The House resumed at 8:01 p.m.
Hon. Mr. Gregory: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege: It is a privilege for me to announce from Ottawa, that, out of 249 polls, 212 heard from, the NDP has 3,179 votes, the Liberals have 7,279 votes, and the PCs have 10,240 votes.
REPORT IN TORONTO SUN
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, prior to the recess I had asked for the right and you had extended to me the privilege to speak further on my point of privilege.
I had raised the question. In fact, I had made the statement with regard to the libel that had been committed. It had been perpetrated either by the member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) or the member for Wentworth North (Mr. Cunningham), and that particular libel pertained to the notice sent up to the member of the press. That was a totally malicious and untrue statement.
I think I am entitled to have the member for Wentworth North here to answer to this matter. On the basis of the advice I have received from my discussions this afternoon with legal counsel, he must be entitled to answer to that. I am prepared to stand down until that occurs. But by the same token, because my reputation is at stake and it is a very serious matter, I ask that you exercise whatever you can in the way of influence, along with the leaders of the Liberal Party, to bring the member for Wentworth North before the House at the earliest moment to answer these charges. I must have an answer, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: As I reminded the honourable member this afternoon when he first raised the issue, it is only common courtesy that any person who is named as violating another member’s privileges has to be given an opportunity to respond. I do not have it within my power to command him to be here at any given point in time. When he does arrive, I am sure the honourable member will avail himself of the opportunity to express his point of view. I do not have the authority to summon anybody at any particular point in time. No doubt, in due course the honourable member will be here to respond to any allegations you have made.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, I ask the deputy leader of the Liberal caucus whether it is within his knowledge if the member for Wentworth North intends to be in the House tomorrow.
Mr. Nixon: It is not.
Mr. Williams: I did not hear the answer.
Mr. Speaker: You are not entitled to an answer. All you can do is put your point before the House. I am sure the honourable member to whom you refer will hear your remarks and, when he is here, he will respond to them.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE (CONTINUED)
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, as I recall when the House adjourned at six o’clock this evening, I was referring the members to certain extracts from the proceedings that took place before the standing committee on administration of justice yesterday. It was clear that some of the members indicated they would like to hear Mr. Howard Morton, the director of the crown law office, criminal division, because of the importance of these proceedings.
Although I am not familiar with everything that was said in the justice committee prior to the passage of the resolution which invites you, Mr. Speaker, to issue a Speaker’s warrant, from what I have been able to learn and from what I recall as having been said yesterday, several members were totally unaware that criminal charges had been laid, that the matter was before the court and that there are accused individuals who are about to appear at a preliminary hearing.
In such a vital matter, I would like to think that even members who find it difficult at the best of times to demonstrate the most basic, elementary courtesy to this House should appreciate that this is an issue that affects the rights of every individual in this country. Regardless of what we may think of them personally, individuals who are charged in our courts have a right to a trial in a properly constituted court of law, not in this Legislature and not in a committee thereof.
I honestly believe the overwhelming majority of members on both sides of this House appreciate the importance of these fundamental principles. With respect, I am trying to direct my remarks in a nonpartisan vein. I cannot speak for certain but, as I indicated earlier, I doubt the majority of the members who voted on that resolution were aware of the criminal proceedings and the ongoing criminal investigation. I do not know to what extent the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) was aware of the criminal proceedings.
In any event, as was suggested by the member for Kitchener (Mr. Breithaupt) and as appeared to be the view of other members of the committee, they invited me, as Attorney General, to return this afternoon and appear before the justice committee in order that they might hear Mr. Morton, the director of the crown law office, who was there yesterday and was again to be here today and Mr. Blenus Wright, the assistant deputy minister in charge of the civil branch of the ministry.
As I indicated to the members of the justice committee yesterday, I was not personally familiar with all the details of the investigation. It should not come as a surprise that the Attorney General cannot keep himself apprised of the day-to-day workings of any particular investigation.
Certainly on that occasion the members wanted very much to hear from Mr. Morton, and it was my understanding that he was going to be given an opportunity to address certain remarks to the committee today in relation to the nature of the investigation and what was involved. I want to indicate at this time, that, if the justice committee had proceeded as I thought was the intention of the members at that time, Mr. Morton’s concerns would have been expressed to them.
I am reading a statement prepared for me, at my request, by the director of the crown law office, as he is most familiar with the details of this investigation.
My major concern, and the concern of the senior law officers, with respect to the justice committee’s resolutions, is that if adopted by this Legislature they will impair a very important and complex ongoing criminal investigation. Since early spring of this year, the Ontario Provincial Police have been conducting a criminal investigation with respect to the financial affairs of Mr. Montemurro; prior to that time, the Ontario Securities Commission had been conducting a similar investigation into C and M Financial Consultants Limited. As a result of the securities commission investigation, Mr. Montemurro and two of his associates have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the public, fraud, conspiracy to commit theft, and theft.
The preliminary hearing into those charges is scheduled to commence next Monday, and it is entirely possible -- of course, I cannot speculate -- that counsel for Mr. Montemurro may very well wish to adjourn these proceedings in the event that a Speaker’s warrant is issued. While I am not suggesting any of our provincial court judges are going to be influenced by a debate that goes on in this House or in a committee of this House, what we, who are truly concerned about the administration of justice, are concerned about is the appearance of a man who is on trial at a preliminary hearing having the very issues related to his trial debated in a committee of this Legislature. Surely this is not a result that is desired by any responsible member, at least, of this House.
A much broader OPP investigation is still under way, and I am advised it will be some time before the decision is made as to what, if any, further charges will be laid. I might add that a very experienced counsel from the crown law office, criminal division, has been assisting the police from the outset of this investigation. Approximately 50 search warrants have been executed, and more than 50 boxes of documents have been seized. Accountants have been retained, and they are in the process of assisting the OPP in their investigation.
Although I am not prepared to hamper an ongoing criminal investigation by having a public debate at this time with respect to the details of the investigation, I am prepared to state that the substantial portion of the investigation centres on Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation and Astra Trust, the very companies named in the committee’s resolution.
As Attorney General, I must impress upon you, Mr. Speaker, that in my view a Speaker’s warrant to produce the documents set out in the justice committee’s resolutions will seriously impair the integrity of a very important ongoing criminal investigation. In fact, it may impede it, or it may even grind it to a halt. As chief law officer of the crown, with public responsibilities that flow from that position, I cannot idly stand by and permit that to happen.
In addition to what I have already said, I would only add that, were a Speaker’s warrant to issue, there is a very real risk that the three accused persons whose preliminary hearing starts next Monday will be prejudiced with respect to their right to a fair trial by virtue of the publicity which, I might say, has already been generated by the justice committee’s resolutions. The right of any accused person to a fair trial is a right I am not prepared to compromise.
I remind the members of the House that, apart from the responsibilities some of them obviously are unwilling to discharge, they have a responsibility to you, too, sir.
Reading section 35 of the Legislative Assembly Act, which perhaps is not familiar to some of the members: “When the assembly requires the attendance of a person before the assembly or a committee thereof, the Speaker may issue his warrant directed to the person named in the order of the assembly requiring his attendance before the assembly or committee and the production of the papers and things as ordered.”
It appears quite clear that it was the intent of the Legislature in passing this section to vest in the Speaker the discretion with respect to whether or not to issue such a warrant. I think --
Mr. Warner: You only give half the story. Why don’t you try subsection 1 of that?
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: The honourable member will have his opportunity to participate in the debate. He is always telling people to resign almost every hour on the hour. He is masquerading as the justice critic for his party. Why does he not smarten up for a change?
Mr. Warner: And you’re masquerading as Attorney General. Read subsection 1 of that.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I would think, Mr. Speaker, even the members of the third party would have enough respect for your position not to ask you to have to exercise that very difficult decision. I would have thought the members of the Legislature would have more respect for the position of Speaker than to put you in that very difficult position.
The other matter that has been considered, I think it is fair to say, is not of as crucial importance as the matters I have been discussing, but they are matters related to the administration of justice. I am addressing myself to the issue of the civil proceedings that have been commenced. The advice I have from the senior law officers of the crown in the civil division of the ministry is as follows: I think again this may be of assistance to the members, and I am speaking about the majority of the members who want to know these facts.
Mr. Martel: You don’t want to assist; you want to insult.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Perhaps some of the honourable members over there might learn again the most basic elements of courtesy and just allow the other members to hear these submissions.
Mr. Martel: Don’t talk down to us.
Mr. Makarchuk: We’ve had enough of your sanctimonious claptrap.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: The people of Carleton have told the people of Ontario what they think of the NDP today.
Mr. Martel: That’s because you blew in with every goodie possible to give in a by-election.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, the first notice of a potential claim in this matter was served on our office in June 1980. We have now received a total of 32 separate notices of claim delivered on behalf of approximately 300 claimants. Ten separate writs of summons naming the crown as a defendant have been issued and served on our office.
In addition, we are aware of three other writs of summons issued on behalf of a total of 83 individual plaintiffs. Mr. I. B. Weinstein, who at the material time was the registrar of mortgage brokers, is named personally as a defendant A number of other writs of summons may have been issued but not yet served in which the crown or Mr. Weinstein or other individuals are named as defendants. No statements of claim have as yet been delivered in any of the actions.
In every notice of claim and in every writ of summons we have seen so far, the specific issue raised is the decision of the registrar to grant a licence as a mortgage broker to Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation, which is exactly the issue sought to be discussed in this House or in committee. In my view, any discussion of this matter, either in the House or in committee, would be premature while the lawsuits are pending as it could tend to create a prejudgement in the minds of the public, or in the minds of the litigants, as to the issues involved in the litigation. It would also set up this House, or the committee, as an alternative forum for the trial of the issues.
It is my view that this, in turn, would constitute a serious prejudice both for the rights of the registrar of mortgage brokers and the rights of the plaintiffs in the various lawsuits. In addition, because of the danger of prejudgement of the issues based on incomplete information or on an inadequate understanding of its effect, it also could create a serious prejudice to the administration of justice in this province.
For these reasons, it was our advice to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to advise this House that the matters in issue are sub judice and we advised him not to produce the files and documents of the ministry with respect to the matters in issue in the litigation.
Finally, it was my respectful view and, I believe quite frankly, the view of a number of the members opposite, that the proper forum to deal with this issue, if it is required to be dealt with further, would have been the justice committee, where the members could have heard not only from the Attorney General or members of this Legislature but also from senior law officers of the crown who are much more intimately and better acquainted with the facts of these matters than I am. The members of the committee would have had the opportunity to benefit from the views of these senior law officers of the crown whose sole responsibility in this matter is to protect --
Mr. M. N. Davison: To protect the minister.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: -- the integrity of the administration of justice in this province. I hope that remark was not meant to be heard by anyone other than the person who uttered it. Suggesting that senior law officers of the crown have any other goal --
Mr. M. N. Davison: I am suggesting that it is the Attorney General’s.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: -- than to protect the integrity of the administration of justice in this province --
Mr. Sargent: They do what they are told by the Attorney General’s office. I will prove it to the minister in a minute.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: I say to the member for Grey-Bruce, that is beneath contempt. It really is.
I would have thought the committee would have been the proper forum to have heard from these law officers. I still think, on this very vital and crucial debate as far as the interests of individual citizens of this province are concerned in relation to proper law enforcement and the administration of justice, and before we risk allowing it to be ground down into a lot of mindless partisanship, the members of the Legislature should consider the possibility of allowing the justice committee to consider this matter further and to deliberate on it rather than placing you, sir, in a most invidious position in exercising your discretion in a matter that is of such fundamental importance to the administration of justice in this province which bears directly on the rights of every single citizen in our province.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, it is with somewhat mixed emotions I rise to speak on this matter. Having heard the position put forward by the Attorney General, one of course has to think very deeply about it.
However, I would bring to the Attorney General’s attention a ruling that was made on July 8, 1977. It was a ruling made by the then Speaker Rowe in regard to Hydro contracts and the whole subject of sub judice. I put this to the committee yesterday morning before the Attorney General came in.
The Speaker was making a ruling on a question put by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) in regard to Hydro contracts. The Speaker referred to a study that had been done at the federal level in regard to the sub judice rule. I want to emphasize this point in particular. Speaker Rowe said this, “May I first say as strongly as I can that I know of no authority by which any court can prevent free discussion in this chamber.” He re-emphasized that later on.
That is the first and most fundamental point. It is perhaps somewhat ironic that I should be quoting that particular section and bringing to the attention of the Attorney General this evening that this assembly has the authority for free discussion and free speech, when I personally have been the butt or recipient of a diatribe by the member for Oriole (Mr. Williams), which I think the Attorney General would agree would constitute libel and slander outside of this chamber. But he has that right as a member of this Legislature, and he has exercised that right perhaps a little further than most of us would like. I say to the Attorney General that this assembly as a whole has the right of free discussion of any matter that it sees fit. That is the first point.
On the general matter of sub judice, this federal report went on to state, and I quote from section 22: “In the view of your committee, the justification for the convention has not been established beyond all doubt, although it would not go so far as to recommend that it be totally abolished. Your committee believes, however, that any modification to the practice should be in the direction of greater flexibility rather than stricter application.”
Further, Mr. Speaker -- and I am sure you have the reference -- I quote again: “On no account should the convention which has been applied infrequently in years past come to be regarded as a fixed and binding rule. It is not reasonable, for example, that Parliament should be any more limited in this debate concerning judicial proceeding than is the press in the reporting of such proceedings.
There is more, Mr. Speaker. As you well know, it also says, “Your committee recommends that the Speaker should remain the final arbiter in the matter.”
The point remains that the whole sub judice rule is a vague one. It has been used on occasion in this assembly and in others as an excuse for not providing information or not taking action. I am concerned about this matter. I refer the Attorney General to the question put on November 13 by the member for Kitchener (Mr. Breithaupt). I remind him of that question to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Drea) in regard to the documentation and memorandum concerning the registration of Re-Mor after C and M had been put into receivership.
I find it somewhat strange, quite frankly, that the Attorney General should have come into the committee at the point he did yesterday -- I happened to have come back into the committee -- with a law officer of the crown, and attempted to explain to the committee at that point why he felt the way he did.
I would have thought at the very least it would have been incumbent upon the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations at the time he received that brief paragraph from the law officers of the crown to give a much fuller explanation than, in fact, was given.
Hon. Mr. Drea: In fairness, that concerned a civil matter. The discussions that Mr. Morton attempted to bring to the committee yesterday, as I said, were unknown to me.
Mr. T. P. Reid: I appreciate that, but the minister did stand in his place the other day and say he could not reply to the request of the member for Kitchener because of the ruling of the law officer of the crown. With all due respect, and perhaps with some cynicism over the years, that is not sufficient. We have to have valid reasons why these matters should be considered sub judice.
I find it difficult to understand how the production of these documents is going to prejudice or affect these cases. The justice committee, having received the documents -- which it is entitled to under the rules of this House -- will proceed with them in the way it best sees fit. It has that authority and that responsibility, as the committee charged with this matter, to proceed in the best way it knows how.
I was also concerned that the Attorney General put a new twist on the whole sub judice rule. It was my understanding that, vague as the rule has been in the past, at least it referred primarily and specifically, if not completely, to criminal actions in the court. The Attorney General shakes his head. Perhaps I have been under some misapprehension in that regard but I have not yet, until tonight, heard the argument that the sub judice rule also applied to ongoing or potential criminal investigations.
It seems to me, if we carry that argument to its logical conclusion, there is little if anything we can discuss in this chamber if that is a valid argument. I do not think it is acceptable to us as an argument to use the sub judice rule for closing off debate and discussion on this matter. I quoted the ruling of your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, on July 8, 1977. I fail to see how the production of these documents for the justice committee will have any prejudicial effect on these matters and we would hope the motion and report would carry.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, with the indulgence of the House, I want to vent my anger for about 60 seconds and then I want to try to deal with the substance of the matter. It is incomprehensible to me that the suggestion made by the House leader of this party to the government House leader that this matter be debated tomorrow morning was not accepted. That would have given the opportunity, as the record of the proceedings of the justice committee shows, to have heard the Attorney General and anyone the Attorney General wished to bring to the committee this afternoon.
My anger is not about that matter. My anger is that the private members’ public business has been totally eliminated for this week. My anger is also directed at the fact that the third reading of the debate on the select committee on constitutional reform is not going to take place or only in truncated form.
In addition, it is a personal concern of mine as a member of the assembly that the failure to have maturity about the proceedings of this House disrupts the work of each member of the assembly. In this particular instance, I have had in my appointment book for well over two months an obligation to attend a meeting about lead pollution in my riding from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and to attend the annual meeting of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre this evening. I am prevented from participating in those events because of the immaturity displayed today about this matter, although I was able to be there briefly during the dinner recess this evening.
Having said that, let me try to deal with the issue before us, which is the question of whether we should adopt the report of the justice committee in the light of the comments made principally by the Attorney General and his concern about it.
My remarks are addressed to allaying his concern by bringing to his attention what the justice committee is about, what the proceedings of the justice committee were dealing with yesterday, and not just to inform the Attorney General, because I believe my colleagues in the assembly who were not in that committee should have an understanding of what is being asked.
First of all, let me clarify as best I can what the process was at the end of the committee yesterday, not because I was present, but because there has been some confusion that in some way the committee was creating this difficulty. The committee did not create this difficulty. I quote from near the end of yesterday’s Hansard with respect to the committee hearing, after the Attorney General had been there and spoken, when the question arose of whether there were sufficient members present to deal with the matter that had been raised and all the other matters that had been raised. My colleague the member for Brantford (Mr. Makarchuk) made these remarks almost at the end of the meeting:
“My feeling on this matter is that it proceed as it is right now, which still gives us time tomorrow when the committee meets. Mr. Morton can still make his statement. If the committee decides to withdraw the warrant at that time or requests the Speaker not to execute that warrant, that procedure can be followed. We have the time to follow that process. As the motions are at this time, I would suggest the proper procedures be carried out. The committee still has the option to change its mind on the basis of the evidence we will hear tomorrow and prevent the execution of the warrant. That time is still available to us and I suggest we will leave things as they stand at this time.”
The member for Kitchener intervened, “Then we will hear Mr. Morton first thing tomorrow afternoon.” There were a couple of other interventions and my colleague the member for Hamilton Centre stated: “If, in fact, the committee is given a warrant, the motion is granted and the warrant is obtained, then there is no problem if something should come forward that convinces us we should not do it by asking the Speaker to stay the execution of that warrant. It is not going to happen instantaneously. Nothing ever does.”
The member for Kitchener then concluded: “We have no choice in the matter, in the absence of the withdrawal of the motion, and we do not have a quorum to continue with the placing of a new motion other than the one that would embarrass the chairman. I believe, Mr. Chairman, we have no alternative but to adjourn and to hear Mr. Morton tomorrow afternoon.”
Mr. Chairman said: “We stand adjourned. Will the Solicitor General be free tomorrow afternoon?” The Attorney General replied, “Yes, I think we are scheduled to be here.” Then the committee adjourned at 1:30 in the afternoon. I simply read that to indicate quite clearly that the normal adjournment hour for the committee was one o’clock. There was no quorum present at the time this discussion took place. There was no authority in the committee to rescind or alter or vary in any way what had been passed when the committee met in the morning.
What did the committee do when it met in the morning? It dealt with the procedural matters. There were four motions put before the committee. I do not intend to read them at length. They are in the proceedings. Three of the motions were put by the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley). The fourth motion, the one relating to the request for the Speaker’s warrant, was put by my colleague the member for Hamilton Centre.
It is because of the substance of the matter in issue that I am very much concerned with the great, broad cloak the Attorney General spread about the matter in the House tonight. I do not yield, and no other member of the House yields, to the Attorney General on the question of the integrity of the administration of justice in the province. He happens to carry the ministerial responsibility in this House. We all share that responsibility and no one can impute by direct words or otherwise a greater concern to some members of this House than resides in other members.
I get concerned when the Attorney General smothers or attempts to smother that issue on the basis that somehow or other he has sole responsibility. He only has sole responsibility in the sense that he is responsible to this House. It is important for the Attorney General, when he comes before the House to ask that a matter related to one of the committees of the House be aborted, that he stand in his place and understand what it was that the committee was about.
I suggest the Attorney General’s remarks tonight showed at least an ignorance about what the committee was saying yesterday. I do not want to repeat the motions because they tended to be put in formal terms. Three of them were put by the member for St. Catharines.
The first motion, which was the formal gut motion before the committee, was expressed in formal terms and then explained to the committee by the member for St. Catharines. He said, “Through this particular motion, we would like to examine the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.” That was the matter the committee was asked to consider.
Before I go on, let me express that this House, under its rules, on a petition signed by 20 members, referred the report of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to that committee to carry out its instructions. The problem, and I want to make this very clear, is that the committee’s mandate will continue. The committee has no alternative as a creature of this House but to continue its investigation into the matters with which it has been charged.
The problem will be that if the argument of the Attorney General is accepted, the committee will be unable to do its work in the way in which this assembly must expect it to do its work and that is ably, well and efficiently.
I want to emphasize that the purpose of the committee, in the words of the member for St. Catharines, who moved the motion, which was passed by the committee, is, “Through this particular motion, we would like to examine the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.” He then went on to particularize the nature of the inquiry into the role of the ministry. Because we were not engaged in something called a fishing expedition, it was very clear as to what the responsibility of the committee is in that investigation and examination.
Again, quoting the member for St. Catharines, “...and, in particular, the registrar of mortgage brokers in relation to the issuance of a mortgage broker’s licence to Re-Mor investment Management Corporation. We would also, through this motion, like to examine the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and, in particular, the registrar of loan and trust corporations, in relation to the denial of a provincial trust company charter to a trust company to be incorporated by Mr. Carlo Montemurro and the subsequent registration and monitoring by the registrar of Astra Trust Company; and also, the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and, in particular, the Ontario Securities Commission, in relation to investigations pertaining to C and M Financial Consultants Limited, Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation, Astra Trust Company and other related companies.”
I do want to emphasize, so it will not be overlooked, that that is the mandate of responsibility which the standing committee on the administration of justice has before it. We are now being told that to investigate the role of the ministry in some way is going to prejudice the rights of individual citizens because of certain civil matters and certain criminal matters which are outstanding before the courts. I want to say there is nothing whatsoever in the role of the committee in this matter that will in any way prejudice anyone in any trial in any court arising out of the defalcations which have damaged so many people.
I want to impress on the House we must have confidence in the committees and we must have confidence in this committee. If this matter is proceeded with and the warrant is issued, as I hope and trust it will be, and if that committee is aware in any way during the course of its investigation that it will interfere with those rights of individual citizens before the courts, the confidence of this House in that committee is such that the committee will respect the integrity of the administration of justice. To say at this point that the committee will run roughshod over the rights of people shows, in my judgement, a total lack of understanding by the Attorney General of the functioning of committees of the House and a lack of respect for the integrity of those committees.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Why did you not want the law officers of the crown to have an opportunity to discuss it?
Mr. Renwick: Perhaps a little later I will come back to the point my House leader made this afternoon and to the point I made about the process that will take place in the committee that will give the Attorney General the opportunity to make whatever statement he wants to make.
I simply want to make the point that the committee is not only entitled to respect, but this House would be most unwise not to respect the work of that committee. The committee is made up of members of this assembly who are alert to the kinds of concerns we all share about the integrity of the administration of justice.
My colleague the member for Brantford said so in expressing it. My colleague the member for Hamilton Centre at the end of the desultory talk yesterday indicated quite clearly what the position would be. That is not a particular bar.
I want to draw clearly to the attention of the House the two matters which relate to something called this vexed rule of sub judice which is before us, one relating to civil matters and one relating to criminal matters. Let me say right at the beginning that during the course of the proceedings of that committee yesterday morning, when the four motions were put, three by the member for St. Catharines and one by the member for Hamilton Centre, we were talking about the civil litigation that was the subject of questions on the preceding day to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations by members of this assembly. That is what we were directed to.
I want the Attorney General to understand that, yes, on Wednesday morning the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations indicated and recalled to the House for those who had not recalled it that there were outstanding charges. It was in the minds of the members of the committee that there were outstanding charges when they went to pursue this course. That is not because we were saying we do not understand or do not appreciate that what we are doing is not to prejudice the people who are standing trial in the province in these matters. That was not it, but they were aware of it and the purpose, as I said, was to investigate the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations in respect of the three matters outlined by the member for St. Catharines.
I want to draw to your attention, not so much because it is a matter of your ruling at this point, Mr. Speaker, because it is a motion before the House for the adoption of a report, but as it is in essence a question of the sub judice rule, and I want to put clearly on the record what the rules of the House say about that matter:
“In debate, a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if he refers to any matter that is the subject of a proceeding (i) that is pending in a court or before a judge for judicial determination, or (ii) that is before any quasi-judicial body constituted by the House or by or under the authority of an act of the Legislature.”
Both those headings are qualified by the following clause: “where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Speaker that further reference would create a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceeding.”
I listened carefully to the Attorney General, and I want to say that in no way will this create a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceeding. If there are those who want to prejudge the matter at this time and say, “Oh yes, it will,” then I say let us await the event.
Let us have the courtesy to give the committee of this assembly what it is entitled to: the respect to understand that in anything they do, whether it is related to the warrant which is one of the matters in the report to be adopted or whether it is simply in the course of other proceedings before that committee, they will be fully aware of their responsibility with respect to that kind of prejudice. To say at this point that it would is at least to prejudge. In my judgement, so far there has been no indication by the Attorney General that there is any real substance to the allegation he has made that we have no concern for the administration of justice and he is the only one who can be entrusted with this operation.
Hon. Mr. McMurtry: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege: I did not impute that motive to the committee. I invited the members of the committee to avail themselves of the opportunity of further deliberations with law officers of the crown to attempt to sort this matter out. I did not say, “You are not entitled to any documents whatsoever,” nor did I impute that the members of the committee were all dedicated to running roughshod over the rights of individual citizens. I indicated that their responsibility to the administration of justice would demand that at least they make that attempt. That is quite different from the remarks attributed to me by the member for Riverdale.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, I did not mean to provoke the Attorney General in the matter. I want to deal further with the present wording of the sub judice rule we have in our rules.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I heard an interjection there that was clearly unparliamentary and I ask the member for Sudbury East to withdraw it.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, it was just a name I called him, but I will withdraw it.
Hon. Mr. Grossman: What did he call him?
Mr. Speaker: It is not a part of the record. The member for Riverdale will please continue.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, the rule we now have in our standing orders book on the doctrine related to matters of sub judice has evolved over a long period of time. I believe, along with my colleague the member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid), that the statement made by the Speaker’s predecessor, Mr. Rowe, on July 8, 1977, is a very adequate statement of the present position under which we act with respect to the rule we have before us. I want to quote only portions of it, but I want to emphasize those particular portions.
I quote from the ruling of Mr. Speaker Rowe at that time, “May I first say as strongly as I can that I know of no authority by which any court can prevent free discussion in this chamber.” Within that context, Speaker Rowe then went on and quoted from the study made by the House of Commons of Canada about this convention of the sub judice rule, and he concluded his remarks by saying, “I can see no reason why similar principles ought not to guide the members of this House.”
At this point, I am not going to deal with one portion of that House of Commons report with respect to the matter of questions to the minister and a minister’s claim, in response, not to answer the question because of sub judice matters. That is dealt with in one of the conclusions of the House of Commons report. I do want to read the one that I believe is pertinent to the work of the committee because I think it will assist us in solving the dilemma we are in tonight: “Your committee has given consideration to the role of the Speaker in the application of the convention. It is submitted that while there can be no substitute for the discretion of the chair, in the last resort all members of the House should share in the responsibility of exercising restraint when it seems called for. A member who feels that there could be a risk of causing prejudice in referring to a particular case or inquiry should refrain from raising the matter. Additionally, a member who calls for the suppression of discussion of a matter on grounds of sub judice should be obliged to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the chair that he has reasonable grounds for fearing that prejudice might result. Should a question to a minister touch upon a matter sub judice and so on and he deals with the question matter which I do not want to touch upon.
Then it goes on: “Your committee is of the opinion that precise regulations concerning the application of the sub judice convention cannot be evolved and it would be unwise to attempt to do so. Your committee recommends that the Speaker should remain the final arbiter in the matter, that he should retain the authority to prevent discussion of matters in the House on the grounds of sub judice but that he should only exercise this discretion in exceptional cases where it is clear to him that to do otherwise could be harmful to the specific individuals. In exercising this discretion your committee recommends that when there is a doubt in the mind of the chair a presumption should exist in favour of allowing debate and against the application of the convention. In the view of your committee prejudice is most likely to occur in respect of criminal cases and civil cases of defamation where juries are involved.”
That is the present statement, and to relate it to what we are about in this assembly, all the House is being asked to do is to adopt a report of the committee, one element of which would be that a Speaker’s warrant be issued for the production of certain documents. The production of the documents to which the committee was referring was the production of the documents within the ministry. It was drawn in such a way as to indicate quite clearly that it is not a request for the 40 or 50 packing cases or crates of documents that have been seized by the Attorney General from these various companies or from any of the people who are being charged. It is a request for the production of the documents related to the investigation which the committee is charged to carry out about the role of the ministry.
Materials we would be calling for to be presented to the committee would be all the materials relating to Carlo Montemurro and his related companies, particularly C and M Financial Consultants Limited, Re-Mor Investment Management Corporation and Astra Trust Company. Such material shall include all correspondence, interdepartmental memoranda, applications, forms, notes, files, and so on, in the possession of any branch, board, registry or division of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
Again it is carefully constructed so that it is the responsibility of the committee to deal with what is in the possession of the ministry, having to do with the very serious concerns that exist in this House about the role of the ministry in the matters referred to by the member for St. Catharines (Mr. Bradley).
The other aspect, with respect to the witnesses to be called, detailed the persons who were to be called. The persons to be called were the minister, the deputy minister, the executive director of the business practices division, the deputy director of the enforcement branch of the Ontario Securities Commission, the chief investigator of the investigation section, and Mr. M. A. Thompson, executive director of the financial institutions division of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.
As you will see, Mr. Speaker, the matter was carefully constructed and carefully constricted by the member for St. Catharines and the member for Hamilton Centre (Mr. M. N. Davison) to specify very clearly the precise limitations of the investigation they were going to carry out. That had nothing to do with civil suits by individual citizens against the ministry or any of the officials of the ministry under the Proceedings Against the Crown Act. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the questions relating to evidentiary matters to be brought in at a preliminary hearing on the basis of conspiracy to defraud, fraud, conspiracy to steal and theft or whatever other charges are before the preliminary inquiry which, I understand from the Attorney General, is to start this coming week.
I cannot conceive that there is any judge anywhere who would so misunderstand his responsibilities as to grant an adjournment on the basis of any of the matters we have been trying to deal with, subject to the problems we have run into this afternoon in the standing committee on administration of justice.
Let me also state that there is nothing in the limited role of the standing committee on administration of justice in this matter as required by this House which will affect the ongoing police investigation in any way. The police can go about their business and we will go about ours. This idea that somehow or other there is a tandem and an “after you, Alphonse” operation is totally wrong. We have our responsibilities and the police have theirs. Those two matters are not in collision. They can go along in tandem or in parallel or any other way. The committee is always open to be spoken to at any time by any member of the Attorney General’s staff to make a case that a particular matter being considered is a matter directly related to those trials or those matters and to make the argument about prejudice.
To make a blanket argument, however, that the ongoing police investigation or the preliminary hearing is in some way going to be -- and I think I quote the Attorney General correctly -- something like “impaired if not ground to a halt” is a ridiculous argument to put to the assembly about the work of one of its own committees.
I have gone on at some length because, more than anything else, I was anxious to explain, to the members of the assembly who were not sitting on the committee, the course of events, the limited nature of the responsibility that committee has under the rules of the House and the responsibility for its continuing inquiry. The particular motion that is causing the concern is limited to the documents and the information that are in the hands of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. It is their documents, it is their witnesses we are calling, and it is for the purpose of investigating their role. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the civil actions that have been brought against the minister or other members. It has nothing to do with the criminal matters that are now before the court and certainly there is nothing that would indicate in any way that an ongoing police investigation is an automatic signal for this House to cease and desist from carrying out its basic responsibilities.
I made the point because I was intrigued by the argument that a sub judice rule, which had its origins long before the crown was subject to suit at all, is now called in aid of the crown against a committee of the assembly for a ministry that is responsible to the assembly. Talk about the inherent contradiction in other matters, but that inherent contradiction is one that simply defies me. There is no way this assembly can be diverted from its responsibility to carry out an examination of the role of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations in the matters which were put before the assembly by my colleagues the member for St. Catharines and the member for Hamilton Centre.
Because the Attorney General again raised the matter when he made an interjection a while ago, let me end where I started on this matter. It was the specific request made by the House leader of the New Democratic Party to the government House leader, to have this matter brought before the assembly and debated, that would have given the Attorney General the opportunity this afternoon to have put his position. I regret that did not take place. That is not our responsibility.
I expressed my concern at the beginning of my remarks about the immaturity of what took place in disrupting the private members’ public business and disrupting the debate that was an order of business of the House. I will never understand that lack of understanding by the government House leader in this matter.
Nothing I have heard from the Attorney General says that there is any prejudice to anybody under any rule of this House by an adoption of this report that would see the orderly process of an examination by the standing committee on administration of justice of the role of that ministry. It would not be anybody else’s role. It would not be a fishing expedition. It would be a carefully limited investigation of the role of that ministry. It is there on the record. If we were to permit the interpretation put by the Attorney General to prevent the adoption of this report then on matters of urgency in the public interest, this House will not be able to fulfil its function.
I urge my colleagues in the whole House to have confidence in the standing committee on administration of justice. I urge them to understand that the committee is well aware of its obligations under the rule with respect to sub judice and that the chairman of the committee is charged with the responsibility in a committee of enforcing the rules of the House with respect to sub judice. The committee will always be open to representations on any issue about this ongoing examination from the Attorney General, or from anyone whom he deputes to come before the committee making any of the allegations in specifics that he has made in such broad general terms tonight. I simply say, on that basis, let us agree to adopt the report of the chairman of the standing committee on administration of justice, which will let that committee get about its business. Let us have confidence in that committee to abide by the rules of the House on the matters of sub judice.
I am certain that will be the outcome and they will be able to get on with their business, and the matters can be resolved in a way that is quite amicable.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, very briefly, a few remarks: I want to place on the record very firmly and very concretely that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, from day one in this matter --
Mr. Sargent: Speak into the mike. I can’t hear you.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The microphone is on.
Mr. Sargent: I couldn’t hear you.
Hon. Mr. Drea: The member must be having a problem. I’m sorry. From day one in this present matter --
Mr. Sargent: Now we can hear him.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Is something the matter now?
Mr. Sargent: Go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Thank you.
I believe it was a ministerial statement concerning certain criminal charges that were laid that began day one in this matter. I want it clearly placed on the record that I personally, as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, was prepared at all times to provide any information asked of me, either in this House or in committee. In the spring half of my estimates, I discussed a great many matters, even though a number of people who now have become suddenly interested in the matter were not there and sometimes choose not to recall that when the questions were asked of me in the House. I want to set this very clearly on the record because of the events of yesterday; because Mr. Morton did not have the opportunity to go before the committee, I want to set a sequence of events entirely --
Mrs. Campbell: Whose fault was that?
Hon. Mr. Drea: It was not my fault. The committee said they could not hear him.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: There was no quorum in the committee at the time the matter was before it.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I was there, and I was perfectly aware of how many people were there.
Mr. Makarchuk: Well, was there a quorum?
Hon. Mr. Drea: No. There was not a quorum. You read the record. I said because the committee could not hear him. It has been told over and over again tonight why the committee could not hear him. If the member wants me to parrot all his mouthings, I will be glad to do so.
Mr. Makarchuk: You might be able to say something intelligent if you parrotted my mouthings.
Hon. Mr. Drea: I would become -- never mind what I would become.
Mr. Speaker, when the question by the member for Kitchener was asked Thursday last, it pertained solely to the file of the Re-Mor company and to files of the registrar. It was limited in scope. At that time I said I would bring back a report. I received the advice of the law officers of the crown to read a statement, which I did. That has been discussed fully.
At that time there was some confusion in the House. I have been assured by honourable members who raised interjection queries that they were not questioning my integrity or my honesty in stating there were writs out. Those matters have been put forward very clearly by the Attorney General tonight. But obviously there was some confusion as to the exact status of particular aspects of civil litigation, particularly if writs, rather than notices, had been served.
I trust the Attorney General’s statement earlier tonight, where he outlined a sequence of notices and writs, has answered and clarified that question. Even though that matter dealt with Re-Mor, I assure the House that as late as 12:30 p.m. yesterday, Wednesday, I was not aware of the full scope of the criminal investigation which is under the direction and supervision of Mr. Morton. When Mr. Morton arrived at the committee there was another bill in process. I spoke to Mr. Morton outside. Mr. Morton informed me the entire Astra and Re-Mor matter was under active criminal investigation. I knew the C and M Financial Consultants matter was under investigation, as did every member of the House, because I announced it back in the early part of the spring session in that statement back in the spring session I said there would be ongoing investigations into Re-Mor.
I want to make it perfectly clear that the practice in this province is that, in a criminal investigation, those in charge of the criminal investigation at the public prosecutor’s level, at the actual field level of the police or, indeed, at the level of investigatory people of the Ontario Securities Commission, they do not report to the minister as to their day-to-day progress, lack of progress or development in a matter, notwithstanding it may be information that originated from a ministry or a minister and notwithstanding that the investigatory staff of a commission that reports through this minister to the Legislature may be involved. That is a very important tradition and practice to uphold.
If there is a culmination either in the filing of information for criminal charges or in the determination by those in charge of the criminal investigation that there is not sufficient evidence for a charge to be laid, it is only after one of those two events takes place that the minister is informed.
The reason I have dwelt at some length on when I first found out that all of Astra Trust and all of Re-Mor were criminal is that obviously the question is going to be raised, “If you knew on Monday it was criminal, why did you merely convey the instructions of the law officers of the crown regarding this civil matter?” Those instructions were conveyed because the law officer of the crown who issued that advice was not privy to the matters in the criminal investigation.
It was my feeling that Astra Trust was entirely in federal jurisdiction and was being investigated by both the federal Department of Insurance and, to the best of my knowledge, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in assistance to that federal department. While we were supplying and for many years had supplied information or corroboration, that was primarily in the federal sphere so that, indeed, the file on Astra in possession of the ministry --
The Acting Speaker (Mr. MacBeth): Mr. Minister, I wonder if you will wait a moment to see if we can get a little order in the House. There are a fair number of private conversations going on and it is difficult for me to hear what the minister is saying. I am sure it is difficult for the rest of you. I would ask, if you must carry on your conversations, to keep them very quiet.
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, I was pointing out that I was unaware Astra and its documents were no longer in the federal sphere and had become a matter of criminal investigation in the province. Until 12:30 p.m. yesterday I regarded them as civil or regulatory proceedings under federal jurisdiction. I hope that clarifies the sequence of events for the honourable members, since Mr. Morton informed me of these details.
Had Mr. Morton spoken -- and he cannot speak here tonight -- he was going to explain.
I want to put it firmly on record that I am prepared to deliver those files, circulate them and hand them to the press. I am not suppressing or hiding anything. As a matter of record, there has been considerable turmoil between me in my position, which is one of constant openness, and the advice I have had to accept as a minister of the crown. I want to put those things clearly on the record.
I am perfectly prepared to abide by the rulings of this House, as naturally I would be, but I hope this assembly will understand my position. I must accept the advice and instructions given to me by the law officers of the crown. If this assembly wants to override that advice and those instructions, as a minister I shall certainly comply.
The House divided on Mr. Philip’s motion for the adoption of the report of the standing committee on administration of justice, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Blundy, Bolan, Bounsall, Bradley, Breaugh, Breithaupt, Bryden, Campbell, Cassidy, Charlton, Davidson, M., Davison, M. N., Di Santo, Dukszta, Eakins, Epp, Foulds, Gaunt, Grande, Haggerty, Hall, Isaacs, Johnston, R. F., Kerrio, Laughren, Lupusella.
MacDonald, Mackenzie, Makarchuk, Mancini, Martel, McClellan, McGuigan, McKessock, Miller, G. I., Newman, B., Nixon, Peterson, Philip, Reed, J., Reid, T. P., Renwick, Riddell, Ruston, Sargent, Smith, S. Stong, Swart, Sweeney, Van Horne, Warner, Wildman, Worton, Ziemba.
Auld, Ashe, Baetz, Belanger, Bennett, Birch, Brunelle, Cureatz, Davis, Drea, Eaton, Elgie, Gregory, Grossman, Havrot, Henderson, Hodgson, Johnson, J., Jones, Kennedy, Kerr.
Lane, Leluk, Maeck, McCaffrey, McCague, McMurtry, Newman, W., Norton, Parrott, Pope, Ramsay, Rotenberg, Rowe, Stephenson, Timbrell, Turner, Villeneuve, Watson, Wells, Williams.
Pair: MacBeth and Edighoffer.
Ayes 54; nays 41.
Mr. Speaker: Are there any more reports?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Eleven thousand votes for us.
Mr. Speaker: That’s not the kind of report I’m referring to.
Hon. Mr. Wells moved that the supplementary estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food be referred to the standing committee on resources development, to be considered within the time allocation for the main estimates of Agriculture and Food.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Sargent: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Over the years the Premier has come in the back door, but tonight he came down the main aisle. That’s great showmanship.
Hon. Mr. Davis: Mr. Speaker, I really wanted to find out what it was like to come in or go out the same route as the member for Grey-Bruce.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE NOTICE PAPER
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the answers to questions 277, 300, 334, 344 and 381 standing on the Notice Paper.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Wells: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the standing order, I would like to indicate to the House the business for next week and the rest of this week.
Tomorrow we will consider the estimates of the Ministry of Northern Affairs.
On Monday, November 24, in the afternoon we will begin the estimates of the Ministry of Government Services, and the House will sit Monday evening and continue considering the estimates of the Ministry of Government Services.
On Tuesday, November 25, in the afternoon, we will handle any third readings that are on the Notice Paper and then continue with committee of the whole House on Bill 82, the special education bill. In the evening, we will have complete consideration of Bill 169, followed by Bill 168 and second reading and committee of the whole House on Bill 182 and Bill 192.
On Wednesday, November 26, four committees may meet in the morning: general government, resources development, administration of justice and plant shutdowns. Three committees may meet in the afternoon: social development, general government and plant shutdowns.
On Thursday, November 27, we will consider the private members’ items that were not dealt with today, items 35 and 36 standing in the names of the member for York Centre (Mr. Stong) and the member for Parkdale (Mr. Dukszta). In the evening, the House will debate the report from the select committee on Ontario Hydro affairs on fuel waste.
On Friday, November 28, the estimates of the Ministry of Government Services will be continued.
The debate on the report of the select committee on constitutional reform, which was not held tonight, will have to be rescheduled in one of the remaining weeks before the House prorogues.
Mr. Speaker: Under standing order 28, a motion to adjourn is deemed to have been made. I will listen to the member for Port Arthur for five minutes.
PCB SPILL AT SCHOOL
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, I want to make some straightforward, if simple, points in this debate with the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Parrott):
1. Polychlorinated biphenyls are environmentally hazardous when they are in the air, when they are in the food chain and, in liquid form, when they come in contact with the skin. As the report from the occupational health and safety division of March 1978 stated, toxic effects of human exposure to high doses of PCBs have been known for years. They include an acne-like skin eruption, abnormal pigmentation of the skin and nails and swelling of the eyelids. Digestive disturbances and burning of the eyes have also been reported. Low-dose effects of PCBs in animals have been studied recently; liver damage, malignancy and reduced ability to reproduce have been recorded.
2. The PCB spill at the Isabella Street School in Thunder Bay seems not to have caused serious environmental effects. It seems not to have been a dangerous one, and I think that should be stated at the outset.
3. The spill did cause considerable anxiety amongst people in Thunder Bay, particularly amongst the parents of children at the school there.
The sequence of events, as I know them, is that the transformer ruptured at approximately 3:40 p.m. on October 8, 1980. Because the school lost its electricity supply, the school officials notified Thunder Bay Hydro. It came and repaired the transformer that evening. Power was restored, I believe, at approximately 9:30 p.m., but neither the school officials nor the Ministry of the Environment were informed that the transformer was a PCB transformer at that time. At about 8 a.m. the following morning, Thunder Bay Hydro notified the Minister of the Environment that PCBs were involved. The Ministry of the Environment, and possibly the medical officer of health, at 3:10 p.m. on October 9, notified school officials that PCBs were involved in the transformer spill. That was some 24 hours after the event.
The most outstanding and simple question the minister needs to answer is, if he is not happy that his ministry was not informed, what is he doing about making damned good and sure that whenever a PCB transformer ruptures near a private or public institution he is notified and can take steps to rectify the situation?
Thunder Bay Hydro says it made a judgement call that in retrospect was possibly not the right one. What is the ministry doing to ensure that all institutions in the province do not, in the future, make such a judgement call when public health could be at stake?
I have forwarded to the minister 10 questions that I believe are outstanding. If the minister fails to answer these questions satisfactorily this evening, I shall file those questions in written form tomorrow. I want to mention a couple of them of which he has had notice for a week now:
1. What steps is the ministry taking to ensure that delays in reporting to it from owners of PCB transformers don’t occur in the future?
2. Why did Ministry of the Environmental officials not notify school officials as soon as they knew of this PCB spill at least to alert them to the potential danger?
3. How could the ministry be sure that the PCB material was not a hazard to the school children when the officials are quoted as saying, “Readings were erratic,” and when the minister himself in his reply to me, as reported on page 4192 of Hansard, “We wanted to make sure that there was no danger,” was unconditionally so?
Another question is, what does the discovery of an unexplained and unusually high reading of PCBs about six feet below ground level indicate? Does it indicate there was a previous transformer rupture that was not reported and a spill? Is there any way of determining that? Is there an estimate of the amount of PCB liquid spilled? How can the minister call it a small amount when 250 barrels of PCB-contaminated earth were accumulated by Thunder Bay Hydro in the cleanup?
A week ago, the minister stopped me outside in the hall and said he did not understand why I was dissatisfied with his answer. My dissatisfaction stems from two factors. The minister does not seem to understand his responsibility to protect people and the environment from actual and potential hazards. In this case, if there was no harm done to the children of Isabella Street School and to the environment, it was more by good luck rather than by good management.
The procedure for reporting PCB transformer spills must be as foolproof as is humanly possible, and this one small incident proves that was not so. Why, therefore, does the minister not take and insist on more preventive measures? One small step would be to have all PCB transformers publicly identified on the outside, not on the inside.
Mr. Speaker: The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr. Foulds: If I might, Mr. Speaker, just one more sentence.
Finally, what I think we need is a Minister of the Environment who takes his responsibilities seriously. He should be a protector of the public good and he should be seen as the protector of the public good. He should not be an apologist for cautious inaction, for procrastination or for uncertainty. He should do all in his power to protect the people of this province.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: One is tempted to respond just by not answering the questions, Mr. Speaker. There were some other statements made which I will not respond to, other than to make one simple statement. This ministry, myself and my predecessors have done and are doing far more -- this jurisdiction is so far in the lead of other jurisdictions in this country and in the United States -- that by any comparison we are so far ahead the honourable member does not even understand how big that gap is. He is so far out in left field on this that it is not even funny. Make some comparisons --
Mr. Laughren: What about Darlington?
Hon. Mr. Parrott: Yes, what about Darlington? Darlington D was cleaned up to the satisfaction of everyone there, if the honourable member wants to check with the mayor.
It took me five months and no more --
Hon. Mr. Parrott: The honourable member should check with the people in that area, if he is not scared to.
Hon. Mr. Parrott: The honourable member should check with the mayor and he will hear quite a lot of testimony about what we did.
I would like to get as much information on the record as possible. I would like to point out that the delay in reporting this spill in this case was the exception rather than the rule. We usually get splendid co-operation. In this case, a letter of reprimand will be sent to Thunder Bay Hydro, and we will ask them for a copy of their procedures and an assurance that all staff are aware of them. As a precaution, the region will remind all other public utilities in the area of their responsibilities.
School officials knew about the incident on the morning of October 9, 1980. In fact, the custodian of the school was present when Hydro officials removed the back of the transformer to reveal the label, which indicated it contained PCBs.
The member was concerned why we would regard the material spilled as not being a hazard. I want to assure him staff made this judgement based on the amount spilled, the location, the isolation of the transformer and the fact the whole spill was extremely well contained and the children could not get near it. A barricade was erected on the evening of October 8 following the spill. It covered an area of approximately 50 by 100 feet, and staff discouraged children from coming within 200 feet of the site.
In regard to the TAGA, it is a highly sensitive device which costs in the neighbourhood of $400,000. It is installed in a large van and, as such, obviously cannot be available all over the province. Even if we were able to have one in each regional office, geographical considerations make it unlikely that the TAGA could be made available immediately at the scene of any incident.
The new-tech system that was utilized in this instance is a satisfactory means of measuring PCBs. I want to assure the member we always endeavour to use the best technology. I think the quality of our laboratory operations will bear this out.
With respect to the labelling of transformers, Ontario Hydro has carried out a labelling program for all its PCB-containing transformers. I am pleased to have a copy, which I will send across the floor to the honourable member. The federal government is also undertaking a labelling program for these transformers not covered by Ontario Hydro.
There was evidence in this case that a label had been removed by a person or persons unknown from the outside of the transformer.
In addition, the school board had a list of PCB transformers owned by it at its schools but, since this particular transformer was owned by Thunder Bay Hydro, it did not appear on the school board’s list. Regional offices have listed the PCB transformers in their areas and the locations of same.
The member was concerned about the fact that a high level of PCB was found unexpectedly in ground below the transformer. We have no way of determining the cause of this for sure but it was probably due to a previous leak in the transformer. I know he also questioned why, if the spill was fairly small, we would remove so much soil. I would like to point out to him that was a precaution. We just kept digging until our reading showed the soil was clear of PCBs. In other words, a lot of soil we dug up was only very slightly contaminated and possibly a fair amount of that was not contaminated at all. We just wanted to be very sure what was left behind was clear.
I know the member was interested in the recommendations of the health and safety branch of the Ministry of Labour. This dealt mainly with the questions of spills of PCBs and safety in the workplace with respect to PCBs. I understand the Ministry of Labour will comment directly to the member for Port Arthur on that particular item.
I trust this information is sufficient for the member’s concerns.
The House adjourned at 10:38 p.m.