Wednesday 27 November 1996



Chair / Président: Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington PC)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)

*Mr TedArnott (Wellington PC)

*Mr RickBartolucci (Sudbury L)

*Mr DaveBoushy (Sarnia PC)

*Mr TonyClement (Brampton South / -Sud PC)

Mr CarlDefaria (Mississauga East / -Est PC)

*Mr BillGrimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay / Muskoka-Baie-Georgienne PC)

*Mr JohnHastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)

*Mr RonJohnson (Brantford PC)

*Mr FrankMiclash (Kenora L)

*Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East / -Est L)

*Mr John R. O'Toole (Durham East / -Est PC)

*Mr TonySilipo (Dovercourt ND)

*Mr R. GaryStewart (Peterborough PC)

*Mr BudWildman (Algoma ND)

*In attendance /présents

Clerk / Greffière: Ms Lisa Freedman

Staff / Personnel: Mr Philip Kaye, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1547 in room 228.


The Chair (Mr Ted Arnott): We are continuing our work on the issue of referendums which was referred to us by the government some time ago. As members know, we're working today towards writing a report that we would table in the Legislature.

By way of introduction, I want to indicate to the committee members what I intend to do as Chair in this meeting. First and foremost is to recognize Mr Clement, who's the whip for the governing party on this committee, to report back his findings after discussing this issue with his caucus; then in turn recognize the opposition caucuses to report in general terms what the discussion was at their caucus meeting; then hopefully we will turn to the research paper that was prepared for us by Philip Kaye. I hope every member of the committee has a copy of it because it's the structure I intend to follow with the various questions and issues that have to be resolved, and we'll have a specific discussion on these various issues as we work towards a report.

Before I start on that I draw to the committee members' attention a paper prepared by Susan Swift, research officer, in response to a question that Mr Silipo had concerning municipal and local boards' power to conduct referenda. I hope that satisfies any questions committee members may have had.

I turn now to Mr Clement for an explanation of the position of the government on this issue in general terms.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I can report to the committee that my colleagues on this committee from the government side were able to have a discussion of, I think, considerable importance to the caucus at the last meeting of the government caucus. We were able to derive some further direction from the caucus on some issues that were left a bit open-ended, I suppose, at our first go-round in September. I should also report that we are continuing to canvass our caucus on some specific issues although we got enough direction, even on those issues, to bring to the table for this afternoon.

The caucus generally was in favour of a system of participatory democracy which would involve both referenda, as mandated by the government, and citizens' initiatives. I derived some quite specific instructions on thresholds of signatures closer to the 10% end rather than the 5% end of the population so we could get some direction that way.

The general consensus seemed to be against a geographic splitting of the province in terms of signature requirements, but we are continuing to canvass on that. That seemed to be the effect of the discussion we had in caucus.

The consensus of caucus was that recall was a separate issue that should be dealt with separately. They directed us not to make it a part of the final report of this committee.

The general opinion I got was that we were trying to balance the benefits of referendums with some thresholds that would allow us to ensure that referendums would be used as a tool for a canvassing of genuine political opinion rather than having a situation that would make it easy for minority opinions to capture the process. So there was an interest in some checks and balances primarily through the thresholds.

Local and regional referenda: There was no problem seen in that way.

Campaign regulation: I'm still canvassing opinions on that one in terms of advertising, spending and contribution limits. Perhaps some of my colleagues can help me out here, whether they derived a consensus that I didn't see on that one. We're continuing to canvass our caucus on the applicability of contribution limits, spending limits, advertising limits in a referendum campaign. I would have to say that was the only issue we were unable to derive a clear consensus on.

Generally, however, the view of the caucus, just to reiterate, is that at a time when political institutions have been delegitimized through the passage of time and through recent Canadian political history, the PC caucus, the government caucus, sees referendums, when used in the proper context and with proper thresholds, as a way to relegitimize the political process in general, and that this could provide an excellent way for parliamentarians who are still, shall we say, front and centre in terms of day-to-day management of parliamentary democracy in Ontario, an additional means of being representative and legitimate representatives of the people of Ontario.

With that background, they have directed the government members of this committee to press on ahead with referendum legislation.

The Chair: I'll turn now to the Liberal caucus. Do you have any comments relative to Mr Clement's introduction?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): We had an extensive discussion at caucus with regard to this item. It's the feeling of our caucus that in general we support the idea of referenda. However, we have some serious concerns with regard to signature threshold. We have serious concerns that there be no geographical threshold. We see that as being critical. We have some concern with regard to the responsibility for drafting the referenda question. We see an independent commission, from past experiences of members of the opposition, as certainly being suspect, at best. We're concerned about the wording of referenda. We're concerned about the government's direction with regard to the formulation of passage, timing, voting mechanisms and how they're going to be implemented. We're concerned about the campaign regulations and the frequency of agendas.

Because of all the concerns we have we struck a committee of caucus to spend some additional time doing research, using the data we already have but also doing additional research, because we'd like to come up with a report that clearly shows that the general concept is not one we want to oppose. But we want to ensure that its usage is maximized to its full potential and for the reason we hope the government wants to institute referenda.

Anything else, Gilles?

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): No, that's it.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Let me say, before outlining where I think my caucus is on this, that I appreciate Mr Clement's taking us through both the last meeting and today on where the government caucus is on the issues they have determined to date. It was certainly useful in our caucus discussion of at least one of the points he mentioned today, where there has been clarification and I think a bit of a change on where he had read the threshold to be. I think that's an important factor as well, which may have some impact on that aspect of the issue. I don't know. I don't want to prejudge my caucus on this, as you will see from my comments.

In terms of where we are on this, I have to tell you we had a fairly interesting discussion in our caucus and a sense that there needs to be further talk within caucus before coming up with firm and final positions on all these points, but I can tell you, from where we are at this point, that we have been, I think historically, and continue to be in favour of the general use of referenda, seeing them as a tool of democratic expression but one that we believe is best used on major issues of concern to the public and never to be seen as a replacement for the parliamentary process, which we certainly believe needs to continue to be there and strengthened in a number of ways.

We see that in certain key areas of public policy it may be wise to turn to referenda, but how and when that's determined we think should not be the subject of referenda. One of the points that we have a significant disagreement with the government caucus on in this is, and I think Mr Clement last time outlined constitutional issues and new taxes as being two areas. and saying that the government members feel that in those areas there should be a legislative requirement to hold referenda. We would disagree with that.

We think you should not legislate on what issues referenda should be held, that as they relate to the government side of the issue they are part of the judgement call that any government has to make if they feel that a certain issue is of such importance that it warrants a referendum, as did the last constitutional accord, as one key example. That's one issue where I can say categorically we would be opposed with respect to where the government is going.

With respect to the notion of citizen-initiated referenda, I can tell you that one has raised a lot of questions in our discussions. I think it's fair to say that at this point in time at least there is general opposition to that coming not from the notion of being against the use of referenda in that sense, but primarily because of a lot of concerns that it generates, and we talked about some of these the last time around, one of the major ones being the question of a small group of people being able to hijack the process in terms of generating discussion, starting a process. This is where I think the threshold question becomes key, so perhaps the move from 5% to 10% may have some impact on that. That's an issue I certainly would like to have further discussions on with my caucus, because I think the 10% is perhaps a more useful threshold if there were going to be such as thing as citizen-initiated referenda.

The other major issue, and I know we talked about this last time as well, in terms of the worry that we have around citizen-initiated referenda, is around the whole question of minority rights. I know Mr Clement outlined in his presentation last time ways in which he believes that could be addressed in terms of the need for legislation and the fact that legislation could not be passed, that it would be contrary to the charter.

I think there was some question in our minds about whether that's sufficient, and there were also some questions going beyond just the basic protections that are in the charter, which are obviously key ones, as to whether there are other aspects of minority rights that are not picked up in those protections that we would be concerned with.

That's another reason why we have some hesitation around this notion of citizen-initiated referenda, but as I say, it's something I would like to be able to continue to have some discussions with people on and look at whether the change in threshold has an impact on that.


In terms of other major issues, we also would want to have some clarity and would have some concerns around the question of costs that any referenda would involve and therefore believe that's an issue that needs to be considered in this report and I think would have some impact upon what recommendations we make as to the timing and the frequency of referenda. As we heard in our deliberations, we are talking, even with permanent voters' lists, at millions of dollars every time a referendum is held, and I think that's an issue that needs to concern us as to how you balance that off against the expansion of rights that people are wanting to give citizens to be able to express themselves.

We also need to be clear in our minds about the notion of province-wide versus regional application of referenda. I'm not sure if I understood correctly Mr Clement's points on that in terms of how that would be dealt with in this. That's maybe just something we need some further clarification on.

Although, to be honest, we didn't get into a lot of discussion on this and this is something we also would need some further discussion on, there's the whole gamut of rules that would apply in referenda, going from whether there should be a commission separate and apart from the elections commission to govern and apply the rules to all of the financing rules that would apply etc. Those are issues that we need to also be addressing as we deal with this.

The last point I would make is that we take the position that there are a number of concerns that were raised during both the hearings and discussion on this topic that we think need to be addressed. We don't presume they should be addressed in this report in an in-depth way, but I think we would be remiss if we didn't talk about all of the issues that had to do with political parliamentary reform that were flagged, because they too are tools, we believe, that go to the heart of the matter that, as we understand it, the thrust on referenda is trying to achieve, which is to increase participatory democracy.

More than one person who spoke to us, indeed even one or two government members, as I recall, talked about the usefulness of increasing the role of individual MPPs as one key step that could be taken in a far less expensive way than holding referenda to increase participatory democracy. We think in that context it's an issue that can't be omitted from this discussion. As I say, we don't presume that we could get in this report into an in-depth analysis of those, but at least a flagging that those are key issues that need to be addressed.

On a personal note, if I had my way, we would be talking about those as part of the other piece of legislation that another one of our committees is dealing with around the new electoral boundaries and the reduction of MPPs. But be that as it may, it remains an outstanding issue that not just I but my caucus feel needs to be addressed, that whole notion of how to improve the system along those lines.

That's essentially where we are at this point. You can see that on the basic notion, we're supportive. We have some concerns at this point that I would have to categorize as opposition to citizen-initiated referenda, although as I say, I think the question of the change of threshold that the government members are suggesting may have some impact on that, and a number of other issues that we would require some more discussion on.

The Chair: Mr Hastings, did you want to add something to this initial discussion?

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): There are two questions I'd like to ask whether our research officer could undertake. One is terms of all the aspects of protecting the rights of minorities in Ontario, whether any provincial governments have ever referenced a question to their supreme courts regarding this type of situation, like the feds have -- I can't remember the issue where they posed a question to the Supreme Court of Canada. It eludes me what it was. It's only in the last two years. I'd like to know whether that would be possible, if there's been any specific reference of issues in or outside of the referenda context.

The second question I have is, what was the outcome of the feds -- maybe this is the issue that was referenced to the Supreme Court -- on maximum cost by third parties of advertising pro or con on an issue? I guess in terms of the 1992 Charlottetown question, it seems to me there was a question that arose that was referenced to the Supreme Court on that, because the National Citizens' Coalition may have been one of the groups that were impacted one way or the other by spending; also, whether you could go after candidates in an election.

Those would be the two questions I would have as to whether we could get some guidance from the Ontario Supreme Court in terms of what they would see as the concerns we may have if we go with referenda legislation on enhancing and protecting minority rights, all the aspects of it, whether in fact a provincial government can do that. I don't know.

The Chair: We'll endeavour to get answers for you as soon as possible on those questions.

I'd indicated earlier in terms of the way we proceed from here. We may want to discuss that again very briefly in light of the fact that what I think I've heard is there's a certain amount of common ground between all three parties, but there are also some fairly substantial differences in opinion among the three parties. What I had suggested earlier was that we would go through Philip's framework point by point and have discussion on each point, but perhaps there may be a better way to do it from here on in. I'd ask our clerk, Lisa, to explain whatever options we might have and see how the committee members feel as to how we go from here. Lisa, if you would speak to this point.

Clerk of the Committee (Lisa Freedman): There are a number of options in terms of procedurally writing the report. The bottom line is it's up to the committee how they want to write the report. But generally when you're in a situation where there is some agreement but not total agreement, the committee does one of two things. Where there is agreement, you would see a line that, "The committee recommends that...." and that would be contained where the agreement is. Where there isn't agreement, one of two things can happen. Either the committee can say, "The committee has no recommendation here but wants to highlight the following points," or the following concerns, and if that's not acceptable to the committee, then ultimately someone would have to put forward a position that would be debatable that would contain the wishes of the committee. Ultimately, you need some committee report out of this.

Mr Clement: Could I just ask a question? When we have contrary opinions on the table, are they put to a vote? Is that how you decide what the majority or minority opinion is?

Clerk of the Committee: That's where one of two things has happened. In some committees, if there are contrary opinions on the table. they've decided not to go forward with a recommendation, but just to say, "The committee has no recommendation on this issue but had the following concerns," and it would outline the two sides. Ultimately, if you want one recommendation, someone's going to have to move a motion with a recommendation that would be adopted by the committee.

Mr Clement: That sounds a bit cumbersome to me. Obviously we have a whole framework of views on this particular topic, which is a big topic, and I would think it would be cumbersome for myself or my colleagues to move motions on each particular sentence of our point of view. Let me know if this is out of line, but I would prefer if we could go through Philip's report, question 1 being the first topic, or part 1. We can outline differing views on part 1 and then put those concepts as articulated -- presumably there are at least two views on part 1 -- to a vote of the committee. That's how you determine whether the body of language in favour of a particular point of view on part 1 or against it would be the majority or the minority. I'm not sure whether I'm articulating it properly, but do you see what I'm trying to say?

Clerk of the Committee: Yes, and procedurally, as long the committee knew what it was voting on, clearly had some question on the floor and knew what it was voting on, there wouldn't be a problem with that.

The Chair: It's going to be complicated.


Clerk of the Committee: There is one other option that one committee did follow, and in terms of how procedurally correct it was, they decided to do it. They were in a similar situation where they were coming up with three different points of view, although there was some agreement, and the majority report of the committee simply said, "The report of the committee is contained in the following three appendices." There was an appendix from each party. So people could choose which one they wanted, and that was done on a pre-budget consultation because they could not agree.

Mr Clement: It's kind of wishy-washy. I think it is possible to crystallize -- I'm just looking at part 1 now -- the scope of referendum legislation. I can crystallize that in a motion, but I wouldn't want it just to be a standalone motion as part of the report; I'd like some reasoning both pro and con so that those who are against my particular articulation of how to deal with part 1 also have in the minority report -- or the majority report, depending on how the vote goes -- their point of view articulated as well. We can crystallize it in motions as long as there are opinions that are also part of the body of the report.

The Chair: It's getting to be very complicated. Mr Wildman is next, and then Mr Morin.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Father Wildman.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): No, there's no white collar there.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): He meant that you're old enough to be his father.

Mr Wildman: That may be. I don't know.

I just was going to point out that normally, in trying to arrive at a report to the assembly, the practice is that we attempt to come up with a consensus wording, and it's only when it becomes obvious that a consensus is not possible that you end up in a situation where there may be minority reports and you end up having to vote one way or the other. If the minority then has lost, the option is open to the minority to submit a minority report or not. That means somehow coming up with wording for answers to these questions which we can talk about, to which we can say, "Yes, we can agree with this" or "No, we suggest some wording changes; is that acceptable?" and so on, and go back and forth until we get some kind of consensus or it becomes obvious that a consensus is not possible. That means we have to at some point either have the researcher prepare proposed answers or the three cauci --

Interjection: "Cauci"?

Mr Wildman: -- produce proposed wording and then see if there are areas where they are in agreement.

The Chair: Thank you for that contribution.

Mr Morin: I'll tell you what I feel. In writing a report such as this, it is extremely important that it's well thought out, well balanced, that all of us agree on many things. I feel we're rushing into it, honestly. I've talked to my own party. Quite a few of my own members are possibly not informed enough of what referenda are all about and also what they are going to do in the future.

I would recommend that we give it some more thought, that we give more time for our own members to look into that, because there could be some very serious repercussions on what we're about to introduce. I'm not trying to delay things. I'm just trying to say: Stop. Think. Let's know for sure where we're going. Let's know for sure what we plan to bring, what we plan to implement, because what we're preparing now is a document that will serve many other governments if it's well prepared. But let me tell you that if it's not well done, we're going to pay the price for it.

That's what I suggest: that we give more time to this report, that we go back to our own members and let them know what the implications are, because let me assure you that if it's not well done and that tool is given in the wrong hands, a lot of damage can be done. That is not our function as members. I think as members our responsibility is to make sure that we have harmony, make sure that we can communicate well with the citizens, that we know what we are getting involved in. This is what I feel. I feel that we are going too fast and it's too important an issue just to rush at it and give an opinion which is not well-thought-out or well planned.

Mr Clement: I am always sensitive to Mr Morin's concerns because he's an individual who thinks out his position time and again, so I am cognizant of his concerns. I would have to say, though, on the issue of referenda, that really referenda have been with us in this jurisdiction and in this country for decades upon decades. This is not -- how should I say it? -- a revolutionary concept here. It's something we have been dealing with as a society for a number of decades.

I see this report as merely the next iteration, the next evolutionary change on something that has been with our parliamentary democracy for a great number of years in a number of contexts. The researcher's report that was with us at the last meeting on provincial referenda and frequency and so on illustrates the history. I am hoping we will keep that in mind, that this is not something as top-of-the-head as perhaps has been expressed.

I believe we have an obligation to report. The Premier's office, on behalf of the government, released Your Ontario, Your Choice in August of this year. We then subsequently held very interesting hearings where I think all of us came to the table with completely open minds in terms of how we wanted to structure the issue. I don't mean to speak for my colleagues, but I think all of us came here really almost with a tabula rasa of what could be accomplished by this committee upon hearing some of the deputations.

When Mr Morin indicated at a subcommittee that perhaps we needed a bit more time to hear from some more deputations, we were quite willing to do so. They were very interesting deputations, I must say, that added to the process. So we've been quite open to a full and fulsome discussion at the table here.

I do, however, feel an obligation to report. When we discussed it with our caucus, I think they are now looking to the government members here to articulate their vision of an acceptable referenda policy for the province of Ontario. If we merely said that the time is not ripe or we need more discussion, I don't think on our side we would be discharging our responsibilities responsibly. I am hoping that through the discussion that we are about to proceed upon, we can come to some conclusions which are well-thought-out -- that goes without saying -- but then will allow us to report to the government so that the government has the advantage of our knowledge and our conclusions prior to acting. I think that's what it's all about.

Mr Hastings: Trying to be sensitive to M. Morin's concerns, I am wondering, given that we do want to proceed, but not in haste, in a well-thought-out, comprehensive strategy and legislation for this important measure, whether it might be possible that we could, out of your own caucus, get a consensus on one or two or three items that you could comment on earlier, and the ones that are the stickiest for all of us, whatever they are, threshold or minority rights, could be reported on within 60 days or 90 days in terms of what are all the problems there. That might be one way of organizing a report.

If that's not a possibility, perhaps we're going to end up with a majority report on maybe one issue we agree on, generally speaking, or two; I don't know what the number might be. Where there is no consensus, you'd end up with a minority report. I guess that's the way other items have been handled before out of other committees on an organizational basis when you can't get a majority; you don't agree with every crossed t and dotted i on the thing. When I say "majority" or "agreement," you're getting agreement in principle maybe on one or two of the things in that item.

Those are suggestions I throw out to accommodate what you're doing in terms of your report and where Mr Clement and the committee want to go in terms of introducing legislation in the next -- I don't know what sort of time frame we're looking at -- six months or nine months, somewhere in there.


Mr Wildman: I understand your attempt to resolve the problem, but I think the initial question is obviously the crucial one. If you use the example that you mentioned, minority rights, which may be problematic, the second part of the first question may be related to that. So that then affects the overall report, I would think, or your position on the overall report. You can't really segregate that and deal with that later and deal with questions about the mechanics and those kinds of things separately. If we have a consensus on the first question, we can move forward. If we don't have a consensus on the first question, then obviously we could have some serious difficulties.

You could say, "Should there be legislation authorizing the holding of provincial referenda?" and I think perhaps many of us could say yes, but then it says, "and if so, on what subjects should referenda be permitted?" I suspect that will be the crucial question. I guess it's been posited that we could have referenda on constitutional matters, on tax matters, on issues and things like that, but constitutional matters may in fact impinge on minority rights. I know there's been discussion before the committee both by members of the committee and witnesses about the need to ensure that any question proposed would be in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; otherwise there could be a conclusion which would be found to be ultra vires by the courts.

That's where we get into the arguments, I think. I'm not sure at this point, but I think we may have some problems. I recall the presentation made by OECTA, for instance, where they raised serious concerns with regard to the Catholic minority, and in doing so they also talked about the francophone minority, aboriginals and racial minorities and so on. They argued that leaving the matter to after the fact -- in other words, you could have a referendum campaign on the denial of rights for some or all of these groups which might then proceed and subsequently be found to be ultra vires and therefore would not be valid. Their argument was that the process itself could be harmful to the minority and harmful to society in general. That's an interesting and difficult question. The question is, how do we resolve that?

It's been suggested that perhaps one of the ways to deal with this kind of issue is that you might have a commission of some sort or a panel of learned people who would look at a proposed question and say, "If this goes to court, it would likely not be upheld; therefore it should not proceed," and you could cut it off very early. Those are the kinds of issues that we have to consider, because frankly -- I can't remember, was it the Canadian Jewish Congress that also made a presentation somewhat along similar lines as well, where they raised questions about this? I really think that is something that can't be easily segregated out and dealt with separately. Somehow we've got to deal with the first question, which is really two questions, to be able to determine whether or not we're going to be able to proceed on a consensus basis.

The Chair: That makes good sense.

Mr Bartolucci: A suggestion we might have in order to maximize time and to manage time very effectively is to try to divide this into sections and bring it back to our caucuses and deal with it on an individual basis, because obviously we have a committee set up. You people want more discussion. I would suggest that might be the best way to maximize our use of time. We can stay here and talk for a long time, but maybe if we go back to our caucuses -- I think number 1 is critical, because number 1 dictates the entire tone that this discussion is going to take. I would like to reach consensus on this, but I would suggest we have to clearly outline what each caucus's parameters are with regard to what subjects referenda should be permitted on. I believe once we've established that, then everything can flow.

I would suggest maybe, if we wanted to deal with our caucus, questions 1 and 2 -- I think question 1 is a standalone question. I think it's important enough to get input from our caucus on before we come back. If we can come back and try to meet some type of consensus, then obviously I think sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will move along much more smoothly.

Mr Silipo: I'd just add that I understand what Mr Clement is saying on behalf of government members, his sense of wanting to get on now with coming to some conclusions. I understand that. I just want to say very genuinely that any hesitation I have in proceeding to come to some firm, fast decisions at this point has nothing to do with trying to slow down that process. I really do think on this one it would be useful to try to see how much consensus we could reach. I wonder if there is a way to try to bridge, then, the concern that Mr Clement and the government members have for us getting on with coming to some conclusions with also some useful time frame.

I can tell you, for example, that coming here after one discussion in caucus that I've had, I feel the yardsticks have moved pretty significantly. The rest of my caucus members are now more tuned into this issue than they would have been, and that's simply because in the day-to-day activities we all focus on different things, as our relative responsibilities indicate us to. I know that one or two more discussions there would most likely put me in a position where I could -- I know for sure I would be able to come here with greater clarity about where we are, but my sense is that there might also be a closer consensus on some of the key issues.

As I indicated earlier, there's probably at least the one area where we will not agree in terms of mandating referenda in certain areas, but then it becomes easier to sort out. If it's one or two even key issues where we disagree, there may still be a whole bunch of issues on which we do agree, and I think it would be important on something like this to proceed with as much consensus as possible. That's my own personal sense. I don't know if there's a way -- maybe I could just put it to Mr Clement, particularly given that he's next on the list -- that we can both afford that time for more discussion, which I think will be useful, as I say, in a way that also reflects his concern for the committee moving as quickly as possible to the next stage. Maybe that's what we should focus our attention on.

The Chair: It's also, I think, the responsibility of the Chair to some extent to move forward with the business of the committee.


Mr Clement: I want to thank the members for their comments on this, particularly Mr Wildman. It reminds me of attending the fights, and a hockey game broke out. We were having a discussion about procedure, and substance reared its head. I think that'll be very helpful to us once we get into the substance, because I think we're going to find that when we have the dialogue -- I'm intrigued, and I know my colleague Mr Hastings was intrigued, by some sort of reference procedure or some sort of vetting procedure that will ensure that the legitimate rights -- group rights and individual rights -- of society's citizens are not contravened before you even get to the signature-gathering stage of a citizens' petition, for instance. Things like that could be very useful procedural recommendations to the government. So I'm quite anxious, as you can tell from my body language, to move on to discuss the substance, because I think we can get a lot of consensus on that.

Mr Wildman: I wouldn't consider your language bawdy.

Mr Clement: Not bawdy, no.

I'm also sensitive to the concerns of the other members: Mr Bartolucci, Mr Silipo, Mr Morin. If their advice to me, on good-faith advice, is that an extra week of an opportunity to get some more discussion is what it takes to move us ahead with alacrity, I'm certainly willing to accede to the week. Quite frankly, a week would probably help us on this side too. I think we're all trying to be reasonable here, as long as we're all trying to work towards a substantive discussion. We can have a referendum on it.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Sure. Let's have a referendum on it.

Mr Clement: I would be concerned, Mr Chair -- and I'm quite cognizant of your admonition as well that we have to get on with the process. I think over a week is stretching it, given the amount of time we've talked about going back to our caucuses to discuss these issues. I think this is the third time we've discussed this in session. I think the three strikes are there and I'd like to move on after that point, but I'm willing to accede to starting this discussion afresh next week. It's the Chair's decision, of course.

Mr Wildman: We would at least have more clarity as to whether or not we would be able to proceed on a consensus basis or whether we'd be looking at a minority report. I think we would certainly have that, I hope.

The Chair: Mr Bartolucci, did you want to speak to this?

Mr Bartolucci: If we do that, then we are obviously zeroing in on item number 1 to bring back to this committee, because that's going to be the biggest bone of contention in all of this. If we get further in our own caucuses, that's fine, but we consider our individual definitions to be key to the whole process.

Mr Clement: Could I just say for the record -- again, I'm rearing into substance here for a second -- that item 1 is inextricably linked to signature thresholds, to the time limits for petitions, to the responsibility for drafting referendum questions and to campaign regulation. So there are linkages here between this item and further items in terms of how you manage the referendum process. I don't think anyone on the government side is saying that the referendum process will not be managed; it has to be managed for the benefit of all Ontarians. As long as you keep that in mind, I think we can proceed beyond one and create some checks and balances here, just as we have in our parliamentary process.

Mr Bartolucci: That's fair.

Mr Wildman: That's why I was basically saying I didn't know whether we could segregate it out.

The Chair: Mr O'Toole, do you want to add something?

Mr O'Toole: I listened very carefully last week and this week. I'm wondering, can we get consensus here? Number one, it's a little inclusive, but is there a consensus here that referendums are supported by all three parties -- that simplifies it -- and then the process that follows that? Is there a consensus here even now that we're saying we're going to work out what the issues are and the other substantive parts of time limits, thresholds, signatures?

The Chair: I think we heard at the outset members from all parties indicate support for the concept of referenda on certain issues.

Mr O'Toole: That's a clear statement to start.

Mr Clement: No, that's the second part of it.

Mr O'Toole: The second part of number one is problematic, but once you've agreed that you are supportive, could we not set about coming back with specific responses to those things like time limit, like threshold? I think Mr Clement has circulated, certainly in our caucus -- he's tried to actually get a number. Was it 10%? That kind of stuff, I think, would be productive, because most of what we're doing here is philosophizing around a lot of the process stuff, but I think we're all united that there should be referenda. So could we come back that way if we're going to use the week productively?

Mr Hastings: I'd like to go back to the question of finding out whether, while this is going on, our research officer could see if there's any history of referencing a question that's constitutional like this -- protection of minority rights -- and come up with some background on that. Then we would have an answer or no answer as to that, whether that's even viable in terms of the protection of minority rights. If there's one thing I've learned out of these sessions it's the concern of the Catholic, francophone and aboriginal communities with respect to that.

Even if there is no history, I'd be curious to see how your caucuses -- it's never been talked about in ours -- find that, whether you see the Supreme Court of Ontario looking at that. Do you want to have the courts involved in a political question? Because you don't have the legislation in place, you're advancing something before you've done it. I don't know.

Mr Wildman: There is precedent for references to be made to a court and saying, "What is your opinion on this?" on the legality; not on the politics of it, but on the constitutionality of it. That may be a good way to go.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to see if we can get some answers on those questions in the next while, while we're doing this other stuff.

The Chair: Duly noted. We'll endeavour to get back to you on that as well. All right, any further discussion?

As Chair, I would again say I feel it is my responsibility to work with committee members to try to keep things moving forward, but I've heard consensus opinion from all three parties now that each caucus needs a little more time and one more week to discuss this with their respective caucuses. Of course, we all understand our responsibility as committee members. We've participated in the public hearings. We've had the opportunity that some of our caucus colleagues have not to look at this issue in greater depth, while we recognize that as delegates from our respective caucuses, we need the support of our respective caucuses, I suppose, before we move forward.

This gives us another week too, I guess, to work with our researcher to provide perhaps a slightly more detailed discussion paper that we can use as a frame of reference for our further discussions. We've also heard that each party is supportive, in principle, of the concept of referenda, so that's something positive we've accomplished today.

In conclusion, I would now recess this meeting. We will meet again next week on Wednesday, December 4. The committee is adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1638.