L097 - Tue 24 Sep 1996 / Mar 24 Sep 1996
The House met at 1334.
ABSENCE OF SPEAKER
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): I beg to inform the House of the unavoidable absence of the Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Please join me in welcoming the sixth group of pages to serve the 36th Parliament of Ontario. I want to introduce them to you one at a time, and maybe we would show our affection for them at the end. They may just step forward to be recognized:
Candace Bullock, Kenora; James Cameron, Etobicoke-Humber; Kevin Cooke, Lake Nipigon; Jonathan Coutts-Zawadzki, St Andrew-St Patrick; Sarah Dawson, Willowdale; Megan Findlay, Grey-Owen Sound; Natasha Kanerva, Durham-York; Stephen Kingerski, Sudbury; Sarah Kolasky, Parkdale; Alex Lambruschini, Scarborough East; Michael Mali, Bruce; Melissa Morgan, Lincoln; Geoffrey Nelson, Mississauga South; Trevor Nelson, St Catharines-Brock; Lyle Reid, Hastings-Peterborough; Tracy Reynolds, York East; Andrea Robinson, Wilson Heights; Nancy Rumble, Hamilton East; Caitlin Salter MacDonald, Ottawa East; Jeremy Schembri, Durham West; Laura Sisco, Guelph; Eddie Staines, York South; Richard Wiersma, Brant-Haldimand.
How do we show our welcome to the pages?
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: It may be a minor point, but it's a major point to the new page from Sudbury and his family. His name is pronounced Stephen Kingerski, and we welcome him warmly from Sudbury. Thank you.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Next week, the Health Services Restructuring Commission will return to Thunder Bay to render its final verdict on the future of health care services in our community in northwestern Ontario.
It is difficult to articulate in the short time I have today the level of concern and anxiety that has gripped our community since the initial report this past June. In fact, it would be accurate to say that over the course of the summer Thunder Bay residents have been charged with a fury and an anger unmatched in recent memory.
The good news is that the community turned this anger and fear into action in an attempt to show the commission that it simply had got it wrong. Thousands of people responded to this call to arms by phone, fax, letters -- which I have right here -- petitions and at public rallies. I believe they have forced the commission to revisit its initial decision and made it recognize that the people of Thunder Bay will not idly sit by while their health care needs are denied.
The big question is whether the commission will now understand that Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario need more acute, chronic and long-term beds to serve all of northwestern Ontario or that psychiatric services and facilities must be enhanced and assured.
Finally, the Minister of Health must understand that he cannot remove himself from this final decision. His fingerprints are all over the restructuring process, whether it's in Thunder Bay, Sudbury or Toronto.
The people of Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario have spoken loud and clear. On Friday, October 4, we'll find out if the commission and this government have been listening.
DURHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Mr Speaker, I rise today, through you to the House and through the House to the people of Ontario, to express my great dismay and disappointment that this government, in its haste to discredit the education system in Ontario and its haste to paint a picture that is totally untrue and false about an education system that has served all of us and our families well over the last few years, has not found the time to recognize the outstanding achievement of the Durham Board of Education, which has been recognized just recently by an international body for excellence in education.
As a matter of fact, it was announced that it had won an international award. The Carl Bertelsmann Foundation is a German organization that annually seeks to identify outstanding public education systems around the world. The Durham Board of Education was the only North American finalist. It won out over other finalists from Scotland, the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, Switzerland and New Zealand, and all this government can do is cast aspersions. It has no time at all to recognize that there are some wonderful things happening in Ontario under the guise of education. I believe an apology is owed to all of those who work in the education system, and a voice of confidence in and congratulation to the Durham board for winning this wonderful award and putting Ontario on the map from an educational perspective.
Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I rise today to recognize Donovan Bailey, double gold medallist and resident of Halton Centre in the town of Oakville.
This summer Donovan Bailey struck gold, not once but twice, first in the men's 100-metre sprint and then as a member of Canada's four-by-100-metre relay team. In the process, he broke the record for the 100-metre sprint and touched the hearts of millions across the country. This past weekend Donovan was welcomed home by thousands of friends and fellow citizens in an unprecedented display of pride in the accomplishments of this Oakville hero.
Donovan is a role model for all Canadians, but especially our youth. His accomplishments, his attitude and his drive to succeed speak to the potential within all of us to achieve our goals through hard work, commitment and perseverance. I've had the pleasure of meeting Donovan and I can testify he is a genuinely nice person. With Donovan what you see is what you get.
I ask all members present today to join me in congratulating Donovan Bailey not only for his accomplishments at the Olympic Games but for giving all of us something to be proud of. Our children can do no wrong if they adopt people like Donovan as their role models, and that should give all of us much hope for the future.
It is also important to note in the Legislature for the record that Donovan Bailey is undeniably, officially, absolutely, at 9.84 seconds, the fastest man on earth.
DURHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'd like to join my colleague from Sault Ste Marie and also recognize the Durham Board of Education for being named by the Bertelsmann Foundation as the district "that represents the best framework for the desired development of schools." This international prize was set up by the German media giant to promote innovation in the public sector.
The Durham board won out over nominees from six other countries on criteria which included concern for students, pedagogical innovation, testing, quality assurance and parental participation. Congratulations to all the people connected with the Durham board.
Secondly, I'd like to recognize another esteemed member of the education community, the Minister of Education. The minister deserves an A+ for achieving what he set out to do a year ago, which was of course to invent a crisis in the educational system in order to justify certain actions. The minister has successfully met all of the elements necessary to create a crisis.
He has sent out a series of negative messages; he has created confusion, mistrust and cynicism among educational stakeholders in the system who now fully believe that he will circumvent the processes that he created in order to implement slashing the educational budget to fund the 30% tax cut; he has created a crisis of confidence in public education and, finally and most seriously, he has created a scapegoat, the classroom teachers.
Their alienation could not have come at a more inopportune time, the commencement of a new school year. How the minister could be so insensitive and create such discouragement among those who play the most crucial role in education is beyond --
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): The Health Services Restructuring Commission has studied the Sudbury health care system and is now ready to bring down their recommendations. In fact they were ready to make their recommendations today but have now delayed publishing them by one week.
What is the reason for this artificial delay? The people of Sudbury are anxious to know the fate of their health care system. I'll tell you why there's a delay; it's for no other reason than pure political manoeuvring. The Premier is visiting Sudbury this Friday and the spin doctors in his office do not want any negative publicity or any controversy surrounding the Premier's visit; therefore, the report is being delayed until after the Premier visits Sudbury.
We are sceptical about the entire Tory health care agenda, and hospital restructuring is no exception. The Tories have broken a major election promise that they would not cut health care. In fact they've cut $1.3 billion from hospital budgets alone.
Next Monday the commission will be revealing their binding decisions in Sudbury, but guess what? The hospital administrators and the media will be told of their decision before the MPPs and regional council. We have a bigger stake in the outcome of the decision than the Tory spin doctors and we have a right to be there when the announcement is made, not afterwards.
The commission could very well bring down recommendations that are good for the Sudbury health care system, but they are getting off on the wrong foot by treating the local elected representatives unfairly.
ALZHEIMER COFFEE BREAK
Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): Every day millions of people across the country break for coffee. On September 20, 1996, Canadians made their caffeine count by hosting and participating in the Alzheimer Coffee Break in their communities.
I was pleased to be part of the Huron coffee break last Friday. Donations from every cup of coffee poured benefited the Alzheimer Movement of Canada. This organization is committed to research and providing information and support to caregivers.
There are 250,000 Canadians with Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to grow to 750,000 by the year 2030. It is estimated that the cost is approximately $4 billion each year to care for Alzheimer patients.
On September 6 I chaired an historic meeting with the Alzheimer Association of Ontario. It is the government's intent to develop a strategy to deal with patients with Alzheimer's and dementia and their families. Approximately 50 people participated, including patients, caregivers, health professionals and researchers. I am looking forward to the report from the Alzheimer association.
I would like to thank all the volunteers and caregivers who give their support daily to the people with Alzheimer's.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): On Monday, August 26 this year a horrible tragedy occurred on Song Meadoway in the riding of Oriole. My constituent Kim Wong was in the basement of her town house when a runaway gravel truck struck her house, killing her and injuring her two sons. The Wong family and their neighbours in the Meadoway community have been traumatized by this event, and I know that we all give our condolences to the Wong family. Many families, however, especially children, are afraid to go into their basements.
My constituents have asked me to bring this issue before the Legislature and the Minister of Transportation. As MTO is aware, the company that operated the vehicle in question has had more than 500 citations since 1991. My constituents believe, as I do, that if the ministry had better enforced their regulations, this tragedy might have been prevented.
At the very first opportunity I will introduce a petition from hundreds of constituents in the riding of Oriole. We are urging this government and the Ministry of Transportation to view the issue of truck safety inspection more seriously, both through legislation and, more importantly, strict enforcement. The Meadoway community will participate with the Ministry of Transportation when safety issues that affect our community are decided.
I would like to acknowledge the response from the Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto, with assistance from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, for excellent community trauma counselling. Furthermore, MTO responded quickly to the request for timely repairs to the structural damage caused by this accident.
Once again, I know that all members of this House will express their condolences, along with me, to the Wong family for this tragic accident.
DURHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Along with all members of the assembly, I express congratulations to the Durham Board of Education, which won the prestigious Carl Bertelsmann Foundation award for excellence over nominees throughout the world.
Mr Wildman: The response of all members is welcome, because it belies this government's insistent claims that Ontario's public education system is broken. There are 61,000 students and 6,000 staff in the Durham board and they deserve to be recognized for this very high achievement. Instead, the Minister of Education repeatedly denigrates public education in Ontario in an attempt to justify enormous funding cuts that hurt classroom education for all Ontario students.
The Carl Bertelsmann Foundation annually seeks to recognize outstanding public education systems around the world. The Durham board was the only North American finalist and won out over finalists from Scotland, the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary, Switzerland and New Zealand.
The board and its staff deserve credit for this achievement in the face of Conservative cuts and a Minister of Education who continually badmouths the education system.
What's broken with the education system? It's time to stop manufacturing a crisis and acknowledge the successes that our education system has met. It's time to end the war of words with Ontario teachers and with boards of education. Public education in Ontario, properly funded, will produce more champions like the Durham Board of Education.
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I am pleased to announce that on Saturday evening, September 21, 1996, the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake once again bloomed its way into the ranks of Canada's most beautiful towns with populations between 5,000 and 20,000 people. On behalf of the province, I'd like to say congratulations to Lord Mayor Michael Dietsch and all of the town's citizens, not only for winning, but for pulling together as a team. That is what the Communities in Bloom trophy is really all about: combining environmental awareness, landscape originality, heritage preservation and community involvement. I am told that the town now hopes to get ready for the Communities in Bloom international competition. On behalf of the province, I wish them well.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today the 1996-97 Ontario legislative interns: Christine Czapnik, Andrew Hastings, Anthony Jonker, Rina Li, David MacDuff, Christopher McDermott, Annamie Paul and Charles Vincent. Please join me in welcoming our guests.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I wonder if I might ask the unanimous consent of the House for a few moments to pay tribute to the late John White, former member for London South.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the wish of the House? Agreed.
Mr Bob Wood: I rise to pay tribute to the Honourable John Howard White, who passed away on September 5, 1996. He was the member for London South from 1959 to 1975 and the longest-serving MPP for this riding. He served in many capacities: committee chairman, chief government whip and a minister in both the Robarts and Davis governments. He was a major political force in both administrations and was considered a potential successor to Premier Robarts, although when the time came he decided not to run for that position.
In London he was known as an innovator, a promoter of new ideas, a hard worker for his community and, perhaps most important, a champion of the underdog. Our province is the better for John White having been one of us. I know that the hearts of all members of this Legislature reach out to Bea and to his family.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I too have the honour to have the opportunity to rise today to honour John White, the colourful, dedicated and versatile former member for London South. He is remembered and revered in London, the place he made home and the constituency he served with great distinction in this Legislature for 16 years.
First elected in 1959, John White has the distinction of having held more cabinet posts than any other representative from southwestern Ontario, and maybe even in the province, before his retirement in 1975. He served as government whip, Minister of Revenue, Minister of Colleges and Universities, Minister of Industry and Tourism, Treasurer, Minister of Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs and the chair of cabinet for many years.
John White had character, style, humour and dedication. I met him on only one occasion, during the year 1971-72, when he was Minister of Colleges and Universities and I was the personal assistant to the then president of York University, David Slater. Many of you will remember that year as the first major economic crisis which faced our growing university sector. John White was responsible for carrying out the government's limiting of university grants, a policy which was universally decried by administrators, faculty staff and students alike.
His skill, his willingness to listen to critics, to answer their questions and yet to remain firm in his resolve to fulfil his responsibilities to his government and his ministry have remained with me to this day and would, I suggest, provide a role model for many of us here in this place.
John White tackled everything with verve and vigour, with thoughtfulness and skill. His wife, the former Beatrice Ivey, told the Free Press after his death that "He liked to expedite things, to make things happen, but it was never for himself. It was important for him to serve the people."
From John White's service with the Royal Canadian Navy during the war years, his work as a representative in this place, his many positions in cabinet or his later contribution as the president of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, he was, in the very best sense, a public servant. He believed in the ability and the necessity of government to do good things on behalf of the citizens of this province. He is remembered as a faithful constituency representative, being in his riding every week and meeting the needs not only of his own constituents but those of his dear friend and Premier, John Robarts, when the Premier was not able to travel to London as often as he wished.
John White was also a businessperson, having educated himself with a bachelor of arts, a business diploma and a master of arts in economics from the University of Western Ontario. He worked for the Steel Company of Canada, for Canadian Industrial Supply Co Ltd, and in his later years chaired the board of trustees of First Canadian Funds and AngloGibraltar Insurance Group. He was a founder of the Canadian Development Corp.
John White saw no contradiction between his reverence for public service and his involvement in business and industry. He admitted, however, in his characteristic way that he missed the Legislature, confessing he missed "the hoopla, the camaraderie, the arm-twisting and the deal-making."
I extend the most sincere condolences of my leader, the New Democratic Party and this place to Mrs White and her daughters, Martha and Emily. Your family no doubt made many sacrifices so that John White could represent his fellow citizens of London so well and so faithfully as an MPP and as a long-serving cabinet minister. Be assured that his contribution is not forgotten and is gratefully acknowledged here today.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On behalf of the Liberal Party, I extend our condolences to the wife and family of John White, who was a man who served, as has been mentioned, with distinction the people of London South. The fact that he had a number of cabinet posts, a wide variety of cabinet posts, is a clear indication of his understanding of the responsibility and role that government plays and the faith, of course, that Premier Robarts and Premier Davis had in his abilities. He was an individual in politics who was not afraid to stir controversy, who was not afraid to put his views on the line, was not afraid to ruffle feathers even within his own caucus and his own government, and that speaks well for him.
We wonder, I suppose, how people will be viewed once they pass on. He was viewed as a character, and a positive character, in an obituary that was found in the Toronto Star very recently. It has been mentioned that he was a member for 16 years, which is certainly a matter of distinction in itself, a clear indication of the support of the people of London South for him and of the general support that he enjoyed in the London area. It also mentioned he was politically skilful and "regarded by the opposition at Queen's Park" -- and I say this in a very nice sense, because each party must have people in this role -- "as the government's chief hatchet man," the columnists wrote. That really means he was the person in the government who would carry the tough battles in the Legislative Assembly. On the day that happens, members of the other party believe that is something to disagree with. But placing it in perspective, one always admires those who are prepared to carry the tough arguments for the government and to be tough when it's necessary in the House.
Something members would find amusing and something which perhaps has been an age-old circumstance, it says, "With a fast tongue, a raucous voice and a ready wit, he was appointed party whip" -- the party whip of the government will find this amusing, as will all -- "to keep the party's backbenchers in line when they became lazy and listless following fat majority wins in the 1960s." For any chief government whip, that is always a role: how to motivate members of one's own very large caucus. I'm sure that many who have had that position could learn from John White.
So a person passes on, at the age of only 71, who has served in business with distinction, in politics, and subsequent to politics in the very important area of president of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, once again remembering the history of this province and wanting to preserve what is best.
When I look at many of the ideas he brought forward, in today's context he would be considered to be very much a red Tory. In those days he was probably the moderate, middle-of-the-road person -- the Premier smiles. He believed in land-banking and a 50% tax on speculative real estate profits and an imposition of a tax on energy consumption, so he would be considered in those days probably to be a moderate, a red Tory today.
In any age, no matter when we sit in this assembly, he is an individual to be admired, and we all express our appreciation for his service and our condolences to his family and his many friends and supporters.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm pleased to take this opportunity to update the House on our government's activities since the Legislature last met in June and also to look ahead to what we'll be doing as a government over the next few months.
There is no doubt that job creation has been and will remain the number one priority for our government. While our unemployment rate fell recently to 8.5%, the single biggest month-over-month drop since 1984, the human cost of this level of unemployment is still unacceptably high. That is why in our government's very first budget we cut income and payroll taxes and that is why both the ministers of finance and economic development have all been meeting with potential investors and job creators to spread the message that Ontario is open for business.
Earlier this month, I travelled to France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The Minister of Finance also was in Zurich. I'd like to tell the House that our message that Ontario is on track to being competitive on taxation, on regulation and on legislation was very well received by the business community and investors in those countries. Investors and job creators are very excited about the potential market that exists in Ontario for them.
We stressed that Ontario is a cornerstone of an integrated, interprovincial and international trade market within a day's drive of more than 120 million North American consumers. With an annual purchasing power of about $3 trillion, the market access for the Toronto area is larger than --
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. Come to order.
Hon Mr Harris: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. As I was saying, with an annual personal purchasing power of about $3 trillion, the market access for the Toronto area is larger than the areas around Boston, Chicago, Detroit or New York. As part of this government's ongoing effort to bring jobs to Ontario, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism led sector-specific business delegations to Houston, Texas, and to San Jose, California. He also went to Mexico to reinforce and strengthen our NAFTA partnership.
There are signs that our plan is working. I'm pleased to say that during the first two months following our tax cut, 82,000 net new jobs were created in the province of Ontario.
Just last evening I attended the opening of a beautiful new marketing, sales and distribution centre for Mother Parker's tea and coffee in Mississauga.
During the last quarter of 1995, our GDP grew by 4.7% at annual rates. During the first six months of this year, our merchandise exports rose by 5.7%.
Auto production in the second quarter of 1996 reached an all-time record level, and in the same quarter housing starts rose by 14.2%.
Inflation in July was 1.2%, the eighth consecutive month it has remained below 2%.
Now, according to private sector forecasters -- not government forecasters -- Ontario is poised to grow by 3% annually during the next four years -- more quickly, they say, than any of the G-7 industrialized nations. There is still, however, much work to be done.
Over the next few months we will continue to meet with job creators, both here and abroad, to make them aware, not only about our competitiveness as a jurisdiction, but also about the other efforts we are undertaking to make Ontario the jurisdiction of choice for jobs and investment, efforts such as making government more efficient and effective through our ministries' business planning process; making government more open and responsive to the public, with our referendum initiative; focusing our education system on quality in the classroom, with an emphasis on schools that teach and on kids that learn; ensuring that our health care system is --
The Deputy Speaker: I'm a patient man. I would ask for your indulgence and your order. And if you can't give it to me, then I will exercise my authority.
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Harris: -- ensuring that our health care system is protected by focusing our resources and meeting our $17.4-billion commitment; protecting Ontarians through an emphasis on effective correctional institutions and a crackdown on serious crime; addressing environmental issues, including smog reduction; protecting our vulnerable through changes to a number of our support programs; and caring responsibly for Ontario's children.
As we begin this fall sitting, I invite all members of this Legislature to work with us to continue to help bring fiscal sanity to our public finances and to bring jobs to this great province. The hope, the opportunity, the prosperity that those jobs bring, both for today and for our children, will ensure a bright future for Ontario. Thank you.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I am delighted to respond to the Premier's essay on, "What I did on my summer vacation."
We have a situation where the Premier has gone to Europe, has told potential investors of the merits of investing in Ontario, and I find it somewhat strange that he gives the impression that for the first time ever a government is open for business and it's there, encouraging people to invest in Ontario, particularly given the markets that he visited: the UK, Germany and France, which have traditionally, next to the United States, been the major investors in Ontario.
I think it's important that we understand and that we realize that when you talk about some of the economic indicators there are some serious deficiencies, and I'd like to give you an example. Notwithstanding that the automotive sector is showing some increase, the bulk of that production is going to the United States. When you take a look at the automotive sector in Ontario, other than add-on investment, which has been made to protect the investment that is already here, there has not been a new greenfield investment in the last six years. When you take a look at people who came to Ontario to look at whether they should invest -- I'm talking about BMW, talking about Mercedes-Benz -- they opted to go to the United States. So we have a situation where we are, there's no question about it, competitive in the automotive sector because of the investments that were made years and years ago, but obviously we are not competitive, other than add-on investments, today for greenfield investments.
When you highlight some of the advantages for coming to Ontario -- let's just suppose that an advance team came to Ontario today to decide whether or not they were going to invest. You have to understand that most people who invest in Ontario from abroad are doing it to use Ontario as a springboard to provide production to be shipped into the United States. We have a mature market here and the growth, if you take a look at the growth that's happening, is fairly stagnant.
But you highlight all of the advantages, and I can tell you, if an advance team came and was reading in the newspapers, it would see that the education system is on the verge of chaos, not because of what it has done, but because of what it's liable to become. We have a situation where in the health care system doctors are threatening to withdraw services; hospitals are threatening to close their doors. We have a situation where your government on this very day is probably going to be bringing in legislation to reduce environmental controls and to reduce the quality of life in Ontario. We have a situation where people are constantly complaining that they don't have access to highly skilled employees. We have a high unemployment rate but still a serious shortage of people able to provide employment services in the high-tech area. You talk about protecting the vulnerable and caring for Ontario's children when both those sectors are under increased pressure because of activities of your government.
So notwithstanding your grandiose statements about why people would invest here, I suggest to you that we have a serious problem, and unless this government addresses it, we are going to continue to lose potential investors.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Just to follow up on my colleague's comments on the job front, Premier, you are letting the people of Ontario down on your job promise. You promised, when you ran in the campaign, that you would see 145,000 jobs a year created. That was in your Common Sense Revolution. You put out a budget barely six months later indicating that you were going to miss that mark dramatically.
Now we have the figures for the first eight months of 1996, and what do we find? Dramatically fewer jobs, 22,000 fewer jobs created in Ontario in 1996 than in the same period in 1995. Your government is performing far worse than we did a year ago, Premier. We find your own report indicating 7,000 more young people out of work in the first eight months of 1996. We find that employment in the manufacturing sector is barely up. You have misled the people of Ontario. You said there would be 145,000 jobs created during the campaign --
The Deputy Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw that.
Mr Phillips: I would withdraw that comment and say that the document that you produced during the campaign --
The Deputy Speaker: I thank you very much.
Mr Phillips: I would say that the document that you ran on misled the people of Ontario, promising 145,000 jobs when you're coming nowhere close to that.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): In response to the Premier, only a Conservative government that is visiting more and more dismal numbers on the people of Ontario would try to spin this kind of document. Only a mean-spirited Conservative government would try to take credit for an unemployment rate of 8.5%, when any economist worth his salt in this country knows that more and more people are dropping out of the workforce, more and more people are disappearing. The government itself has commissioned a study to find out what's happening to people who are being forced out of the social assistance system, because they know they're not getting jobs. They're disappearing out of the system; they're disappearing out of the workforce. Only a Conservative government would try to spin it that the real unemployment rate of 30% among people under 30 is somehow good news.
There is a tremendous contradiction here, and maybe the Premier can explain some of it. The Premier went to London -- he's reporting here a bit on his trip -- and talked about the Ontario eduction system. It's incredible what he had to say. He said that Ontario's education system is one of the best in the world. I happen to agree with that. I wish he'd talk to his Minister of Education, who says that our education system is falling apart. This is an incredible contrast.
The Premier says Canada's top 10 high-technology companies, in terms of revenue, are all Ontario-based and he says it's because of our education system. He says that the University of Waterloo, McMaster University and the University of Toronto, for example, rank among North America's top computer, electrical and mechanical engineering schools. He says that the University of Waterloo is a favourite recruitment place for high-tech companies. He says that the 1996 World Competitiveness Report ranks "Canada's education system ahead of the US in terms of ability to meet the needs of a competitive economy." Why doesn't he talk to his Minister of Education who says that our education system is falling apart?
The Premier, before he tries this spin, should go talk to a few of the economists who even endorsed his campaign a year ago, because they say that whatever jobs we're enjoying right now are totally unrelated to his government's policies. Whatever job growth we're enjoying we are enjoying because the United States is into a presidential election. In presidential elections the interest rates drop in the United States. They put the gas pedal to the floor and they create jobs. The only sectors where we are creating any jobs are in those that are exporting right into that US economy. It's got nothing to do with your economic program -- nothing.
I note that the Premier says the government is going to do good things for children. I happened to be watching the CBC's National last night. Your government has set a record because your government has moved more children out of apartment buildings, out of dwellings and into hotel rooms than any government ever in the history of Canada. You have situations where five children are living in one room in a hotel -- five children in one room. The United Nations condemns that, and you stand up here and try to take credit. Go hire yourself some more spin doctors, because this will never pass.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): This is a government that's on the hook, that has said 725,000 jobs, which it cannot and will not deliver. This is a government which, upon returning from Europe, borrowed $6 billion when the need for this fiscal year is only $3 billion. This is a government that has no economic plan beyond two years, that is literally flying by the seat of its pants. This is a Premier who, while addressing the press, states that we're on our way to $8.11 billion, referring to the budget deficit, yet last week tells us that he's $5.11 billion short. They have no credibility. They have no plans. They've been very lucky and that's all.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I find it passing strange indeed that the Durham Board of Education has been awarded an award of international excellence and no one in the government has a thing to say about it. No one in the government, not even the members who represent Durham, have anything to say about it here today in the Legislature.
The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the minister responsible for closing hospitals. If there is one thing that has characterized your term in office, it has been an unprecedented grab for power that would give you, and you alone, the ability to close our hospitals in a desperate bid to find the $1.3 billion that you have already taken out of the hospital budgets.
You have tried to wash your hands of this messy business of shutting down our hospitals by setting up your so-called independent hospital restructuring commission. You somehow wanted the public to believe that you had nothing to do with the hospital closures that were coming. Those cowardly tactics are completely unacceptable and they are now only too transparent.
We have seen this summer that you are calling the shots without any question on hospital closures. You presented a secret report to your supposedly arm's-length hospital restructuring commission and in that secret report you instructed the commission to close an additional four Metro Toronto hospitals on top of the 11 hospitals already recommended for closure or amalgamation. You wanted to go even beyond the district health council in shutting down hospital beds and access to health care for people in this province.
Minister, will you admit once and for all to the people of Ontario that you are at the helm of this destructive project? Will you take the responsibility and admit that you are the one who's driving the bulldozer through Ontario's health care system? You're making the decisions that are going to shut down hospitals in this province.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The honourable member is well aware that a commission has been set up and that it is, with respect to its decision-making processes and the decisions it will make, at arm's length from the government. I thought we had agreement from all three parties. I've read the quotes many times from both the Liberal Party and the NDP about the need for hospital restructuring.
I remind the honourable member that we're the last province to go through restructuring, that hospitals have amalgamated in every other province except Ontario. In Winnipeg, when 500 beds were closed and services were amalgamated into hospitals in 1992 and 1993, we actually saw an increase in the number of patients who were able to be served by that system after restructuring. We saw more dollars into front-line services, better services, more surgeries, greater access. That's the goal of hospital restructuring. That is the goal the commission has in mind.
You know the people on that commission because they've served for your government and they've served for the NDP government, and they are of the highest calibre. I have complete confidence that they will make the right decisions for a better and more accountable health care system in this province.
Mrs McLeod: We're talking about "processes of restructuring," the words the minister likes to use. We're talking about a Minister of Health trying to shift responsibility for the provision of health care to the people of this province, about a Minister of Health making secret reports to his own commission and trying to deny the very existence of those reports in a way that is less than honest with the people of this province.
My question relates to the fact that this minister made a secret report to his commission, and when it came to light, his office first attempted to deny the very existence of the report. Then they said if it did exist, there was nothing significant in it.
We know that it existed, that it was significant, that it took two months of intensive review and several full-day staff retreats to complete your secret report and that it states very clearly where you, the Minister of Health, stand on the health council's recommendations for Metro hospitals: that you recommend even more closures, more losses of hospital beds, more denial of access to health care.
Minister, I ask you how you can continue to claim that your handpicked commission, the commission you set up, the commission that you staff with your own staff members, is an independent commission, when you make secret reports to direct it.
Hon Mr Wilson: I think the confusion arises here that a reporter had done a story about a report. It was not, as it turned out, the report that went to the commission. The report that went to the commission, the data provided to the commission, is in the public domain, so there is no secret report. I remind you in the case of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council study which was made public last November by the district health council that even at that time the data were two to three years old. It was actually two and a half years old. By the time the commission gets to looking at Metro, which I understand it's looking at now, the data are at least three years old. The ministry has been providing, as it does in the case of all of these studies, updated data at the request of the commission.
So there's no secret report and the data are available. In fact, much of it comes from the district health councils themselves. They either give it directly or the ministry bureaucrats provide it.
Mrs McLeod: You are the Minister of Health. You are responsible for managing access to health care that is critically needed by the people of this province, and I say to you that you are being less than honest in your plans for delivering health care to people in this province. Come to my community of Thunder Bay, which is on the verge of a health care crisis because of the recommendations of your commission, my community, where you did make a secret submission to the commission, where you said you were going to make it public but you haven't chosen to make it public because of some sort of legal problem you have discovered. Come to my community, where it was absolutely bizarre to hear you, a Minister of Health, say that you expected the commission to treat you and your report just as it would the report of any private citizen.
Minister, do you understand that you are not a private citizen? You are the Minister of Health. You are responsible for making these decisions. You are responsible for the financial bottom line. You're responsible for taking the $1.3 billion away from hospitals that's driving the loss of hospital beds, and you will be ultimately responsible for longer waiting lists for surgery and for the closure of emergency rooms and for people being denied the care they need. The veil of secrecy is completely unacceptable. Will you stop your secret dealings and deal openly with the people of Ontario on this critical issue?
Hon Mr Wilson: On this particular issue, both the Premier and I have been extremely clear. We know that in three and a half, four years' time, when we go back to the doors of the people of Ontario, they will hold us accountable for what has occurred during the time that we have been in office, but unlike the naysayer across the floor here, I have complete confidence in Duncan Sinclair and the members of the commission that they will make the best decisions without political interference, and if you're suggesting political interference here, I can tell you, you are dead wrong. Those ladies and gentlemen who make up the commission are getting paid $1 a year. They are spending most of their time -- and they are very busy people in their private lives -- trying to do what's right for health care in this province, and they don't need jabs from you. They need your support to restructure a system which, all three parties have agreed in this House, and it's on record on Hansard, is at least 10 to 15 years overdue with respect to restructuring.
We are propping up buildings that are half-empty right now. We owe it to the taxpayers to amalgamate those hospitals, get those administrative costs down, get rid of the waste and duplication and the gaps in service and drive those dollars to front-line services so we can perform more surgeries and look after more people as they need the health care system. That is the goal of restructuring, that is the goal of the commission, and it doesn't need political pandering on your side.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): New question, the member for Fort William.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: This minister must have a new dictionary that defines "political interference" if he doesn't think a secret report from a minister to a supposedly independent commission is political interference --
The Deputy Speaker: I'm sorry, I didn't hear who your question is to.
Mrs McLeod: I haven't placed it, Mr Speaker. I will proceed to do so.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the minister responsible for cutting classroom funding. Minister, three weeks ago, the students of this province returned to school and they faced the damaging effects of the $400 million which you have already cut from education budgets. Fewer teachers, larger classes, less resources, more portables -- that's what students are finding education is all about in Mike Harris's Ontario.
Minister, given that your $400 million in cuts are clearly being felt in the classrooms this fall, how can you even consider slashing another $600 million to $900 million from the schools of this province?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. Let me see if I can make this very clear to the leader. I am not, and my colleagues are not, willing to ask the students of Ontario to pay for their own education by adding to the debt of the province. We believe that there's a responsibility to create an environment that those young people, when they've finished their schooling, will have the opportunity to enjoy a prosperous Ontario and a good job market. So we are doing the responsible thing.
I have been disappointed by some of the responses to our request to school boards to reduce their expenditures by 1.8% last year. I know most of the people in Ontario have seen reductions of a much larger magnitude in their workplaces and in their homes, and any of the plans by any of the individuals in our school system that will affect children in our classroom are unnecessary and unfortunate and this government will not tolerate them.
Mrs McLeod: Minister, I'm positively afraid to even attempt to imagine what our education system would look like if you took over the full control that you seem to want.
But I do wonder whether or not you have actually visited a classroom this fall, whether you've talked to teachers, whether you have any idea what the effect of your cuts have already been, whether you have any idea how large the classes are. I wonder if you have any idea that students in our high schools are in classes of 40, that we have classes of that size even in chemistry classes, where students are working with dangerous equipment. I wonder if you've been into the junior kindergarten classes where there are 28 students, which is well beyond what is safe for the management of four-year-olds. I wonder if you've talked to the parents of special education students in board after board where special education's been cut and their children are not going to get the kind of support they need.
There is no question that your cuts have hurt children in the classroom and that children are going to be left behind. If John or Jane can't keep up in the classroom, there is not going to be the special support from the teachers that would be necessary for them to move ahead.
Minister, I have to wonder why you are so hell-bent on cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from education just to pay for your tax cut, just to hit your arbitrary goal of taking $1.2 billion out of the education system, that you don't even seem to care what happens to kids along the way. Minister, is hurting kids really a necessary part of creating the crisis you seem to want to destroy public education?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm disappointed in the tone of the Leader of the Opposition today, but I'm very, very pleased to have the opportunity to respond. First of all, I have had an opportunity to be in the classroom this fall. I think the Leader of the Opposition knows that I spent a good deal of my time last year in classrooms across the province. I intend to continue that because what's happening in the classrooms is very important to me, and it's important to me personally to see what is happening in our education system.
The Leader of the Opposition brings up an interesting point. She brings up the point of large class sizes. A lot of parents in this province wonder, when we have the lowest student-teacher ratio in Canada at about 15 to 1, when we have that low a student-teacher ratio, why it is that class sizes in some circumstances are so large. The question the parents of Ontario are asking me, and the question that I intend to answer to them, is: Where are the teachers?
Mrs McLeod: The minister may be disappointed, but I'm a lot more than disappointed. I am worried, I am heartsick, I am angry at what is happening to students in classrooms across this province. I am angry and I am heartsick that we have a Minister of Education who does not understand what Ontario education is about and what we have achieved in Ontario education. He doesn't even understand what it is his cuts are doing to education and to students.
I don't think the minister understands what's at stake here. I don't think he understands that this isn't some kind of balance sheet of a local business as he attempts to run the entire education system like the so-called business that he wants it to be. I don't think he understands that this is about kids' needs and about providing the support that kids need to learn, and it's about the future of our children, and it is worth investing in. It is not something that you try and take $1.2 billion out of, just for the sake of hitting his personal financial target.
Minister, I believe that students and parents in this province feel betrayed. They trusted your Premier, Mike Harris, when he promised that our children and their education would not be hurt by his revolution and they want to know what happened to his promise not to cut classroom education. Minister, as you talk glibly about slashing another $600 million out of our schools, can you tell the people of Ontario what happened to the Mike Harris promise not to cut classroom education?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I think it's obvious to the people of Ontario that this government intends to keep its promises to the people of Ontario, every one of them. I want to assure the Leader of the Opposition that she need not worry, because the record of this government over the last year is very clear. This government over the last year has made more quality improvements in our school system than any previous government in one year.
May I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that we have put forward the EQAO, the Education Quality and Accountability Office, an independent agency that will test the quality of education in the province for the first time. We now have a College of Teachers, a college that will represent the professional interests of teachers and the public interest. We have initiated the most important secondary school reforms in my time in this province, looking for the real needs of our students in the future. We have doubled our commitment to technology partnership programs in the province -- all quality initiatives, all designed to improve education in the province of Ontario.
But let me assure the Leader of the Opposition and the parents in Ontario that there are two things that this government is not willing to have happen: We are not willing to have our children educated in 1950s-style classrooms and we are not --
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Minister of Education.
Hon Mr Snobelen: Unlike the previous two governments, we are unwilling to send our children a bill for their own education.
PROTECTION OF PRIVACY
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. The Premier will know that earlier this summer a woman named Sandi Thompson brought a complaint of sexual harassment against the Speaker. The press has reported that Tory insiders were shopping Sandi Thompson's résumé around Queen's Park a week before the Speaker's lawyer released it. In other words, it would seem that a deliberate attempt was being made by Conservative insiders to smear the reputation of an alleged victim, perhaps an attempt at damage control.
Your government came into office promising to defend victims, but it would seem that some Conservative insiders have been trying to do exactly the opposite in shopping around the complainant's résumé. I want to ask the Premier, are you aware of these allegations and have you made any inquiries of your staff or other Queen's Park Conservative staff about their involvement in these activities?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, I'm not aware. I've never heard any allegations of that, and no Tory insider I know.
Mr Hampton: This was on September 14. This is a press release, an article that appeared in the Toronto press. It would appear in all of the press summaries that all of your members get and that your office gets. I'm sure that someone in your staff would have noticed this and brought it to your attention. I find it hard to believe, Premier, that you haven't been informed of this, that you wouldn't know of this, that your staff, who must be concerned about this, wouldn't have brought it to your attention.
I ask you again, are you aware of this? Is anybody on your staff aware of this? Have they made any inquiries as to who the Tory insiders may have been who were shopping around this résumé and smearing the complainant?
Hon Mr Harris: No, I have not, and I would assume if there was a shred of evidence to it they would have brought it to my attention.
Mr Hampton: This is passing strange. This reminds me of -- what was his name? -- Richard Nixon. "I hear no evil, I see no evil, unless you thrust it under my face."
Let me quote the Premier in the Legislature on November 23, 1992. At that point you were expressing support for the federal rape shield law. You said: "We look at the federal rape shield law, supported by us all, brought in to protect victims of rape. The reason? There are people who think it's okay to try and smear a woman by raising her past or raising information irrelevant to the case at hand, particularly when she has become a victim."
Now, at other times it appears that you took these kinds of situations quite seriously. It appears that you spoke out on them quite specifically. How is it, Premier, that this could appear in the public press, that it could make its way into Queen's Park Today, which is the press clippings that you get, every other member of this Legislature gets and I would say probably everybody on your staff gets? How is it that this could appear in Queen's Park press clippings and that you didn't take it seriously and nobody on your staff took it seriously? How could that be?
Hon Mr Harris: It could be there's not a shred of truth to it.
Mr Hampton: This is indeed Richard Nixon time.
FAMILY SUPPORT PLAN
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question goes to the minister responsible for the destruction of the family support plan, otherwise known as the Attorney General.
Minister, women and children are suffering because you have in effect shut down the family support plan. You laid off 290 experienced staff and you have effectively closed the regional offices across this province. You have contracted some of the work out to the Royal Bank, but you've had to admit that it can't do the job.
Yesterday a number of women who are affected, including Judy Poulin of SCOPE, Support for Children, an Organization for Public Education, held a press conference to express her concern for the women and children who are not receiving the money they are legally entitled to because you have in effect shut down the family support plan. In attendance at the press conference was Ruby White, a single mother with cancer who has not received her family support payment even though her husband's employer has confirmed that the money was garnished from his wages.
What do you say to Ruby White, who has had to charge her medication on her credit card and has been unable to purchase textbooks for her son because she has not received the money that she is legally entitled to from the family support plan that you have in effect shut down?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'm particularly pleased to receive this question from the leader of the third party.
The complaints that he has about the family support plan have existed for many, many years. If I could provide you with some statistics, in November 1990, the family support plan had 80,652 cases in it. At that time the arrears in the plan were $346.1 million. Only 23% of those in the plan in November 1990 were in full compliance. In June 1995, after the leader of the third party put his mark on the family support plan, the plan now had in it 140,000 cases, and I'd like to tell you that the arrears owing to women and children after this gentleman, this leader of the third party, had an opportunity to run the family support plan went from $346 million to $850 million. That's what the arrears went to.
I will also tell you that after they finished with the family support plan, no one could get through on the phone and no mail was being answered. I am now taking steps to reorganize the plan to ensure that women and children get timely payment and that arrears are being collected.
Mr Hampton: Let me say to the Attorney General, I think everybody in this chamber would agree that yes, there are some people out there who may be unemployed or may do everything that they can to avoid paying. They may even switch jobs. We recognize that. We're not talking here about trying to get money from someone who is avoiding paying. Yes, that's a long-standing problem. What we're talking here is about people who send their cheque in, the employer sends the cheque in to the family support plan. This Attorney General has so screwed up the system that people can't even get those cheques any more. That's what's happened. This is not a case of chasing someone out there who doesn't have money. This is something you are clearly responsible for. People were getting this money before. The money was coming from the payor into the system and it was going to women and children in need. Because of your actions, because you put 290 experienced staff out of work, even these people can't get their cheques any more.
Let me ask you, since you created this screw-up, what are you going to do to fix it?
Hon Mr Harnick: The leader of the third party knows not of what he speaks, as usual. I will admit we had a difficulty with the plan, and for that I apologized. It is the intention of the family support plan to get money to people as fast as possible, and in that regard, as the first part of our restructuring, we have now increased by 1,000 cheques a day the number of cheques that we are able to process. We are now processing 5,000 cheques a day, versus 4,000 cheques a day. With our private sector partner, we are now able --
Hon Mr Harnick: I might add, as everyone says "Oh," that private sector partner was contracted by the member for London South.
Hon Mr Harnick: "Oh." I might tell you that we are now electronically processing cheques so that money is flowing faster than it's ever flowed before and we have increased by 25% the daily output of cheques in that plan. We are doing that during the course of the restructuring so that we will have a better plan and get money to women and children faster than has ever happened before.
Mr Hampton: Now we understand. From this Attorney General's perspective, this is not about women and children getting the money they're legally entitled to. This is about privatization; this is about being nice to his friends in the private sector. That's what it's all about.
The reality here is this: The offices in Thunder Bay have been closed, in effect; the offices in Sudbury have been closed, in effect; the regional offices in Hamilton, London, Windsor and Ottawa have, in effect, been closed. People who want to enquire about their family support cheques go into those offices and can't speak to anyone. They dial the 1-800 number -- I guess because maybe it's a privatized 1-800 number now it's supposed to work more effectively -- and they can't get through.
Those women who came here yesterday came because they are not getting their cheques, came because they cannot provide for their children. All you have done in the time you have been Attorney General has made the system worse, except for your private sector friends, who probably enjoy the contracts they're getting. What are you going to do for Ruby White and all of the women who were here yesterday who can't get their family support plan cheques, who are being forced into a very difficult situation by the decisions of you and your government?
Hon Mr Harnick: Let me explain very simply to the leader of the third party so he might understand it, so he might understand the first thing I want to say. Your party was the one that privatized that aspect of the family support plan. You may not want to admit it, but it was you, Howie.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): When you make a mistake, admit it.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. The member for Nipigon will come to order.
Hon Mr Harnick: As I indicated, there was a problem getting out a number of cheques. That problem has now been solved. We have in fact increased the cheques we're able to send out, so that women and children can get their money more quickly.
The problem we have and the problem we wrestle with is that when the NDP took over this plan it had $346 million in arrears. When they left, the arrears had gone to $850 million. During the course of that time, clients of the plan couldn't get through to seek help for a problem, letters couldn't get answered. The plan cries out for restructuring and I'm trying to restructure the plan.
I would think the opposition would be happy we're trying to solve the problems they created. I would think they would want to cooperate with us to get money into the hands of women and children. They don't really want to do that, but this government does. We are going to restructure this plan once and for all so that women and children can be treated properly and get the support that they need.
The Deputy Speaker: New question.
Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): My question is to the Premier concerning the Attorney General and the facts surrounding the closing of the eight regional family support offices. I saw you applauding the previous answer of the Attorney General. If you really believe what he said, you're truly living in a cocoon. Let me tell you some of the facts your minister and the Ministry of the Attorney General did.
Firstly, it kept the process secret from regional staff, resulting in negligent and inadequate estimates of available staff for the transition. This was because of larger-than-expected numbers of buyouts. You didn't even know what was happening.
Secondly, you made insufficient banking arrangements for the new system, resulting in thousands of cheques not being cashed or deposited by the bank in a timely manner.
Thirdly, you transferred to a new computer system that was not fully operational.
Fourthly, you have been haphazardly storing and misplacing parts of thousands of client files.
Fifthly, you inadequately communicated to clients of the plan how the new system would work. They didn't know what was happening. They didn't even know where to send their cheques.
This is very important and I want you to listen carefully: By Mr Harnick's own admission, 7,000 single mothers, representing over 15,000 children, in this province have had insufficient income -- Premier, stop smiling; it's not a joke -- insufficient money for food and clothing for periods of up to three months.
This level of incompetence, so fundamentally and unnecessarily punishing to the lives of innocent children, certainly cannot be tolerated by your government. Using your private sector approach to government, will you fire this minister for incompetence?
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): If you want the facts, you should get them from the Attorney General.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The question, Charlie, is, are you going to be fired?
Hon Mr Harnick: No, I'm not going to be fired.
The member says we aren't doing a good enough job getting money out to women and children. In the past, absolutely that has been the case. That's why we're restructuring the plan: to do it better. So far, we have increased the number of cheques that we can handle and process in a day by 25%. So that aspect of the plan is improving.
Let me tell you a little bit about the regional offices. The regional offices were servicing, on average, 60 people a day each. That's 480 people. The reason those 480 people went to those regional offices was because they couldn't get through on the phone lines. On some days, upwards of 50,000 calls a day come to the family support plan. What we are doing is restructuring the plan and hiring a new workforce that will be trained and able to deal with problems as they come in. We will be able to deal with the problems as people phone. There won't be referrals; they will be dealt with directly and the problems will be solved.
We are also adding new enforcement to the family support plan. I will be bringing a bill to this House very shortly, and I hope that the member will support the bill, because it will help get more money to women and children who need it.
Mr Chiarelli: Even though, although we disagree, there may be policy reasons for changing to the new system, the fact of the matter is that the transition has been mangled, and not only has the process been mangled but it's mangling the lives of a lot of people. On a very personal level, this has affected the lives of many people, people who can't pay their rent, buy food for their kids, pay for back-to-school requirements. We have not even heard an apology from you for what you have done to their lives. That's number one.
Secondly, you don't have the ability now even to honour your legal obligation to provide a client with a record as required by law. The stuff is packed in boxes, clients' information is in different boxes, shipped to central headquarters at different times. They can't even assemble it. The computer is down half the time. When the few people who do get through speak to a live body, they get on the computer screen and then they say: "There's not enough information here to provide an answer. We'll have to get back to you."
It is in one hell of a mess, and that's not the NDP, that's not another government, that's you, Minister. I want to know whether or not you are going to come clean and share the facts with us, instead of giving us these BS answers. It's in a total mess. What are you going to do?
Hon Mr Harnick: Let me first say that the member is wrong when he says I haven't apologized and haven't apologized publicly, because I have. No one felt more terrible than I did about the difficulty that we had.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): You blamed it on the computer.
Hon Mr Harnick: No, I accept full responsibility for what happened. A mistake was made, for which I took full responsibility.
Ms Lankin: No, you blamed it on the computer.
Hon Mr Harnick: No one in this province felt worse than I did about the delay in those cheques. I appreciate that they don't want to believe what I'm saying, but that's their prerogative.
We are restructuring this plan, and we're restructuring it so that the moneys can flow more quickly, so that people can get the money in a timely way and so that the very things that the member says about people phoning and not being able to get an answer will no longer be the case.
That has been the history of this plan from the beginning. I have had letters from every person in the opposition who, long before the restructuring, were complaining about the inability to get an answer. This plan cries out for restructuring, and that is what we are doing.
Again, if it wasn't good enough the last time, let me reiterate to the members how terrible I felt, and I still feel, that there was a delay in cheques. We have increased our capacity to deliver those cheques more quickly. Now we are going to get busy and complete the job so that we will have a better family support plan, and I hope that the member from Ottawa is going to support me in doing just that.
The Deputy Speaker: New question.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues. Minister, I hope you don't end up being an apologist for the Attorney General today in answer to my question, because the AG's answer today was total hogwash and a refusal to accept responsibility for a crisis in the family plan system.
The fact is, women who were getting cheques are not getting them today. Forty per cent of the staff have been laid off. Experienced staff, who, I may add, under our government plan would have kept their jobs, were laid off. Inexperienced staff people have replaced them. Guess what they are telling people like Ruby White on the phone when they've managed to get through after days and days. Some of them are saying, "Get a job."
This is happening out there, Minister. It is totally inappropriate, and I ask you today to speak up and do your job, speak up for the women of Ontario, in this case vulnerable women, and answer my question. I hope you do not switch it, because you are the minister responsible for women's issues and I want to hear you say today you will do your part to fix this problem.
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Obviously all of us have been concerned about the family support plan as long as I've been in government, and your government in particular was. Last year less than one third of all cases were in full compliance, and administratively I think that's very important. Less than one third of the mothers of those children did not get the money that they legally should have received, so we moved forward to do something about it.
The question was, what am I going to do about it? I have been working, as have other members of this Legislative Assembly and members of the opposition, by the way, who have been in contact with the Attorney General and myself, with individual cases in our own ridings as recently as three weeks and two weeks ago to do the job for them. Some of us have had terrific success. In London North we're down to some nine people and we did have some 60 complaints. It was in fact extremely, extremely difficult for those families, and the Attorney General, as he has said today, was particularly concerned about it and extremely sorry and apologized.
The point is, we'll do our best, and if you've got cases like this Mrs White, you should get that case to the Attorney General so he can help you fix it, just like everybody else in this House. It was extremely unfortunate and all of us regret it.
Ms Churley: Minister, that answer is not adequate. Your suggestion that we deal with this crisis, this problem on a case-by-case basis is absolutely ridiculous. I know that the member for Sudbury has sent in about 40 cases and has got about four responses. At my constituency office alone, I can't keep count of them. We have so many emergencies, people like Ruby White, who's in a crisis -- and let me add here should be congratulated for her courage. She's got a 12-year-old son, she's got cancer and she's actually quite spunky and is able to carry on quite well. She's on the phone for days. My constituency office has been on the phone for days. We can't get through to people. I say to all the members in the House today, call your constituency offices when you get out of here and hand them all over to the Attorney General every day if that's the way you want to deal with crises out there, because we've got them, Minister.
I would ask you again: There is a crisis, and we have in the gallery today Judy Poulin from Support for Children, an Organization for Public Education. They are saying that there is a serious problem that wasn't there before. Will you commit to meeting with Ms Poulin to talk about the serious problems in the system and then go and meet with your Attorney General and demand that he fix them?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: The answer is yes.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question today to the Solicitor General. On June 6 you made a statement in this House about the alleged beatings of young offenders at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre occurring after the Bluewater Youth Centre riot. In this statement you expressed your concern for the young offenders' safety by stating that you had asked that the eight young offenders be transferred from the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre to Sprucedale. You also said, "We have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of the young offenders who are in custody under the Ministry of Correctional Services."
Minister, what were these steps that you took in June?
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): There were five directives issued on August 7 which dealt with the detention of young offenders in adult areas using properly trained staff for young offender supervision, the use of isolation for more than 48 hours, dealing with young offender disturbances and establishing a complaints procedure for young offenders. Those were the directives issued on August 7.
Mr Ramsay: Minister, I'm a little concerned that it took you to August from June, when you said on June 6 you would undertake these steps and now it's August that you said you brought these steps forward.
As you and I and everybody in Ontario are painfully aware, since that time a death occurred of a young offender while under your custody in the Ministry of Correctional Services. Of course, this is doubly a tragedy because all of us knew that this particular young offender was in danger and you and your staff knew that, the potential danger to this young offender.
I know you're not going to comment on this particular incident at this time because of the ongoing investigations, but what all Ontarians would like to know is what further steps now, since August, you have taken to make sure that our young offenders in your custody are safe and that none of our young offenders have to pay the ultimate price while in your care.
Hon Mr Runciman: We concur, with respect to the death, that it was indeed a tragedy, and I'm sure all members will express their condolences to the family of the young man in this situation. We've indicated that we are undertaking a number of initiatives to reform the corrections system in Ontario, and certainly one of those deals with the training of correctional officers.
This member, when he was the minister of corrections, outlined his frustration publicly with the training processes for correctional officers, and regrettably nothing was forthcoming with respect to changes. We've announced that those changes are going to take place. They're going to take place before correctional officers go on the job. At the end of four weeks of basic training, if you will, they will be put into streams so that anyone going into the young offender system as a correctional officer will get specialized training dealing with young offenders prior to assuming their duties. The same will be the case for the adult section of corrections as well.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is also to the Minister of Correctional Services and it is respecting the tragic death of James Lonnee. Minister, I agree with you that this death is a tragedy. What I'm concerned about is that I think it is a tragedy that could have been avoided.
Three months ago in this Legislature, when there was debate and concern with respect to the incidents that took place at Bluewater and at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, you promised that no young offender would ever again be placed in an adult jail, in an adult detention unit. Perhaps if that promise had been kept, James Lonnee might have been alive today.
It's two weeks since his death. I would like to know what inquiries you have made and what you have found out with respect to the decisions that were taken that led a young offender, James Lonnee, and others, to be placed in an adult detention centre, to be doubled up in what should have been a segregation cell; the decisions that were taken that led to what James Lonnee feared the most: his murder.
Hon Mr Runciman: I'm sure the member is aware that there is still a police investigation under way. Although charges have been laid with respect to this particular situation, the police investigation is still under way. We have not received signoff, if you will, from the police involved in this investigation to conduct an internal ministerial investigation to determine if indeed any of the directives which were issued by this ministry with respect to treatment of young offenders or policy guidelines that have been in place for some time were violated.
I can assure the member and other members of this House that we will get to the bottom of this, and if directives were violated, we will take the appropriate action.
Ms Lankin: Not good enough, Minister. We went through a month in this Legislature with you putting off answer after answer because there was this investigation, that investigation, this court procedure, this internal inquiry, this outside consultant coming in. You've never answered a single question here with respect to what is going on in your ministry.
I'm not asking about the circumstances that took place in the cell that led to the tragic death, I'm asking about the decisions that took place in your ministry. I'm asking about what you did over the course of this summer. Surely you cared enough about those 40 young offenders, those 40 teenagers who were being kept by your ministry, to get regular briefings about what was happening to them in the system, about how they were being treated. Surely you were informed about the fears of James Lonnee. There were only 40 kids. Surely you knew about the concerns he was raising, about not wanting to be placed in an adult centre, about not wanting to be moved to Wellington, about not wanting to be doubled up in a cell.
What steps did you take to live up to your promise, to live up to the promise of your Premier to protect the kids who are in our custody so that parents never need fear, never need worry again?
Hon Mr Runciman: This concern would be more convincing if the member opposite and the government of the day had done much more to deal with quite comparable situations in many instances.
We are moving. In a report commissioned by the former government in 1993, Judge Inger Hansen indicated her concerns with respect to the workplace culture in corrections. She said: "The culture in the ministry's work environment was not the result of a few acts. The problems that this investigation uncovered have a long history."
I can cite a number of occasions. I'll indicate one: a 1993 allegation by a young offender who alleges that he was choked unconscious and sexually assaulted by a number of fellow young offenders. That matter is still before the courts, but those kinds of situations were not dealt with in a meaningful manner by the former government.
This is the only government with the political courage to deal with the real issues. We've outlined a very significant program of review of the whole system, a system-wide review that no one has undertaken in this country, let alone this province. We're moving forward where past governments failed to act.
Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Over the course of the summer I have received a great many calls in my riding concerning the poor shape of the pavement on Highway 33 between Bath and Adolphustown. Highway 33 is an important tourist road also known as the Loyalist Parkway. Considering the economic importance of this road to both the local community and the province, I would like to ask what plans your ministry has for the rehabilitation of this very important highway.
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Let me first say that I'm glad to see all my friends again. I want to thank the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings for his question. I had the opportunity of driving on that particular road with the member during the summer and I certainly concur with the concern the member is referring to. The ministry does recognize the poor shape and we have plans to completely reconstruct Highway 33 from Bath to Adolphustown. This rehabilitation will bring the highway up to the same standard as the rest of Highway 33 towards Kingston. Furthermore, the ministry has taken great care to maintain the natural and historical integrity of this highway.
Mr Fox: I appreciate those words. Over the course of the past year you have said that you would like to restore Ontario's highways to their former glory. The budget saw an increase of $140 million to this effect. Can the minister tell this House what progress has been made?
Hon Mr Palladini: Ontario's economy and prosperity are directly related to the state of our highway infrastructure. The additional $140-million increase to this year's provincial spending on highway rehabilitation brings it up to a total of $375 million, compared to the previous government's average of $240 million over the last six years.
We are investing in the future of this province. I want to share some of the examples with the honourable members: Highway 401 near Puce Road, Essex-Kent; Highway 7 near Baldwin Street, Durham-York; Highway 17 near Iron Bridge, Algoma; Highway 43, near Alexandria and Monkland, East Grenville; Highway 11, the Severn River bridge through Gravenhurst. Increased levels of funding, along with a commitment to the initiatives detailed in our business plan, will help keep this important highway network from further deterioration thanks to the last two governments.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing regarding the sham of a committee he sponsored to ram through his New Directions discussion paper. On August 19th, you opened the rent control committee with remarks that charged the committee with the task of studying proposals introduced in the New Directions paper and making recommendations that could be tabled in this House. It was my understanding that the report would be tabled today. My party prepared its own report, due to the failure of the full committee to produce a report reflective of the recommendations of the 260-some presentations, not to mention those submitted in writing by those who were not granted space to appear, due to the inadequate consultation period.
You heard from tenants, landlords, developers, social advocates. They agree that your proposal to wipe out rent control in this province will not achieve the goals you set out: to lower rents for tenants, to stimulate the development of more affordable apartments and to provide greater protection for tenants. How can you ignore the recommendations of 260 presenters? It's obvious that neither you, the parliamentary assistant nor your Tory colleagues listened to any deputants to the committee and it's obviously reflected in the writing of the report. Nevertheless, I always believed that the report you have was written long before you even heard from any of the presenters.
Can you assure this House also that no legislation will be written to dismantle the existing rent control system and therefore you will not implement your disastrous decontrol system?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The member is right; I understand that the report from the committee is being tabled this afternoon. I must say that I was terribly disappointed when the opposition members walked out of that committee without taking the opportunity to play a part in producing the report.
What we did was go to the people of Ontario with a balanced program for rent control. We've asked for their input. We will now take that input into consideration when we're developing the legislation.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise on a point of order to request the members of the House to give unanimous consent for this House to debate motion number 25 on the order paper: "That the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario no longer enjoys the confidence of this House." I would hope that the members would give unanimous consent.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? It is not agreed.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS / AFFAIRES D'INTÉRÊT PUBLIC ÉMANANT DES DÉPUTÉS
Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I move that notwithstanding standing orders 8(a) and 96(a), the House will not meet on the morning of --
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order --
Hon David Johnson: -- Thursday, September 26, 1996, to consider private members' public --
Interjections: Point of order.
Mrs McLeod: On a point of order: I would interrupt the proceedings of the House, if I may.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Excuse me just a minute.
The Deputy Speaker: I had given the floor to the minister --
Interjection: She was up earlier.
The Deputy Speaker: I will rule on the point of order afterwards. The minister will continue.
Hon David Johnson: Notwithstanding standing order 96(h) --
Hon David Johnson: -- the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 39, 40, 41 and 42 --
Hon David Johnson: -- and that Mr Ouellette and Mrs Marland exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.
Mrs McLeod: It's not disruptive. May I please place my point of order?
The Deputy Speaker: You may not.
Mrs McLeod: On what grounds, Mr Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker: The minister had been given the floor. He was in the middle of his motion. I will deal with your point as soon as I have finished.
Mrs McLeod: You will deal with my point of order as soon as the minister has completed --
The Deputy Speaker: As soon as this item is done.
Mrs McLeod: This is somewhat unusual, Mr Speaker, but I will accept that.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Johnson moves that notwithstanding standing orders 8(a) and 96(a), the House will not meet on the morning of Thursday, September 26, 1996 to consider private members' public business; and notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 39, 40, 41 and 42; and that Mr Ouellette and Mrs Marland exchange places in the order of precedence for private members'
Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry?
Mrs McLeod: I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker, because I believe that all of us have come into the House today facing what is a completely unprecedented situation in the history of this Legislature, and potentially in the history of any Legislature. I did not rise on this point of order in order to be obstructionist in any way. I simply want a clarification of the way in which the matter that we all know is before us is going to be dealt with. I think all of us need that and deserve that explanation.
We're all aware there has been a motion of non-confidence in the Speaker, which was placed by the New Democratic Party 24 hours before the House resuming, and it was placed within time to be considered today. I would simply ask for a clarification from the government House leader as to whether the motion is to be called; if not, when it's to be called, and why a decision has been made to delay calling that motion.
The Deputy Speaker: That is a point of order, but it is not my place --
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the point of order raised by the leader of the official opposition, Mr Speaker, I think it is imperative, on a very, very important matter, for us to know how the government and the assembly will be proceeding. It is a matter of significant, substantial importance for this assembly as a whole, for each of the individual members, and certainly for the occupant of the high office of Speaker in this House. If the matter is not to be dealt with today as far as the government is concerned, then is it to be dealt with subsequently this week, and when does the government intend this matter to be debated and voted on?
We believe that this matter is of such importance that it should take precedence over all other business before the assembly. That is why the motion was tabled yesterday and proper notice was given. That is why we, as members of this assembly, believe that it is imperative that the matter be dealt with and that members be able to express their views and a decision be made by the assembly as soon as possible. We believe it should have precedence over all other business.
If the government doesn't accept that position, then what is the government's position, when will the matter be debated and when will we vote on it?
Hon David Johnson: I wish to assure all members of the House that I and the government, and I assume every member of this House, take this situation very seriously. It is of grave importance. It's of grave importance to us all as members of this House, it's, of course, of significant importance to the Speaker and, I might add, to everyone involved in the matter.
I have attempted to maintain contact with the House leaders, I've attempted to poll, I guess, or have contact with as many members of the Legislature -- naturally more on this side of the House, I'm sure you understand, as opposed to the other side of the House -- and I wish to outline at this point what the government or what I propose in terms of how this should be dealt with.
What I have found is that many members consider the investigator's report to be a significant component of this issue. There is, I think, an understandable concern of having to make a very important decision, affecting people's lives very deeply, without being made aware of the investigator's report. There has been some discussion about the availability of that report. I believe that the members of this House should have access to the information in that report. Many of the members of this House have expressed to me that they need that information. I might say, on the other side, some members have expressed that they do not need that information. But many have told me that to make an informed and fair and just decision on this matter, they need that information.
I propose to set up a mechanism whereby they would get that information. What I am proposing is that this matter will be dealt with on Thursday of this week. This is a matter that, as has been mentioned by my honourable colleagues across the floor, should be dealt with as quickly as possible. I believe that dealing with this matter on Thursday will allow those members of the House who need the information -- information which was only made available for the first time to the House leaders yesterday and which virtually nobody in this House has had access to -- to have that information, have an informed opinion and deal with this matter on Thursday of this week.
Mrs McLeod: On a point of order related to the second point of order, if I may, Mr Speaker: Again I rise because I believe that this is an issue of both great sensitivity and great importance to all members of the Legislature. We all have a responsibility for dealing with the matter before us. All of us in our caucus have attempted to recognize due process and fairness in the carrying out of the investigation of the specific allegation which has been made about the Speaker of the House.
Having said that, we came today prepared to vote on a non-confidence motion on other issues. Recognizing that the immediate allegation has not been resolved, there are many other issues which have eroded our confidence in the Speaker.
The fact that you're suggesting this vote be called on Thursday: I want to be absolutely clear as to what further information you believe will have been provided by Thursday. I'm assuming that the specific allegation will not yet have been resolved fully. I make that assumption not necessarily knowing that. I also believe I heard in your answer that you would be releasing the information of the report to members of your caucus. As you know, there has been some legal question about that, and I think it's important for the members of our caucus and for our House leader that we know whether in fact you consider us to be free to release that information to our caucuses, believing that it has a significant impact on the vote on Thursday.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a related point of order, Mr Speaker: It's related to both points of order that have been raised. I believe that we are placed in a difficult position as members of the Legislature, when we rely on the Speaker of this Legislature to protect our individual rights with respect to the proceedings in this House and proceedings of business of government as they transpire in this Legislature.
The very fact that the Speaker, through his counsel, is the one who has taken actions to deny members of this Legislature the very information that they would need to take appropriate decisions is what has led our caucus to arrive at the decision that we have lost confidence in this Speaker.
I have no Speaker to go to today to protect my rights, to provide me with appropriate information, with informed information with respect to whether or not I should ever even take receipt of this report, should you offer it, sir. There have been legal challenges that have been set out. Our House leader has refused receipt of that report as a result of those legal challenges set out by the Speaker and by the Speaker's counsel.
Ms Lankin: Threats of legal action. We have no Speaker on which to rule with respect to the rights of the members of the House. It is untenable that the government should choose to leave us in this situation by putting this off until Thursday -- until, I would suggest, you've had time to consult further with the members of your caucus because you didn't get the decision you wanted out of a caucus meeting this morning.
Every member of this assembly has been threatened with legal action, the actions of a member who has public duty, public responsibility, the Speaker of this Legislature. That is untenable. We have lost confidence in that individual in holding that office. We have a right, as members of this Legislature, to debate that issue and to take a collective decision, and it is not appropriate for the government to make a decision to deny us that opportunity. This is a decision of the members of the Legislature. I put it to you, sir, that you are thwarting the desire of the members of the Legislature for political purposes. This should proceed. We should have an opportunity to debate this and to take a decision.
Hon David Johnson: I don't disagree. As a matter of fact, I strongly support the member when she says this body should have the right to debate this, and indeed this body will have the opportunity to debate this in the very near future. I suggest that Thursday will allow those members, and I think we have a right for those members -- and I suggest to you those members are on both sides of this House -- who may feel that an important part of this issue is the report from the investigator.
It is said that there has been a legal threat, but I can also tell you that the House leaders have been made aware of a legal report generated through the human resources director of the Legislative Assembly, and that indicates that indeed the members of this House have the right to see this report. The report is in the possession of the House leaders.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): You table it.
Hon David Johnson: Those House leaders who chose to accept the report have it, and what we are being told is that they have the right to distribute that to their members: not to table it in public, not to make it a public report, not to give the report to the media. I mean, with a little bit of common sense we would understand that a report dealing with a sensitive matter such as this would not be a report that would become public. However, the 130 members of this Legislature are the employer and, accordingly, they do have the right to see this report.
What I am simply suggesting is that over the next short period of time the members on both sides of this House would have the opportunity to see that report, to understand this issue. Some members have been asking for that right. I believe they deserve that right, and then to deal with the issue on Thursday. I think that's a reasonable way to approach it.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With the greatest respect to the government House leader, the government House leader is aware that the legal counsel to the Legislative Assembly advised the House leaders and advised the members of the Board of Internal Economy that, yes, in his view the members were entitled to have the report of the independent investigator and to peruse that report in order to be able to make decisions. He also, though, informed us that if that report were discussed outside of this assembly, the legal counsel for Mr Speaker McLean might have a basis for legal action.
You can't have it both ways. You can't read a report, you can't discuss it in the Legislature, and then not have it dealt with in the public. We are put in a very difficult situation where the legal counsel informed us that we should have access to the report, we should be able to debate it in the House, but we shouldn't talk about it outside of this place because we might be subject to legal action. That is why we are concerned. How does the government House leader intend to deal with this? I should make it clear that because of the legal advice we received I did not take receipt of that report, because frankly, I don't want to end up in court for trying to do my job as a legislator.
Mrs McLeod: On a further point of order, Mr Speaker: As spokesperson for my caucus, I think it's critical that I make it very clear to the government House leader that our caucus has indicated overwhelmingly that it was prepared to deal with the motion of non-confidence without regard to the investigation of the current allegation and therefore without regard to the contents of the report. The Speaker of the House has irretrievably lost the confidence of our caucus and therefore the release of the report and the question of whether or not this investigation has been fully carried out and fully resolved is not an issue that would affect our caucus's willingness to vote today.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): To the point of order, Mr Speaker: As a member of the Board of Internal Economy, I received a letter from Mr McLean's -- the Speaker's -- lawyer, Mr Teplitsky, which threatened me. That letter said that I could not discuss or divulge the contents of a report. I have to tell you that when I received that letter, at that moment any confidence I had in the judgement of the Speaker ended. That he would authorize a letter from his solicitor that threatened a member of this Legislature, who has the right by virtue of this office to stand in this House and speak on behalf of the people and speak about how public life is about public scrutiny and accountability; that he, the Speaker of this Legislature, would assume that he could direct his lawyer to take away that right from a member of this Legislature was sufficient for me to vote today on a motion of non-confidence because, sir, I have no confidence in Speaker McLean's ability to be fair in this House.
I say to the government House leader that his actions in the handling of this unfortunate affair, from beginning with the attempt to smear an alleged victim to the taking of a lie detector test and ultimately to saying to his solicitor to write a letter to members of this Legislature about this unfortunate affair, and the suggestion that rules that have been put in place for bureaucrats, because that's what it is, due process for bureaucrats, should apply to the Speaker of this Legislature, whom we rely on, whose good judgement we rely on to guard the privileges and the rights of members of this Legislature -- he crossed the line and cannot expect to have the confidence of members of this House.
I implore you to allow a vote of confidence in the Speaker today so that we can move on from this unhappy matter, because the content of that report, in my judgement and I believe in the judgement of many members of this House, is irrelevant when it comes to the confidence we have in the Speaker.
Mr Hampton: Same point, Speaker: For the government House leader to somehow assert that the issue here now is the report totally misses the point. The issue here is that we are in an entirely unprecedented situation. The Speaker of this House, through his solicitor, has attempted to deprive members of this House of the information that they should have as members. That is what has happened. This has got nothing to do now with what may or may not be in that report. This has got everything to do with the Speaker of this House trying to shackle each and every member in this House from doing his or her duty. That is the issue which is before this House, and for the government to try to move away from that, for the government to try to then interpose something else, is utter nonsense.
This is an unprecedented situation in the parliaments of the Commonwealth, that someone who sits in the Speaker's chair should attempt to use a threat from a solicitor to shackle the members of this Legislature and to stop them from making a decision. That is what the motion of non-confidence is about; that is where we are at at this point in time.
Frankly, whatever the report says, now is irrelevant. That a Speaker would show this disrespect for this Parliament and for every other tradition of Parliament is, as I say, totally unprecedented. Anyone who would purport to be Speaker and then take this kind of action is not deserving --
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Not worthy.
Mr Hampton: -- not worthy of being called Speaker, not worthy of the position. That is why this motion of non-confidence has been brought. This House cannot sit, this House cannot go forward in such an unprecedented situation, and if government members think they can, then they are denying every tradition of Parliament in trying to move ahead.
Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, there's conjecture on what point the members of this House may consider to be the most significant in this debate, and when the debate is held indeed the leader of the third party may be correct; that may be the issue which weighs most heavily on most of the minds or all of the minds or some of the minds of the members of this Legislature. But this is an issue that we would all agree has to be determined by all the members of this Legislature. In terms of how each individual makes up their mind and what information each individual member needs to make up their mind, I think we should allow for the fact that maybe some people come at this issue with a slightly different approach than any of the previous speakers have indicated.
Some of the members have said to me, and I will say a number of members have said to me, that they feel the information contained in the investigator's report is of importance to them in making their decision on this matter. I'm trying to understand why we should deny them that right. Now, if this report had been available to them for some period of time then I would say you may have a point.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Who makes that available?
Hon David Johnson: The report will be made available to those. From a solicitor representing the Legislative Assembly we have a ruling that indeed those members who wish to have this report, who wish to have this information, should indeed have that information. If that's important in their mind in making a decision, who here today should say that they should be denied that information, denied that report? I don't think that will lead necessarily to the best, most fair and just decision that could be made, and I believe all of us here today want everybody to be comfortable in their minds in terms of making a fair and just decision on this matter. That's all I'm suggesting. I believe that in dealing with this at the earliest opportunity, which I think is Thursday, we will accomplish that.
Mr Hampton: The government House leader makes a valiant effort, but he misses the point. What the Speaker may or may not have done with respect to the complaint that was raised by one of his employees is not the issue here. The issue here is that the Speaker, through a deliberate act, has tried to shackle the members of this Legislature. The Speaker has shown disrespect for the members of this Legislature. The Speaker has attempted to deny to the members of this Legislature the opportunity to determine the process that happens here. That is the issue.
The report, what is in the report, the events around the report are no longer the issue. Those might be dealt with at some time in the future. The issue now is the conduct of the Speaker with respect to this place, with respect to trying to deprive this place of information that members of this Legislature are entitled to in order to do their job properly. The Speaker's conduct goes to the heart, to the integrity of the process here. That is the point. For you to try to avoid that in itself shows disrespect for this place.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: The government House leader has to understand what's happening here. The government House leader is trying to say that we, the members of the assembly, should walk back, take a look at the report and then try to make a judgement about the Speaker in regard to how we deal with it. The House leader misses the point. The point is simply this: What happened was that yesterday that report was brought before the Board of Internal Economy. At that point the Speaker, through his lawyer, sent a letter to the members of the board and said that if that report is released and if we as members look at it, read it and talk about it, we will be sued. How are we, quite frankly, able to deal in a context such as that?
If the Speaker wanted us to deal with this in due process, the Speaker would have removed himself from the process altogether and allowed things to take their normal course. That is not what has happened. The Speaker in this case has jumped into this and, through his lawyer, said that we, the employers of the Speaker -- the Speaker is responsible to the 130 members of this assembly -- are not to deal with the matters within the report. Thus, how can we make a judgement?
I say to the government House leader that quite clearly the issue here is not so much the report; the issue is the conduct of the Speaker, how he has dealt with this entire situation from the beginning and how he is dealing with it now, specifically through his lawyer. To try to say that we will wait a couple of days and allow you as the government House leader to try to rein in your backbenchers so that they can maybe come around to your point of view, which I think is not too far from where the opposition is, is only basically saying -- and I think an admission -- that your own government backbenchers are having problems with the direction you would want to take.
This matter is serious. Nobody in this assembly is happy about what has happened. Nobody in this assembly is happy about what has to take place. But there is a decision that has been made by the Speaker. The Speaker has done things. The Speaker has dealt with this badly. The Speaker has threatened the members of this assembly. How is it that we as members of this assembly can do our jobs when we are under threat by our own Speaker?
So I say to you, House leader, it doesn't cut it. The issue here is not the report. The issue is simply that the Speaker has threatened the members of this assembly. The Speaker has dealt with this badly from the beginning. He, through his lawyers and by other means that we heard in question period today, released the information of the person to the media. The Speaker has not dealt well with this.
I say to you: Think clearly and come back to this assembly and tell us that you are going to debate this matter today. We will deal with it forthwith. We will deal with it so that we can move on with the business of the House and deal with the issues of the people of this province and not have to drag our way through this particular issue for an inordinate amount of time.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind the House that I do not have the ability to deal with your points of order. I do rule on the orders of this House and to that extent I control what goes on. There is a motion before the House. I would like to ask that we proceed with debate on it.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The government House leader, I think in a very reasonable way, attempts to say, who would deny information to the members of the House? The answer is simple. Mr Speaker McLean would deny the information to the members of the House, and that's what this is all about. The point we're trying to make is that we believe the government should be proceeding forthwith with this matter so that it can be debated and dealt with and decisions can be made by the individual members of the assembly with regard to the office of the Speaker. Who would deny the information to the members? Unfortunately, Mr Speaker McLean.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to repeat that I don't have the ability to rule on these points of order, but it would appear that under ordinary circumstances it would be something that usually the House leaders would meet on and sort out. I rule on what goes on in this House and I'm not able to rule on those points of order. I would like the House to proceed with the business as the orderly House that you are.
Mr Bisson: I think this makes the issue even more difficult to deal with. You, as the Deputy Speaker, have stood up and, first of all, have refused to acknowledge members on points of order earlier. That's a separate issue. But then in your ruling just now, or in your discussion with this House -- I'm not so sure it was a ruling -- you have said that you don't have the ability to rule on points of order. Where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves without a Speaker, quite frankly. It is your responsibility, as the Deputy Speaker, to deal with the issues that are brought before this House on points of order, and you should have the authority to be able to do that. If not, I think we're in need of another Speaker.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Mr Speaker, I heard you mention that there's a motion before the House. I'd like you to tell me what the motion before the House is.
The Deputy Speaker: Mr Johnson moved that notwithstanding standing orders 8(a) and 96(a), the House will not meet on the morning of Thursday, September 26, 1996, to consider private members' public business; and notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items number 39, 40, 41 and 42; and that Mr Ouellette and Mrs Marland exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): If I might, Mr Speaker: I have been listening carefully to this debate and I must say, I have a great deal of sympathy for the untenable position in which you now find yourself. This is very difficult. It's a mess. There is no precedent of which I'm aware, and it is, I think, urgent and pressing business.
In the normal course of events, the first thing we do as a newly elected Parliament is to choose a Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me, I wanted to clear up if you were debating the motion or were on a point of order.
Mr Conway: On a point of order.
Again, I would not want to be in your situation. You are in one hell of a tough spot and I think we owe it to you to try to come to some resolution.
Let me say at the outset that this is, I think, an urgent priority with which the House must deal. I haven't talked to anybody. I've been away. I come back today to encounter the situation that we all face.
I also have some sympathy for the government House leader. He too is in a very difficult situation.
This is an issue that faces the assembly as a legislative body. Al McLean is our Speaker. We put him there. He is there because we had an election a year ago. The fundamental question with which we must deal is, does Mr Speaker McLean continue to enjoy the confidence of this assembly? That's the fundamental question with which we must deal, and it seems to me that until that question is dealt with, we're not going to be able to do anything else.
I want to say that over the course of 21 years, we have on at least one other occasion of which I'm aware faced a direct motion of censure of the Speaker. If I'm not mistaken, it was November 1981 when the then third party -- the now third party -- lost its patience with Mr Speaker Turner. A motion of censure, as I recall it, was put, debated -- I think Don MacDonald, former leader of the CCF-NDP, put the motion. It was debated and it was voted upon. Interesting that at that time the then government party, the Progressive Conservative Party, headed by Mr Davis, and the Liberal Party, led then by Stuart Smith, sustained Mr Speaker Turner. The New Democratic Party, as I recall, voted en bloc against Mr Turner. He continued, as I think he had every right to continue, because it was clear to him and to any fairminded person who looked at the issue that two of the three parties and an overwhelming majority of members of the assembly voted to sustain him, made it very plain they had confidence in Mr Speaker Turner.
But it is all about confidence, that intangible, immeasurable quality. I must say that over the last few weeks, when I see my Speaker having to take a lie detecting test, when I receive from an agent of my Speaker a directive telling me that I had better not open my mouth about certain subjects or I might be sued, I have to tell you, speaking personally, that ends my confidence. My confidence, I'm sorry to say, in Mr Speaker McLean ended when I received word of his agent's direction around what I might and might not deal with with respect to related matters. I respect the right of 128 other members to come to their own conclusion in that respect, but it is about confidence.
I want to recall that it was 10 years ago this summer in the Dominion Parliament that Mr Speaker Bosley, in a case that not very many people seem to remember, John Bosley, elected by the Parliament of Canada, chosen at the September 4, 1984, general election, was in deep trouble with his parliamentary colleagues. In fact, Mr Speaker Bosley was forced from his chair in September 1986 because for whatever reason or reasons, he lost the confidence of the House. He apparently also lost the confidence of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's agents. But lest we forget, there are some precedents about which I think we should take cognizance. I would have thought John Bosley would have been an excellent Speaker. But for whatever reason, and in that case, as I recall it, members were annoyed about everything from too many violins at dinner parties to -- well, such is the stuff of confidence.
No Speaker -- no Tory, no Liberal, no New Democrat, no Reformer, no independent -- is going to be able to sustain himself or herself without the confidence of the assembly. That is not to say, as the 1981 Ontario precedent makes plain, that one should expect everyone to support a Speaker. I'm sure that if the ballot that chose Mr McLean was made public, it would be clear he did not win with a unanimous vote, I say as I look across at my friend from Mississauga South and think about my friend from Carleton East. We know we had a vote. We had several candidates, good people all. One person won, but it wasn't unanimous, and no fairminded legislator can be expected to hold any occupant of the Speaker's chair to unanimity throughout the piece. I don't expect that and I don't expect that other members are going to agree with me in my assessment of what constitutes confidence either.
But I have to say, speaking for myself, that when my Speaker is on the news talking about some lie detecting test he took, when I get word that my Speaker's legal agent is threatening members of the assembly, whose protection is the Speaker's job, that, "You better not open your mouth because you could be sued" -- and other members, the member for Oriole and the member for Beaches-Woodbine, among others, spoke eloquently to that point -- from my point of view, it's over. It's over not just for Mr Speaker McLean. Any one of us who gets to that point, for whatever good or bad reason -- and I'm sure if John Bosley were here, he'd say there was no small measure of unfairness in the conclusions that some members of the Parliament of Canada came to that forced him from office in September 1986, but it happened. Bosley, I think, made a wise if difficult decision when he simply withdrew from the piece, because he felt, he got the message that the jig was up, that confidence was substantially lost.
I was also looking -- and I'm not going to belabour the point -- there are other cases we have in this country. There's a very interesting book in the library that somebody might read. It's about Mr Speaker Anglin of the Dominion Parliament in the 1870s. He got himself into an interesting pickle. He was a journalist; interesting. Perhaps I should mention that, given Mr Walkom's column this morning. Mr Anglin was a journalist who became Speaker and who happened to be Speaker at the same time as his Saint John, New Brunswick printing house did all of the patronage printing for the MacKenzie Liberal government of the time. Not surprisingly, some of the Tories felt that this violated the Independence of Parliament Act, and Mr Speaker Anglin was forced from the Speaker's Chair in late 1877.
George Drew, to bring it to a more contemporary point, made a very eloquent speech as leader of the federal opposition in Ottawa during the famous pipeline debate, which some older members might remember. That's another case in the Canadian context where a Speaker became the subject of a very heated parliamentary crisis. On that occasion, George Drew, former Conservative Premier of Ontario, then leader of the Conservative opposition in Ottawa, put on the orders and notices paper of the federal parliament that day in June, 1956 a motion of censure with respect to Mr Speaker Beaudoin. In his speech to his own motion, Mr Drew made plain that Mr Beaudoin, for a variety of reasons, had lost the confidence of the House. Notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Louis St Laurent appeared to support and sustain Mr Speaker Beaudoin, at the end of the day the Speaker left the chair and left his office.
So I say, in summary, this is, in so far as our own situation, an unprecedented situation because, Mr Speaker, you sit in the Chair today but the permanent or principal occupant, Mr Speaker McLean, elected by this assembly a year ago, is not with us today because he's taking a medical leave, but it is clear, I think, to most people -- and not just in the opposition caucuses but, I think to be fair, throughout the chamber as a chamber -- that Mr Speaker McLean has lost a sufficient degree of confidence that I believe the question should be put, the vote taken, before we proceed to do the business of this assembly. And if I'm in the minority, and if Mr Speaker McLean is sustained by a majority of this House on a direct vote with respect to his confidence, then clearly he has, as Mr Speaker Anglin had 115 years ago, the right to carry on.
But his confidence is at issue. It must be put to the question, the vote must be taken, and I respectfully submit to you, Mr Speaker, that if you are to be relieved of the almost impossible situation in which you now find yourself, and if this chamber is to move forward to do the public's business, we ought to take that question and vote the matter as our first order of business today, and let us all be governed by whatever result that debate and that vote produces.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma on a related point of order.
Mr Wildman: I think it's important for all members of the House to understand the unprecedented legal position we are in as individuals and as members of the Legislative Assembly. We have advice from legal counsel for the Legislative Assembly that in view of the Speaker's lawyer's letter, we, as members of the Assembly, have the right to see the report, to debate the contents of the report from the independent investigator within this assembly, and we even, I understand his view is, could discuss the contents or the findings of the report among ourselves as members beyond this place. But the threat of legal action still remains that if personal matters dealt with for either of the people involved in this unfortunate affair become public, become matters of debate in the public domain, the Speaker could have grounds for legal action.
In my view that is an untenable situation for myself as a member of this assembly, I think it's an untenable situation for all members of the assembly, and it is the Speaker and his legal counsel who have put us in that untenable situation. For that reason I believe he no longer enjoys the confidence of myself and my colleagues. I also believe we've got to deal with this immediately as the top priority.
I would go further and assert that in my view, to threaten members of the assembly with legal action for essentially doing what they are elected to do when they come here -- it is quite conceivable that the legal counsel for the Speaker and the Speaker himself are in contempt of this assembly.
That's a very serious charge. I don't put it lightly. To have a situation where the person who occupies the chair of this assembly, who is responsible for protecting the rights of the assembly and the privileges of all members, might himself be in contempt of this assembly, I believe is an untenable situation. For that reason I believe we must deal with this and deal with it expeditiously.
This is not a happy situation, but I would plead with the government House leader and all members of the assembly to move on this matter and deal with the motion forthwith.
The Deputy Speaker: I think I would like to deal with that point of order first.
I would just like to go back through my job as I see it, and that is that you are the lawmakers of the province of Ontario and you have made the laws that this House goes by and you have empowered me to make sure that we go by the rules.
We are in motions now. I have no authority to change that. You wanted me to rule by it, and I will. It's up to the government House leader to call orders of the day. I have no power to compel the government House leader to call any particular order, and we will conduct the chamber according to the rules that we have chosen for ourselves.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to raise a point of order with regard to the appropriateness of allowing this motion, exactly the point you're speaking to, given the fact that the government's best argument, from what I can determine, is that this vote should wait until Thursday because some members of at least his caucus need to see the report and determine what is in that report before they can decide how they feel about a vote of non-confidence.
I would suggest, with great respect to the government House leader, that he's on the shakiest ground of all by using that as the reason, given some of the comments that are in the public domain about due process and about how far along this process has gone and whether or not one would consider this to be a final finding or merely a first investigatory step.
I suggest that for the government House leader to say some members of the government caucus want to see that report so they can decide how they feel about confidence is not the fairest, and certainly is a serious denial of both players in this regard in terms of their rights, which is why, Speaker, you're hearing all of us make two points, two points that we're imploring you to use in your capacity as the interim Speaker of this Legislature.
The first is, we do not base our decision, certainly in our caucus, the NDP caucus, on the findings in that report or, for that matter, the findings at the end of the day with regard to all the allegations. That's not the issue for us. The issue for us is that the Speaker, whom I have respect for on a personal basis, but his conduct in this regard has brought such -- quite frankly, I can't think of a better word, a softer word -- disgrace to this House that I find it necessary to support a motion of non-confidence. That has nothing to do with the report. I've heard some of my colleagues in the Liberal Party stand in their place and make the same case as to how they feel and why they feel that way.
The second thing is that given the importance of choosing the Speaker -- you use the term "as our Speaker," and in some sense, yes, sir, you are. But it has been the tradition in the last two Parliaments of this Legislature that we democratically elect our Speaker, and it's the first order of business. You, sir, were appointed by your caucus, as was the second Acting Speaker by the Liberals and the third Acting Speaker by us. That is why technically, without Mr Speaker McLean actively in the job, we don't have a Speaker, and therefore, you, sir, do not have the same responsibility as a duly elected Speaker to represent my interests.
That's not to say that you wouldn't be fair and that you wouldn't be evenhanded. But you do not enjoy the support of the majority of this House through a democratic vote. Given that that's the very first thing that we do when we meet as a Parliament, as a new legislative body, I think it makes a great deal of sense, and that's why I'm on my feet on this point of order, that you should allow those of us who do not continue to support and have confidence in the current Speaker the right to express that democratic privilege that we have as members here on behalf of the people who sent us.
Further, it would seem to us that the government has a problem, and that's why it wants to move this to Thursday. I would think, listening to this unfold today, that's also why they want the report. They want something more than just lack of confidence because the reality is that the current Speaker, like yourself, is a member of the Tory party. So it's very difficult, and I can appreciate that. I wouldn't enjoy the prospect of voting against a member of my own party were they the one in the chair any more than I'm sure the current government members do. But this is not a social club. This is about enacting, as you have said yourself, Speaker, and ensuring that the laws of the land are in the best interests of the people. We have that privilege, that honour and that power.
So as difficult as it may be for the government members, I do not want to see my democratic rights run roughshod to give the government the breathing space it needs to get out of the political predicament it's in, because I suspect that right now, as the government House leader sits across the way and watches me speak, he's not entirely sure where his caucus would go on an open vote of confidence in the sitting Speaker, and I'm assuming it's an open vote.
Therefore, it would make sense that the best thing the government could do is: "Hey, let's buy some time. We've got to buy some time, because we've got to work our way through this thing." Quite frankly, a lot of the government members are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they do support the current Speaker, then for those who have lost confidence -- and that is shared in the public domain by those who agree -- it will look like just a party hack kind of thing where they're supporting one of their own, democracy be damned; if they don't, then they've got to live with the fact that one of their own members was brought down by their hand because they have the majority control in the House.
In conclusion, I think those are two very good, legitimate points of order I ask you to consider when you stand up and continue to allow the government House leader to make this motion. I would ask you to consider them in a way that represents my rights as a member of the minority in this House, given that the chair you sit in is the only thing that stands in the way of a government majority running all over my rights.
I ask you to please reflect seriously, conscientiously, with a sense of tradition and a sense of the rights of all of us here, and by extension the people we represent, and do not allow this motion. Allow us the right to have this vote. If the majority sustains the Speaker, so be it, and if they don't, then we'll have an election. It's that simple, Speaker, and I ask you to stand behind that train of thought. Thank you, sir.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I've listened very intently to the members opposite and heard their concerns and I appreciate the points of view they bring to the debate today.
I say to the member for Hamilton Centre that there was much concern on this side of the House as well. The decision is not one that I think members on this side would come to lightly; it is a concern to each and every one of us how we vote and represent the constituents we're elected to represent.
There are many privileges and rights in this place. There are the privileges and rights of the members of the opposition party. Having been in that situation, I understand the tenuousness of those rights and the power the government can have over the rights of the minority. But this has not been treated, on this side of the House, like the political issue that was summarized by the member for Hamilton Centre. It's a very concerning, deeply depressing moment for us to deal with, and we're having a great deal of difficulty resolving the issue in our minds.
We, today in caucus, discussed this at great length. There is, and I would put it to you very honourably, without any sense of politics at all, a significant number of members in our caucus who I believe would like to review that report. I think a great number of votes would hinge on how that report reads to them. It seems to me that many rights and privileges are sought in this place, and as a backbench member of this government -- I don't want to speak for all -- and as a person trying to be fair on this issue to all people involved, including yourselves, I think that allowing the two days for the members who would see this decision as the linchpin to how they would vote -- I say to the member opposite "how they would vote" is a very real term -- would allow them to come to a clear decision in their own minds.
I personally understand the points that have been made, Mr Speaker. I appeal to you and I thank our House leader today. We have had a very difficult time with this issue. We are not playing politics. This is a heartfelt concern. We ask for the two days. We ask for the time for those members to review the report and we take it as it is, because people's integrity on both sides of this issue hangs in the balance, both people who are involved. No one on this side of the House would stand in their place today and make the cavalier comment that this is simply a political hack or a political opportunity. This is causing as much concern over here, Mr Speaker, as it is causing concern over there.
Mr Curling: I've wrestled a long time with the thought in this point of order and the privileges I have in this House and why I was sent here. This is the reason why I think this point of order is very important to me.
The situation that is now being debated in this House is based on the fact too of the matter of due process. We have things in place to deal with these situations that we have before us, and one of the due process situations like this that has happened to our Speaker now is that the Human Rights Commission is in place to deal with that. Many of my constituents who have found themselves in situations like this have got to go through due process, and it takes them two or three years to do that. They've complained many times and, through me, have brought it to the House that the process is too long. Sometimes we talk about how justice delayed is justice denied.
What I have seen now is that we want to make a decision about an individual, the Speaker, the highest member of the House here. My confidence is no longer with this Speaker. It has nothing to do basically with the incident itself because the Human Rights Commission or whatever other courts will deal with that. But what has happened surrounding that has told me that I have lost all confidence in the way this individual has conducted himself with the House.
One wants to move on with other issues, great issues that concern my constituency and others. The privileges of my constituents are being denied because we cannot move on, because in the meantime we are setting up a new court in here that will deal with that issue and we must wait until that court comes with that decision. I really don't care what happens with that court because the fact is that there is a system and a process in place to deal with that. But what has happened in the process, as I have said, is that I've lost confidence in this individual. Why have I lost that? I've been threatened: "There is a report that's going to be distributed and if you dare speak about it, you'll be sued."
That tells me that is completely out of order. I would like to see you as the Chair, Mr Speaker, rule on that. How can someone tell me, in my privilege, that I will be sued if a report that has been made available to the committee -- that we can't debate it in this House?
My point of order on this issue is not the action that has brought this about, which, as I said, can be dealt with through due process, either through the Human Rights Commission or through the courts, but that we should not be asked to give two days to deal with a report which I have no concern about -- and, I have to be honest with you, I don't care about -- because there is another process. If that's the case, all the others who find themselves in that situation will then have this court deal with it because within two or three months all their issues that have been brought forward, all those issues, can be done in a short time.
I had cases in the time when I was the critic for human rights, cases that had been brought forward where people had lost their jobs and had to step down, take a leave of absence. Some were found not guilty or guilty, and for some no decision had been made, but they had to wait two to three years. I think the precedent we are setting here is wrong. We cannot have one court for some people and another court for the others. In order for me to proceed with this kind of event, you must have a ruling that this be done with today.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to rule on that point of order in this way: I'd like to reiterate that the Speaker enforces the rules of the House. The rules of the House are that we are in routine motions. I don't suppose you would want to give me all the power and authority to make all of these decisions. Even if you did, I wouldn't. I am the Deputy Speaker. I will insist that the rules that you have set for yourselves you will obey. That is my job. That is my job only.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It's exactly on that very point of the rules of procedure that I want to raise the point of order I have. I think what is at the heart of the matter here today and the problem with the way in which the government House leader proposes to proceed, as if nothing had happened, business as usual, is that that, in and of itself, given the issue we have before us, is the problem.
We have in front of us a question of confidence in the Speaker of this House. It is an issue that many members have spoken about. I for one would add my voice to those who have said, "The actions of Speaker McLean to date are sufficient for me to have lost confidence in him." I appreciate that for some others there are other pieces of information they require in order for them to come to that conclusion. Being all fairminded people, we each will come to our decisions in our own way and through whatever kind of information we need to get.
I believe the question of the report is an important one. I would have thought that, as a legislator, it would have been appropriate for me and all 130 members of this Legislature to have been given a way to get access to that report, not necessarily to see the whole report but to know the essence of the findings of that report. Because that, in terms of the issue that was before the investigator, would have been appropriate for us as the collective employers of Speaker McLean and as the body to whom he is responsible and whose confidence he needs to have, as any Speaker needs to have, as being essential for him or any other Speaker to continue in the position of Speaker.
However, along that process a couple of other things happened in the way in which Speaker McLean conducted himself in dealing with accusations lodged against him that in my mind clearly showed that he chose to put protecting himself above protecting the institutions of the Parliament of Ontario, and that, to me, is fundamental. You cannot have a Speaker who chooses through legal actions and through other steps to protect his own self-interest first and foremost above the interests of the individual and collective legislators of this province. To me that's a point that is basic to the workings of this Legislature.
Having said that, Mr Speaker, I understand -- I don't agree, but I understand -- the view presented by the member for Etobicoke West in saying that he and others need to have more information before they can come to a decision. But I do say this, that I don't know how this Legislative Assembly can continue to function on a business-as-usual, even until Thursday, until this question is resolved.
So, Mr Speaker, the only thing I can offer -- and I appreciate the position you're in, in trying to apply the rules as you see them and as they are written -- I am asking you this, and I'm asking through you the government House leader, in suggesting that the only way out of this morass is indeed for this House to stand adjourned until Thursday and then for us to resume and deal at that point with the motion of non-confidence.
If there are members of this Legislative Assembly who feel they need more time to be able to garner whatever information they wish, then that, I suggest to you, sir, and I suggest to the government House leader, is the only way to reconcile the fact that for some of us the report is now irrelevant to the question of confidence with the position that some others have taken that the report is substantially important to the decision that they will come to with respect to the confidence they have or don't have in the Speaker.
I think that's the only way we have at this juncture to reconcile those two very clearly established and expressed positions here among people who represent the constituents in this Legislative Assembly. I would put that to you, sir, as a suggestion in asking you to use the office that you occupy, albeit on a temporary basis, in suggesting that as a course of action to the government House leader, who I know in being present is also able to hear that and hopefully be able to respond in a positive manner to that suggestion as a way to get us out of this point and on with the proper business of this House.
The Deputy Speaker: I wouldn't want the member for Dovercourt or any other member to get the impression that I either agree or disagree with what you're saying. We are in an order of business according to the rules that you have made and that you have wanted me to enforce. We are in routine motions, and that's why I'm ruling on your point of order, because it seems to me that you are debating a motion that isn't before this House.
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The government House leader has indicated that he does not wish to proceed until Thursday. We are, of course, back the first day and we find ourselves without a Speaker.
There is a way to proceed, and that is for the government House leader simply to table the report that many of us wish to see. He's quite right when he says there are some members who would like to see the report, study it and then make a decision. That is correct. But it is in his power today to simply say to you -- and of course the suggestion was made by Mr Silipo that we could adjourn the House, and that could be simply done as well. But it is in his power simply to say: "Here is the report. I've put it in the public domain." Then of course the press would be interested to find out what's in the report. We can debate the report and then it has immunity. The press can quote what we are saying and consequently there would be no afterthought of having each one of us facing court action because of the threat of the Speaker.
So, Mr Speaker, if the government wants to go ahead and have a debate on this item, it can quite simply do so, not by seeking a confrontation which you are in the middle of -- and we are somewhat sympathetic with you on this. Consequently, why don't you adjourn the House, recommend to the House leader to justify with the other leaders of our parties that the report can be tabled, and we can proceed without continuously finding ourselves in this morass, in this situation today?
The Deputy Speaker: On your point of order, I would like to suggest to you that you might have a good suggestion, and I wouldn't want to rule on that. I rule on points of order and I rule on the rules that you have made up, and the very rule that you are suggesting the Deputy Speaker take on this day violates the rules that you have given. It is not a point of order.
Mr Hampton: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: I rise on standing order 21(a): "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes, or by practice, precedent, usage and custom."
I'm asking you for a ruling, Speaker. I'm reading from Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, 21st edition. Members of the Legislature and members of Parliament enjoy certain privileges. One of the privileges is freedom of speech. I would suggest to you that the actions taken by the Speaker and the Speaker's solicitor are a direct affront to the privileges of freedom of speech by members of this Legislature.
Mrs Caplan: In this House.
Mr Hampton: In this House.
One of the other privileges outlined by Erskine May is freedom from intimidation. In fact, Erskine May goes on -- and I want to read this to you, Speaker, because I want a ruling from you on this -- Erskine May goes on to discuss contempt. It says, in dealing with contempt, "Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt...." That's on page 115 of Erskine May, chapter 9.
Speaker, I want you to reflect on what has happened here today, because I would suggest to you that what has been shown is contempt for this Legislature and contempt for the privileges of every member of this Legislature by Speaker McLean.
The first part of it, Speaker, simply says that we all have a privilege against being obstructed or intimidated in our work. I would say to you that one part of our work here is to be able to decide how we shall be dealt with to see the rules of this House enforced. But in fact what has happened is we have a Speaker who, as I understand it, contacted the Board of Internal Economy and the House leaders and indicated to them that if they attempted to deal with matters, if they attempted to communicate the report, they would be sued.
I would put it to you, Speaker, that what has been shown is contempt for this Legislature, a contempt which goes to the very integrity, the very core of this Legislature. I would ask for a ruling from you, Speaker, because I believe the privileges of all members of this House have been infringed upon and I believe contempt has been shown for this Legislature. I want a ruling from you.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Rainy River has requested a ruling on privilege. The members should be aware that privilege is a tenet of the work of this --
Mr Hampton: Speaker, I sincerely raised the issue of contempt.
The Deputy Speaker: I will seek a ruling on privilege. If you will give me 10 minutes in recess, I'll do so.
The House recessed from 1644 to 1656.
The Deputy Speaker: Part of your privilege as a member is undoubtedly a right to unfettered free speech in this House. Let me repeat, for emphasis, "in this House."
If a member were to make comments in this House about the report in question and, subsequent to those comments, a legal action was commenced, this would unquestionably constitute contempt of this House. In giving this ruling, I must caution the House that this situation has not yet arisen.
Therefore, I rule that there does not exist today a prima facie case of privilege, nor a contempt of Parliament.
Interjection: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Debate?
Mrs Caplan: Mr Speaker, if I could, I would like to speak to --
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to bring this to a conclusion. I want to know why you're standing.
Mrs Caplan: I would like to, if I could, present some evidence so that you --
The Deputy Speaker: No. I want to know why the member has arisen.
Mrs Caplan: I have a point of privilege.
The Deputy Speaker: Okay. I'd like to hear your point of privilege.
Mrs Caplan: As I said earlier in the day, I received a letter from the lawyer for Speaker McLean, which I'm prepared to table with this House. In this letter -- and I will read it for you, Mr Speaker, because I believe the ruling you just made may not have considered the last sentence in this letter. It's addressed to me, Mrs Caplan, re file number 11230.
"Newspaper reports suggest that the investigator's report will be delivered to you and then released to the leaders of the various political parties.
"I enclose a copy of my letter to Mr Hayter.
"Please read," underlined, "the policy, a copy of which I enclose.
"Please read sections 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
"In my opinion, you should refuse to receive a copy of the investigator's report as its delivery to you is a breach of the policy. If you receive it, you must keep it confidential.
"Any breach will result in an action for damages."
Clearly, Mr Speaker, this is threatening. Just the statement that says, "Any breach will result in an action for damages" -- when I read this, I felt intimidated, I felt threatened and I felt that it didn't matter where there was a discussion of this report, be it in this House or be it outside this House. The fact that I was threatened with legal action should there be any breach of confidentiality, as seen by the lawyer for Speaker McLean, said to me, and this is what I said earlier in the day, that the Speaker of this House, Speaker McLean, authorized this letter and clearly understood the intent of this letter. As Speaker of this House he would know that members of this House have the right and the privilege to speak unfettered in this House about matters rightly before this House.
The fact that I understand from the government House leader that there is yet another opinion, which would suggest that members can receive the report and debate the report freely in this House, suggests to me that I was correct in my interpretation of this letter and that it was an attempt by Speaker McLean to intimidate me.
The fact that I interpreted it that way, that my colleague Mr Wildman thus refused the report because he was intimidated by the threats contained in this letter, would suggest that in fact there has been a contempt of this House, that members have felt intimidated and that you should reconsider your ruling on the basis of this letter, which is clear in its intent. That intent is to stifle members, even in this House, from speaking. That is the point; that is the issue.
For any member who believes that in order to make a judgement they must read the report, I suggest to them that no member of this House knows better than the Speaker of this House the rights and the privileges of members to feel that they can freely speak. For Speaker McLean to permit his lawyer to send a letter that says, "Any breach will result in an action for damages," is contempt of this Legislature.
I believe you are in a very difficult situation. But having agreed to rule on the issue of privilege -- which I did not ask you to do earlier today -- I believe that if you are going to rule on this, you must rule that Speaker McLean has shown contempt for this House, because indeed this letter is proof that he has.
Now, I attempted earlier, while you were about to make your ruling, to bring you a copy of this letter. I am prepared to table it in this Legislature and ask that you reconsider your ruling in light of a letter which is very, very clear. When I received it, I felt that it was improper. It was not only bad judgement, but it was contrary to the rules of this Legislature.
I believe, from my own experience and my reaction to this letter and the reaction of other members of the Legislature, that this is all the evidence that should be required of the Speaker's inability to maintain a just and fair environment in this House, because I believe, by virtue of this letter, that he has shown contempt for this House.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to point out to the member for Oriole that this House was aware of that letter when I made my ruling.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Elgin on a point of order.
Mr Peter North (Elgin): Mr Speaker, as you would know, I perhaps more than most members of the Legislature depend on the Speaker, for a number of different reasons. Earlier today, many of the members who spoke referred to a decision and they referred to it in the context of the three parties, the three caucuses. In light of that, I would ask that any information or material that could be shared or would be shared would be considered to be shared with me as well.
I am concerned, as Speaker McLean is a friend of mine as well. I want to say that it seems somewhat ironic to me that the government of the day and the members of the government, perhaps members of this side as well, would feel so fairminded and strike such a balance that Speaker McLean himself doesn't wish to have brought to light; I mean, he doesn't himself want to strike that balance. He doesn't himself, by virtue of the fact that the member for Oriole has just shown you, want to bring an opportunity for all members to view this issue with some balance.
I think it's important that we do look at all avenues and all angles of this issue, but it is, I must say, extremely ironic. If Speaker McLean doesn't want us to look at this report in balance to make our decision, then perhaps we should move on and make our decision.
I must say that it is another concern that I have and I must bring to your attention that I think it is fair to say that we should look at the optics of this House making such a decision based on this particular document. I believe that it in some ways may have some bearing on some outcome that could come later on in some form of litigation or some decision that could be made down the road. I think that should be borne in mind as well, because I think it's important. There is a certain optics when this particular Legislature and the members in it make a decision based on information that they're provided with. That could have a profound effect on either Speaker McLean or the complainant in this particular situation.
The last comment I'll make is that you have said on a number of occasions this afternoon in this Legislature that you are not able to rule on points of order. I am curious to understand how it is that the Speaker of this Legislature at --
Failure of sound system.
Mr North: -- as a member in this Legislature. I depend on you, Mr Speaker, to put forth --
Failure of sound system.
Mr North: I ask you if you can explain to me how it is that you are -- I'm not judging you, Speaker, and I want you to understand that. But sitting as Speaker of the Legislature, you have said on a number of occasions today that you cannot make a ruling on a point of order. If you can explain that to me, sir --
Failure of sound system.
Mr North: -- take through you to the government House leader the points that I've made as information.
The Deputy Speaker: On your point of order, it is not a point of order. If I've given you the impression that I can't or won't rule on a point of order, then my apologies. I found that they were not points of order.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): Mr Speaker, I would rise on a point of order and ask for the Speaker's ruling as to what the House leader has proposed, which is indeed constituting this House as a committee of the whole to rule on an alleged instance of sexual harassment. I know of no precedent, no basis under which we can do that, and yet what the House leader has suggested to this body is that we would, in effect, by reading a report that is part of that proceeding, do that.
When we look at the rules of debate which you need to apply, there is a prohibition against members who would speak to anything that is under a quasi-judicial ruling. We need to know what form of process this will be that the House leader has suggested as appropriate for the days to follow. We need a ruling from the Speaker in order to know whether that will be an appropriate discussion.
The Deputy Speaker: To the member for Elgin, I may have neglected to include that he has remedies to his suggestions.
I do not find that you have a point of order.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Please, I appreciate that this has been discussed quite well by any number of members of the assembly. Today you are, as Deputy Speaker, fulfilling the role of Speaker. There's no issue, no quarrel with that. Mr McLean has absented himself from the assembly. As Speaker, you've outlined that you have some very distinct and clear roles. The maintenance of order is one of them, and all of us understand that. When we sit and listen to the member for Oriole read into the record a letter that she received -- I appreciate that you've ruled on her point of privilege. It's been acknowledged and I think it's common ground here that when counsel speaks for his or her client it's as if that client were speaking.
Look at what's happened here. Mr McLean, through his lawyer, has effectively announced that at least in so far as Mr McLean is concerned there is no longer such thing as immunity of the House. The letter from lawyer Teplitsky to Ms Caplan and to others in this assembly says that, and again it's as if Speaker McLean himself were uttering this, "Discussion of the contents of a report which you may receive" -- to wit the Swinton report -- "anywhere, any time, will result in us initiating legal action seeking a remedy," seeking damages.
That's a very bold proposition because it displays either an ignorance -- I don't think it's an ignorance of the long-held tradition of House immunity. It's either an ignorance of the law and the rule or it's a bold-faced contempt for that long-standing rule. It's in effect a Speaker of this Legislature saying to the members of the assembly that the Speaker of this Legislature no longer recognizes the long-held, historic rule of House immunity. I suggest to you, sir, that in itself is contemptuous.
The Speaker, in his ruling on the member for Oriole's question of privilege, said, "Well, the contempt can only be raised after the misconduct that constitutes the contempt has occurred." That's my understanding of your ruling, sir.
The Deputy Speaker: The member does not have a point of order.
Mr Pouliot: I feel that it has been a difficult day for you. Permettez-moi de me joindre à mes nombreux collègues du Parti libéral puis de l'opposition officielle, à mes collègues de mon parti, le Nouveau Parti démocratique.
À la une ces gens ont demandé que vous, bien sûr intérimaire dans votre capacité, portez jugement sur un incident, sur le fait suivant qui s'est produit : à travers les services de son avocat le président actuel, residant, de la Chambre, M. McLean, a tenté de façon systématique, de façon délibéré de menotter, de déposer un état de silence sur les membres de l'Assemblée législative, déposer un régime d'interdiction, empêcher le débat, bousculer les gens, les menacer, menacer leur état financier, menacer leur droit de représenter, chacune et chacun, leur côté. C'est à vous. C'est votre responsabilité. Je vous remercie.
The Deputy Speaker: On your point of order, I have ruled on privilege; it would seem to me, from the debate I hear, that you are arguing privilege and rising on a point of order. We are in routine motions, and if there is something that is delaying the House, there is a rule --
The Deputy Speaker: Pardon me -- there's a rule that I can rule on.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to warn the member for Lake Nipigon to come to order.
We are in routine motions. My ruling is that it's not a point of order. You are arguing a privilege. It's not a point of order.
Mr Bisson: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I rise as order 21(a) says clearly: "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes...."
I hear where you came back into the House just shortly a little while ago and said basically that your ruling was in effect that so long as the Speaker had not acted out on his threat to pursue this matter in the courts in suing one of the members of this assembly, he would not be in contempt until such an action would take place, is what you said. I repeat: If the Speaker of the House did not sue us or just threatened us, there was nothing you can do, but if he actually did sue us, he would be in contempt.
I say to you, Mr Speaker, this is interesting because that would be tantamount to my going into a court and saying to the judge, "I threaten you," with whatever actions I deemed as a citizen that I want to take against that judge. I would be ruled in contempt if I were to be in that position.
So I ask you, Mr Speaker, with regard to the point of privilege that I rise on, I find myself, and I think the rest of the members of the Legislative Assembly find themselves, in a bit of a strange situation with what you have ruled on coming back into this House. In effect, you have said, so long as the Speaker doesn't act on his threat, he can threaten us as much as he wants, but there's nothing we can do about it. That's basically what you're saying.
I am saying as a member of this House on the point of privilege: No, the Speaker of the House cannot threaten the members of the assembly with actions against those members for dealing with the matter. It would be tantamount to my going to court and saying to the judge, "I threaten you," with whatever action and I don't want the judge doing his job. The judge, he or she, would immediately rule me in contempt of that court and would either throw me in jail -- I think that's probably what would happen immediately.
I would also say on the point of privilege that if a member of the public were to come before a standing committee of this House and were to say to the members of the House, "I threaten you," with whatever action, as members of this assembly, that member of the public would be put in contempt of the Legislature and of that committee.
So I say to you, Mr Speaker, quite frankly I think by your own ruling you are basically saying what I think the members of the opposition are saying, which is the Speaker is in contempt of this House by the actions of his letter and by his subsequent actions and how he's dealing with this. I say to you, Mr Speaker, you should go back and you should think about this carefully and you should come back and rule, because the Speaker is in contempt by his very actions.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to thank the member for Cochrane South. I gave a ruling on the point of privilege. I haven't heard anything that would change my decision on that and I have not heard anything new on privilege.
Debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Rainy River. Would the member please tell me why he's on his feet?
Mr Hampton: I'm raising a point of privilege. It is a different issue than I raised before. I raised with you before the issue of contempt. I want to again refer to Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 21st edition, page 126. This has to do with the issue of intimidation. I want to point out to you this citation: "Members and others have been punished" for "threatening a member with the possibility of a trial at some future time for a question asked in the House...." The reference here is the report of the committee of privileges, House of Commons, 284, 1959-60. This is a specific example, Speaker, where someone threatened future court action against a member of the Legislature for asking a particular question in the House. That was held to be intimidation.
I'm asking you, Speaker, what we have here is a threat by the Speaker, very clearly -- you've heard the words, the written words -- to bring future court action if any member of the Legislature attempts to discuss or otherwise deal with this matter. I respectfully submit to you, Speaker, that just as the House of Commons ruled on this in 1959-60, we have in this case a situation of intimidation, intimidation which breaches the privileges of all the members of this Legislature, and I would ask you for a ruling on that point.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to address the ruling to the member for Rainy River, and that is that I have ruled on the privilege. I haven't heard anything that changes my mind.
Mr Hampton: Speaker, with due respect, when I spoke on my previous point of privilege it was with respect to the privilege of free speech. This is with respect to the privilege of freedom from intimidation. I have given you a specific cite from the House of Commons which I think, if not exactly on point, is very close to being on point, and it was found to be intimidation within the House of Commons.
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, further to --
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair would like to recognize the member for Welland-Thorold if he knew why he was standing.
Mr Kormos: Further to that point raised by my colleague the leader of the third party --
The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. In this order of business there are three ways in which you might get the attention or the reflection of the House. One is on a point of order, one might be a point of privilege and the other is debate. The Chair has to know why you are on your feet.
Mr Kormos: Speaker, please. Further to that point means further to that point of privilege, which is what I stand on now.
The Deputy Speaker: No. I would like the member to tell me why he is on his feet.
Mr Kormos: I'll stand on a point of order, Speaker. Chair, we're ad idem now.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Welland-Thorold on a point of order.
Mr Kormos: Further to that point of privilege, this is what the point of order is all about, in that the leader of the third party stood on a point of privilege and raised a unique and separate issue from the point of privilege that had been raised earlier.
I understand the Speaker is under pressure today. I understand that. All of us do. I understand the Speaker realizes that the press gallery's eyes are on him and that this is his 15 minutes of Warholian fame. But at the same time we're talking about something here so serious that it warrants the most thorough consideration.
The leader of the third party raised the issue of intimidation, which is distinct and separate from the issue of contempt that was spoken of to the Speaker in his earlier point of privilege. Again, I understand the Speaker's eagerness to want to move these things along. This is part of the problem. Mr Hampton now raises an issue with clear precedent from the federal House of Commons. The Speaker ought to be adjourning for a brief 10 minutes.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair is warning the member for Welland-Thorold to come to order. I am interrupting your point of order because I have to understand the difference between what I'm hearing from you as a point of order and what I understand is a questioning of the ruling of the Chair.
Mr Kormos: The problem is that when you responded to the leader of the third party on his point of privilege, you didn't address his point of privilege; you reiterated what you had said on an earlier --
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Welland-Thorold come to order. I understand. Questioning the ruling of the Chair is not a point of order.
Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, on a point of order, a discrete and different point of order: I'm sure you must find this difficult as we see the hours this afternoon while away and we see ourselves unable to conduct business appropriate to the province of Ontario, business of interest to the public of Ontario, because of a stalemate with respect to the motion of non-confidence in the Speaker and when that will be dealt with.
I would like you to rule on the issue of whether or not the government House leader's motion that he has put forward with respect to private members' business on Thursday morning is in order at this time, and I'd like to explain to you why. First of all, under section 14 of the rules you have a duty and a responsibility to advise the House when a motion is out of order. You do that when you find that the motion "is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament." I want to address this with respect to both the rules and the privileges. I want to come at it from two aspects.
It is obvious, I think, to all of us here that the rules of the Legislature as they are currently set out do not adequately anticipate the events that face us at this time. So I understand the difficulty you and the table officers are in with respect to how to give us guidance on how to proceed through this. But if I may make this point to you, the job of a Chair is to facilitate the running of business, is to facilitate the members of this Legislature being able, within their rights and privileges, to conduct the business of the province. There are times when events or circumstances will arise that the rules don't foresee. Those are the times -- I have not made my point, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to rule on your point.
Ms Lankin: I haven't made it yet.
The Deputy Speaker: The point of order is whether or not the motion put forward by the House leader a few hours ago is in order, and that is not a point of order.
Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, you have not listened to the reasons.
The Deputy Speaker: It's been a long afternoon -- my first. I would like to be indulgent and tolerant, and I may be for another minute or two. Would the member for Beaches-Woodbine make a point of order.
Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, I gave the citation with respect to your responsibility to advise the House whether or not a motion is in order. So I am clearly raising a point of order. You have a ruling to make on that. You would not like to hear my reasons? You don't want to hear the reasons why I'm putting a point of order, Mr Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Beaches-Woodbine please come to order.
Ms Lankin: I'll come to order, Mr Speaker, but you're going to have this whole place blow up if you don't control the way --
Mr Pouliot: Don't play games. Line up your ducks.
The Deputy Speaker: It's been a long afternoon. Order.
Mr Pouliot: Line up your ducks. We've got more than --
The Deputy Speaker: I am naming the member for Nipigon.
Mr Pouliot: I've come here to work, Norm.
The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Nipigon please withdraw.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, with the highest of respect to you and for all the good deeds out there, I will indeed withdraw.
The Deputy Speaker: There may have been some misunderstanding by the member for Nipigon. I'd warned him earlier and I had named him. Maybe I didn't speak loudly enough. You may have thought I asked you to withdraw a comment; I asked you to withdraw from the chamber.
Mr Pouliot left the chamber.
The Deputy Speaker: I want to rule on the point of order raised by the member for Beaches-Woodbine. My ruling is that I don't have to listen to all of the reasons for why you want to make a point of order. I just want to know if it is, not all the reasons why it should be.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Mr Speaker, I now move that you put the motion.
Mr Bisson: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: There's been no debate.
The Deputy Speaker: We'll take a minute.
Mr Bisson: There's been no debate on the motion. Come on, Norm. On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: There's been no debate. How can he move forward?
The Deputy Speaker: The ruling of the Chair is that that motion is not in order.
Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: I am a little bit amazed at the method of ejecting the member for Nipigon, but anyway, there's a point I want to make on a point of privilege, if you would allow me about two minutes; it will be fairly quick. In Beauchesne's Rules and Forms, it says: "The privilege of freedom of speech is both the least questioned and the most fundamental right of the member of Parliament on the floor of the House and in committee." It is guaranteed by the British Bill of Rights and is a guarantee of our Parliament.
If you go on to point 99 within the same document, the Parliamentary Rules and Forms -- Mr Speaker, I want you to listen, because I'm going to ask you to rule on this -- it says: "Direct threats which attempt to influence members' actions in the House are undoubtedly breaches of privilege."
The point I make to the Speaker is that it seems to me that Speaker McLean, in the particular actions he has taken in regard to this matter, has threatened the members of this House. The parliamentary rules under Beauchesne are fairly clear: It says you're not allowed to do that. I would ask the Speaker -- in this case you, the Deputy Speaker -- to rule on that matter. Take 10 minutes if you need to, and come back and tell us if indeed Speaker McLean has threatened the members of this House and if indeed he is in contempt of this House.
The Deputy Speaker: I've ruled on that point of privilege previously. The chair recognizes the member for Beaches-Woodbine.
Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, we're moving to debate on the motion? Well, if I may indicate and remind people, the subject matter of the motion is with respect to private members' business and orders of the House with respect to what private member ballot items are coming forward in what order -- routine business of the House, routine business.
I guess the point that many of us have been trying to make is that there is nothing routine about the circumstance we face in this Legislature today. There is nothing routine about a circumstance where a number, if not the majority -- we don't know because it has not been tested in a democratic vote yet -- where a number of members of the Legislative Assembly have indicated a lack of confidence in the Speaker, where a motion has been put forward, has been filed appropriately, with due notice given, and where the government of the day is prohibiting debate, prohibiting it from coming forward.
Had I had an opportunity to give you reasons for the point of order, which you wouldn't allow me to, I might have pointed out some sections to you in which you can see that the election of the Speaker of the House is given precedent over all other matters. It is not routine business. Surely, even though the rules don't contemplate the circumstance we find ourselves in, surely it is common sense to understand that when a very serious motion is put that says there is a lack of confidence in the Speaker of the House, that matter should take precedence over a motion of routine business with respect to private members' hour on Thursday morning. I feel very strongly that this is a matter that the government House leader must reflect upon and that the Deputy Speaker who is now in the chair and the table officers must reflect on, because we are in a situation where the government can forestall forever the ability of members of this Legislature to have dealt with appropriately and in democratic fashion a motion of lack of confidence in the Speaker. That cannot be what has been envisioned by the priority of election of Speaker, by the priority of protection of rights of members. Therefore, I think people need time to think about this and I'd like to move an adjournment of the debate.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Beaches-Woodbine moves the adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members; this will be a 30-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1742 to 1811.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine has moved adjournment of the debate. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing.
Those opposed will please rise and remain standing.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 24; the nays are 56.
The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
It being past 6 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1812.