Monday 20 June 1994
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
*Chair / Président: Marchese, Rosario (Fort York ND)
*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls ND)
*Akande, Zanana L. (St Andrew-St Patrick ND)
*Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND)
*Chiarelli, Robert (Ottawa West/-Ouest L)
Curling, Alvin (Scarborough North/-Nord L)
*Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND)
*Harnick, Charles (Willowdale PC)
*Malkowski, Gary (York East/-Est ND)
*Murphy, Tim (St George-St David L)
*Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)
*Winninger, David (London South/-Sud ND)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present/ Membres remplaçants présents:
Sutherland, Kimble (Oxford ND) for Mr Bisson and Ms Harrington
Clerk / Greffière: Bryce, Donna
Staff / Personnel: McNaught, Andrew, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1554 in room 228.
The Chair (Mr Rosario Marchese): I call the meeting to order. I'll report very briefly on what we have done in subcommittee. We dealt with Bill 45, and I want to report that there was no unanimity on what to do with Bill 45. There was unanimity, however, on other bills -- Bill 89, Bill 151 and Bill 168 -- that we should deal with them over the summer period. The request we are making of our House leaders is to have two weeks to deal with these three bills. Discussion on the subcommittee report?
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): The question I have with respect to the absence of unanimity on what to do with Bill 45 is, what does that mean?
The Chair: It means there was no agreement about how to proceed with Bill 45.
Mr Murphy: So what happens to it as a result of that absence?
The Chair: It simply stays there and doesn't get dealt with until the members decide what else to do with it. Obviously, unless we get some agreement before we recess, it doesn't get dealt with over the summer period.
Mr Murphy: So that means that because of the absence of unanimity, it will not get called?
The Chair: Mr Murphy, you're asking me questions, but is there something you wanted to say, perhaps?
Mr Murphy: I'm trying to ask the questions. I'm trying to get you to help me clarify what the situation is.
The Chair: Ask your question again.
Mr Murphy: The absence of unanimity means Bill 45 won't be called, according to what you have outlined to me. Is that correct?
The Chair: It means that we take no action on it, correct.
Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): A point of order, Mr Chair. I guess a point of information, actually. The reason I'm asking for the point of information is partially for myself, because I'm not 100% clear on it, but also there are a lot of people here who are very interested in Bill 45. I think it's incumbent on you as the Chairperson to indicate what the process is for getting business before committees. In other words, on the assumption that there was 100% agreement on Bill 45 or 100% disagreement on Bill 45, this committee really wouldn't make the ultimate decision. The decision about which bills will go before a committee is ultimately that of the government House leader and the government. I want people to be perfectly clear that notwithstanding what this committee agrees or recommends, that isn't the final decision-making process. It has to leave here, it has to go someplace, and the decision will be made by the government, notwithstanding what this committee decides or recommends. Is that correct?
The Chair: There are two things I want to say in relation to your comment. First, subcommittees usually decide what issues to deal with. Different caucuses recommend different things and at the end we strive for consensus as we bring things over to committee. The committee then debates those issues, whatever we recommended or didn't recommend. After that it goes to the House leaders and then the House leaders decide on whether they agree with the committee in terms of what we request.
Mr Chiarelli: Just to be perfectly clear, if we decided to deal with Bill 151, the ammunition bill, in this committee and it went to House leaders, the House leader and the government could decide not to deal with Bill 151. Is that correct?
The Chair: That's right. The House leader of the government would presumably make suggestions and the House leaders would agree or disagree.
Mr David Winninger (London South): Certainly an important issue is raised around Bill 45. I hope I won't be interrupted here, and I speak as a supporter not only of Bill 45 but also of Bill 167.
Last December, before the House broke, I moved a motion in this committee to bring Bill 45 forward to have public hearings on it in January; I attempted to do that. Subsequently, the House leaders met and it was resolved not to conduct those hearings in January. Eventually the government introduced its legislation, Bill 167, and we all know the unfortunate result of the introduction of that bill.
What we're telling the Liberal Party, and I say it very directly here today, is that if the Liberal Party or Tim Murphy wish to have that bill brought forward, we need to have considerable assurances from the Liberal Party that the bill has significant, if not substantial, support from the Liberal Party. We just heard on the Focus Ontario show on the weekend Mr Murphy's own whip, Mr Mahoney, say that there might be six votes for Bill 45 in the Liberal Party and they're probably soft votes. He said that he himself would not be supporting it.
We need to be quite clear: We don't want to again put the gay and lesbian community through the trauma they've been through over the last few weeks and months. If there's some inclination on the part of Mr Murphy to bring forward that bill, let's see significant, if not substantial, support from the members of the Liberal Party that we can carry that bill forward successfully. Until that token of support is offered, we need to defer consideration of Bill 45. Those are my remarks.
Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): The member for St George-St David raised the issue of Bill 45, and your personal efforts have been recognized. But there is one thing. Specifically, I have a question for you and the Liberal Party: What is your position? My concern is that you have led the gay and lesbian community with false expectations and false hopes through this procedure.
One important thing is that you need to show us a written commitment, perhaps a list of members guaranteeing their support of Bill 45, a written commitment to show that the Liberal Party will support. We had the confirmation that there would be support for Bill 167, and it lost. I think you're causing people to have false expectations. This is what we would like to see first. Can that guarantee be provided that you have the support?
The Chair: Before I ask Mr Murphy to speak, I remind the committee members that there was no motion that came out of subcommittee to deal with anything around Bill 45. Unless someone moves a motion, nothing is being deferred or nothing is necessarily before us unless someone decides to do differently.
Mr Murphy: Do we have a motion on subcommittee business?
The Chair: We have a motion to deal with Bills 89, 151 and 168 over the summer recess. Of course we need someone to move that.
Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): I will.
Mr Murphy: Let me first speak to some of the comments from colleagues on the committee. My concern is that we seem to be getting caught up in a partisan back-and-forth between us.
The Chair: Order, please. Let Mr Murphy finish.
Mr Murphy: You have asked for a written commitment of the numbers of people in the Liberal Party who would vote for the bill, something that has never been asked for by the government, ever, on any other bill, without any indication of the numbers in the government who would vote for the bill. In fact, the only public indication I've seen so far from the government is comment from your caucus head saying he wouldn't want to see the bill called because he doesn't want "to help Murphy get re-elected," a not dissimilar comment from the Premier.
My concern is this. Having public hearings on the bill is not a vote on the bill; they're just public hearings on the bill. The value of those hearings could be beneficial in persuading people to vote for the bill at the end of the process, because there's an education. The Bill 167 debate was at times educational for some, at times quite polarized. I think a further debate and hearings on Bill 45 would provide an opportunity to educate further members of the Legislature to come to a different conclusion. They might even have now; it might firm up support that wasn't there before, change some minds. That is a possible result of having public hearings.
We may be able to find a way to amend Bill 45 to gain further public support both within the Liberal Party caucus and perhaps the NDP caucus, those members who voted against Bill 167; and those others, like Steve Owens, who voted for 167 but gave an indication he would not vote for 45, may find their minds changed by the process of hearings.
The hearings in and of themselves have a virtue by occurring. It is not a vote on 45 until it is called by the government once we report the bill back to the Legislature. There is no vote until third reading. To even say now, if I could, that there are guaranteed x votes or guaranteed y votes would not be a guarantee of votes. At the end of the result, it may underestimate those numbers; I don't know. I think the hearings have a virtue and that those hearings should proceed.
Have you got a sense from your caucus what number of people are going to vote for Bill 45 at third reading? I would expect not, actually.
Bill 167 was an unfortunate and unhappy result, and I suspect a lot of people feel bruised by the result and the process. I know there is a sense, and I agree with it and I've had communications with the Campaign for Equal Families and others, that we would not want to call Bill 45 and have the same result as Bill 167. Having the hearings doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get that result. In fact, I think having the hearings will give you an opportunity to hear --
Mr Murphy: I don't know. And it's a free vote on the bill, which is the same as you had on 167, so it's a bit strange to say "guarantee votes" when it's a free vote, in the same way that I couldn't expect you to guarantee votes on a free vote. And it will be, I suspect, a free vote at the end of the day too.
I'm saying we should let the hearings proceed and then we can have a sense after that. I suspect we may at the end of that process have something out of this committee that most of us could agree on, with the exception of the few Conservatives on the committee, and we could get some kind of cross-partisan agreement.
The people I talk to are mad at all of us and think we have failed in our responsibility as legislators and are looking to us to rise above the partisanship that I think characterized some of the way the issue has been dealt with to date and work together. I'm pleading for that. Give it an opportunity.
We don't even have a motion on the floor. My first preference would be to table the motion, to give us time to reconsider the report of the subcommittee, to give each caucus the opportunity to reconsider Bill 45, and maybe we can reach an agreement to have it go to hearings. We don't have a motion on the table yet, I gather, on the subcommittee report.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Actually, we do.
Mr Murphy: Has it been moved?
The Chair: Ms Haeck was prepared to do so.
Mr Murphy: Then I would move first to table it, to give time to reconsider what we do with Bill 45.
The Chair: I think the way to do that would be -- well, let me get to the other speakers.
Mr Chiarelli: I'm going to take a few minutes to explain it from my perspective, as a member with seven or eight years' experience in the Legislature.
The gay and lesbian community in particular has been jerked around by this issue, number one. Other people who feel strongly on this issue have also been jerked around, on how it has been coming to the table on various occasions.
We knew there were some human rights tribunal decisions focusing around the pension and employee benefits area. We knew that was flowing out of the Ontario Human Rights Code and looking at the Charter of Rights.
Nothing was brought forward by the government whatsoever. There was nothing on the agenda. There was no indication that any legislation would be coming forward from the government or anybody on this issue, notwithstanding the fact that there was a lot of lobbying and a lot of legwork being done by people in the gay and lesbian community, most of it very professionally done.
We happened to come up against the St George-St David by-election. We all know there's a very large percentage of gays and lesbians in that particular riding. It was a very high-profile issue. All candidates for all parties made promises in this area of legislation.
Coming out of that particular by-election, Tim Murphy won the election. He brought forward a private member's bill which went far less down the road than a lot of people thought he had promised and expected. In any case, Bill 45 was introduced, it was debated, it was voted on at second reading and it was referred to this particular committee.
As a result of that bill, which fell far short of what the gay and lesbian community wanted, very intense lobbying took place with the NDP government, with members of the NDP caucus, that Tim Murphy's bill didn't go far enough: "NDP, why don't you honour your previous promises in this particular area?" Consequently, there was very heated debate within the NDP caucus. Votes were taken on a number of occasions. We're all aware of what happened in that particular process.
What subsequently happened was that Bob Rae could not deliver Bill 167. He therefore decided to do it on a free vote. He did it on a free vote -- and this comes to your suggestion -- not knowing what the votes really were. He couldn't deliver Bill 167 on a free vote. Consequently, Bill 167 was introduced and was introduced almost in secret on a Thursday afternoon with people not aware of it coming forward.
The Chair: Can I suggest to the members, most of you are on the list to speak, so just please hold on.
Mr Chiarelli: If you want to have a fair and honest debate, be fair enough to listen, and we'll listen to you. The fact of the matter is, you introduced Bill 167, a bill which fundamentally affected at least our legal notion, our consensual notion which has existed for many years, of what family is.
I'm asking everybody here most directly: On an issue that's so important, compare it to Bill 40, dealing with labour issues. You had a task force, you went out and put it out there for people to debate over time, and you let people on both sides of the issue try to understand it. If you look at workers' compensation, the plight of the injured worker, you set up a royal commission. If you look at every major piece of legislation affecting a large number of the people of the province of Ontario, you had a very specific process. You had white papers or you set up royal commissions and you permitted debate and you permitted research.
What you did with the most fundamental, emotional issue of family is bring it in unseen on a Thursday afternoon and immediately polarize everybody. So what happened? You got exactly what anybody would have predicted, having looked at the process. Quite frankly, if you want to deal with the issue of redefining the legal aspect of family, you're going to have to give these people who are here today the right to sit and talk to other people who feel they have rights.
We're looking at research. We're looking at dialogue between people over a period of two or three or four months, the way you've done with every other major bill that you've dealt with. You would have had honest debate, you would have had fair exchange. I would have had an opportunity to sit at length and meet with people in my community. I could have had town hall meetings in my riding so both sides could get together and we could try to come together on this issue.
But no, Bill 167 was introduced reluctantly on a free vote, not knowing you had the votes, on a Thursday afternoon, and voted on that week and the following two weeks. It was defeated, and what does the government do? It comes in and says, "We have another free vote." Normally, a private member's bill is a free vote. And what the government is saying is: "We can't deliver the vote on this bill. We couldn't deliver it on Bill 167. Therefore, we want to do something that's absolutely unprecedented."
It's never happened in the Legislature before that the government came forward and basically said, "We want a commitment of x number of votes from the opposition and then we'll deal with the bill." That's unprecedented. It's chicken-livered. You don't have the guts to deal with the issue. That's the bottom line.
Ms Haeck: Are you going to vote for it? Some of us sit in the House --
The Chair: Ms Haeck, we have other speakers.
Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): I find it amazing that Mr Murphy would sit there and say, "Let the hearings proceed," and go ahead and say hearings have a virtue in themselves. I agree with that. Last January we sat around this table and around the subcommittee and we had scheduled for hearings to proceed on Bill 45. I had alerted people in my riding that this was the place to come to hear and to be educated on this issue. Then Mr Murphy stands up in the House and doesn't want it to proceed.
Mr Murphy: No. That's not true and you know it.
Ms Harrington: No. I believe the hearings do have virtue and I believe we were right to try to go ahead with it, but you said no.
Mr Murphy: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I had moved a motion to table or defer the vote on this, and I thought that was a non-debatable motion.
The Chair: If you want to debate tabling, we can do that. I felt that if you had a discussion allowing people to be heard, that would take care of it in the end.
Mr Murphy: Is it a debatable motion?
The Chair: As far as we know, it is. Do you want us to deal with your motion of tabling? It was a procedural question.
Mr Murphy: Are we clear that the motion to table the vote on this, to reconsider, is a debatable motion?
The Chair: Yes.
Mr Murphy: Then we might as well have a debate on the substance.
The Chair: But, Mr Murphy, do you want to discuss tabling, which doesn't necessarily deal with Bill 45? It only deals with the other bills, 89, 150, 168. Whether those went ahead or not, it doesn't affect Bill 45.
Mr Murphy: But it does, because we are, as a committee, going to request time to consider the private members' bills we have before us, which includes ours, and I'd prefer, obviously, to have 45 as part of it.
The Chair: You could move an amendment to the motion that would say we deal with Bill 45 as well.
Mr Murphy: I'd prefer to do it on consensus, so I suggest one day so we have a chance to talk and do that.
The Chair: He's moved a motion to table, so we'll debate that motion.
Mr Chiarelli: Table till when?
Mr Murphy: Tomorrow.
Ms Harrington: I would like to conclude my remarks, Mr Chair. I'm sorry, I do have to leave at 4:15, as I have to chair in the House.
It's very clear from my point of view that we cannot go forward on this issue without Mr Murphy convincing his colleagues. We've been through this once, we know where it lies, and he has to do some work within his own caucus.
Mr Chiarelli: Convince the rest of your colleagues.
Mr Malkowski: What we have right here, on the public record, is that you have to accept responsibility for the fact that you did not vote in favour of the bill, so your comments are completely inappropriate. In fact you're misleading the people in the audience. It sounds very much like political posturing and I think it's rather hypocritical. I'm sure the gay and lesbian community is not going to accept the comments you have made. You have not been fair to the gay and lesbian community, and now you're trying to raise false expectations. It's completely unacceptable.
The second point: I would remind both members that I heard very clearly messages coming from your member saying that when 167 was introduced, you said we were mismanagers, that we should never have introduced it the first time. People are going through a grieving process right now. Your comments in the House came out loud and clear.
The third point I would like to make is following up on the comment from the member from St David. You very clearly said that you did not support your own private member's bill when that was up for discussion in January. It's on the record; you clearly said that. You agreed with your own political leader, and it came out very clearly that you were not in support of this.
My fourth point is that Bill 167 was introduced by us because we believed the letter that Lyn McLeod, your leader, wrote, saying they would promise to support such legislation, during your own by-election. It's on the record. It's very clear what she said she would do, rather than did. Now you're sitting here pretending that you two are working very hard, showing how much you care about this issue, how much work you're willing to do on this issue. Those comments are unacceptable.
The Chair: If you don't mind, we need to move through this as cleanly as we can.
Mr Malkowski: The Liberal members, as a group, need to be asked a question, and I'm asking you to stop playing with people's lives, really, because that's what you're doing. You're playing with the emotions of the people in this audience and this community. It's unacceptable, it's reprehensible. I would ask all of you, and challenge you, in fact, to come on, show us, give us the written commitment, the guarantee, that this kind of bill would even be supported before we can reconsider something such as this.
Mr Murphy: Where's your written guarantee? Where's your promise?
The Chair: Hold on, please. I'm trying to give each side the opportunity and the time to speak. We're doing that, and most of you are sill on the list.
Mr Winninger: It's important to go back for a moment to the point in time Mr Chiarelli was referring to, the by-election in St George-St David. That was very instructive of what the professed inclination of the Liberal Party was at that time. We have a letter, we have documentary evidence from the leader of your party expressing her support for -- and she used the word "full" -- full rights for gays and lesbians and urging our government to bring forward legislation to give her and her party the opportunity to support it. It's in the context of that commitment that a certain by-election was won by a certain member in St George-St David.
Mr Murphy, to his credit, brought forward Bill 45, but after that, I have serious doubts about the kind of politics that were being played over this bill and the rights this bill was supposed to represent.
As was said earlier, when I moved the motion -- and I believe it was last December -- to have hearings in January on Bill 45, Mr Murphy got up and walked out, and I believe other members of the --
Mr Murphy: That's not true, David.
Mr Winninger: We have it in Hansard.
Mr Murphy: Exactly. Don't lie on the record, David.
Mr Winninger: Excuse me. You walked out --
Mr Winninger: Can I complete this, Mr Chair?
The Chair: I would prefer that you did that.
Mr Winninger: There were witnesses to Mr Murphy and other opposition members walking out. The fact of the matter is, in Hansard you will see our government votes recorded, showing support for my motion to bring this matter forward for hearings.
Mr Murphy: Why don't you do it now?
Mr Winninger: It's quite clear why we wanted to bring Bill 45 forward for hearings. We did, as Mr Murphy indicated earlier, want to do some education around this issue with the public, wanted to hear what the public had to say, wanted to ensure there was support for this bill, both within and without government, so we could move the legislation forward and finally confer upon gays and lesbians the equal rights they deserve.
The fact of the matter is that after that motion was passed by our government members, Mr Murphy's House leader met with the other House leaders, and from that point on, those hearings could never take place.
So for Mr Murphy now, after the defeat of Bill 167, for which his party was instrumental in only delivering three out of however many votes were there -- and I disagree with Mr Chiarelli when he suggests that we ambushed the opposition. Quite frankly, the galleries were full of spectators. The entire Liberal caucus was there, except for one or two members, which is an infrequent occurrence, to put it at its best. The third party of course voted against the bill, and they made that clear from the start. But what I cannot stomach personally is a party, the opposition, playing politics with this, and now that they were instrumental in the defeat of Bill 167, coming forward and saying, "Maybe now's the time to bring forward Bill 45 for hearings." After all, they couldn't vote for it last December, when it would have been really valuable.
So what we say to the opposition, and I said it earlier, is this: Give us some assurances that Bill 45 has support from your caucus. We don't want to put the gay and lesbian community through this trauma again. I think it should be self-evident that you can't rewrite history. This revisionism just won't work. The gay and lesbian community out there, not to mention the government, realize what the opposition is up to. If they genuinely support Bill 45, let's see some assurances, because all the evidence we have thus far, and most recently on the weekend from your whip, is that there is no support other than six soft votes, excluding your whip.
Why should we bring this matter forward for hearings unless we know there's a purpose? We can't play another charade with human rights. Forgive me if I seem a little emotional on this topic, but I, like others, have been through the wringer, and I feel that the Liberal Party has engineered a lot of the suffering we've gone through. If they could only be upfront, at least like the Conservatives, to give them credit -- even though I can't, because they opposed this important legislation -- if they could only be upfront like the Tories, we could spare ourselves a lot of the pain. Mr Chiarelli was right when he said that the gay and lesbian community has been very badly served, but the authors of their misfortune are the Liberals, not this government. So let's see your assurances; then we can move forward.
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): We've talked a little about the past history here in terms of Bill 167, but it's also the comments the Liberal leader made during the debate on 167. She said very clearly, "I no longer see it as a priority to bring forward legislation, either in this term or" -- and she said if she were to form a government she wouldn't bring it forward.
I understand Mr Murphy has a problem. He ran on the issue. He brought in the legislation. He thought his leader supported him and his party supported him. His leader and his party have sold him out and now he's in a very difficult situation. He wants to see how to go forward. But given the comments of the leader of the official opposition during the debate on Bill 167 indicating that she doesn't want to go forward with legislation if she were to become the Premier, and given the comment of your whip last week on Focus Ontario, I don't see why Mr Murphy would be surprised that we're reluctant to go through this exercise again.
If he can't show documented proof in terms of signed letters, all the members of his caucus who are going to support this bill, what is the purpose of going through it, other than an exercise to try and help Mr Murphy himself? I understand his reasons for doing that, trying to be the sharp politician that he is -- or has been. But in terms of the greater interest of moving the issue forward, until some type of commitment is expressed by a significant number of Liberal members of this Legislature, I really can't see the merit in going forward with this process.
The unfortunate reality is that Mr Murphy, with I think all degree of credibility and integrity and commitment to the issue, moved forward on it, and he thought he had the support of his leader and he thought he had the support of his party. The government brought forward its own legislation, thought it had the support of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party. When there were concerns expressed, the government was willing to make amendments. Liberal leader Lyn McLeod and the Liberals said, "No, that's not good enough." So now Mr Murphy thinks that just on his good word alone -- he doesn't have the support of his caucus or his leader -- we should be willing to go forward with this with some sense that it's going to have a chance of passing.
Well, it's very clear that the track record is that the Liberals keep changing their minds on this issue, Lyn McLeod keeps changing her mind on this issue. Quite frankly, they do not have any credibility at this stage on the issue of same-sex benefits. Mr Murphy has credibility, he's been consistent, but his party and his leader, Lyn McLeod, do not have credibility on this issue, and it's asking a lot to expect the government to simply rely on the word of Mr Murphy when he's been sold out by his leader, Lyn McLeod.
Ms Zanana L. Akande (St Andrew-St Patrick): For me, this really isn't about who introduced what bill and when. It isn't about the time of the vote either, being Thursday or being Wednesday or whenever it was. This is about promises and ethics, because at the end of the day, this is about the realities of people's lives. In the House last week we have really done ourselves the greatest disservice we could have done: We have refused to support the rights of people.
We talked about public hearings being a time for discussion. I want to tell you, discussion is happening right now, every day, on subways, in buses, wherever you go. People are discussing the issue. It's about time people discussed the issue and discussed it with real information, real facts and real knowledge about what parenting really means. It's not about whether it's gays or lesbians, or what a husband and wife is; it's about people caring, about children.
It's being discussed. It's late. For some people it's late, but I have to tell you that it's better late than never. What remains for us to do now, because we can't guarantee the votes -- after all the political manoeuvring and manipulation, of which I have never been a fan, it turns out once again that real people are missing their real rights.
What I think we can do is to let the discussion continue, and maybe at some later time, with some later composition of a group in the government that will be more supportive, we will have our rights. But I can't believe that it serves anyone any good at this time to bring this bill into the Legislature again or to spend this kind of aggravating moment while people are pushed from one side to the other like ping-pong balls.
I think it's unfortunate. If there were a time that we could guarantee that the Liberals, that people would support it, that we would have a sufficient number, I would be the first one to say, "Let's bring it in again," but it isn't going to happen, is it? It isn't going to happen. So let's all stop agonizing with these people, and say, "The votes aren't there and you aren't going to have your rights this time."
Mr Murphy: I agree with Ms Akande that the discussion is happening. I suppose that is the one small virtue of what happened in the Legislature in the last few weeks, that discussions are happening in places all across the province. I think that can only be beneficial in the long run.
To respond to some of the specific comments, in terms of a guarantee, I'm not sure how that makes any sense to me in the context of this. The truth is, I don't know what the votes are going to be. I suspect you don't know what your votes are going to be. My sense from the debate is that there are quite a few Liberals who are supportive of benefits; they want to have the debate about the mechanism to do it. Some of what was clear during the debate on 167 was that the concerns others expressed -- not me, because I voted for 167 and spoke in favour of it -- were around adoption and the redefinition of "family," and that a mechanism that paid benefits and didn't run into those problems might be supportable by them.
I think it's an odd argument that Ms Akande is making to say we should allow the discussion to proceed in the public venue, but we as legislators, as the representatives of the people, shouldn't discuss it while the public is discussing it. Those two things can happen at the same time. They aren't mutually exclusive, although some in the public would think they are.
What I haven't heard is any sense of what the government's vote is going to be. In theory, every Liberal could vote for my private member's bill and that wouldn't pass it, because there are presumably 22 Conservatives who'd vote against it, and then it's up to you guys. It's up to you. We have seen that 12 members of your party voted against 167, voted against it despite the argument you made about the promise of amendments. My sense from what I've seen subsequently is that there are even more people within your caucus who wouldn't vote for 45 as a result of the debate. It may not be true. I see someone shaking his head, but I don't know. I can only interpret what I see in the press so far and what I hear in conversations in the hallway. I saw, as I referred to earlier, Steve Owens's comment that he wouldn't vote for it.
It's an odd thing. Mr Winninger referred to hearings earlier. What I had tried to seek from the government then and could never get at that point in time was a commitment to passing Bill 45 or an indication that it was going to do its own bill. I could get neither. However, the committee did vote for having hearings, without any request for a guarantee. The government members sat there, without any of these shenanigans, and said, "Let's have hearings." I'm not sure I understand why you can't do that now.
I think we should consider 45, and I want to amend the subcommittee report to say we should consider 45. I'm withdrawing my motion to table and moving that amendment.
Mr Chiarelli: I want to say something very simple and straightforward. It's unprecedented in a majority government for the government to blame the opposition for non-passage of a bill. Very, very simple.
Mr Sutherland: Your leader was on the record as supporting it. That's the reality. Your leader changed her mind.
Mr Chiarelli: Somebody said to the Liberal Party that we should be upfront. Some voted in favour, some voted against. On the government side, some voted in favour, some voted against. The numbers, the percentages, were different. They were on different sides of the issue. However, it is unprecedented in a majority government for the government to blame the opposition for non-passage of a bill.
If you look at what Ms Akande is saying, I tend to agree with her. It can involve the government or it can not involve the government. Preferably, it should involve the government.
In my opinion, this debate, the way Bill 167 was introduced, caught a lot of people off guard and by surprise.
Mr Sutherland: Come on. You knew it was coming.
Mr Chiarelli: You knew maybe a week or two before. But let me make my point, because I'm basically trying to point out to people on both sides of the issue that a lot of us have been shortchanged, from this perspective. When I talk to my children, my adult children, four of them, ages 17 to 29, they support Bill 167 and they say, "Dad, why don't you vote for 167?" I say to them, I have a moral problem with that particular issue -- a political problem.
Mr Chiarelli: If the people in the audience would be patient and hear me out, maybe there could be some understanding. Maybe you have a friend sitting here and you don't know it. Just listen.
I'm saying that there are issues involved which need some dialogue and need some understanding. I represent a riding that has the second-largest number of senior citizens of any riding in the country. This issue to a large extent is generational. I'm sitting here as an MPP, and I've got to say to myself, if 85% or 90% of my riding are opposed to Bill 167 or Bill 45 and yet I sense that there is some area for legislating and some area for bridging the gap, I would like to be able to do that. I would want to have town hall meetings in my riding and I would want to get both parties together and try to deal with it.
In most major pieces of legislation, I have that opportunity. I did not have the opportunity with Bill 167.
Mr Chiarelli: I'm simply saying to you that that may be a very valid point to get out there and debate.
The Chair: Mr Chiarelli, please. If you address the people at the back, it'll be very difficult.
Mr Chiarelli: Mr Chair, the people who are sitting there want to dialogue and they want to express some feelings, and they do that in a way that perhaps is not appropriate. I feel it's appropriate that I should be able to talk to them as I could talk to my constituents.
The fact of the matter is, when I look at the question of adoption, I say maybe it's a good idea, maybe it's a bad idea. I don't have any evidence from psychiatrists or psychologists before me. I want to study it and look at it from a realistic, objective point of view. I want to sit down with that evidence and talk to my kids and I want to talk to the senior citizens in my riding. If it's a black-and-white situation, then there's no chance for dialogue.
If the government had brought forward a process for proper dialogue so I could talk to people on both sides of the issue, could fulfil my responsibilities as an MPP, could talk to the senior citizens, could have an opportunity to explain what my thinking is, could have an opportunity to explain what the other side's thinking was, there may have been room for amendments and compromise etc. But to bring it in on a Thursday and vote on it two weeks later on second reading was totally inappropriate from a process point of view. That's my thinking.
Mr Malkowski: I would like to remind you, Mr Chiarelli, that you said your riding is the second-largest population of seniors in Canada. Actually, you're wrong. My riding has the second-largest number of seniors, East York. Maybe you're joking on that one, but you again seem to be playing political games even with those facts.
I accepted responsibility, some leadership responsibility, to educate the population in my riding, many of whom are seniors. I voted on 167 in favour. Where is your responsibility? Did you not take a leadership role to educate seniors about the needs and rights of gay and lesbian people, or are you now just using that to play another game?
I want to make sure it's on the record. Mr Chiarelli, the gay and lesbian community know you voted against Bill 167. They network throughout this whole province. They know you could have accepted responsibility, and instead, what you're going to now do is accept the consequences. You are obviously an expert; you as a lawyer are very knowledgeable. You knew of what you spoke, yet where is your accountability? Where is your credibility? Where were you being accountable in terms of showing leadership in your riding and speaking out on human rights issues as opposed to playing political games? This whole stuff is not acceptable.
In terms of the comments made by the member for St George-St David, you did not support Bill 45 in January, and now we're hearing a lot of very ambiguous comments coming from the member. I think you should come out very directly and admit what you actually did. The Liberal leader was saying on the record, when it suited her, that she would be supportive. Suddenly, she changes her mind. Now, suddenly, you're talking about concerns about adoption also. We were actually willing to make the amendments that were needed just before the vote. We said we would reconsider that, would make amendments to the issues the Liberals said were their biggest concerns, and now suddenly, "Oh, it wasn't the adoption issue that was the problem; there was some other problem." The bottom line is that the Liberal Party has to now accept the responsibility that you opposed the bill, you denied the rights of gay and lesbian people in this province, and you are responsible and accountable for that.
I have some instructions for you: You had best go back and meet with your own caucus members and speak to the gay and lesbian community. I think they need to be lobbying Liberal members to reconsider their stand on this issue, because they did not vote in favour of 167 and I don't think they would vote in favour of Bill 45.
We've still heard no specific commitment even from the member for St George-St David. You're saying: "Well, I can't guarantee. I can't speak for sure about how many people would vote." We have nothing in terms of a real guarantee. Show us something in writing, and show that same commitment to the gay and lesbian community. I haven't heard that; I have not seen a commitment or heard that from you.
How dare you bring up this bill when you know full well that you are not going to be able to get support from your own members? How dare you do this again? You're just playing games with the lives of gay and lesbian people, and it's unacceptable.
Your job should have been to educate your own members and bring gay and lesbian people to meet with the caucus members in the Liberal Party who were opposed to it, just as we did. We tried to educate each other. There were people in the NDP caucus who were opposed, and we tried to make sure they were educated. You should've been working with the gay and lesbian community to make people on your side reconsider their vote.
We in fact did get some people to reconsider it, and I'd love to see another government bill come through if we could guarantee that the Liberals would reconsider. But I'd have to know that 167 would be able to go through, because it was a much more comprehensive bill than 45.
You go back to your own caucus. Reconsider what you've done and show us some written commitment, because that's basically the bottom line, and it's what the gay and lesbian community want to see also.
I'd remind both of you that in the next election, when you start talking about playing political games, remember that this isn't a game. This is a human rights issue.
Come on, show Ontario that there is a place for standards, respect and tolerance. We've done it. Now it's your turn. You guys were the ones that screwed up the efforts of the government and destroyed that effort, and shame on you. Shame on you.
Ms Haeck: I wanted to comment on the impression that somehow, all of a sudden at this juncture, we would need far-reaching public hearings. I have to say to my colleagues on the committee that I would be surprised if your office were unlike mine, in that from the time Mr Murphy's bill was introduced, my office regularly received letters and phone calls from people opposed to his bill. It was also relating to Bill 55 from the human rights critic for the Tory party.
Mr Winninger: And 56.
Ms Haeck: And 56, so we ended up with a whole range of letters from people in my constituency and beyond who had already started a campaign to defeat the bill. That is not to suggest that there aren't elements within St Catharines-Brock that support it. I happen to know that there are. I met with people pro and con the issue, people in the AIDS Committee of Niagara, people who may be known to some of the people here in the gallery.
The reality is, for Mr Murphy or Mr Chiarelli to all of a sudden say that somehow people are unaware of the issues and now need to have this large debate, that they were unaware of what was happening, I would say is exceedingly wrong.
We have media people present who can probably clarify the point about how many times their respective media organs discussed the issue. I am aware, as well as you are, that it was often discussed. It is nothing new.
For you to portray that you did not have the opportunity, in light of the time frame, particularly from the Liberal caucus -- in fact, Bill 45 was out there. Your caucus members knew it was there. Mr Chiarelli definitely could've had meetings in his riding. In fact, with the number of Liberal members who are sitting --
Mr Chiarelli: Not on 167.
Ms Haeck: Is it 167 and 45, Mr Chiarelli? There are legal experts who say they are very much the same.
Mr Chiarelli: There's a big difference between 45 and 167.
Ms Haeck: There are definitely differences of opinion about what is included in those bills, and that is something that may in the end be open for legal challenges.
As I have House duty on Thursday mornings, and in fact am one of those people who actually does their House duty on Thursday mornings, my recollection is that Ms McLeod voted in favour of your bill, Mr Murphy, on second reading. I took some heart in that, because I have made it clear to my constituents that I was supporting Bill 45 and also Bill 167 and would continue to support, if we had the support of your caucus.
I'll tell you why I remember the date. It happens that your leader wrote her letter to my leader on my birthday, which was March 9, saying, "There are all the good things we're going to do for the people who make up a large part of your community," in fact, where I live in Toronto, the people who are my neighbours, who I very clearly see and have made friends with over the last several years. She definitely led me to believe there was some support within your caucus. I know we had 81% support within our own. You didn't even come close.
I know from people not only in Ontario but people outside of Ontario who watch this that they are sorely dismayed at the antics that took place at second reading for 167, particularly from your caucus. There was a lot of hope, and personally I was very disappointed that we lost 167, because it would have meant a lot to people in my riding, not just here in Toronto but it would have meant a lot to people in my riding. I just find it despicable that we're using this as a tennis ball for your political aims.
It is my opinion that you are using this as an emotional football, which I consider unfair to an awful lot of people. You can't deliver and you're trying to insinuate that other people are playing games with you, and that is far from the case. You deliver and I'll vote for it. You can't do it. I will tell you, I will vote for your bill if it comes back into the House, but so far you folks have not delivered, time and time again. Until you guys get your act together -- and you haven't proved it, time and again. My comments are finished.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'm going to make my comments very brief. I'll support Bill 45 in this format and I'll support it in any format so long as it advances the rights of people. Simple. But what I need to get and what I want to get from you is some sense from your caucus of where you guys are going to be on this thing. If you're prepared to come back to this member and other members and indicate that the Liberal caucus will support this bill, not in a majority, but enough numbers to be able to make this pass --
Mr Murphy: How do I know? I don't even know what your numbers are.
Mr Bisson: Take the math from the last vote and figure it out from there. That's what I'm telling you. If you're able to do that, this government is prepared to support that bill. It really hurts me at this point, because all I see right now is a little bit of game-playing going on. Bring it back, give me some support, and we will come back with you.
Mr Murphy: How many numbers do you need?
Mr Bisson: Do the math from the last vote. You know the numbers. It's a matter of record.
Mr Murphy: I have no idea.
Mr Bisson: Look into the Hansard of two weeks ago, Mr Murphy, and you will see the numbers. Figure it out from there, bring those numbers over, and we will have ourselves a bill. Simple.
The Chair: We have no further speakers on this matter. We'll be voting on Mr Murphy's amendment. He withdrew the tabling of this motion, so we're now dealing with an amendment that would say "Mr Murphy moved that the committee request the House to authorize the committee to consider Bill 45 over the summer recess." Any discussion on this?
The Chair: Formerly we were dealing with tabling. Then Mr Murphy, along the way, moved a different kind of amendment. Assuming we've had enough debate -- Mr Winninger, did you have your hand up?
Mr Winninger: Perhaps we can deal with Mr Murphy's amendment first and then I can suggest a further amendment.
The Chair: Very well. Did you want to move some amendments to this amendment here or are you suggesting a different kind of amendment?
Mr Winninger: I was going to move what I consider a friendly amendment, that we proceed to have hearings on Bill 45 when the Liberal Party delivers us the assurances that we described earlier, the assurances that they can command sufficient votes so that we can ensure the success of your bill.
Mr Murphy: That's not a friendly amendment. That's cheap politics.
Mr Winninger: Not at all. Hearings by themselves will not achieve the results that Bill 45 is seeking.
The Chair: If he moves that as an amendment, we can have others speak to the issue. We would be dealing with his amendment and would be talking to that. Mr Winninger, are you moving that as an amendment to the amendment?
Mr Winninger: I'm going to withdraw that amendment, and I'll be bringing my own motion once we deal with that amendment.
The Chair: Very well. We're ready for the vote.
All in favour of Mr Murphy's amendment? Opposed? That amendment is defeated.. Mr Winninger, do you have a different motion to move?
Mr Winninger: I was going to move that we deal with the three bills the subcommittee reported on and defer consideration of Bill 45.
The Chair: There is at the moment no motion other than Ms Haeck's motion, which is to deal with Bills 89, 151 and 168 --
Mr Charles Harnick (Willowdale): Excuse me. Can you tell me what those are without the numbers, what the bills do?
The Chair: Do we have a copy to show him so I can explain in the meantime what I was just saying?
Mr Harnick: I have Bill 89. Give me the other two numbers.
The Chair: Bills 151 and 168. Mr Harnick, could you just read that to yourself for a second?
Mr Winninger, I was just going to explain that it's hard to defer something that isn't before us.
Mr Chiarelli: On a point of order, Mr Chair: What's on the agenda now? Is there a motion before us?
The Chair: We have Ms Haeck's motion that this committee deal with Bills 89, 151 and 168 over the summer recess and that we request two weeks from the House leader to do this.
The Chair: If you continue with that, we'll have to recess. We're going to have to recess if you do that for much longer.
Before us we have this motion. I should point out to everybody, as the Chair, that Bill 45 could come back to us. This is the only motion that we have before us. There's nothing else to say to that.
Ms Haeck moves that Bills 89 and 151 and 168 be dealt with over the summer recess and that we request two weeks from the House leader. All in favour of this motion?
The Chair: It's not going to help us.
We're ready with the motion. All in favour of Ms Haeck's motion? Opposed? That motion carries.
We're now going to recess for a few moments. After that, we'll come back to this committee to deal with the other matter that was before us. This committee is recessed for a few moments.
The committee recessed from 1700 to 1704.
The Chair: I call this meeting back to order. After some discussion, I think there is a sense from people that we should adjourn and deal with the other matter tomorrow. This committee is adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1705.