That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should amend the Fire Departments Act RSO 1980, regarding and related to management rights and structure; reform of the arbitration process; makeup of bargaining units; and the revision of definitions within fire departments to improve administration of such departments, and labour relations between management and the bargaining units.
Mr. Faubert: I had looked forward with some anticipation to my first speech in this House being made as part of the process of response to the speech from the throne. However, the roster system, coupled with the time limits on that debate, determined otherwise, so this House will have to wait until another time to hear about me and my riding.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in open debate on the first item of private members’ business in this 34th Parliament and on this resolution, which I feel has some importance to most, if not all, municipalities in this province. It is my hope and indeed my expectation that this debate will be initiated and this matter will be aired from a number of perspectives as openly and as rationally as possible and with the result that the government will initiate action necessary to effect the desired amendments to the Fire Departments Act, amendments which are in the interests of all parties concerned, both the employees and the employers.
By way of introduction and background, I should point out that I served on the council of the city of Scarborough for over 17 years before having the honour of being elected to this Legislature on September 10 by the good voters of Scarborough-Ellesmere. Over that time, I was elected to the board of control and sat as a member of that board for seven years, during which time I was a member of the labour negotiating team for the city of Scarborough. I have also served as an executive member of both the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which is known as AMO, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, known as FCM, and so also bring province-wide and national perspectives to this issue.
In addition, over that time I have had the opportunity to observe fire services not only of my municipality but also of many national and international forces, and I appreciate the job they are called upon to do. I admire the sense of dedication and discipline necessary to react as a team in firefighting situations, and some times I truly wonder that they can do as excellent a job as they do under such extreme conditions of stress and danger. But it is the management aspect of the service, not the operational, that we address today.
By way of further introduction, it should be pointed out that the Ministry of the Solicitor General has had under active consideration for many years the question of amendments to the Fire Departments Act. Indeed, the Fire Departments Act, in its present form, dates from 1947, but its deficiencies have been the subject of resolutions and petitions for change dating back to 1968. So when it is stated that such amendments are needed -- and there is a universal consensus that amendments are needed -- that is certainly no exaggeration.
Individual municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and the Ontario Association of Personnel Directors have all sent briefs and resolutions asking for a review of the legislation and its procedures and stating that, in their opinion, the act requires review and needs to be brought up to date and into line with contemporary labour and management practices.
What has happened to these petitions? They always seem to disappear somewhere into Queen’s Park, because legislation with respect to the fire service has often been promised but has never been delivered.
These sustained efforts with respect to amending the Fire Departments Act have been construed by some, and most particularly and unfortunately by members of the fire service, led by their executives, as an attack upon the service and its members. This is simply not the case, for it is clearly the community’s and the council’s perception that as a protective service, that required for fire is generally held in high regard. rendering an admirably high level of service. Indeed, where the fire service is concerned, there has been a widespread tendency to regard it as being essential and on the same plane as the police. This shows in certain arbitration awards, particularly in the area of Metropolitan Toronto, which has given the fire service economic parity with police settlements.
While I do not wish to detract from the excellent service in the performance of its professional duties, there is in Ontario, however, data available which, as to the ease of recruitment, low rate of turnover and overall lost time rate, are in sharp contrast when compared to such data for the police. But it is in the administrative structure of the two protective services that is shown dramatically the need for amendments to the act to establish a separate bargaining unit for senior officers from that of the rest of the bargaining unit.
As we know, the Fire Departments Act describes in a rudimentary form a system of collective bargaining. The system is then prescribed for all full-time firefighters as defined in the act. The only exclusions prescribed by section 5 are the chief and the deputy chief of the department. The effect of this is that all other senior officers in the department are within the bargaining unit and are therefore represented for collective bargaining purposes by the fire departments’ associations.
This is acknowledged to interfere with their need and ability to manage. The practical, or rather the unpractical. effect of this has been noted and commented upon adversely for many years. The fact that a fire department has only two management persons makes it a system which inhibits the sound management of the departments, especially departments of the larger cities which have fire services of between 400 and 600 operational firefighters.
The submission of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs puts it this way: “The senior officers in the department are in fact managers in every sense of the word. Particularly in an organization such as a fire department, the chain of command is fundamental. Orders must be obeyed. Officers must have the unequivocal authority to direct that certain duties are carried out and carried out promptly. These officers must have the ability and the capacity to assert leadership, direction and control over their subordinates for the efficient operation of the department.
“In our opinion there is no effective way in which this can be done if an officer is required to serve two masters. He cannot effectively carry out his management responsibilities if, at the same time, his other loyalty is to an organization of which the men he must lead are members. It is apparent in many fire departments in the province that this is not simply an academic concern. The conflict of interest is direct and has a very practical impact.”
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario. in their brief to the Solicitor General (Mrs. Smith), addresses the same issue this way, in the rationale of part two, titled Required Legislative Amendments for the Effective Administration of the Fire Services: “It is important that a definition of senior officers clearly delineates management from nonmanagement personnel in order to ensure that no conflict of interest exists when rnanagerial authority is required. For example, in situations of discipline it would be unfair for an individual who, by virtue of responsibilities, is required to impose disciplinary action and to require him or her to do so when that same individual is part of the bargaining unit.’’
No other collective bargaining legislation exists that does not recognize that this type of conflict of interest exists and seeks to accommodate it. As an example, the Labour Relations Act of Ontario excludes from the bargaining unit any person who exercises managerial functions.
If the comparison with the police we made earlier is an apt one, then the system of the Police Act which permits the senior officers to bargain collectively, but separately, apart from the other members of the police force, is an approach that is eminently logical and is an approach that should indeed be adopted. That approach is the one any new legislation should incorporate.
Such recommendations to define senior officers for purposes of the act and to allow senior fire service officers to become a separate bargaining unit is not without critics. This move is vigorously opposed by both the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Fighters, at least by the executive of those associations. Their position is simply that such a move would reduce the size of their bargaining units.
I should point out, though, using Scarborough as an example, there are 469 operational firefighters, with 14 district chiefs. This would result in a net reduction of only 14, or 2.8 per cent of the total unit. To put this in its real perspective, the city of Scarborough adds more than that number every year in hiring, just to keep up with its continued growth and population to be served.
We come to the most contentious part of any recommendation for change and that is the area that is most resisted. That is the resolution process of arbitration. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has submitted recommendations over a period of time and should be commended for their latest brief, developed by their labour relations committee, which they describe this way:
“AMO views the role of effective collective bargaining legislation as being that which provides both parties with a constructive and neutral framework within which differences can be resolved by the parties to their mutual satisfaction.”
Their recommendation contains a proposed model which has considerable merit, for it inserts a conciliation or mediation step into the process before the arbitration process. Its supporting rationale is a compelling argument to adopt such a model.
I am aware that this fact-funding step has created discussion and some dissension, but this Fire Departments Act is the only piece of labour legislation in Ontario that does not contain some form of mediation or conciliation.
Other items which require addressing, and which have been the subject of numerous briefs and submissions, are the need for developing guidelines for arbitrators similar to those outlined in the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act; and second, the need to update the definitions of job descriptions within the act.
At this time, I would like to commend the former Solicitor General, the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr. Keyes) for taking a major step last year as Solicitor General by enlarging the panel of arbitrators, by adding 17 additional, qualified, impartial arbitrators to the original six. He took a lot of heat for that action, but the results are showing in more balanced awards presently being made.
I feel that this AMO brief and all the resolutions and recommendations that have come forward, should be studied very closely by the Solicitor General’s ministry. Although many conclusions and recommendations have been known to the ministry staff for some time, I feel that the ministry should act to bring all interested parties back to the bargaining and back to reforming this act.
The change is under way, we know that. We have seen drafts of legislation but it does not bring forward the changes necessary. That the act is outdated in its concepts and applications is well known; I would urge this Legislature to support this resolution to have this act amended, to achieve an act that balances the rights of both sides, in a fair and equitable bargaining process.
Mr. Reville: I would like to begin by congratulating the new member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Faubert) on his maiden address in this House. I can only regret that he has chosen such an unfortunate resolution with which to begin.
This firefighter’s helmet, which has my name on it, and which says, “Best Wishes with Your New Endeavours” was presented to me by the Toronto Fire Fighters Association on my leaving Toronto city council, and may give members a clue on how I may vote on this resolution. I will briefly put it on so you can see how handsome and brave I look and then I will deliver the rest of the speech holding the helmet in this manner and on the heart.
The member for Searborough-Ellesmere has lamented the fact that the many recommendations from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario seem to have disappeared into the bowels of Queen’s Park never to be seen again and I am delighted that they disappear, because these are particularly negative kinds of recommendations -- and in fact I will read the member some words.
For instance, in 1984 my old friend, Orval Bolton, who was then president of the Toronto Fire Fighters Association, local 113, said, “We believe the end result would be a return to the dark ages in the field of management labour relations and would make confrontation and legal challenge the name of the game.”
It was at that time that Toronto city council -- and I know the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Kanter) will recall and will note with pride how he voted to support this resolution, wherein the Toronto city council supported its firefighters in respect of opposing the changes that even then were roiling and moiling around in the department of the Solicitor General. I suspect the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick will join me in opposing this resolution.
The resolution appears to be somewhat benign in its words, but clearly the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, in his speech to the resolution, has indicated the hornets, vipers and toads that in fact lurk beneath his seemingly harmless words. In fact, what is being proposed by AMO will gut the rights that firefighters have worked for and the rights that they deserve. It is interesting to note the kinds of issues that the AMO recommendation says are not for the purview of the arbitrator. It is hard to imagine what the arbitrator will be able to arbitrate if this AMO resolution finds its way into legislation.
Matters such as employment, appointment, complement, organization, assignment, discipline, dismissal, suspension, work methods and procedures, kinds and locations of equipment and classification of positions, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff, reappointment, merit system, training and development and appraisal; none of those matters under this proposal will be allowed to be within the jurisdiction of an arbitrator. It strikes me that goes to the very heart of our collective bargaining process and it would be shocking if we took this giant step back into time, when workers were at the mercy of employers who clearly had other views about working conditions than workers do.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere points out his long service on Scarborough council and his representation on various committees and studies of AMO. For my sins, I laboured in a lonely struggle on the labour relations committee of AMO. I must say I have never encountered a group of people whose views were more antithetical to labour than those mayors and reeves in Ontario. Tories all, and long may they burn.
At every meeting, the first discussion was, “How can we take away the right to strike of civic workers?” That would be the first item. Then the second item would be, “How can we smash the firefighters?” Some of my pals kindly provided me with this helmet to wear at AMO labour relations meetings because all this vicious, anti-labour stuff kept raining out of the ceiling from -- I am trying to think whether it was the mayor of Picton who was the worst, I cannot remember.
I got the third draft of this bill that was obviously written by some scoundrels and I got the fourth draft. This goes back to 1983. This has been a long struggle, and I am thankful that it has been a long struggle. I can tell members why it has been a long struggle. It is because, for some reason or other, the Solicitor General of those times, and perhaps even the Solicitor General of this time, understand that there are one heck of a lot of firefighters out there who do not share what the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere describes as a universal consensus about the way to deal with labour relations issues in respect of firefighters.
I would urge members of this House not to be confused by the benign words of the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. There is no question in my mind that amendments such as he is recommending will clearly not improve the labour relations between management and the bargaining units. What the resolution masks is an attempt to take away workers’ rights and to provide municipal councils with a mechanism for refusing to compensate firefighters properly for the very important work that they do in all our municipalities.
“We accept, as you do, that it is appropriate for certain workers performing essential services not to have the right to strike. However, we take the view that where the right to strike is taken away, it must be replaced by a fair and neutral process of arbitration. The changes being proposed by AMO fail to meet this standard. We could not support them.”
I might point out as well that I spoke one time at the Redmond symposium, which is an annual event that happens in North America, at which firefighters from all over the continent gather to discuss issues of importance. Regrettably, at least for me regrettably, I was about the 15th speaker in a long line of municipal politicians and other somewhat egocentric folks. I made my little speech and I was particularly concerned at that time about the hazardous materials to which firefighters are often exposed and the lack of legislation that exists whereby it can be known what hazardous materials may be stored on a particular site.
I remember thinking that some people clearly have no shame at all in terms of what they would say to a group of workers. The last speaker was a man named Cliff Pilkey, and he stood up and said, “You should have the right to refuse dangerous work.’’ Of course, the place dispersed into this incredible applause because that was a fairly crowd-pleasing remark. I recount the story to members because I think it is important to recognize that firefighters, almost entirely alone among workers, do not have the right to refuse dangerous work. In fact, the very nature of their work exposes firefighters to incredible danger on every working day.
It seems to me that we have entrusted this important work to a group of people and it does not behoove us to begin to nickel and dime at a collective bargaining process that firefighters have earned and deserve through their work over the years. I would find it personally hugely disappointing and I think somewhat ungrateful of us if we take that approach.
Mr. Cureatz: Durham East, Mr. Speaker. You did not have the privilege of listening to my past remarks on the throne debate. Otherwise, you would be more familiar with the great riding that I represent and the specific boundary changes that I went through.
In any event, I only have a few minutes this morning as opposed to the unlimited time that we have from time to time in various addresses. I know that is much to the chagrin of those in attendance on this Thursday morning, especially to the member who has brought forward this resolution.
We have to congratulate the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere on taking the initiative as a new member on the basis of the private members’ hour. However, because he has done so I am right away a little suspicious of the motives that have taken place under this resolution. I give credit to the New Democratic Party member who very ably outlined some specific aspects in regard to the concerns that he has, albeit, as he indicated, the resolution seems a little vague and benign, and indeed it is.
The problem that I have is some sadness for the Liberal member, as much as I have respect for his past incarnations and various political endeavours, because he has come forward with a resolution, as we all well know in these chambers except for the new members who do not realize it, that is more of a policy statement. I think it is very useful and can be used. I have done it from time to time myself in these chambers. But in regard to this specific request that he is trying to bring forward, it could very well be done by a bill, by a specific piece of legislation that could have been brought in so that we could all have examined it clause by clause. He has not taken that approach and he has taken this overall general resolution.
What does that say to me? That says that maybe deep within the member’s heart he is not actually in full support of this kind of approach. Why is he not? Because the resolution that is brought forward is what we would call the trial balloon. There are going to be a lot of trial balloons down here on the front benches in the next four years.
I feel sorry for the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere because he has been set up with the trial balloon. He is a new member, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, coming here enthusiastically with all kinds of great and wonderful things that he wants to do. Suddenly his name is drawn out of the ballot. He has to come up with something and he is scrambling. I know because I have been there myself.
Do I think for one moment that during the election campaign he has been thinking about this resolution to bring forward in private members’ hour? Nonsense. There is no way. He was knocking on doors’ much to his credit, and he got elected, but he was not thinking about this private resolution. Do members know what happened? He got in here, he got sworn in, we had the speech from the throne, suddenly his name was drawn out and someone down in the front bench -- l saw the House leader wandering around already this morning. He is smiling like a Cheshire cat because he sucked the member in. Darned right, he did.
The government wants to see what the reaction is going to be in terms of this so-called resolution. Now the Solicitor General, of whose ministry I am critic, will be able to go out across Ontario and say to AMO: “Don’t worry, folks. We have got the resolution you have been talking about for years. Not to worry, we are working on it.” She is going to put a cloud up front, a fog to dispense the idea that they are really going to be doing something.
If the front bench. the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse, had the nerve they would bring in the bill. They have got the majority; they can pass it. Oh, no, though. they are going to be cautious about this. They do not want to disrupt the firefighters.
I am sorry that the NDP member who spoke has left -- no, he is wandering around. There he is. He said that the reeves on the AMO committee on labour are a bunch of Tories. Well, he has made a mistake. He should not leave. Those reeves were a bunch of Liberals because, obviously, with all the petitions that have been brought forward over the years through the Conservative administration, the legislation was not brought forward because there was a realization that there was some sensitivity, that there was some concern in regard to the vagueness of this resolution that is being brought forward.
That is not to say they should not have done something, that is for sure. From time to time in caucus I was critical of my own party in terms of not moving quickly enough in some areas. They probably should have addressed this a little more closely to work out a better working relationship and to have an understanding of what is taking place down in those areas of the municipal concerns and the firefighters’ concerns.
Now that the Liberals have a majority government, now that they have their 95 seats, they could have taken the initiative. They could have brought forward a specific bill and said to the firefighters: “That’s it. The senior management is going to be considered not part of the bargaining process.” And why? Then at least their colours would have been shown and it would have been revealed that in regard to the firefighters, the right to strike would have been taken away. And in the event, why? In terms of an emergency situation, there is a possibility of what? A lockout? So that those senior management people could still run the fire departments? I do not know.
I feel a little uncomfortable about that approach. As the NDP member well put it, “The firefighters are the one occupation in which the job is dangerous.” I had the opportunity of going up to Gravenhurst in my former position as parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General and saw the programs they have up there. I do not know if the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere has been up there. It is wonderful when one sees the kind of training that takes place.
They have a three-storey building in which firefighters have to train. They throw in mock fires and the firefighters have to put them out. It is a rough business, there is no doubt about it. In terms of looking at the press from day to day we can see not only around Ontario and Canada but also around the world that what takes place in fires is dangerous, people can get killed.
If that is the situation, then I do not think we should be taking a specific look at doing away with some of the concerns that the firefighters have. Indeed, they have a very unique responsibility. It is like that old story, I suppose, of the pilot of a jet. It is boring for 99 per cent of the time, but, boy, it is real hell for the one per cent. Likewise for the firefighters.
As a result, I think this resolution is too vague. It throws up a cloud so that the ministers, the Solicitor General and the four people on the front bench are going to be able to now go back to AMO -- I can see it all happening. They have put the stall on for four years. The heat will finally be on in about three years’ time because the mandate of this government will be running out and it will have to go to the polls. Then they are finally going to have to make a decision as to which way they are going to go. Is the ministry going to bring in some legislation? I doubt it very much. All this is is a little sop to AMO.
I feel extremely sad in the depth of my heart that the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere was hoodwinked into bringing this resolution. I feel extremely sorry for him. If he had called me up and said “Sam, you have been around for a while. The House leader has suggested I bring this in as a private member’s bill. What do you think?” I would have said: “Listen, take your name off the ballot. Get comfortable with this place. Think of one or two of your own ideas that you as a member want to bring forward and not something that the front bench want to bring forward that has already been discussed in cabinet. “
This government talks about open government. Let me say there are hidden plans and hidden agendas over there. This is one of the first signs of it coming forward. This is, as I said earlier in my remarks, the first trial balloon that is coming up. Now they are going to wait for the reaction of the firefighters out there, and if they are not too strong the AMO is going to get its way.
But if the firefighters, if I could use the pun, put on some heat, if the government realizes that it is not going to get away with it, that they are concerned about what this government is trying to do with these trial balloons -- I say to other interest groups across Ontario and all the people at home watching on television in charge of interest groups, watch out for this crowd. This government is going to be bringing in these kinds of resolutions to see what is going to happen and the reaction that takes place. If the members do not react -- as the people well know, there are not too many of us here in opposition for this time around, but there will be other times.
There are responsibilities to those concerned groups out there which they might be affected by resolutions. When these trial balloons come up, the members should be there speaking to all the Liberals across Ontario who have been elected and saying, “No, we do not like that.” Get that across to the front bench over here.
I congratulate the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere for speaking so well in his first participation in debate in this chamber. I acknowledge that obviously he has had a great depth of political experience, much more than I had when I was first elected. Unfortunately, we cannot support the resolution.
Mr. Kanter: Like the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere, I had intended to speak about the illustrious riding of St. Andrew-St. Patrick, which I represent, and some of the predecessors who have preceded me in that riding. However, in view of the changed circumstances brought about in part by the rather lengthy oration by the member for Durham East (Mr. Cureatz), I will not have that opportunity today.
I will say I am pleased to be speaking about the Fire Departments Act and I am pleased to be speaking on private members’ business because that is an opportunity, one of the few opportunities in this chamber, where members can vote their conscience. In order to do that, it is useful to actually listen to the debate. I find that extremely interesting.
I am also pleased to be speaking on the Fire Departments Act because I do have some experience as a municipal councillor, perhaps not as much as my honourable friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere but perhaps a little more than my honourable friend who is now represented by the fire department helmet. In fact, I have had a little experience in the labour relations field as a lawyer prior to my municipal experience.
This motion on the surface appears attractive. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere referred to the lengthy historical precedents of the Fire Departments Act. In my research I found that its origins go back perhaps a little farther with the Fire Departments Hours of Labour Act enacted in 1920 and the Fire Departments Two-Platoon Act enacted in 1921.
Indeed, the act may be outmoded in some of its wording. However, this motion put by my honourable friend must be seen in the context of a long-standing collective bargaining relationship between firefighters and municipalities and it must be seen in the context of efforts to improve the process which are now at a very delicate stage. It is my opinion that supporting this motion is untimely and may cause unintended consequences by damaging the collective bargaining relationship by further delaying the possibility of desirable change.
As all members are no doubt aware, the Fire Departments Act governs the labour relations between all municipal fire departments and full-time firefighters in Ontario. It affects a lot of people. There are approximately 650 municipal fire departments and approximately 9,300 full-time firefighters in Ontario.
The act sets up a scheme whereby firefighters are permitted to form unions to bargain with committees of local councils, and the matter is sent to arbitration if the parties are unable to reach a negotiated settlement. If the parties are unable to agree on a choice of a neutral arbitrator, the Solicitor General may appoint an arbitrator from a roster of arbitrators.
I think it is very important that we note that while the act does not specifically preclude strikes, as a matter of fact there has never been a strike by firefighters in Ontario. I understand that the idea of strikes is totally contrary to the principles of firefighters and I think that is a principle that has stood the people of this province in good stead.
I am certainly aware of the pressure to amend the act but I think it comes primarily, if not exclusively, from one side, from members of municipal councils who act as management with respect to labour relations. In their view, and I am not suggesting they are entirely wrong or entirely right, the current act favours firefighters to the detriment of local councillors and local taxpayers.
I would like to point out that some municipalities, including the one I was privileged to serve as a member of council, have had very good relationships with their local fire departments. In the city of Toronto, we have not had to go to arbitration to determine wages or salaries for over 30 years. We have had one grievance arbitration in the last 15 years and I think this shows that at least in some municipalities, including a large and sophisticated municipality, labour relations can proceed smoothly within the framework of this current act.
It is important to note that both the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters are extremely concerned about any amendments to the Fire Departments Act. They fear that amendments to the act, particularly along the lines proposed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, will diminish their bargaining position. In fact, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association demonstrated against this proposed amendment at the recent AMO meeting which was held in Toronto in August 1987.
I did not attend that meeting. I was somewhat occupied with other matters. I understand my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere did take some time out from his busy campaign schedule to attend that meeting.
The motion presented by the honourable member for Scarborough-Ellesmere must be understood in context. It will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as an attack on firefighters. I would like to put into the record a letter that was received by the Ministry of the Solicitor General very recently from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association:
“In our opinion, the resolution by Mr. Faubert is a backdoor approach on behalf of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to trick the Ontario government into giving their endorsement and credence to anti-labour philosophies contained in AMO document 87-1. In light of the positive tone of our meeting on November 17, 1987, and the confidence that our association has regained through our dealings with Mr. Paquette” -- he is the assistant deputy minister in the department – “we perceive this motion is not in the best interests of the professional fire-fighters in this province.”
I am not speaking on behalf of or as a representative of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association but I do want to emphasize its perception of what this motion will do, the fact that this motion is perceived as upsetting the balance of the labour relations climate between two parties.
Reference has already been made to the problems of arbitration, the question of the number of arbitrators, the action of the previous Solicitor General in increasing the number of arbitrators. That was a measure that was taken at the behest of AMO and which I think on balance has been satisfactory.
I want to emphasize the very intensive review of the Fire Departments Act currently being undertaken by the Solicitor General. Since the current minister was appointed less than two months ago, she has personally consulted with both firefighter associations, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and AMO. To be specific, discussions with AMO are scheduled later today.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General is engaged at this moment in delicate discussions with representatives of all interested parties to determine whether there are inequities in the bargaining process and how it may be improved. For the Fire Departments Act to be a workable and effective piece of legislation, it must be generally acceptable to both sides. This requires a balancing of interests, tradeoffs, compromises, give and take and a sense of commitment to the process by both sides. That is very important. It is not just a question of what the Fire Departments Act says; it is also how any changes are arrived at.
I am concerned that to adopt the resolution as proposed would undermine the consultative process which is now going on by presupposing that such a process would result in a change in a certain direction. Both firefighter associations are now voluntarily and constructively co-operating in a review of the Fire Departments Act. If this motion is passed by this House, they could perceive that this House had precluded these discussions, had predetermined the results and that any further contribution by their groups would be irrelevant. This would be a serious mistake. It would give the appearance that this matter had been prejudged when it had not. It could result in an adversarial response from labour rather than one of co-operation.
The passage of this resolution today in my view would have a detrimental affect on the intensive review now being undertaken. I want to be absolutely clear about this: it could be that after the Ministry of the Solicitor General has completed its review of the act, legislation may be proposed. That legislation may well encompass some or all of the matters referred to in the motion of my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. It is expected that the consultations will be completed shortly and that any legislative proposals will be before this House in approximately one year.
I realize this process has gone on for a very long time. The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere is correct when he points out that there have been discussions since 1968 or 1969 on this subject, but the process is now going extremely well. The minister is committed to consultation, the staff are committed to consultation and the parties are committed to consultation. There is a sense of momentum on this issue. Passage of this resolution could upset that momentum. It could lead to the withdrawal of two important parties in the process. It could lead to continued stagnation and inaction. Therefore, I urge all members of this House not to support the motion put by the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere.
Mr. Callahan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I came here, as did many of my colleagues who are in the government party, to sit and listen to the debate and I think it is tragic that of the official opposition there is one person here and of the third party there are only three people here.
Mr. Jackson: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: That was rather quite unparliamentary by the previous member. I ask the Speaker to check page 103 of Beauchesne’s rules, paragraph 316: “...it has been sanctioned by usage that a member, while speaking, must not:...(c) refer to the presence or absence of specific members.” I think it was rather unparliamentary. Let us have some leadership from across the floor.
Mr. Charlton: I will just take a moment to point out to the member for Brampton South (Mr. Callahan) that perhaps our attendance on these matters reflects our caucus’s confidence in our positions and abilities on these issues.
I would like to start my comments by saying to the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere that I think we understand where this resolution comes from and what the basic concerns are. But I have to say to him very frankly that I do not think he has looked very carefully at what the real impact of what he is proposing will be. He mentioned in his comments that he has had some labour relations experience. As one who has sat on both sides of the bargaining table, on the labour side and on the management side, I think he fails to understand one of the major flaws in management’s approach, not just with municipalities, fire departments and police departments, but in general management’s approach to bargaining units and exclusions from bargaining units right across the board.
I came out of the Ontario public service where of the 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 or whatever number we are at now in Ontario, one in every four is excluded from the bargaining unit. That is one of the major failures in the Ontario civil service in terms of its labour relations. I want to tell the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere that with the former Solicitor General and one other member of the Liberal caucus I attended the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association convention last year in Kitchener. It is not just the view of the executive of the firefighters association that these kinds of things are being opposed. The membership is very strongly in opposition to the kinds of things that are being proposed here.
One of the reasons firefighters so strongly oppose what is being proposed here is the same reason that any member of any trade union opposes the continuous moves by management to always exclude more and more people from the bargaining unit. The reason labour people in trade unions oppose these moves is because it continually reduces their ability to have those who manage or supervise the day-to-day operations of a fire department, a police department or a steel mill -- it separates those who supervise the day-to-day work from those who have to do the day-to-day work. It builds a wall between those who have to have the closest relationships in the operation in question.
Do we in this House not think that it is important that the senior officers in a fire department are on a day-to-day and continuing basis aware of the concerns of the average firefighter and what he has to face in a very dangerous situation? Do we in this Legislature not think that is probably the most important thing that has to happen in a fire department, that the person who is ordering a firefighter to do this or that particular act has to know and understand, because of the discussions largely that go on at trade union meetings or association meetings in this case, how those members feel about that thing, how they feel it should be done and what is the best way to accomplish the job in question?
Do we want to build a wall between those people who are assigning the tasks and those people who are trying to accomplish the tasks? Of course we do not, but that is the start of what happens with resolutions like this.
I would just like to take a couple of quick moments for those members who have had some labour relations experience and understand the free collective bargaining process to read a couple of the recommendations in the OMA brief, 87.1. This is on the question of arbitration, for example, where the arbitration panel will be a three-man panel, one appointed by management and one appointed by the association and one to be mutually agreed, but if they do not mutually agree on the third arbitrator within five days, in this recommendation, either of the parties can request the minister to appoint.
Now maybe one can start to understand why these firefighters are so sceptical about what would happen if this Legislature started to move in this direction. I put this in a situation where almost always the association would have no say in who the third appointee on the arbitration panel is.
“Each party shall identify to the other and submit to the board of arbitration not more than three issues in dispute between the parties or such other number of issues which the parties may have mutually agreed to.” It puts management in the position of saying, “No, we are not going to mutually agree to any more than three.” If there are 55 outstanding issues, if that is the size of the impasse, we are going to end up with three on the arbitrator’s table. Then it goes on to say, “Any other unresolved issue shall remain as the collective agreement now sets it out.”
These are the kinds of recommendations that are just ripping the guts out of the free collective bargaining process. In addition to taking away the firefighter’s right to strike, to have some leverage in his bargaining process, we are also going to rip the guts out of the very basic process that we have left him with, a process that we all understand has to be fair and balanced if it is going to work.
Several of my colleagues have mentioned this kind of approach. The member for Riverdale (Mr. Reville) and the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick have mentioned that not only does a process have to balanced but it also has to be perceived as being a balanced process. With these kinds of words and these kinds of approaches to labour relations between fire departments and their firefighters, we will not only have, as the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick said, firefighters who perceive that the process is an unfair and unbalanced one, but in fact if these kinds of recommendations were ever put in place in the act, we would have a process that was extremely one-sided, a process which the fire departments of this province could abuse severely. Not all of them would, but why would we as legislators even want to consider making the potential for that to happen possible.
Mr. Faubert: It is interesting to note that I respect the standing orders of the chamber and I shall not indicate that the arguments of the member for Riverdale are about as empty as his hat that is sitting on his desk over there. It is unfortunate that he gave his remarks and left because in my opening remarks, I pointed out that I did not want this construed as an attack on the fire service. It is a service I have nothing but the greatest admiration for on a man-to-man basis.
It is interesting to note that the member for Riverdale quotes the Association of Municipalities of Ontario as the sole source of wanting change. It is true that AMO has been one of the collective sources because it is an association that speaks on behalf of municipalities across this province, but it is not the sole source. They never mention the fact that the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs wants these changes. They never quote the Ontario Association of Personnel Officers.
I would like to quote, if I might read into the record, a comment from David Cowie, who is supervisor of the Fire Underwriters Survey, Ontario Region, which is financed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “These management problems result from restraints that appear to be imposed in large part by labour arbitration rulings based on the firefighters’ collective agreement and an outdated, unsuitable provincial Fire Departments Act.” They have a subnote. “Amendments to the act have been under consideration for several years,” which is an understatement.
It is also interesting to note that the member for Riverdale introduces into the debate the unfortunate tone that typified past debates and one can never get past this tone. It is a direct and honest attempt to bring this forward so that these problems can be reconciled. It is interesting to note he also quotes the member for York South (Mr. B. Rae), who is here. I am just wondering if this is the same member who is a member of Jeffrey Sack Associates, a firm that handles arbitration on behalf of the firefighters. I am just asking the question.
Mr. B. Rae: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: Since the member has raised a personal point in the House, the member should know that I was at one time associated with that firm but I have not been for over a year.
The member for Durham East had an interesting argument. For some reason he puts this down as being some strange conspiracy put forward by the government House leader. I can assure the member that there is no such conspiracy and no suggestion has been made that such a resolution be brought forward. It is not flying a kite. It is something I have worked on and I am concerned about. I am concerned that there has been no action in this field and that there has been no legislation forthcoming.
I should give one last comment to the member. If he were here, I would suggest that he should have been privy to the caucus debate on the matter. He will see that it is not an issue that is uncontroversial. Everyone understands the aspects of it; they understand both sides of it. They seem to also understand some of the issues that were brought up by the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick, but he just raises the old doubts and arguments. He has actually put nothing new here. I am surprised, though, that as a former parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, he would put forward those remarks because they seem to come from the department and they are the old ones that have always come forward from the department in defence of inaction by the Solicitor General’s department.
Basically, in summation, I believe this Legislature should find that the present Fire Departments Act is in need of amendments and is deficient in the following, and I would ask the Legislature to support the resolution before them for the following reasons:
There is nothing in the Fire Departments Act similar to the requirements of the Police Act that municipalities maintain an adequate level of fire protection services. That is an interesting aspect that is not in that act. It follows that, for the very obvious public policy reasons that dictate the statutory requirements of the Police Act, a similar provision should be included in the Fire Departments Act. The officers, to at least the rank of district chief, should be, by way of amendment to the act, provided with organizational privileges similar to those enjoyed by police officers under the Police Act.
I respect the comments of the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton), in deference to his background in the Ontario public service and the collective bargaining process experience he has, but I point out that it is the fire chiefs themselves who are asking for this, asking that they be separated from the bargaining unit.
I would point out that the Fire Departments Act provides for mandatory arbitration without any intermediate steps. It is the only piece of labour legislation in Ontario that does not provide for a series of impasse resolution procedures such as conciliation or mediation.
Finally, I would point out that criteria should be established by which arbitrators would be required to frame their awards; that is, to be cognizant of all economic factors within the municipality they are making a decision towards, as well as criteria such as those found in the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, an act established for all provincial employees.
Yes, it is a tough decision and there are some sensitivities about this decision -- indeed, it is a very controversial one -- but it is time for this Legislature to realize there are decisions that simply have to be made, not because they are simply politically expedient but because they are necessary.
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing the deplorable free trade agreement negotiated between the government of Canada and the government of the United States as a sellout of Canada’s sovereignty and independence and a threat to thousands of Canadian jobs, the government of Ontario should ensure:
2. That the government or Legislature will not pass any laws or orders in council to comply with the agreement if the agreement is formally signed by the two federal governments and approved by their respective national legislative bodies; and
Mr. Morin-Strom: This, I believe, is a very important resolution and I very much appreciate the opportunity, on the first day of private members’ business, to present it before the Legislature and hopefully to come to a vote at 12 noon, a vote that I fully anticipate will give Ontario legislators a chance to take a stand one way or another as to how strongly we are going to fight this free trade agreement. I do not think there can be any doubt that this agreement is a bad deal. It is a bad deal for Canada, it is a bad deal for Ontario and it is up to us to stand up and take action on this agreement. It is a bad deal for the future of our children.
The Premier (Mr. Peterson) has talked at length about his opposition to the agreement but to this point we have not heard any specifics from the government of Ontario, other than in one area, that the government is going to take active steps to fight this agreement.
This motion does state that the government will take action not to approve or implement any specific items within provincial jurisdiction that might be part of this agreement; that the government or Legislature will not pass any additional laws or orders in council to comply with the agreement; and that the government and Legislature will pursue every constitutional, legal and political channel to express its opposition to the free trade agreement.
At the outset, l want to state that as an economic concept free trade could be of benefit to Canada and it has been a benefit in terms of our trade relationships with the United States and other countries around the world. The access, the opportunity to exchange products back and forth between countries obviously is a benefit and no one is questioning whether we should open up trade relationships or pursue further trade relationships with the United States or on the world scene.
The issue is the perspective of the government that has negotiated this agreement and the specifics in the agreement as they have resulted. In terms of an economic strategy, this particular initiative is not a solution to Canada’s unemployment level, to improving our way of life and our standards of living into the future. It does not address the need for an industrial strategy that would give us a more balanced, more diversified economy. We still need to look at how we can develop those kinds of competitive, strong industries in market niches that Canada can and should be pursuing.
We do not have a strategy from our federal government. I do not think we have a sufficient strategy from our provincial government in terms of encouraging such things as research and development, better education facilities, more relevant education and training, infrastructure to support the various areas of our country, infrastructure such as improved transportation links.
We certainly do not utilize in particular the people potential of our country. We have an unemployment rate that is far too high and as long as we do not pursue and have as our top priority a policy of full employment, we are misusing and underutilizing our most valuable resource and that is our people.
We could be using them, and we could look at other countries such as Japan, Austria, Sweden, other countries with advanced industrial economies that are utilizing their people resource, that have a concerted plan, that are working together, workers, companies and government, to ensure that their economies are running at as high a percentage of their capability as is possible. We have not been doing that and, as a result, we have people who are not contributing in areas where they could be contributing and want to contribute. As a country and as a province, we have to do something about that.
Canada’s trade with the United States is an open one. We have the largest two-way trading relationship in the world. There is no question that we have a comprehensive trade relationship with the United States. Canada is not losing in that trade relationship. We are very successful and why the federal government would want to embark on this initiative at a time when we were running a tremendous surplus in our trade, is beyond me and beyond the comprehension of many of the people of this country.
Sure, there are irritants and many specific industries have been facing various protectionist threats from the United States. Many companies have been running scared. However, the facts are that the trading relationship continues to grow between the two countries and we continue to be running one of the largest surpluses between any two trading nations in the world.
What are the benefits going to be in the resulting trade agreement? That is one of the most serious questions. We have seen giveaways, just to stay in the agreement, over the last two years by Brian Mulroney and the federal government. We have had giveaways on cruise missile testing, giveaways on foreign investment review, giveaways on the national energy program. We have just recently had the generic drug bill passed, which will cost consumers, particularly the elderly, considerable sums in the years to come. We lost on the shakes and shingles case. We lost on softwood lumber. We have just not stood up whatsoever to the Americans in our relationship.
In return, we now have a trade agreement that has been negotiated between the two countries but it has not accomplished even what some of the major industry interests have requested in terms of these negotiations. There is no dispute settlement mechanism. It does not provide for a fair trading relationship between the two countries. We are still subject to discriminatory US rules and laws on that trading relationship.
Even the winners, for example the steel industry, which is of so much importance to my home community, has been touted as one of the industries that would gain from an agreement with the US. However, the steel industry has received no exemption from antidumping or countervailing duty legislation. There has been no rollback of the current duty on stainless steel. There has been no agreement even to eliminate the restraint import quotas that are currently in effect on a voluntary basis between the United States and Canada. The steel industry says it anticipates continuing to have to live within the 3.5 per cent quota of the US marketplace, a steel marketplace which is declining in size, and as a result has gained nothing in terms of its export potential. The only thing they can say for the agreement is that we have maintained the status quo.
The argument against so many of the opponents of this whole free trade initiative has been that we were the proponents of the status quo. In fact, it is now the supposed industrial winners who claim they are happy because they have been able to maintain their status quo. Meanwhile, in many other weaker industries that are not as competitive and will be subject to disadvantage in terms of tariffs dropping, we have put at risk many thousands of workers.
Our own government of Ontario study has recently come out and shown that potentially 400,000 workers across the province are threatened. This covers more than 50 industries just in Ontario alone. As well, our most important and our strongest industry, the auto industry, not included in those figures, is threatened in the long run.
Sure, we have a very competitive auto industry today, but that was put in place largely as a result of the auto pact negotiated 20 years ago, which has provided the protections to ensure that the auto companies would produce here in Canada. We do not have control of that industry because we do not own that industry. As a result, we have the protections that the auto industry has assured us it will produce vehicles in Canada up to the number it sells in Canada and will include a percentage content of Canadian value added in those vehicles.
Now the auto pact has been gutted, and it has been gutted because there will no longer be any penalty whatsoever for a company which does not meet those targets. Five or 10 years down the road, if the exchange rate changes, if the competitiveness of putting the production in an Ontario plant versus putting it in a Michigan plant changes as a result of that, we could be looking at a very different scenario than today, where the auto companies, profit-minded as they are, will look at taking off the production from the Ontario plant and putting it in where the low-cost plant will be some time in the future. The only protection we have is the auto pact and the Canadian content requirements that are in it.
One of the most serious threats is the threat to regional development. This agreement does nothing to protect the long-standing Canadian interest in protecting regional interests and ensuring that those areas of the country which are farther away from the major population bases can receive stimulus, can receive special support from our country as a whole or from specific provinces and that we can generate a better way of life, a better economy, a better standard of living for people in the more remote areas of our country. Certainly, historically, we have done a far better job of that than the United States.
Even here in Ontario, northern Ontario continues to suffer with a much higher unemployment rate than the south. We have to have the opportunity to put stimulus into areas such as the north. What does a complete free trade agreement do? It gives the United States potentially complete access to our resources, but our resources are limited. They are being utilized up to their potential at this point. Our problem is getting as much value as possible out of those resources. We do not want to see those resources going out. We do not want to see our forest products and our minerals going out in raw form to the US in massive quantities, depleting them beyond their sustainable yields in the longer term.
What we want to do is get jobs and get value and get finished products out of those resources. We have to have the right to insist that those resources be processed in the areas where they are coming out of the ground or coming out of the woods or utilizing our water resource for hydroelectric power or other uses as well in the areas where they are.
The Americans will never shut off access to our resources. They want our resources and, as a result, the protectionist threat has never been a threat to those resource-based regions such as northern Ontario. However, those areas have gained nothing from this agreement, and in fact it has put in question the possibility that incentives and programs put in place to support new industry in those areas will be subject to countervailing action in the US and punitive duties as a result.
The Premier of this province made a commitment during the election campaign, a commitment to stand up and fight a trade deal and in fact a clear commitment that there would be no trade deal if a number of conditions were not met. The Premier stated that if regional development programs were threatened, there would be no deal. There could be no deal if agricultural safeguards were no longer going to be permitted. There would be no deal if Canada gave up the right to screen foreign investments. There would be no deal if cultural safeguards could not be maintained. He stated quite clearly that there would be no deal if there was not a binding dispute settlement mechanism. Finally, there would be no deal if the auto pact was gutted. The Premier stated that was his bottom line.
In fact, these areas have not been met in this agreement. It is imperative upon this government and this Legislature to take a clear stand now that the Premier’s commitment that no deal will happen will be the top priority of this Legislature.
The motion mentions “a sellout of Canada’s sovereignty and independence.” I would certainly like the member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Morin-Strom) to spell that out more specifically. I really do not know for sure what he means by a sellout of our sovereignty. I know that in Europe they joined and formed a common market and, as far as I am concerned, the fleur-de-lis is still flying over Paris and the Union Jack is still flying over London.
As far as our independence is concerned, just what does he mean by our independence? How far do we carry our independence? One minute he mentions that he likes and wants to trade with the United States. I certainly do not believe that we are going to board up our borders. We will always be trading with the United States. I know over a period of years my father, who was a dairy farmer, has sold cattle to the Americans, and at that particular time we were glad to have that market in the United States.
In the recent election campaign there was no question that free trade was a real issue. I got calls continually about it in the election campaign, people voicing their concerns about what was going to happen to supply management, to the dairy industry and to the feather industry. People stated that they were very concerned that these markets would go away.
Well, I share that concern because I still have my dairy farm, but I want to put on the record that even though all this talk was going around, the price of number 1 quota in the supply management system stayed reasonably high. The feather industry also voiced its concerns and claimed that it could not begin to compete with the United States because of the big vertically integrated plants down in North Carolina. It claimed it could not compete.
I might state that, after the election, I called up a broiler producer and had a talk with him. This was not only after the election, it was after the free trade decision was announced. Well, he said he was still quite concerned, but he mentioned the fact that under the former agreement the Americans were allowed to take 6.2 per cent of the broiler industry, but that did not include such products as TV dinners, packaged dinners, cordon bleu and that sort of thing.
Under the new agreement, the Americans are allowed to ship in 7.5 per cent of that market. He is not sure whether, under the new agreement, TV dinners, cordon bleu and those packaged dinners are covered.
Anyway, I might also mention that Brigid Pyke and delegates from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture have met with our caucus, and I am sure that they met with people from other caucuses. She said -- and this was after the free trade deal had been struck --
Mr. Pollock: Not the final draft but the original announcement, and she said she was very concerned about free trade even yet and she wanted to see the final draft, but she was not about to recommend that they tear up the deal.
So those are a few things that I would want to put on the record, and on top of that, as far as Mr. Broadbent or Mr. Turner saying that they are going to tear up this agreement: sure, they might tear up the agreement; it would be another thing like the Joe Clark syndrome on gas. Joe Clark came out with that policy of putting 18 cents’ tax on a gallon of gas and, of course, the people turfed him out of office because of that, but it was only a matter of time before the new administration put a 37-cent tax on gas. I firmly believe that if this free trade agreement is torn up, they will only bring out another agreement with a few more i’s dotted and a few more t’s crossed, and it will be basically the same.
Mr. Ferraro: It is a pleasure for me to rise and give some comments in regard to the motion of my friend the member for Sault Ste. Marie. I know how deeply concerned all members of the House are, and in particular the member for Sault Ste. Marie, with whom I have had the pleasure of sitting on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs which dealt, by and large, with free trade for the last couple of years.
It is important that with such an important issue -- and it is indeed an important issue; it is probably the most important issue, certainly in my lifetime and that of most of the members of this House, that we are going to have to deal with, at least to date -- it is important that, while we cannot help but speak emotionally, we look at it from a factual point of view.
The most important point, I guess, as far as my government is concerned and we are clearly on the record as saying we are opposed to this deal, but indeed, we need a free trade agreement of some sort. What we have said unequivocally, in no uncertain terms, is that this deal, quite frankly, is not acceptable and stinks.
Why have we got this deal? Well, we have got this deal because, notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Mulroney was against the idea of free trade prior to the federal election in light of the fact that we have had a lot of protectionist bills presented, which affect, of course, our different sectors as a country and as a province, and that the threat of the US trade omnibus bill lingers, and hundreds of other protectionist bills, we do need an agreement of some sort.
Unlike my friends from the New Democratic Party, who believe we can deal with disputes as they arise, my party believes, and I think it is safe to say the Conservative Party believes, that we do need to talk to them, to have some negotiation, to have a contract. But not this one.
Well, what is bad about this one? The most important part, the heart and soul of any agreement -- the Premier and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter) have said this on a number of occasions; most politicians have said it -- is that we need a dispute settlement mechanism. If we did not have the US launching all these countervail and antidumping laws, we would not have any problem; but the fact remains, we do. The present system of going to the international trade courts and subsequently going into the courts is too long and costly. We have experienced that in Ontario with the steel dispute that cost us well over $1 million and a lot of time and anxiety. So we need a better system.
What did we get? This heart and soul that Mr. Reisman and the federal government have come out with, quite frankly, is nothing but a fraud. Peter Murphy, the chief US negotiator, in the spring indicated in a memo that was leaked to the public that the United States had to come up with some form of dispute settlement mechanism to save face for the Canadians in order for them to get it signed. Peter Murphy said that.
Now, that is what we are working with from day one: “We have to save face for the Canadians.” It is not: “We need a legitimate dispute settlement mechanism to solve all this aggravation, to make the relationship better.” And as a province, we do trade 90 per cent of everything we export with the United States. “We have to save face.”
So we have got a panel that is going to decide the issues on the basis of whether or not the accusation, be it from Canada or the US, conforms to that particular country’s legislation. That is all it does. It has no teeth whatsoever. It says: “Yes, you can do that according to your laws, United States,” or “No, you cannot.” That is it. If it does not conform, the US Congress can still change the legislation. Well, that is wonderful. It is useless. There are no teeth, and that is extremely sad.
So we do not have secure access, not at all. This agreement, I am told by the experts, if you will, in the ministry, states that of the five US antitrade, antidumping laws that deal with Canada, four are completely exempt and one is only incidentally changed, so the status quo remains.
Now, what do we talk about? Let us talk about the energy thing. The energy situation now is -- and I might point out that two days before, I think it was October 4 that the deal as we presently know it was presented -- two days before it was presented to the provinces and the public the premiers did not know the scope of the oil pricing agreement.
So we have this cloud of mystery, and all of a sudden what they are saying is -- and what they are saying, quite frankly, is alarming and I resent it not only as a politician but as a Canadian: “Now, Canada, you have to charge world prices for your oil.” The premise, of course, is that Canada is self-sufficient in gas and oil and the United States is not. What that means is -- and I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. B. Rae) on TV and I agree with him entirely -- you have a continental oil pricing agreement where you, as a sovereign country, cannot regulate your own price, and it is Canada’s resource. If you want to sell oil more cheaply to your own countrymen, you can no longer do it. The fat cats sitting around a table in New York or wherever are going to regulate the price. That is disgusting.
I can remember going down to Washington, and Congressman Dingell, I believe, a very important congressman down there, put his arm around the chairman of our committee and said -- in camera, of course -- “Look, son, what we Americans really want is a fair advantage.” There is more truth to that than rumour.
Foreign investment: Michel Côté told me they got rid of the Foreign Investment Review Agency, it was bad -- even though I think 97 per cent of everything FIRA looked at was approved. What they have got is Investment Canada. At that time they looked at 2,200 proposals to buy in Canada. None were rejected. That is good; I am not against investment. What we have in this deal is an arrangement, if it goes through in this format, that by 1993, of 7,000 corporations, 6,500 can be acquired by the Americans and we cannot do a doggone thing about it.
Again, the Leader of the Opposition and, indeed, the Premier and the minister have said that, basically, if you lose economic control of your country -- and you would, and that is the worst- case scenario, I admit -- then indeed you do lose control of your country. So sovereignty is at risk.
I want to talk about the timing. The deals presented on October 4 were promised a final text within two weeks. We are told as of today that we may get it in mid-December. We as a country have to have it approved by January 2, because that is the date the President of the United States has to sign it, it is according to the trade bill that he got approval to negotiate this deal.
We are being rushed. We do not have the final text, and that is disgraceful on such an important issue, absolutely disgraceful. One of the scenarios being presented here is, “Well, Canadians, you do not have to know;” and they do not know. Some 81 per cent of Canadians do not know what the deal is all about. That is unfortunate. Yet we have to make a decision by January 2, and we will not get the text until mid-December. That is ridiculous.
In conclusion, I have no problem with the first two clauses of the private member’s resolution. The third one, however, does give me a problem. It says quite blatantly: “That the government and Legislature will pursue every constitutional, legal and political channel to express its opposition to this free trade agreement.”
Secondly, we much acknowledge and accept -- and we do, and obviously the opposition does not -- the inalienable right of the federal government to negotiate this contract. Yes, the Premier came out during the election with a number of clauses that said, “If this is not protected, then we cannot support it.”
In the deal presented today, the only area of provincial jurisdiction is the wine area; 97 per cent of it is totally in the federal jurisdiction. The Premier has come out and said, without hesitation: “We are not going to support that. The degree of subsidy reduction in the first two years is too punitive.” On the opposite side of the fence we have said, “We are going to go to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and pursue our rights in that regard.”
I say with respect, to the opposition in particular, it would be counterproductive for this Premier, who has fought so hard to make the Meech Lake agreement strong, to build this country, then to turn around and say, “We are going to do everything we possibly can to arbitrarily negate this deal,” without knowing the deal, without saying that we are going to get rid of our cost-sharing agreements, without saying that we are not affected by any procurement policy.
Mr. B. Rae: I am delighted to participate in this private members’ hour and to comment on the speech that the member for Guelph (Mr. Ferraro) has just given. It really is astonishing because, first of all, the member states quite falsely -- I am sure inadvertently, but quite falsely -- that it is the position of the New Democratic Party that there should be no understanding or agreement of any kind reached between Canada and the United States.
It is quite interesting that it was our federal member for Essex-Windsor, the equivalent riding of Windsor-Riverside, Steven Langdon, who is our trade critic, who was the first federal member to put forward the idea several years ago that what was needed between Canada and the United States was a commission that had the capacity to bind and to deal with disputes as they arose, and that what we needed was some way of resolving disputes as they arose so that industries were not continually blindsided on either side of the border. So in fact, it is the New Democratic Party, if I can say so, that has consistently focused on what really is, I think, a legitimate goal of public policy in this regard, and that is that there should be some understanding as to how we arrive at the settlement of disputes.
Let me also say to the member that I think it is an utter fantasy, as I have been saying for a number of years, for Canadians to expect complete, unlimited, secure access to the United States market. Why would we expect the American Congress to give us access that we do not want to give them? Why would we expect any other sovereign country to give us absolutely untrammelled access, or completely secure access, as it is stated, to another sovereign country’s market? It is a fantasy.
I can say that if, indeed, that is the Liberal Party’s pursuit, then it should be no surprise to anyone in the House that the Americans would turn around and say, “If you want to have more secure access to our market, and if, indeed, you want to have absolutely secure access to our market, there will be a price to pay.”
I think it is fair to say that the Liberal Party’s position on this question is an utter fantasy, because they come in and say: “We are all in favour of free trade. It is just this particular deal that we do not like.” It is no wonder that there is a sense of disrespect, which I think is shared both by us as the official opposition and by members of the third party, the Conservative Party, the third party.
Mr. B. Rae: It has a certain ring about it; I have been listening. I have been on the other end of this one for so long, I have to get it out of my system. It will not last forever, but believe me, I have been down in that corner for so long, federally and provincially, it is just such a delight to not be there, even for a brief moment.
I think there is a certain degree of respect between ourselves, certainly between the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Grossman, and me. We had many meetings in which we used to talk about policy, which I think is a reasonable way to conduct business, and we used to comment on the fact that even though we disagreed emphatically on the question, even though we had a very different point of view about what was in Canada’s interests and what was practical, we had an equal sense, I do not mind saying, of bewilderment and derision about the position that has been expressed by the Liberal Party in this regard.
The Liberal Party is saying it is all in favour of free trade, it is all in favour of absolutely secure access to the American market, but it does not want to sign an actual agreement that might have the effect of doing that because it would mean giving up too much. That is the position of the Liberal Party.
Mr. B. Rae: Well, it has obviously been politically -- the member for Brampton South (Mr. Callahan), who is known, I gather, in legal circles as the keys to the Don Jail, for reasons that I cannot quite understand; but nevertheless I have been told this is his nickname.
There is no question that it has been a successful strategy, but it is not a strategy that is based on any sense of integrity, either political or intellectual. You cannot have secure access to somebody else’s market, particularly when their market is 10 times larger than your own, without that somebody else demanding something quite extraordinary in return, and that is what this deal is all about. That is exactly what this deal is all about.
I have talked to the House many times on how I think the negotiating strategy federally has been wrong, even in terms of what they were trying to achieve as having been ill-conceived and ill-managed. I think the response from the provincial government has been politically easy, politically attractive, but in fact has not achieved the result which it claims it wants.
Now what we are saying, now that we have the bad deal -- which we told the government it was going to get and about which the Premier said, “Don’t ask me to say anything about this deal, because I don’t know what is in it.” So he said: “I’m going to play it cool all the way through these negotiations. I’m not going to insist on things being off the table, I’m not going to make a fuss about things not being discussed before they are there. I might state it publicly, but I’m not going to make it a condition for my involvement in the prenegotiation period, because I do not want to prejudice what the results of the negotiation might be.”
I think the Premier of this province shares some responsibility for the fact that the deal is as bad as it is. I know there are many who will see that as simply a partisan point, but I really believe it. I really believe that the strategy that has been followed by the provincial government has not been an effective one.
If they were genuinely interested in stopping this deal, it is something that could have been stopped some time ago, if the decision had been made at the provincial level that this deal was going to be of a kind that the government of Ontario could not conceivably support and therefore the government of Ontario two years ago was going to start to move all of its powers, legal and constitutional and political, in order to stop the bargaining from taking place in a way that would bargain away Canada’s sovereignty and Canada’s economic interests.
I believe the Premier has left it awfully late. I think it is fair to say, and again it is something I feel very strongly, it is much more difficult to unravel a bad deal, precisely because it is a deal that is signed between two parties, than it is to stop a deal before it starts. Now we are in the business, frankly, of having to unravel a deal that is not in Canada’s interests and that is very certainly not in the interests of the people of Ontario.
We have been pressing for some months now, and some days now in this House since the recall of the House, to get this government to tell us precisely what it is going to do to stop the deal. They say: “Well, all of a sudden we discovered that the deal was not in our jurisdiction. We suddenly discovered that it was in federal jurisdiction.”
I would like to ask the Liberal members and the Premier -- who is not here, he is never here for debates: when in the history of this country has the auto pact been a subject of provincial jurisdiction? It was not during the election campaign, and yet it was one of the conditions which the Premier set.
He did not go down to Windsor and say, “I’m going to do everything within provincial jurisdiction to stop this deal.” He went down to Windsor and he said, “There can be no deal if it guts the auto pact.”
Yet once he is elected with this mammoth majority which he has, he turns around and says, “Well, there really isn’t very much I can do about the auto pact, except to say that I’m very concerned about this deal.”
One might well ask, what was the election about? I will tell you what the election was about. The election was about the Liberal Party getting a majority so it would not have to do the things that it would have had to do if the minority parliament had been allowed to continue.
That is true. It is true on free trade and it is true on Meech Lake. That was the real David Peterson agenda. That is the real Liberal Party agenda. The real Liberal Party agenda was to get itself a majority so it would not have to be accountable to the people of this province on free trade or on Meech Lake. We have seen it clearly. We have seen that unfolding. There is a new conservative majority over there and that is what this election was all about.
At any rate, I want to make a few comments with regard to this resolution. I find it ironic that we have the member for Guelph stand up and say: “This deal, the free trade agreement, the free trade debate, needs more time and more discussion. We need more detail before we make a decision on what we are going to do.”
Yet, on the other hand, when we talk about the Meech Lake accord, a matter dealing with the Constitution of Canada, a document which will live with us in this country for years and years to come, we had a Premier sit in a room and not have the guts to walk outside of that room before cutting a deal, and he did so in a matter of hours. He did so without consulting the people in this Legislature or consulting the people of Ontario. He cut a deal which, in my view, is going to be very detrimental to this country. I hope to have more to say about that this afternoon.
We have also found out in the last few days that the Premier himself is not going to accept any amendments to the Meech Lake accord. He will not listen to discussion. We are going to have a committee that is going to study this matter for the next two, three, four months, and the discussion is going to go for naught. Why bother discussing it?
The other matter I find very much in conflict in the Liberal government’s argument is the whole argument with relation to the dispute resolution mechanism and its argument about sovereignty and independence. When a country enters into a trade agreement, be it a multilateral trade agreement or a bilateral trade agreement, that country does give up some of its prerogatives to make trade policies. It either agrees with one other country, as in the free trade agreement with the United States, that it will not take certain actions in its law or will amend its law in such a manner that it will drop barriers as between them; or, in multilateral negotiations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations, we agree with a number of other countries that we will give away the right to make trade law in Canada so that we can have access to other countries’ markets.
Now the Liberals, on the one hand, make the argument that the dispute resolution mechanism does not allow the binational panel, which is made up of Canadians and Americans, to change trade law in the United States and vice versa. They make the argument that they do not, and they do not have it under this agreement. But the Liberals argue they want them to have that right. Under that particular assumption, and I see the nods of the various Liberals, etc., the binational panel would then have the right to change energy policy in this country so that we could not offer energy at a lower price to domestic consumers than to Americans; it would have to be one price. That would be at market price and that would be available to not only Canadians but Americans. Yet in the very selfsame speech the member for Guelph gave to this Legislature a few moments ago, he wanted to make trade policy with regard to energy pricing. He wanted to have the right to give domestic consumers lower energy costs than Americans. That is not what he is arguing for in terms of the dispute resolution mechanism. He cannot have it both ways.
The other matter I would like to talk to is the threat to these particular jobs that many people have talked about in various different reports. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology put out a report saying that 400,000 jobs would be in jeopardy. But when you go into the study, you find that most of those jobs are in jeopardy anyway. They are not in jeopardy from trading with the United States; they are in jeopardy when trading with, for the most part, Pacific Rim countries.
The whole particular attitude of this government in dealing with this matter and producing reports has been a farce. It produced a report dealing with the dispute resolution mechanism, drawn up by some very noted lawyers here in Toronto. The summary of the report, according to the government, was that the dispute resolution mechanism was of no significance. Yet we hear today that another business group has had another noted law firm look at the dispute resolution mechanism and say it is the toughest that has been in place in any trading between two countries. What is one to believe?
Instead of trying to present the Canadian public, the Ontario public, with a reasonable amount of information so they can draw a reasonable conclusion, this government has undertaken a record of producing propaganda. Quite frankly, it has been silly propaganda.
I would like to say one more thing with regard to the Meech Lake accord and the free trade issue. I think Canadians are confused as to who has the right to decide whether this country enters into a free trade agreement or it does not. That confusion is exacerbated by the role of our Premier, who has gone around this country and other countries and stated his opposition to this particular agreement.
If one were looking at it from the point of view of an American or a European -- they must really be laughing at Canada. On the one hand, we have the Prime Minister of our country, the man who is supposed to be entrusted with taking on the role of making trade treaties with other countries, who in most countries has the right to make those particular decisions. On the other hand, we have a Premier who is going around to those selfsame countries and saying: “We are going to oppose it. We are going to stop it. We are going to do everything we can to stop it.”
In terms of the Meech Lake accord, what this Premier has done is to further weaken the hand of our central power to deal on issues such as this. As I say, I will be trying to speak at greater length to the Meech Lake accord this afternoon.
I had the privilege of going to a meeting with a number of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ambassadors with the Premier. There must have been a great deal of confusion on the part of those ambassadors about the remarks of our Premier, because our Premier was expressing his concern over the bilateral agreement. They must have been wondering and saying, “Who has the right to make these decisions in Canada?” Therefore, I think it is important that the premiers of our country take a constructive and active role in this debate, but that they be forthright in what they are doing.
During our recent election campaign, we found that this Premier was not forthright in how he and his party presented their platform to the Ontario public. They left the impression that the Premier of Ontario could stop this deal if he thought it was bad.
He says he thinks the deal is bad. Now I think he has an obligation to deliver on that promise to the Ontario public. I oppose him on his view that the deal is bad, but I tell the members that he has not dealt fairly with the public on this issue.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: First, I may say to the member for Carleton (Mr. Sterling) I am somewhat surprised he would take a look at the trade agreement and the dispute settlement mechanism in that manner. We have just been talking about countervail, we have just been talking about anti-dumping, and those are the only areas where we were seriously concerned about dispute settlement mechanisms and were asking for an agreement that would be negotiated in that manner.
Second and more important -- and I have only a short period of time -- in so far as the first two demands are concerned, this resolution essentially is reasonable and I can support it. The third demand in the resolution is difficult to support because of the words “every constitutional, legal and political channel” and “this free trade agreement.”
Surely the member for Sault Ste. Marie is not saying to us that we should throw away our negotiations on day care that the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) is involved in at the present time. Surely we should not be seriously doing that at this stage in the game.
Surely he is not saying that we should be abrogating our discussions on tax reform that are going on between the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) and the federal government. Surely we should not be doing that at this stage of the game.
The position of this party and this government has been very clear. It has been clear to the public right from the beginning that this was something that was probably going to end up, and going to have to end up, in the Supreme Court of Canada.
I have not heard anything from any government member to the effect that we intend to do anything that is co-operative in so far as carrying out these negotiations and carrying out this agreement is concerned, but I would admonish the government that it should continue to carry out those things which provide good government for the province and for the people of Ontario, regardless of whether or not it is helpful or a hindrance to the free trade negotiations.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I find it amazing that the Liberals would stand up in favour of most of this resolution, and then when it comes to the crunch in terms of trying to do something about fighting this agreement, which they say is not a good agreement, they say they are not going to pursue every constitutional, legal and political channel to express their opposition to it. The Liberals again want to be all talk and no action whatsoever on this agreement.
This agreement is a bad one for Canada. It does not give us the binding dispute settlement mechanism. It is a bad one for agriculture, for our farming community. It is a serious threat to regional development. It guts the auto pact, our most important industry in this province. It takes away the right to establish an effective industrial strategy for Canada in the longer term.
Adams, Allen, Ballinger, Breaugh, Brown, Bryden, Carrothers, Charlton, Cleary, Cooke, D. R., Cooke, D. S., Cureatz, Fleet, Harris. Johnston, R. F., Kanter, Laughren, LeBourdais. Leone, Lipsett, MacDonald, Mackenzie, Mancini, Martel, McLean, Miller, Morin-Strom, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Owen, Philip, E., Rae, B., Reville, Roberts, Sterling, Stoner, Sullivan, Swart, Tatham, Ward, Wildman.
Adams, Ballinger, Brown, Callahan, Carrothers, Cleary, Cooke, D. R., Cureatz, Daigeler, Dietsch, Elliot, Faubert, Ferraro, Fleet, Fulton, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., LeBourdais, Leone, Lipsett, MacDonald, Mahoney, Mancini, McClelland, McGuinty, McLean, Miller, Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Owen, Pelissero, Pollock, Reycraft, Roberts, Smith, D. W., Sola, Sterling, Stoner, Sullivan, Tatham, Velshi, Ward.
Mr. Mackenzie: I think it would be useful to underline for members of the House, the government, and certainly the Ministry of Transportation, a very serious problem, one that has some real, impending disasters attached to it. I am talking simply about the congestion on the Queen Elizabeth Way.
Anybody who drives regularly on that stretch from Hamilton to Toronto will know that if you leave at eight o’clock, as I did this morning, on a good day it takes an hour and a half to get here. If you do not leave before six, if you leave between six and eight, you can be anywhere up to two hours or better on that stretch of the highway.
When you take a look at the congestion along there, the way people speed, the brief open areas of that particular highway, the kind of fumes we are spewing out into the atmosphere, the costs that are involved to motorists and others in terms of stop-and-start driving, the number of accidents that are a regular occurrence -- l doubt there is a day without several accidents along that highway -- and the number of major accidents we have, given inclement weather, it should underline very clearly that the highway has reached the maximum of its potential in terms of traffic.
With the heavy trucks and the cars on it, accidents can be a real disaster, and some of them have been over the last year or two. I am not sure of all the answers, but it seems to me it makes an excellent case for stepping up the agenda we have before us in terms of the rapid transit system between Hamilton and Toronto as one of the means of taking some pressure off that highway.
Mr. McLean: My statement is directed to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. O’Neil). Approximately four months ago, I alerted the minister’s predecessor about the increasing number of hospitals in Ontario, including Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in my riding of Simcoe East, that are seeking government funding for expanded or completely new health care facilities.
The minister will recall that when my party was in power, we approved $200 million in the spring of 1985 alone for hospital capital projects. The list of required hospital capital construction projects has continued to grow at an alarming rate over the past two years.
We in Ontario need expanded or new hospitals. That means creative new methods for providing hospital capital funding must be devised for the growing demand. I urge the minister, as I did his predecessor in this Legislature last June, to meet with Ontario Lottery Corp. officials to devise a province-wide lottery aimed at generating funds exclusively for hospital construction projects.
The Irish Sweepstakes was quite successful for that purpose, and I firmly believe the success and popularity of existing lotteries in Ontario and throughout the rest of Canada are a good indication that the people of this province would support a new lottery, especially when they know that all proceeds would be used for expanded or new hospital construction projects in their own communities.
Mr. Offer: As members are aware, there is an all-party Ontario Legislature Committee for Soviet Jewry. The purpose of this committee is to bring to the attention of the public the plight of those Jews living in the Soviet Union.
As co-chairmen of this committee, I and my colleagues the member for Hamilton West (Mr. Allen), the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens) and in previous years the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms. Bryden) have added our voices with many others in decrying the deprivation of the most basic of human rights and freedoms accorded to the Soviet Jews.
Last March, our committee met with the relatives of one Soviet Jew, Yuli Edelstein. At that time we were informed of his plight, of his imprisonment, and of he and his wife not being permitted to emigrate from the Soviet Union. Our committee, indeed the collective voice of this Legislature, indicated to the Soviet authorities our awareness of the issue and the oppressive interference of the Soviet government, and requested their release.
As a Hebrew teacher and mathematician of the Soviet Union, who is among the many refuseniks who have so boldly and bravely stood up over the years in the face of much persecution of the people of their religious belief in the Soviet Union and who paid a significant penalty for that in the form of detention, restraint, harassment and what have you, it is certainly a great honour and a great delight for us to have him here with us today, freed from all that difficulty.
We are always honoured by the presence of those who come to us from such circumstances of great suffering and persecution. They are a great example to us, who endure such lesser travails for the things we stand for in our country, and we welcome them. We are glad that Dr. Edelstein is settled in Israel with his family.
We hope this is yet one more example of a growing stream of movement of the refuseniks out of the Soviet Union but, more hopefully, I think we all would wish, of a greater liberty of expression and a freedom of religious belief and practice that will come to characterize that country in future.
Mr. Sterling: I would like to associate our political party with the remarks made by both my colleagues with regard to Dr. Edelstein being with us today. I think every one of us has written letters on behalf of many people who have been seeking freedom from Russia. I am not quite sure whether I wrote a letter on behalf of Dr. Edelstein, but I may very well have, because I do co-operate, as many members of our party do, with Amnesty International in putting one more voice towards the whole principle of releasing people like Dr. Edelstein from the Soviet Union.
Mr. Owen: A critical housing shortage exists across the province, and it can be found in the riding of Simcoe Centre as well. Up until now, the city of Barrie has seen only 67 units built and occupied under the present programs. However, by this time next year Barrie should see 170 new units under construction, under the auspices of municipal nonprofit and air force veteran organizations.
We have waiting lists of several hundreds, but this construction should start to address the problem. During their proposal call in January, it is anticipated that an application will be made for another 100 nonprofit units.
Under Project 3000, 15 units of special needs for mental health and mentally retarded have been approved. Under the convert-to-rent program, 40 units of student housing have been developed and another 15 units are scheduled for 1988.
Under the rent supplement program, we have about 40 units of family housing in new subdivisions and a further 50 units under a conventional apartment program. The town of Bradford has no Ontario Housing Corp. projects under way, but because of its rapidly growing population, I have met with Bradford council and the Lions Club to pursue a study and likely building program there.
In recent days, opposition members have criticized the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) for a surplus of $50 million unspent. The finger of criticism should be levelled at those opposition members who have failed to take advantage of these funds. Their duties are more than verbal jewels in this chamber and should extend to bringing programs of assistance to those in need in their tidings. Criticize the minister if the programs are not there, but let them criticize themselves and hang their heads in shame if they have not acted.
Mr. Swart: I hope the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr. R. F. Nixon), or perhaps he should more appropriately be called the minister responsible to the insurance industry, has noted that the stream of cases of Ontarians who are abused by the private insurers, which I receive and bring to the attention of this House, has not slowed since the election. This in spite of the minister’s assurances and those of the superintendent of insurance that the deathbed conversion of the insurance industry is complete.
Today I relate the case of Patrick Bensen of Fenelon Falls. Last June, Mr. Bensen renewed his automobile insurance for one year and paid a premium of $831. In September, he received a notice for an additional premium of $525 because, during a check, the insurer had found that Mr. Bensen had lost three demerit points on his driver’s licence in late 1986. He has no other points against him.
Of course, even the western plans penalize people who lose demerit points, but not for the first loss of points and not at $525. He would pay no surcharge in Manitoba for those three points. If he lost another three, he would pay a surcharge on his driver’s licence of perhaps $100.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: Last night, senior ministry officials, representatives of McDonnell Douglas of Canada Ltd. and representatives of the Canadian Auto Workers union, along with myself, met from 11:45 p.m. until 3 o’clock in the morning in an effort to resolve the dispute over payment of wages to workers involved in work refusals.
An understanding was reached by the parties, providing that all workers who refused to work for health and safety reasons will be paid full wages effective from Wednesday, November 18, when the first refusals occurred.
The meeting also produced an understanding between the company and the union on two major issues of concern to the workers: health and safety training and the right to consult a physician of their own choice.
The understanding provides that every worker who requires additional training in health and safety matters will be assured of that training as a result of a comprehensive union-company initiative. In addition, all workers involved in ongoing medical surveillance programs will receive up to two hours’ pay per visit to a physician of his or her choice.
As a result of this new understanding, the number of teams investigating work refusals has been increased to 10 from three, a step that should speed up the investigation process and help to address the concerns of the workers about their health and safety.
The understanding also goes a long way towards resolving the very serious concern of workers about the health and safety conditions of the plant. It is my expectation that once the investigations are completed and the conditions of the understanding are met, the workers will be able to resume working with the knowledge that their work environment meets the standards required by law.
I want to take this opportunity as well to inform the House that the Ministry of Labour officials, in conjunction with solicitors from the Ministry of the Attorney General, are continuing to review evidence regarding the initiation of prosecutions, should they prove warranted.
As my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) has announced, the Ontario government will increase operating grants to school boards by 6.8 per cent in 1988. This increase will build the government’s total contribution to the operation of Ontario’s elementary and secondary schools to $3,841,400,000.
Today I am proud to announce that the government’s total contribution includes an enrichment of $61.8 million in 1988 as the first instalment of a three-year phase-in of the funding commitments for education established in the throne speech.
For the four-month period running from September to December 1988, we will provide $22.6 million as the first instalment of a three-year program that will reduce class sizes in grades 1 and 2. The proportionate amount for the remainder of the 1988-1989 school year will be reflected in the 1989 general legislative grants. This allocation is the first step in our program to reduce class sizes to an average of 20 students per teacher in those two primary grades.
To embark on further commitments for education established in the throne speech, l am today dedicating $10.4 million to the purchase of computer hardware for our children and $3 million for computer software. These funds will be available to school boards in the one-year period beginning January 1, 1988.
For the year beginning January 1, 1988, my ministry will make available $16.8 million for the purchase of new textbooks. At the same time, we will also make available $6 million for other learning materials.
These new commitments are in addition to an increase in the base operating grants to school boards of 4.5 per cent. That increase brings the base operating grant allocation to $3,586,000,000 next year.
This government has established a commitment to complete the extension of the separate school system in 1988. To fully that commitment, we are providing an additional $21.8 million in operating grants. When added to the 1987 allocation of $163.5 million and increased by 4.5 per cent, these grants bring the total allocation for separate school extension to $193.6 million.
These combined increases demonstrate this government’s intention to make the education of our children a priority. I am especially pleased that we are allocating funds that will allow us to place renewed emphasis on the early years of our children’s education, years that are critical to the development of our children.
The government of Ontario is confident that the total 1988 allocation for elementary and secondary education will provide school boards with the provincial resources to help maintain and improve the high-quality education that the people of this province expect and that our children deserve.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I am pleased to make available to the Legislature a report that is also being released at the first ministers’ conference in Toronto today. The report, entitled A Commitment to Research and Development: An Action Plan, proposes a framework to increase Canada’s research and development spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product within 10 years.
Our proposal for a national research and development plan is one option for consideration. However, we feel that a national target should be adopted and a five-year interim target should be established. If the interim target was set at 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product by 1992, it would fall on the growth path of a 10-year target of 2.5 per cent.
The report recommends that both the private and public sectors cover the costs of a five-year incremental research and development plan and that the private sector contribution would be approximately $4.9 billion. Government funding, predominantly federal moneys, would total about $2.8 billion.
Governments in Canada should be increasingly concerned with the level of national investment in research and development. Improving productivity and increasing competitiveness are two reasons why research and development is of paramount importance to the modern economy.
Mr. Mackenzie: I am responding to the statement by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara). We are always pleased to see a settlement of the pay issue in a dispute, particularly when it took a week-long walkout to resolve the particular problem and to achieve the rights the workers thought they already had which forced them out on to the street.
It does not assure prosecution. I notice the minister keeps saying, “Prosecute, if warranted.” A reading of the orders that have been issued clearly indicated that there were reasons and grounds for prosecution long before this in this particular case, and I think we need some exemplary and punitive damages in situations like this.
I also hope that the minister, having sat in with his officials at the sessions that were held, will now agree that this kind of right to a doctor of your own choice, training and pay for time off for medical checkups will be the right of all workers in similar hazardous workplace situations.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: How quickly they change. Let us compare what is being put forward today in the legislative grants for education with the wonderful education promises of the Liberal Party during the last election.
It promised $170 million per year to reduce class sizes in grades 1 and 2. It is putting in $22.6 million. It promised it would give $31.5 million to buy new hardware for our computers. It has, instead, put in $10.4 million, a third of the amount. It is putting in $3 million for computer software compared with $23.9 million per year it promised during the election. It promised $38 million for new learning materials and textbooks. It put in a total of $22 million. Not only that, it has now reduced the new science programs in the intermediate division from the $13 million it promised during the election to only $3 million now.
All of this is allowing the base grants to rise by perhaps 4.5 per cent or approximately the cost of inflation, unless you reduce the costs from that of the extension to Catholic school funding and ask questions like what happened to the affirmative action programs last year? Are they not being continued? What about the junior science curriculum; not being continued? What about the technology programs? Are they not being continued? They took 0.5 per cent of the basic budget last year. Are they now being presumed to be part of that 4.5 per cent or are they also just being abandoned by this government like so many of its promises? This is the most disappointing announcement by a new minister that I could ever have expected.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I am pleased to respond to the announcement made by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter) and I would like to heartily endorse the proposal the minister has made. I believe research and development is absolutely critical to the long-term future of our country. If we are ever going to develop a full employment economy, a more balanced economy, a diversified economy that puts more value added into our resources and improves our competitive position on the world scene, we have to increase the research and development spending in this country by a considerable amount and the 2.5 per cent target is a reasonable one when one looks at successful highly industrialized countries elsewhere in the world.
However, we need not just talk about setting a target, we need action from a government that is committed to doing something about it. Research and development funding comes largely as a result of government initiative. Government programs have to be in place. Placing all the responsibility in the lap of the federal government is not the only solution. We have to have a commitment from this province to ensure that research and development that is relevant to this province takes place in this province. We want to see a government that will in fact put the money where its words are.
Mr. Sterling: I would like to say a few words with regard to the paper of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology about research and development. I do not think anybody is against research and development and I welcome that there is some focus on this particular document.
I agree with my colleague from the New Democratic Party who said to let them put their money where their mouth is. It seems this government has a tendency to try to shift every issue to the federal sphere and not to take them within its own ambit. I ask only whether, in presenting this document, the government of Ontario has the credibility to put forward a program on research and development when it was the creator of a billion-dollar, high-tech fund on which it only spent $100,000 on administration in the first year.
Mr. Jackson: It is a sad day for this Legislature when we have to acknowledge the fact that the broken promise of the Liberal government with respect to provincial funding has reached an all-time low.
I ask the members of this House to go back to a bold statement by the then Leader of the Opposition, the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson), where he stated on June 19, 1984, “The intention of the Liberal Party of Ontario is to restore this level to a maximum of 60 per cent on the average across the province during our first term of office.”
We know that in June 1985, with the accord statement, again this government failed to make its commitment to the children and the school system of this province. The pattern has declined consistently since the Liberals have taken office. The 47.8 per cent funding levels have now dropped to 42.7 per cent. These figures have been provided both by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics and by the Ministry of Education. It is an absolute sham to suggest that this government is honouring in any way its commitment to the general operating costs that school boards are facing.
With respect to the so-called commitment to reducing the pupil-teacher ratio in our elementary schools, it should be noted that there are insufficient dollars in this program to pay for the school board costs to provide those staffs. That means all the teachers who are required in the city of Toronto are going to be paid for entirely -- 100 per cent of those costs are going to be picked up --by the local taxpayer.
No commitment from this government, yet it boldly promised during the election that it would be providing these support staffs to reduce that. The public will have figured out by Christmas, when school boards are sitting down to structure their budgets, how much of a tax burden has been loaded on to them as municipal taxpayers.
All the special grants the government has indicated are reductions of total commitments this year. The class size reduction is not adequate to meet what the commitment was in the previous year. The computer hardware, the computer software are less than what they are currently spending. They promised $30 million and they are giving only $13 million. Funding for textbooks and learning materials was promised at $49 per student. This is considerably below the requirements and needs and the stated promises, to put it in perspective.
It will mean a horrendous increase in taxes at the local level. It is a clear and significant breach of the promise. It is worthy of note that every single Liberal member who ran in the last election signed a statement that said, “The Liberal government remains committed to paying 60 per cent of approved school board costs.” Every single Liberal candidate in the last election signed the very exact same statement that was crafted for them by the then Minister of Education, the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway).
It is a shame that the general legislative grants, the base level of transfer payments, has gone from 5.5 per cent last year to 4.5 this year. It is inexcusable for this government to stand here and make this statement and suggest it is honouring in any way its commitment to the 1.7 million children in this province.
They must increase the funding. It is a sham the way they have done it. That is why I have stated clearly, outside of this House, that this government has misled Ontario and the children of this province with respect to the true funding on this issue.
Mr. B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. The minister will no doubt be aware that this month the Workers’ Compensation Board has finally developed, after a long, long period of time and many years of delay, the criteria by which workers who have worked underground in gold mines and who have died of lung cancer will be compensated by the WCB. The minister will be aware of how long a struggle this has been for the families of these victims of industrial disease and he will realize the deep sense of injustice that exists among those families, in particular the widows of those miners.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: I obviously am aware that the board has recently come to, not the end of its work, really its first decision. Of course, I certainly have not been as intimately involved in the history of that ongoing process as the member for York South. I recall during the last parliament he was asking questions of my colleague, now the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Wrye), then the Minister of Labour, on the very same issue.
I understand the board, after receipt of reports from the Industrial Disease Standards Panel and other bodies, has made a decision about a certain number of the claimants but is going to continue to work to determine the validity of additional claims, which I think number several hundred, if I recall correctly.
Mr. B. Rae: There are, as the minister says, several hundred families and miners who are effectively disenfranchised by this decision of the board. The decision states very clearly that in order to receive compensation a miner or his family or survivors have to have had “some dusty gold mining experience in Ontario prior to 1945 and a chest X-ray rating of four or more as rated by the Ontario WCB chest X-ray classification system, plus the 60 units which are factored in from all the time that one has worked in a mine,” which means basically you have to have been starting work back in the 1930s in order for your family to qualify.
Is the minister saying on record today in the House that workers who started work after 1945 were not working in dusty mining conditions? If he is, it certainly will come as news to those miners-and to their families -- who were working in dusty conditions then, and in some cases are working there now.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: No, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is, the board has gone through a process that my friend from York South is probably more familiar with than anyone else in this House. I know he has followed it along very carefully. But in fairness, I think I perhaps should point out to this House that the decision is one that the board has taken, and it is one step in a series of decisions the board will be taking on the matter.
It results not only from a very complex and lengthy study by the Industrial Disease Standards Panel. The board’s decision, as I understand it, was not only based on that information but also a number of reports and submissions that were made to the board from various parties and various groups and various organizations, and I assume from the New Democratic Party, on what decision the board should make. I do not make those decisions; the board makes those decisions. I understand the first decision has been made and the process is continuing.
Mr. B. Rae: The process is clearly not working on behalf of workers’ families and on behalf of people who have worked underground and on behalf of families who have watched their loved ones die and who now find that, after a battle of 10, 15 or 25 years against the Workers’ Compensation Board, they are now being told the criteria are such that they will not qualify and they cannot qualify.
Does the minister think it is fair and does he think it right that the law with respect to gold miners should be such that instead of saying, which the act says with respect to many other compensable conditions, the onus of proof is on the company to prove that the conditions of work were not the cause of accident, what is now the case is that the onus and burden of proof are put on the worker and the worker’s family, that the board is not giving the benefit of the doubt to the worker and his family, which is the requirement of the law, that in these cases the board is setting criteria which can lead in one way and one way only, and that is to disenfranchise working people who ought to be compensated?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: On the contrary, my understanding is that the board is applying the very same test, the burden of proof, as it applies in every other case. But this is not a simple matter of an injury or industrial diseases where there is a much clearer link between the condition and a particular industry, factory or environment. It is a very complex issue dealing with the environment in gold mines, which changed dramatically over a period of years.
It has been the subject of investigations and reports too numerous to list here during question period, and all I can say to my friend the member for York South is that my understanding is that the board applied the very onus that my friend is asking to be applied. All of us agree there are tragedies there that have remained the subject of dispute far too long. I cannot give him a resolution today.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Minister of Education. I can understand now why the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) did not want to give any details last week about what the pass-through of funds really was to the education system. It is clear that what we have here is a government that specializes in perpetrating hoaxes. It fooled the province into thinking it was against free trade, until we saw what happened again this morning. Now it is has said it is in favour of major reform of our education system, and it has been proven today that is not so.
Would the minister please explain why it is that instead of giving $170 million this year, as was promised during the election, to reduce class sizes in the elementary panel in grades 1 and 2, the government has decided to give only 13 per cent of that amount? Why is it that instead of giving the amounts of money it promised it would for computers, it is giving only about 12 per cent of that amount of money? What happened to the promises of the election?
Hon. Mr. Ward: In response to my friend, the commitment for the reduction in classroom sizes in grades 1 and 2 to the 20-to-1 level is estimated to cost $170 million annually when fully implemented. Today we are announcing additional transfer payments for the amount of money needed to fund the four-month period of September to December 1988, the first instalment of a three-year phase-in of the 20-to-1 classroom size.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I think the minister well knows that the cost, if there is going to be any reduction at all in the ratio, will be falling now on the boards of education and not on the provincial government.
What happened to the Liberals’ commitment as a government to increase the provincial government’s share of the operating grants to 60 per cent, a long-standing policy, when in fact this year they are increasing the operating grants by less than they did last year?
Hon. Mr. Ward: I would point out to the honourable member that this year’s transfer payments reflect an increase in excess of an additional $250 million for school boards across this province. I want to reiterate that the government is committed to flowing the necessary funds to school boards throughout this province to reduce classroom sizes in grades 1 and 2. The intention is indeed to bear the cost of providing those additional teachers in a timely and orderly fashion, and we have obviously proceeded to fulfil that commitment.
The minister is painfully aware that there are considerable expenditures required as a result of Bill 30. I would like to quote what the government stated in this House on July 4, 1985, via the Minister of Mines, the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) regarding Bill 30. He was then Minister of Education. He said: “There are six principles that provide the basis for the proposals embodied in this bill. The first principle is the need to protect the viability of the public secondary school system.”
My question to the Minister of Education: Based on his announcement today, can the minister confirm to this House that he has increased his share of public money to the public school boards in this province? Is the figure in decline, or has he enriched payments to the public secondary school systems in this province?
Hon. Mr. Ward: I would answer to my honourable friend that indeed we have enhanced the amount of funds available to the public school system in this province. Putting aside the amount that will be included in this year’s general legislative grants for the extension of separate school funding, the total increase in allocation for school boards throughout Ontario is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6.3 per cent.
Mr. Jackson: The minister persists in quoting all manner of additional items such as the commitment to his ministry’s overhead and commitments to the superannuated teachers’ fund when playing with those kinds of figures. In fact, the minister’s commitment to public education at the secondary level has declined as a percentage of his contribution to those boards. That is a matter that will be further explored as he is forthcoming with the statistics.
Mr. Jackson: My first supplementary has to do with a report published by the standing committee on financial and economic affairs dated April 24, 1987. Recommendation 5 was unanimously supported, which included four Liberal members who have returned to this Legislature. Quoting the report briefly, “The government should increase, in a phased program, its share of funding to elementary and secondary education to 60 per cent of total expenditures and property tax should be proportionately decreased through an appropriate tax mechanism.”
Mr. Jackson: My question to the minister is this: Will he in any way, shape or form honour the commitment as set out by at least four members of his governing party as stated in the standing committee report? Will he honour that promise he has made and --
Hon. Mr. Ward: I am happy to indicate to the honourable member that indeed the government is committed to reducing the burden on property taxpayers throughout this province for the costs of education and we will continue to provide additional funds to reduce that burden.
My final supplementary has to do with the suppression of information that seems to continue from the Ministry of Education. I have consistently asked for the provincial summaries of the board financial statistics that are normally reported at the time of tabling it for the 1985, 1986 and 1987 statistics. The minister is severely hampering the efforts of the public boards and of this House in determining the exact reduction in his funding levels to education in this province. For example, the secondary levels, as reported last year by his own statements, had it reduced from 1984 at 40.39 per cent to 1986 at 34.53 per cent.
Mr. Jackson: When will the minister stop suppressing the information and make it public so that we can confirm the very sad facts, which he knows are true, that he has reduced his percentage contribution to the school boards in this province?
Hon. Mr. Ward: As the member knows, there has been absolutely no suppression of information. The figures he seeks are available through Education Statistics Ontario on an annual basis and there has been no suppression of that information.
Mr. Cureatz: I have a question of the Solicitor General. We would like to point out to her that outside the House on Monday she said the loophole would be closed that would allow major stores to open the day after Christmas. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) had said back in May, before the election, that his government should move quickly to change the Retail Business Holidays Act before the Christmas shopping rush.
Hon. Mrs. Smith: I wish to point out that, as I have already reported to the House, my statement to the media was that the loophole could be closed, that the loophole did in fact exist in the act. It was a part of the act that has been there from the beginning but it has never been interpreted. It was interpreted with great care by Cadillac Fairview lawyers who did in fact point out that the act as it now stands would allow these stores, as the member has specified, 5,000 square feet and less with seven or less employees, to open on the Sunday of this particular year because in fact they have to be closed on Saturday for Boxing Day. This is the loophole that has been there all along. Nobody has picked it up before. Unless the act was changed, it is the view of our legal staff that in fact they can do so.
Mr. Cureatz: I know the minister and all the Liberal back-benchers will really appreciate this so that they can explain the confusion to their constituents when they get back home to their ridings after this session ends. The Ontario Progressive Conservative Task Force on Extended Shopping Hours recommended that shopping be allowed on the three Sundays before Christmas and on Boxing Day; again we ask the minister, will she implement these changes before Christmas?
Hon. Mrs. Smith: The government is presently examining the recommendations of the select committee. It is not examining the recommendations of the Conservative task force that went around the province.
Mr. Cureatz: We are disappointed and I can say to the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) that these kinds of answers remind me of the days of Jimmy Auld about nailing jelly to the wall. We would like to get some specifics from the front bench.
On December 29, 1985, the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) said he was looking into the issue thoroughly in regard to shopping in the holiday season. A year later, in 1986, the Attorney General was asked for legislation to protect the employees from being fined or fired. What protection will the government offer to persons being forced to work on Sunday, December 27?
Mr. Swart: I have a question for the Minister of Correctional Services. It concerns a scandal surrounding the privately operated Whitestone Place and St. David’s home for young offenders in the Niagara Peninsula. His ministry just released a summary report which I say to him has the substance of carnival candy floss. That report was on the alleged shortage of food and heat, on physical abuse and on clothing paid for and not supplied etc. in those homes. His summary totally whitewashes his ministry in spite of all kinds of evidence of negligence, avoidance or coverup by his officials.
Let me simply ask the minister, when he has auditors, probation officers and other ministry people in those homes on at least a weekly basis, how does he explain how there are these horrible happenings over a period of many months without his officials taking any action?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would like to tell the member that, as he well knows after having a meeting with my deputy minister, these allegations were brought to the attention of the police and charges have been laid in this case. This matter is before the court.
Mr. Swart: This has nothing to do with this matter being before the court. It has everything to do with the conduct of his officials in not finding out these things earlier. Although the minister says they knew nothing about it, I want to tell him that is totally false according to reputable staff. I am sending him three signed statements of people who told his officials about the problems well in advance of that investigation.
Apart from that significant falsehood, does he not think there is something inappropriate about the private operators of the home, who now have been criminally charged, occasionally hiring the wife of his area manager to perform duties in the home? Will he therefore, first, release the full report of the investigation, and second, refer the matter to the Legislature’s standing committee on administration of justice to investigate the role of his ministry in this whole sordid affair?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would like to address a couple of the issues the member brought up. First, he mentions these private operators. Of the 300 contracts we have with about 60 different agencies across the province, there are no more than about a dozen that are private, for-profit operators. The thrust for this ministry is to use nonprofit agencies and advocacy groups to deliver services.
I would also like to say to the honourable member that if he will remember, last week I made an announcement in this House of new training initiatives for our youth worker staff in order to improve the situation with how our young offenders are dealt with. We have very good staff in the ministry and my focus is to make sure we improve that training so we serve those young offenders better.
Mr. Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. It has to do with a young couple who rented a home on Howard Park Avenue in Toronto just over a year ago. When they rented the apartment for $900 a month, in talking with the previous tenants they found that the previous tenants had paid $360 a month, so it was a 150 per cent increase over what had been paid previously.
With a lawyer’s help they launched their appeal to the Rent Review Hearings Board and the commissioner handed down his decision on November 16, 1987. He dismissed the case solely on the ground that because only the husband signed the application, it was deemed to be deficient and was dismissed.
The concern of the rent review legislation is that it protect tenants against the kind of abuse that the honourable member has described. Let me take a look at the case that he brings forward, and I will respond to him on the merits of that particular case with the help of the people who make these decisions.
Mr. Cousens: I thank the minister, and I will send the file over to her. They have waited a year already and it looks as if they will not have to wait a year for the appeal, which can be good. What about the hundreds and thousands of other people who have similar types of problems? What will the minister do for them as well?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The processing of the various cases is proceeding apace, and we are committed to making sure that decisions are made as quickly as possible. As I have already said to the member, I will be looking into the decision that was made in this particular case. I thank him very much for asking the question.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: Mr. Speaker, it was with reference to a question asked on November 24 by the member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) and the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren). I am pleased to inform the House that construction will begin immediately on phase 1 of the Northeastern Ontario Cancer Treatment Centre.
I would like to thank my colleague the member for Sudbury (Mr. Campbell), who has been working with the hospital over the past several weeks to develop a plan consistent with the ministry’s originally announced allocation. I will note for the members who asked the question that there has been no reduction from that original allocation. The ministry has committed a total of $14.8 million for construction of the centre. Phase 1 includes rock blasting, excavation and concrete pouring.
Mr. Laughren: I wonder if the minister could assure us that, despite some of the warnings from experts in the field, the amount of money that has been put into that particular cancer treatment centre will be sufficient to warrant referrals from all across northeastern Ontario and that it will be a first-class facility.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I am pleased to respond. I met with officials from the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation -- the OCTRF -- and they have assured me that it will be in fact an excellent facility. They are supportive of the approach the ministry has taken. I want to assure all the members from northern Ontario that this will meet the needs for a first-class cancer care facility.
Mr. Allen: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. In spite of the incredible evidence around about us of a booming economy and indeed remarkable affluence -- even in some cases rather obscene affluence, I think, that is growing in some of our major industrial centres in this city -- we have clear evidence from 11 of our largest cities across the province that there are now more than 22,000 additional employable men and women on the welfare case loads than there were six years ago and that indeed even over the last two years of recovery those case loads of employable men and women have continued to grow in at least six of those communities.
Let me give examples for 1981-87 of increases of 6.1 per cent in Windsor, 321 per cent in Thunder Bay, 103 per cent in London, 195 per cent in Ottawa, 57 per cent in Peterborough and 203 per cent in Metro Toronto.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I would certainly agree with my colleague that the goal is to get people off welfare and into employment whereby they can earn sufficient income to support their families. We have a number of programs in place at the present time: our employment opportunity program is designed specifically for this; our municipal job developer program is designed specifically for this purpose; a federal-provincial employability agreement that was signed several months ago is designed specifically for this purpose; and my colleague the Minister of Skills Development (Mr. Curling) is enacting a number of programs within his ministry to assist people in getting the upgrading and skills they need to find employment.
The member will obviously be aware of the fact that the difficulty, particularly for older workers, is that they have had the same kind of job for a long period of time and the skills they have had before simply are not transferable. We are assisting those people to acquire new skills they can transfer to the new jobs.
Mr. Allen: A number of the programs the minister referred to are, of course, outside his own ministry. One does not get a sense from his reply that there really is a very strong initiative either in his ministry or in the ones he referred to, to move people from this situation where they are not only staying on welfare longer as employables, but in circumstances where quite clearly they are staying there because, we would suspect, as he himself has pointed out, the gap between going on to a minimum wage job and staying on welfare obviously makes it preferable to stay on welfare for a number of reasons, not least of all the simple fact of physical sustenance of their families.
Can the minister not amplify for us in more precise terms what he is doing for the working poor in Ontario, to deal with the problem of minimum wage jobs on the one hand, which is not his responsibility, but he has referred to other programs that support this kind of program, and on the other hand in his own ministry in order to actively move those people off the employable welfare rolls and into good paying jobs in the community?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Let me point out to the member that all of the initiatives I just described to him are in fact being carried out by my ministry. In addition to that, I mention the fact that my colleague the Minister of Skills Development has a responsibility to provide training to all of the citizens of Ontario, including the clients of my ministry. The federal-provincial employability agreement that I mentioned having been signed in the last few months will channel $50 million of provincial money from my ministry and $50 million of federal money that normally would go into making welfare payments and channel it instead into training and upgrading programs. I think that is a very viable one.
We have an initiative specifically for single parents which provides them with a year’s opportunity to work in the general social service field, not only so that they are actively employed and earning money, but also so they can acquire skills in that general field, because we both know and understand there are a number of openings in the general social service field.
The municipal job developer program I defined for the member is funded by my ministry and it provides additional dollars to local municipalities to hire staff to work directly with unemployed workers, to work directly with the employers in the community and attempt to make a match-up. If in doing that match-up --
He is no doubt aware that gasoline prices in Ontario rise faster than yo-yos, but is the minister aware that a gasoline retailer in Toronto is selling a litre of regular unleaded gasoline to motorists at the staggering price of 62.9 cents a litre? Is he aware of that? If he is, what is he going to do about it? If he is not aware of it, what is he going to do about it?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: There were a few interjections during the first part of the question and I am not sure what the member was talking about. I think it was that gas prices are too high in Toronto, and that may very well be the case, but if he wants to drive 100 kilometres west to Earl’s Shell Service, the price is still a reasonable 52.6 for unleaded, and I know that he would be glad to pump the member full.
Mr. McLean: Now that we have determined what it is at Earl’s Shell, I would like the minister to know that in the area where I live, gasoline prices fluctuate 10 cents a litre, approximately, every week. They are up and down. It can be 38 cents, it can be 48 cents. What is the government going to do to stabilize this for the people of Ontario?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: So far, we have done what predecessor governments have done, and that is allow the laws of supply and demand to take effect. In the only areas where people have followed the socialist tradition and tried to control those rates, they turn out to be the highest gasoline prices in Canada.
Mr. Mahoney: My question is not nearly as much fun as the last one, but it is directed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. For a number of years negotiations have been ongoing among the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Urban Development Institute and the ministry on the inseparable issues of front-end financing and lot levies. UDI, of course, feels that lot levies are unfair, probably illegal and too high; and AMO feels that they are needed.
My question to the minister is, will he assure this House that any proposed lot levy legislation brought forward will be, first of all, permissive in nature so as to allow each area or municipality to negotiate its own deal under certain new rules and guidelines while at the same time allowing municipalities to offer incentives discounting those lot levies?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: Over the past several months a draft discussion paper on lot levies and front-end financing has been prepared, based on discussions with a working group made up of the development industry, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and representatives of ministry staff. That paper is in the process of being finalized, and when it is and I have had an opportunity to assure myself that it addresses all sides of the issue, I will then be discussing its contents with my colleagues in cabinet who have an interest in this particular subject. Until this consultation process takes place, I feel it would be premature to comment on any legislation, let alone the contents of that report.
Mr. Mahoney: The lot levy issue is very critical, but without front-end financing it would create lots of difficulties for municipalities attempting to avoid huge costs to advance their particular development. Will the minister assure this House that front-end financing and a mechanism for that policy will be part of any overall legislation on lot levies?
Hon. Mr. Eakins: As I have said, before making any definite commitment, I think it is important to have consultation. I have already met with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. I met with the Urban Development Institute at noon hour, and I want to have full input. At that point, along with my colleagues, I will be making some announcement.
Mr. Laughren: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. The minister will recall, I think, that in June 1987 an agreement was reached among his ministry, the Workers’ Compensation Board, the Regional Municipality of Sudbury and Laurentian Hospital in Sudbury to establish an injured workers’ rehabilitation program at Laurentian Hospital. Since that time the WCB has reneged on that agreement.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: I think I am just another Minister of Labour who has just been jerked around by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren). Last week I was jerked around by the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie) and this week it is the member for Nickel Belt.
We had a meeting, actually, in my office relatively recently with the current member for Sudbury East (Miss Martel) and the former member for Sudbury East, her father, who is as much of a tiger when he gets into ministry offices as he was when he was asking questions of previous Ministers of Labour during the last parliament. But my friend the member for Nickel Belt did not come. If I recall correctly, he was not there to argue the case.
My simple answer is that the project is being worked on by the board and by the community in Sudbury. I cannot tell the member where they are going to get to in that work, but I should point out to the member for Nickel Belt that there was no such agreement reached back last June as far as I am aware.
We know that the Minister of Labour advised the WCB to go back and look at its plans again and to try to provide the funding for the centre. We are all to meet again in January. Will the minister assure this House that if the WCB backs out again, as it has already done once, he will then direct the WCB to provide the funding for that centre so we can get it off the ground as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: Just on the issue of vocational rehabilitation, things about the proposal that were of great interest to me, in addition to the fact that it argued for early intervention, were that it localized the delivery of the service and that it really concentrated on providing the necessary services to get the worker, first of all, back on his or her feet quickly and in a healthy state and back into the workplace in a manner that did not leave the worker abandoned for far too long. All those things were very attractive, but the fact is -- and although the member for Sudbury East is a new member in this House she knows this -- there is no section in the act which provides that I can order the board to do A, B or C.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: The member for Nickel Belt says, “Come on.” I would like him to quote me the section, if he has the section. My role in that process is to try to bring the parties together so that we can realize the localized delivery of vocational rehabilitation services consistent with the way in which my friend the member for Sudbury East thinks they should be delivered.
Mrs. Marland: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Several days ago, I raised in this House the matter of an unkept election promise by the Minister of Transportation concerning the construction of noise barriers along the Queen Elizabeth Way on the south side from Hurontario Street to Erin Mills Parkway. I am wondering if the minister could tell this House just what the status of this project is.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I can assure my friend the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland), as I can assure all members of this House, that I have kept or am in the process of keeping every promise I have made since I have been a minister.
The member is aware of the budget and the demands in that particular budget for sound barriers. She is, or should be, aware that the sound barrier in her riding is on our capital budget and will be built, as we said it would be.
Mrs. Marland: I am very encouraged to hear that. However, in the minister’s release of August 31, three months ago, he said the money would be earmarked for specific projects which would proceed immediately to the planning and design phase. That is the point on which I challenge the minister’s reply today.
In fact, we understand that as of 11 o’clock this morning, none of the ministry staff has received any instruction to initiate the study. They have not even been notified of this announcement, other than that they also saw a copy of the press release. Apparently, it would alter the five-year transportation plan, because at the moment it is not in their request to design or study it.
Mrs. Marland: I certainly do. If it is going to proceed, I would ask the minister if he will address this discrepancy and give this House a real commitment that this noise-barrier project will be undertaken immediately, as he said in his statement three months ago.
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I was getting concerned that had the member gone on much longer, we would have run out of time to do any further construction this year. I can assure her that with regard to the undertaking given earlier and again today, the promise made will be kept.
“The Alberta government is hitting Ontario taxpayers by forcing hospitals and school boards to pay higher prices for natural gas than factories, a superintendent with the Ottawa Board of Education says. While industries have been able to cut the price they pay for natural gas almost in half by renegotiating contracts after federal and provincial price controls were dropped last year, the Alberta government has refused to allow institutional users to do the same.”
It appears the Alberta Tories -- and who knows, perhaps the Ontario Tories as well -- are all in favour of free trade with the United States but, at the same time, restricted trade within this country.
In view of this two-faced approach of the Getty government, I would like to ask the Minister of Energy whether he is aware of the situation. If so, in what way is he prepared to help Ontario’s institutional users to deal directly with Alberta gas producers?
Hon. Mr. Wong: I would like to thank the member for informing me of his concern in advance. This is a matter that I was very concerned about shortly after I became minister. I have communicated with both the federal minister and the provincial minister with respect to this matter.
The thing this government is most concerned about is that Alberta is using the denial of these approvals of removal permits. This means residential, commercial and industrial customers of natural gas are being denied the benefits of competitively priced natural gas. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of the agreement on natural gas markets and prices. I hope I can work out a constructive solution with my counterparts.
Mr. Daigeler: I welcome the minister’s efforts on behalf of the Ontario school boards and their ratepayers. It is indeed incredible that the federal and Alberta governments should encourage natural gas exports to the United States at reduced rates, while blocking direct sales to Ontario users.
Is the minister prepared to report back to this House on the progress of his dealings with the Alberta government? Also, can he put forward any ideas as to how we might reduce further interprovincial trade barriers in this country before we enter a free trade deal with the United States?
Hon. Mr. Wong: l share the concern expressed by the honourable member on behalf of himself personally and also many of his constituents who are natural gas customers. I certainly will bring the latest developments to the attention of the member in the House in due course.
Mr. Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. The minister has commented several times in the media and then again in the House here on Tuesday afternoon that he is looking at ways of bringing Ontario Hydro to a greater level of public accountability. The throne speech says: “We will review the Power Corporation Act and related acts and introduce amendments to foster greater public accountability and responsiveness on the part of Ontario Hydro.”
Surely the minister is aware that review has already been done, that this government set up the select committee on energy two and a half years ago; it spent a year and in July 1986 tabled its final report containing 26 recommendations, 17 of which deal with amendments to the Power Corporation Act, the Ontario Energy Board Act and other mechanisms to create accountability. When can we expect the minister to respond to the recommendations that were made one and a half years ago?
Hon. Mr. Wong: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. It is a very good one. It has certainly been a concern to me as a new minister in recent weeks and months. Because we have taken a fresh, comprehensive look at the whole situation -- for example, the relationship of Ontario Hydro to the Ontario Energy Board and the other key players within the energy community in Ontario -- I can assure the honourable member that with respect to the Power Corporation Act, for example, we have found numerous amendments and changes that could be made to make Ontario Hydro more responsive to the needs of today’s Ontario and more responsive to the government and to the people of this province.
Mr. Charlton: The minister does not seem to have responded to my initial question. The select committee tabled its report in July 1986, after a fresh look at Ontario Hydro, its operations and the other players in the energy sector. It was an all-party committee. The members of the minister’s party on that committee endorsed the recommendations in the select committee’s report; 17 of those recommendations dealt specifically with amendments to the Power Corporation Act, amendments to the Ontario Energy Board Act and a number of other mechanisms to create greater accountability. When can we expect a response from the minister to the specific recommendations that are in the select committee report?
Hon. Mr. Wong: As the honourable member knows, two of the recommendations have been implemented and decided and concluded. There are new considerations, and it is not my intention to have this review process go on for an indefinite period of time. We will work as expeditiously as possible. I trust that some time early in the new year we can give the honourable member and the House a greater indication on the kind of progress we expect to make with respect to this matter.
Mr. Sterling: I have a question for the Minister of Correctional Services. At the present time, there are both female and male correctional officers at the Rideau Correctional and Treatment Centre in Burritts Rapids, which is located in my riding. I was at the opening last year of an additional facility which was built in order to take care of inmates who were suffering not only from being inmates of correctional institutes but also from having some mental illness problems. Currently, it is necessary for someone to observe those inmates at various times during the day, including times when they are doing such things as dressing and bathing.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would like to thank the member for the question. This type of occurrence is a complication of the realities of the 1980s when all the ministries of this government are equal opportunity employers. Certain discretion still has to be allowed for because of the different circumstances in various ministries, whether it be in Health or in Correctional Services. We have policies in place that go a long way toward preserving the dignity of the offender population we have in our ministry.
Mr. Sterling: While I was at that opening, I did ask the various people at that institution -- an all-male institution, as the minister no doubt knows --whether or not female correctional officers would be in a position to watch inmates who had to expose themselves because they were carrying on their natural day-to-day activities. The answer was, “Yes, they would be in a position.” We can picture this particular institution with large windows into confined areas where these inmates are required to be. I asked, “What do you do in order to maintain the dignity of the inmates?” The answer was, “We turn our heads.” Does the minister think that is an adequate policy?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would like to say to the member that in order to tackle this problem we have put various barriers in our institutions and we have tried to rotate staff shifts so that for this type of activity going on, at certain times the female staff members are not there.
I would like to say to the member that we believe men and women can work equally in all our institutions, whether they be for male or female offenders. But I take note of the concerns of the member and will make sure that we have progressive policies in place.
Mr. Callahan: I have a question for the Minister of Correctional Services. As the minister is aware, despite the efforts that have been taken to reduce impaired driving, the number of incidents where there are second and third offences in impaired driving matters has increased, the net result being the sentences are getting much longer: three months to a year.
I would like to ask the minister, recognizing that according to my colleagues in the profession, and certainly from my experience, the Donwood Institute has a very successful rate of assisting people in this capacity, whether some program is in place or might be put in place or considered to be put in place within a correctional institution to deal with this very necessary problem in order to avoid a revolving-door syndrome where we simply house them and turn them back out on the street with a very serious problem.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The member is quite right in referring to a revolving-door syndrome. It is very important for our ministry to make sure that we give adequate treatment to the people in our care. As far as impaired driving is concerned, we are now in the midst of designing a new treatment system for impaired drivers who require that after coming out of the criminal justice system. We will be doing, as part of an initiative in this system, a pilot project, working with the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation.
I will take the member’s suggestion to look at other facilities like the Donwood Institute that do have successful programs, to make sure that we design the best possible system for our offender population.
Mr. Breaugh: I have a question for the Minister of Housing concerning student housing. The minister has been made aware by the Ontario Federation of Students that students and other low-income groups around Ontario are really being prevented access to decent, affordable housing because of exclusionary bylaws passed by various municipalities. Could the minister tell us exactly what steps she is taking as the minister responsible for housing to see that these low-income people, particularly students in university centres, have access to decent housing and that they are not denied that access because of an exclusionary bylaw put forward by the local municipality?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The member for Oshawa should know that we are looking at the role of bylaws in all areas, all municipal bylaws and their impact on the provision of housing for all the various populations that need housing help.
The provision of housing directly on campus for students is of course going to be better answered by the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mrs. McLeod), but we are looking at all municipal bylaws and their impact on the availability of housing for the various populations that need housing.
Mr. Breaugh: The minister is also aware that students at Waterloo and Western are now in the process of challenging those exclusionary bylaws. Is it the minister’s intention to have ministry staff present in support of the students’ right for decent housing or is it her intention to make a policy statement under the Planning Act in support of decent, affordable housing for low-income groups? Precisely what is it that she will do that will allow the implementation of all the buzz words within her ministry to make better use of existing housing stock?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: I can tell the member opposite very clearly that we are committed to making sure that the people in this province have access to housing and have housing that they can afford. We are actively looking at all municipal bylaws and their impact on the populations that need housing. That is also true for the situation of students and the impact of those bylaws on them.
Mr. Jackson: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. With respect to the student housing problem, we have established that it was an election promise for his government to eliminate exclusionary bylaws that are adversely affecting students in London, Mississauga, Sudbury, Guelph and Waterloo currently. Given that an Ontario Municipal Board hearing is about to start in London and because this is a zoning bylaw matter -- section 63 of the Planning Act will not allow the OMB ruling to be appealed to cabinet -- once again we are faced with the prospect of a credibility gap between the government’s promise and its leadership in this field.
If the OMB decision goes against the students, will the minister give a commitment to introduce in this House amendments to the Planning Act which will allow him to honour in a real and substantive way the election commitment to the university students and their housing needs -- in this province?
In the meantime, I want to say this. We met with the municipal people at noon hour. I have met with another group, the Urban Development Institute. We have been looking at ways of speeding up the approval process, and I hope that through these meetings we are going to be able to do more to help the housing problems.
Mr. Haggerty: The Good Samaritan Act explanatory note is that the purpose of the bill is to relieve persons from liability in respect of voluntary emergency first aid assistance or medical services rendered at or near the scene of the accident or other sudden emergency.
Mr. Allen: I had thought that a Liberal speaker might follow in the due order of rotation, but since that appears not to be the case, I am quite happy to take the floor and to offer some remarks from the perspective of our party and from my own position with respect to the Meech Lake accord and this resolution in particular.
I may say at the outset that I certainly stand to support the introduction of this resolution to create a select committee in the Legislature for the review of the so-called Meech Lake accord and the Langevin accord, I guess, which grew out of it. I do so not without some reservations with respect to the document itself, and certainly not without some reservations with respect to the process that produced it, but there are some things that I want to say in a preliminary fashion.
Second, I want to comment about some perspectives I think that the committee needs to adopt or to hold as it enters into its work. Third, I want to make some remarks with respect to the various sections of the accord document itself and some of the debate that has proceeded around them.
L’accord du lac Meech est un document très significatif et historique pour notre pays. Si c’est un document imparfait, c’est néanmoins un document qui contient un ensemble de propositions à l’égard de notre constitution, dans le but de réintégrer le Québec dans la constitution de notre pays. Donc, pour tous les membres de cette assemblée, et particulièrement pour notre parti, qui a adopté il y a longtemps une position sur l’autodétermination du peuple québécois, c’est une étape que nous appuyons fortement.
Mais il y a des problèmes, des problèmes même primordiaux, à l’égard de la question de l’inclusion de groupes autres que les Québécois dans la constitution, et dans l’accord du lac Meech en particulier.
With respect to the central purpose of this document, which is to reintegrate Quebec fully and completely into the Constitution of Canada, our party considers that is an absolute requirement of this nation. We all know the long history of constitution-making in this country. We know that since 1763 there have been five major occasions on which we have had to restructure and adjust the relationships between French and English in Canada and that this attempt is only the latest of a long series of undertakings.
Lest perhaps we attach too much importance to it, we should realize that long history and we should realize, as a result of that long history, that this will probably not be the last time in the history of our country that we will be addressing this question.
It is quite obvious that, even though it is to a certain degree a retreat of a tactical and strategic kind, Quebec nationalism is not dead and that Quebec indépendentisme is not dead. One only has to look at the events that have transpired since the death of M. Lévesque to realize that remains a significant opinion and position in Quebec.
I remember very well, having taken the trouble to spend the referendum day in Montreal in 1980, in the evening I attended the rally of the Parti québécois forces at the Paul Sauvé arena and observed the banks and ranks of members who surrounded that great arena. Finally, after much waiting and much high and intense emotion, a small figure you almost could not see -- he was not small in any sense of the word but in the context of the overwhelming scale of the arena -- M. Lévesque appeared on a totally undecorated platform to announce the results of the referendum. Then, in that completely unmusical voice of his, he initiated the first words of “Gens du pays,” and I listened to the crowds gradually pick up the swelling music and sing that great national song.
One only had to contrast this with the very modest circumstances in which the forces that had won the referendum gathered to realize the remarkable contrast between the emotions involved in the one assembly and in the other. There is there, I suspect, and there always will be an undying sense of a desire to be a nation and to be a separate people. I suspect we have not heard the last of it.
My leader yesterday, in making his comments about what has lain behind the necessity for Meech Lake, namely the tremendous drive towards the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which Mr. Trudeau initiated and superintended in our nation, referred to him as a bloody-minded man. It took somebody who is a bloody-minded person to cut through everything and to get that task done. I guess one would also have to say that there was another fairly bloody-minded person who also happened to be Québécois, who insisted on another agenda and who drove it equally hard and very nearly succeeded.
I return to my first main point, and that is that lest we invest too much importance in this particular exercise, in this particular step in reintegrating Quebec at this time into the fullness of its constitutional place, we should realize that this is probably not the last time we shall be going through this kind of discussion and exercise.
This is also a historic moment for this Legislature in a very important way in terms of constitution-making because from a constitution-making point of view this is the first time we have legally and properly taken our place as a body of constitutional deliberation. We have always sat in the back rooms and on the sidelines through the long history of constitutional amendment in Canada. For the most part, that had to be done by an imperial amendment which had to go to the House of Commons in London.
Now that the provinces have a role in this amending process, a formal and proper role, there are those who would seem to treat it as though somehow it were purely and simply the prerogative of the premiers of the provinces. When the Premier (Mr. Peterson) of this province came back after the Meech Lake discussions, full of what they had accomplished in their meetings at Meech Lake, that was certainly the impression he conveyed; that a complete and final thing had been done, that the premiers had done it, that it was being brought back here and that we could look at it if we dared expose ourselves to its blazing glory, but having looked, we were to turn the page again quickly and say: “That is great. You have all done well and we can relax and let you get on with the job. “
Unfortunately, or perhaps I should say fortunately, this is a somewhat more democratic country than that. This Legislature should be wholly and fully involved in the process of reviewing, examining and making recommendations with respect to this document so that we do not simply put our imprimatur on it but stamp our character on it as well, and that we add to it such amendments and propositions as we think will strengthen it so that it will be that much more acceptable to the country at large and to our province in particular. I think that process is essential to the ultimate strength of the document itself.
Notwithstanding some of the problems and objections my colleagues made yesterday -- I think I can speak for our caucus in this respect -- we consider the accomplishment that was made at Meech Lake and later at the Langevin Block is a significant one, a substantial one. We do not believe that those who gathered, gathered there with any ill purpose or any motives that we should unduly suspect. They of course gathered as partial representatives of their parts of the country, their provinces, with the federal Prime Minister.
They certainly worked hard and long and they produced a document. Certainly it is not a perfect document and at the end of the process we may well still not have what many would consider a perfect document. I think we would take that document with less seriousness than it deserves, and certainly less seriousness than the subject deserves, if we were not to engage ourselves fully and wholly in considering it and reconsidering it. It is for these reasons that I support the creation of a select committee for that purpose. The select committee, if that is the task, must undertake this as a genuine task and it must therefore undertake a very vigorous and rigorous review of the document.
In our approach to that task, there are only two unworthy positions or two positions that will not only create a good deal of trouble for us but will also take the issue with less seriousness than it deserves.
I have already alluded to one and that is to treat it as though somehow it were now a document cast in stone that is not to be tampered with. The other is not to be willing to undergo the difficult task of understanding what we have, the limits that are imposed upon it by being, as it is, a document distilled out of the Quebec round of constitutional discussions and therefore a document which may well easily be, as it has been, attacked and criticized from perspectives that have not fully understood either the nature of constitutional construction or that have considered it important to import into the discussion other elements that belong to other parts of constitutional reconsideration.
So yes, it is important that we criticize the style and technique of the negotiations, and yes, it is proper for us to criticize those who want to treat this as a finished and complete document which we should only absorb rather than criticize and genuinely respond to.
Yes, we should criticize the omissions but we have to recognize in the first instance, if we are to take our tasks in the committee seriously, that this is a product of the Quebec round of constitutional discussion. It is not a product of the women’s round, the aboriginal round, the multicultural round specifically. It is not the Senate round or any other number of rounds that one might imagine one would have to go through in order finally to produce an adequate, full and comprehensive Constitution for our country.
However, this is not to say one should not discuss these other matters in relation to the Meech Lake accord, because if there is a flaw in the process we are in, it is precisely this: When you are dealing with constitutional matters and enter into constitutional consideration of elements that have so many ramifications across the whole front of institutional structures and constitutional practices, you have of necessity always to keep your mind on the other elements of the Constitution, on the various groups that will be impacted by this particular set of propositions.
Therefore, going one theme at a time, as we seem to be doing right now, creates major problems for a lot of groups in the country that see the aboriginal community being addressed and wonder why at that time they are not also being talked about, or see Quebec being addressed and wonder why at the same time the aboriginal and multicultural groups and women are not being addressed. Quite properly. all those groups and others must be kept in mind and their place in terms of the structures of rights, obligations and government have to be held in place as we look at every single separate phase of the Constitution. I think that has been part of the problem we have faced to date in the whole discussion in this country.
Unfortunately, those who parented the Meech Lake accord, having got the aboriginal discussions out of their way, having failed dramatically and tragically in that respect, seem to have forgotten that somehow it was important still to refer and maintain in the context of the Meech l.ake document at least a reference to the necessity of ongoing discussion and activity on that agenda in the context of future first ministers’ meetings. The impression easily was left that we have not got anywhere on that agenda, so forget it and let us get on with something else we can be successful with.
There is nothing wrong with trying to get on with something you can be successful with but something as fundamental and as important as aboriginal rights in this country cannot simply be put in a back closet. It cannot be tucked away. It cannot be left off the agenda. That discussion and debate has to be renewed at the first possible moment and that, in point of fact, is in the context of the first ministers’ meetings that are referred to in the Meech Lake document. That is where there should be substantial reference once more to the aboriginal rights agenda.
I use this as just one example because the aboriginal community is not the only one that needs to be kept in mind in that fashion. Certainly, as the premiers went back to the Langevin Block after the Meech Lake discussions, they discovered in the interval that there was indeed some necessity of making reference to those elements of the charter which protect multicultural rights.
They went through a certain process of adding and changing in order to at least bring the references of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms directly and squarely into the body of the document that they produced originally at Meech Lake, just as they discovered on the question of the federal-provincial relations question that it was critically important to have in this document a major clause which stated quite clearly that this document did not in any way change the jurisdictions of either the federal government or of the provincial governments, but that those jurisdictions remained totally and completely intact and were not affected by the contents of the Meech Lake accord.
As we go through this process in the committee of examining the Meech Lake document, it is going to be very important for us to hear as much as we can about how the resolution of the Quebec round of discussions impacts upon other groups and how other significant groups and jurisdictions need to be protected, represented within the body of that document so that they are not forgotten and so that they remain actively on the agenda.
There are of course seven sections as we have it at the end of the Langevin discussions. There are the “distinct society” clauses. There are the immigration clauses. There are the Dominion-provincial powers or the spending-power clauses. There are the Senate clauses. There are those that pertain to the Supreme Court of Canada. There are the amendment clauses and then there is a general clause at the end of this document.
There has of course been a good deal of anxiety in some quarters with respect to the language about a “distinct society” for Quebec. For myself as someone who has read as a Canadian historian a lot of the documentation on the attempts to describe the status of Quebec in the Canadian Confederation, I really did think that this statement put the whole issue about as neatly as it could be put when it described the recognition that the existence of French-speaking Canadians, centred in Quebec but also present elsewhere in Canada, and of English-speaking Canadians concentrated outside Quebec but also in Quebec, constitutes a fundamental characteristic of Canada. I thought that was about as neat a package as I have ever seen constructed to describe the relationships.
Out of that, of necessity, there arises a certain sense of that province being special. Many people have reacted very negatively to the language of special status. What I want to say is that in fact each of the provinces came into Confederation in a different fashion and with different kinds of rights and legislation attached and different terms and conditions attached. There is a sense in our Confederation in which each of the provinces has a special status. No province is exactly like any other. For that reason, it is not improper to speak about special status with respect to Quebec.
We all must recognize there is a special status that accords to Quebec by virtue of language and all that language and culture convey, and we recognize that this special status, that special community as a minority-language community in a larger majority-language sea, is bound to have slightly different protections for itself than are the provinces of the majority-language culture. This is really all that is meant by providing special status or recognizing a distinct society.
Those who worry that somehow or other, if we create some distinctiveness there, that will suddenly impact adversely on aboriginal rights or multicultural rights or women’s rights need to make their case to our committee, but they also need to think a little harder about that question. If, for example, one looks at the province of Quebec, one recognizes there is indeed a society there which is as civilized as any other in this country, with as deep a sense of human rights as any other. To realize that is the case, one has only to look at the arrangements Quebec has made respecting aboriginal self-government, the only province in the country to have taken large steps in that direction.
One has only to look at the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec to realize it is even more extensive than the Human Rights Code in Ontario, and even in some respects goes beyond the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the country as a whole. Included in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, for example, are such broad and sweeping statements as, “The charter shall not be so interpreted as to suppress or limit the enjoyment or exercise of any human right or freedom not enumerated herein.” In another instance, with respect to multicultural groups: “Persons belonging to ethnic minorities have a right to maintain and develop their own cultural interests with the other members of their group.”
In this document is the basis, certainly, for the kinds of protections many people have worried might be lost as a result of the “distinct society” clause. Of course, the “distinct society” clause itself makes it quite plain that recognizing the distinct society does not in any respect derogate from the powers, rights or privileges of Parliament or the government of Canada or of the legislatures or governments of the provinces, including any powers, rights or privileges relating to language.
I think one needs to look rather broadly and interpret rather broadly what the clauses about the distinct society provide, not only by way of explicit assertion of distinctiveness but also in terms of implicit recognition of rights of persons, rights of multicultural groups, rights of aboriginal groups, rights of women, etc.
With respect to those questions of rights, just to make the matter clearer, of course, the document, as crafted in the Langevin part of the discussions, went on at the end to include a general section which made quite specific reference to the incorporation of the sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms pertaining to the aboriginal and multicultural communities.
It would seem to me entirely appropriate to add to that section, and we in the committee certainly will get this representation from the women, I suspect, that we should at the same time include in that section the portion of the Charter of Rights that relates to women’s rights, which of course were put in the original charter as a kind of afterthought, so male-dominated was the original discussion of that charter.
With respect to the issues around immigration, there is really not as much new here as meets the eye. I think most people in Canada were not aware of the fact that from 1867 on, immigration was an area that was shared in provincial and federal jurisdictions. The provinces that wished to engage in immigration practices and regulations and legislation had every ground in the 1867 accord to do so. What is added to it, of course, is a special agreement with the province of Quebec for special arrangements, by mutual agreement between the federal and provincial legislatures.
When that came back here, the Conservative Leader of the Opposition at that time made a great deal of those provisions. All they provided was that Quebec should secure its own proportion in population in immigration, and nothing more, although it did have certain protocols of its own with respect to the proportions that might be sought from certain language groups from certain nations that would provide additions of the French language to its population, rather than other languages.
Again, so as to protect the rights in question, the final document makes it quite plain that not only is this section to be in complete agreement with all other aspects of the acts of Parliament of Canada with respect to setting national standards and objectives relating to immigration and aliens, but it also affirms the fact that the Charter of Rights applies and again returns in the general section at the end to the mobility rights in the charter which affirm the right of anyone who immigrates to any province to move freely in and through the rest of the country and to settle anywhere he or she desires.
From that point of view, there are already significant protections in this document. It may well be that they are not adequate, and we will be very interested to hear from the many groups that are concerned in that respect to see whether there are perhaps still further improvements that can be made. None the less, there is a good beginning in that respect in the document.
When we come to the question of spending powers, perhaps there has been more misunderstanding around this part of the document than any other. First of all, what the document does is to affirm for the first time federal spending powers as an acceptable practice within the framework of provincial jurisdictions.
That is a very notable strengthening of federal powers, and many of the criticisms around this point have been just the opposite: that in fact this document undermines federal powers. But I want to remind members this is the first time the Constitution has ever made any reference to the right of the federal government to spend within the provincial jurisdictions, and not only to spend within provincial jurisdictions but indeed also to set down certain kinds of standards or requirements that the programs the provinces might set up in lieu of a federal program must meet in order to have the money paid. That, from any objective view of the Constitution we have lived with in the past, is a significant strengthening of federal powers. I just do not think there is any controverting that point.
Those who have been worried about this subject and who have suggested it would not be possible now to set up a medicare program in the fashion we did or that it would not be possible in the future to set up a day care program of the style some of us would like across this country, requiring national objectives and standards and some consistency, frankly I think are quite wrong. What they have forgotten is that the initiatives the federal government makes in these areas are very clearly initiatives taken within provincial jurisdiction.
For that reason, they are in a sense trespassing on somebody else’s territory. So there is no way this document could go all the way and say that anything the federal government wanted to do, through its spending power within provincial jurisdiction, it would have a right to do. How could you do that and say that those areas of activity were still then somehow provincial? What you would have done is you would have legislated, amended, those large provincial social spending categories into the federal jurisdiction. Nobody that I have heard from has any intention of doing that.
There really is in this document no change in the balance of federal-provincial jurisdictions, but there is an affirmation of a federal practice which was defined as clearly by Mr. Trudeau as by anybody and which he now somehow or other seems to be attacking this document for now establishing. It is a curious act that Mr. Trudeau is engaged in these days. It certainly is a very self-contradictory one at this particular point.
With respect to the increased provincial presence in two other federal institutions, namely, the federal Senate and the federal Supreme Court of Canada, again there are issues here we are going to have to look at in the committee. There has been a lot of discussion around them. Clearly the issue of Senate reform has been with us for a long time and people take a great many different positions on that. Some people who want it may be unhappy that the new amending formula makes it almost impossible to get anywhere on this agenda. Others who think the Senate might be a more dangerous instrument if it were elected rather than appointed might well hope that perhaps this will at least prevent the worst happening. Those of us who might be interested in seeing the Senate abolished --
Mr. Allen: Just until the appointment comes through, someone has said. We will have to see. That always puts us to the test and it will put my friend to the test as well when the Premier (Mr. Peterson) reaches over in order to remove a powerful adversary from this Legislature and recommends him.
Obviously, this is a matter of some contention and controversy and it will be good for us in the committee to get into some really solid discussion about it. There is no question that in this respect the amending formula is going to make any further progress on this agenda very difficult.
In the meantime, if we follow Meech Lake, I suggest the situation of the Senate will not be much worse than it presently is, from anybody’s point of view. I do not know that it will be much better but at least it will remain a patronage-ridden body, appointed principally through the provinces and their recommendations to the federal government which will select from the recommendations those who will then become senators. It will have exactly the same constitutional powers as it is exercising now. They are strictly limited. They can occasionally be valuable and that can still happen. I do not see anything here that really has to totally overturn anybody’s world, at least for the time being.
When it comes to the Supreme Court of Canada, I think one has to respect the fact that having a provincial presence in the Supreme Court of Canada may not be a bad thing, but our committee will have to ask itself whether that is not indeed the case. Certainly, it is not obligatory under the Meech Lake agreement for the federal government to appoint any and every person who is recommended by the provinces.
It may refuse any and all of those recommendations and ask for another recommendation, so there are considerable safeguards against some Premier’s friend being recommended for a Supreme Court appointment simply because he happens to be some Premier’s friend. That obviously cannot happen and no self-respecting federal government will let that happen. It has the powers under Meech Lake not to let that happen.
I think the worst imaginings that some people have projected around that particular provision again will not be the reality if Meech Lake is passed and certainly need not be the reality if the federal government maintains its role in that particular section of the document which still gives it the direct power of appointment.
It is when we come to the amendment section that most of us have the greatest difficulty with this document. I hope here the committee will be able to be very creative in working over the amending-formula question once more. I know we laboured long and hard for many years to try to get ourselves to an adequate position in this regard. I personally thought we had got about as good as we could get in 1982 when we had full provincial agreement necessary for a very limited series of federal institutional changes but with the rule of seven provinces plus 50 per cent of the population for other amendments to the Constitutlon, including, for example, those affecting aboriginal rights.
However, Meech Lake seems to me to have included in this amending section with regard to federal institutions a number of clauses that should be reconsidered. I think the clause that needs to be reconsidered most of all in that section is the one affecting the creation of new provinces. Obviously, in the past the provinces have not been consulted directly in the process of amendment that brought new provinces into being. I am not sure that I see why now every single province should have to agree to a new member of the club.
I do not understand why the old formula is not good enough in that respect. If having the Yukon or some other part of the country incorporated as a province on its request, when it wants to be, is good enough for seven of the provinces and good enough for 50 per cent or more of the population, I think that ought to settle the matter. Quite frankly, that particular clause needs to occupy the committee. In my opinion, we need to bring back a new recommendation in an address from this House to the first ministers when they reassemble to do the final work on this document.
As my leader said last day, in this business of constitution-making one can tie oneself up in knots. One can make the processes of amendment in particular so rigid as to make it virtually impossible to make further progress in this country on some of our most important agendas. None of us wants to see that happen, but it can easily happen if we do not do our job well in reviewing the document at the levels of the legislative assemblies in each of the provinces of the country.
I would hope that each of our assemblies in each of the provinces will take a rigorous approach to the Meech Lake accord. After all, the power of this nation finally comes from the sense of right that inhabits the population at large. They elect us. They assume that we will reflect that sense of duty, that sense of right, that sense of obligation, those senses of purpose that exist at large in the community. Those things should be reflected in our consideration of any document as important as this.
The place for us to do that in this Legislature is in the committee. I hope that committee members will attack their task with a good deal of vigour and that at the end of the day we will have something creative to send back to Ottawa and not just simply a mere assent or a mere reflection, although if at the end of the day we have looked at all the issues and do in fact decide that this is the best way it can be put, the best way it can be said -- although I do not share that point of view at this point in time, so be it -- but the work must be creatively undertaken and not simply in the fashion of a rubber stamp or, as my leader said yesterday, “You either accept us our way or it is the doorway.”
That is not the role for a dignified assembly like this. This assembly has on many occasions risen to remarkable heights, especially when it has responded to major issues of constitution-making in the debates that have taken place here. I would hope that level of debate will be reflected once more in the work we do on Meech Lake, and so l rise to support the proposal to strike the select committee and to get on with this task.
I would like to give some background. When I think of a lake, I think of some of the wonderful places where I have spent part of my youth and my adult life. Sharbot Lake brings great memories out on an island; Lake Huron and Georgian Bay with my family in the summertime now; Little Lake in Midland for good bass fishing; Oak Lake up near Kenora for phenomenal pickerel; Skootamatta Lake is another one that is over in Haliburton.
There are so many lakes in this great country of ours that evoke great memories for Canadians. It almost makes meaningful the quote by James Barrie when he said, “God gave us memories so we might have roses in December.” When you think of some of these spots that we have had a chance to go to in the good weather or whenever, it is special.
I have to say that Meech Lake in the Gatineaus was never a place that I had heard of before the meeting of the premiers of this country and the Prime Minister. It was a lake named after a Congregationalist minister who had a cottage there in the 1820s and it took the name of Asa Meeches and has since been there for ever.
Now when I think of Meech Lake, it brings not good memories; it does not bring pleasant thoughts at all. In fact, if I were to try to draw a parallel, it reminds me more of a Gethsemane. I believe there was a betrayal that took place at Meech Lake that will undermine my concept and my view of what this country is and should be.
It changes for ever the sense of Parliament being supreme over the courts. It changes the sense of federalism where we are now loosening the control and the reins of the federal government and giving more to the provinces. It changes my understanding of the role of Quebec within Confederation. It for ever changes my concept of what Canada is and could become.
I sincerely believe, though the parallel of Gethsemane falls down. Our Premier has really let this province down in not fighting for and not supporting some of the concerns that I will address shortly.
IL est très important que le Canada soit uni. Il est très important que le Québec continue à faire partie du Canada. IL est très important que le Canada demeure une union très forte des provinces. IL est impératif que les effeta à long terme de l’accord du lac Meech ne mettent pas en jeu les droits du Canada tels que garantis dans la Charte des droits.
I am pleased that it is going to go to committee but I regret that the results of those discussions will not impact on the thinking of the Premier, that he is not willing to make any amendments or any changes to the Meech Lake accord.
I am concerned with the process that was followed in coming up with a deal. It took two years to get a free trade agreement for our country with the United States. It is still not complete and it will be an ongoing process for many years before we have what I hope will be an ongoing, strong trade relationship, a bilateral trade agreement with the United States; that will be an ongoing process. But here, in a few short meetings, a contrivance has been made supposedly to settle for ever in Canada the constitutional concerns that underline some of the problems we have had since 1982. So I am concerned that the process was such that after just a marathon meeting, the decision was made.
I am concerned as well with the cost of this achievement. What was the cost to bring Quebec back into the constitutional fold? A professor from Carleton University, Dr. Bob Jackson, raises at least a couple of points that are worthy of consideration. He says: “What is there to say that a future Quebec government deems that the amendments that are set out now might cause them to opt out again? What is stopping that from happening? Will another round of concessions bring them back into the fold again? At what cost” -- here is another aspect he raises -- “does this accord alter our federal government structure for ever?”
The federal government, in the kind of federation we have had, is a delicate balance between two levels of government and I believe that the accord alters that basic structure from an already loose system to one that is so decentralized that it will only work when there is no conflict. But we all know that in Canada it is difficult to gain a consensus, so I have problems with the process and l have problems with the cost if we have to concede more to Quebec in the future.
I also have concerns with the relationship to the judiciary and with the ramifications of this agreement on the parliamentary traditions we hold so strong. Does this now, through some of the clauses in this agreement, place responsibility on the shoulders of the judiciary, a task which otherwise in the past has always belonged to Parliament, where legislation is made by our members of Parliament, not by the courts’?
Some of the provisions of the agreement are cause for alarm. I am concerned with the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society and the role the Quebec government now has preserved within this agreement to preserve and promote that distinct society. I ask, what constitutes a distinct society and what powers does the province now have when it is to consider itself a distinct society?
What are the implications of this in terms of Quebec’s language law, Bill 101? What is the impact going to be on English-speaking Canadians in Quebec? What is the impact on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Does this clause override a person’s rights under the charter? That question has not been answered to my satisfaction, nor to the satisfaction of the Law Society of Upper Canada or a number of other groups.
Will the formal recognition of a distinct society legitimize future demands for sovereign independence? I am concerned with the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society as possibly a fundamental change to the way I have viewed Canada in the past.
I am concerned as well with the opting-out provision of shared-cost programs in this country. This is notably one of the more contentious provisions, but the question I would like to ask is, will this not prevent the federal government from truly establishing national programs? How will the national objectives be defined now? Would it be possible for the federal government, under this kind of clause, to implement medicare? How will compatibility be determined in the future? Does the opting-out provision give the opportunity for our country to be less focused, less drawn together, more drawn apart than it has been in the past?
I am concerned with the amending formula. Now that we will require the 10 provinces in this country to give unanimous consent, Ottawa will be required to have that to make changes, especially when it comes to the House of Commons, the Senate and the Supreme Court. Again, I worry about power that is splintered about the country; as someone said yesterday, for a province not much larger than the size of East York or any of our ridings.
I am concerned about future constitutional amendments. Will they be possible or realistic in view of this requirement? What will happen if we come to a time when other provinces are to be invited into this great Confederation? Where does this leave our territories, should they wish to become provinces?
Another concern I have is with immigration. The agreement guarantees Quebec a share of the immigration, the new people coming into our country, proportional to its population; that is, 25 per cent of all new immigrants will have to go to Quebec plus an additional five per cent for demographic reasons. I ask one fundamental question: Are immigrants applying to come to Canada or are they applying to come to one of the provinces? I have always felt I was a Canadian first and I would hope that people in every province would see themselves as Canadians first and members of that province second.
I am surprised, but I suppose in the haste of trying to get things done -- but that is part of the concern I have of the betrayal of the Premier in not doing something about property rights and native rights. Everything was done so quickly that prior to the signature on June 2, there was not an opportunity for public hearings. I hold the Premier responsible for unalterably altering the face of this province and the face of this country. I believe the points I have raised are of such a fundamental nature that they are a betrayal of the trust of protecting the rights of the people of Ontario.
I see it as a fundamental breakdown. I see it as a philosophical breakdown. I see it as something that is unfortunately going to be irrevocable after this is passed into law. Oscar Wilde said, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.” l do not believe that is what democracy is, but I believe that if democracy is not handled the way it should be, when our leader is given the opportunity for participation and for dialogue and for this House, for instance, to participate actively and realistically in the debate that could take place for the drawing in of Quebec, for the unification of this country, for building it and making it a better and stronger place to live, then that would have been true.
What we are now faced with is that a committee will go out, it will talk and it will come back. We are going through a process that will not accomplish a great deal, because it seems that the Premier’s mind is made up.
l am not happy with Meech Lake. I know Meech Lake will always bring to me an image of something that is not pleasant and good, because with Meech Lake, Canada became something less than what I dreamed it was capable of becoming.
Mr. Breaugh: I am pleased to have an opportunity to kind of participate a little bit, because I think many of us have looked with some great difficulty at the process that surrounds this agreement and we have wanted for some time now to have a chance to talk about it for a bit.
The process, and I want to spend a little time on that, is one which confuses the population at large. In part, I think it is simply because the Canadian people, by and large, are not familiar with things constitutional, if I can put it that way, as opposed, for example, to an American citizen who is very much aware that there is a Constitution of the United States and that where I live, where I work, how I work, what kind of education I get and whether I can speak or not, all of these things are somehow related to that thing known as the American Constitution.
For Canadian citizens, this is not really part of our life experience. We have not had our own Constitution for very long. We are not accustomed to the process of a constitution being amended and of our citizens using litigation and the court system to kind of establish how they fit into the Constitution. l think in some measure it is that newness about the consciousness of people in Canada and their personal relationship to a Constitution that has caused some confusion.
In part, l think the uncomfortableness, if I could put it that way, of the Canadian people with this process is that it is not a very logical process as it has been followed to date. For example, I think of the first round, where there was a good deal of press coverage and discussion of kitchen conversations that led to changes in the Canadian Constitution. Many people around us would understand that when you go to a meeting, you very often step outside into the lobby and have a little discussion with somebody about, “What if we tried this?” So in a very real sense, it is understandable that prior to a formal consultation you would have a discussion in the hall or in the kitchen, and two or three players in the meeting would come to some agreement and then try to formalize that in a formal setting. That is understandable.
What is not understandable to the Canadian people, or to me, is that the constitution of a nation would essentially be discussed in private, formalized in private, and that our parliamentary institutions could not find within their process some means whereby the citizens of Canada could have their say and make their presentations. I am frankly pleased, then, that in the Ontario Legislature we have at least gone this far, because it is not the case in all of the other provinces that any form of committee of the Legislature was struck, nor were there any guarantees that there would be access for the population at large to present their point of view to that committee. So in a sense, the Ontario Legislature is doing more for its citizens than perhaps many of our other provinces do.
But still, the process rankles people and I think quite rightly. It rankles them because it is a new process to this country. They do not understand how in a democratic country the citizens do not have a right to state their case. In almost every other law that this institution could pass -- for example, each member in here would say: “I want that to go to public hearings. I want it out of here to go to committee and part of that process is to allow for public hearings.” We do that on laws from Sunday shopping to the Highway Traffic Act to everything that we process in the form of legislation, so it surely follows as a natural thing that in Canadian politics, on a matter such as the changes in the Constitution that are being proposed here, we would follow that process.
Now, in part, the players are causing a bit of a problem as well. I am one who has some difficulty with the current Prime Minister of Canada. I watched him last night on The Journal and I was struck as I watched him that he does seem to be learning some lessons, but his credibility factor with the Canadian people is probably at an all-time low. It is strange that this was a man who was so immensely popular such a short period of time ago, and now he would have some difficulty giving away Cadillacs on the streets in Oshawa. People do not like him and do not trust him.
In part, I have heard in this chamber today some things which disturb me. I want to address this because I think it is part of the process as well. There is a growing and disturbing trend in Canadian politics to set aside what traditionally we have felt is sacred ground.
The standing orders of this Legislature set out that all the people in here are honourable people, that they do not tell lies, that there are things about their character that we can dislike but that is not why we are here. We are here to criticize, to suggest that we are for or against the public stands they take, the laws they propose, the policies they put forward.
The problem I see emerging is that we are slipping down a notch from that, which is a very old and honourable tradition of a parliament, that they are all honourable members and we can disagree freely with them but we do not call them names. I have followed with some interest and with some dismay the discussions in our national Parliament.
If I wanted to have a discussion using the kind of vocabulary I have heard lately in the federal Parliament, and unfortunately sometimes in here, I would not need a parliament. I could find beer parlours from coast to coast where there are people who are very adept in that kind of language, who can offer that kind of fervour without any expense or bother at all. It goes on on an everyday basis and they believe very strongly in what they are saying and they use the language that is theirs. It should not become the language of our parliaments.
If that is the kind of discussion we want, we do not need a federal Parliament in Ottawa and we do not need a Legislative Building here. The purpose of this exercise is to kick the discussion upstairs just a touch. It is not that we are any better than anyone else. It is just that there ought to be a requirement that when we come inside this chamber, we are required to use a language and a logic that is perhaps uniquely that of a parliament. We are slipping somewhat in that regard in this country and I regret that. I think we do a great disservice to ourselves and to the people we represent when we allow that to happen.
Part of your job, Mr. Speaker, is to try to see that it does not happen. We all know it is an almost impossible task. The Speaker cannot control what comes out of the mouths of the members because at least they get a first shot at making idiots of themselves, but it is incumbent on each one of us to try to upgrade that just a touch.
I am reminded that this chamber, this institution has changed a great deal since I came here. When I first became a member, if someone had suggested that a woman would occupy the Speaker’s chair, it would have been thought quite ridiculous, but now one does. If someone had suggested when I first entered here that every word that is spoken in the chamber would be translated from English into French, that would have been seen as an outlandish idea. If someone had suggested that the people of Ontario have a right to see their parliament at work, that would have been laughed out of here. I know, because it was, several times.
Now some great changes have taken place. There are changes among the members. If one looks around the chamber these days, one will see a lot of new people and one will see a lot of women. All these changes are ones I believe are very positive. They offer me hope that the democratic process is working. It does not work perfectly. That is why we have the unfortunate majority we have, but it is working. Despite the fact that not everything goes the way I want it to go, the process and the institution and the Ontario Legislature is changing.
In many ways, this is our hope for all this constitutional discussion. If we took the stance, and some do, that the Meech Lake accord is written in stone and no changes will occur from this point on, then I would argue that we are in trouble. I hope and I sense that this is not going to happen, that there will be a continuing flow of constitutional changes now, that the logjam which held for so long is now broken and that the opportunity to make changes in the Canadian Constitution will come on a fairly regular basis. If I did not believe that, I am afraid I would be much more upset than I am with the Meech Lake accord.
Some have argued that they are not quite sure what a legislative committee will now do with this debate, where it will go and what will happen. I want to point out a couple of areas where I think a very important task lies in front of somebody, and probably this committee is the body that will have to take the initiative.
Someone has to restore a great deal of credibility to the whole political process. Someone must redress the fact that our people have things to say and our politicians are choosing not to hear them. Someone must provide an outlet for groups in our society who feel wronged by this accord. It cannot be that they will only listen to the words and not follow the advice.
No one quite understands at this point in time exactly what would happen, for example, if amendments were posed and carried and came back into this chamber and carried. The suggestion is that the world would fall apart. I do not really believe that is true. Perhaps it will not be an amendment which carries. Perhaps it will be a commitment to continue which carries the day in committee. Perhaps it will be the ventilation and the understanding of the problem that carries the day.
Somehow there is a need to rescue the process here. The job of the committee in large part will be simply to do that, because the political process in this country, in my view, is under heavy fire these days. People do not believe their political systems any more. They personalize it a great deal. The faults of individual human beings are very often being transposed into being the faults of the whole political process. I cannot believe that to be the case, but I do know that on the streets of my community it is. Politics is very much a personalized thing. There is a good side and a bad side to that, but it seems at this point in our history the bad side far outweighs the good.
The process that is in front of us, the selection of a committee of the legislature whose intent will be to take the Meech Lake accord and to hold a series of public hearings, is important. What is important as well is that the process cannot be one which is isolated here at Queen’s Park. This committee has an obligation to use the technology that we have in our broadcast system, to travel about Ontario, to see that not only those groups who have access to us here in Toronto but groups from around Ontario have equal access to these hearings. That will be a critical factor.
If it is to be an academic exercise, and it could be, the committee might decide -- l hope it would not, but it might -- that all it is going to do is sit in one of our committee rooms here and invite in certain selected people to make their presentations. We now have an unfortunate precedent in the federal House, and this is a little hard to explain to folks, of private public hearings: public hearings by invitation only. Only those groups the federal committee wants to hear will be allowed to appear. It is argued the reason for that is that they do not want too many people talking to them, that they will somehow select a representative group and they will hear it.
All of us who have sat on legislative committees here know it is not an uncommon phenomenon to go to one of our committee rooms on a bill and hear the same thing being said by 25 different groups. It is a little boring, it is not too exciting and after one has heard it 17 or 18 times, the thrill is gone. But the purpose of the exercise is not to thrill the members; the purpose of the exercise is to provide each of our citizens with a reasonably legitimate access to the system, where they can come and talk to us, they can present us with their briefs, they can provide us with their opinions. It is amazing that a huge number of people in Ontario have really good ideas about things. That will be one major function of this committee.
There are some concerns that need to be addressed. I have listened to some members in this chamber on this debate use words which I do not use about these hearings. For example, I am a little confused by some of the positions that have been taken by people. I have listened to some great constitutional experts. I now firmly believe that you get to be a constitutional expert by getting 50 miles out of town and hanging out your own shingle, because I cannot determine that there is a set of qualifications which makes you a constitutional expert. I do not know where you get that particular PhD. It seems to me that if you hang around the Canadian Senate long enough, you are going to be labelled as a constitutional something, or there may be a spelling mistake and you get more accurately labelled.
I think we have to go at the process in a slightly different way. People have said, for example, that Quebec was not a part of Canada until this agreement was struck. Where did it go if it was not a part of this country? When l went there last year, it was still there. The people were still there. The cities were still there. All of their needs, all of their programs were still there. The Nordiques were still playing hockey. All of that still went on. Quebec did not leave the country during the period when it was not constitutionally a part of the nation, so I think we have to add a measure of reality to all of this discussion, just as I would say putting words on a piece of paper will not bring Quebec in any different way into the nation.
If I really believed there was an intent or something in this agreement that excluded women, I would be very angry indeed. But I cannot. If I really believed there was something in here which would now exclude all of the ethnic groups in our society, I would be very angry indeed, but I cannot bring myself to believe that. I cannot believe that a piece of paper, or words on a piece of paper, by themselves will exclude anybody from anything. There will be judges in a court. There will be members in a parliament or in a legislature who may do that, but the words on the piece of paper will not, not by themselves.
So we are challenging our institutions to respond to this. This is an initiative. This is a change in the way this country is governed, and that is something I think we should put forward as another task for the committee.
Someone has to give us a reasoned explanation as to how extensive the changes will be. It is said by some that no federal government program can ever he effective in this country again. I cannot believe that. I believe there is not even the intention of that in here. I believe it might be a little more difficult, I believe it might be done in a different way, but I cannot believe for a moment that the federal government of Canada has diminished its powers whatsoever by this agreement.
I can make a reasoned argument that the provinces get some additional powers, and this brings me to something that is unique about Canada. I would say that if this agreement was proposed for any other nation in the world, it would be silly. There is something uniquely Canadian about this agreement, uniquely Canadian about the idea that you would have anywhere in your Constitution a condition that things be done unanimously.
In many countries of the world, people would say, “You’ll never get unanimous agreement to do anything by anybody on anything, on any matter at all.” In Canada it in fact has been our practice on a number of things that we are a nation almost of consensus, that a provision of unanimous decision is not seen as being wildly idiotic. It is one which has been used and which has practical ramifications here, and in part it goes to the nature of the country.
When one stops to consider the provinces of Canada and one looks at how different they are in terms of need, in terms of development, in terms of culture, in terms of population and resources and initiatives and industries and all of that, Canada is truly a unique nation. It is as different as different could be. Even within our provinces there are vast differences.
We just had a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting here where we had delegates in from all of the other parts of Canada. By and large, in my discussion with those delegates there was an assumption of great wealth in Ontario. Yes, there is in some parts of Ontario. There is also great poverty here.
The sad irony is that in the middle of great affluence such as you would have in Toronto, there will be about 23,000 people out there tonight who do not have shelter. In the middle of an economy that is booming in some parts of the province, there is unemployment at astronomical rates. There are no jobs for anybody in some of our communities, and yet in my community, Statistics Canada has stopped taking unemployment numbers. They believe the unemployment level is too low to measure. It is a nation that is truly unique, different in many respects from any other nation in the world.
I want to put on the agenda a couple of problems I think the committee has to address. The great shame of this nation, the biggest single problem it has never addressed successfully is, sadly, what we have done to our native people. The great shame of this country is that in more than a century of talks and discussions, learned academic forays and political attempts by the same people who put together an agreement on the Meech Lake accord, they could not come to an agreement on how or when we would honour our legal commitments to our native people.
In my personal agenda of things that have to be done around this accord, somebody has to convince me there is a way to do that. Somebody has to convince me that has been given top priority as the next thing to do. It is not that many of the other groups of our society do not have equally valid problems, it is just to me a great personal shame that the native people of this nation entered into treaties, legal agreements, with the then government of Canada and they have never since Confederation had those agreements honoured. That is a shame that a nation has to carry with a whole lot of weight, in my view. That is a major problem that has to be addressed.
On a good day, when I read the provisions of this accord, it seems to me it is not unlikely that there are occasions and ways of resolving that problem here. The question is, is there really the political will to do that? As we go through this process, we do have to gather the political will to resolve that great problem. We have not done it yet. It is a problem which hangs over our heads. We have tried, but we have not resolved that one.
The second problem that has to be addressed, as well, is that there are those in our nation, in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, who feel very bad about this, who feel that somehow they are specific examples of people who have lost dramatically by the signing of this accord. They have lost their status in Canada. A way must be found so that they are convinced themselves that they have not lost that.
I have talked to some of them directly and they feel very much that they were somehow left off the whole agenda. Some would put it in much stronger words than that. They would use words like “betrayed.” They had at least a voice, if not a vote, in the process until this point. Now they feel they have neither, nor any real prospect of ever getting either one back again. That is a problem that has to be resolved.
As I go through the component parts in the Meech Lake accord, none of them really disturbs me a great deal. I am not overwhelmed by the notion that Senate patronage will be done in a different way. I do not see that as being a big deal, frankly. I do not think it will make the Senate a better place. I do not think it will even make it a different place. If there is not some kind of substantial Senate reform, it is difficult to justify having a Senate at all. I cannot understand them, though I have read accounts of the western premiers who feel they won a major victory in getting somebody to agree to something about Senate reform. but they do not quite know what it is yet. It seems to me the mechanisms that might bring about that reform are now more difficult.
I may be wrong on some of these things. I want to give people an opportunity to point out a different perspective on all of this, to point out ways in which the select committee of the Ontario Legislature could consider such matters and perhaps clarify for people who are more concerned than I that their case has not been lost by means of this accord.
In part, I want to conclude by saying I understand that when the media write stories, the purpose of the exercise is far different from that when a parliament passes a bill. The media look for all the angles. I am one of those who watches The Journal and all the people who do the backgrounders on all of this, and I understand the drama and the tension that must have been around those people who stood around the Langevin Block all night long. I have read the newspaper accounts of everybody coming out of the meeting in the middle of the night, looking very tired with a kind of crumpled look about them. It may be that is a news story that really has to be told, but that is not, I hope, what this is about.
The rumour that the Prime Minister of Canada has established a pattern to his behaviour, a kind of, “Let us lock them up for the night and hold them in there until they strike a deal, any deal, it does not matter what the cost is,” is pretty widespread throughout all our constituencies. I hope that is not the case.
In large measure it will be the work of this committee to say, “That might have been part of the process, but here is another part of the process that is open to you, that you can follow word for word, that you can read word for word, that you can think about and participate in,” because that is the best side of the political process in Canada. That is the side that establishes to our people that our political decision-making processes are visible to us, that this is not done in the back room by 11 people.
That, I think, is the heart of the argument that has to be explained to the Canadian people, that this is not a deal that was struck by 11 men in the middle of the night, because it cannot be. It must be much more than that: it must be a reasonably open, reasonably accountable process.
What will happen when it goes to committee’? I hope there will be learned dissertations by a variety of folks. I hope there will also be some citizens of Ontario who have thought a little bit about part of what is contained in this accord and come forward just to give us their personal opinion. I think it would be nice if, somewhere, we were able to accommodate someone who did not represent 30,000 people but who wanted to write us a letter, just drop us a line about what he thought of the process.
It may be that no amendments are possible. It certainly may be, in the light of the majority here, that none will carry. But there may be other things the committee could do which would be useful. It just may be that, somewhere during the course of this process, an amendment is struck that does carry in the committee. In the traditions of our parliament here, committees order their own business. It will be important that this committee does just that, understands its job, goes and does it to the best of its ability and does not preclude any options.
I believe this is going to be an important discussion which takes place over a fairly lengthy period of time. I believe this set of hearings is important, because it will really be the first occasion in Ontario when the political decision-making process around constitutional matters is opened up, when it reaches out from the confines of the executive offices and the boardrooms and big important meetings held by the first ministers in some big important hotel and goes out to the community and says: “OK, now let us hear what you have to say about this. How do you react to this part of the accord or the process of the accord or the process of governing in Canada?”
I do not know whether we will ever get to a point in our history in Canada when we deal with our Constitution as the Americans deal with and understand theirs. It may never happen here. It may be that we are a totally different people. It certainly is true that we are not given to litigation in the way the Americans are.
But I believe the process of constitutional reform is important and that in many ways we have to answer questions people have already raised about this accord. We have to be able to provide them with a reasoned response that this accord is not really a silly piece of paper done up in the middle of the night by 11 men. I do not believe that is the case. I cannot let myself believe that is the case.
We have to believe very strongly that this parliament has a useful function. We may struggle a little bit, as this committee cranks up, to figure out exactly what its role is: precisely how far these hearings should go, how far from Queen’s Park we should move, how long it should take, whether amendments are in order or not in order, whether they will carry.
I welcome the chance to be a participant in the process. I think that for many of us here this will be an unusual occasion. This is the second occasion on which this House has been able to entertain even so much as a motion on matters having to do with the Canadian Constitution. As I recall, the first time brought about some great changes in this chamber. It was the first kind of real televised debate in here. It was the first time I spoke the French language in this House. I apologize to all you francophones who listened to my attempts to speak the French language in that debate.
But the hope I have is that this chamber has adapted over the years to a changing society. This institution, which is really a pretty hide-bound one, very much given to tradition much more than common sense, is changing. Not very quickly. It is not really happy with a whole lot of change, but it is changing and it changes because it has to.
That is the hope, if there is any, that is at the centre of the Meech Lake discussions, that here is an attempt by Canada to reconcile differences. It is, as some would say, bringing Quebec in and if while you do that, the price you pay for doing that is to alienate whole other parts of our country, it will not have been a very successful exercise.
I do not read this accord in that way at all. I do not read it with despair. I read it with hope. I believe that the accord is not a perfect document. It is flawed in many ways that even I can see. But I see in it none of the dangers that others do. I cannot imagine, for example, a federal government saying to its citizens, “We cannot deliver a federal program, because we are constitutionally prevented from doing so.’’
I do not believe that will happen. I do not believe there will be a provincial Legislature that will really be able to muster much of an argument that it cannot address itself to the needs of its citizens because there is a piece of paper that says you cannot do it. There are 130 ingenious folks inside this room when it is totally operational. That excludes some members and includes some staff. See how I got myself out of that? The purpose of the exercise, as I have always participated in it, is not to haul out a rulebook which says you cannot do this. The reason you haul out a rulebook is to find out how you can do it, and that will be the trick for constitutional discussions now and for a long time in Canada.
I would say that the primary goal of the select committee in Ontario has got many sides to it, but the biggest single one, the first one, is to try its best to restore some credibility to the political decision-making process in this nation. That is not going to be an easy task. It is not going to be something that is done overnight, either. But the opportunity is there for this select committee to begin that process, for this select committee to provide a place where our citizens can make their comments heard.
It will be also, I hope, a place where a select committee of our Legislature can respond with some sensitivity to those people, can find the ways to express the hope that this is not really all off the rails here, folks. There are problems, but we can resolve them. There are ways in which you can use the Meech Lake accord in a very positive, forceful way to make Canada a better place.
That has always been my kind of role as a member here. That is the way I have seen it, anyway. I see that as my job every day. It does not change a whit, Meech Lake accord or no Meech Lake accord, and I would suspect that most members in this chamber see that as the reason they are in public life as well. People may disagree with you a lot; people may say they dislike you a lot. That is not really a problem. It is when people challenge your integrity, when the political figures become identified as the villains in the piece: That really challenges the whole political structure of a nation.
I want to conclude by saying this. It is not that there will not be crooks in politics. Why would politics ever be any different from any other profession the world has ever known? That is not what a parliament is. A parliament is a place where a representative group of citizens meets. If we are truly representative, we hope most of the people who arrive in these doors will be good folks, decent, caring people, trying to do the best for their community. But we also know that there will be some who will not quite hit that mark.
The political process, as I understand it, is basically designed to weed those folks out -- real quick if you can, and eventually if you cannot -- so that you arrive at a place where there are 130 members in a chamber. They are no smarter than the rest of the population. We should get that straight. They are no more intelligent, no more gifted. They are simply representative, and they see things from a vastly different perspective all the time.
If there was one thing I would wish for in all the debate on this accord and other matters, in all Canadian politics, it is that we would somehow find a way to become a little more tolerant of others who have a different view of things than we have personally. This is tough, we all know. It is difficult and awfully hard to avoid in a system that has political parties firmly entrenched.
I am somewhat saddened that the view of some is that, if you do not agree with what is in the Meech Lake accord, you are almost a traitor to your country. As I see it, you can be dead wrong, you can be stupid, you can be a whole lot of things, but you are not a traitor if you do not agree with this accord. I think we should try to set the record straight on that.
There may be wise, learned people, there may be a real minority of folks out there who have seen something that none of the rest of us has seen and that is the basis for their opposition. Why do we not shut up and listen to them for a while, test the waters to see if they have discovered something in here that we have not? In part, that will be the job of the committee as well.
It will be an interesting exercise, because we do not often in this chamber get to deal with constitutional matters at all. Perhaps some will argue that it takes up too much of the Legislature’s time and too much of our resources. But I believe that, in part, the shift in Canadian politics is apparent. The shift is that provincial legislatures, whether there is any constitutional change or not, are going to become inevitably, more and more, an important part of Canadian political decision-making.
That is without any changes in the Constitution. It is just a hard fact of life that the politics of Canada is a very complicated business these days. It is not one which lends itself well to sending all you smart folks down to Ottawa for six weeks where they make really wonderful decisions and go back home for the rest of the year. It is far more complicated than that.
The provincial legislatures are closer to the ground, and I think they will have more and more of a role to play in the decision-making in Canada for the foreseeable future. Whether anybody likes that or not, or disagrees with that premise or finds it in the Meech Lake accord, that is just simply a hard and fast reality, as I see it. We cannot avoid that.
I welcome that challenge. I support the proposal to strike a select committee. I hope that it does not begin the process, as some have said, totally fettered by the Premier’s opinion on the matter, totally restricted by a huge majority. In many ways, this will be a test of whether this majority government in this Legislature can be responsive to the needs of other people. It will be a challenge for those on the government side to listen and respond and see how sensitive the political process in our province can be.
I have listened to those who see greater dangers in here than I do. I believe that they have those feelings very strongly and that it is not a casual feeling on their part. They have thought through the system. They have actually read a lot of the background information, and there is a pile of it on disagreement. There are certainly constitutional experts who feel that this is a seriously flawed agreement. I have read just about as many who think that it is not.
The media reports give us a very mixed flavouring of how important this is and whether it is good or bad or serious or has long-term ramifications. But it will be the job of the committee to study this, to listen to our groups and to report back. I see it as the beginning of a process, new and different ground for us to break for a while, but critical because I think we will be faced with more challenges of this kind in the foreseeable future.
I have given you my personal list of what is next on the agenda that has to be resolved in this nation and I believe that none of those problems is going away. All of them are sitting there waiting to be resolved. This committee will have its hands full, and I hope I get a chance to play a part in that process.
Mrs. Marland: In rising today to speak on the resolution of the Premier that a select committee on constitutional reform be appointed to consider and report on the 1987 constitutional accord signed at Ottawa on June 3, 1987, and tabled in the House on November 23, 1987, known colloquially as the Meech Lake accord, my first comment has to be, in looking at today’s date, which is November 26, that in fact this debate is taking place six months too late.
I say that recognizing that it was my colleague in the Progressive Conservative Party, the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris), who on May 21 placed a motion in this Legislature to ask for the very process we are now taking part in today. In placing that motion, the member for Nipissing asked in fact that the people of Ontario be given the same right that the governments of Quebec and Manitoba had given their people, the right to voice their concerns and suggestions about the Meech Lake accord.
It is very interesting to record in today’s debate the fact that at that time, on May 21, which was between the drafting of the accord on April 25 and the ultimate signing on June 2, all the Liberal members of provincial parliament in this Legislature voted against the member for Nipissing’s resolution and the Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Party members supported the motion.
I say that is particularly interesting because we have had members of the Liberal Party participating in this debate this week. Frankly, when the member said in May that he could not understand why the Liberals opposed giving the people of Ontario the opportunity to speak out about an agreement that will shape the governing of our nation, I must say that at that time I shared his disappointment, concern and I think, in a simple word, amazement. I would be amazed that elected representatives in any Legislature did not wish to give an opportunity for expression of support or concern on an issue as major as constitutional reform to their people in the province.
Quite frankly, I think that, unfortunately, this debate we are now taking part in is a pure sham. I respect the comments of the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh), as I always do. I happen not to think along his philosophical bent, but I do think the member for Oshawa is one of the most eloquent people who ever gets on his feet in this Legislature, and in recognizing his comments, I have to say that I feel that he feels this is a process that is worth following.
I think that, had it taken place between the drafting and the final signing of the Meech Lake accord, then there would have been some purpose. I think for the Premier to come back to this Legislature and say, “Well, folks, now let’s ask the people of Ontario what they want,” after he signed the final document, is the worst example of the barn door syndrome when the horse has left.
According to the Premier, the purpose of the accord was to bring Quebec into the Constitution. However, this was more symbolic than factual. The Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that although Quebec did not sign the Canada act in 1982, it is still of Canada and, as such, as bound by the provisions of the Constitution as any other province.
In talking about the process, many have criticized the methods by which the accord was drafted as hasty and precluding public input. The discrepancies between the approach of the Premier to the drafting of the free trade agreement and his approach to the drafting of the Meech Lake accord are alarming, quite frankly, because for months preceding the free trade agreement, the Premier warned repeatedly against a last-minute deal negotiated in haste, under pressure and behind closed doors, saying that such a deal could not possibly be a good deal. That is how the Premier expressed his concerns about the free trade agreement.
The Meech Lake accord was originally drafted on the weekend of April 25, at Meech Lake, by the Prime Minister and the 10 premiers, as we know. Those premiers were kept in the negotiating room and were not allowed to consult staff.
Mrs. Marland: On June 2, 1987, the Prime Minister and the 10 premiers met in Ottawa to draft the final agreement. While they were allowed the benefit of advisers at this time, they entered into a marathon 20-hour bargaining session which produced the final draft, and that draft was signed at noon on June 3.
By contrast, the free trade agreement was negotiated over several months, allowing substantial time for groups to air their opinions and study the issue, including the Premier, who voiced his concerns repeatedly, had his members participate in an all-party committee review of the issue, had his ministers conduct impact studies and met with the principal players in Canada and in the United States.
The Premier has criticized the free trade agreement because it does not respond to the concerns raised by particular groups, while he himself ignored the concerns of many in the final draft of the Meech Lake accord. The Premier claimed he needed an election to receive a mandate from Ontario on the free trade agreement. He did not ever seek a mandate from the people to significantly change the Constitution of Canada. In spite of the fact that his party came second in terms of the number of seats in the 1985 election, he apparently felt free to totally alter the nature of this country over the course of about 48 hours, in total, of negotiations.
The Premier says the accord should be supported because it is good for Canada. Whether it is good for Ontario is irrelevant and we should be prepared to act in the national best interest and bring Quebec into the constitutional fold. The Premier says the free trade agreement is bad for Ontario, and therefore bad for Canada. He ignores the fact that the majority of the other provinces, Quebec in particular, supports the deal.
The Premier wants time for public input on the free trade agreement and time for it to be changed. However, after the drafting of the original Meech Lake accord, the Premier refused to hold public hearings on it in Ontario, despite repeated calls for such hearings from the Progressive Conservatives. Even after we had moved the motion to which I referred earlier, the Premier still refused.
It was only on June 1, 1987, the day the Premier left for Ottawa to sign the final accord -- and I address the comments of the member for Mississauga North (Mr. Offer) -- that he called for national public hearings on the accord, saying it was one demand he would make. When he was then pushed on the issue by the media, he said he would hold public hearings in Ontario.
Was that not marvellous? The day before he went back to Ottawa, he finally realized his mistake and his error in not supporting the resolution of the Progressive Conservative Party that had earlier in this House asked for this very process we are going through today. How interesting that the Premier finally saw he was wrong to be going back to Ottawa to consider signing a final document without asking the people of Ontario what were their hopes, their visions and their dreams for the future of their nation.
When he was pushed on the issue, it was only then that he agreed to hold public hearings in Ontario. Prior to the signing of the final accord in Ottawa on June 3, 1987, the Premier said the Meech Lake accord was a delicate balance which could not withstand any changes. Indeed, the changes between the draft and the final versions of the accord were minimal.
The Premier and the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) have since been sending out mixed signals on whether the accord can be changed. The Premier told women’s groups he would bring up their concerns with the accord at the first ministers’ conference held during the election. Madam Speaker, you would be interested to know, however, that the accord was not on the agenda and the Premier did not request that it be put on the agenda. However, after raising the matter in casual conversation with other premiers, the Premier declared there was no basis to the women’s concerns and that the accord did not need to be changed.
It was after the Premier had already said there was no basis to their concerns that the Attorney General met with these women’s groups and said there might be a basis for concern and that he would look into the need to change the accord, he being the Attorney General.
We have heard a lot of comments during the discussion and the debate yesterday and today about the distinct society, and that is an area, I think, that perhaps each one of us could probably speak on in an impassioned mode for a number of hours. I plan to be brief but I want to say first that the women’s groups, the ethnic communities and natives are upset by the defining of Canada and Quebec solely on the basis of the language spoken, feeling that they should have been identified as an integral part of the provincial and national character. What else has ever made and formed this great nation of ours?
However, the major concern about the “distinct society” clause is the fact that no one can adequately explain what it means. For example, would Quebec have the right to eliminate the use of English in business or cut back on minority --language education in order to preserve and promote the French-speaking majority and ensure the minority status of the English-speaking citizens? Would Canada and the other provinces have the right to refuse French-language services and education to preserve the English-speaking majority? Could they establish immigration point systems which would be biased in favour of English-speaking immigrants?
There are a multitude of interpretations of this clause already and when the Premier was asked to explain what that clause meant, he replied that it would be interpreted by the courts. I think that is wonderful. We start off right away with a constitutional accord that no one can interpret except the courts.
Madam Speaker, I recognize that interjections are out of order, and I am wondering how long I have to listen to the member for Mississauga North. Since he has not had an opportunity to take part in this debate himself, I can sense that he is certainly trying to take part during my participation. I would welcome discussing this subject with the member for Mississauga North at some other time.
Mrs. Marland: In dealing with native groups, and this is another area about which l have a great deal of concern, I feel in particular that this Meech Lake accord continues to disenfranchise our aboriginal people. Native groups have said that they have one additional concern on the accord. In the Canada act in 1982, a series of federal-provincial conferences on aboriginal constitutional rights was pledged and promised. The last of these conferences was held in the spring of 1987 and still no agreement was reached.
Native groups are upset that in the course of five years the provinces and the federal government were unable to agree on aboriginal native rights but were able to agree on Quebec’s rights in the course of 48 hours of total negotiation. Five years of discussion about native rights for our aboriginal people and there was no solution, no resolution; yet in 48 hours we are suddenly able to resolve Quebec’s rights. While these people want aboriginal constitutional rights spelled out in the accord, the very least they want is the establishment of a new round of federal-provincial conferences on the subject. I really wonder where we are going today.
The Premier has said, under questions from this side of the House yesterday, that he will not allow a free vote. That in itself, I think, is the most grave happening around his resolution. In his resolution he is setting up a select committee to review this accord. If he was really committed to the outcome of that committee’s recommendations, if he was really committed to the rights of every individual Ontarian today, he would give all Ontarians the right to have their views supported through the process of their democratic representation by the members in the Ontario Legislature.
That is not going to happen. The member for Mississauga North may go to his constituency, and he may speak to those people whom he represents as may any other member in this House. If their views and opinions are not --
Mr. Offer: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I would hope the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) would confine her particular comments and the representation of her particular interest of her particular constituents to herself and not to any other member.
Mrs. Marland: I would correct the member for Mississauga North. He has actually just stated something that is very interesting because I have not yet, Mr. Offer, stated the opinions of the people that I represent.
I am not judging what the member for Mississauga North might choose to do in his representation of the people who reside in Mississauga North. I am simply using it as an example that no matter what he chooses to do, no matter what the residents of Mississauga North or indeed the constituents of any Liberal-held riding in this province today think or feel or want to express, or what changes they would like to see in the Meech Lake accord, their elected representatives in the Ontario Legislature today are not going to be permitted a free vote by their Premier.
Pure and simple, when we are dealing with something as important as the constitution of a nation, we had better be sure that this in itself demonstrates democracy, and democracy means that every single constituent and resident in this great province has a right to representation. That right means that they elect a person who can speak for them freely.
I would suggest with respect that when the Premier says he will not allow a free vote of his caucus in this Legislature, he is disenfranchising those people who live in Liberal-held ridings who, perhaps, do not totally support the Meech Lake accord. It simply throttles and restrains the kind of representation I would have hoped every member in this Legislature would be bound to give on behalf of the people who elect them.
When the Premier says he will not allow a free vote, he also said, and we heard this comment very clearly yesterday in the House -- in fact, the member for York South (Mr. B. Rae) in his response yesterday challenged the Premier, who said that if we disagree with the Meech Lake accord, which he has already signed and now wants to ask us what we think about it, he said to the member for York South that if we disagree, it is because we do not understand.
Can you imagine anything more insulting than to say to us as equally elected members of this Legislature that if we do not agree, we do not understand? He even says to his own caucus: “Never mind whether you agree or whether you understand. It does not matter because you are not going to have a free vote.” I hope that is not what the process of government is all about.
It was interesting to hear a few minutes ago the member for Oshawa talk about restoring credibility to the political process in Canada. I would suggest that on this issue alone there will be no credibility to the political process in this House because, first, we have a Premier who will not allow a free vote of his caucus, and second, we are in a situation where we are discussing something that is already completed, already signed. I am only standing here because of my disenchantment with the process and I want to place that on the record.
When we have a Premier who says his government will not accept any amendments, what is it we are doing? Do we not have anything else we can spend our time on? When we have so much harangue and argument and debate and criticism of the free trade agreement, which does not have as many or as great long-range implications for the future of this nation as does the constitutional accord, it does not take very much common sense to do the weighing between the free trade agreement and the Meech Lake accord as to its implications for our future.
One would think the Premier is the only patriot in this whole House. That is where I took personal exception. I took strong personal exception to his suggesting that if we did not agree with him, we did not understand. I think it is one thing to debate; it is another thing to be insulting.
The truth of the matter is that when we look at the greater implications for the future of our nation with this issue than with the subject of free trade, and when we look at the fact that this Meech Lake accord was signed, as I have already said, in far greater haste, I think we have to be very concerned about the process.
It is funny, when we think about this deal -- as the member for Oshawa said, a deal made by 11 men in the middle of the night -- it makes me think back to what the Fathers of Confederation did. I am sure the Fathers of Confederation would roll over in their graves were they here today to observe this process. They started to meet on October 10, 1864, about 123 years ago. Their bill and that agreement, on which this great nation was founded, was not passed until three years later, and they went back across this nation to get the feeling and the wishes and the direction from the people they represented.
It is that process that has been completely void in what we are dealing with here in 1987. I feel the process over the past century is now showing us in a regression. As I stand here in the Ontario Legislature today, looking towards the future not only of this province but also of this great nation, may I say that I hope never again will we be asked to comment on something when we know those comments are expressed in complete futility -- futility because we have been told it is not going to be possible for one province to amend the Meech Lake accord. We know the 11 people who were signators to that accord agreed that no changes could be made unless all 11 agreed to those changes.
I stand here today expressing my concerns on behalf of the people whom I represent in Mississauga South, some of whom support the Meech Lake accord with reservations and some of whom are completely opposed to it. But it does not matter whether they have reservations, whether they have questions or whether they have support for that accord with some changes; it does not matter because they will not have an opportunity, through my representation, to change anything on their behalf, either as additions or deletions.
What kind of a parliamentary process is that where a Premier, without prior consultation, goes off to, in this case, the location of Meech Lake and agrees to and signs a draft and then agrees a month later to signing the final document? It is not a process that I ever want to see again.
To the constituents of Mississauga South, whose viewpoints I would have liked to have been able to represent, I apologize that we have a Premier in 1987 in Ontario who does not really believe in the democratic process, not even to the point of permitting the equally elected members of his caucus a free vote on what is essentially and unequivocally the future of this great nation of Canada.
I must say that I find it really interesting that up until approximately an hour ago I was seriously impressed with the quality of the comments, particularly those coming from the members in the opposition party. Most notably, I think the member for Oshawa made some very good points and salient comments. I thought the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) gave one of the finest speeches I have heard in this House. It was sincere, it was well thought out; it was a speech of a very concerned Canadian.
What I have just been subjected to is nothing more than a simple attack on one person, the Premier. I suppose that is clearly the right of members of the third party and the opposition, but I think this issue really transcends those kinds of bitter feelings, which obviously come about as a result of the election results, and I guess they should transcend that difficulty of getting up every morning, looking in the mirror and realizing that the sole purpose of their day is to be negative, that all day long all they have to do is go to work and criticize and not have an opportunity to make constructive suggestions.
I heard different comments from other members that were well thought out and I personally think the comments of the last speaker were inappropriate to this particular issue, and in fact did not deal with the issue at hand. Is there a difference, I heard the question asked, between free trade and Meech Lake? I will tell members one main difference: Free trade is a deal between Canadians and Americans, and Meech Lake is a deal between Canadians and Canadians. I say that is a pretty major difference and one that should be noted by that member.
I am used to having debates with the honourable member, as we served on the same municipal council for seven years. I respect the member personally, but I think it is unfortunate that a party is relegated to skipping the entire issue and simply attacking the personalities involved in this House.
One of the things we have to think about is jurisdiction. Many members have spoken in this House and said that we really have no jurisdiction over this particular deal because we are not being allowed to make changes. There have been many debates that have gone on at all levels of government where there has been a big question about jurisdiction.
There is a great Canadian who made comments on this particular deal, a man who was Prime Minister for a tremendous number of years in this country, and he made comments that I think were harmful and did a disservice, in my view, to this country, to the nation-building --
“Say goodbye to a dream,” Mr. Trudeau said. I think it is pretty presumptuous to say, “Say goodbye to the Canadian dream.” It might have been his dream, and indeed he started the dream in the constitutional debate leading up to 1982, to that very historic day, but it is presumptuous to say that because there is a new deal in a new time by a new group of Canadians, you have to say goodbye to the dream. I think we all dream. All members of this House dream and all Canadians dream of one Canada, but we understand, too, that we do have a very diverse country.
When we analyse this issue, people speak out specifically on the issue of Quebec and certain minority groups. The member for Algoma spoke at great length on native rights. As I said, I thought he was very sincere and I told him so afterwards. He put the issue forward very well. But he also said -- I noticed a statement that would give him an opportunity, and one hopes an opportunity to his colleagues in the official opposition, to support Meech Lake that he cannot support it unless it allows for future discussions of the rights of first Canadians to self-government. He did not say that it must have, right in that document, a statement that would provide self-government for first Canadians; he said he wanted an ability to discuss it further.
I frankly believe this committee will indeed allow that to happen. I think the issue should be brought up at the committee, and if there are recommendations that come out of that committee which suggest there should be future discussions, then I think they should be put forward. They need not be a final amendment and I doubt the committee will be in a position to recommend a final amendment, but there can be a statement coming out of that committee, which would be a very important statement from this province and endorsed by this Legislature, that indeed we should be working towards an amendment that would allow for self-government by the native peoples.
I would support that kind of approach. You do not have to throw out the Meech Lake agreement to get it. You do not have to destroy the entire document and the basis of this country and the future of this country to get it. You simply have to work at the committee level with the comments coming from the learned people on both sides.
I do not know exactly who said it but I totally agree with whoever said: “We are no smarter than the other average Canadians out there. We are just here representing them.” That is right and we should be putting those views forth and taking them and bringing them to this Legislature and making recommendations for future discussions. There is no reason why we cannot emplace the constitutional amendment that has been worked on at Meech Lake and make recommendations for change in the future.
The discussion goes on about rubber-stamping this particular accord. I suggest that is equally inappropriate. I do not believe the committee will come in and rubber-stamp it. Some members have said it would be inappropriate to do that. It is equally inappropriate for members on the opposite side to use this issue -- many have not but some have -- for the sake of playing the political game of just being opposite. This issue is much too important to the future of our children and our country to allow that kind of nonsense to take place. I am pleased that many members, notably the ones I have already mentioned, have gone above and beyond that level of debate.
Many people talk about Quebec and whether Quebec should indeed be a distinct society. I went back and did a little bit of research because I have not heard anyone come out with the actual details of what is being said. They just throw the words “distinct society” around. Let me read the quote:
“The accord states that the Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the recognition that ‘French-speaking Canadians, centred in Quebec but also present elsewhere in Canada, and English-speaking Canadians, concentrated outside Quebec but also present in Quebec, constitutes a fundamental characteristic of Canada,’ and moreover, that Quebec constitutes a distinct society within Canada.” It goes on to say, “The Legislature and the government of Quebec has a responsibility to preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec.”
Frankly, I find it difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. I think that government clearly does, whether we say it in the Constitution or not, have the responsibility to preserve and promote the distinct society of that province. Quebeckers are distinct, as this charter recognizes. The difference is that they are primarily a French-speaking community in a country and on a continent that is primarily English-speaking. They have traditions based on that differences They have, whether we like it or not, or members opposite like it or not, laws that are based on that difference.
If we understand, not necessarily agree but understand, why would we object to stating it? Opposition to this is to say: “Quebec, you are not distinct. You are not different. You have no right to be different and you must be the same as the rest of us in Canada.” In my opinion, that is contrary to the understanding, caring and sensitive philosophy of this country. Trying to place our own values on other people is not something we should do.
1, too, am a Canadian first, but I have no right to force Quebeckers to sacrifice their distinctiveness as a province, as a people within this tolerant society. Anyone who tries to do that is playing the politics of fear and possibly, as the member for Algoma stated, playing the politics of racism.
Another member said that this agreement is uniquely Canadian, and it is. I find it particularly frustrating and hard to understand why we Canadians often say, whether we are dealing with the free trade agreement or Meech Lake: “Don’t get upset. Don’t get emotional. We must be pragmatic. We must be calm. We must look at this in a businesslike way.” Why should we not get emotional? Why should we not talk about our country in emotional terms? It is our country.
One of the things that has bothered me, however, and I see it in both the current issues that are before this House and before the Parliament of Canada, is that it appears to be the role of opponents and the media, playing to those opponents, to take this particular deal and distort the effects and the issues.
The Meech Lake accord does not infringe on the rights of citizens to express themselves freely. It recognizes the multicultural nature of this province and this country. It respects the rights of Canada’s native peoples, and it continues to acknowledge that men and women are equal before the law.
In May 1980, I believe, this very Legislature confirmed its willingness to renew our federation. Ontario declared that Canada had to come to terms with the cultural anxieties of Quebec and pledged itself to the resolution of the differences between the provinces through dialogue, compromise, consensus and fairness. Where is that attitude now, seven years later?
I believe very strongly that the spirit of Canada, the spirit of compromise, understanding and tolerance that has made this country great was indeed preserved at Meech Lake. There must be and should be suggestions for future agenda items and I support many of the comments that have been made in looking at future agenda items. I think they can happen through adopting the resolution the Premier has put on the floor of this House in establishing that committee.
I also believe some of the other issues that are being distorted in this particular debate surround the issue of federal spending power and provincial rights. The accord simply stipulates that the federal government must provide “reasonable compensation,” the two words that are used, to any province that opts out of a future national shared-cost program established by the government of Canada that is within, and this is so important, exclusive provincial jurisdiction.
We are not talking about taking over national defence. We are only talking about opting out of programs that come under the purview of this House and this province and receiving the compensation that would go with these particular programs.
On the amending formula, I heard someone earlier today stand up and say, “Why should we accept an amending formula that requires unanimity?” Let us understand that issue too. The general amending formula set out in section 38 of the Constitution Act, 1982, requires, that the consent of Parliament and seven provincial Legislatures representing 50 per cent of the population for most amendments is to be maintained.
I would not want to mislead. It goes on to say that in areas such as proportionate representation in the House of Commons, the Senate, the Supreme Court of Canada, etc., unanimity will be required. But the bluebirds that are trying to shoot this deal down are simply telling us this amending formula is 100 per cent for everything. They tell us half the story instead of explaining the entire story.
As in any other issue, there are emotions that are going to run very high when you are dealing with our country. I have never seen a country that spends more time dealing with itself in an inward, retrospective way. We are constantly talking about our nationhood. We are constantly saying our nationhood is in jeopardy, yet it is not.
I refer you back to another fine speech I heard in this House by the member for Nepean (Mr. Daigeler), when he spoke on the day before Remembrance Day. He told us a little bit of his background and history. He told us his father, I believe, fought for Germany in the war and his grandfather before him. He said he was very pleased and proud and it showed what a great democracy we live in that he indeed could stand here as a representative in this Legislature representing his constituents. I think that was such a profound and true statement that it really goes to the quick of what Canada is. Is this one Canada? I think it is. Can it be improved? There is no doubt in my mind that it can.
The argument here is over the methodology to approve that, the methodology at committee. I for one will look forward to receiving the committee’s recommendations and discussing them, but they must not be frivolous. They must not be for the sake of being in opposition. They must be well thought out and they must be significant.
I think that, very clearly, the argument is over methodology and how we implement any changes, and there will be ways. If we indeed look at this committee and work on it in a positive way and make any changes and amendments that would come forward to this House -- serious, important amendments for the future of this country -- Meech Lake can indeed be a very positive document for our future and our country will continue to be one.
I think the condescending tone of the member for Mississauga West does not bode well for the future deliberations of the committee that is going to be dealing with Meech Lake. I do not think it is up to the member for Mississauga West to determine whether any kinds of suggestions or amendments that are put by the committee are trivial or not. That is not for him to decide.
I do not think it is for the Premier to determine whether or not the motives are well intentioned when members speak in this debate or when they deal with the issue in the committee and I do not think it is up to the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) to make the determination that before we consider any kind of amendment, we have to think very seriously as to whether the accord is really seriously flawed and whether it would be better to leave it alone now and deal with any kind of amendment at some future date. I do not think it is up to the Attorney General to determine on our behalf that if we were to try to tamper with the accord, we would be putting at risk national reconciliation.
Those kinds of comments and attitudes emanating from the government do not sit well with the opposition members in this House because we have a job to do just as the government members do. For the member for Mississauga West to say, “It’s my job to determine what is trivial,” is absolutely ridiculous. As a matter of fact, the statement itself might even be trivial.
We in this caucus welcome the formation of this select committee on the constitutional accord, although I share a lot of the views that have been expressed by other members that it is a bit much to lay it before us now. To get the very clear message from the Premier and the Attorney General in particular that, “It really shouldn’t be tampered with, you know; we are dealing with an attempt at national reconciliation,” we find quite offensive.
I should not have to say that I do not think there is a single member in this House who does not want to see Quebec included in the federal Constitution. As a native of Quebec at one time -- I was born in Quebec and lived there for some years -- I very much want to see Quebec included in our Constitution.
I must say, though, that I do not think that if I object to the provisions in this accord -- in particular I am offended by some aspects of it -- that has anything to do with my wanting or not wanting Quebec to be in the Constitution. I have an obligation as a Canadian, as an elected member, to make my views known about what I think about this accord. I hope I reflect the views of my constituents in that regard. I do not think we need to accept it in blind faith.
There are a number of things that bother a lot of people about the accord, and I must say I am bothered by them as well: first of all, the issue of individual and minority rights; second, the implications of the clause that recognizes Quebec as a distinct society; third, the requirement for unanimous provincial consent on certain constitutional groups -- l do not think it is misleading to say that; fourth, the whole question of federal-provincial spending powers. That one bothers me a great deal.
On the question of individual and minority rights, the people who are concerned about it feel very strongly that the individual rights presently protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms could be diminished as a result of the increased provincial powers, which I think are there, and the increased collective rights of Quebec’s so-called distinctive society. And it is a distinctive society --
The charter has not been entrenched by this accord at all. I think that is what is bothering so many people: Some things are entrenched and others are not, and the items that are not entrenched will be therefore called into question in terms of priorities under the law, and that bothers a lot of us. Women, for example, are very concerned. Keeping in mind that women have fought for decades for the gains that they have achieved in terms of equality, it certainly is understandable that they would be concerned that their rights would or could be diminished by this accord. Certainly that must be dealt with.
I do not understand for a moment why some things were left out of this constitutional accord. Did they run out of paper? I do not think so. Perhaps it was because the people who wrote the accord, the ones who were locked up in that room, were not constitutional experts. I fear that they overlooked a lot of things and that afterwards it became very difficult to change it, as we all know.
My colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) spoke passionately about the whole question of aboriginal rights. The aboriginal people were denied any kind of role in the negotiation of this accord. Surely that is offensive, and when the aboriginal people tell me they are indeed themselves a distinct society, how do I argue with them? How does anyone disagree with that? Yet they were not a part of the negotiations whatsoever. Not only that, if the aboriginal people were to achieve self-government, guess who can veto that happening? The province. A province could veto that, and I can see why they are very concerned.
I think that is inappropriate. The people who will be most affected by such a move will not have any say in it. Of course, that is true for the potential achievement of the Northwest Territories or the Yukon becoming a province. The very people who will be most affected will not have any say. To be fair, they are not saying they are anxious at the moment to become provinces, but surely that is not the point. If they were to become anxious and wanted to do this in the future, that can be vetoed by any province. So I think there are a lot of things that bother us about the unanimity aspect of this accord.
I know what I would like to do with the Senate. I would like to abolish the Senate. That is what I would like to do. I cannot think of any useful role it fulfils. It is appointed rather than elected and is in contradiction to all our democratic principles. The members know it is a contradiction of democracy. Can the members imagine, if we were trying to set up a Senate today, the outrage that would be expressed across the country, the outrage that would expressed by members of this assembly if we were trying to appoint an upper House? “Upper,” yet. Members would be very unhappy about it.
Of course, any province can have a veto over changes to the Senate or any changes to the Supreme Court of Canada. I mentioned the extension of provinces into the territories, or the Northwest Territories or the Yukon becoming provinces. Those are things that bother me a great deal, that any one province, for whatever reason, whatever the politics of the day, can veto those kinds of changes. I think that is fundamentally wrong. That is why I hope very much that when the committee begins its deliberations it has an open mind on recommending some changes to the accord.
I do not understand why so many things are excluded from the accord. I think of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, for example, having no say in those federal institutions. Presumably, they do not all want to abolish the Senate as I do. If that is the case, why do they not have any say at all in the discussion of who goes on the list to be appointed to the Senate or to the Supreme Court?
The question of federal and provincial spending power bothers me a great dead as well, and I am not convinced by the arguments of the member for Mississauga West (Mr. Mahoney) or others who have claimed it is not a problem that the provinces will have to set up programs that are “compatible” with national goals. First, “compatible” is not defined anywhere in the accord, and I doubt very much that we can have substantial national programs in the future with that proviso in the accord.
For example, I would like very much to see a national program on sickness and accident to replace the present patchwork out there for people who get hurt or sick, particularly if it is not on the job. I cannot imagine being able to put together a substantial national program when this accord becomes the new Constitution.
I think what we will end up with is the lowest common denominator across Canada. I cannot imagine British Columbia with its present government or Alberta with its present government coming to an agreement that would be what I would call compatible with national goals. I simply do not think it will happen because of objections from those provinces. So I am pessimistic we will not see the kind of national programs most of us are proud of now: I refer to medicare, to the Canada pension plan, the old age pension.
But who is to say that is where it should all stop? As a society, we have a right to move forward with social programs. A lot of us are bothered about that. Admittedly, there are some politicians who want to see a more substantial change not just in the way social programs are delivered but in the kinds of social programs we have in Canada. I appreciate the fact that the Tories, for example, are not as enthusiastic or impassioned as I am about the delivery of certain social services. That is fine, but it bothers me a great deal that with this accord we are not going to get new programs.
Why do members think the National Action Committee on the Status of Women is so concerned about this accord? The Canadian Day Care Advocacy Coalition is very worried about this accord as well. I think there are legitimate concerns that should be taken as such and not be regarded as somehow an attempt to scuttle reconciliation in our nation. That is what I find so very offensive. Those of us who do not like a lot of what is in the accord do not like it because our vision of Canada is perhaps a little different from someone else’s vision of Canada. So what? It does not make it any less legitimate.
That is why many of us are truly offended when we hear the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) say, “Before members consider any kind of amendment or change to the accord, they must ask themselves three questions: One, is the flaw really serious? Two, does it have to be corrected now? Why not at some later date? Three, would such an amendment or change be worth putting at risk national reconciliation?”
Mr. Laughren: It is a good question but it is terribly presumptuous and condescending. I will not use the word “arrogant.” It is the kind of tactic that says to people who have legitimate concerns, “You know, if you really express those concerns and you fight for them, you had better be careful because what you are going to do is going to be very dangerous and you could be held responsible for scuttling national reconciliation.” My goodness, what a fragile balance they have developed out there.
I guess because they did it the way they did, it ended up being fragile. Perhaps it did not need to be so fragile if they had done it in a proper way, with proper consultation, rather than consultation after the fact when everyone is bludgeoned into accepting what those 10 or 11 people locked up in a room have achieved with their infinite wisdom. They were probably all hungry and wanted to get out.
Mr. Laughren: Yes, they are just very ordinary people. I have not seen a Premier yet who walks on water. I do not hold any of those 11 people in awe and I do not think any of us in this chamber should. The people out there do not hold them in awe either. They are ordinary people who got elected, in most cases, by the electorate and then by their own parties. This does not make any one of them some kind of god.
I and I think all of us do not see the Meech Lake accord as a fait accompli and we do not believe it is too late to make amendments to it. We do not believe it is acceptable to enough Canadians in its present form and we want to emphasize at the same time the importance of including Quebec as a full partner in Confederation.
I just hope the Ontario government does not regard this committee as some kind of symbolic gesture, something it felt it had to do, perhaps because of its overwhelming majority in this assembly, because worse than not even having the committee would be to treat the committee as something trivial and not take its recommendations seriously and not listen, not just to members of this assembly but to people all across Ontario as they express what I think are very legitimate concerns about the Meech Lake accord.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: I too would like to join in this debate. I would like, first of all, to congratulate the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) for saying many things that needed to be said after the comments of the member for Mississauga West.
I feel somewhat put out by the fact that certain people in this House feel they have a God-given right to speak on behalf of the people of this province and other members in the same House do not have that same right. That is offensive.
I very strongly support the government’s intentions to set up a select committee. I think it is an excellent idea, and as the member for Nickel Belt made reference to, it had better be a meaningful role that the committee plays or we will be extremely disappointed in this government.
I wonder if it really will mean that much, though, because the Meech Lake accord was originally drafted on the weekend of April 25, and the final draft was presented to the premiers on June 2. In the months between the first and final drafts, many groups identified serious concerns with the first accord, yet the final draft did not reflect any of those concerns.
What does that mean now when this committee that will be set up drafts proposals that include some changes? Will those proposals too be rejected? I am really concerned that maybe we will not have a meaningful role to play except to go through the motions.
Immediately after signing the final accord, the Premier referred to it as an evolving thing and said he believed small changes might be possible. What, indeed, are small changes? Are they the distinct society, immigration policies, the decline in federal powers, the amending formula? Are those small changes? In my opinion, there are many things that have to be looked at, and hopefully more than small changes will be given consideration.
During the election campaign the Premier said. “The accord could be changed and amended after public hearings in Ontario.” By this time the Quebec assembly had concluded its public hearings and passed the accord.
Premier Bourassa called upon the other provinces to sign it without making any changes, reserving any amendments for later. What does “reserving any amendments for later” mean? How will the changes come about?
The Constitution Act of 1982 created a very rigid Constitution that, as we all know, is extremely difficult to amend. According to the Honourable Eugene Forsey, the accord will make it still more rigid, make many of its most important provisions totally unchangeable except by unanimous consent of the provincial Legislatures, which may not truly represent in these matters the people of the respective provinces. Is that what we really want? I do not think it is.
To highlight Eugene Forsey’s concerns, I would like to use as an example the province of Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island has a population of 128,200 people. In the last election on April 21, 1986, 76,101 people voted. Of those votes cast, 37,474 went to the Liberal Party. Therefore, the Premier of Prince Edward Island, elected by less than 38,000 people, has a veto over 25.5 million Canadians. Is that what we really want? I think not. I use Prince Edward Island as an example only because of the dramatic distortion in power versus population.
Perhaps I am wrong -- I hope I am -- but I understand that as recently as last June, Premier Bourassa of Quebec said the Liberal Party of Quebec remains committed to its 1980 resolution which affirmed Quebec’s right to determine freely its own internal constitution and to express freely its will to maintain the Canadian federal union or to do away with it. Is that what we really want? Is that what we have achieved in the Meech Lake accord? Has this accord weakened the fabric of our nation?
To remain a strong and unified nation, Canada must have a strong central government. We must ensure this central government speaks with authority on behalf of all the people of Canada. In order to do this, we must guard against and balance a tendency for each province to do its own thing, disregarding the interests of the other nine and of the nation as a whole. The voice of the government in Ottawa must be the voice of the people of Canada, and it is imperative that we recognize the danger of fragmenting our country by increasing the power of the provinces and thereby undermining the strength of our central government.
I am concerned that this accord, which recognizes Quebec as a distinct society, will create the impression that there are two Canadas. If that is the case, then this accord will not benefit our country. Perhaps I am mistaken in this view, but sometimes perception becomes as important as reality. I hope the committee hearings will help to clear up some of these perceptions.
I would like to re-emphasize my concern about the veto power given to each province, if for no other reason than the impossible position in which it places the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. I had the opportunity to travel fairly extensively in the Northwest Territories for the parliamentary conference four or five years ago, and I know the aspirations of the people in that territory are certainly for provincial status at some point in time. I truly do not know how that will come about if we allow each province to have the opportunity to exercise a veto to allow that to happen.
Many of my party colleagues have already alluded to many of the concerns I would like to express, so I will not take up too much more of the time of this House today except to say that I do hope the hearings at the committee level are meaningful. The hearings must include many very important issues in the accord, such as the concerns of our native people, the ethnic communities and women’s groups, the amending formula, immigration policies, the decline in federal powers, the “distinct society” clause and others which are sure to surface if the committee hearings are going to be of any value to our province and our country.
I intend to support government resolution 5, a resolution standing in the name of the Premier. I trust the Premier will give us his commitment to respect the report that will be prepared by this committee and to take appropriate action based on that report.
I would like to put this all in proper perspective. There are not too many people in this Legislature who recognize that I came here as an immigrant from the United States. I chose Canada. It used to blow my mind to realize that a country that had been around for as many years as Canada has been, and that was able to join in a celebration at Expo and experience the joy and the love of two founding nations and the respect and pride that generated from that, could get itself hung up on what I see, as an outsider and a newcomer of 20 years to this country, as an important issue where they can fight with one another as neighbours.
I think in many respects the constitutional agreement -- the Meech Lake accord, as it is called -- is somewhat analogous to Bill 30 in that there had to be a major person who entered the fray; i.e., in Bill 30 the Most Reverend Archbishop Garnsworthy, and in the case of Meech Lake a man whom my wife still adores, Prime Minister Trudeau. I think in these days many of us reflect back on the lack of a helmsman at the tiller of government in Ottawa and wish that Trudeau was back to replace the free-wheeling -- I should not do this, because I think it is contrary to the rules to speak ill of the Prime Minister of Canada, so I will not do that. But I will say that with the hand at the tiller these days. people would probably, in a plebiscite or in an election, bring back Prime Minister Trudeau.
Trudeau had such an impact on this entire process that to a large extent the discussion around it has been looked upon not so much in terms of understanding what Meech Lake did but in terms of saying, “If Trudeau’s against it, we’re against it.” I think that is a recognition of the fact that there are still people out there who consider Trudeau to be a man who took us through a period of crisis in this country, the period of the uprising by the Front de libération du Québec.
Let me put this to them. As tragic as the FLQ crisis was -- and we never want to see it repeated in this country -- would you go to bed feeling comfortable tonight under the present circumstances rather than the man who was at the helm at the time that was being dealt with? I do not raise that to demean the present occupant of Sussex Drive; I simply do it to say that you have to look at the Meech Lake accord in terms of the man who was speaking against it and the fact that everyone said, “If Trudeau says it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
With the possibility that I might get my wife’s ire up -- because, as I said, she is a great Trudeau fan still to this day; and I have great admiration for the man as well -- I am not sure that everything he espouses today is cast in stone and that we should necessarily just say, simply because the former Prime Minister said it, we are going to accept it. I think we are charged with the responsibility, as members of this Legislature, to address every piece of legislation in terms of what we think of it, and not what somebody else thinks of it; I think we had the courage and the wisdom to do that with Bill 30.
As I said in my opening, I think what it does do in fact is it brings the family together. Things like the possibility of the separation of Quebec from Canada, which was beaten off by such stalwarts as Trudeau, Chrétien and so on, might very well not have happened if Quebec felt it a truism that it is a distinct member of our society. They are in fact one of the founding peoples of our country.
During the last election, I think Mr. Grossman found out it does not work in this country when you say, “Never will Ontario be bilingual. “ What in fact Mr. Grossman was saying was, “I do not recognize that Quebec is part of Canada.” Interestingly enough, I have a very highly multicultural community in my riding, and I had people who were working with me turn the question around and say, “If Mr. Grossman is prepared to say that one of the founding peoples of this country will never be given fair rights in Ontario, then what does he think of us, who have come here newly from a whole host of countries?”
Mr. Callahan: Yes. I really find it interesting that this is such an important debate to the members of the opposition that while it is going on and another member is speaking, they are over there laughing. Is that really what they think of the Meech Lake accord? Is that what they think of their federal leader, who in fact supports it? Is that what the third party thinks?
On Monday, November 30, we will continue the debate on the motion to establish the select committee on constitutional reform, followed by the interim supply motion, a motion which I want to recommend to the attention of the House since, of course, the government will require that supply on Monday if we are to pay our bills, effective December 1, 1987. The interim supply motion debate will be followed by a debate on the Ontario Loan Act.
On Tuesday, December 1; Wednesday, December 2, and Thursday, December 3, in the afternoon, we will consider legislation in the following order, as time permits: if not completed on Monday, Bill 11, the Ontario Loan Act; Bill 1, the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act; Bill 2, the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board act.
On Thursday morning, for the member for Carleton (Mr. Sterling), we will consider private members’ ballot items standing in the names of the member for Simcoe East (Mr. McLean) and the member for Cornwall (Mr. Cleary).