L016 - Tue 26 May 1987 / Jeu 26 mai 1987
The House met at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Harris: For a government which has managed to increase spending by $8 billion in two years, its record of underspending in northern Ontario is astonishing.
The north is littered with broken Liberal promises: the northern development fund -- $40 million committed, $17 million spent; $9 million committed for small
business development corporation funding, $6.6 million spent; $10 million committed for community economic transformation agreements, less than $500,000 spent; the highly touted northern Ontario
science and math school mysteriously disappeared; the $30-million softwood lumber rebates the Premier (Mr. Peterson) promised to be reinvested to retrain laid-off forestry workers, not a dime has
been spent; and the list is growing
-- almost $66 million already promised and committed to northern Ontario not spent.
Yet these same Liberals want northerners to rejoice in a so-called $30-million northern Ontario heritage fund. Clearly a fraud -- less than half of what the north is already due from previous promises. New money? No. Only half of the old money stolen from poorly managed existing programs. Anything for gasoline prices? No. Four-laning? No. Less money for transportation. Legislative research says 15.7 per cent less was spent last year. The new money simply restores what we used to get.
New taxes? Mining taxes up $66 million. Now they give back $5 million and expect us to be happy.
This budget and administration are a sham.
Ms. Bryden: The shocking details on the latest fatality resulting from a police chase in Ontario in today's Globe and Mail call for immediate action by the cabinet and the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) to stop this very dangerous practice.
Between 1981 and 1984 there were over 6,700 police chases undertaken in Ontario, over 1,300 a year, resulting in 39 deaths and 642 personal injuries. In 1986, six high-speed chases took place every week in Metropolitan Toronto, resulting in injuries to 60 citizens, 33 police officers and $500,000 in property damage. Despite growing demands for an end to this carnage, the Solicitor General continues to drag his feet on the question.
Back in 1984, the Progressive Conservative government set up the MacBeth commission to study the question following the deaths of two teenagers in a Walkerton-area police chase. Even though that committee finally reported in December 1986, the Solicitor General did not respond to its recommendations for almost six months. In May 1986, he announced that his ministry would bring in new guidelines to restrict chases. Despite subsequent promises of action, we still do not have any province-wide guidelines or binding rules on this matter.
Mr. G. I. Miller: As vice-chairman of the select committee on the environment, I would like to rise and congratulate the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) for his quick response to the recommendations of the committee. There were many. I know they are going to be useful for Ontario, and particularly for the Minister of the Environment when he deals with our friends south of the border.
As we all know, 80 per cent of the acid rain respects no border, and it comes from the American side. As we negotiate those new agreements it will certainly give the Minister of the Environment the tools to work with. We would like to congratulate the minister for responding as quickly as he did to those requests. We know that things are in good hands.
Mr. Andrewes: Last Wednesday's budget gave new meaning to the public cynicism that the Liberal Party's politicians are masters of smoke and mirrors.
The Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is projecting a 1987-88 deficit of $980 million. However, this same budget contends that the government will spend $1.3 billion more than it expects to receive in revenue. The negative contingency fund of $350 million will be reflected through the Treasurer's smoky mirror as a result of some yet to be determined savings.
This is the same Treasurer who overspent by $300 million in 1985-86. This is the same Treasurer who overspent by $1,039,000,000 in 1986-87. It is the same Treasurer who refuses to tell us which hospitals will not be built, which municipal sewer projects will not be approved or how many of the 157 throne speech promises will be broken.
When the smoke clears, we will see that the government not only has disguised the magnitude of its real deficit but also has inflated the value of its operating and capital accounts.
Come clean, I say to the Treasurer. Your smoke and mirrors have not fooled one editor of a daily or weekly journal in the province, and they will not fool a single voter.
Mr. Mackenzie: We have a growing problem in the province in the position of the worker advisers appointed through the Workers' Compensation Board. One of the more positive arrangements has been made to help workers, one that is already proving the desperate need that was there in terms of the work load that was on unions, advocacy groups and members of this House.
The same work load is now showing up in terms of the worker advisers of the board. The case load in the Golden Horseshoe, in the Hamilton area, has reached the point where it is now well over 150 cases for some of the individual workers.
Indeed, I had a constituent of mine go in the other day on a long-standing hearing-loss problem from his plant and he was told that if he wanted to go on the waiting list for up to six months, fine, but because their case load was in excess of 150 cases, they could not touch him for a number of months.
I want to say that this is one of the positive initiatives that has helped a lot of people and has helped the members of this House, and it must not be allowed to go down the tube. It is one of the areas the government is going to have to move on very quickly to see that we have adequate facilities in terms of worker advisers in Ontario to take care of the kind of case load they now are experiencing.
As well as having additional people, it may be that some of the offices will have to be split up. Certainly in my area, if they eliminated the Niagara Peninsula from the Golden Horseshoe area right around Hamilton, it would assist very much.
Mr. Callahan: I would like to extend an annual invitation to the members of the Legislature and to residents all over Ontario who are viewing this House today to a cultural festival event in Brampton called Carabram. The opening ceremonies will take place on June 30 at the Lester B. Pearson Memorial Theatre in Brampton.
Presently we have 16 pavilions. We have English, Irish, Indian, Canadian, Polish, Ukrainian, Filipino, Hawaiian, Chinese, Greek, Scottish, Portuguese, German, Croatian, Caribbean and Italian pavilions. It gets enlarged every year. The people who are in charge of it are planning on adding one for Israel and also one for the Arab nations.
I invite all the people here today either to attend the opening celebrations on June 30 at the Lester B. Pearson Memorial Theatre or to attend on July 3, July 4 or July 5. It will be a delightful weekend. Members can savour the sights, sounds and tastes of the tremendous multicultural activities in the great city of Brampton.
Mr. Gillies: This government's lack of financial commitment to the environment was more than evident in its latest budget. Compared to overall provincial spending, the environment got nothing; it is still receiving only one per cent of total provincial expenditures.
In November 1985, the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) told this House that "all the commitments that this government has indicated during the election campaign and prior to that are commitments that will be met." This minister has not fulfilled those commitments.
One laughable figure is the $14 million to assist municipalities in assessing the condition of their sewage treatment facilities. We already know the problem that exists here. What the minister has to do is get on with the job. This program has no merit without a companion capital-improvement program.
The minister is telling municipalities: "We will tell you what the problem is. Now you fix it." The $14 million over three years is not a substantial sum of money. The minister has to make a substantial commitment and bring forward an infrastructure program for this province.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I would like to bring to the House's attention the passing last Sunday --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Is this a ministerial statement?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: No.
Mr. Speaker: Are you asking for unanimous consent?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: Excuse me. Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Is there agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: May I mention the subject matter?
Mr. Speaker: Yes.
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: It is on the passing of Dr. Richard Hearn.
Mr. Speaker: Is it agreed?
DR. RICHARD HEARN
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: I would like to bring to the House's attention the passing last Sunday of a great citizen of this province and one of the pioneers of Ontario's energy system, Dr. Richard Lankaster Hearn.
Dr. Hearn had a long and distinguished life, containing achievements that would have done credit to several careers.
Whenever I visited Dr. Hearn at his home in Niagara Falls along the Niagara River Parkway, I had the sense that I was in the company of a visionary and a true pioneer. I know that word is somewhat overused these days, but it was completely appropriate in the case of Dr. Hearn. He was among the group affectionately known as "Beck's bright boys." This group was responsible for the creation of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, the forerunner of Ontario Hydro.
Dr. Hearn was also responsible for the design and construction of many of Ontario's hydroelectric installations, including the first large hydroelectric project, the Queenston-Chippewa power development. Just three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the official opening of the Eagle River dam near Dryden, which was originally designed by Dr. Hearn about 70 years ago. It is a tribute to his skills that many of these dams are being refurbished and used again.
Dr. Hearn was with Ontario Hydro off and on from 1913 to 1956 and spent another 20 years as a distinguished consulting engineer. Back in the 1950s, Dr. Hearn was instrumental in Ontario's decision to move towards nuclear generating stations, which now provide some 40 per cent of the power in this province.
During his long and successful life, Dr. Hearn saw many changes in Ontario. History will say that the credit for a great many of these changes, which contribute so much to the way of our life today, is owed to him.
I will remember Richard L. Hearn as one of our most distinguished citizens. Born in the last century, he passed away in his 97th year, but his memory will live on for many years. Our sympathies are expressed to Dr. Hearn's family.
Mr. Swart: I had the privilege to know Dr. Hearn quite well. I sat with him for a number of years on the board of governors at Brock University. I want to join with the member for Niagara Falls (Mr. Kerrio) in paying tribute to him.
From my point of view, after associating with him for some period of time, the quality I remember the most was his unassuming nature. He was a man who was not pretentious in any way. He was easy to talk to, a very decent human being. I am aware too of his accomplishments with Ontario Hydro. I am aware of the fact that he had a very great dedication to that institution. He was a man who believed that hydro should be provided by a public institution. He was a great believer in the government assuring that services that could be better provided by the government should be provided by the government.
He was not only the kind of man whom I think anyone would be proud to know as a personal friend but also the kind of man who was a dedicated and very competent public servant. Therefore, I am pleased to pay tribute to him today, both in a personal way and for the service he gave to this province, and to express my sympathy and the sympathy of this caucus to his wife and family.
Mr. Grossman: Might I just briefly join my colleagues in the other two parties in noting the passing of one of the great pioneers of Ontario Hydro.
I must say that I was listening carefully to the comments of the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) as he commented on the enormous contribution made by Dr. Hearn, who was one of those who persuaded the government and Ontario Hydro to move into nuclear energy. I was hoping the member might acknowledge that. I know the minister was listening as well.
Indeed, Dr. Hearn will be long remembered -- long after many of the people in the elected arena and many of their contributions, I must say -- for his foresight and his ability to peer into the future and persuade his colleagues, in what must surely have been a difficult environment, to make sure that Ontario Hydro was looking forward and meeting the future needs. It is easy for us, and we engage in it daily here, to have a retrospective look at Hydro's mistakes. We have the right and obligation to do that. However, for those who worked at Ontario Hydro and had the foresight to make the right decisions ahead of time, that indeed is a lot more difficult and merits a lot more credit.
On this day, I should like to join my colleagues in the other two parties in noting the enormous contributions and foresight and dedication of one of the energy pioneers of Ontario.
Mr. Speaker: On behalf of all the members, I will make certain that a copy of Hansard is sent to the Hearn family showing your words of sympathy.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would like to announce my intention to introduce for first reading today an act to amend the Consumer Reporting Act.
The purpose of these amendments is to prevent any access to a consumer's credit file without his or her knowledge. The new provisions would require that the prescreening of credit files, or any derivative thereof, be treated as a consumer report and the affected consumers be notified before any unsolicited search could be conducted.
Prescreening refers to a search of credit bureau files by credit granters or consumer reporting agencies to select potential customers for solicitation. Prescreening can involve the submission of a list of names and the specific age, income, marital status, creditworthiness and other criteria to be used in identifying the potential target market for direct solicitation.
The amendments are necessary to ensure the integrity of consumers' credit files. I urge all members to support these amendments.
Mr. Swart: I want to comment on the statement that has just been made to the effect first of all, that it will be nice for people to know when their personal file is being looked over by salespeople or people representing companies that want to sell products to them or for any other reasons.
I would like to say to the minister, though, that I am sure all of us in this party would have been a lot happier if the legislation had provided for consumers to have the right to prevent all this personal information from being accumulated and put on file for somebody to look at.
Second, it seems to me we would have liked to see that consumers would have to give permission if this information were going to be used. The fact is now that all they will do is know. They will not be able to make any impact whatsoever on how this information is being used by these people. A lot of this private information is being given out to people who should not have it.
I suggest to the minister, if he wanted to do something real, he would have gone those next two steps instead of just letting people know that somebody is going to have access to all the personal information that should not be there in the first place.
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER
Mr. Grossman: Both of my questions were for the Premier (Mr. Peterson) today. We were informed quite clearly, both by way of his public agenda and this morning, that he would be here today. I wonder if the House leader could help us in this problem.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: All I can say is that I was informed he would not be.
Mr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The agenda that is given out clearly indicates that the Premier is going to be here. It indicates that he is at a black-tie dinner tonight, another one tomorrow night and another one Thursday night. He has time for a warmup out on the lawn tomorrow. He has not been here for half the question periods.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Oh come on, he rarely misses.
Mr. Gillies: When he is here, he will not answer questions anyway. He refers them to other ministers. He refers them to anybody.
Mr. Harris: Even when he is not here, there are only eight ministers of the crown in the House; nine now.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to stand down the question?
Mr. Grossman: No, the Premier has not been here for 50 per cent of the session. In the absence, once again, of the Premier --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is not correct.
Mr. Grossman: It is correct. He was here for the Order of Ontario, he was here for the budget, he was here for the throne speech, but when question period is here, he is absent. He has been absent 50 per cent of the time.
Mr. Grossman: In view of the continuing absence of the Premier (Mr. Peterson), my question is to the Treasurer. Yesterday, in dealing with what is clear on table C6 in his budget -- that is, a decline in the total amount of transfers to the school boards -- the Treasurer indicated to us that, notwithstanding the way the budget had been outlined, he had a 12 per cent cash advance scheduled for the school boards for this coming year, even though his budget indicated zero.
True to his word, we called the ministry to check on this and -- just so that we will know the source
-- Kathy Bouey, director of the finance policy branch, informed us that, yes, indeed, a 12 per cent advance has been built into the grant and that it is the minister's intention to free-flow the money.
Will the Treasurer not agree that if we take the 12 per cent, as we must, from the total announced in transfers to school boards, it then turns out that a proper description in the budget would indicate that the general legislative grants this year will decline from $3.3 billion to $3.1 billion, and that the grant flow improvement, as he calls it, would be reinstated at about $400 million to reflect the 12 per cent? If all this information from Kathy Bouey is correct, would the Treasurer not agree that his GLGs will decline by $144 million?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Ms. Bouey and I agree entirely on the interpretation of these numbers. The honourable Leader of the Opposition knows of her reputation in these matters and Ontario is very fortunate in having her on the staff of the Treasury. I believe that perhaps the member himself may have hired her. It was during his time that she came on the staff. We agree on this. There is some easy confusion in this regard.
I would suggest to the member and to other honourable members that the way to read table C6 is simply to look at general legislative grants as they were in 1985-86 at $3.178 billion, and as at the end of 1986-87 the interim transfers were $3.323 billion, and as we expect them to be during this fiscal year, $3.579 billion. The $330 million is a one-time advance which, in fact, establishes the 12 per cent cushion for as long as we want to draw it down.
The honourable member has asked the question four times and I guess this is about the third time I have said it was either during his treasurership or that of one of his colleagues that the former cushion, which was seven per cent -- even 12 per cent is really not adequate for the needs of the school boards -- was drawn down as a budgetary measure to three per cent. We have restored it on a one-time basis, which is sufficient to maintain the cushion until any other budgetary decision is made. I hope we can improve it next year.
Mr. Grossman: If the Treasurer decides to stop hiring an extra 1,000 civil servants every year, he will have lots of money to improve it. However he wants to fog it, let us be clear: he and Kathy Bouey agree on one thing and that is, the 12 per cent advance flow, as he calls it, is built in to the $3.5 billion that he reports in his budget. That is not a matter of dispute. He has acknowledged that twice now.
The only point I make is that last year the Treasurer did not report that on the first line. This year he reported it as part of his GLGs. Will the Treasurer this afternoon simply not agree that if he takes out the grant flow improvement this year and lists it separately, as he did last year, the GLG portion indicates a decline of $144 million year over year? That is simply a matter of mathematics and it is his staff's mathematics.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Responding to the honourable member's question, I wonder whether, when he is concerned about staff increases, he feels the 418 additional staff members for young offenders were inappropriately hired. Does he believe the 191 staff members for our psychiatric hospitals were inappropriately hired? Does he believe the 187 people hired for social housing were inappropriately hired?
I simply point out that the honourable member likes to ask questions where he is dealing with about 10 issues at once and, when he gets up for his second supplementary, one may be sure he will deal with two or three issues. If it is appropriate for him, I cannot see why it is not appropriate for me.
I have responded to the member's question repeatedly and I cannot make it any clearer to the honourable gentleman than I already have. I invite him to discuss it further with our mutual friend and, in a sense, mutual adviser Ms. Bouey, who has confirmed my interpretation of this, as the honourable member may feel she has confirmed his. Right now she works for me and she says I am right.
Mr. Grossman: Let me tell the Treasurer he will get lots of chances to tell us where those 5,000 civil servants went. He can answer for the $275 million spent on civil servants.
Let me make this point. I do not dispute that Kathy Bouey is right. I agree that she is right. I agree that she agrees with the Treasurer. The point Kathy Bouey is making is that the Treasurer has inflated his GLGs by taking the grant flow improvement and working it back into the GLGs. The net result of all that is incontrovertible. The Treasurer ends up in a circumstance where his GLGs have been reduced by $144 million.
Mr. Speaker: The question.
Mr. Grossman: The school boards are getting $144 million less this year under the GLGs and his total grants to the schools have been reduced.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Grossman: Just to give the Treasurer an opportunity to end this debate once and for all, my final supplementary is: When the Treasurer totals up all his grants to school boards as listed on table C6, would he not agree that the total transfers to school boards, all in, are lower this year than last year?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member mentioned the jobs again. I will refrain from following his lead and dealing with a second subject in the question, although I am quite prepared to do so.
Mr. Grossman: There is only one question. Answer the school board question.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The school boards were delighted that we not only restored what was taken from them but also added substantially to it. The honourable member will realize that since we took office, the actual operating grants for our school boards have been increased by more than 25 per cent.
Mr. Grossman: Wait until they get the truth.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Grossman: His revenues were up 31 per cent and the school boards got 25 per cent.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Just in case the member is not aware, that completes the first question. Second question, the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I see the Premier (Mr. Peterson) is still not with us for the second question for, once again, another question period.
Mr. Speaker: To which minister?
Mr. Grossman: In view of the continuing absence of the Premier, I will come back to the government House leader. As he will recall, last Thursday this House voted in a free vote, not a whipped vote, to have the kind of public hearings on the Meech Lake accord that Quebec has had.
He will also know that in the last day there has been a distinguished group of Canadians who have been urging the Premiers to look carefully and to analyse more quickly the arrangement before the Meech Lake accord is finalized.
In view of all that, would the government House leader explain today why he and the government still refuse to give public hearings to the people of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Kerrio: What do you call this?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The interjections of my honourable colleague are correct. We are having a debate in the Legislature today in which the Leader of the Opposition is going to express to the Legislature his views and the views of those Conservative-minded citizens in the province. The New Democratic Party will have a similar opportunity and the government will put forward its position.
I think he is also aware that the Prime Minister has called a meeting of the first ministers, which at one time I understood was to be scheduled about June 11. It has been moved up -- and I am not sure about this -- I believe to June 2. The Premier very properly felt he wanted to have the views of the members of the Legislature, or at least the principal spokespersons for the two opposition parties, before he went up to confer with his colleagues.
We hope and trust that when the order of business is called this afternoon and when that work is finally adjourned, the Premier will know the views of the two opposition parties and, thus fortified, will be able to go to Ottawa with his colleagues and carry on those discussions and, I hope, come to some finality. I will let it go at that for now.
Mr. Grossman: The group calling for some more thought was quoted yesterday as saying it was worried that the implications of the accord are so little understood that rushing it into place could be a mistake. This group includes Eugene Forsey; Harry Arthurs; Liberal Party leader Sharon Carstairs from Manitoba; former Liberal candidate Doris Anderson; Farley Mowat; June Callwood; Eddie Greenspan; Carl Goldenberg, adviser to former Prime Minister Trudeau on constitutional matters; Desmond Morton and Albert Breton. This is an impressive list of Canadians asking only that more thought and care be taken so that everyone understands the implications.
Given that the Quebec government has had two weeks of very important public hearings where a lot of information has come out, and given the fact that yesterday the Toronto Star carried an advertisement calling for public hearings in front of a standing committee of this Legislature on truck transport reform, would the Treasurer not agree that public hearings on the Meech Lake accord are at least as important as truck transport reform?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I simply reiterate that the Prime Minister has called this meeting of first ministers and there is not a person here who wants to detract from the importance of that meeting and what will flow from it. The Leader of the Opposition, the other ministers and members are also aware that whatever decision is arrived at by the first ministers will come to the House of Commons and the various legislatures for ratification or otherwise. At that time, the full and precise wording of the agreement, if there is an agreement, will be before all members. We will have had a chance to research it. We will then have a chance to debate it here and, I trust ratify it.
We have to remember that this is an opportunity to bring our sister province of Quebec back into the ambit of Confederation, a tremendous achievement and accomplishment for which the Prime Minister and the Premiers, in my view, deserve the highest compliments. It is a matter of concern to us that the meeting called by the Prime Minister of Canada not be delayed. The honourable member is well aware that full discussion on the ratification of any agreement that might flow from that is the responsibility of this House.
Mr. Grossman: If ever there were an elitist view of society and the parliamentary system, the Treasurer represents that elitist view. The government that came in saying "No walls, no barriers," is the single government in central Canada that refused public hearings, that thumbed its nose at the Legislature of this province democratically and openly voting for public hearings, and then gave a snub of the nose saying, "Here in Ontario there is not enough time," but in Quebec there was two weeks for public hearings.
Mr. Mackenzie: Question.
Hon. Mr. Curling: Question.
Mr. Speaker: Question.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Final supplementary.
Mr. Grossman: Would the Treasurer not agree that, given the disagreement between the Premier of Ontario and the Premier of Quebec, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for Quebec and the Attorney General of Ontario (Mr. Scott) on some of the key provisions of the constitutional accord at Meech Lake, there is adequate opportunity and time immediately to call for public hearings in the balance of this week and next week before the June 2 meeting?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I would not agree. I listened very carefully to the comments made by Mr. Bourassa -- I believe it was on the CBC news or perhaps The Journal last night -- in which he indicated he was going to the meeting of first ministers with the expectation that an agreement would be reached, but he wanted to see --
Mr. Grossman: And he had public hearings. He was good enough to have hearings. He is more of a democrat than you are.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: That is right. Chacun à son goût. He wanted to go to Ottawa to find the precise wording.
I must admit that when the honourable member raised Eugene Forsey's name, he got my attention because I have a very high degree of admiration for his ability and certainly for his career of service. I had the temerity to consult with Dr. Forsey on the constitutionality, if that is not too high-flown a word to use, of another agreement to which I was a party. I thought his advice at that time was admirable. Without his support, I would have been hesitant to go forward with it.
Mr. Grossman: Why would you not hear from him now?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have heard from him. He says it is historic and not too high a price was paid.
Mr. Grossman: He does not say that. That is why we need public hearings.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Leader of the Opposition and the Treasurer have had ample time to debate.
Mr. Laughren: Ten minutes of questions.
Mr. Speaker: That is right.
LIBERAL-NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY ACCORD
Mr. Rae: I am delighted the acting Premier chose to mention the accord in his last answer about Dr. Forsey. We all share great admiration for Dr. Forsey. Since the Treasurer mentioned the accord, I know he will have it fresh in his mind.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have it right here.
Mr. Rae: I am delighted the Liberals have finally discovered the document and have realized what it means.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I do not bring it every day.
Mr. Rae: The fact that the Treasurer does not bring it every day is quite obvious to everybody; neither does the government. I wonder whether I can ask the Treasurer to have a look at this part of the accord. Perhaps this article can be sent over to the Treasurer, please.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: Wait a minute. Is it the accord or not?
Mr. Rae: No. It refers to the origins of a document in the accord. We are talking about severance pay, about plant closures and about what is happening to workers in --
Mr. Rae: No. I am asking the Treasurer since he was the one who helped to negotiate the document and since he is the government House leader responsible for House business.
Since the Premier (Mr. Peterson) told us on April 12, 1985, referring to the Burns meat plant, that the Liberals would have forced Burns to justify closing, can the Treasurer tell us why, some two years after the Premier made that promise, some two years after that promise was signed again by him in an accord, we still do not have any legislation, either proposed, discussed, prepared or ready on any agenda, to deal with the question of what happens to workers when their plants close?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The Minister of Labour has the answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I thank my colleague the Treasurer for giving me the opportunity to answer this question. The government has been working very hard at putting together a package of new protections for workers in the event of plant closures.
The issue is a very troubling one. While we created virtually a record number of jobs in this province last year and while the employment situation in this province continues to be very strong -- 6.4 per cent unemployment last month comes to mind, the lowest level in some period of time -- there are a number of very troubling plant closures. We want to make sure that we have in place employee adjustment programs that will help workers in those situations. I expect to be able to come forward to this House with proposals in that regard in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. Rae: That is the same applause and the same statement that the minister made last year and that he has been making for the last year and a half. He has lost all credibility in this House on that question.
With respect to another accord item also contained in document 3 with respect to employment equity, can the minister tell us whether the "I count" survey with respect to the public sector has been completed? If it has been completed, when will it be released? If it is going to be released, can he tell us when the government is going to bring in some employment equity programs that will deal with the problems of women, visible minorities and the disabled in this province when it comes to getting a job?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I cannot tell the honourable gentleman when all the final details of the "I count" survey will be ready. We have had a number of meetings and some tentative conclusions have been reached. I can tell the honourable member that my colleague the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), myself and a number of ministers have been working very actively on employment in the whole area of employment equity. The government considers the matter to be an important one, and we will come forward through cabinet with proposals as soon as they are fully developed.
I can say, however, the government thinks it is of tremendous importance to ensure, even as we bring forward employment equity programs in the province, that employment equity ought to start right here in the government, and ever since we became the government two years ago we have been working very hard in that regard.
Mr. Rae: The third question -- perhaps we can make it strike 3 for the minister -- is with respect to workers' compensation. I guess the basic point is that these are all items established in the accord signed by the Premier and these are all areas that the Premier said yesterday would be moved on. Can the minister tell us, if the government is doing so much in these areas, why there are no bills, no pieces of legislation and no discussions among House leaders with respect to any of these items? If the government is doing its job, why have the people of this Legislature and the people of Ontario not seen any sign that this is what it is doing? They are study-mad.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The honourable member raised the issue of workers' compensation, so let me answer in that regard. The honourable member seems to have forgotten the fact that this government moved forward and provided automatic indexing of workers' compensation pensions. The honourable member seems to have forgotten that in the less than two years we have been in government, we have opened three new regional offices and intend to open a fourth.
The honourable member seems to have forgotten that we have or will have shortly a total of 12 offices of worker adviser and that we have over 50 worker advisers. The honourable member seems to have forgotten that we have the office of employer adviser in some six communities. The honourable member seems to have forgotten the Industrial Disease Standards Panel is up and running.
In short, there has been a lot of reform and there will be even more.
Mr. Rae: The minister has not produced any legislation for this House to discuss on any of the items in the accord which are outstanding. That is the record of the Minister of Labour. That is why he ought to resign.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I wonder whether the minister brought his budget with him today. Perhaps he did or did not; I do not know.
The minister apparently told the Toronto Star yesterday, after I said it would take 40 years at the current rate, that he will soon be announcing details of the government's three-year plan for child care which will be "much more extensive" than what has been announced so far, and that "it will take at least 10 years to provide the 100,000 additional child care spaces."
Can the minister confirm this figure of the new 10-year plan? Is that the new plan? Can he confirm that what it means for a family with a couple of kids, for example -- or perhaps I can speak personally of three kids under the age of five and a half -- is that we have to wait until our oldest daughter is 15 and a half until we have child care that is accessible to people in the province? Was the minister not telling people with young families that they have to wait until they are in high school before he is going to provide child care?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: In response to the honourable member's question yesterday, I indicated that the amounts that were announced in the budget and were clearly stated as such were interim amounts while other negotiations and discussions were going on. There was also a statement in the throne speech that the policy statement of the government with respect to child care would be released shortly after the budget. That is an ongoing process and that will take place.
The point I made with respect to the three years was something I have said before, that we intend to make a proposal in three-year cycles. The reporter asked me the question about the 100,000 spaces, and I said that could take up to a decade. That was the comment I made.
Mr. Rae: I think the answer to my question was, yes, families have to wait until their kids are in high school before there is a child care space available for them.
If the minister is planning all kinds of additional moneys being spent that were not announced in the budget, if that is what he is saying, can he give us an absolute guarantee that none of the $275 million that has to be cut from the government's budget in operating expenses and the $75 million in capital expenses that the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) is asking him to cut will be coming out of the minister's budget?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: To the best of my knowledge, none of that will be coming out of my budget.
Mr. Rae: How much additional money of Ontario's money is he planning to spend? Where is it contained anywhere in the budget statement released by the Treasurer? If the money that is at the bottom of the column here, the $275 million that has to be cut and the $75 million in capital that has to be cut, is not coming out of his budget, whose budget does the minister think it is going to come out of?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: My understanding of the Treasurer's comment is that across the entire government, by the end of the fiscal year, every minister has some programs that have not been totally expended. The expectation is that there will be that sum of money left by the end of the fiscal year. That is my understanding of what it has meant to me.
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER
Mr. Pope: That is a typical definition of Liberal budgetary policy. That sure is.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a question for which minister?
Mr. Pope: I have a question for the Premier (Mr. Peterson) actually, but in his continued absence -- he is always there in the good times. He is always there with his red tie on for the Meech Lake agreement, but the people do not have a say in it.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The honourable member refers again to the absence of the Premier from question period. I want to tell him that any indication of the Premier's absence is incorrect. He has been here 11 of 16 sitting days.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Speaker: Order. We will just wait.
New question, the member for Cochrane South, to which minister?
UNEMPLOYMENT IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr. Pope: In the continued absence of the Premier (Mr. Peterson), I want to put my question to the Treasurer. It is obvious that when he is here the Premier will not defend the budget, so it is left to the Treasurer to defend the indefensible.
Mr. Speaker: And the question?
Mr. Pope: We have had an increase in layoffs under the Liberal government of this province of 48 per cent in northeastern Ontario last year over the previous year and 250 per cent in northwestern Ontario last year over the previous year, under the Liberal administrative policies.
At the very time when the mining profits tax revenues have increased from $55 million to $121 million last year, in an industry that is in serious economic trouble with massive layoffs in northern Ontario, I want to know why the Treasurer saw fit to return only $5 million to that industry.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member may be referring to the announcement that the Mining Tax Act will not be applied to any new mines for the first three years. We think that is a stimulus to the mining industry in northern Ontario.
The honourable member will also know of a wide spectrum of government programs designed to improve the employment situation in the north. The unemployment level is undoubtedly worse than anywhere else in the province. As a matter of fact, it is as much as four percentage points higher, on average, than it is elsewhere.
The honourable member will know that last year 125,000 net new jobs were established in the province, many of them in northern Ontario.
Mr. Pope: I am glad the Treasurer, in the absence of the Premier, talked about employment programs and policies for northern Ontario, because his ministers and his government have refused to tell us what they are for the last year.
The Minister of Northern Development and Mines, who also happens to be the Premier, said on February 10 that he was not aware of any employment programs in his ministry to help the miners in northern Ontario. I refer the Treasurer to page R-535, where he will find that those are the Premier's exact words as Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Mr. Tieman had to explain to the committee and to him that there was less than $300,000 for employment of northern Ontario's laid-off miners and less than 25 miners were being employed. Does the Treasurer think that is an adequate response to the layoffs in northern Ontario, less than 25 jobs created by this government's employment strategy?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: The honourable member is, I suppose, contributing to unemployment by holding down two jobs himself. He practices law whenever he has a client waiting in the outer room and comes down here when there is nothing else to do.
I would also tell you, Mr. Speaker, of something that, unfortunately, the honourable member seems to have overlooked, and that is the movement of government jobs into the north.
Mr. Pope: It is not helping a single miner.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: All right, but there is a firm commitment for 1,200 jobs with a $40-million payroll. I can assure the House that the honourable member is out of touch with the electorate if he thinks they do not appreciate it.
Mr. Pope: So to hell with the miners. Is that your answer?
Mr. Speaker: The member for Cochrane South has already asked a question. Order. The member for Windsor-Riverside would like to ask a question.
Mr. Speaker: We will just wait. If members wish to waste the time this way, that is fine.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Labour. Last Saturday evening I walked on an information picket line in Windsor at the
A&P store, which was formerly owned by Dominion, where I spoke to a woman who has worked for that company for 31 years. She has 23 years' seniority, because she had eight years when she raised
her family. She is now losing her job, along with 45 other full-time employees -- many of whom also have seniority of over 20 years with that company
-- and 110 additional part-time employees are losing their jobs. They will get zero in severance pay from that company, and the company refuses to negotiate severance pay or a close-out package.
Does the minister think that is fair? If he does not think it is fair, why will he not bring in legislation to protect workers like these?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am pleased to advise that the honourable member's information is wrong. I can tell the honourable gentleman that as a part of a recent ruling in a similar chain close-out in Kitchener, in terms of the so-called count to get to 50 employees, both full-time and part-time employees are counted.
There are 41 or 45 full-time employees in this A&P closure in Windsor, and there are over 100 part-time; so the count is well over 50. All those full-time employees who meet the requirements of over five years -- including, obviously, the lady the member is speaking about -- will be given at least the minimum severance pay. I am told the company has now agreed with the views the ministry had given to it on this matter.
In terms of the part-time employees, I can tell the honourable member there has been a ruling, which was confirmed in the Kitchener case, that so-called elect-to-work employees are not eligible for severance pay. That is one of a myriad of issues we have been reviewing, as we review the current severance pay laws and attempt to tighten them up.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: If that is the case, that is good news for the 45 employees who are full-time employees. But as of Sunday of this week, the union was not aware of this. The ministry had been contacted and asked, and the workers were told they would have to challenge these kinds of decisions, rather than having universal legislation that protected the workers so they did not have to fight for their rights in the courts.
I would like to ask the minister, why will he not bring in the legislation which he advocated to the Conservative Party when he was the ordinary member for Windsor-Sandwich, the Labour critic for the Liberal Party -- when he was not in government? If it was good enough then, why is it not good enough now?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I remember when my honourable friend was the ordinary member for Windsor-Riverside; now I read he may want to be the mayor of Windsor. How times change.
The matter is not as clear-cut as the honourable gentleman would suggest. As he would know, under the Employment Standards Act there are a number of legal challenges open to both employers and employees. The branch simply advised the workers that the company, because of the recent ruling, could challenge an order to pay.
I want to assure the honourable member of two things. First, I am told the company has now agreed with the advice our ministry had given it and severance pay will be payable to the full-time employees. Second, I can tell the honourable member we are working very hard to bring in a severance pay law that closes the very many loopholes in the loophole-riddled law the previous government brought in in 1981.
UNEMPLOYMENT IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Mr. Pope: Now that we have established this government is going to do nothing to help the mining industry -- in the words of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) it is going to do nothing to help the laid-off miners --
Mr. Speaker: The question is to which minister?
Mr. Pope: In view of the absence of the Premier, my question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.
I want to turn to another Liberal government fiasco that is affecting the workers of northern Ontario. We have now established clearly the minister's complicity, which he denied for six months, in the softwood lumber issue. We have now clearly established his conduct and how he covered this up for six months; now we know.
On April 29, the Premier was quoted as saying that $30 million for the heritage fund would be found from the softwood lumber taxes. The Premier also said on January 8 to Bill Walker, as reported in the Toronto Star, that the lumber export tax would be used exclusively to retrain the laid-off forest products workers. Which of the Premier's statements is true? Is it being used for the heritage fund or for a retraining program for laid-off lumber workers?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I think what really upsets this member from the north is that it was this Premier and this government that really stood up against the federal government on behalf of that tax.
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I will not use the 42 years today. I had better leave that alone.
I can tell the member from the north we will be looking at what revenues are derived from those figures and we will be using them to help the people of the north.
Mr. Pope: That is the same vague promise we heard from this minister over a year ago. What really bothers us is that we have a Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) in this province who is not only not doing two jobs, who is not only not doing one job for the people of northern Ontario, he is not doing any job at all, and neither is the minister.
The minister stood by and agreed to the softwood lumber tax in writing on September 28 and then he tried to deny it for six months. He was behind it every step of the way. Sleight of hand, misrepresentation, lies, the whole bunch of them are the same. When is he going to employ the laid-off lumber workers? When is he going to put retraining programs in place?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: Again, I can tell the member from the north that I have had occasion over the last several months to travel many times to the north and the opinion he tries to give this House and what we really find up there are very different. They are very pleased with what this government is doing and what this Treasurer is doing.
Mr. Martel: It is going to be a delight to fight the Liberals on this budget in the north. It is an absolute nothing. If there was ever a nothing budget for the north, that was the one.
Mr. Martel: I have a question to the minister responsible for the swamp, the Minister of Labour; the swamp-tender. My understanding was that Dr. Muir, his buddy, was to resign from any consultation with the Workers' Compensation Board, to determine eligibility of workers suffering industrial disease, if he was to serve on the Industrial Disease Standards Panel. My understanding is that was the agreement. Can the minister tell me why the board has referred a worker from de Havilland to Dr. Muir of the Firestone Clinic as of April 1 of this year for assessment?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am going to have to take a look at the specifics of the matter. It might have been useful, if the honourable gentleman really wanted an answer today, if he had given me some notice. I am told that Dr. Muir continues to see patients only in his professional capacity and will not be involved in terms of industrial disease and is not involved in matters that the panel either is or may be looking at. I will look into the specifics of the honourable gentleman's issue and get back to him.
Mr. Martel: I have before me a letter sent by Dr. Muir to a worker dated April 2, 1987, the original letter going from Dr. Carr to Dr. Muir and Dr. Muir writing directly to the worker at de Havilland, asking that worker to come at a specific time for an examination and advising the worker to bring his X-rays and to fill out a lengthy questionnaire.
Since Dr. Muir is one of those setting standards with which we assess workers' disabilities in this province, does the minister not consider it to be a conflict that Dr. Muir, on one hand, is setting the standards and, on the other hand, is adjudicating on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Board standards which he in fact might be involved in and his very presence on the panel itself. Are there not really two choices available?
Mr. Speaker: The question has been asked.
Mr. Martel: I hope we get into it, Mr. Speaker. I remember we spent 18 minutes on the first two questions today and you did not say a word, and I am talking about workers' lives.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Martel: Will the minister agree that there is one of two choices? Either he asks --
Mr. Speaker: Order. Would the member take his seat?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I think part of the question that I heard from the honourable gentleman --
Mr. Martel: The Speaker was interfering.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I have given the honourable gentleman a commitment that we will take a look at this matter and check whether the facts are as he has stated them. While I am on my feet, however, I do want to say that I hope the honourable member would be supportive of the general concept of an Industrial Disease Standards Panel and that he would be supportive of the concept of a panel which has balanced membership. It seems to me the honourable member is very anxious to raise these matters involving specific people but not anxious, perhaps, in others.
I just tell the honourable member that we are trying to make the panel work. We will take a look at this matter. As far as I know, the issues involving the workers and involving de Havilland are not issues the panel has been asked to rule on in any way.
Mr. Callahan: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. There has been a considerable process that has taken place in my community in terms of trying to locate a landfill site. It has taken a considerable period of time to narrow it down to what appears to be the question of the recognition by the regional council of one site, which is known as site 6.
As I understand it, an environmental assessment hearing is mandatory. I would like to ask the minister, since there seems to be some discussion around my riding that perhaps one of the sites that was in the running for the choice was removed because of political reasons, what would be the effect of the environmental assessment hearing if those facts were to be drawn before that hearing? Would it continue or would the matter come to an end and be investigated?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: The member may be aware that the environmental assessment process we have in Ontario is the most detailed and comprehensive one we have had in a long, long time. It takes into account all factors that might relate to the siting of a particular facility of this kind, and the Environmental Assessment Board, when it takes into consideration the representations which are made by various parties that appear before the board, is in a position to evaluate the matters the member has brought to the attention of the House today.
No doubt opponents and proponents will put forward their cases in the best possible manner as far as they are concerned and the board would then be in a position to make a judgement. One of the factors that is taken into consideration when there is a proposed and specific site is, of course, whether alternatives have been explored.
ASSISTANCE FOR THE DISABLED
Mr. Davis: I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons. Does the minister believe it is fair that $2 of every $3 in Canada pension plan money is being denied by the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) to the 13,000 disabled in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Ruprecht: As the honourable member knows, questions of policy are decided in this instance by the Minister of Community and Social Services, and I will pass it on to him.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: As I indicated to the leader of the official opposition yesterday, all of the CPP money was passed on to the disabled to whom it was sent. They all got that money.
Mr. Davis: One wonders why the Liberal government has a minister for the disabled when he cannot answer a very common question and finds it difficult to say whether it is fair or unfair. Perhaps he should resign.
Let us try him again.
Mr. Speaker: And the supplementary?
Mr. Davis: I have to go back to the --
Mr. Speaker: The supplementary question must flow out of the response, and the response came from the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Mr. Davis: Thank you for the direction, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
Perhaps the minister can then state that the province made $8 billion in additional revenues. The money for the disabled is their pension; the same money every person is entitled to if he becomes disabled. How can the minister justify denying the $100 a month in badly needed benefits to those disabled persons?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I am sure the honourable member knows that in terms of funding provisions by the two levels of government, there are three distinct groups of disabled people in this province: those who receive funds only from the province; those who receive funds only from the federal government through CPP, and those 13,000 who receive funds from both.
In terms of the province of Ontario's contributions, we have a single guaranteed annual income level for all disabled to whom we refer funds. It was our sense that it would be improper to have two different guaranteed annual income levels, one for 13,000 and a different one for the other 72,000 that the province supports. We therefore assessed the $18 million that the federal government was flowing for CPP, which all went to those people, tripled that amount to $54 million and distributed it to all 85,000 disabled who are receiving support from the province.
Mr. Davis: Do you mean that -- $1.65 a day? I would like to see you live on $1.65 a day.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
ÉCOLE MONSEIGNEUR DE LAVAL
Mr. Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Education. The minister is aware of the situation at l'Ecole Monseigneur de Laval in Hamilton. His deputy visited the school and in some fashion has been involved with the separate and public boards' attempt to resolve the accommodation problem. It is now the end of May and it would appear that we have no solution yet.
Can the minister tell us at what point the rights of 370 francophone students will rise above the right of those two boards to local autonomy and at what point he will intervene to ensure that those 370 students have an acceptable facility in September?
Hon. Mr. Conway: I thank my friend the member for Hamilton Mountain for the question. Yes, I am aware of the situation. He is correct in observing that a number of officials from the Ministry of Education, including the deputy minister, have been involved to assist in and facilitate a local resolution.
I point out to my honourable friend that the assignment of students to schools is a matter that falls entirely within the jurisdiction of the local school board. I am cognizant that there have been some difficulties, but I am very hopeful that the reasonable men and women who sit on those Hamilton school boards are going to meet and discharge their responsibilities to those francophone students in the city of Hamilton.
Mr. Allen: Those are indeed fine words, but the minister may know that anyone who looks at the accommodation reports of the two boards in question would realize that if this question had been tackled jointly by the boards and the ministry and had not been left until the crisis hit the school in question, there would have been a resolution found that would not have the problems his policy of local decision-making is bringing about. In many board situations, recriminations between boards, suspicion with regard to figures and a good deal of antagonism that is not necessary have developed.
Will the minister remove himself from that arm's-length policy that he adopted until his ministry, I think in the last six weeks, became actively involved, and locate for that school a self-contained and a permanent facility so that they will not become the wandering gypsies of the Hamilton school system?
Hon. Mr. Conway: My friend the member for Hamilton West knows perhaps better than anyone in this assembly the situation at Monseigneur de Laval in Hamilton. I am sure that he, upon reflection, would perhaps want to distance himself somewhat from the polemic and the rhetoric of that supplementary question. He knows, as does the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie), that it is the exclusive responsibility of the local school board to assign students, particularly resident students who fall within its jurisdiction, to schools within that jurisdiction.
Yes, it is true that officials from the Ontario Ministry of Education have been assisting and will continue to assist the local boards to find a local resolution because it is quite clear that the jurisdiction here is entirely local.
Mr. Ferraro: I have a question for the Minister of Health and it pertains to speech therapists.
Last week, a young mother and her son came into my office with their physician. The minister will know this has been a problem in my community and perhaps in other communities in Ontario. The problem basically is he is a preschool child and desperately needs a speech therapist. I am sure he is of above-average intelligence. He is a bright, beautiful child. The availability of speech therapists is limited, to say the least. We have talked to the district health councils, hospital boards and so on and so forth. For the first time it is not a problem of money. It appears to be a problem of a shortage of personnel.
I wonder whether the minister could comment in two parts.
Mr. Speaker: And the question?
Mr. Ferraro: Is this shortage widespread in Ontario? What can we do about it?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The honourable gentleman has identified, as have several other members in this assembly, a very real and difficult problem for us. We have needs for a number of therapy practitioners that have been unmet in several parts of the area he has pointed out, particularly one important place: Guelph, Ontario. We are assessing how many positions are going unmet at the current time.
I have asked the people in my ministry to advise me with respect to where there may be other difficulties. I am sure people are aware that physiotherapists are in short supply. Speech pathologists and occupational therapists, all these people, are in short supply. In particular, this problem imposes very difficult times in northern Ontario.
I have asked to see whether there are steps that I can take as Minister of Health to assist in funding positions in other centres or whether it may be a requirement of ours to look at the establishment of other facilities to train these therapy deliverers.
TABLING OF INFORMATION
Mr. Warner: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I respectfully request that you consider the following points of order related to rule 29(a) and rule 29(i) of the standing orders. Based both on the standing orders and on the procedures adopted by this House, it seems to me that a minister basically has a choice of two paths when sitting in question period. A minister may respond as outlined in 29(a) or decline to respond as outlined in 29(i). It seems to me that if a minister chooses part (a), he has a certain obligation.
I point then to page 502 of Hansard, Thursday, May 14, in which the minister in response to my question said, "I will report back to him with further details on it within a few days." He took the question as notice. That was May 14. Twelve days later, there has been no answer, nor has there been any indication that there will be an answer.
What I am asking the Speaker to do is to take a look at both 29(a) and the precedents of this House to determine that if the minister has in fact chosen to answer, he then has an obligation to provide an answer. He certainly indicated on May 14 that he was intending to answer within a few days. As of today, I have no answer. I would like the Speaker to instruct the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) to respond.
Mr. Speaker: I have listened very carefully to the difficulty the member has encountered. I certainly appreciate what he said. However, his final comments were that I, as Speaker, should instruct the minister to respond. There is certainly nothing in the standing orders that allows me to instruct a minister. The member has made his point and no doubt the minister will respond in due course.
USE OF TIME IN QUESTION PERIOD
Mr. Speaker: Because of the assistance I have had during this question period I thought that, particularly for the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel), I would inform the members of the time that was taken for each question and response.
The first question and response took nine minutes, the second, eight minutes; the third, seven minutes; the fourth, six minutes; the fifth, four and a half minutes; the sixth, three and a half minutes; the eighth, four and a half minutes -- that was the member for Sudbury East; the ninth, two and a half minutes; the 10th, four minutes; the 11th, three and a half minutes; and the 12th, two and a half minutes.
I was trying to be most fair to all members.
Mr. Martel: It is very difficult to make a comparison of nine minutes and four and a half with the Speaker intruding. That is the thing I was trying to draw to his attention.
ATTENDANCE OF PREMIER
Mr. Harris: The Speaker may also want to make a note of the fact that now that question period is over the Premier (Mr. Peterson) is back in the chamber.
Mr. Speaker: Many members, and particularly the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris), who just stood on that point, may wish to read on page 103 of Beauchesne, standing order 316, "it has been sanctioned by usage that a member, while speaking, must not: . . . (c) refer to the presence or absence of specific members."
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
CONSUMER REPORTING AMENDMENT ACT
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Mr. Kwinter moved first reading of Bill 73, An Act to Amend the Consumer Reporting Act.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I would like to introduce for first reading An Act to Amend the Consumer Reporting Act. These amendments will prevent any access to a consumer's credit file without his or her knowledge. Under the new provisions, the prescreening of credit files, or any derivative thereof, would be treated as a consumer report and the affected consumers would have to be notified before any unsolicited search could be conducted.
I urge all members to support this amendment.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY ACT
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Shymko moved first reading of Bill 74, An Act to Proclaim Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Shymko: The purpose of the bill is to introduce a commemorative holiday as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, whose contribution to the civil rights movement not only is recognized in the United States but also has affected all races throughout all countries, including Canada. It is also a tribute to the contribution of the black community of Ontario to the growth and prosperity of our province and our country.
Mr. Runciman moved first reading of Bill 75, An Act to provide an Opportunity for the Electorate to Express its Views by Means of Referenda in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Runciman: The bill provides for the holding of a referendum on any question that is within the jurisdiction of the province to legislate. Such referenda would be held at the time of a general provincial election on the petition of persons representing eight per cent of the persons who voted in the last provincial general election.
The legislation represents one of the most significant and far-reaching changes in the provincial laws in this decade and will provide the electorate with an opportunity to require full public debate on issues of concern. We witnessed over the past few general elections a significant number of electors declining to exercise their franchise.
Mr. Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the member. It is an explanation not a debate of the bill.
CITY OF BARRIE ACT
Mr. Rowe moved first reading of Bill Pr45, An Act respecting the City of Barrie.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Peterson moved resolution 9:
That this House agrees with the agreement in principle on the Constitution signed by the Prime Minister and the 10 Premiers at Meech Lake on April 30, 1987.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am very pleased to be able to lead off the debate today to share my views with my colleagues opposite on the historic agreement that was reached at Meech Lake on April 30, which I believe will provide the foundation for Quebec to resume its rightful and traditional role as a full partner in our Confederation.
I am also very pleased to have the views of my colleagues opposite and other members of the House as we proceed in the next few days to a formal meeting, presumably to ratify in a formal way the agreement reached on April 30. After that, we will have a full debate in this House and allow all members to express their views on the final wording that will be presented on June 2.
I should also tell my colleagues opposite that I was hoping we would have the final wording for today. Unfortunately, it is not available. There are still meetings of officials on this Friday, and the final touches will be put on Tuesday next. That at least is the current operating plan of the other first ministers, the Prime Minister and myself.
The agreement at Meech Lake was necessary to ensure that all Canadians in all regions can participate fully in their own institutions and know at the same time that their voices will be heard. The agreement was necessary if Canadians are to have a Constitution that can be adapted to changing times. Without Quebec's full participation, we could not realistically hope to change our Constitution in the future, keep up with new developments in our changing world and respond to our changing needs. This accord ensures that our Constitution does not become frozen in the status quo.
It was necessary to give full constitutional expression to the kind of nation we all live in and that we all love, a nation that has managed to retain its unique qualities despite the fact that we live next door to one of the most powerful countries on earth, however friendly it may be. The agreement was possible, I believe, because of much goodwill and leadership. In particular, I believe we owe a great deal to the efforts of the Prime Minister, to Premier Bourassa, to Premier Getty, who spoke forcefully for the west, and to my other colleagues as well.
Many people played a part in making this agreement possible, but I believe the most important part was played out 120 years ago by people sitting around another table, seeking balance and consensus and achieving unity. The Meech Lake agreement was possible only because it built upon traditions established in 1867.
I remind members that this country would never have come together if there had not been understanding human beings accommodating each others' needs. I remind members that at that time in our history there was agreement that recognized some differences between Catholics and Protestants, between French and English. Yet they were able to put their differences aside, with no one getting everything he wanted, and reach a foundation of understanding and accommodation that has been the hallmark of this country for the last 120 years.
As I said, nobody got everything he wanted in 1867, but it was the foundation of compromise and understanding that formed the basis for our Constitution; indeed, the guiding principles for our evolving constitutional system.
Of course, through time there have been many other great contributions to the changes in our Constitution. I think of Prime Minister Trudeau, not too many years ago, Premier Davis and the other Premiers who established patriation of our Constitution and significant reforms after a very long period of time and effort.
The task of nation building began in 1867, but it certainly did not end in 1982. In the past year alone there has been extensive consultation and discussion among all governments. A year ago this month, the Quebec government clearly set forth the province's five constitutional concerns. The provincial Premiers stated publicly our intention to bring about Quebec's full participation in the Constitution at our annual meeting in Edmonton last August. The matter was on the agenda again last November at the annual meeting of first ministers in Vancouver. Officials of the federal government and all provinces met to review these issues in detail at a two-day meeting in Ottawa last March.
Earlier this year the federal Minister of State for Federal-Provincial Relations, Senator Lowell Murray, proposed specific approaches to reconciling Quebec's concerns. These extensive consultations, which led to the Meech Lake accord, were all accompanied by considerable public discussion. Indeed, for the past two or three months, the issues involved in constitutional reform have been the subject of intensive public debate.
One principle I believe that has been established in the Canadian mind is that constitutions can be changed. They cannot be changed frivolously but, nevertheless, we are not as a country wedded to the past. If there are better solutions for the future, then it is incumbent upon thoughtful men and women to search them out and work towards better institutions and better methods of solving our problems.
Nous allons retenir de cet exercice un souplesse vitale qui va permettre aux nombreuses idées qu'un pays comme le nôtre peut offrir de germer.
Nous ne serons plus prisonniers du passé. Si demain de meilleures solutions s'offrent à nous, nous aurons l'intelligence d'en profiter.
In our country, we need that kind of balance, that degree of flexibility, today more than ever. Canadians can ensure our place in the world only if we make our national diversity work for us rather than against us.
The agreement reached at Meech Lake is a classically Canadian one. It provides, in my view, for strength in diversity. It recognizes differences while affirming the advantages of being part of the whole.
The Meech Lake accord achieves three key objectives for Canadian federalism: (1) it allows Quebec to accept unequivocally the political legitimacy of all of our constitutional arrangements, (2) it indicates to other regions of Canada an understanding of deep underlying concerns and a willingness to deal with them expeditiously and (3) it commits the federal and provincial governments to regular consultative processes on economic and constitutional matters.
Canada's Constitution is being changed just enough to ensure that all Canadians across our country can accept its provisions and share in its protections, fully and equally.
This accord contains no radical departures. It reflects the basic Confederation settlement of 1867. It builds on the innovations of the Constitution Act of 1982. It recognizes commitments made during the great referendum debate, commitments to renew federalism, to re-examine our institutions and consider ways of accommodating the legitimate desires of people right across this country.
Mr. Speaker, I ask you and some of my colleagues who were in the House at the time to cast their minds back to the great referendum debate in this country, when we had an opportunity to examine the heart and soul of our country, the kind of accommodations we were prepared to make to each other to keep this country together. If we try to pick up some of those moments and put them in today's place, I think we will be proud of the fact that we made a promise in 1980 and we are keeping that promise in 1987.
Meech Lake represents constitutional reform that is a delicate balance of contending national, provincial and linguistic identities. These reforms will help governments to represent the Canadian people's views and to meet their needs.
With this agreement, we as Canadians are giving up the luxury of sterile argument. We are gaining the opportunity to talk to each other, more calmly and more reasonably, so that we can hear each other's words as well as our own voices.
A number of questions have been raised with regard to the Meech Lake accord, both in this House and elsewhere in the country. I recognize the concerns that have been raised. I recognize that they stem from profound and well-meaning aspirations for long-term national wellbeing; but I believe these concerns have been addressed.
L'Ontario est en mesure de comprendre les inquiétudes suscitées par tel ou tel aspect de l'accord. C'est en soi un excellent signe de santé que la vigilance soit présente partout au pays. Mais c'est aussi en raison de cette vigilance que l'histoire devrait recevoir favorablement cette entente unanime.
I would like to share with the House what our intent was on several key items, which have prompted some of the questions that have been raised. In all cases, I am confident that the wording of Meech Lake reflects fully this intent. Officials are now in the process of preparing a draft constitutional text to give legal effect to that accord.
With regard to the federal spending power, the purpose of the provision is to provide constitutional legitimacy for its use in certain circumstances and to ensure a reasonable degree of flexibility for provinces.
The focus is on new federal shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction and, may I point out again to my colleagues opposite, only in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. These are areas in which the federal government currently has no legal or constitutional authority to compel a province's participation.
Until now, provinces have had only two choices: to accept the federal conditions for payment whether or not they met their people's needs and receive the transfer from Ottawa; or to refuse the federal conditions, in which case the province was denied any transfer payment or money.
We are now providing a third option and thus adding to our national flexibility. A province can choose to opt out of a new federal program in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction and receive reasonable financial compensation from Ottawa. However, to exercise that option, the province must already be undertaking or agree to undertake its own program or initiative compatible with those national objectives.
If the national objective, for example, is to provide services for children, then the provinces cannot offer a program based on wilderness parks or highways. I believe that intention is clearly understood by all my colleagues.
It will now be the federal government's task to devise programs that take every region's needs into account thoroughly enough that no province would want to exercise this option. To the extent that it is exercised, we will find a greater variety of compatible programs across the country all sharing the same national objectives.
Mr. Speaker, I remind you that this is a fact of our country today. Various provinces have different programs designed under the framework of national objectives. I refer, for example, to the Quebec pension plan, and health care systems in other provinces, that do, in general terms, subscribe to the national objectives but allow for some provincial flexibility.
The uniformity will be in the objectives; the flexibility in the program variety for their achievement.
The second area of comment has been on the provision allowing the federal and provincial governments to reach agreements on immigration-related matters. These agreements would be regarded as part of the Constitution and therefore could not be changed unilaterally by either government.
There are two key elements to understanding that provision:
1. The guarantee of the right to move anywhere in Canada in section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to landed immigrants and those with refugee status. Mobility rights thus take precedence.
2. Parliament and the government of Canada will continue to be responsible for such matters as determining the overall number of immigrants and refugees and the base criteria for their admission to Canada. Agreements with provinces will proceed within the framework provided by these umbrella federal responsibilities.
A third item of the Meech Lake accord which has received attention is the interpretation clause, which recognizes Canada's linguistic duality and the distinctiveness of Quebec society. This clause merely recognizes a historical reality. In my view, it just conforms to a simple fact that is obvious to everyone in the country.
Quebec has always occupied a distinct place in Confederation by virtue of its history, linguistic makeup, legal system and culture. Indeed, the Constitution Act of 1867 contained a series of provisions which recognized Quebec's distinctive character. The agreement at Meech Lake is in keeping with that heritage.
The impact of this constitutional recognition will depend largely on judicial interpretation and evolving circumstances. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that this is true of all aspects of our Constitution. In a constitutional democracy, politicians set a broad framework and the judiciary ensures that the laws conform to it.
We have achieved our goals as a nation in the past only by creating a tradition of balance and flexibility. We will achieve our goals in the future only by building upon that heritage.
Many interests are involved in a delicate constitutional negotiation such as this one has been. Federal and provincial prerogatives have to be balanced. The interplay of our national English and French heritage has to remain in dynamic equilibrium and the objectives of the various regions must be harmonized.
The 1982 reform balanced the impact of a new charter and patriation on our national identity with a more consensual and equitable amending formula to respect our provincial identity. So also today we balance a sensitivity to regional and linguistic interests with a reaffirmation of a single national Constitution as the meeting point of our different hopes. The Meech Lake proposal is not only an act of reconciliation and bonding but also an act of allegiance. We have decided to work out our differences rather than to walk out on them.
S'il a été possible, en avril, de rapproacher tant de divergences, c'est que nous pourrons à nouveau recommencer. Ce rapprochement n'est pas qu'une réconciliation mais bien un acte de foi.
It is, in my view, a forward-looking agreement. The provisions for future constitutional conferences build in the flexibility that it needs to keep our Constitution alive -- a living document for a country facing a challenge and an exciting future.
Governing Canada fairly and effectively is a continuing process of forging the national interest from different views and needs. Every generation must face the same basic challenges but does so in the particular circumstances of its own time. Each must find its own answers to these challenges.
I say to you in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, think back to April 30. What would have been the national reaction had we come back from Meech Lake without an agreement? I believe we would have dashed a lot of hopes. I believe there would have been a sense of failure in the country and the question then would be raised, "If not now, when?" or "Will it ever be possible?"
I believe it was a good time to make the agreement that we did. It had been well prepared and well worked through. There were no surprises to anyone. We were operating in an atmosphere of relative calm in this country without any particular pressures. I believe it is an agreement coolly and rationally arrived at. I compare it again to what could have happened had this debate taken place five and a half or six years ago.
Mr. Speaker, I believe and I put to you that the first ministers' agreement at Meech Lake was a good one and very much in the national interest and in the interests of our children. I am very proud to have been a part of that. I am very proud to share that with my colleagues in the House.
I remember some of the great constitutional debates in this House. I remember the time of the patriation in 1982. For me, those were some of the highlights of being a member of this House, sharing our views, reaching out to each other, trying to provide an understanding of each other's views and to take that same understanding and translate that into the national will.
We have to think not only about Ontario's interest but about the national interest as well. I believe the first ministers, in a spirit of harmony, with leadership provided by the Prime Minister, were able to capture that magic moment. I commend it to my friends opposite. I am very interested in hearing their views, but I want to say again that I believe it is a very firm basis for renewing Confederation, not just now but in the future as well.
Mr. Grossman: In rising to join in this very important debate, I want to say to the members of this House that there are obviously many opportunities -- indeed, most -- when the primary purpose of each party is to advance its own interest and views on the political issues of the day. I hope this is not such a day. We in this party believe this debate should be different: different because of the subject at hand, Confederation, and different because it discusses, in essence, the way in which Canadians live together and the way in which they shall be governed.
I remind members that this parliament here in Ontario has a history of honest differences of opinion on Confederation: differences, I say to the Premier, which have traditionally fitted within a consensus about the kind of Canada Ontarians want for themselves, the kind of Canada Ontario governments should fight for, whatever their partisan affiliation.
As a matter of first principle, my colleagues and I are delighted the Prime Minister of Canada and his colleagues were successful in achieving an agreement in principle to bring Quebec into the Constitution. We want to see the province of Quebec join in the Constitution and charter legally, formally and willingly. We want to see the commitments with respect to free movement of capital, goods and people indeed apply in Quebec and be enforced in Quebec. We want to see the other provisions of the 1982 agreement apply in Quebec, not simply because the courts indicate that they shall, as indeed the courts have ruled over the past few years, but what is more significant because Quebec agrees to all that.
More significant, the Meech Lake agreement in principle achieves political legitimacy for these elements in Quebec. That surely is important to Canada and to our survival as a nation and our integrity as a people.
It was never my view or that of my colleagues, having sat through many discussions on constitutional revisions over the years, or our understanding or our experience, which goes back many years, that this kind of achievement could be made without some cost in terms of the final shape and scope of the agreement itself.
Indeed, let me say I was there and I remember the day very well when the Charter of Rights issue was first raised by the then Premier of this province, Mr. Davis. It was at a caucus session in the great city of Peterborough and there were many misgivings and much uncertainty with regard to what indeed it did hold. Certainly, those of us with legal backgrounds in particular had a lot of questions to ask.
But as the debate stretched over a period of months and indeed years, we came to understand better the give and take necessary in constructing a national agreement. I am proud to have been part of a cabinet that helped shape nationally the accord, the constitutional agreement of 1982, and to have lived through many, many cabinet meetings and many, many other meetings -- myself and with my colleagues -- discussing the concerns of other provinces and the tradeoffs and the difficulties in trying to shape a national deal.
Based upon that experience, may I say that I think we are fortunate in having a Prime Minister who has been able to reach out to the Premiers, who belong to the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and the Social Credit Party, and bring them all together to shape this agreement, this accord, in this kind of consensus. Very few Canadians in public life have had such a degree of success in the past or have had the particular focus on the conciliatory role of national government that produces this kind of agreement.
Members will recall the leadership exercised by Premier Robarts in seeking to open up the question of the quality and substance of our Confederation in the Confederation of Tomorrow Conference, which he organized, chaired and sponsored in 1967. That process, I am proud to say, opened up a substantive and meaningful dialogue between Quebeckers and Ontarians which has thrived, despite the odd difficulties, for the past 20 years, and much of that dialogue can be traced right back to Premier Robarts's initiative in 1967.
Two decades later, we in this party counted among our successes on the broad question of Confederation the hard work and determination of Premier Davis, whose efforts were instrumental in achieving the repatriation of our Constitution and the Charter of Rights in 1982.
It is fair to say that in the time of Premier Robarts, Ontario tended to side more with the provincial argument. In the late 1960s and 1970s, that was an appropriate counter-position to a national government that many Canadians had come to view as overly centralist and perhaps insensitive to legitimate provincial aspirations and concerns.
However, with the great changes of the 1970s, including the emergence of a separatist government in Quebec, Ontario decided, and I think quite rightly, to put strong central government and the survival of a national quality to our institutions at the very top of the list of Ontario's ranking of constitutional priorities.
There were some forces at work in western Canada and in Quebec at that time that would not have been displeased if the capacity of our national government to act on behalf of our nation's genuine national interest was reduced. But that trend has been reversed; it has not been reduced so far.
It was Premier Davis, I think, who said there was no value in a Confederation that confined the role of the government of Canada to that of a travel agent for the provinces. It is still in the philosophy of Progressive Conservatives in Ontario to support a strong central government for this Confederation. I believe most Ontarians, regardless of partisan political affiliation, share a philosophy of nationhood in that Conservative sense of having a strong central government.
My colleagues and I do not believe a nation is simply a hotel in which provinces happen to be pursuing individual goals. Neither is our nation simply a league. A nation, I think it is fair to say, having mentioned two similes, really begs no simile, but if it is like anything it is surely more like a family which must have the capacity to act in concert to ensure for the family -- all members of it -- opportunity, excellence, freedom and equality.
It is very much a part of Canada's national definition that we pursue the task of self-definition on an ongoing basis. Our family nation, if I may call it that, with so few people spread so thinly across so huge a territory, faces immense challenges in securing its national survival, its sovereignty and any hope at meaningful consensus. Indeed, all of this is fundamentally important if a nation is something different from a league. All of this is fundamentally important if a nation is to have the ability to provide the same quality of education, the same quality of health care or the same quality of child care in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as it does in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
I simply want to express this concern today. I wonder whether, in the rush of the Meech Lake accord, we have sustained the family home that was so conserved and so carefully tended by the Fathers of Repatriation, if I may call them that, or have we converted Confederation into a hotel where provincial guests check in and check out at will?
In the one-day rush of the Meech Lake accord, have we in any way diminished the essence of what Trudeau, Davis, Chrétien, McMurtry and Romanow spent two years considering, building, protecting and debating? I was there for all of that time. I was part of the internal dialogue and part of the external dialogue, and as one of those not direct but indirect participants I think the country was better for that process, that process that lasted for two years but allowed discussion, development, analysis and understanding.
To many Canadians, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a different thing by 1982, in terms of our understanding of its implications, than it was in 1980. The terms and conditions we talked about so often in 1980 and 1981, as we began the debate, were much different, at least in our understanding of them, by the time the Queen came to finish the repatriation. One wonders whether the efforts that took two years to crystallize and to mature should be altered overnight -- literally overnight.
I have participated in this kind of thing and I appreciate the euphoria that can settle in. It can even begin to overtake events. I know of the chemistry that sometimes begins in a room, when people come in expecting to have little success or modest success and suddenly sense that, some-where in the middle, there is that chance of pulling off an unexpected bold step. As I said, I know that euphoria sometimes begins to overtake events. I know the sensation that grips people who have been frustrated and struggled through political life and through all the bureaucratic hurdles that are always put up, when they see, suddenly, a bold ray of sunshine; they see an end, an agreement, and they see it is within their grasp.
I only say to the Premier (Mr. Peterson), and I would say to the Prime Minister, that a quick agreement is often not the best agreement. The quick accord is not always the right accord. It may be this time, but I think when it happens so suddenly, in the euphoria of one evening at Meech Lake, hard on the heels of two long years of important maturing and discussion of these issues, we are obliged to step back and analyse, we are obliged to take advantage of the need to finalize the wording in the drafting: to step back.
I think in that circumstance it was obligatory to have a public forum for all of this. Quebec followed the appropriate course and had two weeks of public hearings which produced the most thoughtful and important analysis we have seen of what the Meech Lake accord means and what it does not mean.
Manitoba is undertaking that process. This Legislature voted to have that process. The Premier of Ontario has chosen not to have those public hearings but to rush from the Meech Lake accord right back to Ottawa on June 2 to finalize the wording and then to begin the quick road down to finalization.
What is there to be lost by having public hearings? What is the risk? The risk that Ontarians may better understand what the future holds in terms of national programs? The risk that we may better understand whether we will ever have Senate reform? The risk that some communities in Canada may understand better what the immigration provisions are?
Surely the larger risk is that we offer a blank cheque to other governments or to the courts of this land, all in good faith but not understanding just how big that blank cheque is. What could possibly be the downside risk of allowing the public, allowing Eugene Forsey, to come in and speak for a couple of hours?
As the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) himself pointed out this afternoon, the government consulted Eugene Forsey prior to entering into the accord which gave the Liberals the right to govern, but when it came time to enter into a constitutional accord which, far more important than putting them into office, will change the shape of our national institutions, affect national programs, affect Senate reform, affect immigration in this country: for that, Eugene Forsey's advice was not sought; for that, his opportunity to speak to the public in Ontario was taken away, or at least not given. Why not? What conceivable reason is there?
As I pointed out earlier today, this Legislature is about to undertake hearings to allow the public to come in to speak to truck transport reform. Why not Senate reform? Why not reform of the Constitution of this country?
One of the reasons we thought this public hearing was so vital, and remains so vital, was emphasized, I think, by the opening remarks of the Premier this afternoon. I want to say to the Premier I have looked forward to this debate, because I have pressed for it from the day he returned from Meech Lake. I had anticipated this would be his opportunity to outline for us in some detail his understanding of all the clauses -- not his reading of the clauses, but his understanding of the clauses.
I had hoped that this afternoon the Premier would seize the opportunity to dispel the interpretation of Premier Bourassa in terms of some of those clauses. I would have hoped this afternoon that the Premier and his Attorney General (Mr. Scott) might take advantage of this opportunity to clarify the difference in interpretation between M. Rémillard, the Minister responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Attorney General of Ontario on the opt-out provision.
I would have hoped in his comments this afternoon the Premier would have outlined his understanding of the immigration clause for all of us and all Ontarians to know, versus the interpretation Mr. Bourassa has put on it. We read in the Toronto Star today that Mr. Pawley dramatically disagrees with Mr. Bourassa in terms of the opt-out clause.
This afternoon the Premier had an opportunity to share information with us, to bring us up to date on the latest drafting options, to comment on the Quebec hearings, to outline his understanding and interpretation of the clauses in question. We are here today not to vote on the accord but for each of our parties to present a position on the accord, the public and our party here in Ontario not having been given even the Premier's interpretation of the accord, not having been permitted to hear from all the constitutional experts and members of the public, as the people in Quebec have been allowed to do.
We in this party want to support this accord. We want to have Quebec in here. A party such as mine will not claim to have a greater desire to get Quebec into the Constitution than any other party, but neither will we suggest we have a lesser one. We were there in 1982. The William Davis and Roy McMurtry roles were key and fundamental to that 1982 agreement. We stand equal with all parties in desiring to have Quebec in this accord and in the Constitution and to sign the Constitution; but we are entitled to have some answers. We must know the price. Have we given away Senate reform? That is a very real question.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: No.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier says "No." I will get to that later on.
Have we given away a national day care program? Have we perhaps lost the opportunity to implement a national guaranteed annual income across the country?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: No.
Mr. Grossman: If the Premier had the answers to these questions, he chose to use about 18 minutes to share with this House his understanding of these very important issues which have been written about in the media for weeks, which have been spoken about by Eugene Forsey and others, which have been debated in the Quebec public hearings, which he will not allow us to have here. If he believes our concerns about losing these programs are not legitimate concerns, why did he not address them a moment ago? He had as much time as he needed to share that information with us.
Has freedom of movement for immigrants been restricted? Quebec clearly thinks so. Does the accord inadvertently undermine minority language rights through the distinct society provision? These are important questions and I have not heard them addressed this afternoon. I have not heard them thoroughly addressed by the Premier or the Attorney General since the night at Meech Lake.
Have we changed this family into a league? Have we changed our nation into a hotel? Is the national interest served by empowering a province with the population of East York to veto further constitutional developments? Is the national interest served by restricting the spending power of the federal government? Is the national interest served by restricting the mobility of new Canadians? Those are important questions.
I am concerned today, as I think many people are, that there is a separate negotiating process going on in Quebec with respect to how the final shape and form of this deal will appear. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting for a moment that the government of Canada is not dealing honourably or in complete good faith. Quite the contrary. In fact, it is precisely due to the forthright manner of the Prime Minister and Senator Murray and others that success has been achieved to date.
But within the dynamics of the politics of Quebec and the politics of its legislature, as I have come to understand them -- and I dealt with separatist cabinet ministers and other members of the Quebec assembly for some time -- there are inevitably pressures building which I believe Ontario's government must be prepared to resist.
I want to continue by dealing with the public hearings question. We are on a fast track here. It is a quick accord, achieving in a night what was stitched together by Trudeau and Chrétien and Davis and Romanow and McMurtry over two years.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: And Wells.
Mr. Grossman: And Mr. Wells.
Let me say that I am --
Hon. Mr. Peterson: You are wrong. Your facts are wrong.
Mr. Pope: And the Premier doesn't want to explain. No one else has the right to know anything.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier is once again saying our facts are wrong. The Premier will have every opportunity to correct my interpretation of what was happening in the cabinet in which I served for eight and a half years and the media's interpretation of who built that constitutional deal and how long it took. All I can say is it was an important deal that took a lot of time, a lot of analysis and a lot of public debate, exactly the public debate which the Premier will not allow in Ontario on the Meech Lake accord.
The Premier has had the opportunity to outline the process from here. We understand, having consulted with the federal government, that there will be three years allowed for ratification. The Premier indicates that is accurate. I regret that he has not shared that information with us.
If there are now three years to the point at which we must ratify, I want to say right here I think it is fundamentally important that the government today undertake that, having failed to allow Ontarians the opportunity for public hearings prior to his signing of the Meech Lake accord some time in June, it will unfailingly undertake to allow public hearings before this Legislature is asked to ratify the Meech Lake accord some time later this year or next year. We have not yet got that minor undertaking, minor to the government, major to us.
Why do we need all this? Let me simply refer to the people who gathered yesterday to express concern with regard to understanding the answers to the questions I just posed. This group is comprised of the following people: Eugene Forsey, York University president Harry Arthurs, Manitoba Liberal Party leader Sharon Carstairs, publisher Adrienne Clarkson, author Hugh MacLennan, historian and NDP strategist Desmond Morton, francophone historian and economist Albert Breton, labour conciliator Carl Goldenberg, lawyer Eddie Greenspan and authors June Callwood, Doris Anderson and Farley Mowat.
This very distinguished group of Canadians is not opposed to the accord. This group of distinguished Canadians shares with our party the need to understand it before a blank cheque is signed. They are calling upon the Premier of this province and his colleagues to delay the final signing of the accord until it has been studied and debated in public.
They go on to say, "Although it is a matter of national achievement that there has been a constitutional agreement under which Quebec can enter into the Canadian constitutional order, it is irresponsible and a disservice to Canadians to proceed with new constitutional provisions the terms of which have been largely unexplained and unexplored."
What is the risk, I ask the Premier, in public hearings?
I also want to draw the attention, particularly of the government House leader who spoke so fondly of Eugene Forsey and how much respect he had for him, to the letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail from the same Eugene Forsey, printed this morning. I will read in part what Eugene Forsey said:
"My initial support for the Meech Lake accord was qualified. I said I was `encouraged...' and `hoped that when we got the final product I should feel the same way.' I said also that `the definition of Quebec as a "distinct society" remained a question mark' and that `I'd want to look very carefully at whatever formula was finally produced on that subject.'"
Former Senator Forsey goes on to say:
"I have since looked very carefully at what the accord says on a variety of subjects, and have very serious misgivings not only on the distinct society but on the federal spending power, immigration and the Supreme Court of Canada. On all these, there are obscurities and ambiguities, some of them very dangerous, which need to be cleared up."
It is signed by Eugene Forsey.
In the face of the constitutional advice and the reservations given by Eugene Forsey, the very person who gave to the government the constitutional advice that allowed it to take office, the very person who has been acknowledged as Canada's expert in constitutional matters, when he indicates his reservations and his misgivings saying they need to be cleared up and some are dangerous, I ask the Premier, why have we not had public hearings? Why has this Legislature not been given the opportunity to cross-examine Senator Forsey so that we can understand his misgivings? Hopefully the Premier would take an opportunity to clear them up. He had an opportunity to do that, he has not done it.
I want to turn to some of the clauses, the federal spending power, the opt-out power. The Premier has referred to it and read it into the record. I will not repeat it. Suffice to say that the Leader of the Opposition in Quebec, the Honourable Pierre-Marc Johnson, has taken the view that the Meech Lake accord gives Quebec no significant new powers and costs the federal government no economic power. In a sense, I might say Pierre-Marc Johnson has offered some in this Legislature far more comfort by his words than I am sure he intended.
On the other hand, according to the Premier of Ontario, "The proposal will in some ways strengthen Ottawa's ability to set up new social programs, since the agreement formally recognizes the federal government's right to spend on programs in the provincial domain."
The Attorney General has on this occasion agreed with his leader. He is quoted as saying that the Meech Lake document establishes for the first time Ottawa's right to spend money in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. I pause to say that while the Attorney General denied in this House last week that he had said anything since the Meech Lake accord agreement, it turns out he had given those exact words to Le Devoir perhaps hoping we would not find those words.
Now let us turn to the words of Premier Bourassa. They are far less comforting. In fact, they are different. He said at the first day of public hearings in his province, "We are working now on a legal text that would ensure a legal mechanism that would not give a constitutional groundwork to federal spending." He goes on to say: "It is obvious that this was not the goal of the agreement in principle. It was to limit the spending power of the federal government."
Here we have it: two of the alleged leading architects, the Premier of Quebec and the Premier of Ontario, with categorically different views on whether the federal spending powers have been increased or decreased.
I think we have to be frank about something, and that is about the fact that any government of Quebec under any stripe will be under immense pressure to move the goalposts considerably -- that is the way it happens -- so that Quebec will in fact achieve substantive gains in the powers that a distinct society, to use the words of the accord, should have, in its view.
That is the dynamic in any province. Anyone in this House who believes that Quebeckers in good faith, in doing what the accord told them they ought to do -- that is, guarantee their distinct society -- will not try to move the goalposts and will not try to interpret these clauses in order to give themselves dramatically more power than the Premier of this province suggests is naive, with respect, and does not understand the political dynamic that is always at play in Quebec and sometimes boils over.
With so many opposing interpretations on the record from people who are in the same room signing the same accord, it is clear that we need a broader and clearer definition of the federal spending clause. Under what terms are provinces going to be able to opt out? Are they going to get a lot of money or a little money? What kind of compensation is it? How is it paid? The whole argument over whether they are national objectives or national standards has become extremely vague. In point of fact, the wording is quite clear.
The interpretations are now running wild. We have seen Mr. Rémillard dramatically disagree with the Premier of Ontario in terms of what is a program compatible with national objectives. We are about to enter into an accord and this House is going to be asked to enter into an accord, which Quebec thinks gives it the power to take the money and have a broad definition of how it can otherwise spend it, and which the government of Ontario believes requires it to have a program very close to the national program set up in its place.
We risk seeding the clouds for dysfunction, serious dysfunction, in areas of social and economic programming, which could be very serious indeed decades from now.
It is not too much to expect from the leaders of this country that they all agree completely and openly in terms of the compensation paid and the degree to which national programs have to be matched to national objectives and standards met by the provinces.
We need to know about the national day care program. It is currently being relied upon in Ontario, as expressed in the budget last week, as key to all of this, as key to improving child care in Ontario, at the very same time at which the Meech Lake accord would seem to threaten the possibility of mounting a national child care program. If I am wrong, the Premier has had several weeks to disabuse us of that, but I am not the only one who has those concerns.
I look across the country -- I have been to every single province -- and I see vast differences in standards and in programs; vast differences, which so far have not been diminished, in quality of education and health care, to name two, across the land. If we, in this accord, diminish the possibilities that the federal government may reinforce those institutions and others, reinforce the social equality in this country that is lacking, then we do them a disservice.
I want to turn now to immigration. On this side of the House we happen to believe that when people emigrate to Canada they emigrate to Canada. When people from Italy, Greece, Portugal, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the Far East or the United Kingdom come to this country they are choosing Canada, all of it. It is important that they not be forced to accept an ethnocentric approach, which in our view would diminish the Canadian ideal and dilute in this country the value of citizenship from coast to coast.
Let me refer to the immigration clauses in the Meech Lake accord. The first clause provides that under the Constitution, "the government of Canada shall negotiate an immigration agreement appropriate to the needs and circumstances of a province that so requests...."
It is important for the people across this land, for the immigrant communities within blocks of this debate, in the shadow of this assembly, to know whether we are going to get 10 provinces each entering into an immigration agreement with the national government of this country.
We want to know whether it is appropriate -- and it says here they may all be entrenched -- that 10 provinces have an immigration agreement entrenched in the Constitution. Is that not going to restrict freedom of movement of immigrants? The Premier shakes his head and says no. He had an opportunity to explain this half an hour ago. He chose not to.
Let me read the accord. In terms of outlining the provisions that might be put in such an immigration agreement, it says, "Guarantee that Quebec will receive a number of immigrants, including refugees, within the annual total established by the federal government for all of Canada proportionate to its share of the population of Canada, with the right to exceed that figure by five per cent for demographic reasons."
It is hard to reconcile a clause that says Quebec may now entrench in the Constitution an immigration agreement ensuring that it gets its proportion plus five per cent of the immigration coming to Canada. What does that say to the people who are looking to reunite their families from Portugal to Toronto? Is this somehow going to restrict the freedom of movement for new Canadians in this country? How else is the clause going to be enforced? We have read in the hearings that Quebec has spoken of the importance of the immigration clause. Does the immigration clause mean nothing more than that it shall have the right to require its proportion plus five per cent of immigrants to come to Quebec first and then they can leave the next morning?
The Premier says yes. I must say, one of the reasons we needed public hearings was perhaps so someone from the Quebec government could attend here and hear it has signed an agreement that forces a charade.
Quebec is boasting that the longest provision of all those in the accord is in fact the charade which says only that the province has the right to require that a Portuguese immigrant go from Madrid to Quebec City before he or she comes to Toronto with his or her family.
If that is the import of the immigration provisions in the Meech Lake accord, then I suggest the Quebec government is going to be held up to ridicule in its province. It cannot possibly be that is all Quebec thought it was getting. There has to be a dichotomy between the realities as the Premier sees them and the realities as Quebec sees them. Some government has entered into an agreement which either restricts the free flow of new Canadians throughout this country or is a charade. There is no middle ground between those.
It goes on to say that provinces, in signing and entrenching an immigration agreement in the Constitution, will "provide an undertaking" by the federal government "to withdraw services ...for the reception and integration of all foreign nationals wishing to settle in Quebec." I wonder how the minister responsible for multiculturalism in Ontario feels about that.
Should the federal government have no role in the reception and integration of foreign nationals wishing to settle in Quebec? Is that really how you build a country, or is that how you construct a league? Is that how you select draft choices for a new baseball league, or is that how you build a country? A country is a country.
I am mystified and need to be reassured with regard to how immigrants are going to be brought to this country and what their freedom of movement throughout this country is going to be. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, this is only with regard to a Quebec agreement. The Meech Lake accord says each province can enter into an immigration agreement with the federal government.
Another question I have for the Premier, unanswered so far, is that if the Quebec government has negotiated its proportion plus five per cent, which province is going to go to the federal government and say, "We would like to enter into an immigration agreement with you, accepting our proportion minus five per cent"? The Quebec proportion, the five per cent built on the second largest population base in Canada, says in essence to Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, "When you enter into immigration agreements, you are going to get far less than your share minus five per cent."
There can be no other interpretation. They have agreed that they shall get their proportion plus five per cent. I have not done the calculations, because I have been hoping this is meaningless. The Quebec government tells me it is not meaningless. What does that mean for immigration into Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan? It seems to me to say they will be getting far less than their share.
Where is the five per cent going to come from? It is going to come from some province. Is this a healthy thing for Canada? Should immigrants not have some freedom to select where they are going to live in Canada once they are accepted by the national government of this country as having met the qualifications for immigration; or is it, as the Premier would have it, that "You can live in Regina if you wish, so long as you spend your first night in Quebec City"? I cannot believe the 11 first ministers in this country entered into that sort of agreement at Meech Lake.
I want to go on to the "distinct society" provisions. It goes on to say, "The Constitution of Canada shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with" -- let me go on to paragraph 1(b) -- "the recognition that Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society." It goes on in paragraph 3 to say, "The role of the legislature and government of Quebec to preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec referred to in paragraph (1)(b) is affirmed."
That is very important, and I will bow to no one when it comes to understanding or respecting the distinct society that is Quebec; but are we today being asked to give a blank cheque to the interpretation of what Quebec needs to do to protect and promote the distinct identity of Quebec?
As one of those who was around for the signing of the Charter of Rights, I am delighted that there have been tests in the courts under the charter and that they have been successful in some cases. I have been delighted with the success the charter has had in defending minority language rights in Quebec. These rights, precisely the kinds of rights which the charter was created to sustain, have been sustained at the highest level by the judiciary in that province.
My question now to the Premier is, how will the courts interpret the new clause which allows Quebec "to preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec"? Could the clause be invoked, as suggested in last week's Financial Times, to justify Quebec's Bill 101? In other words, could the "distinct identity" clause in the Meech Lake accord undermine the protection the charter gave to minority rights in 1982? That is a fundamental question.
Let me read from the article. This is an article reflecting upon the events since the signing of the accord and the Quebec public hearings, the hearings we could not have in Ontario.
"The question is how the courts will read it. Quebec thinks the clause will introduce a new philosophy of federalism that gives it special powers. Quebec has already mused that it could use the new status to defend laws that might be seen as contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Provincial officials say the clause could be invoked to justify, for instance, a provincial law, Bill 101, allowing signs only in French. Had the distinct identity clause been in effect, Quebec may have been better able to resist legal challenges to this legislation."
Here we have Quebec officials, not having been asked to comment on this in Ontario, not having been given the opportunity to debate this in public hearings in Ontario, actually boasting that the Meech Lake accord could be invoked by them to justify bringing back provincial bills and laws which have restricted minority language rights, those very things that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says they cannot do. Now Quebec officials are hopeful that the Meech Lake accord will overrule the courts, undermine the charter and give them the right that was taken away by the charter to discriminate against minorities in Quebec.
I pray I am wrong and I hope I am wrong, but as I follow these debates -- and I have followed them carefully over the past couple of weeks -- I have not heard
a complete analysis offered by any of the parties which says to us there is little or no chance
-- there will never be no chance -- but I expect to hear a categorical explanation of why the premiers concluded that there was almost no risk that minority language rights would be inhibited by virtue of the Meech Lake accord. Yet here it is, being reported from the mouths of Quebec officials.
Before any Canadians are asked to give a blank cheque, I think we must know that the "distinct society" clause will not be providing possible future separatist governments in Quebec with the kind of undue legal support for activities they may seek to pursue which they could not have pursued under the Charter of Rights. That is not asking too much in terms of explaining and giving those assurances.
A word about the Senate: Prior to the Meech Lake accord meetings, I raised in this House my very real concern that the Premier of Ontario would support a veto for the province of Quebec and the province of Ontario. I was there when the current formula was established, a formula which speaks far more to a sense of family and joint working together, the kind of need to find a working consensus which allows for progress, and not a situation, to use the Premier's own words from earlier today, that it not be "frozen in time." He was boasting, and I think quite properly, that this would ensure that the 1982 constitutional agreement would not be frozen in time. The Constitution should not be, but it is interesting to wonder whether the Senate provisions, the reform of the Senate, will not now be frozen in time.
I sought from the Premier before he went to Meech Lake an assurance that Ontario and Quebec would not each be seeking for itself a veto. Clearly
-- I should not say "clearly" -- but I speculate that what happened was that it got around the table and the other provinces raised severe objections to Quebec and Ontario each having a veto. Before many minutes had passed, it was agreed, "Can we have our veto if we give each one of you a veto?"
That was not the point of my question. The point of the question I put forward in this House was precisely the opposite, that no single province in this land, whether it is Prince Edward Island or Ontario, should be able to veto alone, standing on its own, constitutional revisions. That is what freezes a constitution in time. It is when one province alone can say no, can say, to quote the former Prime Minister, who must be worrying about this, "Zap, you are frozen," that it is not going to move.
It seems to me that the premiers and the Prime Minister gathered and, instead of coming out and saying no to the Ontario veto alone and no to the unilateral Quebec veto, they said: "I'll tell you what. On a couple of clauses in the constitution, we will give each one of you a veto." That was precisely the wrong direction.
I want to say, of all the provisions, this is not one that I am terribly comfortable with. How are we going to get that unanimity and what price are we going to pay for it? I must say I am one who has very much preferred the approach that requires provincial co-operation and consultation, and still the collective power to proceed.
Is the unanimity clause fair to people in less populous provinces who would like to see a restructured Senate? Is it fair to say to the people the Premier spoke to in Alberta that the federal institutions they wish changed shall be protected in perpetuity by giving everyone the veto that Ontario and Quebec started out seeking for themselves?
As I conclude, I think there are some important principles here. To take a narrow time frame on it -- when you have taken two or three years to repatriate, as Davis, Trudeau and Chrétien did, and when you want to make a significant change to that process -- is a dangerous way to proceed. When you are choosing to go that fast-track route, then surely the need for public hearings and public dialogues is compressed and heightened.
For two years I participated in debates and discussions on the constitutional arrangements across this country. All that time there were editorials written and there were debates and forums. It was the raison d'être of the Prime Minister of the day and it was a matter of national interest even through the recession, surprisingly. Here we have chosen to fast-track it, to get significant alterations in a night and a couple of weeks.
If it is a good deal, I applaud it and will be happy to support the fast track that made it possible. But in order to make that judgement, I and the members of my party, Canadians everywhere, need to have a full and complete analysis of the implications. We need to know that the terms are not "largely unexplained and unexplored," as the committee of prominent Ontarians has said.
When nation building we need to know that we are not building a nation when our most supreme and respected constitutional expert says there are obscurities and ambiguities, some of them very dangerous, which need to be cleaned up. What country, in the face of that, would proceed to a fast-track, no-hearings, vague constitutional arrangement?
We meet here to discuss and, more important, the Premier will meet again in a couple of weeks to discuss the reworking of a country. Does the codicil to this will undo what the carefully drawn will did? We do not know the answers. To walk in to sign it in the face of Eugene Forsey and others and not to have had the opportunity for a tradeoff of the opinions of esteemed historians and parliamentarians is dangerous.
I simply urge the Premier that blank cheques are always dangerous and we now have three provinces with differing interpretations: Howard Pawley this morning categorically disagreeing with Premier Bourassa, and the Premier of Ontario disagreeing with Premier Bourassa. We have leaders going to the table, each with a blank cheque, not knowing what is going to be filled in.
We believe that the spirit of Meech Lake is one of consultation. If it is a new era, a new spirit, a new beginning, then that spirit should be extended now into this House. It should be reflected by the attitude of this parliament. I urge the government today to show leadership in embarking on an equally open approach in a consultative, nonpartisan analysis in public hearings in this Legislature. We believe that for the spirit of Meech Lake to be meaningful there must be full public discussion of these issues with some clear answers. We must know what we are doing.
Let me be clear. Blank cheques on fundamental issues like these are not acceptable. It is not within the spirit of Meech Lake for this government to do anything but volunteer a full and open discussion of these issues before the final signature is affixed. I want to propose that the House leaders of this Legislature meet immediately to discuss and agree upon a framework for public debate and analysis as part of the process prior to June 2, and certainly as part of the three-year ratification process which will follow any signing the Premier agrees to.
I want to close by saying I have tried to pose questions today that are not unique to my party. They are the questions that have been posed by Eugene Forsey, by Ramsay Cook and by Frederick Vaughan.
Let me quote Frederick Vaughan, professor of political science at the University of Guelph:
"My real concern is that this weakens us institutionally more than we have ever been before. It doesn't provide us with an opportunity to act with a national will. This is a major constitutional time bomb. It could explode in our faces."
That is a political science professor at Guelph, well known across the country.
Ramsay Cook says, "The distinctive entity could allow Quebec to justify anything from a separate manpower training program to its own foreign service." Eugene Forsey -- and on and on.
I pose questions today which I have not thought of, which my colleagues and I have worried over but which we have not devised; they are devised by some of the leading constitutional experts in the land. They come out of our participation, I will admit, in the 1982 discussions, but they are the simple, straightforward questions to which Ontarians have not got answers. More frightening, they are the questions to which Quebeckers have got answers that are different from the vague answers we have got in Ontario. That is a dangerous way to rebuild a country.
We offer the Premier our co-operation, our goodwill and our earnest commitment to work with the House leaders to put together a schedule for public hearings. We want to send him back to Ottawa knowing that we needed public hearings and he did not give them to us; knowing that there is vagueness with regard to what he is agreeing to do and he has not straightened it out; knowing that we are concerned about the disagreement between provinces on what it is they agreed to; but knowing too that we seek earnestly to work with him to find a way to join in this accord.
We hope to rise in this House at a later time and join in ratification, but the Premier must respect the system. He must reach out to Ontarians and take us into his confidence. He must equip us to say to our children: "We did not restrict freedom of manpower. We did not restrict freedom of new Canadians to travel across this country. We did not freeze Senate reform in time. We did not end the possibility of national programs in this country." He must equip us to say those things.
We ask only for the answers to the questions we have posed. When we get those answers, this party, with its tradition well established by John Robarts 20 years ago and reaffirmed by Davis, McMurtry and Wells five years ago, will be eager to step forward and join in a vote supporting a new arrangement which will allow Quebec to be part of our constitutional plans in this country. But we must be treated with the information and with the understanding to allow us to make an informed decision.
We await the answers. We await the public hearings. Ramsay Cook, Eugene Forsey, Doris Anderson, June Callwood and others seek the answers to those questions. Canada deserves no less from Ontario. This House deserves no less from the government. The people of Ontario deserve no less from this Legislature.
Mr. Rae: I must confess to a certain degree of unease at the extent of the piety that has been expressed in the chamber this afternoon. If I can be autobiographical for just a moment, whenever I hear the word "constitution," something in me goes off, my hands turn slightly cold and I reflect back on the fact that I would not think there are too many workers in York South who are losing a lot of sleep over the questions with respect to the Constitution. We have got to put this issue in some perspective and not attack it with the degree of piety and portentousness with which it has been associated.
The Premier referred to the process of national reconciliation and bonding. I somehow find that a practical agreement reached between 11 people over the space of 18 hours scarcely amounts to that. The leader of the Conservative Party had a number of questions to raise, which I think are quite legitimate, which we have not received answers to, which I want to talk about.
But, again, I must confess to a certain amount of irreverence about this question of the Constitution. We have spent an awful lot of time in a process of national hand-wringing. Much of it, in my view, has been very unproductive. In fact, we have had a preoccupation with legal forms at the expense of real policies. We have all seen in our own caucuses -- and I can speak from personal experience, both federally and provincially -- the most extraordinary expenditure of emotion at the expense of substance on the basis of what are essentially hypothetical questions.
Let me suggest that we are now engaged in a slightly even more bizarre and absurd process, in that we are being asked to approve in principle an agreement which is yet to be reached. I must confess I find that a rather difficult exercise, even though I did attend university for more years than I would care to admit on a public platform in York South. I find it rather strange that we would be spending time now debating, as I say, the principles of an agreement which has, by the admission of the Premier himself, not been arrived at.
The way in which this is described is to say, "All they are really arguing about now is the wording." That is what a Constitution is: words. If we cannot agree on the words, we cannot agree on the concepts. If we cannot agree on the concepts, we have not got an agreement.
So the first thing I would say to the Premier is that I am not sure we have an agreement yet. We are all entitled to that degree of scepticism. I find it offensive that we would be asked to approve in principle an agreement which is not yet there. I can tell him, on behalf of our party, we have no intention of voting in favour of an agreement we have yet to see. It would be a little bizarre if we were expected to do so.
If the Premier wants to be able to go to the second phase of the meeting, which will take place next week -- though, listening to Mr. Bourassa, I was not entirely sure precisely which day he intended to show up; but my understanding is that it is still going to take place on June 2 -- if the Premier is asking to come out of this process with some kind of emphatic endorsement of the bonding he told us went on at the last meeting, I think he is going to be disappointed.
The language about two clauses has apparently not been agreed on: the question of a distinct society and the wording on the federal spending power. In these circumstances, it is literally impossible for the House to give its opinion. It is impossible for the House to give its approval or disapproval to the motion.
I referred briefly to my experience in the constitutional process. It has always been as a member of a Legislative Assembly, obviously not as one of the select 11 who meet behind closed doors and apparently decide on these things. I must confess to a degree of frustration with the constitutional process, which I do want to talk about before I get into the substance of the issues in front of us.
Canada has had a Constitution since 1867, which it has always had enormous difficulty in changing. Our founding fathers took a long time to arrive at the agreement known as the British North America Act of 1867. We all studied the debates in 1864 and 1865, the discussions in Upper Canada throughout the 1850s, the bringing together of a consensus that was finally arrived at in 1867. It is fair to say there was very significant difference among those individuals as to what exactly they had agreed upon. It is fair to say that the Privy Council in London until 1950 or later, and after that the Supreme Court of Canada, spent a considerable amount of time telling Canadians what it is that the Constitution means.
There is no getting around that role for a court. It is fair to say the British court over a period of many years interpreted the Constitution in a very decentralized manner. They gave a great deal of power to the provinces and recognized the property and civil rights sections of section 91 as having considerable tenacity and considerable holding power against the strength of the work of the federal government. All that was shot to hell by the Second World War when, by virtue of the crisis which emerged in Canadian society as it did in every western society, it became clear that a totally decentralized approach to these questions would not work.
As a result, many of our institutions were profoundly centralized and our federal-provincial relationships have reflected to some extent that centralization, and then the subsequent decentralization which has again emerged as a theme, I think it is fair to say, in the 1960s and 1970s and now in the 1980s.
It is one of the key problems in our constitutional life that we have had tremendous difficulty in reforming the Constitution. I do not know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I personally do not think it is such a terrible thing if constitutions are relatively hard to change. There are a lot of countries that have a lot of constitutions and I perhaps can tell the Legislature what Father Bob Ogle said to us in the middle of what was, for a caucus, a series of exchanges which did not have too many humorous points.
Many Canadians are coming to know Father Ogle because of this marvellous book he has written about his life. He is suffering from cancer and has written his autobiography. He is travelling across the country talking about his life. Bob Ogle is quite a wonderful man with a unique sense of humour and understands a great deal about life and politics that I know is contained in his new book. Bob Ogle said, "The reason I cannot get too upset about all this is that I spent a lot of my time working in countries where you wake up in the morning and you have one constitution, you go to bed at night and you have another constitution, and you wake up the next morning and you have a third constitution." He said, "I am not so sure it is so terrible that we have a Constitution that is tough to change."
The fact of the matter is we do have a Constitution that has proven very resistant to change. We have some aspects of our Constitution that were obviously most difficult to face up to. First, up until very recently, up until 1982, we did not have the ability in Canada to amend our own Constitution. Whenever an amendment took place, it was almost like a kind of immaculate conception. One did not quite know how it got there. It would be passed miraculously by the House of Commons in England and it would be incorporated into the Canadian Constitution.
For example, we made an amendment with respect to unemployment insurance some 35 years ago, which was then contained, but we did not have the ability to patriate. We did not have our own Constitution. It was a product of the British Parliament. We needed to patriate it and we needed to find a way to establish an amending formula. With the election of Mr. Trudeau as the Prime Minister, it became crucial to respond to his particular agenda with respect to a Charter of Rights, language rights and other questions which preoccupied the nation and preoccupied Premiers' conferences for a very long time.
The process that has been worked out is a very poor process. I think we as a House and the Premier ought to reflect on this for a moment. The notion that there is a process of national reconciliation and bonding when 11 people get together in a room and come up with an agreement which none of the rest of Canadians have ever even seen, or seen as what might emerge from that agreement, is quite bizarre. It is not a process of national reconciliation and bonding; it is a process of trading and a process of negotiation between 11 people who have no profound mandate to negotiate anything.
If I may refer back to the earlier period, one of the enormous frustrations I felt as a member of parliament at that time was that, first of all, we were presented with a unilateral decision by the Trudeau cabinet with respect to what should happen. We then had to respond to that and try to improve it, which we did for several months. The federal government then came in with another proposal, which was a refinement of that proposal, all the time bargaining with the provinces as to what would take place. After a series of crises which everybody is aware of, that was then referred to the Supreme Court, which said it was legal but it was not necessarily 100 per cent politically correct, so there were some constitutional questions raised about it. There was then another Premiers' conference.
If I may say so, and I do not mean to single out the piety or the reverence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) or indeed that of the Premier, but to describe the kitchen-table conversations between Roy Romanow and Jean Chrétien and Roy McMurtry as somehow equivalent to the federalist papers and the creation of the federal Constitution of the United States between 1776 and 1787 is absurd.
Something was bargained which was ultimately accepted because it was better than anything else that could be arrived at. I do not think it is the greatest product in the world. There are a lot of problems with it, and I think the degree of flexibility that is reflected in it is important, but let us not elevate it to the status of the highest kinds of expressions of nationhood. We have not yet reached that. We have not yet reached that, in my view, because the process which we have established is so inadequate.
The reason the process is inadequate is because we have a federal state in which there are a number of parties that have powers they will not give up. So a number of distinguished academics and other people, both inside and outside the political process, ask: "Why don't we have a constitutional convention? Why don't we get back to having the best minds in the country," whoever they might be, Lord only knows, "get together and work out what would be the best possible Constitution?"
That is not on. That is not in the cards. That is not part of the picture, for the simple reason, of course, and quite naturally and quite understandably, that we have not simply a Constitution as an abstract document, but that we have governments with powers and governments do not like to give up powers. Governments do not like to bargain away powers. They do not like to give anything up, so the people who basically determine what the Constitution will look like are not the people, they are governments that are bargaining with one another with respect to their powers.
That is what we are dealing with. We are dealing with a process which is, I would suggest, very imperfect, very irreverent, very practical, and which one hopes may in its own way express in some senses the realities of Canada, but to describe it in the language which has been attributed to it strikes me as quite bizarre. What we are looking at is a process which is there but which has its frustrations; and I must say, as a member of this Legislature, I feel more than a little sense of being asked to do something that is totally unrealistic.
We are being asked to debate now an agreement which has not yet been reached and has not yet been signed. Similarly, the Premiers are being asked to sign a document whose consequences -- and I will get into this in a moment -- I would respectfully suggest they do not comprehend. If somebody tells me they do actually understand all the implications of what they are signing, I will go through that and I will have some questions to raise about how that could be possible.
We have a process that involves governments and to some extent the House of Commons, although not very much because basically it involves governments. It involves Premiers; it does not involve people. Those questions which affect the powers of government versus people always are settled against the people.
If I can give the one, most real example, what has been the agreement with respect to the native people? Nothing. Who was speaking for the native people? No one. What is their position at the table? Nowhere.
Don Getty's triple-E Senate idea -- I mean, talk about a bird that won't fly -- that is going to be the top priority for the next two or three years. Why? Because that was the price to get Premier Getty to go along with an agreement which we know, because of all the things he was saying, he would not agree to.
If you don't got leverage, you don't get in the door. So let us not talk about national reconciliation and bonding. Let us talk about basically what went on, what is there and what the reality of it is and the inadequacies of it, so that we can in some way try to address them in how we approach it in the future.
I talked about the constitutional process between 1980 and 1982. I do not think it was a great process. It was certainly divisive for the country. Nevertheless, it did produce patriation with a charter. I have some questions about the way in which the charter is being interpreted and the impact it is having on our society. I will be glad to discuss those on another occasion but I do not think I need to go into them here.
We have a "notwithstanding" clause that -- I confess to having changed my mind -- I had some doubts about when it was arrived at, but I see with interest that the only person now who seems to think we should get rid of the "notwithstanding" clause is John Turner, for reasons I cannot understand. There are a lot of things about John Turner that I cannot understand and that is one of them. I cannot understand that one. Why would he want to get rid of that degree of flexibility in a charter that is increasingly becoming inflexible and giving judges extraordinary legislative power vis-à-vis the abilities of legislators to do their job on behalf of the people of their jurisdictions?
As we all know, the result of the trade -- not the bonding but the trade -- that took place the night they arrived at the way in which they would get most of the Premiers on board was that Quebec was left out of that part of the agreement. When I say "left out," let us not pretend that Quebec suddenly stopped being a part of Canada or that it did not continue to have a real existence in terms of its laws and the fact it elected members of the Canadian House of Commons and the people were there and participating, but Quebec was not a signatory to that act of patriation and to the Canada act of 1982 as it became. I think a number of people felt there was a sense that the process had not come to fruition as long as that was the case.
I might also say that my own agenda -- we all have our personal views of the Constitution; there are as many views on it as there are people -- was that it was not simply that Quebec was outside but it was also that we did not have a preamble that reflected the multicultural nature of the country, and most important -- I want to come back to this point again -- it did not touch on the question of the rights and position of our first citizens, the people who were here before the European settlement took place. If we ask, "What is the great challenge to our country in the next time?" I believe very strongly it is somehow to reconcile the culture of the majority with the culture of the minority; by that I mean our aboriginal people.
We have completely failed as an industrial society to come to terms with the meaning of the historic meeting of cultures that took place some 300 or 400 years ago and that has consistently taken place to the disadvantage of our native people. If we do not come to terms with that as a society, what will happen? It is very hard to say because, as a minority, people do not have a lot of leverage and they do not have a lot of power. But we will be spiritually the poorer, as a culture and as an industrial society, for having exploited people but not allowed them to feel their home was still theirs and this was the country, the land that was still theirs, in which they could simply be themselves.
There is no mention of that in our Constitution. I find that offensive as a Canadian. I do not feel adequately represented when that is left out of our Constitution. I think there a lot of other people who feel the same way. More important than being left out of the Constitution is that we still have the very practical problems we are all aware of that we have not yet even begun to address.
To get Quebec into this Canada act and into this process there had to be an agreement that was acceptable to the government of Quebec. That was obviously difficult to do as long as the Parti Québecois was the government of Quebec because, to put it in the nicest way I can, of the extraordinary ambivalence of the Parti Québecois with respect to the Canadian nation, the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian federation. I put it no more strongly than that.
So, with the election of Mr. Bourassa, we went back to the Mr. Bourassa who, after all, signed the Victoria agreement in 1971. We thought we had an agreement then and he changed his mind. This time he says he is not going to change his mind. I do not mean any disrespect to Mr. Bourassa. Any professional in this business looks at his career and says, "Holy smokes, how did he do it?"
Mr. Rae: Next to Nixon -- maybe the member would compare them slightly, in his own way -- but not even that.
Mr. McClellan: It is his hairdresser.
Mr. Rae: It is his hairdresser.
Mr. Foulds: "Holy smokes" is a particularly appropriate phrase.
Mr. Rae: That is right.
The fact is that with Mr. Bourassa there, the feeling was that we had a chance to do it. To be charitable to Mr. Mulroney, who has had his own difficulties with his shoes and all the rest of it -- it occurred to me, Mr. Speaker, that I ought to share this with you. Brian Mulroney will be the first Prime Minister in Canadian history to have more loafers in his closet than in his cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: That is John Turner's joke, but I will let you pick it up.
Mr. Rae: No, it is not.
To return to what is at stake here, I think Mr. Mulroney is sincere on this question. I think there was a sincere feeling, and I would say the same about the Premier, I think there was a sincere feeling that if a formula could be found that would allow Quebec to be a full signatory of the Constitution and to be involved in this continuing Canadian road show of constitutional reform, which has now been built into the Constitution, God help us, that would be a good thing for Canada. I fully endorse that and I think our party fully endorses that idea. We are fully in favour of the efforts that have been made to bring that about.
I have some questions about the agreement that was arrived at and I have not heard any answers to them from the Premier. I do not want to be too critical, but I must confess I was expecting something a little meatier when I came in here today in terms of answers to the questions that have already been raised by both the Leader of the Opposition and myself with respect to these changes in the Constitution.
We have not heard very much from the Premier about them. I think he is expecting, as he said publicly -- and we can rely on only what he said publicly -- that there will be an agreement on June 2 and that once that agreement has been reached, then there will be time to sell it across the country in various ways and to explain to people what it might or might not mean.
I have some questions. I am going to go through the document which has been signed. I have done a little bit of reading and I have gone back to my constitutional law texts. I see some lawyers smiling. We all remember those exams with such joy. I have even resurrected some of my old files and notes from the earlier constitutional debate which I had put in a filing cabinet, and I have some questions for the Premier. It is not a hat I particularly enjoy wearing, because I must confess I find the sense of dealing with air hard. Even for a New Democrat, that is hard sometimes. I would like to have a deeper sense of what is involved.
Let me say that I did receive one brief briefing from the Attorney General the Friday after the Thursday meeting. I was travelling in my car on Thursday night. I got a call in the car saying: "It is the Queen's Park operator. The Attorney General wants to talk to you." Then a bright young executive assistant said, "The Attorney General wants to talk to you tomorrow morning to give you a briefing on the agreement which has just been arrived at." I thought, "This is great."
He brought in the agreement. He had the communiqué and we sat down and discussed it. The Attorney General was a teacher of mine. He taught me a course in labour law -- which I quickly forgot -- when I was in law school. We go back a long way. We sat down and we went over some of the basic things you do when you go over an agreement. We went over each section, and I kept on asking him, "What does this mean?" He said, "I do not know." I must confess I was rather curious as to what the process was by which this agreement was arrived at.
Having shared that with members, let me just go over it. Let us read through it. I hope not to take too long, but I did want to take the time, because this may be the only opportunity I get to raise these questions. I think they need to be raised.
Under "Quebec's Distinct Society," paragraph 1 begins: "The Constitution of Canada shall be interpreted" -- first of all, I do not know where this goes in the document. We have a Constitution which has a charter at the beginning and then the rest of the British North America Act follows. I do not know whether this section on the distinct society goes at the beginning or in the middle; I do not know whether it goes before the charter or after the charter; in fact, I do not know what its relationship to the charter is. Nobody has told me. The Attorney General was not able to say and the Premier has not told us today.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: You never asked.
Mr. Rae: If the Premier says, "Ask," fine, I am asking. That is why I am here to speak to him. I did not get an answer when he rose to speak. The question then becomes:
"(1) The Constitution of Canada shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with:
"(a) the recognition that the existence of French-speaking Canada, centred in but not limited to Quebec, and English-speaking Canada, concentrated outside Quebec but also present in Quebec, constitutes a fundamental characteristic of Canada; and
"(b) the recognition that Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society.
"(2) Parliament and the provincial legislatures, in the exercise of their respective powers, are committed to preserving the fundamental characteristic of Canada referred to in paragraph (1)(a).
"(3) The role of the Legislature and government of Quebec to preserve and promote the distinct identity of Quebec referred to in paragraph (1)(b) is affirmed."
I think, in its own way, all of that is true. It is very hard for anybody to take exception to that as a partial description of how we understand Canada, yes; and as an acceptance of the fact that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada, as a sociological fact and as a fact of life about the history of our country and the reality of Quebec society, of course.
Les chances que le Québec soit une société distincte, bien sûr. Il n'y a personne à mon avis qui pourrait avoir une objection aux principes très simples et très directs que le Québec représente une société et que la société québécoise est une société unique au Canada.
C'est une expression à la réalité canadienne que j'accepte; que nous acceptons tous dans le Parti. Même dans la résolution que nous avons passée à notre convention en 1961, nous avons reconnu la spécificité du Québec, la réalité distincte du Québec. Nous l'avons mentionné dans les années 60 et 70, et nous l'avons encore mentionné dans notre convention à Montréal, au Québec, il y a quelques semaines.
Naturellement, nous reconnaissons tous que le Québec est une société distincte, mais je dois dire au même temps que mentionner quelque chose dans un document constitutionnel n'aide pas nécessairement si on ne dit pas exactement ce que ça veut dire. Quels sont les conséquences spécifiques de cette reconnaissance?
What are the specific consequences of this, with respect to the charter? Just so my remarks are not misunderstood, either in English or in French, let me say that I do not believe the Premiers could agree on what relationship should exist between this and the charter. I would suspect that if the Premiers were to sit down with each other and say, "What should the relationship between this and the charter be?" there would be no agreement. Instead of saying, "We cannot agree, and since we cannot agree on what it means, we are not going to put it in," the decision is made that, "We will put it in and we will let the judges decide."
There is nothing shameful in admitting that, but let us admit that is what is being done. Let us admit that in this particular instance that is precisely what is being done. There is a profound ambiguity here, which one can only assume is intentional on the part of the drafters.
Now, we all deal in words. All of us are politicians. We have all made agreements. I am thinking of some -- obviously, in my mind I think of one or two all the time. But the fact of the matter is, when we want to be ambiguous, we usually know among ourselves that is what we are being, and if we are being ambiguous, and I am looking at a master, let us at least have the courage, a certain kind of courage -- not big-C big courage, but little, tiny courage -- to admit that is what is being done here.
I think we owe it to ourselves to say that. The people of Quebec have been through and are going through a continuing debate on the question of language. The introduction of the charter and its interpretation has had an impact on Quebec society which has caused enormous tension.
We in our own party have discussed this and have tried to find ways of resolving and reconciling. I think one should at least admit that is what is being done here. I would like to see somebody come out of this process and say, "Look, there's a problem, and our way of trying to solve this problem is to say we want the courts to try to work out this question of balance."
I would personally feel happier. Mr Broadbent has said he thinks that if we can add some extra wording which makes clear what we mean by the distinct identity of Quebec with respect to a French-speaking majority and an English-speaking minority and if that particular definition of Quebec can be acceptable and accepted within the document, it might make the act of interpretation a little easier.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: What does Jean-Paul say?
Mr. Rae: The House leader says, "What does Jean-Paul say?" referring to Mr. Harney. All I want to say is, I do not find it odd, having been through what I went through as a lowly private member in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and having seen my party and every other party going in every which direction in terms of how people felt on a number of these questions. I do not find it strange, and I might say I do not find it the least bit threatening.
In his wisdom, the House leader might want to feel the same way when he considers the number of members of the Chrétien team, of which he was such a superb team player, now playing on very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the question of the Constitution. I would have thought that thought might have crossed his mind. Is the Treasurer telling us that Carl Goldenberg has not talked to him at all and expressed some views as to how he feels? Is he saying that all those people who are Liberals who are slightly unhappy have not picked up the phone and said --
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I have defended inconsistency longer than you have been alive.
Mr. Rae: I want to make sure the record gets that. The Treasurer said he was defending inconsistency long before I was alive. I am not -
Hon. Mr. Nixon: We are not glassy-eyed, lockstep socialists.
Mr. Rae: All I am saying is that we should not be surprised or intimidated or worried by the fact we are having something called a debate about a constitution and that people feel differently about it. The notion that you can have unanimity because 11 people got together in a locker room on Meech Lake and decided what was best for the country and that there is now going to be some debate about it -- there is no shame in that. There is no disgrace in that. I think it is a sign of national health, rather than anything else.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I couldn't have said it better myself.
Mr. Rae: Thank you very much.
With respect to immigration, which is the second part of the agreement, what I want to be so bold as to suggest is that again we have to see the language of what is being agreed upon, because this is a very long clause. I will not read it out, it is a full page. It would be a bizarre exercise in constitution-making if administrative agreements between governments were to be enshrined in a constitution as a basic constitutional principle.
Let me just ask this: Is it seriously suggested -- and I do not know, because I have not seen the agreement, and I am not being negative or cute about it, I very much think an agreement that includes Quebec and gets Quebec into the Constitution is in the national interest. It is in that spirit that these remarks are intended. But if, for example, we are really suggesting that the Constitution itself should somehow crystallize for all time various administrative selection procedures which are worked out between governments as to who comes into Canada, where they first go, what happens, and all the rest of that, that is an absurdity. That is already a problem with the existing Constitution. Always, one of the problems in the act of making a constitution is that those who are making the constitution attempt to entrench or crystallize for all time arrangements or ideas that really have validity not for all time but that are very temporal and very limited.
I would suggest that it is important and it is okay, and I have no problem with the idea that we should give some control to the government of Quebec. Because of the question of language and the question of the integration and the integrity of Quebec's society, one of the aspects of that distinctness is that Quebec should have some control over the question of immigration. That principle is fine, but the notion that in the wording of our Constitution we would incorporate a particular administrative agreement between two governments and say, "This is the Constitution of Canada which is emboldened for all time," I think is a bit absurd. All I can say is, I have not seen the agreement so I cannot comment on it any further than that.
I have no problem with the section on the Supreme Court. If Eugene Forsey finds an ambiguity, who am I to say he is wrong? We have Old Footnotes Forsey, as we used to call him in law school, the expert on such detail and such a distinguished historian and indeed friend of mine as of many New Democrats and democratic socialists across the country. If there are ambiguities there, and they may be there, I do not know what they might be. But the principle that the Supreme Court's existence should be entrenched in our Constitution and that there are three judges on it who are qualified at the civil bar strikes me as a good idea and something that makes perfect sense.
The idea that there should be a consultative process to appointments to the Supreme Court strikes me as a good idea as well, and we look forward to hearing from the Attorney General as to how he intends those judicial appointments to be made; not that anybody here is looking for a job at this point, but I just thought I might state that.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: But you may be soon.
Mr. Rae: There is only one lawyer here anyway; that is me, and I do not want to go.
"Spending power: Stipulate that Canada must provide reasonable compensation to any province that does not participate in a future national shared-cost program in an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction if that province undertakes its own initiative or programs compatible with national objectives."
This is the one that has caused so much of the controversy and indeed so much uncertainty. I want to talk a bit about the spending power, because I think there has been quite a lot of misunderstanding about what it is all about.
With due respect, I say to the Leader of the Opposition there are a great many experts who have said a number of things about the spending power recently that I think are quite strange, with great respect to their expertise. For example, the argument that by virtue of this clause alone the federal government is somehow totally denuding itself of its ability to respond to our national problems is just factually and profoundly incorrect and a complete misrepresentation of the nature of our political life and the nature of our constitutional life. I want to talk about that because I feel quite strongly about it, and I also feel it is important that the wording should make sense. I cannot comment on the wording because I have not seen it, but I do want to comment on the so-called debate about the spending power.
The Constitution that has been given to us, not the one entirely that we made but the one that has been interpreted for us by the courts and that has been drafted by our forefathers, is a Constitution that prior to the passage of the Charter was really about one thing, and that was about whether something was in an area of provincial or federal jurisdiction. There are many old jokes over that subject, which I will not tell. I will if I really need to, but I do not think I need to. I have told enough already.
Mr. Davis: Tell, tell, tell.
Mr. Rae: No, I will not. It is fair to say that the question of whether something is a federal or provincial jurisdiction is the stuff of which Canadian constitutional law is basically made. That is what our constitutional law has been all about. The powers enumerated in sections 91 and 92 have been much litigated and much discussed. There has been much controversy and they are the subject of great national preoccupation.
Let me also point out to those people who regard this clause as the beginning of the end of Canada, as it has been described by some rather exaggerated critics, that the amended Constitution passed in 1982 contains some very specific references to the principle of equalization. It talks very directly about the role of the federal government with respect to equalization.
The question of equalization and the equalization of opportunity and services across the country is something that is entrenched in the Constitution and is an integral part of our national life. Whether it is being met adequately is not a question for the Constitution. It is a matter of politics and political persuasion, not a matter that is going to be settled by constitutions.
While I am making that point, I might say that sometimes we try to put far too much in constitutions. We expect far too much of them and expect they will somehow reflect all the laws, all the aspirations and all that there is to be done. I think that is also a mistake. Sometimes we should spend far more time in this country debating substance in terms of services -- I am going to close on that theme -- and much less time talking about the abstractions and the legal arrangements.
Perhaps a sociologist will have something to say about the domination of lawyers in politics and how that explains the extraordinary amount of time we spend discussing the form in which things are done rather than the things themselves, which I think is a mistake.
Before we understand the spending power, we have to understand the nature of the relationship between federal and provincial governments. We have to understand that the reality of the Constitution was changed permanently by the Depression and the Second World War, by the fact that many provinces were basically flat broke as a result of the Depression in the 1930s and by the fact that the federal government, even though it did not have powers prior to the Second World War, assumed many of those economic powers during the war. There was for a long time such an exclusive occupation of the taxation field and of so much of the spending field by the federal government that when the war was over, it became very difficult for the provinces to reassert themselves and reinsert themselves as partners in Confederation. That is what much of the negotiation during the 1950s, early 1960s and through the 1960s was all about.
The federal government has powers with respect to banking and currency, with respect to trade and commerce and with respect to the economy generally that are very extensive, that are not affected in any way by this agreement and that are not touched by this agreement. I think it would be a mistake for people to assert that somehow something is being dramatically taken away from the federal government that is really there. I want to talk about that.
What is the spending power? The spending power is different from the legislative power of governments. Perhaps I can illustrate it like this: Sections 91 and 92 give very specific powers to each level of government, but they do so with respect to legislation, so the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to legislating in the area of education. But we have governments that also have the capacity, as sovereign governments, to lend and to spend money.
Perhaps I can give the members an example. Ontario spends money on foreign aid; we do not have any jurisdiction in the field of foreign affairs and we do not have jurisdiction in the field of external trade, but nevertheless we spend, quite appropriately in my view. The most dramatic use of the federal spending power, as everybody in this House knows, has been the decision by various federal governments, in response to pressures and feelings from across the country and indeed from many provincial governments, that it would be appropriate and right for them, because of their overall national federal responsibilities, to simply spend money and, by spending money, to thereby affect policy.
Theoretically, that is what the spending power is all about. How has it been used? It has been used for hospital insurance; it has been used for the Canada Pension Plan; it has been used for medicare; it has been used for established programs with respect to higher education. That is principally how the spending power has been used.
It has also been used by the federal government to buy companies, to be involved in various aspects of trade and commerce within a province, to run businesses. Just as Ontario is involved in certain businesses, so too is the federal government. But that is the principal use and that is the principal area of controversy.
The federal government uses this spending power in response to political pressure. It is important to notice and to recognize that since the introduction of medicare, the federal government has not used the spending power in a dramatic or substantial way to get a new national program off the ground.
Prime Minister Trudeau had, I gather, some elliptical comments to make with respect to the Constitution which were quoted in the Toronto Star, which -- well, I will let it go. Anyway, when Mr. Trudeau came to town, he made a very elliptical comment about what might or might not be in the agreement.
It is interesting that when Mr. Trudeau was the Prime Minister -- I am relying on Peter Hogg's book on constitutional law, which is a very fine book, for this information. Mr. Hogg, who is an Australian originally, is one of the finest constitutional lawyers working today in Canada, teaching at Osgoode Hall law school. I am quoting from Peter Hogg, page 121, on the federal-provincial financial arrangements, the section entitled "Conditional Federal Grants." Mr. Hogg says: "The federal government has in recent years shown sensitivity to the criticism that federal conditional grants amount, in substance, to federal dictation of provincial spending priorities."
I might just say, by way of parenthesis, we will all recall that John Robarts referred to medicare as a machiavellian scheme. He referred to medicare as a machiavellian scheme almost the way the Premier now feels about car insurance. It is similar, because he saw it as a scheme being foisted on the province by means of this use of the federal spending power.
To go back to Peter Hogg: "In a 1969" -- remember, a year after Trudeaumania took hold of the country -- "federal working paper, it was proposed, not as definite federal policy but as a suggestion for discussion, that for the future shared-cost programs should be subject to two requirements.
"First, a shared-cost program within provincial legislative jurisdiction should be established only after a broad national consensus in favour of the program has been demonstrated to exist. This would be ascertained by prior submission of a federal proposal to provincial Legislatures.
"Second," -- and I am quoting now from the document which is the Trudeau document -- "the decision of a provincial Legislature to exercise its constitutional right not to participate in any program, even given a national consensus, should not result in a fiscal penalty being imposed on the people of the province."
These two points may probably be regarded as current federal policies. Certainly, since 1969 there have been no new programs which have violated these precepts.
That is a very important assertion. Without reverting to the piety and portentousness of which I was critical at the beginning of my remarks, let us talk turkey here. Let us talk reality. No federal government today, or in the foreseeable future in a modern Canada, is going to be able to impose a shared-cost program on provinces across the country without the participation and approval of those provinces. That is not because of this wording; that is not because of this constitutional wording. It is not because of anything that any one of us is saying. It is because that is the reality of Canada today. I think it is worth our simply reflecting on that fact. What is more, the use of the federal spending power has always reflected that.
Let us look at the Canada assistance plan. The Canada assistance plan is negotiated with every province. It is not the same across the country. There is a federal plan that sets out certain parameters and requirements, but it is not the same in Prince Edward Island as it is in Ontario. The agreement that is negotiated with each province is different.
The leader of the Conservative Party said he wanted to see that education would be equal across the country. I wish him a lot of luck, in terms of the reality of modern Canada, in going into Quebec and having a federal government say to the people of Quebec: "We want to help you with your education. In fact, we want to bring you up to the national standard and this is how you are going to do it." It is not going to happen. Cela ne va pas arriver.
Le gouvemement fédéral n'a pas le pouvoir, n'a pas la capacité, d'entrer dans une province et lui dicter comment elle va arranger les affaires dans sa propre juridiction. Cela ne va pas se passer. Le Parti conservateur le sait; dans son coeur, il le sait très bien. Le Parti libéral le sait, et nous le savons aussi.
Je dois dire que j'ai entendu beaucoup de paroles, même par M. Trudeau, disant, "Eh bien, peut-être que le pouvoir est changé dans cette situation." Il faut reconnaître, quand M. Trudeau était le Premier ministre, il a reconnu exactement ce problème. Il l'a reconnu dans le document de 1969, et c'est devenu la politique fédérale.
What is being suggested, if I understand what is being suggested, strikes me as sound. It strikes me as sound because what we are really saying is that when it comes to the federal government in the future, in an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, engaging in a national program, negotiated presumably with all the provinces, when that happens, if a province says it will not participate, that province has a right to fiscal compensation, but this even goes stronger. It says you will only get the compensation provided you are undertaking a program that is compatible with national objectives.
The question is, what does "national objectives" mean?
La question est exactement, ce que veut dire le document? Cela est le désaccord ou le désagrément entre M. Rémillard et le Procureur général (M. Scott) et entre le Premier de l'Ontario, comme je l'ai entendu hier, et les autres qui ont dit que si la province veut dépenser l'argent sur n'importe quoi, cela veut dire que nous allons toujours recevoir l'argent du gouvernement fédéral. A nous, cela n'est pas acceptable. That is not acceptable to us.
As I have heard Mr. Pawley, that is not acceptable to him. We in this room all know that there must have been a considerable amount of time spent on discussing whether the word should be "criteria" or whether the word should be "standards" or whether it should be "objectives," How is it that these little words like "initiatives" or "programs," all these words, have meanings? Words are all lawyers deal with. That is all the Constitution is. It is just words, and each word has a connotation.
I want the Premier to know that as far as I am concerned and as far as my party is concerned, we want him to be perfectly clear when going into these discussions on June 2 as to what we think that means. I do not know whether a judge two years from now is going to agree with me or not; probably not with my luck. I do not know -- I have no way of knowing -- I am just saying, what do I think it means? I think, when you talk about national objectives, the national objectives refer to the programs or initiatives that are being undertaken by the federal government according to a national federal-provincial program with respect to a given area.
To be blunt about it, to use the colloquial expression, you cannot get money for day care and spend it on roads. You will only get money equivalent on day care if you can be shown to be establishing a program on day care that is compatible with the national objective with respect to day care.
How that is worked out, whether every province will have exactly the same kind of day care program -- I am a realist before everything else, and more than anything else, my realism tells me that it is not going to be possible in the modern Confederation for the Ottawa government to tell every province exactly how it is going to perform and carry out its day care programs.
As far as I am concerned, I do not want that. I do not think it is sound. I do not think it is where social policy is best made. I do not think it is best made by five people in Ottawa telling everybody how he or she ought to run day care. I think we ought to be able to work out a way of having national programs with some degree of flexibility and some understanding.
With respect to the reality of Quebec today, let us not forget that the Quebec pension plan was established as a result of the flexibility built into the use of the spending power. I might also add that it is possible, under the arrangements with respect to pensions, for Ontario to have its own pension plan and to opt out of the Canada pension plan, if that is what it decides to do. I do not find that particularly offensive. It would certainly cause a bit of a national debate, but I do not see anything wrong in having that discussion between provinces and the federal government.
Speaking as a democratic socialist here, I think our party's own philosophy, as I understand it and have felt it across the country, really has quite dramatically evolved to a clearer understanding. If I may say so, my thinking on this has really changed as a result of the constitutional debate that we had in 1980-81.
I went into the House as a young member -- I am still very young, but as an even younger member than I am now -- with, I suppose, a traditional kind of centralizing, Frank Scott view of the Constitution, and I must say my views have changed. I do not think it is that simple any more.
The power of the provincial governments is not necessarily a reactionary power. We live in a pluralist society. We live in a pluralist Confederation. I can tell members that, as somebody who is delighted to be doing the job he is doing now, I think it is important that we have the flexibility to make our progress and our gains and to win our victories at the provincial level in terms of improving the quality of programs within a country that has national objectives and programs and within a country in which the federal government sets standards and sets out ways in which it thinks things should be done and has the capacity to go into a province and say, "Look, your programs really are not doing what they are doing in other provinces." There needs to be that co-operation.
The idea that you can have a unitary kind of answer and that there can be a centralist answer to all these questions is naïve. It does not recognize what the country has become. It does not recognize the diversity that exists and it does not recognize the reality that federalism really does give us a flexibility in social terms, of which as a socialist, I can tell members, I fully intend to take advantage and I think we should be taking advantage in terms of moving the province ahead.
On day care, I say to the Premier that we do not need to wait for the feds. We can have the best system possible in this province and we can move on it. Yes, we need a national program too, but we do not have to wait around for the federal government to act. We can do it ourselves, and that is what we think we should be doing.
I am taking time and I am sorry. This is the longest speech I have given in a long time, but as I say, I will not necessarily get this opportunity again. I do not know, maybe I will. Maybe I will give the same one again. I will wrap it up and do it tomorrow, if members like.
I have some real problems with the amending formula. I said earlier that I cannot quite understand how certain people came to this agreement. I want to be charitable to everybody concerned, but I would like to hear an explanation as to how it is that Premier Getty changed the amending formula with respect to the Senate and thought he had won a victory.
I have thought about it. I do not stay up nights worrying about these questions, but I must confess I do sometimes reflect on this and how an amending formula that now requires unanimity with respect to federal institutions is a win or a plus for those provinces that are desperate to have triple-E or triple-A or triple-O, whatever it may be, Senate reform. I do not understand that.
We had too much rigidity in the old amending formula with respect to Senate reform. I can remember discussing this one day with Senator Roblin, the former leader of the Conservative Party in Manitoba, who said the reason he was opposed to the Constitution as it was then being introduced was that the amending formula was so rigid that we would never see Senate reform, which was something he very strongly believed in. I would have thought he would be quite happy where he was but he apparently somehow wanted it amended or reformed in some way.
To have a requirement of unanimity as a solution to this I do not understand. I do not get it. Maybe I am missing something, but my experience of giving everybody in the world a veto is that it makes things harder to get rather than easier to get. If either I am wrong or I missed the boat on this one I would like to hear about it, but I think it does not add up.
The fact that the federal government has now said Senate reform is on the top of the agenda may be -- but, my goodness, Senate reform has been on the top -- what is the name of the federal Justice minister, the guy who had the 23 doctorates?
Mrs. Grier: Mark MacGuigan.
Mr. Grossman: He taught me constitutional law.
Mr. Rae: That explains the member's position today. Now I understand his speech. The Leader of the Opposition has just told me that Dr. MacGuigan taught him constitutional law. Now it is all clear to me; now I understand.
When he was the Minister of Justice he had many consultative papers on Senate reform. This question is an old friend. To say that it is going to be at the top of the agenda for the next two years -- I could be wrong. It may be that Senate reform will happen. It may be that there is some other agreement that was arrived at that is not written down here which, again, with a nudge or a wink or some sort of deal -- I do not know. I have no way of knowing that.
All I can tell the members is that if I were looking at this as a horse player from the outside, I would not put the mortgage down on Senate reform for quite a while. It seems to me that when you build in an amending formula that makes it tougher to get agreement, you are building in inflexibility and not flexibility.
I might also add while the Premier is listening that, with respect to the introduction of new provinces into Confederation, I think moving them around into the requirement of unanimity is also a mistake. If that can be changed, it should be changed.
The question of the desire, particularly on the part of the Yukon -- we all understand that is now more of a reality in the next generation. I have discussed this question, obviously. If that is going to be a possibility for the 1980s or 1990s or into the 21st century, the way to make it happen is not to make it practically impossible to happen. I would suggest that if we had this amending formula prior to the creation of new provinces after the original four, we might not have had any new provinces. I think that is something that has to be recognized as a problem.
We come to the question of the so-called second round, which again I gather is going to be entrenched in the Constitution. My problem with this is that we are putting a whole lot of stuff into the Constitution that really is an administrative understanding between Premiers as to how things will be worked out. I have some real problems with that.
I have difficulty with Senate reform being the most important question, as opposed to aboriginal rights. I must tell the Premier that if I had to make a choice between aboriginal rights and what to do about the Senate, even having been a lifelong opponent of the Senate I am prepared to leave it be. It is expensive but basically harmless. Senators live well but most of them do not really hurt anybody. I think we ought to leave it like that or get rid of it, if that is possible. Again, I do not attach a lot of hope to abolition given that one has to have 11 premiers agree on that principle.
I say to the Premier in all seriousness that if he comes out of this thing with one win with respect to getting aboriginal rights back on that agenda, that is going to be an area of importance for the people of this province and for the people of Canada.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: That is already in section 41. You know that.
Mr. Rae: I know that. I am not talking about section 41, I am talking about what is on the second round and what is going to be entrenched in the Constitution with respect to the items on the agenda.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: A much better chance with Quebec in.
Mr. Rae: The Premier says, "A much better chance with Quebec in." I hope that is true, but I also say to the Premier that unless that question, the question of the position of our first citizens, is put back higher on the priority list, it will not happen. Why will it not happen? Because of what I discussed at the beginning. If it is simply a question of governments talking about their powers, none of them are prepared to give up those powers with respect to native people.
I must say I am offended when the major objection from Vander Zalm and Devine and Getty with respect to native rights is, "If we put wording in and we do not know exactly what it is going to do and we do not know exactly how it is going to be interpreted, it will not go in."
That is the rule for the native people; but when it comes to Quebec's distinct society I ask the Attorney General of Ontario, "What does it mean?" and he says: "I do not know. I guess the courts will have to decide." I hope this will not be misunderstood, but if that is good enough for Quebec it ought to be good enough for our native people.
I think it is time we recognized that we are never going to have an agreement that everybody understands and that is never going to be litigated. The definition of an agreement is a document that is going to be litigated and disputed, and what we have is a mechanism, through an entrenched Supreme Court, for dealing with some of those questions. I really do believe that we have a historic obligation to come to terms with the civilization of our native people and the spiritual values and the economic and social needs of that community, and that has not been done. We have never done that in our history, and we are not doing it now. I do not think anybody can feel good.
In my response to the Premier's first statement in this House I referred to the fact there were many headlines saying that the last piece was in the constitutional puzzle. I do not feel that. I do not think any of us can go across the whole of this province and sit down on reserves, as the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition and I have done, and talk in ways that are just heart-wrenching about the aspirations and the problems and the sense of the gap between us in terms of the rights and sense of community and the whole need for us to really deal with this historic reconciliation of a real kind -- and we are not there yet.
I say to the Premier, frankly, that Ontario perhaps could say, a little tougher than was said the last time, "If we want to get moving on the Senate, which is yours, let us keep the native peoples question high on the list." I do not see a sign that is being done.
I want to close -- and I say that with sighs of audible relief around the room -- by saying I have not intended my remarks in a destructive way. I have questions to raise about the agreement that was arrived at. I feel very strongly about the process. I do not think we have this question of constitutional reform right in terms of process. I do not think we have figured out nationally how to do it. I do not think this is the right way to proceed. I think there is insufficient discussion. I feel there are very legitimate questions that the Premier himself cannot answer. I went to the same law school he did. None of us has an automatic answer to these questions, and I think it would be appropriate and entirely right for us to have a period of time when a number of people would get together and say, "This is what this means and this is what this means."
There is almost a sense that if you talk about the agreement too much, somehow it will all fly apart. I do not know, that may be true; but I would suggest that if that is true then it is not worth a whole lot, because if it does not withstand some kind of analysis and parsing, careful textual analysis and pulling apart and a sense of what it all means, then we have not done our job. That is what we are paid to do. That is what we are expected to do. We are not expected to simply stand up and say, "Yea, an agreement has been arrived at." If we do not all stand up and say it is wonderful we are somehow stopping the constitutional train.
I went through this once before. I have a lot of questions about what happened the last time. I am not going to not speak my mind this time and not have an opportunity to say we have to think it through carefully and give it some questioning and some thought and say at the same time that, yes, it is important that Quebec be in the Constitution; it is also important that we do it right. I hope the Premier will accept that the thrust of what I am saying is that it should be done right.
Having said all that, let me end where I started; that is, by saying I think to some extent we get all wound up in a ball of wax about stuff that, frankly, is less important than the substance of the programs that are really of importance to our constituents.
Dave Barrett once said to me he did not know anybody in his riding who lost one night's sleep over the Constitution. I must confess that when I heard it that way, I reflected for a moment and thought about all the high thoughts, words and emotions that had been expressed in our caucus over a two-year or three-year period about this question. There is a lot of truth in that.
I think it is important to do it. I think it is important to do it right. I think it is also important for us to remember that the essence, the foundation of what we do, is people. The foundation of what we do is the services and the justice we offer to our citizens -- not the theoretical wording, not the theoretical structures, not the structure of justice which excludes so many people; it is not the Constitution, which is inaccessible in real terms, to millions of Canadians.
I enter into this discussion with a degree of trepidation. I have taken a bit long, because I wanted to get some thoughts off my chest. Having gotten them off my chest, let us get on to some other things.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Nixon, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 5:38 p.m.