Clerk of the Committee: Are there any further nominations? In that case, seeing no further nominations, I declare that nominations are closed and that Mr Tascona is duly elected Chair of this committee.
The Chair: With respect to the matter of referenda and Mr Clement's motion of December 18, 1996, there are some other matters to consider. We have new exhibits, and I think you've all received these. The first is a letter to the Honourable Michael D. Harris, Premier of Ontario, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The letter's dated February 20, 1997. There's also a memorandum to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly from Philip Kaye, research officer, entitled Supreme Court of Canada Case Re: Quebec's Referendum Legislation, dated April 30, 1997.
Mr Philip Kaye: In terms of the committee's deliberations as it proceeds through the motion, there are three background documents prepared by the research service which may be of assistance. Just to review these documents, the first one is dated November 1996 and is entitled Revised Summary of Recommendations Re: Submissions on Referenda. This paper summarized the recommendations made to the committee during its hearings on referenda last September and November, as well as the submissions which were provided solely in writing. A list of the submissions appears at the end of that summary, on pages 46 and 47.
A second document is dated December 4, 1996, and is entitled Issues and Options Re: The Committee's Report on Referenda. This paper lists issues and options for the committee's consideration when giving instructions for the drafting of the committee's report on referenda. It is intended to be read together with the revised summary as the headings generally correspond with the headings in the summary. There are also page references to the summary.
A third background document which may be helpful to committee members is entitled Revised Overview of Provincial Referenda, dated November 1996, which was prepared by David Pond of the research service. This paper is divided into two parts: The first part lists all the national and provincial referenda which have been held in Canada and the last part, in a table format, compares legislation on referenda at the federal and provincial levels in Canada.
As the Chair remarked, I've also distributed a very brief memo today pertaining to the case that's currently before the Supreme Court of Canada which has been launched by Robert Libman, former leader of the Equality Party of Quebec. His court challenge questions certain provisions in Quebec's referendum law which state that during a referendum only a national Yes or No committee may incur or authorize expenses to promote one side or another. Arguments were presented to the Supreme Court of Canada in this case last week and I have attached two articles dealing with the case which appeared in the Montreal Gazette last week.
The Chair: Thank you. The last day the committee met was February 19, 1997. At that time the committee was considering paragraph 8 of Mr Clement's motion. The committee had also agreed on that last day that after it had considered paragraph 8, it would return to a consideration of paragraph 7 and then paragraph 3.
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Mr Chair, you're new, you have just been elected; so is Mr Fox. I'd like to make a statement as to where the Liberal Party stands as far as the referendum is concerned. I think the Liberal caucus position on provincial referenda has been extremely clear. However, in case there's any lingering confusion about where we stand on this issue, allow me to reiterate our position at this time.
First let me remind committee members that the Liberal caucus does not oppose referenda per se. We are very supportive of referenda and plebiscites initiated by democratically elected local governments. That is their right as enshrined in their governing legislation as well as a long-standing tradition in this province and indeed across the country.
What the Liberal caucus is opposed to is this government's motion to introduce provincial referenda on issues that we feel are more appropriately handled without resorting to the expensive and possibly manipulative referenda process that allows the government to walk away from its responsibility for what it does.
All democratically elected governments across Canada must have the courage to confront and deal with difficult issues and to make tough decisions, even those that might be unpopular. The Liberal caucus does not feel it is appropriate for an elected government to avoid responsibility for tough decisions by handing them off to the general public. You were elected to be the government. We believe that means taking responsibility for your own actions and not offloading them on to the general public.
We've stated before in this committee that the Liberal caucus would be willing to support provincial referenda on neutral, non-partisan issues of general importance to all Ontarians. The referendum would have to be agreed to and formulated by a committee composed of all three political parties. In other words, the only way we believe this serious and potentially very important tool should be used is upon unanimous consent of all three political parties and on topics that are appropriate for referenda in Ontario, such as issues of national unity or other non-partisan issues.
We don't agree with what this government wants to do, which is to put to referenda various questions that will advance the government's own political agenda and allow it to walk away from responsibility for the consequences that result. We can't go along with that.
There seems to be some confusion among some members of this committee. On the one hand, they are pushing forward this motion to enshrine provincial referenda on all kinds of topics of interest to this government. On the other hand, they are members of a provincial government that has stated quite clearly that it will go ahead with its plan to amalgamate all of the GTA into a megacity, and you've done that, regardless of the results of a municipal referendum that was conducted.
What is it to be? If you believe in referenda, pay attention to what the municipal voters have said lately. But you've ignored that. Your inconsistency on this issue of referenda can be seen as hypocritical and high-handed by the voters of the GTA who just went through that experience, who believe their concerns were being totally ignored by your government.
Finally, I have to say that the Liberal caucus is very concerned that this motion does nothing to protect the rights of Ontario minorities. We are a multicultural and diverse society, constantly changing, and this motion includes no safeguards for the hatred, intolerance or prejudice that can be stirred up by referenda on unpopular issues. For example, what if this government put to the people of Ontario a referendum on the issue of bilingualism and funding French-language services? How would the rights of the francophone minority be protected? I could go on and give you other examples.
At the end of the day, the Liberal caucus will not be able to support any motion that would allow a democratically elected government to walk away from responsibility for tough decisions by offloading them on to the people who elected them.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Mr Chair, I was hoping for further clarification in terms of your ascension as Chair of the committee. We haven't sat for about six weeks. We have a certain list, or at least an order, that we were going through. Can you just encapsulate for me what you expect the order to be today in terms of the continued debate on the 12 points that have been laid out?
The committee was considering paragraph 8 of Mr Clement's motion. The committee had also agreed on that last day that after it had considered paragraph 8, it would return to a consideration of paragraph 7 and then paragraph 3. At that time, Mr Morin made a statement with respect to the Liberal Party's position on referenda. That's where we are.
Mr Clement: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I think the previous Chair made a ruling, if this can be helpful to you, that this is one single motion. When the issue came up of whether to split this into 12 component parts, unanimous consent was denied by this committee to do so. There are no deferred votes. There are amendments that have been carried on the main motion but the main motion will be considered as a package. That's my understanding of the ruling of the previous Chair.
Mr Clement: Mr Chair, we've not had any votes on component parts. We've had votes on amendments that have been proposed by members of this committee. We have not voted on 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 and so on down to item 8. That is not correct.
The Chair: It's fairly straightforward. There is one single motion in front of you. That motion would have to be voted on in its entirety. You've been discussing paragraphs and there have been amendments to particular paragraphs, and I understand there have been votes on two particular paragraphs.
Mr Silipo: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I just wanted to also be clear, to see if my recollection was correct, that while we are dealing with this as a motion, the import of the motion, however it ends up looking when we're finished with the discussion, is to give direction to staff to draft a report which would then come back to the committee for further discussion and approval or modification.
That's significant, certainly from my perspective, because as we've indicated, while we support the general thrust of what's in the motion and what's being done here, we have some significant disagreements with certain sections and parts of this. It would have been better, quite frankly, if we had had the ability to actually deal with votes on this separately, piece by piece. Given that isn't possible, although I presume it would still be possible, with unanimous agreement, to do that, then we would want to be very clear as to what it is we would be voting on and what the impact of that voting would be at the end of the day.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I just want to get a full understanding of this. There are 12 different points before us here, and you're saying that there is one motion and when the vote comes down I'll be voting on all 12, which is very, very difficult. These are very complex things. You have to correct me if I'm wrong. Is it the understanding that this would be the case: When we go through this and the vote comes down and the question is called, I'm voting on all 12 at once? I just want to understand that.
The Chair: Yes, that is correct. The question, when it is put, will be on the motion as it stands, as amended. That's what we'll be voting on. There have been two amendments at this point, I understand, to the motion. You're voting on the entire motion.
Mr Curling: It's going to be quite something, I tell you. I can't see us agreeing on this. I just want to be practical. We know that the government has the numbers. If we are going to start in a way where there are some objections we have, we know what the result is going to be anyhow: The government will vote as they're instructed to. It can be quite difficult. Sometimes we can't, all together, even agree on one line. Can you imagine agreeing on 12 separate, independent points and amendments? Sometimes I think it's a fiasco as we go through this.
Mr Clement: Just for the record, Mr Chair: Again, and I apologize to my colleagues across the way in the Liberal Party, I have trouble understanding the coherence of their position, because it was they who denied unanimous consent to voting on separate items. I've learned to live with that denial by the Liberal Party and we have governed ourselves accordingly. For them to now suggest that they are unhappy with that is a reversal of their historical position on that issue.
Mrs Pupatello: I think part of the difficulty, even at that time, was that we weren't receiving the amendments in advance. They were being read to us. It was quite difficult. We were writing them down the side of the page, saying, "Could you repeat that?" We weren't getting the copies of amendments in advance but we were having them read to us, so when we eventually went through the debate on the amendment, in the end none of us had official copies of what that point was, the amended version.
If the government has had this much time to come back to committee, perhaps you'd like to supply us with all of the amendments in advance, which gives us much better preparation time in terms of the discussion that would follow. Maybe the Chair can indicate whether you have amendments now for the balance of the 12 points. We'd really like to have them in advance and printed, hopefully.
Just to correct the record as well, Mr Chair, and I apologize to Mrs Pupatello who was not on the committee at that point, but at the time when we were dealing with the issue of whether to split the motion into 12 component parts, we did have a clean copy of that in typeface that was available to the committee. I want to assure you of that fact.
Mrs Pupatello: There are number of items I was hoping for clarification, for you especially as a new Chair, for the committee to understand our position, and to give some background as to its relevance in terms of the legislative history so far, since June 8, 1995, and what we view as the referenda legislation being a part and a tool of more to follow.
Point 8 specifically says, "Referendum questions would ask a clear and concise question, which would demand a yes or no answer, and would require a 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass."
As we spoke to this early on in the referenda debate, we discussed the whole issue of its comparability to the argument we had regarding Bill 81, which discussed the changing of boundaries and changing of representation in Ontario as a whole. Just for your benefit, Chair, our discussion and concern on the whole question of referendum really centres around its eventual use in the Ontario Legislature. As well, currently in legislation, through the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ontario residents have opportunity to hold referenda at will. There are various safeguards. There is regulation in place through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that allows currently for referenda by cities, towns, regions, if you will. The guidelines also indicate that it needs to be vetted through the Ontario Municipal Board before those things happen.
Some of the members who come from the Hamilton-Wentworth region may be very familiar with the citizens' initiative that took place there but a few months ago and the results there. There were clear guidelines on how the citizen-initiated referendum would follow and they went literally according to that book when they initiated that. The outcome of that Hamilton referendum, of course, was 94% opposed to the amalgamation of that whole region into one municipality.
Again, when we saw the referenda that were held over the Metro Toronto megacity issue, there was some concern raised by government members that there was the very different nature of the referenda held in each of the six municipalities. But nevertheless, each one of those had some takeoff on the kind of referenda that can happen under the regulations through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
We bring that to the floor first because there are already examples in Ontario during the term of this government where referenda have happened. Unfortunately, the people in both of those communities have not understood the Conservative government's position regarding the outcome of those referenda. Clearly we understand that it was really more government-driven in terms of what was supposed to be enacted in those cities. In fact, even when the people wanted to have referenda, they didn't find support through the provincial government in order to have those. They had to go off on their own and learn the rules etc, in particular in the Hamilton case, because they had a very well-defined citizens' initiative that they ran in the Hamilton area.
When we're faced with the reality of what has happened so far since June 8, 1995, in the area of referenda, and the fact that we've sat on committee of the Legislative Assembly for some months now discussing referenda with various points being put forward that are directly and specifically in relation to what has already happened in Ontario and that then have been denied, we have a great deal of difficulty having further discussion on referenda at this committee.
That's a little bit of the backdrop in terms of the last year and a half of the Conservative record so far on the issue of referenda. With the Chair smiling that way, I'm supposing that he's heard this, maybe in the House, but certainly not at committee.
Again, when we talk about point 8, that is, a question that's "clear and concise," I would put to you that -- all of us sat around our television sets that fateful night of the vote for megacity -- the fact that they could get the entire question on the chyron at the bottom of the screen would indicate to me that it was indeed a clear and concise question. They certainly followed that.
When we looked at the majority that was required in the voting, it certainly met that requirement. I can't imagine that we would go forward, with all due respect to the people of Ontario, and have a discussion that talks about what the Conservative government wants in a referendum when the people of Ontario have followed the law to the letter really, even if they knew that it was on this list and then they were completely denied in terms of being listened to.
We've had that kind of discussion with various members of this committee before. We put forward a number of questions. In particular, the question surrounding the majority of voting really speaks to the kind of representation that we have in Ontario, in Canada and comparatively in other jurisdictions that use that same, not one man, one vote, but a kind of representational voting that is not by population.
That as a discussion was made at the time with the Chair of Management Board when he brought forward Bill 81. We had that discussion that it moved closer to one man, one vote, but certainly in no way was one man, one vote.
Because we have that as a backdrop on what we see as appropriate representational government in Ontario, so much so that every Conservative member voted in favour of Bill 81, we can't go forward with discussion on referenda today when point 8 talks about the outcome of a referenda question requiring a 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians, because it doesn't speak in any way to the regionality of where the votes come from, whether that implies a certain percentage of a vote -- first past the poll if you're looking at the northern region versus just the Metro region. That as an issue must be addressed.
That as an issue also comes up in point 3, which I realize we're going to go back to. It's that same issue. We gave several examples of when that can be the most dangerous in terms of voting, regardless of what that referenda question is. Even if you were to cut Ontario in half, the whole northern half of Ontario, you can't allow a piece of legislation that allows all of those people not to have a say in the kinds of bidding that would be had through a referendum that the southern half of Ontario would want, but based on the rules that are laid out in number 8, that's what could happen.
I would turn to the comments that the Management Board Chair, Dave Johnson, himself made on this very issue. I had the good fortune of debating this gentleman in London over Bill 81. It was clear that he recognized that they were moving a little further away from appropriate representational government. In fact, the ratio was going to be smaller: fewer politicians for more people. Naturally that indicates, at least in terms of a direction change, more of a direction towards representation by population.
But the argument he gave was that the boundaries were going to be equal to the federal boundaries. Without having the exact numbers, because those two probably change monthly as our immigration numbers change in this province, we knew that on a federal level the total number of people which would be used as the divisive factor, or the number that is divided into, that number is actually made by virtue of a division into Canadian numbers, not Ontario provincial numbers.
If you compared Ontario representation versus federal representation, federal representation is actually stronger in terms of there being more representatives per population than in Ontario, where there are fewer numbers of people per population, which on first blush does seem strange given that the riding boundaries are the same. But it does speak to the kind of representation that we expect in Ontario. The people have deemed that to be fit.
There was quite a hue and cry, quite an uproar in the rural and northern areas when they realized that they were going to lose representation. There has always been -- I would submit Conservative governments of the past recognized that need for regionality -- regional issues that have to be addressed appropriately by a Toronto-based government, because Queen's Park sits here in Toronto. They do that by allowing those people to have a greater say even though they may represent fewer people than a typical Metro riding.
Because we agreed to that, we can't possibly go forward with further discussion in bringing forward a law that talks about referenda when those factors are not taken into account. For the very same reason that you would abide by that in how you have divided Ontario for representation here at Queen's Park, those same reasons apply as to why referenda are dangerous.
All of the research we've brought forward to date has indicated the danger related to having a question posed where the voting is not on a regional basis. You can have a complete distortion of the outcome simply based on where the population is more sparse and where you have a greater centralized population, such as in the area of Toronto. One that seems to be very clear was always the issue of the Temagami forest in the north.
If the northerners had a greater say, it may or may not have turned out differently, but the Toronto population being much stronger, if you were doing it determined by referendum, you might never cut one more tree from the Temagami forest in the north, because the people of Toronto would greatly outweigh the population you have in the north, even though the north, and in particular that region, requires that for economic development.
Our discussion then has to centre around the answers we get in response to those questions. So far, Chair, in the brief time we've spent together debating what I consider to be those absolute, fundamental questions that are at the heart of the problem with referenda, we haven't had any indication or anyone to address how you would get around that issue.
When my colleague opened, for the Chair's edification, the discussion on where we are in favour of referenda, he pointed to that specifically, that if it was a question that would surround francophone issues, something of that nature, you can be completely distorted in a response through a referendum. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
I wanted to point out to you one particular example of being on two sides of the same story. It's quite difficult, I realize, because even the MPPs who come from that region are having some difficulty with the issue at hand in Hamilton. If I may, it was a case in point as to perhaps an appropriate use of referenda in terms of gauging what the community would like to see and yet a government that really was not clear in terms of wanting to listen to those very people.
I can't tell the date on this one; I believe it's April 3. The headline in this paper -- I think it's centred in Burlington -- is "Mike and Al: A Confusing Show." According to MPP Lillian Ross, who is certainly involved in that issue in Hamilton, the Premier, in terms of what to do in Hamilton, suddenly agreed in cabinet to a single-tier government if it could be done quickly. There was no apparent reference to consensus or anything else.
Some of us remember the last campaign. I do, particularly coming from Windsor where we had at one time a fairly contentious issue, the advent of casinos in Ontario. Windsor was going to be the first city to have casinos. What the Premier told us at that time was that we were not going to have one more -- frankly, he said it from the curb of the airport because he never did leave the airport precinct to speak to Windsor people during the last election. But at the curb he did say, "I would not open one more casino without a referendum in the town that would be considered." He said very pointedly that he would not bring forward a casino without consensus and that you'd have to hold a referendum.
I guess he said "without holding a referendum." He didn't say that once the referendum was held he would listen to the answer, so he really didn't indicate whether the issue was binding or non-binding as a referendum item. He didn't specify that, but he did say that in order to expand the casino gaming industry, it would not happen without a referendum.
I think all of us know that a referendum clearly did not happen in Niagara Falls when the casino was placed there. I think all of us can safely say that had they had one in Niagara, given the economic development requirements there, it likely would have passed, but the fact is he didn't have one.
There is a similar instance happening currently with the charity casino industry now in Beaches-Woodbine. There is a strong indication that the people who live in Beaches-Woodbine are firmly against the idea of a casino arriving on their doorstep. They have not come forward with a referendum, nor is it likely that they're going to listen to one or allow one to happen if they can stop it. We would suggest to them that they may want to go forward to at least get some kind of gauging by their people on whether it's a whole community for or against casinos.
In any event, if we compare that to what he said beforehand, we can only surmise that his positioning is the same, that he is very strongly in favour of referenda. That naturally implies, or at least the people believe, he will respond and act accordingly based on the information that is brought to him through a referendum.
We've all been here in the House during this megacity debate and seen that wasn't the case. Some of the arguments that were put forward at the time I found quite strange. A member from Scarborough, Steven Gilchrist, stood in the House one day and said that the turnout was so poor that it really meant nothing. I would suggest that the turnout was better than when he was elected, so if that were the case and he really believed it, he probably should resign because he has no right to be a member.
Mrs Pupatello: Sure, and the only point I guess for you to rule on is that the current referendum that just happened in Toronto would be a clear example of communities springing up and wishing to have referenda. What was the nature of that debate? What was the number required in that case?
As point number 8 says, it would clearly require a 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass. If we look at city-held referenda, of all those voting you had 85% of the people being opposed to megacity. In fact, there was a higher voter turnout than the last provincial election, which elected the very MPP who was speaking out against it, so it's highly hypocritical. It's very difficult, because if you believe on the one hand in the very principle of voting and that your vote is going to count in some way by some formula, then it absolutely is applicable in every other way in terms of how we vote, whether that be on issues or in general elections.
Mr Chair, just for your sake I might tell you that these issues, with a variety of other examples, have been put forward a minimum of three to four months ago and in all of these opportunities we haven't had any indication that there was a response. If we check Hansard, I've asked very pointed questions about it and to date I have not had any response. I would dearly like to see the response because then we could move forward into other levels of debate that would indicate to me that this isn't all for naught, that the government is seriously considering reviewing how they would bring forward referenda. To date, I haven't seen any indication of that, just sort of a moving forward, "This is what we're going to do."
As a greater backdrop for where referenda fit in in Ontario and where the government probably would like to move, I have to go back to its uses in other jurisdictions and why we recognize that the referendum question itself being clear and concise is an absolutely critical position. I say that specifically because there have been referenda pretty much the world over. Where they've been used -- I need to read only one paragraph that's fairly brief but very explicit in terms of the concern of the question itself. This is Money, Media, and the Grassroots, by Betty H. Zisk.
She concludes, in the chapter called "Confusion and Rationality in Voting," that governments are able, and this has been carefully researched, to evoke the response that they're looking for from the people in the very structure of the phrase, and that in many instances they compared items such as "Do we want a No answer?" and "Do we want a Yes answer?"
For those of us who remember the last national referendum held in Canada on the subject of Canadian unity, it became a huge debate on the question itself. Here it says, in point number 8, "Referendum questions would ask a clear and concise question...." We have to be far more explicit than that.
When we look at the states of Oregon, Illinois and Ohio, many of them actually put a distinction of the number of words allowed in the question. Some of them said that the referendum question could be no more 20 words. Just because it seems to be germane at the moment to this point -- I think the Chair is going to find this particularly fascinating, actually -- they were able to actually have a description regarding the title of the ballot, how it was put forward by title, how they would actually print the petitions that were being sent around, whether they could or couldn't have paid circulators.
They had even to address the very issue of how this thing went around the state. Because they recognized that it could be so taken over by interest groups that were looking for a particular outcome, they had to designate only paid circulators. The six states of Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington by statute restricted or prohibited the organizers of these initiative campaigns to paying petition circulators.
I find that fascinating that they had to go so far because human nature, being what it is the world over and century after century, changes little. I don't know if that's been your experience, Chair, but that certainly is what they found in the southern states. Oregon as a state eventually had to repeal the ban on paid circulators of initiative petitions. They had to do that because there was a ruling by a district court judge that the law imposing the prohibition violated the right of freedom of speech guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution because the law restricted the candidate's opportunity to get his views across to the public by circulating petitions and it restricted the discussion as well of issues that would normally accompany the circulation of petitions.
Let me give you a very pertinent example of how restrictive this kind of thing can be in terms of information. The legislative researcher, just at the outset today, indicated that you have a response from the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. They responded and gave us a number of percentages in terms of how they felt about referenda. They did so based on information that was sent to them. My question is, by whom? By the Conservative government, which would like to pass legislation.
If we simply go on research to date, when you are looking to evoke a particular response, it's all in the nature of how you ask the question. I would submit that if I were looking for a positive response from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, if you want them to be wildly supportive of referenda, all you need to do is control how you give them the information. As I was hearing the legislative researcher, Mr Kaye, give us the sheet, I wondered how they asked the questions. On the back of that it certainly is clear, in "Referendum Legislation," that it was put out by the government in a particular manner.
I personally would have liked to have been involved in getting information into this document for the very relevant reason that business people would be opposed to referenda. I would have very much liked to have had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and suggest to them, "While you are informing your public," meaning their clients, "on how they feel about referenda, let me tell you some of the impacts of it."
How does that negatively impact on business? I would give them clear-cut examples of the California model when referenda were passed in that region, what the effects of that were. The moment they tied the hands of the state of California in terms of allowing municipalities to raise taxes, in many instances they had very much a negative impact on the business community.
I think the Canadian Federation of Independent Business would want to know those kinds of details before they holus-bolus sent that out to their clients and asked them to recall that, because the introduction, background and supporter information in each paragraph on the back of this today are the same that have been put out and really play to the populist theme out there today.
Historically, communities, governments, whether they be at the state level or the federal/national level, when they have entered into the discussion of a populist theme like referenda -- and it's always put in the context of giving more power to the people and the like -- it's always been the case that, precedent to that, that group itself has stood up clearly and said that there was a significant level of corruption at the heart of government and that's why they needed to move into a more direct form of democracy. Proponents of referenda who have been very active in this area have always professed that because the system is so bad, because government is so corrupt, because legislators can't be accountable any longer. That is always the backdrop precedent to the discussion of referenda.
Probably the most famous of individuals on an election platform to give rise to the theme of going towards a more direct form of democracy was Adolf Hitler. In his platform in his first election, in his view --
The Chair: I would ask you to try to focus. I understand your feelings with respect to referenda. The mandate of the committee is to deal with the 45-page document, which you haven't referred to once. We also have a motion here. We're on paragraph 8, as amended. I would like to focus on that particular matter. These hearings started back in September 1996. The mandate of the committee was given June 27, 1996. Today is April 30, 1997. I'd like to focus on what's in front of us and nothing else. If you've got anything else to say on paragraph 8, say it. If not, there are other speakers who would like to speak.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Mr Chair, if I may, you were speaking as Chairman. I would just like to speak on a point of order. It is in our standing orders that we may not speak at length or read at length or quote at length certain material. I can't remember the standing order number. But I'm just wondering if the clerk could advise you of that standing order and I would ask you to consider it.
Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Chair. Of course I'm discussing specifically point 8 in terms of, "Referendum questions would ask a clear and concise question...." Just because of that, it in and of itself is a significant issue, "a clear and concise question." That is what refers me back to all of the southern states that use various forms of referenda, because it has been such a problem in the past. That is the reason that I hearken the committee back to a very famous individual who used referenda in the platform to be elected.
When he was first elected he went on again on that theme of failure of government, of corruption etc, but that he would go in a very simple and concise way to the people. He was able at that time to be very influential. At that time, whatever the economics were -- and it usually is precipitated by terrible economic conditions in the countries or states where they arise -- the natural place to look for in terms of blame is government.
The Chair: Mrs Pupatello, I'm not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that the question should not be clear and concise or are you suggesting that the question should be read another way? I'm not really sure what you're saying.
Mrs Pupatello: I'm suggesting that the very danger of a referendum question is wholly that whether or not we have a point in point 8 that says, "Referendum questions would ask a clear and concise question...," other jurisdictions have gone much further in their definition of how to ask the question, what the question can consist of: that it can only be 20 words, not more; that it needs to have a ballot title and that the title is vetted through a particular commission. It goes far beyond simply outlining for whoever's doing the referenda at that time to say, "Referendum questions would ask a clear and concise question...."
I'm suggesting that no matter how rigid other jurisdictions have tried to outline, far more rigidly than point 8 here -- they have outlined the number of words. Gosh, if you counted every preposition and "the," that counts up to 20. But in those states it's very controlled, even in those cases --
Mrs Pupatello: However, Chair, you and I are both familiar with the process, and that is that this is going forward to a report which is to be written, which comes back to committee, which eventually ends up as legislation. We've got to make our points on this somewhere.
The Chair: My only point is that we're not dealing with specific legislation here. I understand what you're saying in terms that there is legislation in other jurisdictions that deals with that particular question, and it's a valid point, but let's be clear where we are at this juncture.
Mrs Pupatello: My argument therefore is that other jurisdictions have had such a huge amount of difficulty dealing with how to legitimize the very asking of the question. In their attempts to do so they have set various parameters, including number of words etc. Even still, human nature will prevail. Even if you can put the largest number of parameters around those charged with delivering the question on the ballot, even so, I need to show you that there is a very specific manipulative way that those who are bringing them forward can evoke the response they want. Chair, it's highly cogent in terms of what we're speaking to today that even --
Mr Clement: On a point of order, Mr Chair: In response to the member, I have some replies to assist the committee in replying to some of her questions. She forcefully tried to suggest that we were not replying to some of her concerns. I would like to reply to some of her concerns, but if her intention is to speak until 6 of the clock, it becomes impossible for me to do so. I'm wondering whether she can give me an opportunity to reply to some of her concerns by getting the floor and replying.
The Chair: I think that's a valid point, because you had suggested, Mrs Pupatello, that you'd like some input from the government. Perhaps it might be in order to get some reply from the government at this point in time.
Mrs Pupatello: If he'd like to do that. I just have more information to put out because the response I'm going to look for has to clearly be related to the kinds of examples I'm giving where it's been used in the past. How this current Conservative government would choose to overcome those obstacles has to be very clear.
The Chair: She still has the floor. I thought it might be helpful at this point in time if you wanted to reply to some of the information that she was looking for so she could continue her debate on this point.
I agree with Mrs Pupatello that "clear and concise" is a phrase which needs further definition and certainly should have further definition in the legislation. If and when the legislation comes before this particular committee, I'm sure there will be a definition of "clear and concise" which would be more expansive than the one in the motion.
The motion, just to remind Mrs Pupatello and to put it on the record, is simply an attempt to provide, as Mr Silipo said earlier, some guidance to the branch of your office, Mr Chair, in order to provide a final report that would eventually be tabled before the Legislature.
Certainly we did get some input as well from our deputants on "clear and concise" and how things work in other jurisdictions and, in order for the result to be a validly binding result, why that result need be clear and concise. I take the member's comment. It is nothing more or less than a repetition of some of the deputations we did receive on that issue.
With respect to the casino issue, I want to correct the record. Mrs Pupatello did indicate that the Niagara Falls casino was opened without a plebiscite or referendum. In fact, there was a plebiscite or referendum, whichever term you wish to use -- I think plebiscite is the more correct term in that particular case -- in the municipality of Niagara Falls prior to the implementation of that casino. I believe it was in the 1994 municipal election where there was a plebiscite on the ballot in Niagara Falls on whether they were interested in having a casino. I did want to correct the record that way.
Of course, these are the types of issues -- when referendums are necessary or unnecessary -- we have already discussed in this committee. In item 2 I think we tried to articulate where referendums should be mandatory. In item 1 we have tried to say that discretionary referenda are also a possibility. We did not want to limit the Legislature of Ontario with respect to the ambit for discretionary referenda.
I also want to assure Mrs Pupatello once again, and through her perhaps Mr Morin, who raised it earlier, that we do consider there are safeguards with respect to entrenched rights in our Constitution, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in the Ontario Human Rights Code which would certainly preclude any referendums on topics which are at variance with those documents. There is something. That is addressed in item 7. We have attempted to address that. We have listened to the concerns that were expressed to this committee on those issues from the Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario as well as the separate school boards and others that raised that issue and certainly endeavoured to reply to that.
I hope that helps Mrs Pupatello in understanding that we have replied to the concerns of the deputations, which are of paramount importance to us. But her concerns are important as well and we have replied to those as well.
Mrs Pupatello: The difficulty I have with this, which ordinarily you would think would be clarification, is that it isn't. The very items we put forward that were clear, the government member chose not to speak about. That included the megacity referenda, all six of them, on average 85% opposed, and the Hamilton referenda, in total 94% opposed. If we looked at the kinds of rules and regulations used by the Hamilton area, they were very stringent in terms of following a set pattern on how to carry on a citizen-initiated referendum. They were very clear and very specific about how they did that.
I might mention too to the government member that in both instances they were able to look at legislation that currently exists in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. There is legislation that exists today. That is a requirement to simply go to the OMB in terms of reviewing the question that is to be put forward. That too the government member has chosen not to comment on. Today, as a Windsorite, if I chose to initiate some kind of referendum on behalf of my city, or if perhaps the government of Kitchener-Waterloo would like to have a regional referendum on an issue, today, in 1997, before this goes to report, before this goes to some kind of other writing or author to send it back to this committee, that can happen. The government member has selected not to even discuss that issue and that always --
Mr Clement: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I did not respond to the issues that had already been dealt with by this committee. We have had ample debate on the topics that she raised, including the status of the so-called plebiscites in Metropolitan Toronto; the status of municipal plebiscites, which are different from binding referendums, as the member well knows, and the rights of municipalities therefrom; the difference between regional and province-wide referendums. Those are topics that we have already discussed at this committee over the last seven months and that is why I did not address those issues, just so you can let Mrs Pupatello know that.
Mrs Pupatello: Regardless of those responses, it really doesn't solve the problem for us because I don't get a sense that there really is an understanding of how referendum can be used depending on how the people want it.
If we look at people who are really considered experts and leaders in the field to see what they have found, they've used highly relevant kinds of analysis to make determinations that they can conclude that a particular hypothesis concerning the confusion theory is always at work when you're speaking about referenda. They can also determine that a high-spending type of referendum will almost always be opposed when it's put forward to the general population in terms of a vote. They can also determine that what they consider low-spending proposals will almost certainly pass. Those are some real basics in terms of the question itself.
If the question has any kind of complexity to it -- and I think our best example is the question the Quebeckers proposed in the last referendum; in terms of complexity, that was viewed as a highly complex way of asking the question -- and those other two, a high-spending proposal and a low-spending proposal, those three items alone can influence the outcome, can tell the government that if they're going looking for a particular answer they're going to get the answer they want depending on how they write the question. If the government needs a resounding no on an issue, they know how to go and get that, and if they need a resounding yes, they know how to get that.
The reason I'm very concerned, and this really happened in the days that we have spent here at committee, is that some of the government members speaking of their own initiative here around the table started throwing out examples of the kinds of referendum questions that would be put forward. The member for Durham East at that time said immediately, not with hesitancy, not with a pause, "What about a referendum on taxation?"
We knew this was there. We knew that was the burning question seated in the mind of every MPP on the government side that chose this wonderful committee where we'd have this fabulous debate on referenda. We knew that is the question the government members are just chomping at the bit to go public with. They want to go to the people of Ontario and say: "We're going to give you the power. We will give you, the people, the power and we will not be able to raise taxes unless it's voted for in a referendum." That is what is at the heart of all this.
I didn't say that vocally. I didn't verbalize that. I'd have been crazy to. I didn't say that. That came forward from one of the government members themselves in some moment of frustration when they were looking for any kind of example that they would actually use finally as the first question. When the legislation is in place and the law has been passed, what would the first question be that they would want to go forward to the people of Ontario with? We know what that is. That came forward from government members themselves.
That's why the whole discussion of Proposition 13 in California historically became highly relevant. Then it became more relevant to me and made much more sense when we went through the discussions of Bill 84 and the firefighters, because that was the exact same experience that they had in California when they decided that they couldn't raise taxes unless they went to the people of California. They set that up themselves. It also gave them reason to say, "We can't fund certain things because you won't let us." It lets the government off the hook in terms of responsibility for what they will choose to fund or not. When they don't choose to fund certain things, it's not their fault. You the people, the people with the power through the local choice and referenda, won't let the government spend the money.
If we follow that through from its historical roots, we see that the California people did say that. They said that for one reason. When the question, which was in this case to be "clear and concise," was put the people of California, it was put to the people in California knowing what response was required.
I might say too that they've had a significant return, term after term, of Republican governments in California. This is very notably an issue and certainly a part of the right-wing movement that's in place in California. It really does fit quite the pattern. The Californians too knew exactly what question needed to be put to the people in order to elicit the response that said, "No, you can't raise the taxes." That's exactly what happened.
What was very curious to me as we went through with Bill 84 here -- we were very worried, as you know, about the privatization clause in Bill 84. That clause has not been amended and it's going to come forward to a vote shortly. They are in a pickle because municipalities, with the massive cuts they've been facing, have to choose how they're going to deliver firefighting services appropriately for their people. The government said, "We have to give them the tools to be able to do that." The tools are in fact privatization.
Even if the people had no idea that this would happen when Mike Harris came to the curb of the airport in the last election, because he didn't leave the airport precinct -- he didn't say, "We're going to privatize your firefighting department"; he didn't say, "The cuts will be so massive you'll have to privatize to try to drive that bottom line down."
Mr Clement: On a point of order, Mr Chair: This is completely not on point with item 8. Item 8 does not deal with privatization, does not contemplate privatization, has nothing to do with privatization. I encourage Mrs Pupatello to keep her very interesting remarks to the issue at hand.
Mrs Pupatello: Okay. I'll tell you why it's so relevant. Firefighting to me stands out in the minds of the public of Ontario as a very relevant issue. We need to understand historically how this has happened to us before. I know all of us in this room have heard, "If you're not aware of history, you're bound to repeat it." I didn't quote that properly. Do you know what that is? If you're not bound by your history, you're bound to repeat it. If you don't learn from your mistakes, you're going to make them again.
I'm trying to be a responsible representative here. I am trying to say that this has already happened in the history of a state. It is so trademark, the method and the pattern of the issues are so similar, that we would be foolish not to take a very close look at what happened. That's been my intent all along. I'm bound by responsibility to continue that.
Firefighting is the perfect example of the result of the question being "clear and concise," from point number 8 here on this page. The California Republican government, very right-wing at the time and still today, went to the people of California and said: "We can't raise your taxes, so we've limited our revenue, so we can't fund all the things we want to fund. Don't blame us because we don't have an appropriate level of firefighting service in California." That resulted in the privatization of fire service.
Mr Clement: I apologize to Mrs Pupatello, but this is, as they say in the business, "déjà vu all over again." Her material is getting stale. We heard this three meetings ago. If Mrs Pupatello has something additional that she'd like to add, I'd love to hear it. But we actually heard this line of argument, almost verbatim, three meetings ago, sir.
Mrs Pupatello: My greatest concern is that when he tells me he's heard it before and he just had the opportunity for a response, why did he not choose to give me the response that gave me some indication that he too had done a little bit of historical viewing to see how he would answer the questions that we'll be faced with? Because we know what they were faced with and we know what happened there and what they had to do.
Especially for the other members of the committee -- and perhaps not this member because apparently he's heard it before -- I will try to put my point across in a much better way. I've been thinking that what I need is a Dale Carnegie course because I clearly have not been as forceful or as persuasive as I would like to be on this issue. I'm considering doing that during the break during the summer, as well as perfect my French skills, because I thought that I would continue my discussion in French as well.
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I don't think the member's thought process needs much continuum when she's telling us what she's thinking of doing with her summer. I don't see that what her plans for the summer are or whether she takes French-language instruction has anything to do with the matter that is before the committee at this time.
When the "clear and concise" question was put to the people of California, they said, "No, you cannot raise our taxes." This is very relevant because of history. It's happened so many times that they're actually able to evoke the response they're looking for. This is well documented; it has been researched. It has been used and manipulated, depending on what interest group you belong to, depending on how much money you have at hand to implement your campaign. We can evoke the response we're looking for.
That is the greatest danger of the question "clear and concise," as the government member hopes it would be, without setting any further parameters there. The Chair recognized later that this may come later in legislation. Even with the greatest of parameters that were put on other questions in the past --
Mr Grimmett: Mr Chair, if you'll check the standing orders, we had reference earlier on to a standing order that referred to the speaker referring to documents. I will point out that in another subsection of that same section in the standing orders, speakers are not allowed to engage in "needless repetition." With all due respect, the current speaker has been engaging in needless repetition of her points. I believe that all the points she wishes to make on number 8 have been made. If there are new points, I would suggest that the speaker should move to new points, or perhaps we should go to a new speaker from another party.
Mr Silipo: I just want to state on the record that I have no objections to the discussion continuing. I know there isn't a requirement that all three parties be represented, but in case that was a concern for somebody, I just want to be clear that I don't have any objection to the meeting continuing in my absence.
Mr Grimmett: It would be my point that the current speaker, Ms Pupatello, has been engaging in needless repetition of points, not only today but on previous days. She has repeatedly referred to examples historically in California. She's even tried to tie in references on the material that we're examining to Nazi Germany. I think those points have been made, we understand those points and she is engaging in needless repetition of her points on each of the individual parts of the motion.
What I would say, Mr Chair, is that it's incumbent upon you as the Chair to make sure that the debate moves on and that the debate continues to be fresh. I would suggest that if the current speaker does not have fresh ideas that she wishes to put forward, we should move on to speakers from another party on number 8.
Mr Curling: I found quite often some emphasis that needed to be done. I know that sometimes it is very difficult for the members of the government, who may have had their conclusions already on the matter, it's painful to them to be hearing this, but to me it is not, because the member has made some very important points. At times, when I hear it a second time, when she repeats it, if so repeated, then it comes over crystal clear. I may find something that she said that is emphasis and he may find something that is repetitious. I would ask the member if he wants to point out what is repetitious and what is not new ideas. Then we'll be able to find out, Mr Chairman, if you'd indicate in your ruling what is repetitious in the member's remarks.
The Chair: I would say this: Mr Grimmett doesn't have to indicate that, but my reading of the transcript is that Mrs Pupatello has been speaking at least the last two days we've had of hearings and we're in the third day with respect to a point. We're now on point 8 and, quite frankly, it is getting repetitious. If you haven't got anything more to say on number 8, I would like you to complete your submission or maybe someone else could speak in this committee.
The Chair: I'm not finished. I'm dealing with the point of order. You've already spoken on the point of order. I'm making my decision here. That's my decision. If you have nothing else to say on point 8 that isn't repetitious, that we haven't dealt with and addressed, I would like to move on to another speaker. I'm going to be limiting this discussion if I don't hear something new.
The Chair: No. I've read the transcripts. I understand the paper. What we're dealing with here is supposed to be a discussion, a debate, and one speaker is continuing to hold the point on one paragraph that you wanted to put your points on. I've heard the points on this.
What I'd like to do in my role as Chair is that we've got a situation where this committee was referred this matter June 27, 1996. It's now April 30, 1997. We're dealing with one paragraph here and we've dealt with it for at least the last day, and we're now on a full day also, and one speaker is speaking to it. I think you've had more than a little bit of leeway with respect to the Chair in terms of speaking on this point.
Mr Clement: On a point of order, Chair: I value your judgement on this. I wanted to bolster your position by referring to the record. On December 4, 1996, Mrs Pupatello, in the context of her voluminous remarks, was quoted in Hansard as saying -- and I'm quoting from page M-408 of 4 December 1996: "When they asked the question in Proposition 13, they would allow a ceiling, a cap, only a certain level of increase in property taxes, and during the tax revolt, for those in California, they said, `We will only allow a maximum of 2% increase.'" I believe that is pre what she said here today; in other words, today it is a repetition.
I also refer, sir, to page M-478 of Hansard of February 12, 1997, quoting again Mrs Pupatello: "I probably don't have to explain to many of the members here what kind of divisive issue is the saving or not of forests in the north. I'll tell you that based on this, a citizen-initiated referendum on cutting trees in the north will probably always fail if the question relates around, `Don't cut the trees.' The answer will always be, `Yes, don't cut the trees.'" I believe that is a repetition of her comments here this afternoon, sir. Your remarks are quite on point and I support them.
Mrs Pupatello: On a point of order, Chair: The difficulty I have again, if I might finish, is that we did ask for an answer. At the outset I said that the rationale that's being used for the very issue of referenda has everything to do with a vote per person or a regional type of representation in terms of voting -- at the very beginning just today, let alone months ago when I began. That is at the absolute heart of the matter. That is the most fundamental issue at play in the issues of referenda the world over, not just in Ontario, whether people have one man, one vote, or regional representation. I have not deviated from that most fundamental --
The Chair: No, I'm not going to let you finish unless I make my point here. You are basically debating the point that we've been dealing with today, which is referenda. A point of order is dealing with what the issue at hand is. What is your point of order?
Mrs Pupatello: They consider that I'm being repetitious and that they have given me the answers and therefore why am I continuing to go back and repeat. That is at issue here -- is it not? -- that I'm being repetitious and they've had the opportunity and have addressed those concerns.
The Chair: Order here. You've had the floor all day with respect to speaking about something that I find starting to get repetitious. I've asked you, and I made a decision on this, if you've got something new to add, add it.
The Chair: The point of order was the same as Mr Grimmett's. I'm trying to give you one opportunity here to add something new. If you don't have anything new, I will move and give the floor to someone else who wants to speak.
On my point of order, when you are making your ruling based on other people offering their points of order, and then you make a ruling, if it's concerning one of the particular members, do I have an opportunity to at least lay my case before you before you make your ruling?
The Chair: You're dealing with a point of order in terms of your trying to relive -- on this particular point of order, they're saying that you're being repetitive. What you want me to allow you to do is to say, "I want to speak to it and prove that I'm not being repetitive." In the point of doing that, I find that not a point of order.
Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Chair. On point 8, it goes on in terms of demanding a yes or no answer and as well requiring the 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass. While we reflected on that point exactly, we went back to the kinds of rejections and acceptances of referenda in the past and we looked at other jurisdictions to see what has happened, to see what kind of responses they've had, depending on the question, remembering that you can always evoke the answer you're looking for depending on how you ask the question.
In the requirement of the 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass, we have to reflect on how important it is for that outcome. All of us remember when we were talking about the national unity referendum issue in Quebec that out of that huge mass of people in Quebec it came down to but a 50,000-person difference between the Yes and the No. At that time, the biggest discussion of the day was, was it really a clear case of yes or no? When we saw those problems, you couldn't clearly say yes or no, because in fact the number was so close.
When you're looking at a kind of majority, that same discussion came up only recently in terms of the megacity bill. When a referendum was held in the city of Toronto, they said, "What would be the right level of yes to give the government an indication that this is the will of the majority of the people?" There are a number of examples where the majority in fact was shaved so close, just like in point 8, that 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians, that the government doesn't get near the kind of indication it was hoping to get.
When we look at how referenda questions will be used by this government in the future, in all honesty we have had but one example of what kind of a question there would be. The only example that's come forward from government members is the taxation question, but there will be many others, because this referendum will allow for that kind of citizen initiative to come forward with whatever parameters are set out. But the answer, in order to give guidance to government, has to be the kind of an answer that gives a clear-cut guide to government. It begs yet another problem of the whole issue of referenda. We can find any number of them.
In some that were used in the States, they have had referenda on nuclear power issues, non-smoking proposals. I think the non-smoking proposal is an interesting one just to delve into slightly. If you went out to the public today in the city of Toronto -- this is a very relevant issue because it just happened -- if they put it to a referendum question, you're clearly going to get the answers based right along the lines with who smokes or who doesn't smoke, or who's in a family of smokers or not. The people of Toronto were so dismayed by the result of them posing a smoking ban that within weeks they had to reverse that decision. Those of us who have watched that issue could have actually bet and won money. We knew they were going to have to reverse that because the people who were involved in that issue knew it's the kind of an issue that is split right down the middle. There are many of these issues that are split right down the middle. The smoking issue is always one and it's always contentious.
When we look at the kind of referenda questions, again keeping in mind that it's always there and asked to evoke the answer that's being looked for by government, the response from the people in terms of the vote too has to be striking. The response, what percentage of yes or no, is the result of the question. That is just as important as what kind of question we're asking. I can ask you to go home and ask any of those questions.
Someone had speculated at one time about the role of the two school systems in Ontario. If you went into Essex county, where I come from, I would submit -- and I'm guessing; we haven't had this kind of referendum issue of, would people be in favour of a Catholic system as well as a public system or would they be in favour of one public system, not Catholic? -- what we would find probably, based on limited information, I know, is it's going to be right down the middle. You are going to have a clear 50-50 split on that kind of issue.
If we use that as the example in terms of what would happen if we asked the referendum question, governments, like the Conservative government here at Queen's Park, want to get a clear indication if they should make a major move. We've already learned, though, from the government members in discussing this that the whole purpose of having referenda is to make them binding. In allowing for a binding referendum on the issue of two fully funded education systems, it will be the question that a huge number of the populace would like you to ask, especially those proposing a one-school system. Some have called it a confederated model etc, but what it means is the dissolution of a funded Catholic system in Ontario. There is a constituency across Ontario that wants that question to be asked, that believes that when they ask the people they will look at the bottom line, regardless of any constitutional matters, and it would pass.
That would be an incredible position for the government to be put in. On the one hand, you would have the public, 50% plus one -- as indicated here in point 8, you "would require a 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass." Let's assume you have 50% plus one of Ontarians eligible to pass. First of all, you are talking about 50% plus one of those who can vote; then you're talking about 50% plus one of those who show up to vote; and then you look at the result.
That is the only reason, Chair, that I brought into this discussion the comments made by your colleague from Scarborough in his discussion in the House opposing the referenda for megacity. It was exactly that point, the 50%-plus-one majority issue. He was addressing that, only he was on our side of the issue when he stood on that example of the megacity bill and said that the referendum that was held in Toronto didn't matter because the results didn't show anybody what it was intended to show. He suggested that there was such a poor turnout of the vote --
Mr Clement: On the same point of order: I would encourage members and the Chair to look at pages M-492 to M-496 of the committee presentations from February 19, 1997, where Mrs Pupatello touches on exactly the same points she is touching upon now. Sir, it's my opinion, not your opinion, but I think we're being mocked here and I would very much like to see some rotation.
Mr Grimmett: My point of order is virtually the same, Mr Chair, except I would say that the standing order that refers to needless repetition, in my opinion, should get at the issue of when speakers have exhausted their points on a particular issue. I believe that is the case here. Mrs Pupatello has clearly exhausted the points she wishes to make and I don't hear anything new on number 8 coming forward. I would ask you to rule that we move on and allow other people to speak to the substance of the issue.
The Chair: We're looking for your position. I think you've stated your position on that. I've heard about Mr Gilchrist before and I've heard it today, so I don't know what new ground we're covering here.
The Chair: Mrs Pupatello, to be fair, if you decide to choose to talk about each word and then decide to refer to the same stuff we're been through before -- we're dealing with point 8. That's what we're dealing with.
Mrs Pupatello: If you look at point 8, there are several items within point 8 that are relevant to referenda, and each of its own accord has everything to do with the outcome of their use. One, at the beginning, refers to the makeup of the actual question. It's followed by a comma and an "and" which indicates that after "and" it's another thought or phrase, and that second part talks about the ability to win. What is the past the post? What's the post you need to pass in order to win? That's clearly a separate item entirely. Then it talks about the effect of the passage, so that number 8 not only talks about the question, what you need to win the question; it also talks about how you introduce it as law in the House. Those are clearly distinct items.
If I were looking at separating out points, there would probably be some 20 or 25 points on the page, because those, each and of themselves, are their own areas of discussion. I can't be bound by it all being in point 8. They are completely separate parts. The actual implementation of the law is a completely separate item from how you determine a victory of the referendum and is completely different again from the very nature of the question itself.
Chair, I'm going to ask your indulgence on that because there are several points that all happen to fall into point 8 but are all completely different. One speaks of the implementation of law, another speaks of the development of the question itself, another talks about the very issue of what you consider a win.
The Chair: I understand that, but I'm just saying to you that you're not covering new ground here. It's the same point I heard before. I would like to hear what you have to say on paragraph 8, of course, and you continue to speak to it, but if you're going to refer to the same jurisdictions, the same speaker in the referendum debate, I don't consider that new ground.
Mrs Pupatello: Thanks. I guess I'm going to have to keep putting in the context of the part of 8 that I am speaking to, which is what you consider a win. Does a member consider a win based on more than 50% yes or no in a particular referendum? I ask that question rhetorically, because in my view, according to what I read here, it is the government's intention that 50% plus one means it wins. I think we can all accept that 50% plus one of those who vote, of the population that is eligible to vote, means the question wins. I think we assume that.
In the instance of megacity, at 85% opposed, therefore No won. I have to say that it's ludicrous for us to sit here, and the irony of us going through this again and again, based on the fact that it was a government member who said it didn't really mean anything, that hardly anybody went out to vote --
Mrs Pupatello: I don't know how many members in the community that Mr Stewart represents actually voted on that day, but if you're talking about 50% plus one of the people who live and are eligible to vote, then do you look at that? Do you also look at those who actually come out to vote that day? If we only went by, as was suggested by Mr Stewart now, or by whoever in the House on other issues of referenda, then any one of us, unless you happen to be Bruce Crozier from Essex South, who gets 75% of the vote every time he goes to the polls -- I don't know how many of us can actually say that we have 50% plus one of our voting population.
Mrs Pupatello: I agree. That's exactly my point. Mr Stewart helps me make my point: It is the population's responsibility to vote, and the people who voted in that instance, the megacity one, the result was astounding. In some communities it was 84%, in some it was 75%, but Mr Stewart, the point was still made that those numbers didn't reflect the population that came there. That's what we were told. They didn't reflect that population. But they did, and not only did they reflect that population, they reflected that population more than the committee members who sit at this very table today. Because if we use that very same logic, not a one of us deserves to be sitting here representing our areas.
But that's not how we look at it. In fact, when we go to vote for our elected representatives, unfortunately you -- I don't know if we've ever had 50% of eligible voters actually getting out to vote. I don't know if we ever hit 50. In my riding it's usually between 49, 48, 50 or something.
Mrs Pupatello: I am. I'm trying to add the fact that not only is it convoluted to get a real sense of direct democracy through use of this "clear and concise" question, it also begs the question that if you have a 50%-plus-one majority voting --
The Chair: I haven't taken a position on this. You've taken a position. We understand what your feelings are on paragraph 8. I'm just trying to keep the debate moving. I'd like to hear from more speakers. If you wish to speak more, and you have new ground, speak, but I'm just saying to you, I've listened to that first sentence for the last half-hour to maybe the hour.
Mrs Pupatello: I wish I had the Chair's ability to be so eloquent in terms of his speaking abilities. I, on the other hand, am just a poor new member with hardly that kind of eloquence, but I'm working on it. I'm going to get there one day.
My position is clear. Obviously, you know how I feel. Knowing how I feel on the matter is hardly relevant and frankly no one at this table cares what I think. What does matter is that people at the committee clearly understand that implementing things that have such dire consequences in the long term really matters.
If I can give you a clear example that specifically relates to point number 8, which is the 50%-plus-one majority of Ontarians who would vote on a particular issue, I attended an event in Windsor at the South Asian Centre --
Mrs Pupatello: No, it was in Windsor. It was actually at the Giovanni Caboto Club in Windsor. I know you know where that is, Chair, and the event was a South Asian Centre event, so you need to hear the point to see how relevant it is to what we're talking about today.
Mrs Pupatello: I was able to speak to a group, and the group was made up of the South Asian community in Windsor and they were having their annual banquet. The discussion of the day was multiculturalism. The fear among the multicultural group is always around the majority versus the minority. Why is that relevant to how a question passes or not? In the instance of multiculturalism the debate becomes one of how multiculturalism will continue to survive in the face of government cutbacks etc, changing ways to fund those kinds of issues.
This particular group was concerned because they immediately saw the relevance of questions that are put to the majority in a manner that allows the response to be evoked that the government is looking for. They, as part of the minority, get a sense of, "What will happen to us when we clearly would be a group?"
I was talking about referenda, in that instance specifically about the area of education. As has been the case in other jurisdictions, public education is typically the first order of the day to find new cuts when they have referenda legislation in place. The single most profound danger to multiculturalism is not bringing in our immigrant children in an appropriate manner, and the single best defence for that is an exceptional public education system.
When we know that as a result of using a referendum question that is put to the people requiring a 50%-plus-one majority, in the instance of asking a question, such as one on taxation, that you know will pass if it's asked, you can predict that even today as we speak -- we understand that $1 billion is being suggested to be drawn from public education. We know that's coming down the pike. We know that's going to be the single best defence for new immigrant children in our community, in my community. That is a significant problem that we can foresee, a major concern, that is the single most dangerous thing that we have coming where multiculturalism is concerned.
If we're not able to integrate new Canadian children into our communities via a well-funded public education system, and we're not able to do that because we put a question to the public about taxation through a referendum which required a 50%-plus-one majority of the vote in order to pass, that is the greatest danger that we bring to multiculturalism in Ontario.
Chair, tell me how relevant that is to this discussion of 50% plus one. I think all of you are quite impressed that we were able to make that discussion. That is the case. Much as you don't want to look at those kinds of details -- I know the member for Sarnia can relate to that quite well, as can I. If we know what the outcome is with the tools you're giving the Legislature, we've got to stop the tools before they get there. At the very least, you have to be prepared to offer the kind of tools with significant protections. That's my fear. When I see a 50%-plus-one majority, that is not the kind of tool that's required --
The Chair: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I draw your attention to page M-409, the debates of this committee on December 4, 1996, when Mrs Pupatello said, "When we look at education, we have to look specifically to Toronto." She goes on to talk about increased education costs: "There are outside factors that continually influence the education system. You have the highest number of immigrants who come here. The larger majority of them..." etc. This is repeating what we had discussed on December 4, 1996, and I respectfully request that we go to rotation.
Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Chair. I have to say how pleased I am, because I know that you too wondered how we were going to draw the South Asian Centre into the discussion of referenda. In fact it was highly relevant in the end; I think all of us would agree. I will tell you that the people who were listening that evening also found it highly relevant. Moreover, people who are in the education system never made the link between the danger of referenda and their use potentially and the effect on the public education system. I'm more than pleased to help make that connection for people.
What it specifically means in terms of its use and the majority of voting Ontarians in order to pass is that I don't see the safeguards. Anyone who has spoken to date on point number 8 itself, in particular relating to a 50%-plus-one majority of voting, I haven't seen --
The Chair: At our last meeting on February 19, 1997, the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mrs Pupatello) requested that the Chair make a statement on the authority of the Chair with respect to maintaining order in a standing committee of the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
As members recognize, the role of the Chair is to maintain order and decorum and to decide all questions of order and procedure. In this respect, the powers of a Chair of a standing committee are substantially the same as those of the Chair of the committee of the whole House. The Chair's decisions are not debatable but may be appealed to the Speaker by a majority of the members of the committee.
In fact, any member of the House who is not a member of a standing or select committee is guaranteed by standing order 126 the right to take part in the "public proceedings" of any committee "unless the House or the committee concerned otherwise orders." (This does not grant the right to vote or to move a motion, nor to be part of a quorum.)
"No power to suspend members has been given to those who preside in the committees of the whole House and in all other committees.... The power to censure those whose conduct has been reported to the House resides with the House itself and not with the Speaker."
"A standing committee has no power to punish one of its members for disorderly words, contemptuous conduct, or any other offence committed against it, but can only report the offence to the House. The provisions of standing orders numbers 42 (disorderly conduct) and 43 (order in debate) have not been extended to standing committees, and the Chairman has, therefore, not the power with which the Speaker and the Chairman of a committee of the whole House are invested to order a member who is guilty of disorderly conduct to withdraw, or to name a member for disregarding the authority of the Chair or abusing the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House or otherwise."
I would expect, however, that all honourable members -- being all honourable members -- would not test the limits of the Chair's authority. As the Chair stated last day, I would expect members to maintain a standard of decorum that is commensurate with our responsibilities here in this, one of the pre-eminent committees of the House. This is the committee that the House has named after itself, the committee to which the House refers matters of order, decorum and ethical conduct. We have been, for the most part, one of the least partisan of committees. I call upon members to endeavour to work together. While complete agreement may not always be possible, members should show respect for each other and for their parliamentary institutions.
Mrs Pupatello: Thanks, Chair. I appreciate it, actually. It was over quite a kerfuffle that was happening at committee at the time. I'd be pleased to give you some more historical data at some other time on that issue.
The Chair: You requested of the Chair, M-490: "As a footnote, Chair, I wonder if we could have some research in terms of precedents on this issue; if this has come up before, what the Chairs of the day have done in order to deal with it, because I understand there's a little bit of comparison." The Chair undertook to have a response for you the next week.
Mrs Pupatello: I was specifically discussing the 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians and just that very simple example, in terms of an ethnic community back home, how relevant that must be and how really fearful they are of a 50%-plus-one majority of voting Ontarians.
It's not for the kinds of questions that seem obvious to government members that have been expressed earlier, like religious items or ethnic items. They're not obvious items like that, so we don't even use as an example that there would actually be a question on a referendum ballot that would say something that is clearly racist in nature. We're not even going to go there because obviously it's never going to be so blatantly placed on a ballot.
The concern for a minority group is that in other very subtle ways and through systemic types of things we start getting at the heart of what does affect minority groups. There are all kinds of examples of that happening.
I understand that we're getting close to 6. I promise you that I will be bringing back all those examples of those systemic types of things, but the one that is most obvious is the public education one. That's why I have repeated that as an example, because it is so relevant, in particular to immigrant children.
The 50%-plus-one majority of voting: I'd like to give you an example of when that was not used by a Conservative government, just so I can show you that, depending on what the issue is, you don't want to settle for 50% plus one.
This was specifically to do with the accord that took place under Joe Clark's leadership in Canada. It was the whole discussion about what the expectations should have been in terms of the outcome. They were looking province by province, so this was a national issue but it's a perfect example of where they would not accept less than all 10 provinces saying yes. It wasn't a question of 50% plus one as the majority, as is being outlined here, but it's very clearly an issue where 100% was required, no less.
When you heard Mr Morin's discussion earlier on -- in fact, weeks ago we all suggested that there are certain kinds of issues where there is a unity required, 100% participation required. Such was the case that Joe Clark, the Conservative Prime Minister at the time, found. What he said was --