 10 hectares, or more. This will encourage the further subdividing of large parcels of good agricultural land in Ontario. Instead of 10-acre sites, there will be 25-acre lots in large, rural farming areas in Ontario. I disapprove of this even in the Niagara regional bill where they allow a large farm to he subdivided so that it can be broken up in four lots. I do not think this bill is going to solve the area of my concern, which is the conservation of good agricultural farm land in Ontario.
I think one area the minister and the government should be looking at is an improved farm loan in the province by which we can encourage young people to get into farming. It does create jobs, not only in the agricultural end of it but also in the industry itself.
I suggest it is time this government moves to see that farm loans are reasonable to persons who want to venture into the agricultural industry. I compare this with what the Ministry of Industry and Tourism has for certain industries in Ontario. Some can have loans that are interest-free or forgiven and the interest can vary from zero to 12 per cent.
It is time the province went back to -- I guess I was thinking of the junior farm loan it used to have years ago that encouraged young people to stay in the farming industry. These are the areas I am concerned about, but particularly legislation that would permit further subdividing of large parcels of farm land. I think this should he a no-no in the province because eventually it is going to end up being urbanized.
We had members from Metro Toronto talk about this. One can see the farm land disappear within Metro Toronto and it is disappearing all across Ontario. That is the key, I think, if we are going to bring in any legislation here to control the ownership of farm lands. It should not permit further subdividing of large parcels of lands.
There is another area that I am concerned about. I have heard councillors and other persons say, “This is development progress in our municipality.” I do have a small parcel of farm land in Sherkston and I dislike it every time I see speculators moving into that area. They are paying a good price for the farm land -- a well-inflated price, well above what it should be selling for. But in the long run, the adjoining property owner is the one who is going to suffer. As soon as the assessor comes and notes that land is selling for this price, my assessment or any other farmer’s assessment changes. There is change in the Niagara region under the assessment practices there, and I am sure there is across Ontario, but that is inflated assessment. It does not actually give the true value. Why should a person be paying higher taxes on an assessment base because a speculator has moved in there to make a profit on that land?
There are many persons who do not want to sell their property and want to maintain it as part of the farming community. I suppose it relates even to urban communities too because their land values increase with that speculator coming and buying land, perhaps above what it is actually worth.
I suggest this bill encourages that. Actually it just says the purchaser must register if he is a nonresident it does not do anything else for me to say that it is a good piece of legislation. It says who has bought it, that is about all. It is not going to solve the problem if we want to maintain a viable farming community in Ontario.
These are the areas the minister should be looking at; these are the areas that require some government action. I think the member for Huron-Middlesex, who brought the foreign ownership of land in Ontario to the attention of the minister, would agree this is the area we should be looking at He mentioned there is no land transfer tax. It is another giveaway.
I think it is still federal government policy to encourage foreign investment in Ontario and particularly to encourage people to come in and to buy land here. They are given tax concessions in this particular area. With the Canadian dollar being down as low as it is, 15 per cent lower than the American dollar, and comparing its worth to the German mark, they can well afford to pay a good price for the land because their money is worth that much more in Canada. With the tax concessions given in this area, the government encourages the breakup of family farms in the province.
To me, the bill does not go far enough. I suggest there are areas to be considered when other members speak on it. I support the bill in principle, but it does not go far enough to solve the problem. The agricultural industry in the province is going to be destroyed by permitting foreign ownership.
They do not even have to take up residence until later on. Perhaps at retirement age over there, they will come over here. They are looking for security. That is what they really want to invest in; not to maintain the land as agricultural land.
I know a farmer in my area who is renting land now owned by German people. They even get the farm tax rebate sent over there. The person who is running the land does not get it. I question whether we should be allowing this.
Mr. Ruston: I suppose almost everything has been covered, Mr. Speaker. We have had a pretty wide-ranging debate on this bill, but it has been a long time coming and we have been worried for some time -- many years actually.
I think the first time I saw something similar to this was in a brochure sent to me by my brother who lives in California. The brochure was sent out by his senator, Senator Alan Cranston, to his constituents. It vas addressed to my brother who lives in Hollywood. Since he knows I am interested in farming and farm legislation, he sent me a copy of this. It is dated December 31, 1978. I gave a copy to the member for Huron-Middlesex for his perusal because I knew he was interested in this particular item and had a private member’s bill on it. This was brought forward in the United States.
I will read from the brochure: “A check of land transfer records on file in country courthouses throughout the San Joaquin Valley shows the unmistakable trend. Increasingly the purchasers of California land are French, German or Italian nonresident aliens, or investment firms headquartered in the West Indies or the Far East. Some real estate dealers in the rural counties estimate at least 40 per cent of their sales are to foreigners. Induced by attractive rates of return on what they feel to be a secure investment, foreign investors are contributing to the inflation of California farm land by aggressively bidding as much as $600 to $800 an acre above the prevailing market price.” We can see they were concerned there and they have done some research on it.
“The immediate problem is there is no accurate information on the extent and economic impact of foreign land holdings. But Congress has taken a necessary and useful first step. In the weeks prior to adjournment, a new law,” which Senator Cranston sponsored, “was enacted. It creates a national reporting system, under which all foreign farm owners and long-term leases will he required to register their holdings.”
It pretty well covers the same areas as this bill. It’s a start. I know the member for Erie was concerned that it didn’t go far enough. Some of the farm people in my area are worried about other types of ownership, such as where a very successful business person in some other business, it might be a school teacher, would go and buy the farm land and then rent it out. He would be able to pay a little higher price because his main income is from other sources. The farmer living next door, if he had a couple of boys, would not be able to pay that price.
In our county, there is land running from $2,500 to $4,000 an acre. The average is around $2,500 to $3,000 for Bruxton clay, which is a pretty high price to try to end up at the end of the year with anything other than just a crop. You wouldn’t have much left if you had to pay $3,000 an acre. I don’t think I’m aware of anyone who could successfully farm and pay for it on that basis.
There is a concern because farmers are having problems in acquiring more land for their children because of the competition. That’s very difficult to control. After all, the people who are farming are Canadians, Canadian residents who live in other areas, or who have other sources of income, and they can acquire the land. With inflation the way it’s been for the last 25 years, it’s been a very good investment for anyone. This has been a concern of many people as well.
With the registration, as required under this bill, we can certainly see that within a year and thereafter, we will know where the areas are and the extent of the legislation which will have to be brought in. At that time, that will have to be looked at.
One of the things that has added to the acquiring of farm land is the farm tax rebate. The Minister of Agriculture and Food is well aware of that. This year, in the subsidies branch, they are doing a rather thorough examination of these farm tax rebates to see that they are going to people who are actually farmers. Some people who rent out the land, I understand, separate the assessment of the buildings and the owner gets a farm tax rebate for the bare land and not for the buildings. Yet the people may not be operating it themselves; they are renting it out to a regular farmer, and their main source of income could be some other business. That’s one of the areas that gives us some problems with the farm tax rebate.
We appreciate the minister bringing in this legislation. It took a lot of prodding from the member for Huron-Middlesex and other people in the House, but that’s fine. That’s what opposition members are for. The government takes the member’s legislation and put it into effect, and take the credit for it, but that’s quite all right. As long as we get the job done, we’ll accept that. The minister can say when he’s going around that he passed the bill and it took the assistance of the opposition members and he took some of their ideas and put them into the bill. We accept that.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the members. There have been 12 of them who have taken part in this debate, and they have brought out many new ideas, many new thoughts. I do believe that the bill, with the two amendments I have informed the two opposition parties about, will take care of the majority of the concerns.
There have been remarks that we should make it apply to a lesser amount than 10 hectares, or approximately 25 acres. We are concerned that if we make it apply to a smaller amount of land it might mean a nightmare within our office so far as the number of extra civil servants we might need is concerned. We believe we can handle it within the department. We believe that under the present situation it will not make that much difference on the staffing.
I would go further to suggest too that I do believe the member for Huron-Middlesex, who has done a great deal of research and a lot of work and has been very helpful to me -- I do not mind admitting that to him -- has brought out some good points. When we went to draft the legislation there was a bill that was not too hard to look at. That is a compliment to the honourable member; I think he deserves it. After all, we are here as provincial members to serve the people of the province. We are here representing different parties and I think we are here to make the legislation workable.
Beyond that, I could go on and speak for half an hour about it, but there have been many kind remarks and I thank the members for them. I would appreciate the bill’s going to committee where I would present the two amendments I have.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Chairman, so the members will realize what is happening, they received a letter from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which suggested the amendment should be to section 3. That letter was a misprint; it should be section 2 of the bill.
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Chairman, I am pleased that the minister has seen fit to reduce the time limit to one year. I had indicated in the debate on second reading that the US Congress had put on a time limit of 180 days. This is what I would have preferred. But I do believe Congress had to extend that period of time, as some of the foreign investors did not know of the bill that had been passed and therefore could hardly have been held responsible for not reporting within 180 days.
I would hope any foreign investor would know of the passage of this bill within a period of one year and therefore would see that he had that land registered within that period. We do concur with this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Chairman, if I might just respond to that statement, in accepting the one year in place of the two years we may be forced to come back here a year from now in a similar position. We hope we do not, but we recognize that there might be cases where we would have to look on the exception.
6. Where a nonresident person files a registration report under this section respecting any agricultural land and the registration report or material filed therewith: (a) provides information on other nonresident persons who are also required to file a registration report respecting that agricultural land; and (b) the information supplied under clause (a) is equivalent in nature and extent to the information required of a nonresident person filing a registration report, those other nonresident persons are not required to file a separate requisition report respecting that agricultural land.
Mr. Riddell: I can appreciate what the minister is trying to accomplish here. I only wish I knew the kind of information he is going to require on the registration form. I would hope he would insist on finding out where this capital is coming from, how much foreign capital has been invested in the land and what percentage ownership of that land is actually owned by the foreign investor. If indeed the person who is reporting on the land under foreign ownership can report all of this information on behalf of some other foreign investor, then I would say there is nothing wrong with this amendment.
But I am wondering, if he is going to be looking for this kind of detailed information, if a foreign investor who is going to register his land would know all of this information from another investor. Would he know how much foreign capital has come over from another country and has been invested in the land? Would he know what percentage ownership that foreign investor had in the land? If that is the case then I concur with the amendment, but maybe the minister would elaborate on what kind of detailed information he is going to be looking for on the registration form.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Chairman, first let me assure the honourable member that this afternoon’s Hansard will all be looked at and the recommendations that have been made here will be considered. First, the reporting procedure will have the name, the address, the citizenship, the type of legal equity, the trust corporation, the description of property, lots and acreage, the type of interest in property, the deed, the mortgage, the price or consideration given, and the intended use of the property.
If you go back to the bill itself I think that sets out the 25 per cent owned by anyone outside of Canada who is an individual or if it is more than 50 per cent, owned by a company or corporation. We will be putting these regulations together. I would be happy to send a copy to the honourable member as soon as we have them together.
Mr. Riddell: As I understand it, if a person is reporting on someone else’s land that is under foreign ownership, the minister is expecting that that person will be giving him all that detailed information that he just indicated. Supposing this is not the case? Suppose he does not do this? On whom does the penalty fall? Does the penalty fall on that person who has been trying to report on somebody else’s land or does it fall on the government or whom does it fall on?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: No. The individual who is not doing the reporting will have to see that the person reporting for him has reported the information that is required. Our idea is that the two people should net have to report. Let us say there are two people owning 75 per cent, or 37.5 per cent each. There is no reason why one can’t report the holdings of both. There is no reason for the two of them to have to report. If only the one reports and the other one doesn’t, then the onus is on the one who didn’t report to answer.
Mr. Riddell: Then as I understand it, it is a case of joint ownership. It is not a case where a foreign owner not only reports on his own land, but on land he has no interest in whatsoever but is simply reporting on that land. It is a case of joint ownership where there are maybe two or three foreign investors who have invested money in the same land. Only one is required to report. Is it also a case where one foreign investor can report on someone else’s land that he has no interest in whatsoever?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: It is a case where we will accept one of the combination to file a report for all of them. We are not relieving the other ones of the need of filing a report, but the intention is to reduce the amount of paper work with it. It is not the intention to have someone down the road come and report for somebody not involved. It is to reduce the work load within our ministry.
Mr. Warner: Mr. Chairman, I can appreciate the purpose and the intent of the amendment. The difficulty for the members is that we do not have the registration form in front of us. The minister has given us a list of the items he is considering and so on. But, as I understand it, that form has not yet been drafted and so we do not know precisely what those questions are going to be. That makes it a little difficult in dealing with this amendment, it seems to me. The intent is fairly clear, and I have no quarrel with the intent. It is a very cautious approval from our standpoint because we do not know entirely what it is we are dealing with. Without that form and without that registration, we do not know precisely what questions you are going to be asking and how thorough a questioning there will be of the owner who is being asked to register.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: We have proceeded to the point where I can’t give any more information than I have. We believe we will draft a form that will get all of the needed information in keeping with the bill and in keeping with what the House really wants.