Thursday 12 September 1996


City of Sault Ste Marie

Mr Stephen Butland

Mr Andrew Staples

Uxbridge Ratepayers Association

Ms June Davies

Ms Anne Holmes

Mr John Deverell

Hastings County Ratepayers Association

Mr Trueman Tuck

Power Workers' Union

Mr John Murphy

Mr Chris Dassios

Progressive Conservative Youth Federation of Canada

Ms Tasha Kheiriddin

Mr Walied Soliman

Bayview Glen Ratepayers' Group

Mr Howard Shore

Mr David Vallance

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Mr Alan Borovoy

Agree Inc

Mr Rick Weiler

Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association

Mr Patrick Daly

Mr Thomas Reilly

Mr Patrick Slack

Monsignor Dennis Murphy

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

Mr Jim McQueen

Mr Michael Walsh


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 David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside ND)

*Mr CarlDeFaria (Mississauga East / -Est PC)

Mr TomFroese (St Catharines-Brock 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. Gary Stewart (Peterborough PC)

*In attendance /présents

Substitutions present /Membres remplaçants présents:

Mrs JuliaMunro (Durham-York PC) for Mr O'Toole

Mr DanNewman (Scarborough Centre / -Centre PC) for Mr Froese

Mr BudWildman (Algoma ND) for Mr Cooke

Also taking part /Autres participants et participantes:

Mr ChrisStockwell (Etobicoke West / -Ouest PC)

Clerk / Greffière: Ms Lisa Freedman

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

The committee met at 0934 in room 151.


The Vice-Chair (Mr John Hastings): I bring this session to order. I believe Mr Wildman has a request to go into internal consideration.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I would like to go in camera for a very short period.

The Vice-Chair: Agreed? Okay, proceed.

The committee continued in closed session from 0934 to 0941.


The Chair (Mr Ted Arnott): We are continuing our discussions on the issue of referendums and we have with us this morning Mayor Steve Butland of Sault Ste Marie. Welcome to our committee. We look forward to your thoughts and your presentation.

Mr Stephen Butland: I hope so. I'm glad to be here, but it certainly is under some duress. I will say that. I appreciate the opportunity.

First of all, I have a brief that I've presented to the clerk. This was put together by a group of people at city hall in Sault Ste Marie in about a 24-hour period. I've proofread it. I've read it several times and to say that I am 100% in favour of everything that's said here would not be correct, but I am 99% in favour. There are a few things here that perhaps I would word differently.

There seems to be an anti-Toronto bias and I don't think that was meant to be in the brief. I think I would present it as a southern Ontario-northern Ontario differential rather than a continual reference to Toronto the Bad. It seems to portray Toronto as being a bad place to be. That would not be my preference. Nevertheless, the thrust of the brief presented is certainly, I think, the general thought of the community of Sault Ste Marie and, correct me if I'm wrong, Mr Bartolucci, perhaps northern Ontario as well. Of course, that remains to be seen.

It's good to see some folks I know here. It makes it a little bit easier to come before a committee.

The concern I had is that I read about these committee hearings in the Toronto Star in Sault Ste Marie. I was surprised to hear that there were committee hearings being held on referenda. I called the committee clerk and it was indicated to me that all positions were filled and I would not be able to come before you. That was somewhat disturbing. I indicated that we thought we had a stake in these hearings and I was pleasantly surprised the following day that I received a call indicating that time was available today. So I thank you, but at the same time I'm somewhat disenchanted that if indeed this is a consultative process, it seems to be lacking.

I'm relatively new on the mayoral scene, but our community received no advance notice that committee hearings were being held. I cannot speak for the rest of northern Ontario, but it seems strange that the city of Sault Ste Marie would not receive an official notice. I was talking to a friend back here who suggested that it was in the Globe and Mail as an official notice. Not everyone in Sault Ste Marie reads the Globe and Mail.

Mr Wildman: Thank God.

Mr Butland: Agreed. Not everyone reads the Toronto Star, but I do every day.

Mr Wildman: Nobody reads the Sun.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Just for the sports.

Mr Butland: We don't get the Sun.

I'll make a few random points and then perhaps -- I know how boring it is at committee hearings just to be read to, but I'll certainly read some excerpts.

Mr Hastings: It's not boring.

Mr Butland: Thank you. You haven't heard it yet.

First of all, it was a bit of a scramble to put this together. I understand that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario is not making a presentation. Is that correct?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): That's correct.

Mr Butland: That seems also to fly in the face of the interests of municipalities in this province. I would hope that the invitation was extended to them and I would have hoped they would have taken that on. As I say, I'm speaking for the city of Sault Ste Marie. I'm hoping that it goes beyond the borders of Sault Ste Marie to some of the rest of northern Ontario at the very least.

Your Ontario, Your Choice: The discussion paper really is a good starting point for anyone who wants to bring forth his concerns. I have to admit I pulled excerpts from the report and I have to agree with many of the things the Premier has said with regard to referenda. I have to admit that my spin, if you want, on some of the things he said is probably totally different from what the Premier has suggested.

He has said, "Certain questions of public policy, such as those related to constitutional amendments, the expansion of casino gambling in the province and new provincial taxes are so fundamental that they should be decided by using referenda." But I suggest there's a big difference between constitutional amendments and tax increases and, separately, casino referendums.

Mr Harris says, "We believe that individuals should decide their future. In turn, the function of government should be to serve and facilitate those aspirations, not to rule or constrain them." We agree with the Premier.

The discussion paper says, "Most problems could be solved if decisions could be brought back to the people at the grass roots." We agree.

Of the questions at the back of the consultation paper, I want to highlight, and I think it has to be answered by this committee. Should questions with a purely regional impact be decided by people living in that region or by all Ontarians? We in Sault Ste Marie believe that they should be decided by region because certain questions, such as a casino in Sault Ste Marie -- I'm not so sure that the people in Peterborough are so concerned about a casino in Sault Ste Marie, and if Oshawa has already decided no in a referendum, I don't know if it is necessary to consult them once again.

I don't have to remind you that the populations of northern Ontario and southern Ontario are very disparate, probably 10 to one. I put forth the hypothesis that should all of northern Ontario vote 90% in favour of something or against something, indicating a strong will of the people, that vote in such a referendum could easily be overturned by the greater Toronto area. We say that is not democracy; in fact, that is the antithesis of democracy.

There are regional variations in the province on specific issues addressing concerns that pertain to southern Ontario, not always reflective of the best concerns of northern Ontario.

Province-wide referenda on issues such as casinos is an example of where communities with no interest in an issue are determining the fate of huge economic development projects for other communities. Cross-border communities that are losing millions of dollars in revenue to their American neighbours should be allowed to compete for tourism dollars, as well as stem the flow of Canadian dollars out of the community.


The brief, I have to admit, has a casino bias, but we were told by the previous government that a referendum would be in order. This government seems to support the concept of referenda. We do not disagree. We've held a referendum, and the Minister of Economic Development, as well as the Premier, is now saying, "We look to have a province-wide referendum before any more casino decisions are made." We humbly suggest that should not be, that it is not an appropriate action or decision to make.

It is very difficult for people in southern Ontario to appreciate what Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, is going through. Most people in southern Ontario do not appreciate the unique circumstances affecting those in northern Ontario, and we in Sault Ste Marie say our circumstance is just a bit different from even other people's in northern Ontario, as I'm sure Sudbury would say they have different circumstances.

We think we've had the referendum in our situation. It has passed significantly Yes to the decision, and the circumstances are such that we are a border community. We have five casinos within an hour's drive of our community. The community that is -- I don't want to exaggerate -- not 10 minutes away from us is a $300-million-a-year business. They're doing very well. We have seven stretch limousines making the round trip 24 hours a day. We have buses, loads of people on many buses crossing the bridge every day, seven days a week. It is a drain on our economy. Forgive me if I stray, but all this is related to the referendum issue. We believe that the referendum held in Sault Ste Marie should be a binding referendum on this government. It is the will of the people, and again I bring forth the comment, not to denigrate anyone, but just to suggest many others in many areas of Ontario may not appreciate the specific circumstance.

Our paper indicates that on certain issues referenda are good things if they impact all people in Ontario. But certain issues may have to be decided on a -- call them what you will -- plebiscite or referendum, with regional considerations taken. I believe, and it crosses my desk every day, the "who does what" committee, and the thrust of the government seems to be -- doesn't seem to be; it is -- that more and more jurisdiction as to the affairs of the municipality will be in the hands of the municipality. "You must take on more and more responsibility." If that is the case, then why would the referendum decision that Sault Ste Marie took, and perhaps other communities on other issues, not be consistent with the philosophy of the government?

If I may turn to the brief itself, I should like to begin to read a few things.

It appears that the province, as a result of this "who does what" exercise, will end up dividing responsibilities and issues into two different categories: (1) those which need to be uniformly applied across the whole of the province with the same standards for all municipalities; and (2) those which need to be decided by local governments because of the peculiar circumstances of the community, with due regard to specific needs, wants and abilities.

In either of these categories the use of a referendum will provide an excellent tool for government to do what is right. However, it will be important that it be recognized that such a referendum be province-wide only if it is intended that the outcome will help guide a province-wide application. The referendum should be local only if it is not intended that there be a province-wide application.

For too many years now, municipalities outside the greater Toronto area have strongly believed that all of us are driven by greater Toronto area concerns. If Toronto coughs, we all have to take the cough medicine. Many local politicians outside of the greater Toronto region have complained bitterly over the years that many legislative changes in the past, which have province-wide application, have been the result of Toronto-area-only problems and actually have hurt or cost the rest of the province unnecessarily. The actual value assessment decision that has come down I believe is to address a concern perhaps across the province, but those of us who have undergone market value assessment already and are more or less up to date say this response is not necessarily applicable with the same import as it is to southern Ontario.

It's interesting to note the proliferation of VLTs and charity casinos. There was, it seems, no discussion whatsoever as to a referendum dealing with those gambling issues, and I suggest there is a proliferation of both. If you are espousing the fact that gambling is an acceptable way of raising funds in this province for charity or for others, why would a referendum not apply to those as well? Why restrict a community that has had a referendum on a casino, should we have a full-fledged casino, as we have called it, where it is a controlled environment, much more controlled than the charity casinos in this province, where I understand there will be as many as 40 of them? Everywhere I drive in Toronto I see a charity casino, and there was no thought, I think, to consultation on those.

Why restrict a municipality that has held a referendum on an issue that is of very grave importance to us? Why would the province hold us at ransom until such time as the next municipal election or, even worse, the next provincial election? We've been on this course now for about three years. No one has said no to this point, but only very recently we were again reading the newspaper perhaps to read the bad news that the provincial referendum is the way the province will be going.

I encourage this committee to make our concerns known not only on the casino issue but also on the referendum issue. I believe this is detrimental to the best interests of northern Ontario. The disparity, I repeat, between northern and southern Ontario in nearly all ways is too enormous to suggest that a referendum will be a democratic decision on behalf of the people not only in Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie but in all the small towns and villages across the expanse of northern Ontario.

I beg you to consider individual circumstance, regional differences, regional concerns. I encourage you to recognize the referendum already held in Sault Ste Marie. It is the will of the people. Please, as the Premier has said: "Do not constrain our aspirations. Our decision has been made."

I hope that the entire brief will be a matter of record for the committee. It certainly makes other pertinent points to the entire issue of a referendum in this province, but it also highlights our casino initiative.


Mr Bartolucci: Welcome, Steve. Thank you for the excellent presentation on short notice. Maybe you should inform the committee how overwhelming the referendum was, and I don't care whether you call it a plebiscite or a referendum; it was clearly the choice of the people that there be a permanent, full-time, real casino established in Sault Ste Marie. You might want to give some of the statistics.

Mr Butland: Rick, it depends on what you consider overwhelming. It was 60%, not unlike the city of Windsor, I believe not unlike Niagara Falls.

Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): Sarnia was 80%. In my riding, 80%.

Mr Butland: Are you from Niagara Falls?

Mr Boushy: Sarnia, Point Edward.

Mr Butland: Okay. Some would say it is not overwhelming. I believe, Rick, since the referendum has been held, the anti-group has ceased and desisted. I think the drain of moneys into Sault, Michigan, is hurting us dramatically. I have to admit that I personally am not a great fan. I would rather have other economic development but I think it has become a necessity for our community. I hasten to add that Sudbury, North Bay, Timmins and Thunder Bay are all on record as supporting a casino in Sault Ste Marie. They're not saying, "We want one too"; they're saying, "If there has to be a casino in northern Ontario, it should be in Sault Ste Marie because of the border situation."

Mr Bartolucci: Clearly the support in the community and throughout northern Ontario is overwhelming. You bring an interesting dilemma to us because the people of Sault Ste Marie have spoken: their city, their choice. If the title Your Ontario, Your Choice is to reflect the will of the people, do you suggest that legislation be written so that the clear choice of the people of Sault Ste Marie is honoured?

Mr Butland: That's a very good rhetorical question, and I agree with everything you said. Perhaps the legislation should deal with referenda on a local or regional basis rather than them just being, "Thank you very much for your opinion"; perhaps some binding legislation as to local differences.

Mr Wildman: I'm glad that the committee was able to make arrangements, although the committee did decide that if there were a need for further hearings after the House has sat, there would be further hearings.

Mr Butland: If I insulted anyone with my preliminary statements, I apologize. I was not aware that there would be further hearings.

Mr Wildman: They haven't been scheduled, but the committee did decide that if there is a need, we could have further hearings.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): We don't insult easily.

Mr Butland: I've been in the business. I'm glad you took it that way.

Mr Wildman: You've raised two matters that are related. If I could, I would like to deal with the overall question of referenda prior to asking you a question specifically related to the casino situation in Sault Ste Marie. I've looked through the brief, and I agree with you that it does have an anti-Toronto bias which I don't think you intended and certainly would not be my position. But Mr Bartolucci and I raised the issue yesterday of defining democracy as majority rule but also protection of the minority. Those of us from northern Ontario know that we have about 9% of the population of Ontario across 80% of the land mass and a wealth of resources upon which the economic wellbeing of this province is largely dependent. You're quite right, 90% of northerners could vote one way in a province-wide referendum and be completely swamped by Metropolitan Toronto and/or Ottawa-Carleton if they were to vote overwhelmingly the opposite. This is a problem.

I want to raise with you an example I read about in the press and I've raised before this committee before. In British Columbia, where they do have legislation on referenda -- and it has been criticized in this committee because it is difficult to get the required number of signatures there to have a vote -- there is a group initiating a referendum on whether or not bear hunting should be prohibited in British Columbia. I would guess -- I don't know this for certain -- that many of the people in the group that is sponsoring this proposal might be from Vancouver and many of the people who might be directly affected would be in the interior of British Columbia, if the referendum were to be held and passed. In British Columbia, however, there is a requirement that to get the referendum brought forward they have to have a certain percentage of signatures from every constituency. If there were to be province-wide referenda in Ontario, would you favour the requirement that signatures on the petition to hold one first would have to be obtained from all parts of the province?

Mr Butland: That's a pretty far-reaching question. No, I don't. This is the difficulty with coming before you this morning. If you'd asked me five years ago; I just threw out a stack. In a previous life and a different political role, I did considerable research on referenda. I chose to chuck it away because I thought, "Mr Manning is not going anywhere and I don't have to research referenda any more." I still believe that part about him not going anywhere -- that's a political statement -- but perhaps I should have kept my referenda research. It came to me at that time that I probably was against referenda in general.

When you talked about bear hunting, I don't know if I can relate the bear-baiting question in northern Ontario. I can imagine asking someone in this area, "What do you think about bear-baiting?" I would ask some of you: "What do you think? Are you in favour or agin it?" That would be a tough one.

Mr Wildman: I would think in Metropolitan Toronto there would be a lot of people who would be very upset about bear-baiting, and I would think in my riding -- as a matter of fact, I know in my riding -- there would be a lot of people who would say that's the only way to hunt bear, and you better hunt bear because it attracts tourism dollars, and there are lots of bears.

Mr Butland: I think the point is made that there are certain issues that just do not pertain to all of Ontario.


Mr Wildman: Just one other question, which deals specifically with the casino matter: Sault Ste Marie held a referendum, as many other communities hold referenda, on casinos; some rejected, some voted in favour. Niagara Falls held one and voted in favour. This government decided to establish a casino in Niagara Falls. Subsequently, the government stated that any further casinos, other than Niagara Falls and Rama, would be subject to a province-wide referendum, somehow then discounting the referenda that were held in Sault Ste Marie or Sarnia. It's your view that local decision-making should be respected by the government, is it not? If so, have you had any indication from the provincial government that the local decision-making in Sault Ste Marie will be respected, or is the Sault going to be subject to a province-wide referendum on casinos at some future date?

Mr Butland: I can honestly say we've received mixed messages, none of them directly indicating a no. Just two weeks ago, we met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He said: "I support this initiative. I particularly support border casinos. I'm in your corner. I will bring it to cabinet on your behalf and I will arrange meetings for you to meet with the other three ministers."

Mr Hastings: Mayor Butland, thank you for coming down and making your views known. As you may not be aware, this committee has been grappling with the sensitive issue of how you could structure regional initiatives into a referenda strategy or legislation, if that's the route we go ultimately. I would like to know from you how you see regional initiatives being structured in such legislation, should we go that route.

If you don't have any specifics, I'd also like to ask you whether you were aware that there was correspondence between the Premier and your predecessor regarding the casino as late as December 8, 1995, in which letter the Premier expressed that the issue of referenda would be coming before a standing committee of the Legislature. Legislative Assembly was not specifically referenced, but it was certainly probably intended that it would be the committee that would hold these hearings.

Finally, as you may not be aware, this committee has undertaken to go beyond the Toronto milieu without travelling, through telephone and teleconferencing out to British Columbia. We could probably still do that or travel -- no options are closed -- to get further views from other parts of the province. Furthermore, this committee, not through the clerk but through the party caucus, attempted twice to get AMO to make representations, and neither time were phone calls returned. I just wanted to put those items on the record.

My primary concern relates to how you would see referenda legislation encapsulating regional initiatives or issues so that this swamping wouldn't occur.

Mr Butland: I appreciate many of your comments. I can't say I'm disturbed, but I'm surprised that AMO would not respond. I think they act as our parent for all municipalities and I would hope that they'd -- but then, again, perhaps they're aware that the hearings will continue. I'm assuming that. I didn't; I'm assuming they did.

As far as your regional initiatives are concerned, I'd be foolhardy to make suggestions. I have made no study on that whatsoever. I had no idea prior to 24 hours ago that I was coming here. I just would not comment.

As to being aware that the Premier had corresponded with my predecessor, yes, totally aware, and also aware of his statement re referenda and casinos. But at the same time, the Premier has written me not indicating that same intent. Okay? So, as I say, when the Minister of Municipal Affairs says, "I'm in your corner" -- also, in speaking to several other people, the answer does not seem to be a definitive no. The Premier is coming to Sault Ste Marie on October 10. I suspect he will make some statement at that time.

Mr Hastings: Could you go back and re-examine and give some thought to how you could structure, handle the regional issues through referenda and send some material to the clerk? Because this thing's not going to end as of today.

Mr Butland: All right. I appreciate that thought and I certainly would give you my undertaking to offer our humble opinion on it.

The Chair: Thank you, Mayor Butland, for your presentation.


The Chair: Our next witness and presenter is Andrew Staples. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly committee. We are interested in your advice on referendums.

Mr Andrew Staples: Unlike Mr Butland, I am going to try to stick a little bit more to the text that I prepared. For those of you who have had a chance to look at it, it is, I hope, in a slightly more conversational form.

My name is Andrew Staples. I'm a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. I'm also a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and thus, by designation if not by occupation, a lawyer. I'm not speaking to you as a member of either of those august organizations today, but rather as a concerned fellow citizen of Ontario.

My friend and colleague Darin Barney, also a doctoral student in political science at the University of Toronto, had a chance to speak to you on Tuesday about some of the problems contained in the position paper on referenda. I believe those to be important criticisms and worthy of this committee's consideration.

My task this morning is slightly more modest. I will try to point out some of the constitutional difficulties that I believe arise from the referenda proposals contained in the position paper. My main contention is that for the majority of cases, and particularly for the initiative process, the Canadian Constitution in its present form may very well prohibit the kinds of reforms contemplated in the government's position paper. Although the law is quite murky, the Constitution prohibits certain kinds of consultations simply because of the way in which they become law and it prohibits other types of consultations because of the subject matter of the referendum itself. In other cases, the proposed referendum may simply be beyond the authority of the province to enact, as the position paper notes, in the area of criminal law. The major consequence of this murkiness, I would suggest, is that it would greatly encourage resort to the courts in determining the shape and scope of any referendum.

This assertion probably requires some explanation. While Canadian governments have sometimes consulted the people in a way which required a specific answer to a specific question, only rarely has it done so in a way which obligates the government or the Legislature to act in a particular way after the result is known. Since this innovation seems to be at the core of the government's position paper, and since it presents the greatest constitutional difficulties, I will try to direct most of my comments to this idea of the initiative.

There are several court cases which would appear to influence the constitutional position of this type of legislation, most importantly two Privy Council cases from the earlier part of this century. In Re Initiative and Referendum Act, a Privy Council case from 1919, the Privy Council had an opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of a Manitoba law which provided for direct initiatives; that is, proposals that became law once they'd been approved by the people in a provincial referendum. The Privy Council found this to be an unacceptable delegation of the legislative authority, ruling specifically on the way in which the law changed the office of the Lieutenant Governor, which the court ruled was beyond the capacity of the province to do.

The second case, R v Nat Bell Liquors, dealt with a liquor law which had been passed under the authority of an Alberta direct initiative law. However, unlike the Manitoba procedure, in Alberta once a bill had been approved in a referendum there was a statutory requirement that the Legislature enact the law as approved by the voters. The Privy Council, somewhat in contradiction of its earlier holding in Re Initiative, found that the liquor legislation was validly enacted. Peter Hogg, a noted Canadian constitutional expert, simply indicates that the area of law is not particularly well-defined and that the authorities are mixed, although he does state that he believes that Nat Bell Liquors was wrongly decided.

The net effect of these cases then is rather like Mackenzie King's position on conscription: Direct democracy if necessary, but not necessarily direct democracy. While that kind of ambiguity might have appealed to Mr King, I think it's inappropriate when what is at stake is the legal authority to pass laws. Simply put, when a government acts in a poorly defined area, such as this, where the constitutionality of its actions can be questioned, it invites challenges to that authority, particularly through the courts.


The government, in its discussion paper, is very careful to point out those proposals for referenda which would require constitutional amendments and those which would not. By example, the proposal which talks about a true direct initiative correctly identifies it as one which would require a constitutional amendment. Similarly, a proposal which would permit the government or Legislature to refer questions to the public for advice would not require a constitutional amendment, since neither the government nor the Legislature is bound to do anything after such a consultation, although the paper correctly identifies this as a plebiscite, rather than a referendum per se.

A meaningful reform -- that is, one which would permit the kinds of sweeping initiative powers which are suggested in some parts of the position paper -- may only be possible with a constitutional amendment. To lessen the impact of this rather startling conclusion -- that is, to avoid the fact that there appear to be serious constitutional impediments to the adoption of referendum legislation which would obligate the government to respond in a serious way to the result of a referendum -- the government simply states that some lawyers suggest that such legislation would require a constitutional amendment. This is a rather serious flaw in the proposal, and I would simply note that if some lawyers can be found who would question the province's ability to pass that kind of legislation, some lawyers will likely take that to court.

The government then is faced with several possibilities. By my estimation, it has about four: It can retreat, it can proceed with some kind of modest proposal, it can proceed with a potentially unconstitutional proposal or it can potentially proceed with some kind of constitutional amendment. I will try to deal with each in turn.

It can forget the project, although I think the fact that these hearings are being held and that this paper was published suggests that is not a preferred or even a considered option.

It can enact legislation for which it knows no constitutional amendment is required. This, however, forces the government to adopt legislation which could not be challenged constitutionally, and that means it would have to pass legislation which would not obligate it to do anything with the result of a referendum. I understand that would be an unsatisfactory state of affairs and is no different in principle, although in effect it may be quite different, from the government's current practice of conducting public opinion polls to determine the public's state of mind on particular policy areas.

Third, the government can pass legislation which it thinks may overstep the current constitutional framework. It then faces two further choices: It can refer the proposed legislation to the Ontario Court of Appeal, to determine whether it runs afoul of the current Constitution, or it can simply pass it, in which case the first proposed initiative will almost certainly face a challenge, either before or after the actual vote, as to the constitutionality of both the content of the new law as well as the constitutionality of the referendum legislation itself. In the event that the court finds the law unconstitutional, the province would then face the further choice of abandoning the law, seeking to reform the law so that it did comply with the Constitution and the advice of the court, or seeking to reform the Constitution.

This leads to the fourth option available to the government, that of a formal constitutional amendment. The amending formula contained in part V of the Constitution Act, 1982, that is, sections 38 through 49, is rather complex, requiring, for different kinds of amendments the consent of all the provinces, sometimes two thirds of all the provinces representing 50% of the population, one province alone, and in all cases the consent of the federal Parliament. Although constitutional amendments are difficult, as the Charlottetown and Meech Lake constitutional rounds show, they do occur. It would be possible to draft a referendum and initiative law which limited its direct effect to the province of Ontario and did not affect the office of the Lieutenant Governor, which would put it into a different category of amendment, or derogate from the powers of the provincial Legislature, and thus, under section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982, would only require the consent of the provincial Legislature and the federal Parliament.

However, this would obviously require federal-provincial agreement and a great deal of legislative time, both here at Queen's Park and in Ottawa, where it would have to proceed through both the House and the Senate. However, a committed government could get a constitutional amendment that would permit a referendum law that obligated the Legislature to act on the results of a consultation in a way that was consistent with the Canadian Constitution. Unfortunately, I don't think that would prevent people from challenging the content of particular initiatives as being unconstitutional, either because the law is beyond the jurisdiction of the province or because it infringes the individual rights outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In either case, the courts would be involved in determining whether the proposed question or resulting law was constitutionally valid.

Perhaps you've notice how often the courts come up in my presentation. In part, that reflects my study of the American experience with initiatives, where there is frequent resort to courts to determine the constitutional validity of particular state initiatives. These court cases range from the procedural -- that is, challenges to the wording of the question or the number and validity of the signatures -- to substantive questions -- that is, challenges to the constitutionality of the content of the proposed amendment.

I fear these would also become features of initiatives here in Ontario, in part because the constitutional law around initiatives and referendums in Canada is so murky and in part because referendums lend themselves to court challenges. They're naturally adversarial -- they prescribe Yes and No options -- with supporters on each side likely to have strong feelings about the desirability of their preferred option, and potentially with the resources to bring a court action.

These are reinforcing tendencies; the greater the sense of aggrieval at losing the referendum and the greater the resources available to those campaigning for a particular option, the more the murkiness of the state of the law invites litigation. It would be ironic indeed if the actual outcome of the government's desire to give a greater voice to the average citizen of the province was to empower the least democratic, the least representative branch of government -- the judiciary.

What course would I recommend then to this committee? I would begin by observing that representative institutions, such as Parliament, parties and of course legislative committees, have served Ontarians quite well for the past 150 years and are perhaps more robust and more capable of addressing the problems of voter alienation identified in the position paper than the authors of the position paper would acknowledge.

If part of conservatism consists of preserving those parts of the past which contribute to a community's present wellbeing, then true conservatives should be wary of adopting any policy which threatens that wellbeing. A form of direct democracy that threatens the ties Ontarians do have with democratic procedures, that invites substantial recourse to the courts and that requires constitutional amendment to occur before it can be implemented is one that is easily characterized as a threat to the community's wellbeing. It is not a course that I would recommend to you.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Mr Staples, thanks for your presentation. I find myself a little bit perplexed by your presentation. I agree more or less with your conclusion, but not for the reasons you've given. As I've listened to some discussion, your presentation and that of others who have touched on the constitutional question, it strikes me that it's pretty much of a red herring in the sense that I don't see that there are overwhelming problems on the constitutional front that could not be addressed if we were serious about pursuing referenda as an alternative or as an addition -- I hope as an addition -- to the legislative process.

If time allowed, I'd love very much to get into a greater discussion with you on that, but perhaps I can just ask you to go back to the beginning in terms of what you would see as being the fundamental problem that would make the use of referenda different in terms of the constitutional issues that have to be respected than the Legislature passing any kind of bill. In other words, any bill that's passed by the Legislature is always subject to review by the courts -- by any citizen or any group. I don't see the referendum being that different. I agree with you that there are ways in which we could diminish that, and should, such as the referral to the court for an opinion on the constitutionality, but there have been a number of times when certainly I have thought, and sometimes advocated, that even government bills ought to go that route to avoid potential litigation down the line.

I don't see that there's such a big obstacle, as far as the constitutional issues are concerned, in terms of referendum, but I would agree with your conclusion that it's important that we first of all be conscious of that, but also take a look at it in terms of what it's going to do to the democratic process. In that sense, I've been of the opinion that we should be open to the idea of referendum, but look at it primarily on a province-wide basis, to be used for major issues, with then, as you heard from the previous presenter and certainly something I would be supportive of, the option of regional referenda on issues that were specific to a particular region or part of the province. I just offer that and invite your reaction, in any way you wish, to that.

Mr Staples: I would certainly agree that any legislation faces the potential of judicial review. My response in terms of why I think that with referenda it might be more likely for that to arise is that, in the first instance, in any referendum, you run a referendum campaign and there's inevitably a Yes and No option. It leads, quite naturally, to the kinds of adversarial proceedings which then lend themselves to the courts.

You might say that a similar thing applies in the Legislature. The idea of a referendum, though, is, quite naturally, to try to motivate a much greater sense within the population, generally. Politicians, generally speaking, don't act through the courts, they act through legislatures. By moving it to referendums and moving it to within the same kind of adversarial process, I think you are much more likely to motivate people within society if they lose to try to question that through the courts. That would be one part of my answer.

The other part would simply be to note that right now I don't think the constitutional position on referenda or, in particular, initiatives is all that clear. So anyone who felt aggrieved by the content of a particular law would have a very strong incentive to try to bring that concern to the court.

Mr Grimmett: Very briefly, Mr Staples, in your study of the Canadian experience in referendums, do other jurisdictions have any direct initiatives and, if so, have they been challenged at the appellate level in any of the provinces?

Mr Staples: The answer to that is that British Columbia does have an initiative law. It was passed by the NDP during its current time in government. It has not as of yet been challenged. It should also be said that under that law there has not yet been an initiative.

Mr Grimmett: So the most recent case law we have is the two privy council cases?

Mr Staples: On direct legislation, yes. There are some cases that speak to municipal referenda, but that's a slightly different class of legislation, I think.

Mr Bartolucci: Andrew, you referred to Darin Barney's work earlier on. Do you agree with his definition of democracy, that it is "The equal ability of all citizens to participate meaningfully in the decisions that most closely affect their lives as individuals in a community"?

Mr Staples: Yes, I do.

Mr Bartolucci: Darin thought that the way the proposed paper is written right now it is anti-democratic. Do you agree with that as well?

Mr Staples: I share some of his concerns, particularly with reference in the position paper to a taxpayer rather than a citizen. It suggests a rather narrow outlook on the kinds of concerns that citizens of Ontario might bring to referenda.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr Staples.

Our next presentation requires the setting up of an overhead projector, so I'm going to recess the committee for five minutes while we do that.

The committee recessed from 1034 to 1043.


The Chair: We have with us the Uxbridge Ratepayers Association, represented by June Davies and Anne Holmes. Welcome. We look forward to your presentation.

Ms June Davies: To begin with, we need to share with you that we believe deeply in government. A government is the mechanism we use to make communal decisions. We believe that civilized society cannot function effectively without effective government. We also believe deeply in community-based, bottom-up-driven government and the power of individuals to self-govern and to provide intelligent direction to elected officials and government.

The Harris concept of governing "arises from a strong belief in individual choice, collective stewardship, and distributed responsibility for the future...government should be to serve and facilitate those aspirations, not to rule or constrain them." Leadership and reflecting the will of the people go hand in hand. There is probably nobody in Ontario who would not be inspired by those words.

The ability to act on these words is limited, however, when individual citizens lack relevant knowledge, feel disempowered in the political process, distrust politicians and government and feel public interest is being sacrificed to self-interest groups, lobbyists, unions and corporations.

Referendum is being offered as one of the solutions to help give legitimacy to citizens in decision-making, re-establish credibility, increase accountability and reduce the domination of self-interest groups.

It is also suggested that referendum would help to invigorate Ontario's economy, and we're sort of wondering how that would happen, because it's not self-evident, other than that the cost of running these might be a job creation program. But we are inspired by the belief that most problems can be solved if decisions are brought back to the people at the grass roots.

A number of important concerns arise with referendum in addition to constitutional commitments and implementation costs that need to be considered, because we believe if we really believe in referendum and we're going to carry it out, we'll deal with the constitutional issues and the cost factor. We'll do it in a way that's efficient and effective.

We'd like to address what we think is foundational to even considering referendum in the first place.

(1) Without a politically neutral, broad-based public education component to support it, referendum processes carry the risk of doing exactly the opposite of the stated intentions. Specifically, if referendums are to be conducted as per the electoral process -- that is, presented in the adversarial debate format of party politics, supported by partisan media and funded by organized self-interest groups -- then the objective facts may never be known and citizens, as at voting time, will continue to see their role as irrelevant.

(2) The competitive campaigning nature of our political process further defeats efforts to gain citizen support for elected officials or the elected government. Can we realistically expect support from those people whose candidates or party did not succeed in an election or whose choice in a referendum does not win out? The battle continues in and out of the Legislature by elected officials and citizens alike, the former in formal opposition and the latter through apathy and activism. In the case of activists, these citizens are categorized as serving their particular self interest, even if the self interest is public interest. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. We need a referendum process that is not competitively based.

(3) If the referendum mechanism is seen as an abrogation of a government's responsibility to govern, is it not also an abrogation of citizens' responsibilities to government when they pursue their own economic and lifestyle goals and leave government to run itself between visits to the polling booth? If legitimizing the citizen in the political process is for the sole purpose of encouraging compliance, then we are ignoring or discrediting a most constructive element of citizen development. John Ralston Saul, in his book Unconscious Civilization, explains:

"The very essence of individualism is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style of life." I can vouch for that. "It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being persistently annoying to others" -- and I really relate to this -- "as well as being stubborn and repetitive. The German voice of Enlightenment, Friedrich Nicolai, put it clearly, `Criticism is the only helpmate we have which, while disclosing our inadequacies, can at the same time awake us to the desire for greater improvement.'

"Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon" -- it's unfortunate; I don't think we need to use those words -- "in the exercise of legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty and silence are so admired and rewarded; why criticism is so punished and marginalized."

I think we need to take those as cautionary thoughts.

If government is indeed going to serve and facilitate the aspirations of people, then people must be actively involved in communicating their aspirations beyond electing their representatives to government. Such expression of will must be welcomed and accepted as part of the process, whether it conforms or not.

(4) If problems are so "complicated, and often beyond the scope of individual jurisdictions in an interconnected world," how can they be reduced to a simple Yes or No decision? To quote Saul again:

"The complex issues of reality, which democracy can deal with in its own slow, indirect way, are swept aside by single clear issues, often modelled on single human qualities -- either we must have common sense, or we must have reason, or we must have memory. It is as if any combining of human qualities is impossible....

"Both the referendum and direct democracy are a happy marriage with corporatism. The complex, real questions are dealt with behind the scenes through efficient `interest mediation' between the different interest groups. As for the citizenry, they are occupied with the fireworks of their direct involvement on the big questions and their direct relationship with the big people. A simple `yes' or `no' and history, they are told, will change."

Aspects of problems may be able to be addressed through referendum, but other mechanisms also need to be in place for citizens to deal with complexity and be capable of forming public judgement.

(5) The conflict that elected officials experience among their different obligations-commitments will increase with referendum because constituents will have a greater expectation that their elected representative will act on their behalf and, if necessary, in priority over these other commitments.

One has to seriously consider the impact of the party system on our ability to function cooperatively and synergistically in community and among levels of government. What role can parties play in a political process to reduce the impact of conflicting roles? People vote for political candidates and parties for many more reasons than the actual agenda being put forth. Even if the agenda was the reason, in the majority of cases citizens have bought into only a portion of the items. I think this is why we're challenged with getting the kind of support that we think we should be getting with a majority government.


(6) If government's role is to change to that of servicing and facilitating citizens' aspirations and public interests rather than to rule or constrain them, then citizens need a process to determine what these aspirations are and to effectively communicate these to their elected officials in government. The question of trust remains. Do elected officials feel citizens are capable enough that they are willing to relinquish control to them? Referendum could serve to give citizens the impression of control when in fact the control is still with government, and all the responsibility thereto. The very thing we are trying to change could be inherently negated. Either we believe in human capacity or we don't.

Thomas Jefferson said: "I know of no safe repository for the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves. And if the people fall down on the job, do we take it away from them? No. We inform their discretion. We start again. Because the earth belongs always to the living generation and the political process by the people goes on all the time, if there is to be a democratic nation."

Those are our concerns around referendum. We're excited at the fact that this is an effort to involve citizens, but we're going to offer three suggestions or mechanisms that we feel will help overcome some of the obstacles and make the referendum process successful. We'd be partial to certain ones being initiated first so that referendum doesn't run the risk of being rejected because maybe we've done it a little prematurely and perhaps there are some other pieces that need to be in place, or perhaps referendum needs to start at community level and move upwards and expand. But I think we should be very sensitive as to where referendum fits in the implementation of involving citizens.

We're going to offer three suggestions. One is focusing on public issue forums, one on community-building through community-based economic development and planning. We've focused on economic development because we figure that's really what sustains community and its ability to function socially and environmentally responsibly. We're also going to speak briefly about the entrenchment of citizen rights in the political process at all levels of government.

It should be known at the outset that we feel that both government and citizens should be able to initiate referendums or plebiscites at each level of government, according to regulations that ensure the public voice that is recorded has not been unfairly manipulated by self-interest, regulations that ensure that these processes are effectively and appropriately used and are barrier-free.

With that, I'd like to hand over our presentation to Anne Holmes, who will talk to you a bit about the use of public issue forums.

Ms Anne Holmes: Recently, June and I have attempted through local discussion groups and study groups to introduce the public issue forums in our own community. It is our intention to extend into other adjacent communities, and we're getting a very good reaction to it. We took courses on it and we have some materials we'd like to share with you in that regard.

"The whole purpose of democracy is that we may hold counsel with one another, so as not to depend on the understanding of one man, but to depend on the counsel of all. For only as men are brought into counsel and state their needs and interests can the general interests of a great people be compounded into a policy suitable to all." Stated by Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

History clearly demonstrates the need for participatory democracy. To be effective, public involvement must begin at the community level. Every citizen needs to be given the option of taking part in the deliberations. Public issue forums can provide this opportunity.

In a public issue forum, participants are given the background information related to the choices surrounding the issue. They read this information prior to commencing the discussions. If you refer to figure 1 on the next page, this is a typical form outlining some choices on a particular issue.

We didn't fill in the pros and cons because we didn't want to get into a deliberative discussion here, but you can see the format we have been following. Each choice is given equal time for discussion, and the moderators demonstrate no bias for a particular choice. Instead, participants are encouraged to share their understanding of the issue and their points of view. Probing questions help to identify the underlying values and to determine common ground. There is no campaigning or judging. Listening is as important as speaking. People may like some aspects of a choice but not others, and in some cases a choice not listed emerges for discussion. The moderators record discussion highlights to assist in the reflection part of the forum which brings the forum to closure.

At this point we're ready to set up our charts. We got a little damp on the way over.

Ms Davies: Deluged. We're still drying out here.

Ms Holmes: As you can see in chart 1, forums can create public knowledge. Public knowledge is a shared understanding of the issue, identification of common ground. Finding common ground requires a sharper definition of the public's interest, a shared sense of purpose and direction, the identification of a range of actions that the public would support.

Chart 2: We emphasize to the group that choice work is work and it involves coming together and understanding each other's point of view. The job of forum participants is to move towards a choice by understanding how the issue affects people, understanding the key facts, assessing pros and cons of every option and weighing the options' costs and consequences against what is most valuable to people, hearing with respect the perspective of others, finding out what makes the choice so difficult, and working through conflicting emotions. There are ways to test your progress in this deliberative process. You can ask: "Can you make the best case for the option least favoured?" -- that proves that people are really listening -- and, "Can you identify the negative effects of the option most favoured?"

Chart 3: At this part we're coming to closure and we want to reflect in this deliberative discussion on what we have found. We ask for individual reflections: "How has your thinking changed?" "How has your thinking changed about other people's views?"

Group reflections: "Can we detect any shared sense of direction or any common ground for action?" "What did you hear the group saying about tensions in the issue?" "What were the tradeoffs the group was willing or not willing to make?" Next step reflections: "What do we still need to talk about?" and "How can we use what we know now?"

Ms Davies: It's our thought that if a public issue forum preceded referendum so that people have a clearer understanding of all the different choices people are expressing to us, they'll be able to make a much more conscious decision. We think this could be easily implemented. It's easy to do a train-the-trainers program for moderators. There are enough people in government and consultants and teachers who are very good at facilitating. There are a lot of people throughout the province where we could train trainers to do the public issue forums, from each community.

I think we could pilot this kind of thing even on a smaller scale, on a regional level. But if the education doesn't precede the referendum, it's really problematic. They need to go hand in hand, the partnership of education, and I don't think we can trust the current adversarial approach and the campaigning and the winning-losing approach that seems to surround the kinds of things we do in politics. I think we need to make a change towards that. We think this would be a really strong complement to the situation.


I want to talk to you a bit about the second part because an important part of motivating citizens to become involved in government process is to help them understand what we feel is the basic economy, the basic thing that helps their community run, and to involve them in the planning for their community.

Community building is fundamental to developing a healthy, sustainable future and it can only happen when citizens become vested in their community and they have a sense of ownership of the economic system that sustains them. Once vested, they'll expand their interest and involvement to larger related communities, whether it's region, watershed or whatever, and higher levels of government. We feel that we should be developing and implementing this from the ground up.

We want to share with you an idea of how educating the community could be straightforward. What we're looking at here, and you can argue with our mathematics a little bit, is community-based business development, and I think we need an economy that starts to get rooted in community and isn't hanging from the sky hook of a global economy. Each time a dollar is circulated internally in a community, the economy goes up one dollar, and that's old money -- that's before taxes -- so if you keep rotating this dollar it gets less and less. We won't talk about the nothing part of it. Each time it's circulated the economy goes up, each time a dollar comes in from outside the community the economy goes up, which is the new money, and each time we spend a dollar outside the community our local community goes down.

It's that simple and we know that, but people don't seem to understand that basic concept of economics. Our community objectives, as we grow from the grass roots in the economy, are to keep old money in town and circulating, attract as much new money as possible and establish and strengthen community-based businesses. The more community-based a business is, the more time the buck circulates.

Criteria, and we can add to these and delete and change them, but this gives you a sense of what we're talking about: a community-based business, the premises are locally owned, so the buck goes to him. The business is locally owned and operated, so the buck comes to him or her. Workers are residents of the community and, where applicable, jobs are structured to ensure maximum employment opportunity to the community. Local resources are used to make the products, local services and supplies are used to run the business and financial in-kind support is given to us as local not-for-profit activities and community capital expenditures proportionate to profits made. The money keeps circulating around and the money goes up. We're suggesting looking at community-based businesses.

As we educate the community they get fired up about their own economy, because a lot of communities don't know what their economy is. I can demonstrate that. Sample communities -- we took ours because it's the one we can easily work with. We have agriculture, tourism, spring water and aggregate. We have aggregates for as long as it's lasted, and if we take out all the aggregates we might not have spring water because we're not so sure how the aggregates affect it. We're really focusing on agriculture and tourism because we figure those are the ones that are renewable.

A sample community-based business based in our community is cheese and dairy product production -- we have a lot of dairy farmers -- bottled water, soft drinks, micro-breweries, distilleries. We have the highland games. Someone wants to put in Chalk Lake single-malt scotch. We have meat processing, frozen and canned vegetables, vegetable distribution, a large farmers' market, tourism etc, all the things that we can grow out of our own economy, and it makes sense. People just haven't grasped that knowledge yet, that, "This is my economy; this is what makes my community run." They feel so dependent on bringing in big business or business; in our case the Coke plant came and went.

I have a chicken farmer up the road who raises chickens. Where do his chickens go right away? To Schneider's. Now that they're closing down it might be an opportunity for a small business. Our businesses don't need to be big, just local, and we have a lot of good examples: Sleeman's beer, Creemore beer, micro-breweries that are supporting a lot of people and doing quite well in the market. We feel we need to get people vested in what makes their community tick in terms of being able to afford themselves.

To give you an example, I don't think any community knows what its GTP or GCP is, its gross township or city product. It took me, I think, if I'd recorded them, 40 phone calls to ministries at the federal and provincial level to find one person who had to create a software program to give me the GTP of Uxbridge, and I only did it for retail.

How can we assess and evaluate economic development without that fundamental piece of information with which to compare? We have to get a grasp on our own economy.

I was meeting with someone yesterday and I said, "What's the basis of your economy?" He wasn't quite sure. He started to talk about a few things. I said, "You're quite similar to us in Uxbridge," because this was up around the Simcoe area. It's agriculture. Then he started to get a feel for this.

My argument is that movers and shakers really don't understand how economy works and that we just need to start to root it. Once we can start to educate people to become vested in their community, to become involved in the economic stability -- I can show you an example, but I don't think we have time this morning, of how they have to understand their tax system too and how the majority of our taxes are dependent on things other than business tax and residential tax, which to me is unsustainable. The more our operating can be supported by our tax collection and lessening our dependency, but there's still some work to be done with that -- I think citizens need to understand their tax system, and it can be presented very simply. They need to understand their local economy and begin to become vested in it.

We have no tourist association in Uxbridge and yet we itemized over 60 things -- those are just outlined without expanding it -- that create a tourist economy in Uxbridge. We don't have an economic development officer and we don't have a tourist association. Let's get a handle on the local economy.

Once people start to get vested in their community -- we'll go for broke on this one -- we suggest they start getting involved in decision-making. We're suggesting here that we begin a strategic planning process that brings in all these elements of the social components, the economic components and the environmental aspects of the community and that those movers and shakers, not the politicians, because they're not facilitators, remember -- serving -- are now facilitating a planning process where these people start to come together and say, "These are my needs, these are my needs and these are my needs in this community." I'll say: "Okay, you guys in the social sector, here are all your needs. The pot is this big. If we can only do one thing that you think is fundamental and a foundation to this community, what would it be? If we could do two, do we need a set of principles to help guide us to make this decision? Our politicians and our bureaucrats are there to give us the actual information we need to make those decisions. Help us do that; facilitate that."

They start to create that self-selection process -- no appointments; this is citizen generated -- they create their social development planning council that helps to do this prioritization process. A plan that comes up through "social" gets vetted by the other two because there are always impacts. Right now we have clients who just go without the intense impact analysis and the full cost analysis of these things.

Any plan that comes up through "economic" gets vetted. All the plans come up self-selected, create a community development planning council that helps to come up with the priorities, come up with a strategic plan that says, "If this is the strategic plan, here's our mandate." It covers about 10 years. We're going to look at it once a year. But here's our mandate, and if you're our local politician, help us make that happen; if you're a regional politician, help us make this happen; if it's a provincial politician, help us make this happen; if it's the federal politician, help us make this happen.

We know that parts of this plan will be done better if I link with your community to do it. It's more effective, but it's us who decide that we'll create these relationships, not the geopolitical boundaries, because our economy up in Uxbridge isn't so tied to Durham region. In fact, it's really contrary to what we need north of the region because we're agriculture and tourism. We're not industry and yet we're pulled into residential development and this corporation business.

Yes, we'll stay part of Durham region, but we have to open our minds to relating to the Lake Simcoe watershed because that's a whole tourism package that could be put together. We're not awake to it because we're tied to these geopolitical boundaries that don't always make sense for certain things. They might for some things, so I think as communities start to get a sense of where they are, they can create relationships as they need to and the political process can work through getting good direction. It might not work right at the beginning, but what does Jefferson say? "Let's start again and we'll teach the part that didn't happen." I say let's start it at a small level in communities, just testing it out. Build it, strengthen it and move up.


Mr Boushy: I'd just like to say thank you. I think you made one of the best presentations we ever had. Are you sure you're not running for political office?

Ms Davies: We won't talk about that.

Mr Boushy: Everybody is in favour of a referendum. There's no doubt about it. If anyone isn't, there's something wrong somewhere. The thing that bothers me in considering public opinion is that they can change their minds in regard to any issue. Do you feel that the referendum results should be binding on the government of the day? What happens if we adopt something and then, say, six months down the road the public is not in agreement with that? Do you think the results are binding on the government of the day?

Ms Davies: If a really good education program precedes the referendum and people are knowledgeable of all the points -- when people have had good input -- they feel committed to the decision, and if we have a good education system I don't think we'll have that kind of flip-flopping. Without a good education system I think we'd have a problem, and in that case maybe we'd have to move into deciding whether something is binding. Maybe we'd start off with referendums that aren't binding until we get a feel for how things go.

Mr Boushy: If we have to draw up legislation regarding referendums, we have to decide whether or not the results are binding.

Ms Davies: That's right.

Mr Boushy: You didn't really answer my question.

Ms Davies: No. To me every issue is different, and you make a commitment to the process at the outset -- is it going to be something that's binding? Is it not going to be? Is it a plebiscite? Is it a referendum? -- so that people are really clear what they're voting on and that if they vote for this it's binding. As long as the education is thorough and people understand what they're getting into and that this commitment is for real, they will live with those decisions.

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I just wanted to congratulate you. As your elected MPP I appreciate the time and effort you've put into this. I can only say that your contribution certainly adds to the level of political activity and consultation that goes on in the riding, and I'm proud of that. Thank you.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much, Ms Davies and Ms Holmes, for a very excellent presentation. You've taken a unique angle at approaching this and it's very refreshing, but more importantly it's very educational.

I will ensure that this and any other material you give us is shared with Frank Hess, who is our Sudbury Regional Development Corp manager, Paul Tosolini, who is the Sudbury Small Business Centre manager, as well as Dick De Stefano, who has hosted the Next 10 Years conference in Sudbury. We had to go through this exercise in 1979 and we continue to go through it, upgrade it, and you know it's an ongoing thing. It was truly a meaningful presentation. I want you to believe that.

A two-part question, but it's very short: When we talk about the public education process, who should pay for it and how long should that process take for a particular referendum?

Ms Holmes: Each issue would be unique, we would presume. If we started within municipal levels, then in our particular situation agriculture could be a very important issue to discuss, particularly retention of agricultural lands versus development.

I would say, to give it fair timing, that each deliberative discussion perhaps should have about a month's opportunity, depending on the size of the community, of course, that we're talking about. We're talking about 14,800 in the township of Uxbridge, so we certainly could do it in a month in Uxbridge, but it would be relative to the size of the population and the complexity of the issue too.

Ms Davies: This is a very inexpensive process because it's community-based. There are a lot of local people who in a lot of cases -- God, what we volunteer to our community is phenomenal. But "Train the trainers," the expense of that at whatever level it is: "Come in. We'll train you."

There are two parts to doing it: framing the issue, which takes a bit of time, and we could probably frame an issue. We framed an issue in a week and tested it, then we went back at it and framed the issue again, then we went back with the refined one. Once we have the issue framed and we have tested it on a small scale, we just go out and do "Train the trainers"; you blitz the public issue forum.

Ms Holmes: It took us three days.

Ms Davies: Yes. Politicians sit in, and they hear the public judgement, because it's not for them to participate other than in helping to give factual information that helps them understand the issue maybe a little more clearly.

Mr Silipo: Thank you very much, Ms Davies and Ms Holmes, for a very different kind of presentation than we've heard so far, I think, around this issue, one that presents a lot of very interesting and useful ideas around how you build democracy from the ground up, which is essentially the message I get from what you're telling us.

There are some who might look at your proposal and say it sounds nice but it's somewhat idealistic. For one thing, how could you ever get the interest in this kind of process that government, for example, could look at and say, "Yes, that reflects a consensus or decision that's been arrived at in a particular community"? What would your response be to that?

Ms Davies: A good example would be in the US, where they have been working with public issue forums. They did a national issue forum, invited 600 people from across the nation. They went through the deliberative discussion, and I can't recall what the topic was, then they invited -- I think Vice-President Gore was there, plus a number of key politicians, to respond to questions from people who had gone through the deliberative discussion. What was really exciting was to hear the words they had talked about in discussion being spoken. They could get a sense of what the perspective was of the particular politician. They were very clear as to what choice they might make in terms of the person because they were really clear on the issue. We can demonstrate this in a really exciting, succinct way.

Mr Silipo: I think you touched on this earlier, but I'd like you to expand a little, if you would. How do you see this process you're suggesting mesh with the notion of referenda? Is it something that is a replacement or is it something you would see as a big prelude to any referendum? That's how I've understood it.

Ms Davies: A prelude and a complement. Let's face it, we can all be in the same room and it's hard to come to consensus. I would love to think that consensus is possible, and maybe in small scales it is if we have like minds, but it comes down to making choices. I think after a public issue prelude-complement to it we can get a sense of what people are feeling. It helps to give us the resources we need to articulate the questions in a really clear way and that perhaps allows us to articulate the questions that build in complexity.

Mr Silipo: Given the way you've presented it and the way I had understood it, would you suggest to us that in any legislation that gets established governing referenda, something like this or this type of process ought to be built in as part of it?

Ms Davies: Absolutely. Otherwise I think referenda are really a risk.

Ms Holmes: This is basically what we're saying with citizens' rights to participate.

Ms Davies: Citizens need to know just what the path is. I can't believe the reading we have to do to find out what to do to get our voices heard about a particular issue. My God, it's fine print. Just as we have an Environmental Bill of Rights, let's have a Citizens' Bill of Rights, "Here's how you access the system," and let's start getting this stuff going back and forth and becoming friends.

Ms Holmes: We don't know if we can have a citizens' initiative referendum until we read the Municipal Act. Have you ever read the Municipal Act?

Mr Silipo: Not recently.

Ms Davies: It's good bedtime reading, getting to the climax.

The Chair: That's our next job. Thank you very much for your presentation. We certainly appreciate the input you've provided.



The Chair: Our next presenter is Mr John Deverell. Mr Deverell, would you please come forward and explain to us what you think about referendums.

Mr John Deverell: Thank you, Mr Chairman and members of the committee, for the opportunity to appear. I have some familiarity with these halls and I have been observing politics in this province for a long time, but I'm appearing today as a private citizen and in no way representing the views of my employer.

I'd like to begin by commending the government members for following through on pre-election promises made by their leader and addressing fundamental democratic issues, the nature of our citizenship and the legitimacy of our lawmaking processes. I think the discussion paper you have circulated indicates that some serious thought and research are under way on this topic and that we are dealing with a serious intent. That encourages me.

I think earlier this week you received from a colleague of mine, Greg Vezina, copies of this book, Democracy, Eh?, in which we make the case for a citizen initiative power for Canadians and a number of other reforms to the political system. Most of the argument you will find in here -- the chapter on direct democracy is on pages 101 to 131 -- translates easily and suitably into an Ontario framework. Your own paper signals that there is an extra difficulty at the provincial level because the Ontario Legislature lacks the formal capacity to make constitutional change, but we're all used to living with some of these contradictions of federalism, and I'm sure that one could be managed.

As any scrutiny of this book will make clear, I regard as illusory all forms of citizen initiative legislation which do not provide for the voted proposition to become law in a form intended and approved by its sponsors.

Governments, as they do, may consult the population by a variety of means, but the concept of citizen initiative, I urge you, should be respected by this Legislature and reserved for something much rarer and more profound than consultation. Ontario should embrace the real thing: the right of citizens to decide directly what the law will be.

In my view we have two significant advantages in coming late to the serious consideration of instruments of direct democracy.

First, we have in place a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which, as supreme law, provides protection for minority rights which might otherwise be infringed or endangered by majority voting.

Second, in our political culture we have come to accept the concept of regulated political debate in elections and referendums due to the need for a level playing field and the accompanying need for restraint in the amounts and uses of campaign money. The concept of registered Yes and No committees which would serve as conduits for referendum campaign funds and broadcast allotments, and organizers of the public debate and public education which should precede a vote, those concepts are already established and accepted in our political culture and in our legal system, unlike in the United States, where they have had difficulties with the question of regulating campaign expenses because of the freedom of speech concept. Our legal system has basically dealt with that question.

The challenge for you as legislators is to devise a citizen initiative power which jealously preserves the independent formulation of the proposition so as to preserve the intent of the sponsors while at the same time avoiding legislation which is unnecessarily awkward or unworkable. My colleague Vezina and I gave considerable thought to this question, and in our discussions, reading and research we think there is a way that both objectives -- to me they are the essential ones -- can be well served. The petition sponsors must consult the Attorney General for legal advice on whatever difficulties may exist in their proposition as they first put it together, but in our conception they would remain in control of the wording of the proposition all the way to the ballot box.

The wrinkle we suggest to you which allows for the experience of the legislators to be brought to bear on the referendum process and improve it is that these petition sponsors would retain the authority to withdraw the petition and forestall the referendum if it seemed appropriate to them to do so. The point is that this would give the Legislature the opportunity essentially to bargain with the petitioners over the content of the proposition so that, for instance -- when we talk about the Legislature, essentially we're talking about the Legislature's majority, therefore the government -- the government would have the opportunity to adopt legislation which satisfies the petition's sponsors and in that way persuades them to forgo the referendum. By satisfying this group that its purposes were being achieved, all the expertise that the Legislature can bring to bear on the drafting of legislation is allowed and could result in the ballot actually not taking place but in the law being changed in the way intended by the petitioners. That's the happy scenario in which there's a meeting of minds, the purpose is achieved and the legislation is drafted effectively and efficiently.

In the instance in which the petitioners and the Legislature simply do not have a meeting of the minds and the Legislature regards the petitioners as seriously wrongheaded, the major alternative would be to propose alternative legislation on the same subject and offer the electors the choice between the two. That would be a campaign in which the petitioners would say, "Those devils will never get it right, they never understand and here's what must be done," and the Legislature, presumably the governing party, would offer a major alternative and the electors would simply choose between those two legislative alternatives.

From my reading, this is a device that is employed in other jurisdictions, and very frequently the judgement of the legislators is preferred to the judgement of the petitioners, but it does provide for that tension in which the petitioners get their shot and finally get their access to the people and the people's judgement.

I think those are the central questions in the structure of a citizen initiative piece of legislation. There are many other issues we touch on here which we've considered and which will no doubt occupy you. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have on these subjects to the best of my ability.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much, Mr Deverell, for the book and for the presentation. I spent a little time last evening reading your chapter that is specific to what we're discussing. I enjoyed in particular the section "A Smidgen of (Direct) Democracy." I thought it was rather very true, to the point and very timely, and we should all spend a little bit of time reading that carefully.


We were presented with a dilemma in our first presentation this morning. The mayor of Sault Ste Marie has already conducted a plebiscite/referendum to the people of Sault Ste Marie with regard to the establishment of a permanent casino. The majority of the people support the referendum. If this were to go ahead and if the province was to hold a referendum with regard to the future of casinos in Ontario and it was decided there be no more casinos, who would override? Would it be the province that would establish its policy, would it be Sault Ste Marie having a right to define its own destiny because of the obvious competition of five casinos within an hour's drive of Sault Ste Marie? How does the government or how does legislation take those types of factors into consideration when establishing legislation?

Mr Deverell: In my conception, in my understanding, the field of the referendum would be the jurisdiction of the government in question, so if we're talking about Ontario legislation and an Ontario citizen initiative, then the jurisdiction is Ontario, the electorate is the electorate of Ontario and the question is settled in that framework, so that a local interest -- a petition can begin out of a local interest, but it can't prevail unless it can prevail on the full provincial playing field.

Mr Bartolucci: So there may be an opportunity for regional representation, but if it is the desire of a particular community, for example, Sault Ste Marie, to have a casino but the will of Ontarians is to not have any further casinos, then the will of Ontarians overrides the individual city.

Mr Deverell: That's the situation that now prevails. The question is a question of provincial competence. In a dispute between the province and a municipality trying to act outside its competence, the province prevails. A municipal group might try to use the citizen initiative to overcome resistance to some concept at Queen's Park, but they would have to be able to sell that idea province-wide in order to accomplish their purpose.

Mr Silipo: Mr Deverell, the notion you present that part of the process should allow, first of all, for the negotiations or the discussion between the proposing group and the government of the Legislature to see if acceptable legislation could be put forward has certainly been something that others who have presented it have also advocated, but your other point is one upon which others, at least a couple of other presenters I remember, have specifically warned us against. I'd like to hear you talk a little bit more about that. The rationale has been that if you allow, on the same referendum question, in effect an alternative position to be put, by government I take it from what you're suggesting here, then you are skewing, the argument would go, the result of the referendum, because of the power government would have to carry its argument out to the public to a greater extent than whoever the proposing group might be on the other side of the issue. What would be your response to that?

Mr Deverell: There is a campaign concept involved when you're taking one of these things to the ballot, and we would adopt the Canadian contribution to these ideas, which is a restraint on spending. That's why you have Yes and No committees. This is a sort of Canadian contribution to this concept of direct democracy, umbrella Yes and No committees with some sort of financial mechanism which allows some access to media and some provision for public discussion, so that you have a structured debate, in other words, with some public financing to ensure that the question is aired before people mark their ballots, that there's an opportunity for public education and information and then a decision.

If you're up against an alternative proposed by the government, then it's an uphill slug, there's no question about that, but if there's a spending constraint so that in the committees of Yes and No there's an equalization, that it's not just unlimited spending, then that's an acceptable challenge for the people who are trying to do something the government thinks is unwise.

Mr Hastings: Thank you very much, Mr Deverell, for appearing before us. We've heard a lot of different views this week on this issue, on referendum legislation. One of the most common and prevalent was from certain élites, particularly the media and academic, that the posing of referenda or plebiscites or any sort of thing of that matter is a major threat to minority rights in Canada and in this province. They trot this out every time to say, "You shouldn't have hardly any referenda, because you're probably going to destroy minority rights." This argument was presented by at least three different groups this week. I'd like to get your thinking on that.

I'd also like to know your thinking in terms of the frequency of referenda and whether in terms of the timing, should they be apart from a provincial election or held together at the time of a provincial election. That was usually raised from the perspective of cost, but there were a lot of issues around when you have it with a provincial election and then you get candidates being shoved or pushed to support a particular question, whether government- or citizen-initiated.

Mr Deverell: If I could answer the timing question first, my co-author, Vezina, and I canvassed this question fairly vigorously and came to the conclusion that because our election dates are not fixed in this particular parliamentary system, the course of wisdom would be to have a fixed schedule for referendum activity. Our view was annual, at some point in the fall, probably coincident for purposes of efficiency with the municipal election processes where possible, so you have an infrastructure for balloting which works to fixed periods, rather than the timetable of this Legislature in which the date is at the pleasure of the Premier. You would have a fixed calendar so people would know how to do these things and how to participate in them on an annual cycle.

In fact we suggest here that if somehow a provincial election were to overtake a referendum process that was under way, you would hoist the referendum process. You might not have them at the time of the provincial election. Some of the issues might become campaign issues and might be dealt with in that way, and then if they weren't, people would be back the next year with their referendum, with a government sitting in place here in Queen's Park. But there would be that opportunity to say, "All right, there's an election that may deal with the question, so let's wait and see what this election produces and what this government does," and if the petitioners remain unsatisfied, then they're on again for the following year. That's my way of handling that question.


On the question of minority rights, I alluded to it in my opening remarks. There is a concern there. There is always a concern about the tyranny of the majority. We do, however, have a Charter of Rights and a Human Rights Code, and I think it's possible with those mechanisms which preserve liberty and which are designed to protect individuals from the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of the states -- with those constitutional measures that we have in place already, I think some of the concerns one might have about referendum voting are allayed, because the courts would still retain the authority to disallow, to strike down legislation which violated those provisions of superior law.

Mr Hastings: Aside from the logistics and the mechanics and some of the side issues dealing with referenda, do you see referenda or plebiscites -- we've usually only concentrated on referenda -- as in any way anti-democratic or undermining the parliamentary institutions we already have rather than the other side of the coin which would be strengthening and advancing and promoting individual responsibility, rights and that sort of stuff in the general community?

Mr Deverell: In my view, they are a supplement. The main lawmaking exercise still takes place in this building, for most purposes, but the referendum mechanism, in its citizen-initiated variance, is the one that's novel. Now any government that wants to have a referendum can have one; it's just that very seldom does a government find it expedient to do that. In Canada, three in a century: prohibition in 1898, conscription in 1941 and the Charlottetown accord -- three in a century. Obviously as a general rule governments do not find it expedient to hold referendums.

There will be more referendums when they can be initiated from someplace outside the control of government. That's why we sort of indicated an opportunity for a bargaining process so that the Legislature could say: "Oh, we had some kind of a consensus or an understanding here, or if the majority government of the day simply does not have that priority, but now that the referendum petition is under way, we may have to deal with this question that otherwise we would've preferred not to deal with. How shall we deal with it?"

We've outlined that process by which the government will either take its chances at seeing its alternative defeated in a popular vote or bargain with the petitioners to produce a piece of legislation they both find acceptable.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Deverell, for your presentation and the input you provided to this committee.


The Chair: I'd like to call forward our last witness for the morning, Mr Trueman Tuck, who is representing the Hastings County Ratepayers Association. Welcome, Mr Tuck.

Mr Trueman Tuck: I am pleased to be here. That was a good question. I liked that one about the minority interests. I've got one I may divert from. We exist today as the Hastings County Ratepayers Association because we don't feel that the current lawmaking process represents the majority who pay the bills, who have lived in the society for a long time and haven't been active, because we don't have time to come this far.

This is a history-making moment for me to be here even, because I've got businesses to run. I didn't get back until 1 o'clock last night. I had hours of work to do, and unfortunately the people who principally pay the bills in our society and the people who have been the basis of the entire democracy, the law system and everything, really feel today that they're not being represented by anybody.

Our experiences in Hastings county over the last three years, which I won't bore you with -- Doug Rollins can fill you in on it -- have taught us many, various sad lessons that our local members of Parliament are largely influenced by farm groups that like to get low taxes and exclusions from business taxes and $150 million-plus on tax help where nobody helps any of us with any of our taxes.

Taxes are like a glass of water. If you have certain people not putting their share in, somebody else is going to have more than a full glass. We've discovered, through the county process, that we, as residences, cottage owners and people who have chosen to live in rural Ontario, really have nobody to protect us against the government systems.

The whole way MVA was put into effect in Hastings county, which you can study from your press clippings and from your local members, it was sold by the regional assessment office on a horse-and-pony show, taking a massive report like this coming to our councils at the end of August and trying to get all those councils to vote on it at the end of August without even having a chance to study this most important decision they had ever made in Hastings county on taxes. They were trying to get it smoothly through and approved by September 28. We fought it, and we're still fighting it. All this has done now is create a new political force in Ontario; the silent majority is no longer silent.

You've heard from several groups, the Ontario Taxpayers Federation and others this week. We are now organizing to be heard. Our concerns are very simple. From the experiences we've had, we're not convinced we even have a democracy in Ontario. We're not convinced that our members of Parliament are even prepared to listen to their constituents. We're not so sure that the members of Parliament, with how you're currently structured, in your nominating processes, in your party whip systems, in your inner and outer power circles, have any room to listen to your constituents.

I won't go into great detail, but the experiences we've had in the last six months are horrifying. Even something so simple as the freedom of information act, which is very similar to what you're looking at today, is a great idea, but if we can't go through the freedom of information act and get the computer discs on the data that we need to properly defend our rights under the Assessment Act, without getting stonewalled with $7,500 bills at 25 cents a photocopy for a mass of data that we don't even want -- we just want the computer discs.

Freedom of information is like what you're discussing here: It's a great concept; it makes the citizens feel secure that there is a democracy. But if the bureaucratic process is such that we can't get key information, such as computer discs, without getting letters like I have here for $7,500 in advance, then the best of intents to create a friendlier, more constituent-user society is not occurring.

We also have copies recently of a new policy of the regional assessment department. Anybody who's representing a taxpayer, other than the taxpayer, has to pay a minimum $25 fee and 25 cents a photocopy to get the information they need to properly appeal their taxes, which is a fundamental right under the 1990 legislation.

We would like to believe that there really is a concern in the current government here in Toronto, that you do want constituent input, but as you can see by my outline, we believe that politicians have failed to recognize and respond to the growing demand on the part of the electorate for value for their money and competent and fair leadership. Government decisions are more political than realistic and do not reflect the opinions of the majority of the citizens.

Government decisions are made in isolation, based upon either (a) the bureaucratic recommendation or (b) a party's hidden agenda or political expediency. In almost all cases, the laws are created for self-justification and preservation instead of growing out of a genuine need developed from the grass roots. The political power centres have caused our governing system to decay into a self-interested, corrupt reality.

There is definitely a need for referenda and other reforms to give the ratepayers the principal say in how their money is spent and the type of society that is created around them.

The Hastings County Ratepayers Association started as the Moira Trent Watershed Action Committee in 1992 and is a coalition of concerned ratepayers in Hastings county. The HCRA is committed to ensuring that the voices of those that pay the bills are heard and acted upon by our elected representatives. Today, our membership includes 11 ratepayer groups, three municipalities and concerned ratepayers and businesses totalling in excess of 3,000 properties in Hastings county. This represents more than 6,000 votes and a large part of the wealth of Hastings county. The votes are actually more powerful than that, because about a third of our membership is seasonal, and they own homes and businesses in other jurisdictions. About two thirds of our membership is permanent, and a very high percentage of them are now being business people and people with investments and things like that. You're getting a whole different category.


I was quite surprised. I'm on the finance committee for the Ontario chamber. It was interesting when I went to the meeting there and found that there was another person on that same finance committee who was heading up another group. So there's a whole political change occurring now. Business people, the silent majority made up of all walks of life, we control the majority of the wealth in Ontario. We control the majority of votes in Ontario. Yet we have been the ones who have the least ear of the people in the halls of power.

The HCRA has been strongly opposing the hasty implementation of market value assessment in our county. It was irresponsible for the newly elected provincial Conservative government to permit the local assessment office to bring a complex impact study to our councils in late August, attempt to force county approval on September 28, 1995, and then rush to implement on January 1, 1996; all of this without any prior public meetings, notice or time for input. This is a violation of our trust in the Common Sense Revolution.

There have been no tax reforms on the many existing faults. The whole process has been sold on the basis of farmers and businesses paying too much and homes and cottages not paying their fair share. This is not true when tax rebates, tax deductions, publicly funded assistance and other factors are netted in. The votes in support are self-interest-oriented, with those benefitting most pushing for immediate implementation and being encouraged by the assessment office.

I'll give you an example of one of the lessons we learned. We studied each council to find out who moved the motion. We found out what businesses they owned, what sons and relatives they had in dairy farms and things. I'll give you an example. I won't mention any township, because we've tried to take action on it. One of the principal townships that changed its vote from September that caused this to come down our throats, it was moved by the deputy reeve of that township. We knew that he had a major business in the township. So we did some research. We estimated that he was going to save $15,000 to $20,000 a year by being the mover of the approval in that township for market value assessment to be implemented immediately on January 1.

We called the Solicitor General, we called the Attorney General, we called some high-level contacts to find out whether the task force for investigating these things still existed, and we were stonewalled everywhere. We could not get anybody to investigate. We have at least half a dozen cases where we feel these different people who moved this action potentially violated either criminal or other things.

We hired expensive lawyers to understand what the conflict-of-interest laws were, what the breach-of-trust laws were, what actions we had as citizens. We've come up with a new term. We call it the Teflon-coated municipal officials, because we found out that unless we were prepared to put up a retainer of $10,000 or $20,000 per person under the conflict-of-interest process and go through a whole bunch of hoops, 90 days from date of discovery and a whole bunch of other things, we didn't have a hope of bringing these people to account.

The Solicitor General wasn't any help. Municipal affairs wasn't any help. The Attorney General wasn't any help. Finally in frustration we went to the local OPP. We went over all the details. They told us basically that this is the type of evidence we had; that, yes, our lawyer had been correct that the criminal activity was our best chance at the lowest cost to us.

We received some nasty letters from a lawyer representing this councillor. We sent back some letters to them stating who we were and who our membership was and we really liked buying their product from their plant and there were hundreds of us who were customers of his. Then all of a sudden a few weeks later he resigned. I guess he hopes now the whole thing has gone away. But anyway, that's one of the lessons we've learned as a group, the type of things we wouldn't normally have ever been exposed to as the silent majority.

We studied the Assessment Act. We've hired two law firms. We're seeking legal opinions on various components of the Assessment Act. For instance, the Assessment Act is very specific at requiring market value assessment, so one of the things we puzzled over is if that act was put in in 1990, then was it legal for the government to be collecting taxes on a different basis? There were a whole bunch of technical questions about whether the existing laws are even being followed by the government or the bureaucracy, and those things are still going on.

Then all of a sudden we began to learn more about how our laws were made, why so many properties are excluded that use the services and it gets dumped back on us. Why are nurseries and fur-bearing producers and apartment buildings and farmers excluded from business taxes, where everybody else in our society has to pay business taxes? There are all types of oddities in the law that we began to discover, because we had never read the law, and we certainly had never hired top lawyers to go over the law with us. So there's a whole change that's happening with us.

There needs to be a definition of property taxes, and it is critical that all properties involving services pay their fair share. This includes government buildings, schools, churches etc. There can be no fairness to property taxes, in our opinion, without this change and a direct relationship between the consumption of services and the taxes paid.

The fight has taught us some bitter lessons that we'd like to share with you today briefly. If you live, work or play in rural Ontario, you have no representation at the municipal, county, provincial or federal levels. The power is in the rural caucuses, which are dominated by farmers. I understand in the rural caucus here we have 12 of 13. We did meet with Gary Fox. We did meet with Doug Rollins. We have gone over this with our local members. We have done research on what moneys they receive.

In a discussion with Gary Fox we said: "We don't mind helping food-producing farmers, that's important to us, but why are we helping all these other people? Why somebody with a Christmas tree? Why somebody with investment land? Why somebody with sod farming? Why the definition of income at $7,500 for our taxes to go back to people? We want it at $25,000 or more. If a person doesn't have a real business and doesn't have real income principally from food, why should they be accessing one single tax dollar of assistance, federally or provincially? What's fair about this?"

Gary Fox indicated in the discussion that they had looked at a change of the income levels and he had thought of the $25,000, by coincidence, and if they increased that, it would knock out over 50% of the less than 40,000 farmers receiving almost $1 billion of federal and provincial assistance directly and indirectly now. He said that would create a hardship on the older farmers. I said, "Well, you just jacked up the taxes $500 to $1,500 on all the seniors trying to hold on to homes in Hastings county, and there are 10 to one of them over farmers being affected, and nobody seems to be batting an eyelash." There's something wrong with this picture.

The provincial cabinet ministers appear not to be really interested in real grass-roots input and are currently not committed to representative democracy in Ontario. We've been trying since April to meet with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. We believe, in our membership, that if any of you -- and you're all invited -- will choose to come and sit down with our executive in our riding and talk to the silent majority, you'll find that there's a lot of wisdom, there's a lot of good ideas on how we can not be at war with each other, not have a society with minorities and majorities and all the things all feeding off the public tit -- excuse the expression -- the way they are now and causing our taxes to go up and causing our job competitiveness to go down and creating a very ugly scenario for the future for all of us in Ontario.

We do not believe that currently there is any such thing as democratic representative parliamentary government in Ontario. We congratulate the government and this committee on opening the floor to this discussion, because this, to us, could be the starting point of getting back to a real representative democracy. That addresses the issues of the minorities too. Some time I'll tell you another story, as a white male.

When the equity legislation went in a number of years ago, having worked in the government a number of years I understand how power works and what goes on. I said to my friends when this whole equity rights thing started that it's like a teeter-totter. If you're going to come in and say that we have 2% employment of francophones in the provincial government and their representation of population is 5.5%, then it's like a seesaw. If you put a program in to boost that percentage and that percentage now becomes 8% and 9%, then you've become discriminating against the other piece of that full pie now that isn't in right balance, and it's a nightmare that'll never be right. There's a difference between constitutional protection and fairness to every citizen of our society and those types of manipulations that can destroy our society. We have serious problems with that now in a lot of different ways.


Lesson number four: There's no such thing as just and fair taxation. We mentioned to the local member of Parliament that we get a kick out of it whenever we hear this cost-per-student statistic that's so popular in government circles today. We asked the member of Parliament, "Does that include what we, as residences and homes, pay for school taxes that they don't pay on all the services they receive?" The member of Parliament turned a little white and said, "I never thought of that before." Schools don't pay taxes and they're a major consumer of municipal services. In all these fancy statistics about cost-per-student, "So proud of how good a job you're doing or somebody's doing," it's not a true number. If I did that in my business or to my board of directors they'd fire me for misleading them on a major financial component.

There's a growing number of very angry ratepayers who are fed up with paying the bills and having very little say in how their money is spent.

The laws and systems have been deliberately designed by the governing class to ensure that they are not accountable to one ratepayer who pays for everything. This goes back to this conflict-of-interest legislation. We became very aware that the laws had deliberately been designed not to let a municipal official be easily accountable to a single concerned constituent who had limited personal finances to have them investigated or looked at. What are we going to do about it?

We're here today to request major changes in the entire governing system to ensure that there is real representative government in Ontario. We're no longer prepared to have people spending our money carelessly on things we do not agree with. We are also no longer prepared to permit our elected officials to answer to anyone else but their constituents. To us that's the key to this. The principal decision-making of the member of Parliament at any level or of any council has to be to their local constituents. The party, the friends, the people they rub shoulders with regularly, the people they golf with, the lodges they're involved with, the churches they go to, all those things have to be secondary.

What you're discussing in this committee this week could be a giant step forward to opening up that whole question. In our opinion you can't do referenda without dealing with whether we want to have a democratic representative society, and if you want to have that, there are other things that have to go with part of the package which we've detailed here. I won't go over the individual proposals because I want to leave some time for questions, but you can see from the proposals what we're getting at. You've got to clean up the nominating process. When you have people like Chrétien federally -- that's a safe example in a provincial room -- parachuting his selected people in and not letting a constituency process come up with the raw material that will become our lawmaker, that's an insult to our intelligence; that's an insult to our democracy. I know I won't vote for Chrétien and I think there are thousands more like this.

This is sensitive, but we're not trying to be politically correct; we're trying to shape a society we're all comfortable with and we have to get over this political thing: When you see federal Liberal policies dealing with gay bill rights, dealing with capital punishment the way they do and then ostracizing individual members of their caucus who are prepared to stand up and say, "I view gay activity as not an appropriate or proper behaviour in a society" -- I have the right to say that. I consider that to be deviant behaviour in my set of values and I shouldn't be lambasted for that. We should be able to have that within your party caucus and we should be able to have it within the decision of what your legislation is. Anyway, the proposals I think are quite clear on where we're going with it and why we're dealing with it.

There is a revolution happening that no one can stop. Elected officials have lost the trust and respect of the majority of citizens.

As an aside here, I worked in the federal government and put in a lot of my time and effort and took great pride in what I did, and it used to really annoy me when I'd go to parties and they'd call me silly civil servant and things, so I understand that there are a lot of members of Parliament with great integrity and great concern about these same issues. I don't want anything I've said here today to be taken in any other vein than us saying: "We've got to have a dialogue about this stuff. We're angry and concerned about what's going on around us."

The term Common Sense Revolution to us is not just a cute, timely political term. It's designed to get someone elected so that they can continue the old politics. To us it is time to demand access to the halls of power. He who pays the bill should have a say in the tune that is being played.

The system has taught us not to trust any political party or elected official. Our fight for fair taxes and proper representation has taught us that we have to join forces with other like-minded individuals and organizations and create a new political reality, which means changing over 100 years of farmers controlling the government in rural areas at all levels of Ontario. The MVA fight has taught us that we pay almost $1 billion a year to support agriculture in Ontario directly and indirectly; this to support fewer than 40,000 farmers. We have learned that if "farmers" is redefined as food producing only, with principal incomes for agriculture or food production of $25,000 a year, this number is reduced by more than half. Most important of all, we have learned that we control more wealth and votes in rural Ontario than the farmers. We have also learned that no political party can afford to ignore the risk we have become to any desired future mandate to govern either provincially or federally.

Are you listening? Are you prepared to sit down with us? Are you planning on trying to be re-elected? We will be in touch with you shortly. We're looking forward to the next election. Are you? Trueman Tuck, chairman of the Hastings County Ratepayers Association.

Mr Silipo: There's a lot that we could talk about, Mr Tuck, but time not allowing, I simply ask you how you see -- I know your proposals talk about things a number of people have suggested that we put together, and I suspect that we'll be looking at, in one way or another, at least some of those, many of those as part of this process. One thing we have been seeing in a number of groups is the sense that we've got to be able to sort out when we use a referendum versus when we do not use it. What I find useful is that there are some comments you made that I would disagree with very strongly but there's a lot in what you're expressing that I find myself in agreement with in terms of the frustration that your group feels and the reasons for that.

I appreciate that you're suggesting a referendum really is one piece, but a number of other things need to happen to make our system more democratic. I would appreciate it if you could comment a little more on the referendum itself in terms of when we should use it, when we should not use it, is it something to be left only for major issues or is it something that should be used on a more regular basis, in your view?

Mr Tuck: We have such an awkward situation with what the role of government is. Because I'm involved with the chamber, I have met with various cabinet ministers at different times and Lyn McLeod was in a meeting, and I asked this question in a business setting a while ago. We have to define what government's role is and then we have to rebuild the trust. Without a clear agreement among the majority of citizens on what government's role is and without any trust between all the different pieces of it, we have nothing. We're on shifting sands. There's no foundation to build any just society -- excuse the expression -- or deal with that.

Part of what you're referring to is if we can come to some agreement on what that's about. For instance, if there's a law that you have to balance budgets, then you don't need referenda on tax matters because that's taken care of within other parts of the framework. We have so much out of kilter that it's difficult. I believe that however we go about it, we have to get the consensus of constituents moving into the member's office, and the technology is there. It's very easy. The members can put computers in and give us a unique tax number and ask us any question, any time they want. The phone lines do it. In Kingston, 98.3 does it all the time, and I'm fascinated with how well the radio call-in seems to be common sense, like your point earlier. We've got to trust that we're decent Canadians. We've got to trust that we're going to be fair to the minority, that the majority is not going to become the tyrant of our bureaucracy and our big unions, public and private, and everything, the mess we're in. So we've got to trust the common citizen.

It's very hard to answer that specifically, but the way we're designed now it would be any major issue. The Constitution or a structural change would be the first one, most important; the second one would be taxation of any type. The other one would involve sensitive issues of capital punishment -- not necessary provincial, but very controversial things where there are very strong feelings -- minority rights, immigration, francophones. We won't get into Bill 8; we can talk about that, but there's a whole bunch of issues. I've said to people we can't have any financial responsibility until we deal with francophone issues and things. You can't balance budgets with so many pieces. You can't balance them without dealing with the school issues, without dealing with the welfare issues; there are 1.2 million people. Anything that's critical to the structure of society I think should go to the people.

Mr Hastings: Mr Tuck, let's focus in on one of the building blocks of a redesigned Ontario government and on all those relationships you talk about. Using a referendum question, how would you design a question that formulated a direct relationship between the consumption of municipal services, government services, with the taxpayer's capacity to pay? Since you reject MVA and all the other paraphernalia dealing with the raising of taxes through the Assessment Act that's in place, how would you design a question that focuses very specifically on consumption values, the consumer's consumption of a given service at the local government level, and that person's capacity to pay for it?

Mr Tuck: We've talked about this. The first thing you'd have to do is get a consensus from the people and the entire system on what is the definition of property tax, so what service grouping is included in that, because to us the property tax should be a pooled fund to pay for services rendered in the local municipality. This becomes more critical as we go through our restructuring. To define easy ones: If you have a snowplow based in the community, it's easy to put it on the list and say the costs of that snowplow should be paid by all the properties it goes by or that are part of the pool of people in that area. I think you have to define what services are going to be rendered by whatever that municipal creature is going to end up being. Once you determine that, then you can go back to the three or four versions of taxes. You know there's a study group coming up. We have many different options of how to tax fairly.

Mr Hastings: But they're all valuation based.

Mr Tuck: No.

Mr Hastings: Most of them; unit value, all of them go back to value of the property.

Mr Tuck: I'll give you an example of what we propose. In my lake association we have 35 houses on a private road. They get no road service, no snow removal, no school pickup, no garbage pickup, no recycling and they're paying $1,500 to $2,500 a year in taxes. There has to be a correlation to the consumption of that menu of services that's going to be the responsibility and the actual use of them by the specific properties. There are two or three ways that can be done. You can do it by mill rates; you can have different mill rates on a shopping list. It's got to be a consumption relationship. There are some innovative systems in the world that are being looked at. Unit is one of them, but let's sit down and create a new one. I believe we have the ability in our society, with the intelligence and common sense we have, to create a new system. It doesn't have to be an old wheel recycled. Let's come up with an Ontario solution.

Mr Bartolucci: Let me tell you that I hope that after your presentation here today some of the obvious frustration and some of the cynicism that I sort of sense will leave and that you'll understand that there is a process in place to address some of the issues.

Let me follow up on a point that Mr Silipo made. You're suggesting that all issues of taxation be subject to a referendum.

Mr Tuck: Major issues.

Mr Bartolucci: Would a major issue of taxation such as the $2 prescription fee to seniors be the subject of a referendum, in your estimation?

Mr Tuck: No. I was referring to structural taxation, for instance for property and business taxes and incomes and stuff like that.

Mr Bartolucci: But not increases or decreases?

Mr Tuck: No, the structural concepts of how we do these things.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Tuck. The committee is in recess until 1:30.

The committee recessed from 1214 to 1333.


The Chair: Good afternoon. The standing committee on the Legislative Assembly is now resuming its public hearings on the issue of referendums. We have with us this afternoon John Murphy, president of the Power Workers' Union, and Chris Dassios, who is legal counsel with that organization. Welcome, gentlemen. We look forward to your presentation.

Mr John Murphy: Thank you. I want to say that we appreciate the opportunity to make a presentation on the proposed discussion document.

Let me start with some background on the Power Workers' Union. The Power Workers' Union represents approximately 15,000 members throughout the power sector in the province of Ontario. The roots of the Power Workers' Union go back to about 1944. The PWU was one of the founding members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada's largest union, and continues its affiliation with CUPE, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour and nearly 50 local labour councils throughout Ontario. I've been the president of the PWU since 1993, and I'm also vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and a member of the board of directors of Ontario Hydro.

The PWU has reviewed the government's discussion paper regarding the potential advantages of using referenda in Ontario. The paper focuses on pointing out the potential benefits of implementing a referendum process in Ontario. We agree there are benefits to be had from the appropriate use of direct democracy. However, it is our submission that not enough attention has been paid to the real negative consequences of the use of referenda in the province in an unrestricted manner. We are here today to point out the dangers of the overuse of referenda and to suggest a more principled approach to the use of referenda where such use is necessary for the proper functioning of government.

Responsible government: The system of responsible government in Ontario predates Confederation and consists of a Legislature elected to represent the people and an executive branch which is responsible to the elected representatives of the Legislature. We believe the people elect governments to manage the province in the best long-term interests of the entire citizenship of the province. If the province were to be governed by putting out fires and making decisions on an issue-by-issue basis, there would simply be no need for a government or a civil service. Responsible government, at least to us, means a system in which the government is elected for a term of several years to shape public policy for the long-term benefit of the population and to make the hard decisions that need to be made in this regard, even if it means making decisions that are unpopular at the time but will prove to be in the best interests of the province in the long run.

On pages 2 and 9 of the discussion paper, the government expresses fears that special interest groups are coming to dominate the policy debate. The government also suggests on page 3 that participation in government is "preferable to `capture' of the policy-making apparatus by special interest groups." If in fact the government feels it has been captured by special interest groups, it should simply resign because it is not carrying out its mandate to govern the province in the interests of the entire population. If the government does not feel captured, then there is simply no problem that would require the widespread use of referenda.

In short, the government has not presented any evidence that the system of responsible government that is the core of the Canadian identity is malfunctioning to the point that radical measures need to be taken. That is not to say that referenda do not have their place, but they should be used to support and improve our system of government, not to undermine it. In determining what is the appropriate role of direct democracy, one must always have regard to the dangers of overusing the process, which we set out below.

The disadvantages of the overuse of direct democracy can be summarized as follows:

(a) Access to the referendum process can make politicians reluctant to make decisions.

(b) The average citizen will simply lack the background knowledge and/or the time to deliberate with respect to decisions on complex issues.

(c) Referenda, by their nature, set up confrontations rather than encourage compromise and are based on an unrealistic assumption that a simple Yes or No answer can be given to a complex question.

(d) Yes or No votes simply don't reveal the intensity behind the vote. For example, it may make no sense to pass a piece of legislation on the basis of a 51% vote where the proponents were mildly in favour of the legislation whereas the detractors were vehemently opposed to it.

(e) The referendum process can be captured by wealthy special interest groups.

(f) The frequent use of referenda can lead to democracy without responsibility, as each person being consulted would bear no individual responsibility for the decision that follows.

(g) Referenda are expensive.

The unrestricted use of referenda can lead to disastrous situations such as those that have occurred in California. In the November 1990 midterm elections, there were 20 questions on the California ballot. Every Californian was sent a 144-page booklet which explained the referendum questions.

Statutes and constitutional amendments developed by the Legislature and submitted for popular ratification tend to be approved, whereas citizen-initiated legislation is much more likely to be defeated, which makes one wonder whether the unbridled use of referenda is really a mechanism for direct democracy as opposed to a mechanism for the government to get the legitimacy of a favourable vote for its policies.

In California, special interest groups are the primary organized participants in California elections and referendum campaigns. They play a key role in getting issues on the ballot, and they hire paid professional circulators to get the required number of signatures on the initiative petition. In short, MacDonald calls the process of citizen initiatives in California "big business" belonging to public relation firms, media consultants, public opinion pollsters and direct mail specialists. Of course, this is the exact opposite of the direct democracy that the government hopes would result from the implementation of a referendum scheme in Ontario.

In short, unrestricted use of the referendum mechanism is a recipe for handing power over to well-organized pressure groups and not a recipe for achieving direct democracy.


Having said all of the above, it should be made clear that much of the disadvantage related to the use of referenda is closely related to the frequency of their use. In jurisdictions where direct legislation is used frequently, voters are more likely to reject than accept citizen-initiated referendums. In jurisdictions where referendums and initiatives are common, voter turnout tends to be the lowest and those who do vote are usually more affluent and better educated, and so represent a specific subset of the general population.

The overuse of referenda leads to low voter turnouts and destroys the legitimacy of the process. The issue then, in our view, is which types of issues lend themselves to the use of the referendum.

It is clear to us that certain issues transcend the role of responsible government and the electoral process and must be subject to the use of referenda. In particular, decisions made by the government that would in law or in fact bind future governments should be subject to the referendum process. These are issues which have, for all practical purposes, a permanent effect on Ontario society and must be determined by the population as a whole. Mandatory referenda are necessary in such circumstances.

One such issue is constitutional amendment. The very basis of government is the Constitution, which in a very real way ensures that government is run for the benefit of the citizens. An amendment to the Constitution should be made only with the concurrence of the public whose rights are guaranteed under the Constitution. Such changes would bind future legislatures in law and should not be decided simply by the government of the day.

Furthermore, decisions that will in effect tie the hands of future governments for all practical purposes should be made by citizens. In this category, we would put the privatization or dismantling of major public institutions. For all intents and purposes, once a public institution is sold, the chance of it being repurchased is almost nil. Of particular concern to the PWU would of course be the privatization of Ontario Hydro, but other institutions such as the LCBO would fall into this category. The citizens have paid for such institutions and it should be their decision to make as to whether they are fundamentally changed.

Also, as a matter of principle, institutions such as Ontario Hydro, which were created as a result of popular votes, ought not to be deconstructed, sold or otherwise fundamentally changed without the population agreeing to it. What the citizenry has decided should not be undone by the government of the day without the citizens agreeing.

How can the government reconcile its professed belief in direct democracy with the fact that section 7 of schedule M of Bill 26 provides for the dissolution of local boards, including public utility commissions, without a vote of the electorate, the same electorate that voted in favour of public power in the first place? The government should live up to its claimed support for direct democracy and mandate the use of it where government proposes to interfere with decisions that the electorate made in the first place.

Finally, in the spirit of using referenda to support the current system of government, it would be appropriate to permit the use of referenda to break any deadlock that occurs in the Legislature.

In conclusion, the evidence available supports the view that the sparing use of referenda can be a real benefit to society without undermining the role of representative government in the province. On this basis, we propose that referenda be mandated in the following circumstances: first, where a constitutional amendment has been proposed; second, where the government proposes to take a decision that would, for practical purposes, bind future governments, such as the sale of Ontario Hydro or municipal utilities; third, where the government proposes to fundamentally affect institutions that were created by public will -- again the example being Ontario Hydro and municipal public utilities; and fourth, where the legislative process has reached a deadlock.

The use of referenda in the above circumstances will ensure that direct democracy will protect the interests of the population and will not turn into either a very expensive polling process or a make-work project for lobby groups. The approach will, we believe, ensure the continuance of both a responsible government and a responsible electorate.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Mr Hastings: My Murphy, thank you for a very enlightening submission. I would like to query you on two items. One, given that you point out on page 5 of your submission that referenda can be expensive -- and we've had some numbers thrown around here that they could be $28 million to $40 million etc -- and there may be a high cost involved in the implementation of the mechanics and the logistics of getting such a process operating. Don't you consider that these numbers are relatively out of touch with reality when you factor in new information technology, telecommunications that can bring the costs of that sort of referenda down over time, that in other words, $40 million or the 1992 Charlottetown $100 million wouldn't be a regular type of cost feature of referenda?

Mr Murphy: Yes, we use the figures, the data, in terms of the cost based on the information that was available to us, and that's not to suggest certainly that technology can't bring down that cost. But I think from our perspective, what's more important is that if we're not to undermine the current mechanisms that we have in terms of government in the province, it's really important to have clear-cut criteria as to what's appropriate to bring to a referendum. That's the key point we're trying to make. Certainly, the monetary factor is a consideration, but not the major consideration. The major consideration should be that we have a process that works, that certainly can be improved, but we should have clear-cut criteria under which circumstances we'd bring what issues before the public to vote.

Mr Hastings: Does your group have a fundamental fear with citizen-initiated referenda, provided there were sufficient safeguards instituted in referendum legislation, such as minimum thresholds, 10% of eligible voters from the last election, a requirement about getting a minimum number of signatures on a petition, if that's the way it went, in order to even qualify? Because the New Zealand experience clearly indicates that in two attempts in the mid-1990s they couldn't even get the minimum numbers for the questions those groups wanted to submit for a referendum question.

Mr Murphy: We wouldn't have a concern provided that the issues were restricted to the other categories that we described. If it's restricted to those broad categories that we described, we wouldn't have a concern. We would have a concern if it goes beyond that in terms of the impact it has on undermining the responsibilities that you have as government.

Mr Hastings: Any concern about use of referenda vis-à-vis minority rights and how they're already fairly well protected under charter, constitutions etc?

Mr Murphy: We would have a concern in terms of the negative impact it would have around minority rights. But let me again go back to the criteria that we put in place and the issue of minority rights. There's a government elected that's obviously going to make decisions around what's appropriate when it comes to minority rights. Those decisions are not likely to be irreversible by a new government that comes in, so therefore, from our perspective, would not fit the criteria of being put to a referendum. We think that, as I said, the criteria will be of assistance to government in making sure that we don't end up dealing with issues that ultimately would be detrimental.

Mr Hastings: Thank you for your remarks.

Mrs Munro: Thank you for your presentation. I have one question that relates to information that we've received from other presenters, and that is the need for education, the idea that we have to have an educated public participation. You've identified that there are certain areas that you feel would fall into the category of ones where it would be appropriate to have referenda. I just wondered whether or not you would like to speak to that issue of the development of an ability of public participation. Do you see that as a necessary adjunct to any of this?

Mr Murphy: Absolutely. I think it is an excellent point and maybe one that we really should have probably beefed up or highlighted in our presentation, which we didn't. But I agree totally that once we go through the criteria in terms of public referendums -- and again, if I use my favourite topic of Ontario Hydro potential privatization or municipal utilities being sold off, if I use those as examples, if in fact those issues are put to public referendum, then I think education on the issue, having information available to the public so they can make informed decisions around those issues is critically important. For any process which leads to a referendum, I think that broad knowledge base information to the electorate is extremely important for it to be successful.


Mr Bartolucci: I'll just follow up on a point that Ms Munro was making with regard to public education. Do you think, Mr Murphy, that there should be any controls as to how much money is spent on this public education which can, by definition, be interpreted as lobbying for either side?

Mr Murphy: Whether it's running a union or running a government or running the province, my guess is that there always needs to be controls in terms of money that's spent. From my perspective I think the issue really is making sure that, if a question is going to be put, there's at least sufficient information available for people to be able to make an informed decision. I would hope that part of the controls of making sure that sufficient information is available for people to make an informed decision is that it doesn't turn out to be simply a mechanism of lobbying, government using it as a lobby; in other words, to get what they would like to see as a result. Presumably the purpose of it going to the people is to have the people's wishes expressed and that it's really used as an educational vehicle to make sure the people who are voting have all of the sides, all of the issues and all of the information available to them to make an informed decision.

Just to wrap up on that issue, I think it is important. In any structure you have to have financial limitations, but they should be built in such a way that there is sufficient information available to people.

Mr Bartolucci: And that should be written in the legislation, correct?

Mr Murphy: I think it would be helpful to have language that would make sure that there's some guidelines. It would be my sense it would be helpful.

Mr Bartolucci: Maybe we could follow up on a point that Mr Hastings made with regard to threshold limits. What percentage of the population do you feel would be an adequate or fair threshold level? The second part of that question is: Should that reflect all different regions of Ontario?

Mr Murphy: I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to an exact precise number in terms of the percentage. I'm not trying to dodge the question. What I would say off the top of my head is that the percentage should be large enough to make it significant.

In terms of being representative, if the issue is an issue that impacts on the province as a whole, then the request for that should be representative of the province as a whole as well. Chris, did you have anything to add?

Mr Chris Dassios: We approached the issue, not from the perspective of initiatives and percentages of people that you would need signing on to a sheet to get something before the government, but from the perspective that there are certain types of issues that need and must be subject to the referendum scheme. They would arise largely by proposals made by the government, frankly.

If the government is proposing legislation, the normal course of it is it'll be debated in the House, there will be hearings held and the public will have its input in that manner. However, legislation of certain types, like the Constitution or fundamental change in public institutions require citizen input. In those circumstances, when such legislation is proposed, citizen input has to be made. It's not a question of thresholds; it's a question of that's when they get a vote.

Mr Bartolucci: That should be reflected, though, throughout the entire province?

Mr Dassios: Yes, absolutely. In terms of, not the threshold to get an initiative but the threshold as to what sort of support from the public a bill would need to be acceptable, yes, it has to be based on regions of the province. It's a very big province, as you know, with disparate interests in various different parts. Specifically in the hydro example, people in rural areas have special needs and interests in public power that differ from highly urbanized areas and that's always been respected by the government and by Ontario Hydro, for example, and any change to that mechanism should surely receive regional support so that their interests are protected.

Mr Silipo: Just to expand on that last exchange, we have had in this committee in the presentations, as you can appreciate, presentations focussing on a number of different areas, and we've heard perhaps more on the side of what are being called citizen-initiated referenda and what criteria should apply in those cases.

I appreciate your presentation on a number of grounds, certainly one of them being the fact that you're probably one of the few presentations that are beginning to set some ground for us in terms of, not just in a government-initiated referendum, but, as you've just said, when should government go to the people in a referendum as opposed to making a decision in the Legislature only? I think that's a point that needs to be underscored.

There will be those, I'm sure, who will say: What's the difference between an issue like Ontario Hydro and any other major decision that a government makes? Why should that be made subject, as you are arguing, to a referendum, as opposed to the government making a major economic decision that's going to have impact for years to come? How do you draw the distinction between those?

Mr Murphy: If you look at our criteria, one of the things we said is that decisions that effectively bind future governments are ones that should be put to referenda. In the case of Ontario Hydro, I think most people would agree that if Ontario Hydro's $45 billion in assets were sold off, then the probability of a new government coming in and bringing them back under public control would be extremely difficult, right? Essentially what we're saying is that decision effectively binds future governments, so that's an example of one of the reasons why we see it as being different and fitting the criteria around what's appropriate for a referendum.

Of course, the other one is the fact that it was created in the first case, for the most part, by people voting to create public power. Therefore, if they've had that say, to then reverse it, we think it appropriate to go back to them seeing as how they were the decision-makers. That's our thinking around that item.

Mr Silipo: You would go as far, if I've understood your presentation correctly, as saying to us that the four criteria you set out are ones that should be part of any new law that's established that governs referenda; that is, that those should be set out as issues or areas around which government ought to go to the people through a referendum.

Mr Murphy: Yes. From our perspective, having spent some time looking at this, those four criteria, we felt, would be helpful for government to look at having as a guiding rule about when it is appropriate to go to referenda and when it is not, so that in Ontario we don't end up in the difficulties, as our brief described, that have been encountered in California and other jurisdictions. That's what we're trying to do, to say that it isn't a question that there shouldn't be any referenda, that no consultation with the people should take place. We're saying consultation is good, provided you have clear-cut criteria and this is what we suggest as being the appropriate criteria to make that determination.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Murphy and Mr Dassios, for your input to this process. We certainly appreciate your advice.


The Chair: Our next presentation is by representatives of the PC Youth Federation of Canada, Tasha Kheiriddin and Walied Soliman, representing that organization.Welcome to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly.

Ms Tasha Kheiriddin: My name is Tasha Kheiriddin and I'm the president of the PC Youth Federation of Canada.

Mr Walied Soliman: I am Walied Soliman, president of the Ontario PC Youth Association.

Ms Kheiriddin: I gather you all have a copy of our submission which is entitled Money, Speech and Power in Referenda. It's definitely an attention-catching title; that was the idea. Before I begin, I'd like simply to say that the basis for presentation of this document and the basis for appearing before you today stem in part from the participation of members of the PC Youth Federation, including myself, in the past two referenda which have taken place on a national level on the question of the Constitution, and on a provincial level on the question of sovereignty in Quebec. Based on these experiences, and particularly the experiences in the Quebec element of those referenda and working with the Yes and No umbrella committees, we have prepared a basic presentation on what we perceive as the advantages or disadvantages of the type of structure presently in place in Quebec.

The analysis that will be made is not simply limited to Quebec; it encompasses other jurisdictions as well where we have seen the effects of expenses. Before I proceed with that substantive part of the presentation, I would like to ask Walied to simply discuss the general issue of the legitimacy of referenda, which we do not question but feel should be addressed nevertheless at the outset of our presentation.


Mr Soliman: One of the things that has intrigued me about the political process, as president of this organization, has been the great debate about representative democracy versus other populist instruments such as referendums. Canadian representative democracy would have been described probably very eloquently by John Stuart Mill, who said that the whole people or some numerous portion of them exercise through deputies periodically elected by themselves the ultimate controlling power, which in every constitution must reside somewhere. Representative democracy is therefore essentially the transfer of power from citizens to their representatives.

The political culture of the 1950s and 1960s was very conducive to this system, as it was a period of great economic growth and great disposable income. This allowed for a political system that was a lot more trusted and political parties that were a little more trusted. The transfer of this essential human element of power was therefore a lot more easy and lot more accepted by the general public.

The political culture of the present day has changed dramatically. In 1992, a Gallup poll suggested that one in every 10 Canadians has a great deal of respect for, or confidence in, political parties, which is something that is not very good but nevertheless is the reality we have to deal with. Essentially, what this proves is that the political culture in the country and in the province has changed from that of the 1950s and 1960s to that of the 1980s and 1990s and beyond, which tells us that as the political culture has changed, the process of doing democracy has not changed, which puts us into a position where we have a crisis of legitimacy of the political process. With this, of course, further demands on the system will arise. Populist political instruments such as referendums will thus be called upon.

I draw your attention to the second package you received. You've received two packages, each of you. I'm also a political science student, and one of the interesting ones I pulled out was "Canada's political system." You have an interesting diagram there of the several levels between the executive branch and the legislative branch, and then of course your voter.

Mr Silipo: This isn't the Ontario system you're describing.

Mr Soliman: This absolutely is not the Ontario system. Nevertheless, it is a political reality or something at least that is definitely perceived in Canadian and Ontario society at the present time. How can we rectify this situation? To rectify this situation, we must look for, as one of the quotes right at the beginning of the report cites, the fact that we should maybe have a little more democracy or referendums, for example, or other political instruments that will give people more of a feeling of legitimacy for the process we're involved in.

There are two extremes when it comes to making this process even more legitimate. We could look at the British system or the American system. In the British system, referendums are not as generally accepted. Democracy is an important aspect of their life over there. Certainly they elect, for example, their leaders from their representatives in the Legislature or their House, not as we do, for example, in Canada with our members of political parties, whereas in the States they do it with millions and millions of people.

What I think we have to do here in Ontario and Canada as a whole is find the fine line that's crossed right in the middle there. We must restore legitimacy to our process by, as Patrick Boyer put it in his book, allowing our citizens to go from passive spectators to active spectators.

Obviously, one of the most interesting examples of referendums in the country has been the Quebec process. Before we get into the gist of it, I'm just going to go over the Referendum Act, or do you want to --

Ms Kheiriddin: Actually, before that I'll just outline basically the goals of the presentation and the structure. We are going to attempt to answer three questions. The first of those is, are the financing limits of the type imposed by the Quebec Referendum Act effective or justified? If not, are the umbrella committees themselves warranted or do they constitute an unjustified impediment to free speech and participation in the referendum, which is supposed to be a free and democratic process? Finally, we are going to see if there are any recommendations that can be drawn based on the findings of the answers to these two questions. In order to answer these questions, it is first necessary to give a brief overview of Quebec legislation. Before Walied proceeds with that overview, I will simply give you some background as to how the Quebec legislation, which is one of the first models of its kind to use the Yes/No committee system, was introduced.

In 1977, under the government of René Lévesque, the government of Quebec commissioned a white paper on referenda. One of the key goals of this paper explicitly was to regulate spending. The idea was not to have one dollar, one vote, but one citizen, one vote. This objective runs through the entire white paper itself and runs through the Quebec Referendum Act in consequence, which was based on that paper.

To solve this problem, which was perceived as being one dollar, one vote, the act introduced two umbrella committees. This concept exists in only one other jurisdiction in the world that I'm aware of, which is Britain. In fact, the Quebec act, ironically, is based on a British model, on the British sense of fair play. It was introduced by René Lévesque, but there you have it, anyway. This Yes and No committee system is designed to control spending. But at the same time, as a result, you may have a deleterious effect on participation in the process. Walied will outline exactly how a referendum bill or a referendum proposal makes the sort of trek from the government to the people. Maybe that will give us a preliminary indication of what the effects of the Yes and No umbrella committees are.

Mr Soliman: I think everyone has in front of them now a copy of the point-by-point summary that we put together on the Referendum Act of the province of Quebec. Just to quickly go through it, I put together 12 points that outline some of the major goals and objectives in the bill.

First of all, a Conseil du référendum is established, and this council is composed of three judges within the Quebec court. The Conseil du référendum shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear any judicial proceedings relating to a referendum. They're the ultimate controlling body of the referendum process.

The government may order that electors be consulted by referendum in one of two cases. The first one is on a question approved by the National Assembly, which in our case would be the Legislature, on a bill adopted by their Legislature. There are more lenient rules for debates in their assembly when it comes to the bills on referendums, which is something that is interesting.

The referendum must be in the form of a question.

There is no duplication in the same Legislature.

One of the things, of course, that Tasha has already touched upon is that there are two committees established and recognized by the government, one for and one against. Any organizations that would like to participate in this process would have to participate under one of these umbrella committees.

There are equal government subsidies for both committees. The maximum contribution of an individual to one of the committees is $3,000. There are several expenses that are not regulated. Regulated expenses shall be limited so as never to exceed for a committee, during one referendum, $1 per elector.

Ms Kheiriddin: One of the things that also should be noted is that the subsidy that is provided by the National Assembly, the Quebec legislative body, to each committee is an equal subsidy. That is topped up by, as Walied said, individual donations, as well as loans from political parties, up to a maximum of 50 cents per elector.

One of the results of this process is that referendum bills in Quebec are usually party generated and the referendum process consequently is often party controlled. This may not have been the original intent of the legislators, but it is one of the facts that I, being involved in referendum campaigns, personally have witnessed.

It's obvious that a great deal of regulation surrounds the financing and surrounds the spending. All spending must be authorized by these committees. An individual who spends money can be charged with breaking the law, as has happened and will be discussed further.


The question we wanted to answer was: Are these regulations worth it? Do they have a goal legitimately and do they serve their purpose? In studying effects of spending on referendum outcome -- which is the section of our report which begins at page 8 -- we have found that there is no discernible correlation between spending on referenda and the outcome, which was somewhat surprising but seems to be across the board. We examined case studies in Switzerland, Britain and California, and there was also a case in Norway, where essentially different authors had studied referenda over the years and had examined what the results were of spending by different groups. The result was that there was no correlation.

Just a couple of examples: In the British referendum in 1975 concerning Britain belonging to the European Community, which was supposedly the basis for the Quebec legislation, interestingly enough, chief electoral officer Pierre Côté cites that example as a place where the pro-European forces triumphed and outspent their rivals 10 to 1. However, author David Butler, when he analysed the British vote, found that at the outset of the campaign, before even a dollar had been spent, there were already polls predicting a 2 to 1 victory for the pro-European forces. In fact, the final result was 67.2% vote in favour of remaining a member of the EC. So it's hard to say that the money that was spent there really made any difference.

In Swiss studies there are a couple of examples which were cited by author Kobach of Swiss initiatives where disproportionate amounts of money were spent towards the result. There was a referendum on the UN in 1986 and there was a referendum in 1982 on price controls. In both cases the amount of money spent was greatly disproportionate to the results achieved by either side.

California provides very many examples of referenda for study, as you undoubtedly all know, and in California the experience was the same. One of the more interesting referenda in California was on marijuana liberalization where only $5,000 was spent by the opponents and $214,000 was spent by the proponents, and the opponents won.

It's hard to say that there is a correlation between spending and results. Just to close with a Canadian example, in the conscription referendum of 1942, Pierre Côté himself, in one of the government studies we found, cites the fact that the anti-conscription forces triumphed in Quebec despite the fact that they had not a fraction of the resources of the pro-conscription forces.

We feel that in light of this, the fact that there is no clear relationship, the rationale for Yes and No committees, which is the financial rationale, really cannot stand. We note that in Quebec most recently the Quebec unity rally, was heavily criticized by Côté as an example of where money was illegally spent by companies outside Quebec and inside Quebec to bring people to a rally in Montreal which, in the final days of the campaign, some people argue, affected the result, an example of how democracy could be foiled, if you will, by spending.

However, there is no empirical evidence as to what the effect of that spending was. When you examine the total -- I will refer you to page 13 simply because there is a typo and it's a number so it should be corrected -- in the second paragraph, when you add the amount of money allegedly spent on the rally, which according to Côté's report was about $158,000, to what was totally declared by the No committee, the total you get is only $30,000 -- not $3,000 -- more than the declared total spent by the Yes committee. The amounts spent were $4,867,693 for the No and $4,835,576 for the Yes. In other words, you're looking at a minuscule amount of money here.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): And you believe those figures?

Ms Kheiriddin: I have them from the government report that was done by both.

Mr Stockwell: Oh, they must be true.

Ms Kheiriddin: We're not going to talk about the money the Quebec government spent before the referendum even started, on studies or anything else. Those are the published figures that were presented by both committees in their reports to Mr Côté. Even if about $150,000 more had been spent on this rally, neither group would have even come up to the permissible level of declared expenditures. So we found that this was not an example of where money can be said to have unduly affected the course of democracy.

Since, as I stated, the relationship between money and votes and referenda seems inconclusive, we wanted to examine whether the umbrella committees have another reason for being, whether, for example, they add to the democratic process or subtract from it. Based on experiences I have had personally, based on reading up on the subject, even though there is not that much literature because there are not that many of these types of committees that have existed in the world, it seems to us that they do have a deleterious effect on participation, specifically because, as Wally outlined, the creation of a referendum bill in and of itself is a party generated or government generated event.

The referendum process in Quebec is very much party controlled, and the result of that is that the average citizen does not have, in my opinion, as much input into the system as they should have. If a referendum is about popular democracy, then let the people have popular democracy.

Another result of this present system is that within the umbrella committees themselves there's a lot of jostling for position and a lot of people who want to run the show, so to speak. As a result, much time and effort is wasted on internal matters as opposed to fighting the common enemy. So for that reason we would recommend against the institution of official umbrella committees in Ontario.

To summarize our conclusions, which you can find at page 19, we have a number of proposals with respect to setting spending limits. While it appears to us that there is no real rationale for spending limits per se, public perception may be otherwise. As we have limits in elections, we feel that is a different circumstance, because in elections you're putting a person into a position of power where, unfortunately, they may be able to divert that power for uses that are not beneficial to the electors. We don't want to have PACs in this country, as they do in the States, funding individual candidates, and interest groups basically dictating their agendas. So we feel elections are a different ball game. But in referenda, we feel that spending limits, if at all imposed, should be minimal in the sense that we should have individual spending limits that are high. In Quebec the limit is $3,000 per individual voter. We suggest that additional research be done to set an appropriate spending limit.

We recommend against having official Yes and No umbrella groups which receive public funds or otherwise. These should not be constituted. We believe that individual citizens of Ontario should be able to speak out and spend money without having to belong to any official umbrella group. However, if citizens wish to form ad hoc groups, as they do in Switzerland on a routine basis, they should be free to do so. We believe that any groups that are formed should be allowed to solicit money from citizens, but that no citizen should be able to contribute more than the pre-imposed individual limit to his chosen side, either individually towards his effort or to a group.

In other words, we would not cap spending by groups; we would cap spending by individuals, which would essentially limit the pool of money that would be obtainable by any group. Every citizen of Ontario would have a maximum amount of contribution they could make. Whether this Legislature decides to open that up to corporations or to interest groups is another question, in which case, if that is so, we recommend that their limit be the same as that for an individual. As a result, there would be a limited pool of money that groups would be able to take if they were constituted and if they so wished.

We also believe that every individual or group who does become involved in the referendum process through donations should be required to register, before becoming so involved, with a non-partisan, simply organizational referendum committee set up by the government, and that that registration should be simple and should not be a barrier to participation.

Finally, we think that after the referendum is over, each registered individual or group should be required to file a declaration, such as in an election, of the expenses they themselves have entailed. We think that overall this would strike an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and the sort of perceived financial clout of certain groups in society, which is a perception of the public that has to be addressed.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you for a very enlightening presentation, and I want to commend you on your involvement. I think that's excellent and it's an example that a lot of the youth should be following.

What issues should be subject to referendum? You dealt an awful lot with costs etc, but let's deal with issues for a second. What do you consider to be those issues that should be subject to a referendum?

Ms Kheiriddin: I think, and not speaking on a necessarily researched basis, that issues of national importance such as secession, such as economic union, or issues of some moral importance, for example, such as prohibition has been in the past -- abortion was an issue in Ireland -- are issues that are possibilities for referendum.


Mr Bartolucci: On a provincial level, it's been suggested in the paper that any issue regarding a tax increase or taxes should be subject to referendum. Do you consider that to be an issue of significant importance?

Ms Kheiriddin: I believe one of the election promises Mike Harris made was that no tax, or personal tax I think it was, would be raised without the holding of a referendum. That is a promise, I believe, that he has made. If that is what he has bound his government to, then I commend him for it because it's a very difficult thing to do, actually.

Mr Bartolucci: You know, Tasha, I'm not going to argue what Mike Harris said or the merits of it. I'm just really, truly asking for your personal opinion.

Ms Kheiriddin: My personal opinion on whether any tax increase -- like I said, I think it's a difficult thing to do. I think it's a laudable thing to do. If a government has foreseen in its budget that it would be able to not raise taxes, I think that it's a pledge they can afford to make and I think that's a pledge that he has done. It depends also what you consider a tax. I hear there is some question as to whether, for example, user fees imposed on medical services would be a tax. Personally, I wouldn't consider that a tax. If you start considering user fees a tax, you would consider other things like licenses for your car and permits for buildings and other things to be taxes, and that's not the case; that's not what the courts have said. I think, personally, that he's made a good and brave decision.

Mr Silipo: I just need to say on that last point that it was Mike Harris himself who in fact used to consider a user fee a tax; his own words. We can find a quote for you on that.

Ms Kheiriddin: I'm sure you could.

Mr Silipo: That's obviously not what we're here to discuss. But I found your discussion on the whole issue of the structure and spending limits and the impact that has rather interesting. I still come at this a little bit from the perspective on that whole structure of saying that if we're going to get into the use of referenda in a wider way, there needs to be some structure to it. At this point in time I would probably still be leaning more towards the structure that you were critical of, but I appreciate the thinking that's gone into what you've suggested here.

What I would say on that notion of fair play that you've touched upon: Don't you think there would at least be a better sense, if not an impression left with people, that if there was a structure that allowed for spending limits with caps, somehow even though that may not, as you argue, have an effect in terms of spending more money may not necessarily be shown, other than in some cases, to be what makes a difference in terms of who wins or who loses the referendum question, it seems to me in terms of the impression that the public would have -- which I would argue is an important factor as well -- it does play a factor in terms of people thinking or sensing that if there aren't spending limits of some kind, those who can spend more may be able to, in effect, garner a greater degree of support, public opinion, and therefore influence inordinately the results of the referendum.

Ms Kheiriddin: If I could just comment on that, I would agree with you that if there were no deleterious effects on the referendum process of having a Yes and No umbrella committee, there would be no harm in it; the public perception would be served. I agree that public perception is a very important issue that we have to deal with. But experience with the two umbrella committees has shown that if you're really trying to create a grass-roots democratic process -- which is what the public is very concerned about as well -- having the Yes and No committees, especially mandated by the government, creates a party apparatus. In the last referendum --

Mr Silipo: But couldn't you deal --

Ms Kheiriddin: Just to finish, in Quebec, basically it was the Quebec Liberal Party that ran the No campaign, and there were very few "non-politicals," if you will, in that committee room, which is a shame.

Mr Silipo: Yes, and I appreciate your views on that. That was the other point I wanted to pursue with you. Couldn't you deal with that issue by mandating in the legislation -- the Quebec legislation clearly, from what you said, does in effect put an onus on the members of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec to be sort of at the forefront of the process. Couldn't you similarly legislate, if you chose to, that they would play either a minor role or not play a role at all by saying that the leadership of the committee could not be held by any of the elected members?

Ms Kheiriddin: I think once you try and do that, what you're going to end up with is friends of the MNAs who are going to be in the positions. It's unfortunate but that's what I have seen, that people who are involved, even if they weren't political, elected representatives, were close to the political spectrum. What we suggest is a cap in the sense that it would be a finite amount of money that would be available to groups, that it would be individuals who give money. I'm not even quite sure if corporations should be allowed to donate to a referendum or if interest groups should be allowed to donate to a referendum. In that sense, the onus would be on the individuals. You may not have as glitzy campaigns as we had, for example, in the last referendum in Quebec, but I think it would be more reflective of what people want to see done and what people want to do.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We've got three Conservative members who would like to ask you questions: Mr Grimmett, Mr Stockwell and Mr Hastings. I would ask you all to be brief if you could.

Mr Grimmett: As usual, I'll be brief, Mr Chair. I just want to say I don't disagree with your sketch of the political system, but you might want to check the spelling of the word "sycophants"; it doesn't look right to me. We get a chance to use the word around here more often than you do.

Mr Stockwell: We get to practise.

Mr Soliman: I pulled it right out of the textbook. That's our education --

Mr Grimmett: You didn't mention, I don't think, whether you feel the referendum should be used to bind governments to make decisions or not. Do you have a position on that?

Mr Soliman: I think there are certain issues that you would ask for a referendum. There are certain issues where you would go out and have a recommendation from the people. For example, on issues such as constitutional reform or tax reform, as we promised during the election campaign, those might be ones that we would have referendums that were binding on the government. In other examples, such as things that might be initiated by citizens, those may be brought forth as recommendations to Parliament. Ultimately, the Legislature has to pass a bill and has to accept what the recommendation's results are in any case. So I would argue that.

Mr Stockwell: I want to address the issue from my own point of view personally, the opinions that I hold. It seems the public has become disenchanted and is looking to have greater say in the public input through referendums because they're no longer represented by their local politicians. I don't know if that chart you gave us is all wrong; it's probably a lot more right than you think with respect to how much input your local member has in the actual governing of the province.

I guess the question I have is, rather than going about trying to, as they say, empower the 10 million constituents who seem to be disfranchised, would it not be a lot easier before we do that to try and empower the marginalized backbenchers so that they be given an opportunity to do what they're supposed to do, which is represent ultimately their constituency, rather than represent what they do more often than not today, which is a political party and leader?

Mr Soliman: I think the ultimate goal of representative democracy is to have all members of the Legislature or Parliament or whatever deputies are elected by the people to have that sort of direct -- you know, walk right into the Prime Minister's office and tell him: "Here's what my constituents have said. Here's what I'm hearing out there." Unfortunately, you may be quite right in that this chart is at least perceived to be the reality in many parts of the country right now.

Mr Stockwell: Well, it is the reality.

Mr Soliman: You said it. One of the things I would argue is that although this is what is perceived by people out there, probably what would be the best thing is to give them some sort of an empowerment in order to increase their faith in the system, as a first step. How are you going to go around saying, "We're going to get rid of the party hacks, the shiftier lobbyists and the expensive bistros"? I think it's a lot easier to legislate referendums into place than any of that.

Mr Stockwell: I guess this is where the rubber meets the road. Do you think it's easier to go out and have referendums on important issues to empower people rather than empower their elected officials?

Mr Soliman: I would suggest to you, how would we legislate empowering officials in a political culture that's changed dramatically since, for example, the 1950s and 1960s?

Mr Stockwell: How about free votes? How about voting your conscience, voting your constituency, without the fear of reprisal? How about the opportunity to represent your constituency without shortening your political career? Those kinds of things.


Mr Silipo: Sounds almost like common sense to me.

Ms Kheiriddin: What is this? There's agreement on both sides. This is scary.

I would interject that I think those are valid proposals that many people are advocating, but I don't see why that would exclude having a referendum at the same time. The two are compatible.

Mr Stockwell: I think you might not need them as often. That's all I'm saying.

Ms Kheiriddin: I don't think we're advocating having a referendum, as in Switzerland they do, almost every year on some issue or more than one issue. It's for questions that are of crucial importance.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to congratulate you both on a very well thought out, highly articulate and very professionally presented brief dealing with these issues.

My question would be, do you believe that there should be no political, financed credit by either corporations or individuals or groups for participating in a referendum question? In other words, you donate money, but there's nothing reflected in the donor's tax status federally or provincially?

Ms Kheiriddin: What we have not addressed in our brief but would be a possibility would be that the person would be able to deduct that donation as you deduct for any donation, for example, to a political party, which is considered charitable. Because obviously it would be a non-profit group.

We didn't recommend loans per se because that's part of the structure we have now, and that is that a lot of parties, especially in Quebec, give money, loan money, to political causes. We felt that the involvement of parties should be, while not incredibly minimal, a lot less than it is in regular political life. For example, in Switzerland, parties are almost secondary in the referendum culture. Interest groups have a large play in many cases but parties are secondary. We think that if you want to go straight to the people, you should limit the involvement of parties in that process.

Mr Hastings: Some taxpayer groups said: "You want to have a referendum on an issue? No problem. Don't expect the taxpayer generally to finance any portion of it by giving a receipt back that enhanced your income tax status either personally or on a corporate basis."

Ms Kheiriddin: I can see how they may feel that way. However, the holding of a referendum itself is funded by the public, the logistical holding of the referendum. So in a sense everyone's paying to have a referendum whether they put forward the question or not. I think that's something that could be examined. We haven't considered it, but it's a possibility, obviously, to encourage people to participate.

Mr Soliman: Can I also suggest to you that one of the goals I would see behind holding referendums as well would be to, as Patrick Boyer put it, make our public from passive spectators to active spectators. One of the ways to do that is to have them educated on what they're going out there to vote on, what they are going to be voting Yes or No on, and making sure not only that the question is articulated in a way that everybody understands but also that the issues are ones that people can relate to and comprehend from all different angles. One of those ways, of course, to get that is having committees producing pamphlets and literature and commercials, which cost money.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We certainly appreciate your input and advice.


The Chair: Our next group is the Bayview Glen Ratepayers' Group, represented by Mr Howard Shore.

Just before you start, I'd like to point out to committee members that our clerk has distributed three things to you: a written presentation which was part of yesterday's presentations, additional information from a presenter which was given to us, as well as a legislative research paper that's been completed for us as part of our deliberations.

Mr Shore, you have half an hour to express your interest in this issue to us.

Mr Howard Shore: Good afternoon, Mr Chairman, committee members. My name is Howard Shore, president of the Bayview Glen Ratepayers' Group. The Bayview Glen Ratepayers' Group is a non-profit association formed in 1995 by the residents of the Thornhill portion of the town of Markham who want to play a very proactive role in the issues which affect the livability of the commercial area and the residential neighbourhoods surrounding us.

Our group's geographical boundaries are from Steeles Avenue to just below John Street to the south and north, and from Bayview Avenue to Canadiana Avenue to the west and east. We include approximately 800 households, encompassing some 2,000 individuals. We are quite blessed with people from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, all of whom together help make our community the most ideal place to live in all of Ontario.

While we welcome and appreciate the chance to address this committee regarding the government's working document on the subject of referendums, my comments to you today are more anecdotal than official positions of our association -- mostly, I should mention, because of the time constraints in having these hearings and our association's own time line.

Given the subject matter in question, we are all the more appreciative of this committee hearing from local ratepayers and would encourage the committee to continue both this process generally as well as specific consultation with ratepayers' associations province-wide. Ratepayers' associations are the most basic, grass-roots community organization, quite distinct from political organizations such as riding associations or from various interest groups, be they labour, big business or what have you. Ratepayer associations exist because neighbours have a vested interest in preserving and enhancing their community.

The basis for considering the concept of referendum or initiative today is the suggestion that a more direct democracy more precisely reflects the wishes, desires and will of the citizenry at large. Do referenda augment the current political process, or supplant it, thereby making our elected officials of little use?

All citizens should be afforded the basic right of democracy to govern themselves, but a mechanism should be provided to enable eligible voters to initiate laws, approve or reject laws by way of referendum proposed by the provincial Legislature when necessary.

All eligible voters should have the means to create both municipal as well as province-wide legislation through the initiative process. Provincial legislation could necessitate a certain percentage of voters from each riding in the province, or each ward in the case of a municipality, to endorse petitions to initiate laws for citizens to vote either for or against a particular issue on the ballot.

All eligible voters should have the means to either approve or reject legislation proposed at the local and provincial levels of government.

At this point I'd like to address the distinction between "plebiscite" and "referendum." What is the difference between the two, and under what circumstances is a Legislature permitted or required to seek the advice of electors through such mechanisms?

The distinction between these two terms is significant. Generally speaking, they are defined as follows: "plebiscite" being the public expression of a community's opinion without binding force, "referendum" the process of referring a political question to the electorate for a direct decision by general vote.

What's wrong with our current parliamentary democracy? Central to this question is the age-old issue facing the electorate during general elections at the provincial or federal level: Is the casting of a ballot for a particular candidate a vote of confidence for that individual, or a mandate for that candidate's party to implement its platform as presented?

Party discipline, the need for party whips, the toe-the-party-line mentality and the relatively few free votes which occur would seem to support the argument that individual members of provincial legislatures or federal members of Parliament have little individual power or influence. This said, it is easy to appreciate the electorate's lack of confidence in the process itself. Election platforms become merely campaign rhetoric and the riding MPP becomes a lackey for his or her political party.

Furthermore, if the elector casts a ballot for a particular candidate on the basis of choosing that individual over his or her opponent, are we as a society expecting that council member or provincial MPP to be an automaton, indicating yea or nay as the polls dictate, under the belief that they are expressing our will? Or rather, are we as electors taking a snapshot, if you will, of a candidate, examining what he or she stands for, what his or her beliefs, values, goals and ideals are for the community, and empowering that individual to go forth and represent the community to the best of his or her abilities?

We are here today because Canadian voters en masse feel alienated from their elected officials, treated with an air of smugness and élitism evidenced by their governments and taken for granted when the government of the day deals with the public agenda. We, the voting public, are tired of being cynical, angered at having to be sceptical of every utterance made by the people we have voted for. It is ridiculous to put candidates through our political litmus tests and largely disregard their competence to lead or to govern. With direct democracy, the electorate could vote for representatives more for their abilities and be less concerned about political platform.

The role of special interest groups' influence would not be negated, but their positions would be publicly highlighted. Such groups in particular referendum issues would not be able to exert influence via the back door. Rather, they would be forced to champion their cause for the public at large to decide upon. To wit, if the matter of universal health care coverage versus a two-tier system were to be addressed by way of public Ontario-wide or national referendum, organizations such as the Ontario Medical Association would in all likelihood become a candidate of sorts, advancing their argument for or against the particular question.


Governments which take the position that they know better show contempt for the public which has put them in significant positions of authority, ones which are viewed, unfortunately, with far less respect than ever before, both by those who hold the offices and by we who have placed people there.

We, the public, bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs. In exercising the authority we have placed in their hands, our elected representatives are proxy-holders for the shareholders of the corporation called Canada, called Ontario and called Markham, in our case. You must keep at the forefront of your minds that when you take some measure, when you voice a concern, when you strive for an objective, you are doing so on our behalf. Ultimately, then, government policy must be that which expresses the will of the people, either via the public's initiative at the first instance or, in a democracy, our representatives presenting their policy or position to the public for consideration.

There has been a tragic breakdown in the relationship between our elected officials and the citizenry. We, the citizens of this great province, have in many instances abrogated our responsibility to insist on an ongoing dialogue and consultation with our representatives. How often do you find all-candidates' meetings during election campaigns where only a handful of individuals bother to attend? What message does generally low voter turnout send to our representatives? A vicious circle of distrust, apathy, élitism, taking voters for granted and alienation exists, and we must break it or have it break us as a society headed into the next century.

Public policy should be decided by our elected representatives in concert with the public at large. To that end, direct democracy is an invaluable tool. Ultimately, our elected officials exist to manage and govern the corporation within the context of the policies we have set out. On a day-to-day basis, the Minister of Health obviously is most definitely in a far better position to deal with the events which impact on our health care system. The mayor of Markham is in a far better position to deal with ensuring the delivery of municipal services day to day. However, governments are not entities unto themselves, operating in vacuums. We, the people, should have the inherent right to democratically decide what policy best suits our needs and our wants.

To that end, we are not suggesting that the general public micromanage government on a day-to-day, issue-by-issue basis. Obviously this would frustrate the business of the corporation. What we are suggesting is far more fundamental. What we are referring to is the types of public policy issues which say who we are as a community. We're talking about those things which impact on our identity and what we stand for.

Should any public question be placed on the ballot as a referendum? No. Clearly there must be a mechanism which prevents frivolous issues from cluttering the public debate and costing us as taxpayers. There must be some gauge of the public's desire to either initiate measures or address legislation prior to placing the referendum question on the ballot. Using perhaps a percentage of actual voters in a previous election in a given jurisdiction as a yardstick would in all likelihood be a fair barometer.

Which questions become plebiscites and non-binding polls versus binding referendums? This is a complex issue in and of itself, and quite frankly it would be too easy to say that all matters subject to appropriate measures of the public's concern should be on the table. Quite frankly, I think it requires significant further examination.

Should we be permitted to recontest an already voted upon referendum? Again, no. This would obviously allow for gross abuse of the referendum process by well-financed interested parties or recklessness by governments. The province of Quebec, among quite a few others, for example, is restricted to holding one referendum on any one subject per mandate.

Referenda from other jurisdictions: A number of referenda of international significance which have either been held or recently suggested include the October 1995 referendum as the most recent of three referenda held respecting the province of Quebec's constitutional relationship to Canada. Earlier this year, the former Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, indicated the issue of Israeli return of the Golan Heights to Syria would be decided by referendum. As an aside, and significantly, here the local ratepayers, the Golan Residents Committee, were very sceptical of campaign promises made by former Prime Minister Peres and were unsuccessful in obtaining new special legislation prior to the recent elections which would have prevented the possibility of politicians misusing the referendum itself as a tool for winning elections while misleading the electorate in order to gain voter support. The government of Ireland has recently held a binding referendum, as required by existing law, to amend the Divorce Act. The Cambridge city council in Boston will place an anti-pornography question on the November 5 ballot, pursuant to an order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Between June of this year and the November 5 United States general elections, over 300 referendums and/or initiatives will have been voted on and decided by the public at large in the United States. The variety of issues includes state constitutional amendments, such as term limits, flat tax legislation and juveniles 15 years and over to be tried as adults, existing state legislation, such as the legalization of marijuana, minimum wage, casino gambling and reform of public schools, and initiatives by state legislatures, including parole reform, school tax credits, medically assisted death and property tax measures. There are currently 24 states with initiative-referendum laws. As you'll note, the types and variety of issues is broad-ranging, including some of which are currently on the Canadian voters' minds.

If managed properly, direct democracy in our view empowers the general public by placing political responsibility in their hands. If viewed wisely by our elected representatives, direct democracy is a tool of positive enlightenment.

Representative democracy may not be replaced. However, governments and the public at large must recognize and respect the fact that our future as a society is based on a partnership of minds. To some extent, this is satisfied by the consultation process, such as these hearings. Last evening, in my role as president of the Bayview Glen Ratepayers' Group, I attended a Markham council public consultation meeting devoted to the subject of user-pay waste management. This type of forum goes a long way towards that meeting of minds. While the examples we've highlighted cover both the micro as well as the macro issues as ones which are currently being addressed by the referendum-initiative process, let's not lose sight of the real issue. Let's talk to each other, let's understand each other better and let's be far, far better listeners.

Mr Silipo: Sir, in your presentation, you say clearly no to the question of should any public question be placed on the ballot as a referendum, and you talk about the need for there to be a mechanism to prevent frivolous issues. Is it your view that rather than setting out any parameters about what kinds of issues ought to be the subject of -- I'm assuming you're talking here about citizen-initiated referenda -- you would just do that by putting in place a number, by dealing with it through the numbers of people who would have to sign on to a particular initiative for it to go forward?

Mr Shore: Generally, yes.

Mr Silipo: Can I just get you to elaborate on that? Is that because you think that it would be difficult, impossible, to define the kinds of areas that should be subject to a referendum, whether citizen-initiated or government-initiated?

Mr Shore: In researching this whole issue, you find a combination of the very, very micro issues, everything from, in the United States, experiences of referenda on whether a municipality should be divided, creating a new municipality, the sale of crown lands or congressional lands. You find really everything from the absolute issues which affect a particular ward in a municipality here to the more fundamental issues which speak to who we are as a society à la universal health care, à la whether the death penalty should be reinstated. We are torn, I think, as a community over how involved you want to get, and that's where in my conclusion I say the real issue is that we communicate better.


In answering your question directly, you definitely do need, as an absolute minimum, to have a formal number process that weeds out just randomly any issue. As a president of a ratepayers' association, my being able to go around and getting 100 signatures on a petition shouldn't be enough to decide whether Markham should be divided in two.

Quite frankly, I don't have an absolute answer. I think it does work in other jurisdictions, that with that numeric gauge in place, you have some form of micromanaging by the community where you are almost literally empowering 10 million people, but on the other hand, I think it's more significant to address the issues of identity and what defines us as people.

Mr Silipo: Maybe it's getting to your latter comments, what about the other side of it, in terms of when government would initiate a referendum. Again, what kind of parameters, if any, would you set or what kind of guidelines would you tell us we should set in terms of when government should or shouldn't use referendum?

Mr Shore: It's a lot more difficult to address that one, because you don't have the same -- it's not as easy to put the same numeric or mathematical gauge in place. I don't have an answer for you. I would say still that the framework with which that should be looked upon is the same mindset as the previous answer.

I think it's far more important to talk about -- and I don't mean to focus on one issue, but we're now addressing a health care crisis in Ontario. I think it's far more significant for both the public, in terms of initiatives that they might address, as well as the governments, to look at those types of issues, whether we're talking about -- and this isn't being critical of the government of the day -- health care, if we're talking about day care, if we are talking about child support payments.

It is those types of fundamental issues that I think the public really feels a sense of frustration that the government, any government, is just not listening and understanding what the public's mindset is. I don't think it's talking about the rules and regulations which come after the bill itself.

Mrs Munro: Thank you very much for this presentation. I find it really interesting because I think it speaks in a sort of more philosophic tone in terms of coming to grips with the issue, particularly when you write in your conclusion about the need to listen better and to open those lines of communication.

My question then comes from this whole issue of the accountability of people in terms of initiating discourse on an area that they want to bring to that public attention, and if you see some kinds of opportunity here for guidelines or you'd like to comment on the need to establish some sense of accountability in terms of those ideas that are being brought forward.

Mr Shore: I'm not sure I understand the question.

Mrs Munro: Perhaps I will go back to another area that has already been discussed and that's the area of education, of being able to have some kind of education for people, in terms of understanding what are the issues and how they might bring those to the public fore, in the way of referenda or any other mechanism for that matter. So behind that accountability, I guess, is the question of the education of the public and the information process.

Do you consider that it's handled well enough now? Are people sufficiently well informed to be able to head into this kind of activity or not?

Mr Shore: No, but along with that answer is the public's perception, and certainly with the briefing papers that you get on your desks, with the deluge of information I'm sure that you're faced with every day or that cabinet ministers are faced with every day, there is far more information about any one subject area that may be on your desk than will be on my desk, but while, no, the public isn't educated enough to adequately, on most issues, address them right now, the public is also frustrated at governments or politicians generally, be they the government of the day or oppositions, who have the view, almost a parental view, that they know better and the public is not invited into the process enough.

A case in point: At Markham town council last night, you had 250 people packed into a small room talking about user-pay waste management. There may not have been economists in the room, there may not have been engineers in the room who understood the issue from a technical point of view; there were smart people in the room, but what they were very frustrated at is that they were being thrown into a dialogue process without having received some background so that they could present an intelligent -- not argument, an intelligent discourse.

What the people want, whether you're talking about issues that affect education or health care or social services, they want a better, ongoing dialogue. Certainly, they don't want to meet their MPP or their councillor for that matter. I haven't met my councillor in two years already. Part of that is my fault, because I could've given him a call and said, "I want to meet you." Part of it is his fault, because he's going to save his energy to come out and campaign to me until, I guess, somewhere around this time next year. The public at large -- how often do you have town hall meetings? I'm not talking about to do any --

Mrs Munro: And how many people come to them?

Mr Shore: It's a vicious cycle. You're right, it's a vicious cycle and somewhere in there, it's got to be broken. I don't mean you, as the government, or elected officials have to break it, but there's got to be something in there somewhere that breaks it, and maybe that's going back to an answer to Mr Silipo that if there's a better consultation process all the way around, I think you address a lot of the rule-regulation type of micro-issues.

I don't think it eliminates the need for referendum or initiative on the larger issues, because quite frankly I don't think, no matter how much information is on your desk deciding to deal with the issue of two-tier health care -- forget whether it is, and forget what information is on your desk, that's not an issue, in my mind, in the minds of the people that I speak to -- I don't think that should be a decision of the government. It should be a decision by the people at large whether they want to have that option. It's clearly a fundamental issue which defines us, in that it's a national issue, as Canadians.

I'm quite willing, after my meeting last night -- I'm glad that I'm involved in the consultation and the commentary process by Markham council, but I'm quite willing to leave how my garbage is picked up to Markham council.

Mr Stockwell: I guess mine's a little bit more direct. There was one little sentence in your brief that I found to be painfully true, "There has been a tragic breakdown in the relationship between our elected officials and its citizenry." That's about as true as it gets. I don't think anyone will disagree with that, and that crosses all party lines. You're not suggesting that referendums are going to fix that.

Mr Shore: No, not in and of itself, but I think that --

Mr Stockwell: Let me ask the next question then if no is the answer. As you go on then, it seems fairly clear to me that there's going to have to be a series of initiatives taken by a succession of governments to deal with this breakdown in trust, and it's fundamentally broken today. That's probably got a lot to do with apathy, with voter turnout, the fact that really it matters not who you send to Queen's Park, their position is the position held by the party, and as a person, you're citizen A, your input to the decision-making of that party is so negligible it's non-existent.

What is it that we're going to have to do as elected officials to create a situation where there's a belief in the process? Because the process, including this committee, is almost shamlike.

Mr Shore: Agreed, and I would agree with the comments you made to the previous presenter about empowering backbenchers. I don't have all the answers to how you do that exactly, and yes, I think that as is the case with establishing trust in any relationship, two individuals meeting, it occurs over a period of time. In a very abstract way it occurs -- this isn't answering your question directly -- by the individual elected official going out, sitting down, making sure that my councillor knows who I am -- not through my efforts, but if I'm not going to do it, it doesn't abrogate him of the responsibility -- or of having town hall meetings.


The frustration is that even if you as an individual MPP in your riding of Etobicoke West sit down with people on a regular basis and fulfil your responsibilities, in your mind, as absolutely best you can, because of the way the system is right now, and even if you have done an absolutely excellent job in being a sponge for the information that your community imparts to you, you can't do very much. I don't mean you in particular as an individual, but you can't do very much.

Mr Stockwell: I understand what you're saying.

Mr Shore: I think what the concept of holding referenda or initiatives does do -- this doesn't necessarily help you out as an individual MPP -- is that if that process is being frustrated by "party politics" it enables, on given issues, the public to still be able to do something.

Mr Stockwell: Good answer. I agree with that.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much, Mr Shore, for the reality check. As I was listening to you, you're right, absolutely: Politicians by and large don't do a very effective job of keeping in touch with their electorate before and during the electoral representation process. If there was one comment that was so apparent during the last election when I was campaigning, it was, "We only see you at election time and we don't see you during your mandate." So it was a reality check, and I thank you for that.

You're simply saying that referenda are not good enough. It's not going to promote Your Ontario, Your Choice because obviously you're not going to have that many opportunities to make that choice. Is that what you're saying?

Mr Shore: Not exactly. I think it goes to my answer to Mr Stockwell, which was that it's a mechanism that allows the public to do something about the frustration which exists today because of the way the system is, where even if you are doing an absolutely outstanding job in your riding, because of the system there are limits on what you can do. With a referendum-initiative process in place, whether we're talking about micro- or macro-issues, the more important parties to this process, over and above 130 of you, are the 10 million Ontarians, and they should not be deprived of advancing various issues, approving or rejecting legislation that's out there, because of the system. In concert with that is that, on a day-to-day basis you are the folks who both micro- and macromanage this system or this government, this corporation called Ontario.

The answer to your question is, regardless of whether the government of Ontario adopts referendum or initiative legislation, a far more encompassing, ongoing consultation process, dialogue with the public, not just through formal hearings such as these down at Queen's Park in the Amethyst Room, has to exist. Your constituents, and it has absolutely nothing to do with electioneering or campaigning, have to know that you're out there listening to them and hearing them on an absolutely ongoing basis the month after an election just as much as the month before an election.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much. I agree with you.


The Chair: Our next presenter is Mr David Vallance. Please come forward. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly committee. We look forward to hearing what you have to say about referendums.

Mr David Vallance: I must say I really appreciate being here. I originally applied as representative for a group, an organization, and we met last week and couldn't come to any conclusion on the format, so I called and asked if I could do an individual presentation and here I am. I appreciate that. I'm just going to read my paper initially and then see what you think.

The discussion paper, referred to as the paper, contains some interesting remarks. Many people tell us they feel disfranchised by the process of modern government. Many don't believe government can work for them. The manner in which important public policy issues are decided often appears to be dominated by special interest groups that seem to enjoy preferred access to the media. I wondered why the media; I would think that access to the government would be more useful.

About a year ago the Globe published a letter from me in response to a feature article by Andrew Coyne, who was explaining why this current government had a mandate to govern even though it only had 46% of the popular vote. My letter said that Mr Coyne's article was largely a waste of time and space because "in Canada we no longer elect governments, we throw them out. We'll find out in four or five years whether or not the Tories have a mandate." Brian, David and Bob all got thrown out of office because they didn't fulfil their mandate, which was to govern for as many of the people as possible, not to be dominated by special interest groups. Two of the three also made the mistake of being perceived to be governing by decree and getting too heavily into pork-barrelling.

This government cannot generally be accused of catering to special interest groups or pork-barrelling, but it is becoming guilty of governing by decree and fiat. Bill 26 is an example, although the government did listen to a fairly widespread protest and made some changes.

Some in the government are arguing that they are taking the hard decisions and, unlike previous governments, that is more important than making so sure the right decision is made to the point of indecision. To the extent that the issue is one that had full exposure in the campaign or is a result of considerable public consultation prior to the act, I certainly agree that the government has the right to make the decision. Provided it makes the right choice more often than not, it will have a good chance of renewing its mandate. If, however, it ignores public opinion too often, we will again try someone else. Public opinion, although hard to define, is not a special interest group.

Representative democracy developed because direct democracy became too cumbersome and expensive as the right to vote was acquired by more people. If members of the government could understand that although elected collectively by 46% of the voters, once elected the government is to represent all constituents, these meetings would not be necessary.

My sense, from a discussion two weeks ago with a group of involved citizens, the one that I was referring to, was that they were not terribly interested in referenda. It would probably not be true to say that they are entirely happy with the way the business of government is being conducted. My own opinion is that referenda should be used as a last resort to bring a government to its senses. On the issue of property tax reform, I felt that most at that meeting would agree that a referendum would be useful. Almost everyone there agreed that a change is needed for property taxes, but what is being proposed is unacceptable. Several indicated that a referendum on this issue would be useful. That would be one of three areas -- constitutional amendments, gambling and new taxes -- mentioned in the paper that Mr Harris considers so fundamental that they should be decided using referenda.

It may be argued that property tax is not a new tax, but there is sufficient evidence that what is being proposed is such a change from current practice that the public should be consulted. In most communities that have suffered a recent property tax reassessment, the reaction has been so negative and widespread that it is obvious that what is happening is unacceptable to a large portion of the population. The minister has said there will be as many winners as there are losers. The problem is that because the proposed assessment requires regular updates, the winners and losers are in a constant state of flux. The anger generated with each change will be remembered at the next election. A referendum could hand the issue to the people.

I asked Colin Powell, during his recent visit to Toronto, if his decision not to be a candidate for the US presidency would have been different if the US President had the nearly dictatorial powers of a Canadian Prime Minister or provincial Premier. The discussion paper refers to that situation as the "obligation to oversee the executive branch." We don't have the controls the US does, as an aside.

That obligation is poorly fulfilled by the members because of party discipline. The belief that "most problems could be solved if decisions could be brought back to the people at the grass roots" would be less true if MPs and MPPs could fulfil their role to act "as trustees of the nation or the province as a whole, not just as a voice for a particular constituency." The need for referenda could be greatly reduced.

In my opinion the last four provincial governments lost sight of both these important obligations of all elected members. The current government's mandate is partly the result of its platform, but more the result of the poor performance of the previous government. If it screws up too often it will also be toast at the next election. That would be too bad, because the platform is sufficiently different that it has the opportunity to make significant change in Ontario.


One last point before I deal with thoughts on referenda: The fiasco with Bill 26 and the impending disaster with the assessment proposals are in no small way the result of too much reliance on the civil service. We are fortunate to have generally honest, dedicated and professional civil servants, but they are no less interested in maintaining their careers and jobs than anyone else. Not all problems with the legislation can be blamed on elected people except to the extent that signals from the public are ignored in favour of the largest special interest group of all: the civil service. There is need for more hands-on management of policy. One of the main points in your platform was the reduction of bureaucracy and creating more efficiency in government. If that process is left to the bureaucracy, it isn't hard to foresee the result.

The question: Let's assume that a referendum had been held to decide if Canada should have a national pension plan. If the question asked had been, "Should the government develop a pension plan for the benefit of all Canadians?" would the result have been different if the question had been asked, "Should the government develop a pension plan primarily for the benefit of better-off, elderly Canadians to be paid for by younger employed Canadians of all income levels?"

Legitimacy: In 1994 the city of Toronto put a question on the ballot about the status of the Metro level of government. Regardless of the result, Toronto had no possibility of doing anything about it. Are the time, effort and money used for that exercise a legitimate use of public funds? The Charlottetown accord referendum is cited as a good example of how effective a referendum can be. It may have been effective, but is the result satisfactory? I voted with the majority in the Charlottetown accord. Did that end it all? Are we further ahead because of the vote? Should not the politicos, who are the only ones really interested in that debate, have held their noses and lived with the result?

Cost: The paper suggests that most referenda would be held in conjunction with another election. Municipal elections are held most frequently and could be used to save money. That's true, but will a major issue be mistaken as a local one? Someone suggested that funding for the Sheppard subway should be voted on by Metro voters in a referendum. If the province is paying 50% or more of the cost, does that not make it an issue for a province-wide referendum, or is it a referendum issue at all?

Safeguards and legal issues: I know other people are better qualified than I am to have discussed the safeguards and legal issues necessary for suitable referenda. One other submission I read noted that power, once given, is difficult to take away. If I were in your position, that would be of prime importance.

You may have concluded at this point that I'm not personally a fan of referenda. However, the process of modern government has made me increasingly so cynical and so disenchanted with governments that I haven't voted for a party in the last 15 years. I have only voted against the existing government, party or candidate.

That's a sad thing, and I can see that referenda could provide an outlet for my frustration. These hearings are another outlet, and I suspect that if you listen carefully you may get a sense of public opinion on many issues other than referenda. I guess somebody spoke to that already.

Mr Stockwell: That was very interesting; I enjoyed that. I'd like to ask what may be a little, small point: the gambling stuff as far as referendums are concerned. I have a great interest in this referendum from a gambling point of view. My question is, would video lottery terminals be something that you think we could go to a referendum on? Would that be a useful function?

Mr Vallance: I must tell you that the gambling issue is not a big one for me, although I'm generally not a gambler and not really a fan of it. I don't have problems with people who gamble, but there are problems with gambling. Having said all that, no, VLTs are not a suitable referendum issue. If they're subject to proper legal controls and they're widely dispersed, that's not the same type of issue as imposing a large casino-type gambling establishment on a community or an area.

Mr Stockwell: The question then becomes, who makes these decisions as far as what is acceptable, what isn't acceptable, what should be gone? We've heard a lot of stuff, that you get 10% of eligible voters who are left-handed and have blond hair -- there are all these criteria they set down. It seems to me that at the end of the day it would make it a lot easier if we could just lay out what you've got to go to the public on: Is it gambling or is it taxes or is it a tax hike? Is it moral issues, as they say? What is the line? Where is it?

Mr Vallance: I guess that's really the crux of the whole question, isn't it? My own view, and that's all I can express, is that there are really very few issues that should go to referenda. The public in its wisdom, or lack of it, elects you people collectively to conduct the business of the province for a period of time. As I said before, if you do that well, you can get a second chance, a second go-round, another round. If you screw up as the last few governments have done, you'll get one term.

I perceive that as your problem. If you have the sensitivity to deal with "public opinion" -- what's public opinion? -- and the previous speaker had some trouble trying to figure out how to get that too, the issue will be resolved in a suitable manner. If you can't capture that on enough issues, then you'll never succeed. It's not just one issue; one issue's not going to defeat the government.

Mr Stockwell: Generally, it doesn't.

Mr Vallance: One may, but it's not going to --

Mr Stockwell: Sometimes the GST comes along. Okay. The last point I'm trying to get is that it seems, reading between the lines, that you sense there's frustration out there because government is not receptive to the citizens. I get the impression you feel that about your typical MPP, that there's not a lot of input, not a lot of power exercised at the local level because they don't have access. Am I misreading that?

Mr Vallance: Mr Stockwell, most of my experience has been with municipal government and I'm terribly frustrated at that level. As you go up, you get more and more removed as an MP or an MPP from the actual doings of government. It's an executive government in Canada, as you know, and I guess the frustration comes with an executive that can lose sight. I think frankly you're the public opinion; the MPPs, the members of the House are the public opinion you should be looking at. I'm not so sure the executive is paying enough attention to what's being said there.

I'm an inveterate letter writer. I write Mr Harris and all the other ministers on occasion when I see something of interest to me. My frustration comes when I get a form letter 6 back. I don't want a form letter 6. I want a response or I don't want anything. If you don't respond, that's fine, that's okay, but don't send me a form letter 6.

Mr Stockwell: I agree with you too. I get them as well.

Mr Vallance: I don't care if I don't get a response. I got my two cents worth in and that's all I need.

Mr Stockwell: Thanks.

Mr Boushy: I'll tell you one instance where a referendum was useful in my own riding. About 1966, fluoridation became an issue and the city council at that time, of which I was a member, took it to the people for a vote and it was voted in by a majority. It was a very sensitive issue. Since then almost every year some group comes up and says, "You've got to take the fluoride out of the water because it's killing cows someplace in India or here and there." They show you slides on that stuff. The council stood by the decision and said: "The people voted for it. If you want us to reverse the decision, we have to go back to the people." All that time it has proven very successful and the majority of the council members said, "No, I don't think we should go back to the people because the people at that time supported it and I don't think there's any change."

My question to you is, don't you think the referendum at that stage was a good one and Stick to it rather than the council changing its mind: One year, "Yes, we should have fluoride." Next year, "No, we shouldn't."

Mr Vallance: Fluoride's probably a good referendum issue because it's very local and you can get a large debate on the subject. A large part of the population is likely to vote on it. As the issue gets bigger, I think it becomes more difficult.

Interestingly, my own two children are in their 20s now and one has no cavities and one has four cavities and I've got a mouthful of fillings, so I wouldn't have a hard time deciding which way to vote on fluoride. To me, it's not the same issue as Mr Stockwell's gambling issue or a tax issue. I think there are local issues that can be decided by referenda, but that's maybe not what you're talking about.

Mr Boushy: What I'm trying to say is that sometimes a referendum is very useful, as in this case, because if it wasn't a referendum, if it wasn't voted by the people, the council of the day in other years could have changed its mind and put fluoride in again, took it out and put it in. It seems that the people voted for it, and it was very useful. The point I'm trying to make is that for a referendum, at certain times you're going to say the issues are very useful, and you disagree with that.

Mr Vallance: It gives you, as an elected person, something to fall back on. If you're talking about referenda, from my understanding of the paper you put out and in talking to other people, there are two sides to it. One's a government-initiated one and then one's a population-initiated one. If there's no provision for a population-initiated one, then is a referendum a suitable forum for deciding an issue? I have no doubt which way I'd vote on fluoride, but that's a local issue. I'm not sure that councillors should have the right to forbid it forever once it's been passed if the referendum decided it in the first place. I guess there has to be an opportunity for a large enough group.


I would suggest, without having done a lot of thinking about the subject, that the more localized the issue, the larger the number of people required to force a referendum -- this is a population-initiated one. A citizen-initiated referendum would require a fairly large percentage of the eligible voters before you could put a ballot to it, from the government side, and that's a different issue. But there should be a mechanism in place, as far as I'm concerned. If you can have a referendum at one time, you shouldn't be able to say, "No, we're never going to have one again." I don't think that's right either.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you, Mr Vallance, for your presentation. You touched on a point that not too many presenters have touched on and I think it's an extremely important one and that's the question. If in fact we're going to be using a referendum, then the question is all-important and the structure of the question will determine whether or not the referendum is worthwhile, and you alluded to that. How can we ensure that question is the proper question and who should do that? Your idea, please. That's all I'm asking for.

Mr Vallance: How can I ensure I'll go to heaven and who decides?

Mr Bartolucci: Yes, that's right.

Mr Vallance: I'm serious. I read about Quebec's format to use a citizen body to develop the question, but the question in the last referendum in Quebec, to me, was so badly misunderstood, according to a number of people I talked to, with relatives and friends in Quebec -- who's to say the right question? That's part of my problem with referendums. I think referendums are fine but the problem is, who controls the question and so on? On my question about the Canada pension plan, I was quite serious about that. I just made a presentation on that. I'm very frustrated about what the government's doing because it's not a benefit for all Canadians. It's for the wrong people; let's put it that way. There's no way you can open that debate again.

Mr Bartolucci: I agree with you wholeheartedly that the question is all-important if you're going to use it. I'm just wondering, because I don't have the answer to it, who should be charged with that responsibility to formulate that question?

Mr Vallance: If you want to give it to me, I'll try and be fair. Who knows? There's no answer. There's no right answer. I guess you should have a vote on the question.

Mr Bartolucci: A referendum for the referendum.

Mr Vallance: A referendum on the question for the referendum.

Mr Bartolucci: It's never-ending. But it is a very important question that has to be answered.

Mr Vallance: Exactly. I would suggest on a government-initiated one or a Legislature-initiated one that the question should be formulated by a group such as yourselves, where an all-party group decides on the question. That presents a reasonable amount of fairness. On a citizen-initiated one, I don't know how you control it except that you have to take it away from the group initiating it.

Mr Silipo: Mr Vallance, you're absolutely right that in these hearings, and I think it's happened probably more today than in the other days, just by the way in which the last couple of presentations have focused on this, we in fact have heard, as you said in your conclusion, a number of other related issues rather than just referenda. I think that's quite appropriate because I'm assuming what the whole issue around referenda is intended to do is to deal effectively with the question of how to make our process more democratic, and obviously referendum may be one vehicle but it's not the only vehicle, and the other is the one that we've been discussing, certainly that Mr Stockwell touched on, in terms of how we make the existing system work more democratically.

There's been and I hope there will continue to be some more discussion around how we make Parliament itself work more effectively. You talked in your presentation about the kind of very centralized, almost autocratic, I think dictatorial, powers of a Canadian Prime Minister or provincial Premier, which I would have to say is a fair description of the system we have. My sense is that part of the solution to that has to be to provide greater powers and latitude to individual members, both in government and in opposition.

The other part, because of our system, I would argue has to come about by changing one of the basic ways in which we go about electing our MPPs. I've been one who has been advocating for some time now the use of either straight-out proportional representation or some mixed form of proportional representation as a way to do that, because it seems to me that would more precisely reflect the wishes of the voters and would result probably more often than not in minority governments, which I will argue are more democratic in the long run in terms of how policy is made and decisions are made for the benefit of the people of the province. I'd be interested very much in your thoughts on that.

Mr Vallance: I'm not so sure we'd get better government just because of proportional representation electoral processes. Look at France and Germany. The coalitions come about and it often becomes a tradeoff and I'm not sure that's the best way to operate. We had minority governments a number of times through the 1970s and there was certainly some good legislation passed at that time, but as far as I'm concerned, there was also some abominable legislation that was passed. So I'm not sure that process would work any better.

There's a concern often expressed that the population doesn't vote in large enough numbers and that there should be more participation by people. I'm also not sure that's important. We spend a lot of time, and there's just been a law passed by the feds that says you cannot publish poll results in the last three days before an election. That's of small importance to me, although I think polls are very useful and very representative of the population. A lot of polls have predicted election results very closely, and to me if you get the most interested portion of the population out to vote, even if it's only 50% or 40%, you're probably getting a better election than getting 90% of the population out to vote just because they have to put an X on the ballot.

I'd rather see a 40% vote that is knowledgeable and informed and has looked at the issues. They will represent the rest of the population I think fairly equally. It's a very large sample, to do go back to polling, and a very large sample gives you a pretty accurate result, in my opinion. As far as proportional representation is concerned, I'm not a fan of that. The first past the post has worked for us well as far as the governments are concerned and it gives the chance to have big shifts which are often --

Mr Silipo: I'm not going to dissuade you from your view, and I'm not trying to do that, but it seems to me that part of the argument in your paper is that the present system hasn't worked. You're the one who makes the argument that you yourself have voted more against governments than in favour of any parties coming --

Mr Vallance: Yes, but we've had three different parties in succession in the last three elections, and we can go back prior to that and exclude this government. We've fairly long periods -- four years for the NDP and so on. During those four years, they didn't demonstrate the capability to perform effectively and that's what I was talking about, that they lost sight of their mandate, which was to represent or to provide legislation that works for everybody or for as many people as possible within the legislation. The NDP government, as far as I'm concerned, spent too much time on esoteric things rather than getting down to the issues.

The Peterson government had its problems and the Conservative government that lost before Peterson had its problems. They were specific and if you go back, I think I could identify them. It relates to what the previous speaker was talking about. I don't agree that you can do those in town meetings because I've been to many town meetings and that's not particularly effective. But as I said in my paper, listening to people who come in and talk to you, they are the most interested. You have to sort out us nuts from the rest of them. It's a matter of listening very carefully between the lines as well.

The Chair: Thank you once again, Mr Vallance, for your presentation. We appreciate it.



The Chair: Our next presentation is going to be from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, represented by Alan Borovoy and Steven McCammon. Would you please come forward and identify yourselves for the purposes of Hansard.

Mr Alan Borovoy: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. I am Alan Borovoy the elder, and this is Steven McCammon with me. Just a preliminary point to begin with: To whatever extent the object of this exercise is to encourage greater public participation, it would help considerably if we members of the public were given a little more notice of these hearings than we got in this case. We weren't told about this until -- and I'm sure this is not unique to us -- some time towards the end of the week before last. There was little opportunity for us to consult with our own board members, let alone do the kind of research we normally like to do for these things. That, of course, was the experience we had with Bill 26 as well.

The very first recommendation I would make is a procedural one and that is that there be no legislation introduced into the House based on this exercise until and unless there was at least one more round of public hearings where there was more ample notice. That's the first recommendation -- a procedural one.

Now, to address the substantive issues, partly they're influenced by the constraints we've been operating under. As a result, my presentation will be addressed to general principles rather than specific details. There may well be some permissible exceptions to what we are about to say, but our position should be taken as a general admonition.

As an organization whose very essence deals with improving the democratic processes, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes it would be a serious mistake to use the referendum as a significant device for making law and government policy. In our view, that would be a mistake. Although the referendum attempt is designed to vindicate one component of the democratic process -- majority rule -- it imperils another component of the democratic process -- minority rights. The difficulty is that when questions are boiled down to yes or no, it discourages the tradeoffs and the compromises which enable minorities to exert some influence on the social consensus. By promoting no-compromise, winner-take-all solutions, the referendum can encourage, and in other places has encouraged, majorities to take some unfair advantage and often winds up abusing minorities.

Just a few examples: In about a 20-year period, of 10 referenda, 10 initiatives, approved by the voters in California, six were struck down as violations of the Constitution; the US Supreme Court struck them down. One of the most notorious of the initiatives approved by the voters in California was Proposition 13, which effectively said that incumbent land owners would have caps imposed on their property taxes. The result of that same referendum wound up making other land owners, new land owners, pay disproportionate amounts of taxes, an obviously unfair situation.

The state of Colorado a few years ago adopted an initiative, a constitutional amendment barring the state Legislature from prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians -- flat out, you can't do it ever -- by constitutional amendment. Fortunately, that too was struck down by the US Supreme Court. That's an example of what happens when you boil down some of these cases to an oversimplified yea or nay.

In Arkansas and Michigan, you had initiatives deny funding to poor women seeking abortion. It's one thing to oppose abortion in principle, but it's another thing entirely -- I should say they impose severe limits on poor people -- to restrict it to people who have money. That's the kind of thing that has often happened when you boil down questions in this way.

With representative government wherein the people who govern us are elected by our votes, there is far less risk of this kind of damage to minority interests when you have representative democracy as opposed to plebiscitary democracy. The more aggrieved people in our society are, the more likely they are to translate their complaints into votes at election time. As they get more aggrieved, you know those people are going to vote that way in order to vindicate those grievances. The votes of other people are less predictable and often dispersed. This gives politicians an incentive to reach some kind of accommodation with those minorities, some compromise, and that whole exercise serves as a deterrent to abusing minority groups. It's some protection they can get out of that kind of system.

But let me even say a word about how well referenda really can be used as a barometer of the majority will. In our view, that too is not a very reliable device. Why? Because the positions of most people on most issues are qualified. We live in a complex society. Most of us, what we really say about the greatest number of issues facing us is, "Yes, if this and this happens," or "No, unless this and this happens." That's what we do. When you try to boil it all down to a simplified yes or no, you often wind up with a misleading picture of what people really want.

Again, an interesting example of this is a recent one in California: An initiative was approved which said, "Notwithstanding any other law" -- key words -- "people convicted of three felonies will automatically get a lengthened prison term." Contrary to the wishes, to the obvious intentions of those who were promoting this initiative, this appeared to deny capital punishment to murderers who had two previous felony convictions. This has become the subject of litigation in that state. It's a mess, and partly because the referendum result did not effectively reflect the majority will, even of those who were promoting it.

In the state of Arizona recently the voters approved one initiative abolishing the office of the state auditor and approved another initiative extending the terms of office of all their state officials, including the state auditor. Those are the kinds of results one gets, and you can even see it on the same ballot.

When governments have attempted to provide adequate explanations for some of these complex difficulties, the results are often staggeringly complex. A law professor described his experience in California. He moved to California and received a 150-page document explaining all these initiatives; he thought it was the telephone directory.


The other thing about it is that there are surveys that have been done where people say flatly how few of them felt they knew enough about any of these particular complex questions to cast a wise vote. There was a recent poll in which only 15% felt that they could vote competently on these issues.

There is one more reason why, in our judgement, the referendum is the wrong way for a sensible democratic society to go, and that is that anyone who has lived in the real world for longer than an hour knows that the popular thing to do is not always the right thing to do; in fact, it is often the wrong thing to do. Indeed, it's the reason why we so often admire those politicians who have had the courage to do what they believed was right even as they knew it was unpopular. Of course, the democratic safeguard in all this is that ultimately those politicians can be turfed out, but the genius of representative democracy is that in the meantime it enables those politicians to act courageously if they will and attempt to lead their public.

Aren't we grateful today that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had this kind of courage, that prior to America coming into the Second World War he promoted aid to beleaguered Britain when Britain was the only free nation able to withstand Nazi aggression? Roosevelt promoted that aid. We know very well that if there had been a referendum he might well have lost on that issue, but the genius of the system is that it gave its leaders an opportunity to lead. Ultimately, the public could judge whether it was happy with that leadership.

In this way, representative democracy strikes a sensible balance between popularity and responsibility. The referendum doesn't even attempt a balance; popularity always prevails, even if it produces irresponsibility.

On the basis of all these considerations -- the inadequate attention, the inadequate accounting of minority interests; the distorting of majority wishes; and the need for responsibility -- the Canadian Civil Liberties Association urges this committee to disapprove of the thrust of the government document. All of which is, as always, respectfully submitted.

The Chair: Thank you for your presentation. I assume you're prepared to answer some questions and engage in dialogue with the members?

Mr Borovoy: If I may say so, I'm even eager to do so.

The Chair: I thought you might be.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you very much for your presentation. So you're saying that there is no time when a referendum should ever be held?

Mr Borovoy: I hope I was too careful to say that. What I said was that I was not addressing specific details, the possibility that there might be some permissible exceptions. I'm talking in general terms. I say, as a general proposition, don't make this a significant device for lawmaking, whatever argument there may be some time for an exception.

Mr Bartolucci: I agree with that certainly, but maybe can we become just a little more focused? The government has indicated its intention to bring in this referenda legislation. They have a majority, so it's their indication they're going to do it. What issues should they narrow that legislation to, in your estimation?

Mr Borovoy: This is the reason I requested, and now I would implore, this committee to schedule subsequent hearings so that we have an opportunity to address some of those questions. I don't come here with instructions from my board. There hasn't been ample opportunity to consult them. I would like very much to be able to respond to questions like that, because there again, this is a good example. If you just put the question, "Yes or no?" I'd have to say no -- that's the problem with referenda -- but if I could address some of those specifics I might say, "There's an argument for it here but not there." Please give us an opportunity to do that, and I would like to respond to those questions.

Mr Bartolucci: I think you're not the only one to suggest that they've had little notice, and I'm sure some member of the government will address that. Maybe you will have the opportunity to present again, and maybe at that time we would focus in on the issues and maybe the type of wording and who should do the wording and the geographical restrictions, threshold levels etc. There is much to talk about in subsequent meetings.

Mr Silipo: Mr Borovoy, thank you very much for your presentation. We are, by a decision that we've made in this committee, I hope going to continue to hear, because I'm assuming from what you've said and what a couple of other groups have said that there is continuing interest in this issue and that we need to do some more thinking and discussing before we get to the point of rolling along with legislation. I hope the government members will agree with that approach as we get to the end of today and of this set of hearings.

I want to pursue also this notion, and I appreciate very much what you've said, that you haven't turned your mind beyond the broad issue of when, if indeed ever, there should be the use of referenda, and you've left open the possibility. Perhaps I could just probe a little bit on that, because I understand very much the argument you're making and I think I would generally be in agreement with the notion that referenda should be used sparingly. I wonder, in a couple of specific examples that have been put before us and that we've lived through as citizens, whether you have any comments either personally or reflecting your organization. Was the Charlottetown accord, in your view, an appropriate use of a referendum?

Mr Borovoy: I'm not sure. I have some considerable doubt about amending constitutions by referendum. As a general proposition I have considerable doubt about it. How far I could justify an exception there, I'd have to think back through the history of it more carefully than I now have an opportunity to do, but let me just say as a general proposition, while it's important to make constitutions harder to amend than ordinary statutes, we ought not to make it too difficult. The world changes; conditions in the country change. We should not put ourselves in the position of having referenda as an ongoing device for constitutional amendment. While there might be an argument under some extreme circumstances, as a general proposition I would say no.

Mr Silipo: Is it fair to say that one possible approach to this might be for there not to be hard and fast rules about when referenda should be used and leave that as part of the exercise of that leadership you were talking about, and on the other hand proceed to set some rules around how a referendum would be held, in other words, the nuts-and-bolts rules that would govern a referendum if and when there was a decision made as to how that should be used?

Mr Borovoy: If I follow your question, and I'm just going to restate it to make sure I understand it, you suggest that rather than provide some kind of machinery in an elaborate statute today, we might continue to muddle through as we have been for all these years, and if we come upon a situation where there is a special argument for a referendum, jump off that bridge when we come to it.


Mr Silipo: Either that, or I guess I was going a little bit beyond and suggesting that there's been some discussion about at least looking at establishing some rules that might govern in the event that there was a referendum to be held; for example, all the nuts and bolts around, "Do we establish a Yes/No committee? Do we establish spending limits?" etc, all those things that would have to at least be dealt with in some way in terms of how you would run the machinery of a referendum.

Mr Borovoy: Of course you are catching me notoriously unprepared, as I warned you I was, on these questions. Just off the top of my head I would lean against what you're suggesting. I'm persuadable but I would lean against it on the basis that to invest a lot of energy in referendum rules today would, I think, create a situation in which there would be a greater temptation than otherwise to use it. Because in our view it is as a matter of course the thing not to do, I would rather not go through this exercise which might create a temptation that in my view is essentially a dubious, wrong temptation.

Mr Silipo: I just hope, Mr Borovoy, that your organization and you personally continue to not just give some thought to this whole issue but provide us as a committee with your views, because I think they would be very valuable, because certainly the government has indicated, as has been mentioned, its interest to proceed with some form of legislation on this. In that sense your warning to us is sound and I hope it is heard in terms of us not proceeding too quickly without giving some serious thought to a lot of major issues that have been flagged as a result of even these three or four days of discussion.

Mr Hastings: Thank you very much for appearing, Mr Borovoy, on such short notice and giving us a very illuminating dissertation. This first round of hearings regarding the referenda consultation paper is only chapter 1 in the saga. We have made some limited attempts through teledemocracy, videoconferencing etc with other parts of Canada and Ontario to get views on this issue of direct democracy.

I would like to hear what your response would be to Mr Tuck, who was here from the Hastings County Ratepayers Association this morning, if we could watch you two engage in a dialogue as to what he characterizes as the existing system of parliamentary democracy. To use some of his terms, and I don't think I'm taking them out of context, he said both orally and in his written submission that today's democratic institutions, particularly in Ontario, in his estimation are actually anti-democratic or undemocratic, unrepresentative, unresponsive institutions, particularly from a taxation viewpoint, but that wasn't the only one. He also cited unjustified government land expropriation and the way in which the élites rule this province.

He would point out that the antidote, what he sees as a beginning to change that, was to introduce some forms of direct democracy. Otherwise, he says, people are really pretty well disfranchised. He cited particularly market value assessment in his county, in which a deputy reeve of a township voted in favour, quietly. The citizens' group did their research to find out, according to his version of the story, that the particular gentleman benefited in his business by approximately $15,000 in reduced taxes. He cited that as just one example.

I would like to know from you how you would engage him and respond. If direct democracy isn't the case to be made, how do you then reinvent parliamentary democracies so that they do become as the original view: representative, democratic and responsive?

Mr Stockwell: In five or 10 words.

Mr Hastings: Three, actually.

Mr Borovoy: How did I know you were going to say that? I don't think one has to choose between accepting the status quo and going the way of referenda. There's, to be sure, lots to criticize in our society, and you may know that our organization usually appears here in the role of critic, not in the role of defender of the status quo. There are lots of things to criticize, but that doesn't make the referendum an improvement, and that's really the issue on the table before us: whether the referendum is going to improve upon whatever unresponsiveness there may be in the system.

Mr Hastings: What do you suggest, then, are three examples or ways of making things more responsive?

Mr Borovoy: I'm not sure how instantly creative I can be for these purposes, but for openers I might think of real hearings. That's not to denigrate this, but I mean hearings in which members of the public are given a fair amount of notice, lots of notice, where there are even some resources available to them to assist in research or whatever so that they can do a better job of trying to influence. I'm not talking about reams of money, because to be sure, referenda are going to be very costly also. If we were talking about money, that kind of thing would probably improve the process, make members of the Legislature much more engaged with members of the public and have much better discussions as a result. That's for openers. I'm sure there are others.

Mr Stockwell: Mine is more of a comment and a statement, maybe, than a question.

Mr Borovoy: I hope it invites a response.

Mr Hastings: Five words.

Mr Stockwell: Knowing you as I've seen in your public image, I'm sure it will elicit a response, as a matter of fact. I'm not a big fan of referendums, personally. I've seen the American experience first hand, and what they've done to their education system is absolutely pathetic; it's a sad commentary on how badly the referendum system can and will work. I don't think what this committee is doing today is anything but a byproduct of the frustration of the constituent, the frustration of the people of this country in believing that they have a say in how their government operates.

I firmly believe we will address this issue, and hopefully satisfy some concerns by some people. I don't think anyone in this room would believe for a minute that by passing any piece of legislation that allows for a referendum we will have a satisfied, empowered populace; I don't think anyone believes it.

You come forward and make some very compelling arguments as to the downsides to referendums. But as I listen to my friend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, there is this conundrum that we find ourselves in, that we have the disaffected, which are the constituents, and the marginalized, which are your backbench MPPs, butting their head against the powers, and the power becomes more central, administration after administration. I blame not a party; I don't think the NDP nor Liberals were any different from us when they ran the train.

The direct question to you and statement, maybe follow-up is: When you go away to think about this and you discuss it with your board, you will come up with the same conclusion, that you don't favour the approach of referendums. What we need is not necessarily a knee-jerk piece of legislation giving a referendum power to the people; what we need are some answers on how we can go back if it's possible. You know what? The status quo never is acceptable, in my opinion, in a lot of ways. But it seems to me that going back to the way it was when people felt empowered, felt that they had some kind of commitment, some kind of input to the decision-making of this place, that's the reason we're here today, because the people don't believe they get input into their own government.


Next time you come back, and I hope we do have a committee that allows you to come back, rather than spend time talking about just referendums, I would much prefer to talk about how are we going to create a system that once again gives the public enough opportunity for input that lets them believe that the government is a government of the people.

Mr Borovy: You know, in our earlier years we spent considerable time ourselves working with disadvantaged people, particularly native people at one point, helping them create their own organizations and helping them acquire a lot of the tactics that are necessary to pressure the politicians, which of course is what it's all about.

I think people feel empowered to the extent that they are more or less successful in exerting non-violent, lawful, democratic pressures on their representatives. Were you to arrange hearings challenging our creativity in this respect, I would be happy to respond. Of course, you appreciate -- and I can tell by your remarks you appreciate -- that we were prepared in a limited way to address what was on the agenda. I learned a long time ago that the very least I have to do is speak to what's on the agenda.

But thereafter, if there is some will to go further, we would be happy to look at it. What I fear with this initiative, as happens so often, is there is a desire for a quick fix, something that's going to satisfy people quickly. This won't do that and it will do a lot of harm on top of that.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate your advice.


The Chair: Our next presentation is going to be by Rick Weiler. I ask you to come forward, Mr Weiler. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly committee.

Mr Rick Weiler: Thank you for making the time available this afternoon for me to make this presentation. I believe the clerk has distributed to the members the folder I brought along.

Just by way of a short self-introduction, my background is in the practice of law for about 15 years. For the last five years, I've been involved in the field of conflict resolution and conflict management and I am presently a partner of a firm called Agree Dispute Resolution which is involved in a broad range of conflict management activities. In addition to that, I am an honoured fellow of the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution and I lecture at the University of Toronto in advanced mediation and at Osgoode Hall Law School on conflict systems design.

When I saw the notices with respect to the consultation paper on referendum, I thought it might be appropriate for me to make a short presentation. I hope I can bring to this a perspective you may not have heard before, and if I'm covering ground that's already been covered, Mr Chairman, you can give me the time-out sign. I appreciate it's late in the afternoon and with this kind of a presentation I always like to look around for the MEGO effect, "my eyes glaze over."

I don't want to make this too theoretical, but the message I am bringing this afternoon is, I hope, a simple and straightforward one. The message is that there is a full range of processes available to governments interested in resolving societal differences at a lower cost and making better policy decisions.

I believe government has a duty to fully understand these processes and how they should be sequenced in the public interest. Referendums, by their nature, are power-based and adversarial approaches to resolving differences. They should be available to government, I believe, but should only be used as a last resort. That's the message I bring and what I'd like to do is just very briefly make some observations and comments in support of that message.

I'm inviting the committee to consider sort of reframing what political activity and governance is all about. I am asking you to consider that really the business you're in is the business of conflict resolution.

By the way, what I've brought here is three or four pages consisting of the type of overheads I would ordinarily use in this kind of a presentation, but I'll forgo the overheads this afternoon.

I'm inviting you to consider conflict, and the definition you see there, that conflict may be defined as a form of competitive behaviour, a competition between actual or perceived incompatible goals or limited resources. To some extent, what government is about is the question of who gets what, when. That obviously leads to conflict. Conflict is. It's a state of the world, it's not going to go away and so the question then is, how do we respond to that conflict? How do we choose to see that conflict?

I think in this regard we can learn something from the Chinese, just to remind ourselves that the Chinese word for conflict is made up of two characters, the one for risk and the other for opportunity. So there's this duality, there's this polarity when we talk about conflict and conflict management. Certainly, I believe the literature in this field supports, and our experience tells us in the field of conflict management, that better processes, better management, better step-by-step approaches to conflict tends to lead to better, more effective outcomes.

To understand what I'm talking about when I talk about more effective outcomes, we have to understand the concept of the cost of conflict. You'll all be well aware that the provincial budget and financial statements generally don't have a line item for the cost of conflict. It is a concept that is unknown to generally accepted accounting principles.

Yet we also know that conflict, particularly when it's poorly managed, exacts an extremely high cost. It's this concept of identifying the costs of conflict and reducing them that has drawn and attracted an increasing number of organizations, corporations and government agencies to the realm of conflict management and indeed conflict systems design in the interests of identifying those costs and reducing them. The costs of conflict will vary depending on the context, but they will include transaction costs, just the money that it takes to resolve conflicts.

Lost opportunities: When people are involved in managing conflicts, they could be obviously doing something of a more productive, more positive and contributory nature.

Satisfaction levels: This is something that's just been touched on around the table. How satisfied are those stakeholders involved in conflict situations with the way in which the conflict is being dealt with?

Recurrence: Do the same kinds of conflicts come up again and again? And very importantly, relationships: The way we handle conflicts, whether it's one-on-one conflicts or the conflicts dealing with large societal issues, what cost does that have on the relationships among the parties involved in the conflicts?

There can be a whole range of other costs and metrics can be attached; you can measure these costs. The concept of cost of conflict leads us to an understanding or helps us to understand that there are three approaches to resolving any kind of conflict, whether it's an across-the-fence neighbour dispute, or issues such as abortion, the large public policy issues.

Those three approaches are interest-based approaches, rights-based approaches and power-based approaches. You see those represented in the bottom left of the first page there, as three interlinking circles.

Power-based approaches are approaches that measure the relative power of the parties. The primary example, of course, is war. It measures the resources, the ability of each party to withstand the other, to remain standing. Short of war, we have other power-based processes for resolving disputes. Strikes and lockouts are a good example, but so are votes and referendums. A referendum is an example of a power-based approach to resolving conflict. It's an approach that measures the resources of the parties involved in that dispute.

Power-based approaches generally lack predictability. That's one of the problems with power-based approaches. Notwithstanding that you can measure, or appear to be able to measure, the power of the parties coming into a conflict, you can never predict with accuracy the degree to which the parties will exert that power. Power-based approaches and the problems around them are maybe exemplified by the story of David and Goliath. Power-based approaches, particularly in the context of public policy decisions, also tend to promote scapegoating.


Rights-based approaches are approaches to resolving conflict that focus on the relative rights of the parties. Court is the primary example. In our society, courts weigh the rights of the parties all day long. In this building, of course, you create the rights of parties: statute, regulation and so forth. Our rights come from a variety of sources and we have processes that exist for the purpose of sorting out those rights and determining who's right and who's wrong.

Finally, interest-based approaches are approaches that focus on the interests of the parties. Most of you in this room will be aware that the whole field of alternative dispute resolution and conflict management is growing rapidly both here and in the United States. I'm often told that it's a jargon-challenged field. We talk about interest-based approaches. What are we really talking about? What are those interests? Very simply, they're the wants and the needs and the fears or concerns that people have. Anyone who is involved in conflict of any sort will have certain needs, they'll have wants, and they'll have fears or concerns. Those interests will be arranged psychologically, substantively and procedurally. So there's a whole range and a matrix of interests in any particular dispute or particular issue.

In terms of conflict management, the foundational principle that sort of undergirds the whole field of conflict management is the one that you see about halfway down the second sheet, approaches to resolving conflict, and that is that generally, interest-based approaches to resolving conflict will be less costly than rights-based approaches, which in turn will generally be less costly than power-based approaches. I emphasize, when I'm talking about cost, I'm talking about the whole range of costs that I referred to earlier, not just money but relationships, satisfaction levels and so forth.

That proposition then leads us to the stairway graphic that you see, the idea that when we're approaching how best to resolve conflicts, and particularly in the public policy area, there is this notional stairway of processes and that if what we are interested in is resolving conflict, coming to public policy decisions at a lower cost, then this stairway can perhaps help us. Looking at the various steps as we work our way up from prevention, prevention processes would include things like public education on conflict resolution or on interest-based negotiation, something that's starting to happen increasingly in the schools.

Community dialogues might be an example of the next step, negotiation, informed community dialogue such as those being run, for example, by the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution.

Third-party assistance: involving facilitators in processes that will allow the public to feel not just that it's window-dressing consultation or some kind of manipulative process, but processes, for example, the round table on sustainable development and energy issues, as a model for what those third-party assistance processes could look like.

As we move up the stairway, we have legislation and then referendum above that, appealing directly to the people. Referendums would be above that in terms of power-based approaches. Beyond that, as we see, there is civil disobedience and, ultimately, violence. All of these of course have been seen in the past, and I'm sure will be in the future, and it sort of presents itself as a public policy process stairway.

There are a couple of slides at the end about conflict management systems, which is certainly a growing field, and designing systems for better managing conflict. I suggest to you in this committee, that's really what you folks are all about right now. This referendum legislation challenges you to design what that particular conflict management system will look like. My suggestion to you, in broad terms and in principle, is that included in that legislation there should be some front-end piece that provides for access to this stairway, some kind of processes in advance of the actual referendum.

By doing that, I suggest that you will be able to design a better system for managing conflict. You'll be able to provide a system which, over time, stakeholders will come to have increased confidence in, and that I think defines as a better conflict management system. It's a better system because it resolves conflict at a lower cost, again, keeping in my mind that full range of costs.

The final thought I'll just leave you with, and the final overhead there, is deep roots of conflict, to remind us again that in each of these public policy issues that present themselves to government for consideration, these present at multiple levels. There are presenting disputes: One group wants something, one group wants to stop something, so we have the presenting level, but beneath that there will be the whole matrix of interests that I talked about earlier: the wants and needs and fears that individuals and groups bring to those conflicts.

We know as well, though, certainly anyone who has been involved in conflict -- and who hasn't around this table? -- will understand that even beneath that there are these deep roots of conflict, issues that go to core values, identity issues and so forth. Certainly it is my belief and my experience in the field of conflict management that finding ways to allow those to surface, to get at those and talk authentically about those in a meaningful way, can go a long way towards reducing the costs of conflict resolution in the public forum and making better decisions. I think ultimately, of course, that's what we're focused on.

My message today has been that there is a full range of processes. Processes can be designed up and down that stairway very creatively. I think increasingly government and, as I say, other organizations -- certainly we do work with insurance companies, the Royal Bank, a variety of commercial organizations that understand we have this full range of processes. I think it's no different in the public policy forum and that referendums, because they are a power-based process, should be used as essentially a last resort.

I've included in the material a short bibliography for those who are interested in looking further at the whole issue of conflict systems design and conflict management.

Mr Silipo: Mr Weiler, you would then agree, from what you said to us, with other presenters who have said to us that referendum is really only one way -- Mr Stockwell's exchange with the last deputant I think touched particularly on this. It's really only one piece of a much larger puzzle that we should be looking at. You're taking that in another direction in some ways and saying, "Look, there are lots of other ways in which you can deal with some of the problems that are out there, either before resorting to referendum or instead of resorting to referendum."

Mr Weiler: Really, that's right. I think you need to start with a principle-based approach: What are you trying to achieve? If what we're trying to do is resolve these differences that we have in society and make public policy decisions that are better decisions, how might we go about doing that? The stairway approach presents that there's an approach of processes, a range of processes, and the ones towards the bottom end of the stairway have a lower cost attached to them. Simple as that. I'm not saying that referendums have no place. They do, because not everything can be resolved low down on the stairway. But generally speaking, they should be, in my view, resorted to very late in the game.

Mr Stockwell: I found it somewhat difficult to follow your presentation. I came in a bit late. There was a tremendous amount of jargon in it. I don't know -- you said you had a shortage of it? I guarantee you that you don't. There's a lot in here that's difficult to follow and I was really pursuing the questions by the member for Dovercourt.

At the end of the day, you're here to tell us that at some point in time you may have to have referendums to decide important public policy issues.

Mr Weiler: At the end of the day, referendums are an important tool, I think, in the government's toolkit, but they should not be used until the end of the day. I think that fairly summarizes what I was trying to say.

Mr Stockwell: Great. Thank you.

Mr Hastings: I'm trying to figure out, if you accept referenda at the higher part of the staircase as one alternative dispute mechanism for the big issues, then what kind of big picture issue could you settle at the first or second level of the staircase?

Mr Weiler: I appreciate the opportunity to respond to that because certainly I know there is a lot in a very short period of time here. This stairway is characterized as you go up the stairway by increased cost, increased hostility, increased frustration, and some of the concerns that Mr Borovoy mentioned in terms of diminished control or predictability of outcome.

My point is that you go up the stairway with generally each issue, even the big issues, starting out in terms of processes -- consultations, round tables -- but true consensus processes that have as their focus: How can we come together collaboratively to resolve these differences?


Mr Hastings: Then let's apply that very specifically. In the town of Collingwood last spring, there was a major outbreak of one of those viruses. The little parasite, whatever you call it, got into the water treatment system. It created a tremendous economic downside cost for the town of Collingwood. It's ended up that they're going to have to build a new tertiary treatment plant, I believe. The businesses in that community lost a lot of money etc, yet there was no way in which the council, or some members of the council, and other leading members of that community seemed to be able to right away adopt a system like yours for dealing with that issue at the first or second levels of the staircase.

Is that a good example of where your approach could resolve a problem like that without them having to build a tertiary treatment plant? Because subsequent findings are there were only about 20 people who had the problem with illness etc, yet it was reported across the world, we found on the Internet, that this was a major, major outbreak of a problem, when in fact it was a problem, a public health problem, but not the big one that it was reported to be.

Mr Weiler: If the question is, are there processes and approaches that can assemble stakeholders and bring stakeholders together to work collaboratively to find solutions to these kinds of issues, the answer is yes. There are processes that can be facilitated, convened very quickly. Their applicability or their appropriateness depends on the context, obviously. The purpose of my presentation is to indicate that there are some underlying principles in terms of how you can reduce the overall costs of reaching those decisions and make those better decisions.

You've mentioned the media. Obviously we're in a system of governance which has led to some of the outcomes that you were alluding to earlier. Our system is one that is adversarial by nature, power-based by nature. We have appreciated increasingly that that has very high costs attached to it for all stakeholders. The broader question, which was touched on around the table, is how might we look at amending, making revisions to that system that allow more opportunity for collaborative approaches as opposed to adversarial ones?

I think the opportunity to focus on referendum and the consultation paper provides an opportunity to think about that. If the referendum legislation is brought forward, as it appears it will, I think that's great. What I'm hoping will be considered is that, as part of that legislation, we think about what opportunities there might be for other processes lower down on the stairway before you actually have the referendum.

Mr Stockwell: Or the stakeholders.

Mr Bartolucci: Thanks very much for a very unique, interesting opportunity to discuss an approach to make government work better, because that's exactly what you're saying here. It's by no accident that the steps appear on the front cover, because it's the one that most directly affects how we can govern ourselves and manage ourselves and government. So I thank you for that.

There are processes that you can put at any step, you indicated earlier. What type of process would you put at the step between legislation and referendum to ensure that if we have to go to referendum as a last resort, it's meaningful?

Mr Weiler: Off the top, I think one of the things you would want to have there as a characteristic is information. What is the source of information upon which the decision will be based? That may be some form of public education, some form of public meetings, various ways you can communicate, but what is the source of data? What would be an acceptable source of data that would not be seen as one side or the other? How could such data, such information, be provided to the public to assist them in making a more informed decision on whatever the question was? So processes that would pertain to the provision of information is one thought that comes to mind at that stage.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.


The Chair: Our next group is the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association. I would ask that you introduce yourselves for the purposes of Hansard before you start.

Mr Pat Daly: My name is Pat Daly. I'm the president of the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association. With me are Monsignor Dennis Murphy, the director of religious education for our association; Mr Patrick Slack, the executive director; Mr Tom Reilly, the general secretary for the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops. With us as well is Earle McCabe, our deputy executive director.

Founded in 1930, the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association represents 53 Catholic school boards. Collectively, these boards educate over 600,000 students from junior kindergarten to grade 12/OAC.

In addition to providing a complete curriculum as defined by the Ministry of Education and Training, the mission of all Catholic school boards and their schools is to create a faith community that integrates religious instruction, value formation and faith development into every area of the curriculum. Our boards and our schools expect Catholic school graduates to be able to evaluate society with a critical and even countercultural eye. They expect these graduates to have developed positive attitudes which motivate them to contribute to the common good of a society that cares about the rights and the wellbeing of individuals, whatever their race, colour, sex or creed. The Catholic community believes that respect for the person, as created in God's image, is essential for school and for society.

In the province of Ontario, Catholic school boards provide this education according to the constitutionally determined rights of Roman Catholic parents. Therefore, as well as a sincere and genuine interest in the proposal to introduce referenda as part of the system of governance in Ontario, our association has a particular interest because of the potential effect which referenda could have on these constitutional guarantees for our schools.

Our hope is that this committee in its deliberations will recognize that democracy is expressed in a variety of forms by different nation states. The particular and Canadian expression of democratic theory and process has historically recognized the protection of certain minority rights which the country has seen as essential to its wellbeing and to the common good. This is quite different from democratic theory and expression in a country like the United States of America, which is based solely on the protection of the rights of individuals.

What is immediately obvious is that referenda have significantly different effects on democracy as understood in the Canadian tradition and democracy as compared to the way it is understood by our neighbours to the south. Referenda are much more inimical to our democratic theory and process, which recognizes the protection of minority rights.

We would like to use this opportunity to bring before the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario the most urgent reactions of the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association to the paper Your Ontario, Your Choice: A Preliminary Look at the Referendum Alternative. We wish to reserve the right to make further submissions or to respond to any legislation which may be proposed. We will specifically address the legal and constitutional concerns of our association at that time.

The paper Your Ontario, Your Choice presents a preliminary look at the referendum alternative and is a first step in an extensive public dialogue. We trust that in the course of your extensive public dialogue you will scope out in much greater detail the important consequences of referenda on two central issues: impact on parliamentary governing and on minority rights. We are anxious to see the development of your thinking in these two critical areas. Our brief is to register our deep concerns about these two issues.

In the week that the paper has been available to us, we are prepared to make these preliminary responses:

In essence, we believe the referendum tool is not anti-democratic in certain carefully circumscribed situations for simple and concrete issues. But in the context of the level of discussion evidenced in Your Ontario, Your Choice, we have no choice but to go on the record at this time as saying the use of referenda is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous. We ask that we be included in ongoing discussion in the course of your extensive public dialogue.


We urge the greatest caution in the application of referenda for the following reasons.

The use of referenda does not necessarily enhance democracy. Their introduction could undermine certain aspects of the successful parliamentary democracy we have known in this province.

Reality cannot be simplified into discrete issues to suit referenda. In life, issues tend to be contingent upon each other. Only on the most concrete issues are yes/no responses normally helpful.

Referenda could result in injustice to minorities or, conversely, may be used by well-organized special interest groups to thwart the general will.

The introduction of referenda will add to the cost of government, using resources which are badly needed for other important purposes.

The system of parliamentary democracy developed in the Commonwealth, the so-called Westminster system, has been highly successful in Ontario. It is based on the following procedures.

The citizens of the province can voluntarily join political parties which develop a series of policy proposals to address in a concerted way issues faced by the province at a given time. These platforms are presented to the people of the province in an electoral process designed to promote dialogue. They provide the opportunity for detailed examination and for the development of a vision for the future. They are not isolated actions to address particular problems.

The people of the province elect representatives who will act on their behalf within the general parameters presented, but with the understanding that since circumstances can change, the application of policies may have to be adapted. When people elect representatives, they endow them with the power to make decisions for the common good even if at times they are not popular. At times, elected officials must make decisions which are not popular.

Accountability is a major factor in the subsequent election, when governments and individual representatives are judged on their total performance, not just on their position on a single issue.

In our view this form of government allows for flexibility, the balancing of issues over time and an accountability in terms of long-term vision for the province.

We submit that there would be certain dangers in the introduction of referenda into the system because, by their very nature, referenda tend to divert attention away from a comprehensive and long-term view to single issues and short-term outcomes.

Elected officials would no longer be true representatives. They would lose at least some freedom to apply their expertise and judgement. It is our view that although a few members of the public will be more knowledgeable than the average politician on any given single issue, most members of the public, through lack of interest or inattention, will be less knowledgeable. Certainly few members of the public are in the position to see the interrelatedness of issues in the way politicians can. When referenda are used, this expertise would be diminished if not lost entirely.

In our view, it would be difficult to ensure that an issue presented in a referendum would receive the exposure and explanation which issues get in an election campaign. It is important, in a democracy, for people to have enough information and explanation to make informed decisions.

Referenda can be unfair. They can lead to a tyranny by the majority or obstruction by a minority, depending upon how and to whom a question is posed. It is difficult for a majority to develop empathy for a minority position. A well-organized, special interest group could sway the results of a referendum, especially when voter turnout is low. Above all, this method of settling an issue can bypass the dialogue which leads to the subtleties of a workable compromise position. The generation of such positions is one of the greatest strengths of our present system of parliamentary democracy.

The world in which we live is immensely complex and the variables of life are intricately intertwined. The development of policies to deal with such complexity and the development of laws to respond adequately to it is a long and complex process. The explanation of such policies is difficult and time-consuming.

In such a situation the referendum is a relatively crude and inappropriate instrument. As decision-making tools, referenda tend to lose the nuances of the issue. The possibilities of perceived or real manipulation are great. The recent experience of the Quebec referendum bears witness to these points. The question seemed to many to be unclear. Reasoned argument and the examination of fact were buried in propaganda and emotion. The bitterness lingers and calls into question the paper's conclusion that a referendum is a unifying force. Our experience in Canada shows that referenda have the potential to increase hostilities and divisions in our society.

We perceive it to be conceded by all that the introduction of referenda would add to the cost of government. The mechanism for conducting them, the process of reporting them and the information related to them would all add to costs. This argument may be viewed by some as a purely practical matter and simply part of the cost of doing the business of government. We would argue strongly that in a province where the deficit is so high, the debt is so great and services are becoming so curtailed, additional expenditures without compelling cause become a matter of principle.

The practical implications attached to the introduction of referenda are identified in the paper Your Ontario, Your Choice. Although our ideal is not to see referenda introduced into the governance structure of Ontario, we feel compelled to comment on some of the implications and to raise some issues which in our view are important. We reiterate our intention to respond to any proposed legislation.

The issue of minorities has been alluded to at several points. In our opinion it deserves its own consideration. It goes against everything that Canada stands for to simply subject the fate of minorities to the will of the majority. Any law on referenda should take into account two aspects of this issue. First, minorities need to be protected in the process itself through special considerations; secondly, they need to have a route of appeal if they should see themselves as unfairly disadvantaged. Without such protection we could, as a society, slip into one more form of systemic discrimination. This can happen despite an attitude of goodwill and trust.

Any law would need to contain criteria for establishing what is legitimate subject matter for referenda and under what circumstances they could be used. The existence of such controls implies the need for a body to monitor them. Ideally, those who make the law should not administer it or pass judgement on it.

Regarding the question, even professional poll-takers have difficulty in framing legitimate, clear and unbiased questions. There is also a need to ensure that questions are framed not only fairly but in a way which probes the content really aimed at. There would be nothing more confusing than to have the right answer to the wrong question. It has been suggested that the referendum question in Quebec was loaded and that the referendum question concerning denominational rights in education in Newfoundland and Labrador was also loaded and indeed misleading. We would see the final drafting of a question being at least subject to scrutiny by a neutral party.

It would be important to ensure public access to all points of view on an issue and that there be monitored rules to make certain that this is always done fairly. We would submit that the opportunity for abuse of the process by powerful interest groups exists. Some enforceable rules for equity would be necessary to limit the opportunity for abuse. Again this would need to be monitored.


If referenda are introduced, they will presumably be available to all levels of government. We would see this as a potential source of confusion in the political life of the province. Different levels of government conducting their own referenda could have contradictory results on the same issue with a different approach to the question. In fact, this has been the experience in some jurisdictions in the United States. Where jurisdictions overlap or intertwine, for example, in certain social services, does a local or provincial referendum take precedence? Should the future of Quebec be decided by a federal referendum, a provincial one or a series of regional ones? There is an obvious need for an arbiter to be named before these issues arise.

For all these practical difficulties to be dealt with adequately, we would see the need for the creation of an independent commission similar to the electoral commission with all the expertise needed to perform the various tasks outlined. In addition, any law would have to contain an outline of circumstances under which appeals to the courts could be made with respect to key elements in the referendum process. This is especially true where there are grounds to feel that established rights are being overturned.

In conclusion, for all the reasons given, the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association sees the proposal to introduce referenda into the political process in the province as problematic. As an association we have faith in the current democratic process enjoyed by the people of the province. We would ask the government to protect our current democratic process.

We thank the committee for giving us this opportunity to express our views on this important question. Any of us would be pleased to attempt to respond to questions you may have or provide further detailed information at a later date.

Mr Boushy: I'm sorry I find myself disagreeing with a lot of what you say. In one instance you said on page 3, "Referenda...may be used by well-organized special interest groups to thwart the general will." My experience has been, since I was elected in June, most appointments with my office were from special interest groups trying to influence my decision. In referenda, to me the opposite could happen. Special interest groups' interests would disappear if everyone had his or her say in a vote rather than having special interest groups being heard all the time. You hear that and you see that almost every day. What answer do you have for that?

Mr Daly: The first part would be to question how one defines special interest groups. Part of our concern obviously is in certain groups having much greater resources and access to media and others to influence the results of a referendum, and that's specifically the issue we're dealing with. As you mentioned and indicated, many groups would come to any of us as politicians to present their views. We think that's an important part of the political process. Then it's our responsibility as politicians to consider the input we've received from the various groups, reflect on expertise provided by those who give it to us and vote on what we think is for the common good of the greater society. That would be our position.

Mr Thomas Reilly: We would discuss one concrete situation, for example. Supposing in the city of Sudbury you had a referendum about the smokestacks from Inco. Inco would probably be more influential in that situation than any other single body you could mention, not to mention the fact that because of the height of those, they're affecting Lake Nipissing, and they would have no say in that kind of thing at all. So we see situations which could be set up in that way where a particular special interest group could have an undue influence.

Mr Boushy: I can't understand that. These are special interest groups that are always vocal in elections, yet in referenda, similar to an election, these are the same people who elect you to represent them. What is the difference? Are you saying that people are making mistakes when they go to vote for an elected person?

Mr Daly: Not at all. That's why I say I think it comes into one's definition of special interest groups.

Mr Boushy: Their voice is always heard everywhere, election or otherwise.

Mr Daly: As a trustee, I don't consider the views of the people who come to speak to me on various issues as necessarily special interest groups. I think we're speaking of groups that clearly could control and dominate the discussion during a referendum debate.

Mr Boushy: The second question I have is: You say on the same page, "Introduction of referenda would add to the cost of government." We're discussing having referenda during municipal elections, for example, or provincial elections, which would not cost any money. Don't you agree with that method?

Mr Daly: I don't agree that it wouldn't cost any money to do that. I think clearly there are significant costs in the development of the question, to have some arbitration process put in place for the question, as well as groups that might be impacted by the question, and to monitor resources available to groups or committees, however that's taken care of. It would make sense perhaps that if referenda on certain issues were to be considered, the most efficient manner would be a municipal election -- I don't disagree with that -- but there would be significant costs, however, in doing so.

Mr Patrick Slack: I might add that I think your paper acknowledges that there is additional cost involved in the referendum because of those very reasons, that there are significant things to do around a referendum and they cost money. I can't quite find the reference, but I do recall that there was a --

Mr Boushy: It costs a bit regardless.

Mr Slack: I think it acknowledged that it would be reasonable but it would cost money.

Mr Hastings: Gentlemen, thank you for coming in today and making your views known. I'd like to concentrate only on the whole issue of minority rights, around which there is considerable mythology, chaff, legitimacy, and sort out exactly where you folks are coming from on this issue, like so many other organizations.

You have argued, for example, that referenda could be dangerous in an indirect way to the rights of minorities. Even if that were hypothetically correct, one could argue conversely that the existing parliamentary institutions in the last century were dangerous to minority rights, because the historic reality is that you folks didn't have Catholic education in certain parts of Canada in the early part of Confederation even though it was mandated in the Constitution. Correct me if I'm wrong on my history, but that's what I have up here.

Even if I'm incorrect on my interpretation of history, can you tell me how minority rights are fundamentally threatened if a government recognizes that it must deal with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Constitution Act of 1982 and even the faulty BNA Act of 1867? Even if you insert safeguards into referenda -- or direct elections, as I'm starting to prefer the terminology -- ie, if you're going to have citizen-initiated referenda or direct election, direct government, direct democracy instruments, you have to attain a certain level of a petition, of a percentage of the popular vote, as an example from the last election.

New Zealand is an example. We heard from Mr White the other day, the Reform member of Parliament from White Rock, in which he indicated that New Zealanders wanted to put on the ballot a question about free education and health care. They were not even able to attain the minimum level of petition names to get the question inserted on the ballot for a vote.


I'd like to have a reclarification from you. Aside from the Newfoundland experience, where did the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of St John's intercede and try to prevent, through the courts, the question that arose affecting minority rights on reorganization of education in Newfoundland?

I'm legitimately trying to sort out in my own mind where is the mythology part of this and where is the real reality, where I can see and appreciate more so that you have a concern, because there are two portions to that issue on minority rights.

Mr Daly: Thank you for the question. We think it's a critical one. I'll comment on the mythology, as you call it, and then ask others to elaborate.

You referred to the best example of where a minority right is being taken away in terms of denominational education rights in our country, and that's the Newfoundland and Labrador situation. Clearly, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has used the results of that referendum to legitimize the taking away of those rights that were part of the agreement of the province of Newfoundland coming into this country.

Mr Hastings: Does that mean then that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution are not real safeguards in terms of minority rights vis-à-vis referenda?

Mr Daly: In that case, they are not. The province is using the results of that to legitimize that change.

Monsignor Dennis Murphy: Historically, the kind of agreements that came into existence were the following: What happened as different provinces came into Confederation was that the federal government guaranteed that whatever religious education rights were currently in place at the time would thereafter be protected. Therefore, you have provinces that did not have such rights, such as British Columbia, such as Nova Scotia etc. There are only a few provinces actually that have constitutionally protected rights. So that's the historical basis upon which that particular minority right has been guaranteed by the Constitution.

Mr Reilly: Mr Hastings, you're accurate in the case of Manitoba, because there was a right and it was taken away by non-parliamentary means, we would say.

The Chair: I'll turn now to Mr Bartolucci for questions.

Mr Bartolucci: Thank you for your presentation, most of which I agree with. I would just like maybe to go one step further with the Newfoundland question of educational governance, because I think this is a crucial problem that any legislation will have to face, and that's the question itself.

If you look at the question that Newfoundland posed, it was open-ended so that the government could in fact interpret exactly what it wanted. So regardless of the outcome -- and we're looking at what? Fifty-four per cent of the people voted, a 52% turnout, a 55%-45% majority. It wasn't great. The problem is the wording of the question. The question is worded wrong. You've indicated that you want that protection, in your brief. Who is that neutral party going to be? Any ideas? Can you advise the government as to who a neutral party in the wording of the question should be?

Mr Daly: I think that's one of the questions that we, in our document, state we think we need additional time for, but that we'd like to advise this committee and the government on. That's one of the essential issues, and we will be seeking advice and counsel before providing a specific answer to it, but one that we think needs to be looked at.

Mr Reilly: We have two ideas in there, and one of them is an independent commission. You would have to have some kind of safeguard and the highest quality people. That is where the cost comes in, I think, no matter when you run the referendum. I think that's a less important issue. The other one is the courts. You might say the courts are becoming so politicized nowadays, can we go that route, but one of those two, I think, and that is a very definite cost.

Mr Bartolucci: In an earlier example, you used Sudbury as an example of a possible referendum. Thank God that that didn't happen, because North Bay and Sudbury aren't always agreeing these days. Certainly we agree that we should host the 2000 Canada Games, and we will work together to ensure that that happens.

Let's talk a little bit about geographical restrictions, because they're very important, and let's talk about the threshold. If in fact this government decides to move in the direction of referenda legislation, what should the threshold be? Should it be geographically restricted in any way?

Mr Reilly: I think that would depend very much on the subject matter of the referendum. Here again is where I think you need a third party probably to arbitrate on that. If there's a proposal or even if there's a vote within an area, and you set, I would say, a fairly high threshold so that it doesn't become mischievous -- let's say it's 15% or 20% -- and all of that is there, I think somebody should still say, "This is or is not a legitimate question to go to this particular electorate." We've had situations where people wanted to put on a local ballot paper a referendum question about nuclear disarmament. I know where I came from that was a very popular thing. When I was young, everybody wanted unilateral disarmament. Aneurin Bevin said, "You'll send me into the negotiation chamber naked," and he wasn't that attractive.

Mr Bartolucci: If it's decided by whoever that there be a referendum and that there be a threshold, then must that threshold reflect every region of Ontario? Must we gather signatures from every geographical region in Ontario?

Mr Reilly: That is interesting. The nature of Ontario would suggest that there would be a lot of merit in that. We, in education particularly, know the differences between the north and the south. What's good for Toronto ain't necessarily good even for Brampton.

Mr Bartolucci: Yes, that's very true. There are minority rights that manifest themselves in many different ways.

Mr Silipo: Your point about the need for further discussion I hope is being heard. I think we heard that from a number of groups. I hope this is really only the beginning of some discussions, although we do have, lingering in the background, the commitment of the government to come forward with some form of legislation on referenda.

We can probably prolong the discussion as we need to, to better understand the implications about the use of referenda and particularly about how we ought to look, as many people have said to us, at other parts of our governance processes and how that can be improved as a way to deal with some of the problems that one may be trying to resolve through the introduction of referenda. So I hope on the time question there is greater opportunity for your organization and others to continue the discussion with us.

I want to also focus in on this question of minority rights. Obviously, I know very much where you are coming from and why you, as an organization, would be particularly interested in that as an issue, but let me just put a notion to you. I'm not advocating it -- I want to be very clear about that -- but I put it to you as a bit of a hypothetical question. If we were to look as an Ontario society at the kind of notion that was looked at in Newfoundland, that is, the end of public funding for denominational schools, in this case for the funding of the Catholic school system, how would you argue that making that decision is something that should be done through the legislative process as opposed to having that decision made through a referendum?

Mr Daly: We want to go on record as saying we're not arguing that, that that constitutional right should not be changed in either process.

Mr Slack: The addition of the referendum adds just one more opportunity which shouldn't be there to do that kind of mistake.

Mr Silipo: Right. I didn't take from what you said earlier that you would favour it being dealt with under one as opposed to the other, but I was trying to take the argument a little bit beyond. Obviously your position, if I've understood it, not just from today but from our previous discussions on this, is that here is a fundamental right that exists and it shouldn't be changed. I'm just trying to say, for the purposes of discussion, what if the day came when there was a government or, on the other hand, a group of people, citizens, empowered under a new referendum act, that felt, "Well, here is something that should be changed," as something that has existed, yes, for many years in Ontario, but for whatever reasons should be changed. How do we deal with that?


Monsignor Murphy: If we were forced into the position that you're talking about, what forum do you want to have this matter dealt with in, I think we would obviously opt for the forum of the legislative processes of the province. The reason is, as we have indicated in the brief, that we think referenda can't deal with complex issues, and we feel that should there be any felt need by the population of the province of Ontario to reconsider minority rights, whether they be ours or someone else's minority rights, the forum to do this is not through a referendum or even a series of referenda, because the question is much too complex and admits of little compromise and working out of new positions at the level of a referendum, whereas through the legislative process one can begin to see new ways, perhaps, where historic rights are exercised.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate your input and advice.


The Chair: Our last scheduled presentation this afternoon is going to be brought to us by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

Mr Jim McQueen: My name is Jim McQueen. I am vice-president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. The gentleman to my left is Michael Walsh, who is an executive officer of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

Let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity of making this presentation. Also, the reason that we have taken the time -- because, as you're probably aware, this government has tended to keep us busy over the last few months -- is that we feel the proposal is significant and has the potential to dramatically change the face of Ontario politics. For that reason, we have taken the time to prepare the brief and to make a presentation to you today. Let me just begin by dealing with the introduction, and then Mr Walsh is going to deal with the contents of the document briefly, and then I will summarize.

As we say on the first page, almost since the founding of Canada as a nation Canadians have been confronted by the question: How are we different from the Americans? While this is a complex question and could result in hours of debate, most analysts agree that one of the primary differences is our attitude and the philosophy of our governments towards the members of our society. As opposed to the American attitude of rugged individualism and survival of the fittest, Canadians have supported the concept of basic equity and the need for government intervention to maintain this equity nationally. This philosophy, until recently, has crossed party lines and has been the starting point for all parties to build their diverse policies.

By way of example, it is a long historical tradition, driven by geography, diversity of population and varying provincial economic resources reaching all the way back to Macdonald's national policy, the Liberals' expansionist proposals under Laurier, the CCF-NDP health care proposals under Tommy Douglas. Canadians and their governments have recognized the need to support minority groups, be they created by language, differences in ethnic background, economic deprivation or geographical isolation and hardship. Consequently, the Conservatives created the CBC and Ontario Hydro, the Liberals promote multiculturalism and French rights and the NDP promote welfare and a national health program. We use those only as examples. Obviously, there have been many other policies.

In other words, various governments in the name of the people have recognized minority rights and adopted policies which have protected minorities against the tyranny of the majority. It is OSSTF's greatest fear that an Ontario referenda law would Americanize Ontario society. Such a law would allow those well-funded and organized organizations to destroy this long-held Canadian tradition in the name of fiscal responsibility. Such a law would lead to the growth of an attitude that, "If I as an individual cannot identify a direct personal interest in a part of our social web, it must be wrong."

One of our other primary differences with the American system is that our government structures find their roots in the British tradition of representative government. At the risk of oversimplifying, representative government is based on the concept that individuals are popularly elected by all enfranchised voters in the province or the nation to exercise their good judgement based on investigation and reasoned debate, with a focus on what is best for the nation or the province as the guiding principle. If errors are made or the principle of accountability violated, then the government can be defeated at any time in its mandate or at the next general election.

A system of referenda would defeat the essential elements of representative government. Rather than reasoned debate and an informed discussion prior to making a decision, debates in the public would be fuelled by emotion and misinformation, with decisions made on the impact of the results on the individual as opposed to the common good. OSSTF also believes that there would be an attendant loss of protection and rights of citizens by government, a right that is guaranteed by the Constitution. In relationship to accountability, we believe that governments would be able to avoid accountability for their actions, hiding behind the rationale that "They made us do it."

Returning to our original theme of the Americanization of our society and political system, we would point out that our government structure is based on a parliamentary structure, in which our citizens look to our parliaments and legislatures for protection. This is the only protection citizens have other than the long, expensive recourse of the courts. In the United States, referenda are more extensively used, and we will comment on their effectiveness later in this paper, but the American system also provides for a system of checks and balances which is specifically designed to protect individuals from wild swings in public opinion. None of these protections exist in our representative system of government, which would enhance the danger to citizens' rights as presented by a widespread use of referenda.

Michael, if you would like to go through the rest of the paper.

Mr Michael Walsh: Essentially, we would argue that the current parliamentary system is working and working well in Ontario, that there are real choices among the parties that present themselves to the electorate and that over the last number of years, since the end of the dynasty that the Conservative Party had in Ontario, there have been major shifts in the governing party in power in Ontario, representing major differences in the views that are represented in government.

This is very different from the US piece, where Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore, in describing the US political system, said, "You have your Republican Party, which is very much like our Conservative Party, and you have your Democrats, which is very much like our Conservative Party." In other words, very little difference that you can see on that front, and as a result, they have moved much more in the direction of discriminating on policy issues through the use of referenda. We would argue that they're not necessary in Ontario, that when you elect a government, you elect a government with the policies that it's put forward to the electorate, and at times, as we are seeing, that's not always in the favour of this organization.

We noticed in the discussion paper that you presented that you talked about some disenchantment on the part of voters and therefore the need to give expression to views through referenda. We would argue that the disenchantment comes when elected governments, having made very clear statements about policy issues when running for election, change their position once elected and do something completely at odds to the policies that they presented themselves in favour of during the election process.

It's this behaviour that causes the voter to feel disenchanted. I speak specifically there about the free trade debate, about the imposition of the GST, about the GST -- I'm talking here federally -- not being repealed once the last government was elected; and at the provincial level, the promise, for example, from the narrow perspective that we're operating from on the education issue, that this government would not hurt the classroom with its spending cuts. We know that has not been the case.


We are not absolutely opposed to referenda. There is a place for them, but we feel the place for them is on the very big issues, the constitutional issues. In that circumstance, where you're looking to change the Constitution of the country, then you should go to the electorate on that change to the Constitution. But even in that circumstance, we think that the Parliament should be taking a position before going to the referendum. In other words, they should state what it is that they wish the piece to be before going to the electorate.

We've just seen a referendum in Quebec, and there are a couple of things, I think, that are important to note from that referendum; one is that the framers of the referendum have great control over the answer that the electorate comes forward with, that the framing of the question is a particularly important piece. I think the education minister saw that in the kinds of responses he was able to get through a push-pull poll on education and teachers and the quality of education. You can elicit an answer from the electorate by framing a question very, very carefully.

Someone suggested in the Quebec media that the Parti québécois was designing a no-fail ballot for sovereignty referenda: The ballot is printed Yes in advance, and the voter writes in the question. This is not really far from the reality of the matter.

The framing of the question in referenda is going to often elicit the kind of response that a group wants, and you don't need to do that when you've got the power of the Parliament to make the decisions that you should be taking on your own behalf.

The other thing that I think needs to be remarked about on the Quebec referendum is the cost. We have information that suggests the cost of the last referendum was in excess of $63 million. Quebec is geographically not dissimilar to Ontario in extent and the sort of wide spread of population. We believe that in conducting a province-wide referendum in Ontario, where every voter was involved, we would be looking at the potential for that kind of expense.

On both the part of cost and unreliability then, we would really urge caution on the part of the government in the use of referenda as instruments of public policy.

The other thing that comes to mind in looking at a referendum question that's put out there is, who influences, how do you influence the result of that referendum question once it's put to the electorate? I would put it to the committee that the ability to influence through the purchase of advertising in the media gives very great advantage to those interests that have lots of money to spend, that you can do much to buy the result that you want on a narrowly defined question. Again, we would argue that this is not something we should be advocating in Ontario.

The comment was made earlier about hearing from interest groups in your office, sir, and I think the fact that you can identify what organization the people are coming from and what axe to grind they have when they come and see you allows you to give real balance to how you react to the information that comes to you as an MPP. That's why we elect all of you, to do that very thing, that siphoning, that winnowing process down to what the real gist of the question is.

The other problem with referenda, and a major problem, we feel -- I'm sure this has been stated to you before -- is in regard to the questions themselves. For example, we could come up with a question on: Should we be limiting the amount of money that's spent on education? Should we have a single amount of money per student across Ontario, the same amount of money for every student in Ontario? On the face of it, it's a question that would win a lot of support because it's fair to every person. They're all getting the same amount of money. But when you examine the question in detail, you realize that what one should be considering are the enormous differences in the costs of educating students in various parts of this province: students with special needs, students who have just come from overseas and don't have any English or any of the first languages in their possession. You cannot ask in a referendum question a question that covers the issue in any real, meaningful way. It has to be simplistic to be able to go on to the ballot, and therefore, the information that you get from it is really not helpful.

We're a little surprised, I must admit -- we say it seems ironic to us -- that the government at this time is considering putting forward a bill to incorporate referenda when it just passed Bill 26, a bill which took away the powers of holding referenda by municipalities, on extra-cost items, on contracting out. Those things which were in the last municipal legislation are no longer there. In other words, you took those opportunities for referenda away at the local level. So it seems rather inconsistent to us that you would be bringing this forward.

Maybe we're a little paranoid, but we have a feeling that one of the things you might be wanting to do is to introduce a means of going to the Proposition 13 piece of California to limit education spending. Again, we feel this is not the way to move forward. Proposition 13, for example, requires two thirds of the voters to vote in favour of increases in educational spending. As a result, there have been a number of circumstances where the voters in the majority have voted for increases in funding for education, and because of the passage of that particular piece, they have not been able to get the increases in millage that they want.

We know you use opinion polls to guide you as to how the electorate is feeling about various issues that are being debated in the Legislature, and we believe they're useful for you to know what your electoral position is in taking something forward. But I think, apart from that, the real questions need to be dealt with in the House, debated fully, debated in all their complexity and passed in the parliamentary system that we have, rather than moving to a system that really doesn't fit the model we have in Ontario.


Mr McQueen: I'll be very brief in our conclusion. Let me just put forward to you four recommendations that we would make:

First, we would recommend to the government to abandon the legislation on referenda.

Second, many of the concerns of the public in relationship to the activities of our political parties are in the lack of freedom of the individual member to exercise his or her will based on the requirements of their own local constituencies. What we would urge is a relaxation of the whip rules and the government rules. Obviously on money bills, since they deal with the continued support of the government, there is a requirement there that the parties insist on support, but we would suggest that on issues other than that, MPPs in any particular party should have the right to reflect the local constituents' feelings.

Third, we would suggest an expansion of proportional representation. As we all know, in many cases, governments are elected, and in the last two elections have had majority governments even though they have had minority votes. We would suggest to you a proportional representation, that perhaps the attitudes of the electorate should be reflected in adding additional members to the House based on that proportional representation.

We would also suggest a final alternative. As an example, in New Zealand, if organizations which are not part of a political party but run as candidates based on a particular platform receive sufficient votes -- and I would not debate with you as to what the number of votes should be -- then they get representation in the Legislature or in the Parliament in New Zealand. We would suggest to you that if groups of people can organize around issues and can receive sufficient votes across the province to reflect an interest in those issues, they too should receive some representation in the Legislature.

We would end our presentation there, with our thanks for your time, and we'd be more than willing to take any questions you may have.

Mr Bartolucci: Thanks, Mr McQueen and Mr Walsh, for your presentation. Certainly you're in the business of education, and I guess the government should understand that education is not a product but a process. It's a process that isn't subject, isn't conducive, to referenda. I think if we look at the Michigan model, you'll see the disastrous effects of referenda on education in Michigan.

A very simple question: You're suggesting that under no circumstances should this government provide an opportunity for referenda?

Mr McQueen: Yes. In summary, that's our position, with the single exception of constitutional amendments.

Mr Bartolucci: Yes, absolutely.

Mr Silipo: Thank you very much for the presentation. I certainly took that message very clearly from your presentation.

What I also found useful -- I just make a comment, because I don't think I really have any questions -- is that you've highlighted here a number of areas that others have also touched on. You've gone into a little bit more detail in terms of some things that we could do. I think yours is probably one of the few presentations that actually puts this clearly out there, not just on the proportional representation but some of the other pieces: the free vote, the other ways in which we can make representative government more responsive. It certainly would be something that I, for one, would believe we ought to look at quite seriously.

I was interested earlier on in hearing some of the government members also reflect some of that sense about how we could make the system of government that we have work better, become more democratic. I hope we have a chance to take a look at some of those alternatives -- I would argue prior to looking at the question of referenda in a serious way, or at the very least, in conjunction with -- because I fear the government seems intent on proceeding with some form of law that's going to govern referenda, so we may have to deal with the nuts and bolts of that whether we like it or not.

Mr McQueen: We've had that experience.

Mr Hastings: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for coming in and making your views known to us on referenda. My question would be on direct election instruments. If they are as dangerous, as anti-democratic etc, as you pose them to be, then how do you account for their success, or limited success at least, in the political cultures of Switzerland, Australia, and even on a very modest scale, Great Britain? Your antidote as an improvement to parliamentary democracy -- proportional representation -- if it is such an outstanding model of improvement, then why does the Italian system seem to be moving away from it, as are the French, looking at major modifications of their proportional representation approach?

Mr Walsh: The second one first: We don't pretend to be constitutional experts. Our view is that where you're attempting to bring to the parliamentary chamber a clearer view of the whole population, when you have the current system, there are sometimes groups that get big segments of the vote that get left out of the equation. So it's simply one way that some other jurisdictions have of dealing with that. I think in the German system, a party that gets a certain percentage of the vote, even if it doesn't win any seats, will get allotted some seats within the Legislature. There may well be persuasive arguments why that shouldn't be adopted, but it seemed to us that it is a methodology. If the government is looking for getting more of the cross-section of views of Ontarians into the political process, this might be one that you would look at.

As far as Switzerland is concerned, you mentioned its use of referenda, and we do make some reference in the paper to that. The Swiss are tired of referenda. There've been very, very many of them over the years, and I think they're looking themselves at the rules of calling them, because it doesn't take too many people to put their signatures on a list to get a referendum. If you look at the attendance at their referenda of late, there are small percentages of the population turning out to them and often deciding questions which are not of much impact, like small issues, and therefore not attracting the vast majority of the population out.

Also on that count, even in Switzerland, where they use referenda, the government often doesn't follow the will of the people. If they don't like the answer they get from the population, they continue forward with legislation that's not exactly the same as that which framed the referendum, but still a position that they want. For example, they introduced into Switzerland the equivalent of the GST. They took that vote to the electorate three times to finally persuade the electorate to do what the House wanted to do in the first place.

You also have to take into account the political culture of the people you're dealing with. The Swiss have had a long history of this, and clearly it's something that is part of their political culture. This is not part of ours. If you're going to change to referenda, then you need to look at a whole restructuring of the parliamentary process, and I'm not seeing you suggesting to do that. I think you don't pick out one element; you need to reform the whole system if you're going to do that.

Mr McQueen: If I could just briefly add on the two issues that you raise in relationship to referenda, I think we have to look at the Canadian experience. We have not had a lot of experience with referenda. Of the two that we've had, one was on the conscription crisis, which planted seeds in this country which to this day continue to be devastating to its unity, because in that particular case, it had an overwhelming vote of, for want of better words, English Canada voting in favour of conscription and an overwhelming majority of French votes against it. That's caused, I think, an ongoing contradiction. If you look at the more recent experience of the Quebec referendum, what was solved by a 50.5% to 49.5% vote? It has not made the problem go away.

In relationship to the proportional representation, what we are suggesting is that it is the government that has identified a frustration in the minds of the public with the parliamentary system. It may not be the best idea, but what we are suggesting is that much of that frustration is caused by groups who do not feel they are playing a role in the political system yet who have issues and can get significant support for those issues. What we are suggesting to you is to recognize that those issues are there, people support the stances taken by individuals who deal with those issues and they in fact should then be represented in the parliamentary legislatures.

The Chair: Mr Boushy, do you still have a question?

Mr Boushy: Not really, except that I am still puzzled by your opposing a referendum. You seem to underestimate the intellect of the people when they go to vote. For example, you indicate that they probably will not recognize the arguments of special interest groups, that if there's a heavy advertising campaign, they will be influenced by it. It means they could be bought by heavy advertising. My experience has been completely different than that: The public seem to sort all these things out when they go to vote.

Mr McQueen: I think to some extent you're putting words in our mouth. It's not our intent to dismiss the public or the intelligence of the public. What we are suggesting is that where that intelligence is best expressed is in election campaigns, where there are in fact platforms, where issues are discussed, where there is debate between the issues. What we fear in a referendum is that the only individuals who would have a chance of expressing an opinion would be those people who had the wealth or the media contacts or whatever -- including ourselves. We could get involved in a referendum with very little difficulty.

But that is not going to allow those people on a massive scale to have input. In the conflicting information that's going to take place, it's going to be very difficult for them to determine as to who was correct. At least in the election system, you elect a government. Four or five years later, you get the opportunity to say, "Were they telling the truth or were they lying?"

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr McQueen, for your presentation today. We certainly appreciate your input and your advice. This concludes for today our public hearings on the issue of referenda.

Mr Silipo: Mr Chair, before you adjourn, I just wanted to have some sense about where you see us going from here, given that I gather we're not now scheduled to sit again until the House resumes.

The Chair: Our research staff will be compiling a summary for all members of the committee of what exactly the presenters suggested to us. I would hope we can have a subcommittee meeting perhaps Wednesday, September 25, I think it would be, to determine where we go from here.

We still have until October 4 to receive written presentations from the public, and we still may do that. I've certainly invited my constituents to submit presentations, so I expect we will continue to get some presentations in the mail.

Mr Silipo: So we would deal, you anticipate, through subcommittee, with the question of whether we need to schedule additional meetings, additional hearings.

The Chair: Exactly, and certainly we'll have open discussions as to where we go.

I want to thank all committee members for their cooperation.

Mr Hastings: One thing that I'd like some clarification on is that this week there were views presented as to whether there were actual local municipal referenda held on how Ontario Hydro came together. I'd like the research folks to look at the whole issue of whether that occurred or was it simply incentives from Sir Adam Beck etc that brought the local utilities together into Ontario Hydro.

The Chair: I think it would be worthwhile to get that clarification, by all means.

I would like to thank our clerk, Lisa Freedman, for all the work she's done, as well as the legislative staff who have assisted us this past week. It's certainly been a very enjoyable experience for me as Chair. Again, thank you to all members of the committee for their cooperation. The committee is adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1735.