36th Parliament, 1st Session

L206b - Tue 17 Jun 1997 / Mar 17 Jun 1997


Report continued from volume A.



Continuation of debate on the motion for adoption of amendments to the standing orders.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak on this very important motion. I bring perhaps a different perspective from a good number of my colleagues who have already spoken. I am a new member, elected just two years ago, and I look at the practices that are operated in this place and compare them to other jurisdictions and the House of Commons, which is in the same region as my constituency, where I had the opportunity to work for four or five years. I look at the way my city council in Nepean and the regional council in Ottawa-Carleton operate. I see there is certainly a marked difference in the way this place operates.

I want to speak particularly about the process. Some number of months ago I spoke with the government House leader and expressed to him the interest I had in the standing orders, and the frustrations not only I had but a good number of my colleagues on the back benches of the government had, and told him I was interested in looking into the potential to increase the democracy of this place for backbenchers particularly. The House leader invited me and said, "Go to it and come up with some ideas, some recommendations."

I had the opportunity of consulting with a good number of people and getting advice and counsel. I had the opportunity to speak to the Clerk and the assistant clerk. I was able to meet on more than one occasion with legislative research and with officials at the library here at the Legislature. I drew from my own experiences working at the House of Commons in Ottawa, and from the federal standing orders, of course, which work very well in the House of Commons. People come from around the Commonwealth to look at how the Parliament in Ottawa operates, one of the most democratic institutions in the world, and many of the changes I found were contained right here in the federal standing orders.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You are a puppet of the Premier's office. Why don't you admit it?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Cochrane South, come to order.

Mr Baird: I'll quote the member for Cochrane South in a minute. I've got some good quotes from him.

I also consulted my caucus colleagues and staff here at Queen's Park and presented some ideas and suggestions in terms of what would be good to try to increase democracy for backbenchers, increase the role of individual members in this place. On that process, it's funny, even the Toronto Star, which expressed some concerns and some objections to the changes, said in an editorial on June 11, "To their credit, the Tories have floated their proposals before forcing them on the Legislature; they should learn from their predecessors' mistakes" and investigate these changes. But they gave the government credit for floating these changes, for sending them out to the House leaders and to all members of this House to get their feedback before they tabled the motion we're debating here today. I think that's very important.

My proposals that I tabled to all members of the House and the motion brought forward by the government House leader do absolutely nothing to cut back the amount of debate on legislation, absolutely nothing. In fact, they do the exact opposite. They propose to allow more members more opportunities to speak and to represent their constituents. What could be more democratic?

This motion strengthens the democratic rights of individual members to debate and vote on the budget, something that has only happened in three of the last 10 years. Members have a right to vote on the budget, I believe.

The members would have the right to have their private members' bills voted on. The current undemocratic practice allows 12 members to block a vote. This rule has been used 82 times in the last number of years since it was introduced; only once in this Parliament when it was used by the opposition. Generally it's used by the government. Under the Davis years it was used by the government. I think that's wrong and that's why I recommended changing these.

The proposals would enjoy more debate by permitting the House to sit more than four and a half hours a day and allow the House to sit more than 20 hours a week. That's hardly revolutionary, to sit more than 20 hours a week. Back in Nepean, they would think that an eight-hour day would be something most hardworking taxpayers have to work.

The proposals would also allow for more debate by allowing the House to sit for more than 25 weeks a year, cutting short MPP breaks to deal with the public business. We're looking at a very important piece of legislation in committee just downstairs, the truck safety bill, which gets tough on drunk drivers. These proposals would allow more opportunity for debate in this place.

The proposals would also allow more time to debate private members' bills at third reading. Currently, they compete with government orders and with opposition day motions. The excuses will run out because there will certainly be more opportunities for debate on private members' bills. That's something that's very important.

Ontario is not the only place where backbenchers are speaking up and trying to get more roles, more speaking time. I noticed in the Globe and Mail yesterday: "Backbenchers Raise Their Voices." In Alberta, backbenchers, as they are here in Ontario, are pushing for a greater role and that's something I was pleased to see.

Another important thing to mention is that most of these --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): On a point of order, Madam Chair: There isn't a quorum and I think their members should be here to listen to this member.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: It's funny, when the member for St Catharines calls this the most important issue we're debating, there are only two members of the opposition in the House. Isn't that amazing, Madam Speaker? Only two members in the House. The most important piece of business this House will consider and twice during this debate there have been no members of the Liberal Party present because they've got more important things to do. It's very shocking that they wouldn't be here in the House wanting to debate the important, salient political issues of the day.

As I was saying, most of the proposals brought forward in this motion simply adopt the procedures and the practices of the House of Commons, the standing orders they use in Ottawa, the standing orders that M. Chrétien, M. Martin use to conduct business in Ottawa. As I said earlier, that is one of the most democratic institutions in the parliamentary world. In fact, people regularly, every summer, travel from around the world to come to Ottawa, not just for the great tourism, but to learn more about the parliamentary practices in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

It's important to look at what people who are now in government said when they were in opposition. One member in 1989 said, "We have lagged behind as the federal House and other provincial Houses have moved on to bring in changes." Do you know who said that? The member for Nipissing, the then House leader of the third party, said that, and he says the same thing now.

What did Mr Cooke, the House leader of the New Democratic Party, say? In 1992 he said, "We're proceeding with parliamentary reform which will finally bring the Ontario Legislature in line with other legislatures in Canada and the House of Commons."

Ah, here's a good one. This is a very good one: "Every Legislature in Canada and the federal House of Commons have similar rules. They have similar rules because they have recognized that you have to have a process to allow the Legislature to do its business, to allow the legislation to go through the House. But more important, it's to allow full participation on the part of all members," talking about why the Ontario Legislature would want to adopt the federal standing orders. Do you know who said that? My good friend the member for Cochrane South said that, and I agree with him. He was right when he said it. I know the member for Cochrane South will want to repeat that later in the debate, since the government is following through with the things he proposed when he was a government backbencher and I know Mr Bisson will want to say the same thing in opposition that he did in government.

The proposals before the House allow for more debate. What could be more democratic than allowing for more debate? Under these proposals more members will have the opportunity to speak. These proposals simply mirror those of the House of Commons in terms of speaking time, exact mirroring, like M. Bisson said was the right thing to do.

Right now, only the first three members can speak for 90 minutes. We normally debate a bill for three days and in that three days we would consider the bill for approximately seven and a half hours. What we see is that the first three speakers get four and a half of the seven and a half hours of debate. These proposals will allow for more democracy, more debate. More backbenchers, particularly those in the government since there are more of them, but also backbenchers in the third party and the official opposition, will have the opportunity to speak. What could be more democratic than allowing more backbenchers and more members to participate in debate? Absolutely nothing. That's the way Mr Chrétien operates things in Ottawa, the most democratic of parliaments in the world. That is very, very important.

Some members have said, "Could you make your point in 20 minutes?" I heard the House leader of the New Democratic Party ask that. I thought, "Let's consult the experts." One of my good colleagues on the other side had this to say in the debate when the standing order changes were brought in under the New Democratic Party. He said, "If you can't come to your point in 20 minutes, you have a real problem." Do you know who said that on June 22, 1992? My good friend the member for Cochrane South, Mr Bisson. He said it. I want to tell you, I agree with the member for Cochrane South. He was very wise when he made that statement. That is very important.

I want to come back now to process, the process connected to this. These proposals were released publicly. They were on the CBC, they were on Global, they were on CBC television, it was in the Globe and Mail, it was in Southam, it was in the Sun -- and that was somehow sneaking them in, sneaking them in at a press conference with 15 journalists present. That's the way to sneak things in.

One of the things we did two weeks ago yesterday was that we sent a letter to all MPPs inviting them to make submissions -- consulting -- to contribute to the debate.

Interjection: Who did?

Mr Baird: I did. I invited members to submit information on the process. I want to thank the member for Elgin, Peter North. He came forward with some suggestions to the proposal and he spoke to me of his concern as an independent member. It was interesting; having served in this House for two years, I can't recall if I'd ever met the member for Elgin. He came forward to bring forward some suggestions. I'm glad my colleagues the member for Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville and the member for Carleton, who was in the chamber this afternoon, are here. Mr North came forward and said, "Listen, there was a report done by the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly in 1993 on the role of the independent member, right here." This report was researched, a good number of members from all parties sat on it, and it's been gathering dust at the legislative library since November 24, 1993. It has been gathering dust because it was never acted upon. Mr North brought this forward, and I am very pleased to see the government House leader accept all the recommendations Mr North brought forward, not some of them but all of them. We wanted to allow a greater role for backbenchers, a greater role for individual members of provincial Parliament. What they did was adopt all the proposals he came forward with.


I think we should recognize the role that a good number of members played. Members Ron Hansen and Paul Wessenger vice-chaired this committee, and my colleagues Noble Villeneuve and Norm Sterling chaired the committee. Also on the committee was Gilles Morin, the member for Carleton East. He attended committees and participated in this process.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I would think the government members, given that they're pushing forward these rule changes, would all be here to listen to this speech, yet I notice we don't have quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: As I was saying about wanting to strengthen the role of democratic debate by giving more time and a greater role for an individual MPP, Mr North, the independent member for Elgin, came forward with this report which had been gathering dust for four or five years and brought it forward.

What did the issues contained in this report deal with? They dealt with question period. In the standing orders, the Speaker is not allowed to recognize an independent member for question period. The member for Elgin told me that when he first became an independent member the then Speaker would not allow him to ask questions at all, none. It just wasn't allowed. You couldn't allow an independent member to ask a question.

The next Speaker, Speaker McLean, on occasion did allow him to ask a question. Very fortunately for the member for Elgin, the current Speaker, Speaker Stockwell, does allow him from time to time to ask questions. But there is no provision in the standing orders. Mr North, the member for Elgin, is completely at the whim of the Speaker of the day. The Speaker now is good, but previous Speakers have been less than generous in giving him time.

In terms of committee membership, right now the member for Elgin isn't allowed to formally sit on any committee of this place, isn't allowed to move an amendment in committee whatsoever. I think that is wrong. He's not allowed to speak but on rare occasion in this chamber on members' statements. He's not allowed to give a member's statement. Every Thursday morning, when we have two private member's hours, he's not allowed to participate. He has suffered as a result.

I think it's not an insult to the member for Elgin; it's an insult to the people of Elgin, who elected him to be their representative here in this place. I think it's time the rules in this place recognized the contribution he should be allowed to make in this place. The rule changes suggested in the motion do allow a greater role for an independent member, and that is all part of the process of trying to give individual MPPs, particularly backbenchers, a greater role.

The ministers get their opportunity to speak. The front bench of the opposition, the former ministers who sit on that side of the House, get their 90-minute speaking times, and they don't have a problem. But we backbenchers want more time to speak, we want more time to democratically express the concerns of our constituents. That's very important.

I want to thank the member for Elgin for bringing these proposals forward. He brought them forward with an independent, non-partisan perspective, and I'm pleased to see the government adopt the entire substance of the report and put it in the standing orders so it will increase the way he's allowed to participate. In the House in the previous Parliament, there were three independent members. We have a few by-elections, and you never know; we could elect a few more. This will give a strengthened role to independent members in this House.

Another very important provision in this motion has to do with the ability of individual MPPs to hold the government of the day accountable. Probably the single most important document that we discuss and that is tabled in this chamber, normally once every year, is the provincial budget. It sets the spending of the government for the coming year; it sets the monetary policy; it sets how we'll deal with the $100-billion debt left by the three governments who preceded us; it deals with how we'll seek to create jobs. The budget is probably the single biggest determinant of what the economy in Ontario will be of any single government bill tabled here.

The importance of the budget and job creation -- here we have the Nepean Clarion: "5,000 Jobs Coming to the City of Nepean: Nortel Announces $250-Million Expansion."

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): You had nothing to do with that, John.

Mr Baird: The government of Ontario did not, you're right; the hardworking people at Nortel did. The thousands of employees at Nortel are responsible for that expansion. The government of Ontario offered no grants. The people at Nortel did it themselves, and the people in Nepean are very privileged to have such a hardworking group of men and women in our community.

Getting back to the budget, I checked the record, Madam Speaker, and would you believe -- you will be genuinely shocked by this, I know, a hardworking legislator like yourself -- in this chamber in the last 10 years, there has only been a vote on the provincial budget three times. Three times in 10 years on the most important document contained in the binder of bills. I think that is just shocking and appalling.

The most effective way an individual MPP could hold the government of the day accountable is on the budget vote. I looked at what was done in the federal Parliament, under the federal standing orders; I looked at how individual MPs are able to hold the government of the day accountable in Ottawa because they can vote on the budget.

I checked first and foremost the member for York South-Weston. Mr Nunziata, a government backbencher, had the opportunity to stand in his place and vote against the budget because he firmly believed it was against every single thing he had campaigned on. He firmly believed that Mr Chrétien had said, "We will abolish, we will quash, we will get rid of the GST." He wanted to represent his constituents and he had the opportunity to stand in his place in Ottawa, at the opposite end from the Speaker on the front bench, and vote against the budget.

That single act caused a national debate on the federal Liberals not keeping their election promises. Would you know, within weeks of him voting against the federal budget, he was instrumental in seeing the resignation of the second-highest politician in the land. The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada had to resign because the member for York South-Weston held the government of the day accountable.

In Ontario that wouldn't have been possible 70% of the time, because under all three parties -- this is a non-partisan issue -- under the Liberals, under the Conservatives, under the New Democratic Party, there hasn't always been a vote on the budget. I think that's regrettable. These standing orders changes would require a vote, would allow for more debate during the budget debate and would force the government of the day to bring a vote on the budget.

That's incredibly important for democracy, for more accountability. What could be more democratic than ensuring that the Legislative Assembly, the people's representatives, have the opportunity to pass judgement on the overall financial direction of the government? That's very important. I think most Ontarians, most people in Nepean or Riverdale, Madam Speaker, would be very surprised to learn that in 70% of the last 10 years there has not been a vote on the budget. This changes that and I'm very proud of that. That was something I felt very strongly about when I looked at the standing orders.

I look at another important democratic reform to give a greater role to backbenchers and to give more democracy and more debate. This is the issue of blocking votes. We saw a shameful exercise last year in this chamber.


The public may not know that the Ontario Legislature has a very good system for considering private members' bills on second reading. Every Thursday morning we consider two bills. As the member for Nepean, I regularly vote for New Democratic Party bills and resolutions. I think I voted for an environmental resolution brought forward by the member for Riverdale because I thought that's what folks in Nepean would want their representative to do. I voted for an issue on health care that a Liberal member from Windsor brought forward with respect to the Canada Health Act. So I regularly vote for opposition bills.

What happens on that is that just before there's a vote, the Speaker will ask the House, and there's a calm quiet in the House, "Are there any members who object to a vote?" He did that one day and members objected to a vote. Democracy ended. Bill 33 was cut dead in its tracks. Central to democracy is allowing a member not just to introduce a bill so it can be considered in this chamber, central to democracy is not only allowing for debate at second reading, but central to democracy is to allow a vote, an expression of a decision.

I was reading Hansard with respect to the changes on this and I came across a very good quote from one of my colleagues: "Surely the emphasis must be on debate, on decision." That was said in this chamber on July 25, 1989, by the member for Renfrew North. I would agree that making a decision is central to --

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): He's a Tory?

Mr Baird: No, he's a Liberal member.

Mr Grimmett: You're kidding.

Mr Baird: He's the Liberal member for Renfrew North, and he was the government House leader at the time. That Liberal member said a decision is important. I agree with that because democracy is introduction, it's debate and it's also coming to a decision.

I'd only seen one example where the opposition had denied a vote, on Bill 33. I looked at what had been done in previous years and I found that rule had been used 81 other times. It was normally used, would you believe, by the government to stop an opposition bill or an opposition member. I was very saddened to learn that, even by governments of my own party.

But I bring a fresh perspective to this place -- I wasn't here at Queen's Park during the previous Tory years -- and I think we want a more democratic system. Let's scrap the section and let's always allow a vote on a private member's bill at second reading. Let's always allow a vote on a private member's resolution. Let's always allow the members of this place to pass judgement on that bill and get it sent to committee, where it could be debated more, where we could have more debate, and then get it sent back to the House on third reading to have more debate.

What we're saying is, let's scrap the vote-blocking clause. Let's allow more debate at committee. Let's allow more debate in the House. Let's allow more members to discuss it. What could be more democratic for individual MPPs but to have their own private members' bills voted on?

I talked to some of my colleagues and they've even been afraid about tabling certain pieces of legislation because if you get some members of the opposition on a bad day, they may block a vote just because they don't like it, and I think that's wrong. It's not democratic, and I'm pleased to see that change contained in this resolution.

Another proposal which allows for more debate: Right now, the Ontario Legislature is normally supposed to sit 25 weeks per year and it only has to sit four days a week, 20 hours a week. I know members work: They work in committee, they work in their ridings. I know most members of this place on all sides are hardworking people. Certainly the New Democratic and Liberal members are just as hardworking as the government members.

What the changes proposed in this motion would do is allow for more debate, allow for greater length, allow for us to sit three hours in the evening to consider perhaps a private member's bill on third reading which right now competes with a government bill. That's something I think is very important. The good news is that would allow for more members to speak, and with the speaking times we'll be able to hear from more members. I think there's a good number of my colleagues on this side -- I drive five, five and a half hours on Monday morning to get to this place. I hear the same members speak for 90 minutes on every bill or 45 minutes on every bill, and then too often government members and the opposition backbenchers are denied the opportunity to speak because the same member goes on for 90 minutes, rarely keeps to the subject --


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Baird: There are members who speak on every bill, and if they keep to the subject for 5% of the time, I would be shocked, absolutely shocked. Again, "If you can't come to your point in 20 minutes, you have a real problem." M. Bisson, the member for Cochrane South. I agree with him. The NDP member for Cochrane South said that, and I agree with him. I know him to be an honourable person and I know he'll repeat that in his remarks later because he is an honourable member.

We currently are one of the only places in the world that have to debate whether you want to work late. On occasion I have to ask my staff, if we're working on some problems dealing with a constituent: "Would you be willing to work two or three hours late tonight? Would you be willing to work late to get this project done for a constituent? Would you be able to work late on that?"

My staff and hardworking taxpayers across Ontario don't have the right to debate for two days whether they want to work a couple of hours late one day. They decide whether they want to work or they don't. These proposals would make it easier for more debate, easier for more members to have the opportunity to speak, and that's something that's very, very important.

As well, if there's an important issue of public policy that's of concern to the hardworking taxpayers of Ontario, it would allow the Legislature to be called back, to say, "Listen, there's an important public policy issue that merits attention in this place, that merits public discussion and debate." It stops circumstances like we saw in December where we debated for two full days whether we would work an extra week. We spent two full days debating whether we would sit an extra four days in December. Instead of adjourning the House for the Christmas holidays on December 13, the government House leader suggested that we sit till December 19 and we spent two days debating whether we'd work for four days. That's terribly inefficient, terribly unproductive. If you look at the cost of running this place, to sit and debate whether you should work late is not a productive use of the taxpayers' money. It's not a productive use of our time if we want to address the many challenges and problems affecting the province and to deal with them.

I want to conclude by saying a good number of the changes brought forward in this legislation are simply those of the standing order. But my good friend the member for Sudbury East said, "Did the member for Nepean really write all these changes?" I have a confession. The member for Nepean didn't write them all. Some of them were in fact written by Ms Martel, the member for Sudbury East. Some of them were written in a motion that she tabled in this House on May 28, 1991. This was tabled in the House and many of these changes are directly from Ms Martel's suggestions. I want to publicly thank her for all the time and effort she spent in the 1990s.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): What party is she in?

Mr Baird: The member for Kitchener asked what party. She's a New Democratic member of this House. She brought forward these suggestions, these proposals, and I don't think anyone --

Mr Bisson: Haven't you figured that out yet? Government House leaders love this stuff.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, come to order.

Mr Baird: I don't think anyone in the New Democratic Party would have called Ms Martel's changes draconian or anything but fair and reasonable, because like the Baird proposals or the Johnson motion, many of Ms Martel's suggestions simply adopt the House of Commons rules. That's something that's very important to recognize.

I encourage all members of this House to support this motion. It allows for more backbenchers, more members, to debate legislation. We'll get more debate, not less: more debate, more democracy, more opportunity for backbenchers and individual MPPs to have the opportunity. I say to those members of the House who perhaps might have served in the cabinet in previous governments and those members who serve in the cabinet today to allow more backbenchers the opportunity to speak. We want the opportunity to speak as much as you do. We want the opportunity to participate in this debate, to represent our constituents, to come here and express and to participate in the debate. We want our say too.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I'm grateful that I have the privilege and the right to participate in this debate. It is because my rights and privileges as a member of the opposition are threatened that I rise today. I feel I must express my serious opposition both to the rule changes that this government has brought forward and the method it has used to do so.

Quite honestly, I don't think this is a matter that the general public pays much attention to. For that reason, it is even more crucial that the public understand the importance of the tools of democracy. A strong and effective opposition is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of that democracy. Without opposition, democracy cannot exist. In this country we have the luxury of taking democracy for granted, believing that nothing can threaten our freedoms. In that case, apathy becomes our greatest enemy. We may have little to fear by way of revolution. We are more in danger of losing our freedom in small ways, a little bit at a time, in ways we might never notice.


What this government is trying to do for the sake of efficiency is further reduce the opposition's ability to do its job in a reasonable way. I don't want to accuse them of sinister intentions. Everyone does the best job they can under these circumstances, but it is human nature to want to bend people to our will because we feel we know best what is right. A civil society should guarantee, however, that we will be able to maintain a balance between opposing views.

What this Legislature is experiencing now is a brewing frustration of a government hell bent for leather to drive its agenda through. It is acting as though its majority gives it carte blanche to do whatever it wants for the term of its mandate, no matter what anyone says.

Now the government has introduced a motion to further restrict the opposition and this is something we just can't accept. The opposition has a job to do. We must have the tools to do it. So-called frivolous and vexatious opposition tactics may seem silly on the face of it, but they are meant to send a serious message. A days-long filibuster reading endless amendments was really a plea to government to reconsider its bullying tactics towards a majority of the public the government refused to listen to any other way. We in the opposition were, in essence, the voice of the public saying no.

Without a doubt, the rule changes the government has brought forward will seriously erode the effectiveness of the opposition. As a result, we will be forced to use whatever means necessary to continue to do our essential work. It will look more and more desperate, because it will be.

The opposition works on behalf of the public. Never forget that. We work hard to keep the government honest, to reveal problems, to confront them on inconsistencies between their message and their actions. They will always tell you things are just fine. Of course. That's to be expected. But the opposition works hard to uncover the other side of the story so that you, the public, don't have to.

The government has used the routine procedure of a motion to push these changes through. Their strategy suggests that these rule changes are less important than they really are. In the past, when the government wanted to amend the standing orders, it struck an all-party committee to examine the entire package carefully, whether it had specific changes in mind or not. By that means, it assured itself of at least the nodding consent of a loyal opposition. Consultation creates allies, not enemies, as this government seems bent to do.

I have been a member of this Legislature for 12 years now. In that time, I have seen various rule changes implemented. Often they were not very popular, as the government of the day obviously tried to shift the balance of power a little closer in its direction, to strengthen its hand in moving its agenda forward. However, I believe the changes this government has introduced are the height of bad judgement. They are insulting. If these changes are to be implemented, it will signal a serious diminishment of democracy in this province.

Everyone accepts the fact that the government has a majority of seats in the Legislature and can pretty much do what it wants to advance its agenda; in fact, no one would deny that it has been remarkably successful in doing so. It begs the question about the need for this motion. Does the government believe we are not going fast enough, or is the opposition just an inconvenience to them?

The opposition has used various, seemingly nonsensical, tactics with the sole purpose of having the Tory juggernaut slow down a little to let the people of Ontario get some sense of the implications of the individual pieces of this government's agenda -- a completely justifiable intention, I would think. My colleague Alvin Curling, the member for Scarborough North, engaged in an apparent act of civil disobedience last year in order to force the government to take Bill 26 into public hearings, something it had not been prepared to do otherwise. Bill 26 had enormous implications for every sector in every ministry, for every citizen of the province of Ontario, and no one had any sense of what it all meant. Never mind. The government wanted it passed with a minimum of fuss: "No questions, please. Just trust us." I might remind government members and the public that individual ministers had no idea of what the legislation contained. I ask you, is that really the way you want the business of this province to be managed?

My colleague's actions were the only reason the government agreed to hold public meetings on this crucial piece of business. Now the government wants to make sure that doesn't happen again. Common sense should suggest that having ample opportunity for discussion and debate of the issues is crucially important. Through an effective opposition, the public asserts its right to have the opportunity of being exposed to the full range of views on the issues of the day and enough time to form their own opinions. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized.

This government has had no problem in advancing its agenda. Even among those people who support the government's aim, there is a feeling that the government is moving too fast, that it is moving more quickly than people are comfortable with. That was the reason the opposition parties staged the recent filibuster. It was the only way we had to force the government to slow down and pay attention to public opposition to its plan to amalgamate the cities of the GTA. We weren't doing this for the good of our health -- Madam Speaker, you recall too well how many hours we spent on that filibuster -- we were doing it for the public good. We listened to the people who asked us to speak on their behalf, and we used the only tools at our disposal to make the public will known. Now the government wants to make sure that never happens again.

This government places a great deal of importance on efficiency. Unfortunately, the most efficient parliaments are not democratic; they do not tolerate opposition. I would like to read you a recent quote: "An established democracy is not merely a form of government, but a political culture in which the population takes for granted that conflicts of political interest will be settled by constitutional means, under rules which are accepted by all parties, whether they win or lose at the polls."


On the subject of efficiency, I'd like to say that parliaments are not sausage factories. There are more important principles at play here. In the British parliamentary system, it is understood that the government must get its legislation adopted in the end, but there should be ample opportunity for debate, even to the point that some members of the government might feel it takes too long. The British parliamentary system does not give opposition parties the right to stop legislation from going through. This can only happen if a majority of the House so desires.

The beauty of our system, if we only stop to consider it, is that we function with a loyal opposition. We may cause an uproar in the Legislature, but at the end of the day, the business of government goes forward. People do not shoot each other in our corridors. Opposition is expressed with words, not guns. Do we really appreciate how incredible that is? How many countries in the world envy what we have, how democracy exists in our country? Are we to let that go? Are we to let that be eroded?

I would like to return to my concern about how the government is moving to make these changes by means of a motion, without the full and considered involvement of the Legislature as a whole. Rule changes of this magnitude need to be more thoroughly examined than the use of a motion permits.

I would like to urge the government to proceed with caution in dealing with these rule changes. The government House leader has said that he has heard complaints about the lack of decorum in the Legislature. More important, members have said that the general atmosphere of the House is bad and that there is a lot of animosity in the chamber. I would like to warn the government House leader that if he brings these changes in, the situation will only get worse. Stifling the opposition, which is only trying to do its job, will only create more bitterness.

The opposition will continue to use whatever means it can find to make the voice of its constituents heard. Opposition is a legitimate function. The government must come to understand that; otherwise, their actions will haunt them when they again assume that role. Parliamentary procedure is constantly evolving, as it should, but when appropriate, changes should be implemented in a non-partisan way. The government should therefore abandon its unilateral drive to implement these changes.

I sincerely continue to believe it is possible for all of us to work together to achieve a better system, a system that will ultimately benefit the people who elected us, a system that enhances democracy rather than restricts it, as this motion is bound to do. Before we create more problems by rushing into things, I would suggest that the government strike a committee to examine these issues more closely, a committee made up of moderates from all parties, whose job would be to look into and weigh all the best available wisdom in this matter. In fact, we have a lot of expertise available to us. The table officers right in front of us have a wealth of experience and invaluable insight to offer to the discussion. Let's use them. If we don't, we're missing the boat.

The committee I'm proposing could have a majority of government members, and of course their views would prevail: You're the government, you're the elected officials. Nevertheless, its findings would be more likely to be accepted than the results of the current process. The spirit that must prevail is a spirit of cooperation and consensus-seeking. Only with that spirit can we develop a series of standing orders that will both permit legislation to move forward and ensure that there is a sufficient amount of flexibility and debate.

Again I quote: "In an important sense, opposition is more crucial to the functioning of democracy than government. Only if the government is constantly open to criticism and accountable to Parliament will it have an incentive to govern in the interest of all the people."

Sometimes I'm afraid it is too easy for us to take for granted what others in the world are fighting to achieve. Whether we are the government of the day or in opposition, we must force ourselves to take the broader view. It is our responsibility to safeguard for the long term the tools of democracy and preserve the fundamental rights of the opposition. As Walter Lippmann said, "In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional but must be maintained because it is indispensable."

In conclusion, I really believe we can use this opportunity to do something positive. The standing orders are in many ways antiquated. Let's look at all the rules that govern everything from the beginning of a session to the end of a session.

Quite frankly, the changes you have introduced are offensive, and I can assure you that if they pass, the mood of the House will deteriorate further. As a result, everyone will lose. I call on the government to drop this motion, to start over. There is no shame in making such a move. You will not lose face. In fact, it would finally signal the government's flexibility and good intentions in this particularly crucial area. With the right attitude from all quarters, we can reform the system so that it can work for the benefit of all, especially for the people of Ontario. Preserving the democratic system is our highest calling and the greatest honour. Let us prove that we are equal to the task.

Mr Marchese: I'm happy to have the opportunity to speak to these rule changes. I think it's important at the outset to give a context of what this government is doing, and to create that context I've got to refer to some of the things they have already done. To that end, I want to refer to Bill 26, because in my view -- Steve, please hurry back. I want you to listen to my speech.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I'll be right back.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, please take your seat for a second. I think people are slowly going back to their seats.

Mr Marchese: That was just a colleague from the other side saying he'll be right back to listen to my speech, and I told him to hurry because I know how much he enjoys listening to what I have to say.

I wanted to give the context of the government's modus operandi. I refer you, Speaker, and the others who are here to Bill 26. In my view, that is one of the many bills that speak to the modus operandi of this government. Through that bill the government shows and demonstrates its disinterest in the Legislature and in the democratic process.

People should be reminded about what it does. Bill 26 allows the Minister of Municipal Affairs to completely restructure municipalities without presenting those plans to the Legislature and further created a commission completely beyond public control with a mandate to radically rearrange our health care services.


When they introduced that, they knew exactly what they were doing. The power that it gave itself and it gave its ministers, in particular here the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Health, is in my view very autocratic and it gives you a glimpse of the way this government wants to operate.

It's for that reason that I refer those who are watching this debate to that particular issue, because we need to get a sense of why the government wants these rule changes. It's a very strange thing, because they are behaving as if they don't have a majority. Why would they, in having 82 members, need to make these rule changes when we have seen over and over again that they have the ability to do what they want and they've done so?

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Repeatedly.

Mr Marchese: Repeatedly. Bill 26 was that very bill that shows us the incredible power of government and the power that it can give itself, at least its ministers. You wonder why it is they need it when they have a majority government. Why would they then, through their individual ministers, give themselves more power?

Remember, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, through the ability to restructure municipalities without presenting those plans to the Legislature, was able in Chatham-Kent to appoint one individual, a Dr Meyboom, to do exactly what he wanted as the mouthpiece for this government. I have noticed repeatedly that they use these kinds of mechanisms as foils to do their dirty deeds. Dr Meyboom was such a foil for Mike Harris. This man, this doctor, went into Chatham-Kent, rearranged that municipality, and did it in a way that he felt fit without listening to the wishes of that municipality, of all those counties in Kent. He did so, in my view, disrespectfully of the wishes of those people. But he's a foil for the government. He did exactly what Mike Harris and his gang would have liked to do, but he did it through a mouthpiece, a foil, a marionette who does the bidding of the government in a way that allows the government to be able to say: "We didn't do it. Somebody else did."

He creates the impression of course that it's not Mike Harris but rather somebody else, and through Dr Meyboom and Mr Carroll here we get the sense that they've consulted widely with the public and that they like it. Of course, it remains to be seen. We've got to wait until the next election to see whether or not they indeed like it. But in all my dealings with those counties, they are very unhappy, and not just unhappy, because that's a pleasant word; they're very angry. In fact, they set up a citizen committee, as they did here in Metropolitan Toronto, to fight that forced amalgamation because it wasn't voluntary.

Dr Meyboom, Dr Doom, the man who went there and restructured these municipalities, did that on his own with a great deal of power that was given to him by this government through Bill 26, which permits him to do what he wants against the wishes of the public. That is the background and the context in which this government operates. We need to have a sense of that; otherwise, in listening to the member for Nepean, you might get the feeling that somehow what these people are doing is okay.

I heard the member for Nepean for quite a long time; I must admit not the full half-hour because it was too much to take. Talk about repetition. But I listened to him, and if you listen to him without a context, you might get the sense that there is a necessity to change the rules because this poor government that has 82 members, a full majority, is unable to do what it needs to do. But it has done so. With Bill 26, it was able to use its force to do what it wants. If you listen to my good friend from Nepean, who's coming to sit right beside me, you get a different view. You get a different impression.

But I have to tell my friend here -- those of you who are watching, he's a Tory, a young Tory; I think he's a Reform kind of guy, although I don't know if he wants to admit to that -- that they have a majority. You guys have 82 members. Why do you need to change the rules? As if you haven't been able to use your powers dictatorially enough, you need to change the rules to make it better for yourself. This sounds like Minister Snobelen, who wants to make the system better by cutting money in education.

I've got the member for Northumberland here, Mr Doug Galt. Thank you for coming.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I thought I'd come over. I couldn't hear you over there.

Mr Marchese: Surrounded by great democrats, these great democrats from which was born that great document, the revolution document. These people are radical democrats. That's why they're coming to sit beside me as a way of helping me out, showing support for democracy.

So this government needs to stop behaving as if it doesn't have a majority. We need to remind you, the public that is watching, they've got 82 members. These guys have 82 members. Do they need more power?

They talk somehow as if these fine fellows haven't had enough time to be able to do more damage to the people of Ontario. Good heavens, have they not done enough damage already that they need to change the rules to inflict yet greater pain on the backs of all of Ontarians?

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Speak louder. You're putting me to sleep.

Mr Marchese: Mr Spina says I should whisper because I'm waking him up; he was trying to sleep and I'm waking him up. I understand. Some people are here to work and some people want to rest while they're here. I understand. That's okay.

The point is, we don't need to change the rules if you have a majority. The point is that you have been able to do a great deal already with your 82 members, mostly men with a few women -- very similar in terms of politics -- but you've been able to do what you want. Why do more? So the member for Nepean quotes very smugly, as if somehow he caught the opposition by surprise, and says, "I want to quote my good friend the member from Cochrane," and he quotes at length in terms of what he said. I understand.

The problem is this, I argue: You were able to learn, those at least who were in the House, from what we did in government. Some of us while we were in government did not agree with the rule changes. But we had a few zealots, and I know this Reform Party has lots of zealots, ideologues who can't stand being here and not having absolute power to be able to do what they want however quickly they want to do it. So the zealots here -- we had our own, I must admit -- want to be able to change the rules and they say, "You've done it." They quote a few of our members and they quote a few Liberals as well and they say, "You've done it." But you would think that you would have learned something from our experience in terms of what we may have done.

You would think, by having the knowledge and the experience of what we did, that perhaps we might have done enough and that it's not to your benefit as a government to continue to whittle away at the rules, to restrict the ability of the opposition and to restrict the ability of the public out there to see, to view, to have an opportunity to debate, to have an opportunity to be heard, an opportunity to learn. You would think that you would learn from that and you would think you would know that curtailing our ability to be effective members of the opposition is not a wise thing for you to do. You must remember that some of you, or many of you, will be in the opposition benches in the next election. Our members thought we were going to be re-elected forever. Those who wanted rule changes felt that somehow they would be there for a long time and it didn't matter to some of them.


Some of you have questioned your government, this guy here beside me -- he's leaving now; thank you, John. Some of you in caucus must have said: "Let's look at this very closely. We may be in opposition the next time around. Are we helping to further democracy by curtailing it?" You need to ask yourself that question. I know that some of you have done so, at least those of you who had an opportunity at a late stage in the consultation process. I know that John and his two good buddies who put this together in consultation with Mike Harris must have had a great deal of discussion, but some of you probably didn't. But you may have had, in one caucus meeting, the opportunity to review this, and some of you probably reflected on this question I've raised with you: Are we furthering democracy by curtailing it?

You should put that in the context of being here in the opposition the next time around and whether it is good for you personally, good for democracy generally and good for the public in terms of their inability to have a better sense of and opportunity to know what you are doing, to know what any government is doing. It doesn't matter who is in power, the public deserves the right and the time to understand what it is doing and to understand whether it is in their interest.

Mr Spina: But nobody knew what you guys were doing.

Mr Marchese: Oh, they knew what we were doing all right, and you knew what we were doing too. That's why you prepared your campaign, because it was in the context of what the people were feeling. When the members opposite say, "You did it," it doesn't necessarily make it right for you to continue to do it. If we had made the rule changes that we might have achieved through the kind of discussion we had, because we did have a lot of debate on it, it might have been sufficient enough that you wouldn't need to curtail democracy any further. Learn from our experience rather than further complicating the problem, making it a little more complicated for the general public. Rather than using our experience, you use it to say, "Well, if you did it, we can do it too," as if that makes it better. It doesn't at all.

The minister said this is negotiable. This is not, in my view, very negotiable. When you put a gun to people's heads, that's not negotiating. When the minister says, "We may or may not introduce these changes, based on what you people do in opposition," that's a gun to the head, that's intimidation. That's not, "Let's bring out the peace pipe and talk about it; let's break some bread and talk about it," that kind of thing. That's not what it's like. You're putting the gun to our head. You're saying, "If you don't behave the way we want you to behave, we're going to force these changes on you, opposition."

The worst part of all this is that curtailing my right as an individual, curtailing the time I use to represent the public, is not as bad as curtailing the rights of the public in general. The public doesn't know what we're doing here, clearly. They don't know what rules we've got in place. Some of them mistrust governments, all governments. They tend not to like some of us, sometimes most of us. If someone says, "Change the rules," they might say, one way or the other: "It doesn't affect us. It's not a big deal." But those who follow and are active participants in the democratic process know and understand that there is a problem here.

Yes, you're curtailing my time, but you are curtailing the time of the public. That's why earlier today some of you watching witnessed the 100 or so people we had in the galleries demonstrating visibly against this government, against these rule changes. You're not just curtailing my time. They were not demonstrating against your curtailment of my time; they were demonstrating against your practices of rule changes that affect them and their say and their ability to scrutinize what you're doing. It affects them in terms of making you more accountable to the public. They weren't here defending me as an individual. They probably weren't even here defending the opposition. They were here this afternoon defending themselves.

Mr Wettlaufer: Oh, come on.

Mr Marchese: Clearly, Mr Wettlaufer --

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Member for Fort York, first of all, please address people by their riding rather than by name. The member for Kitchener is not only out of his seat, but he is out of order.

Mr Marchese: Mr Wettlaufer, the member for Kitchener, who normally is right beside me, says, "Oh, come on," in reference to my point that the people demonstrating here today weren't here defending me, necessarily; they were here defending themselves. Do you disagree with that, member for Kitchener? You don't disagree with that, so I'm not quite sure what your, "Oh, come on," was in reference to.

I know some of them take this lightly; I have no doubt. I know that in this discussion today some of them are very smug in the way they're presenting it. I listened to the member for Nepean. I listened to the member for Durham East as well, when he said there was a grass-roots movement for change of the rules. What grass-roots movement for the change of rules? Have you heard of a grass-roots movement out there? He said they were on every street corner out there. If there's a grass-roots movement, they're probably out there on those corners. I haven't seen this grass-roots movement of people on the corners clamouring for rule changes; I know they haven't either. Member for Kitchener, have you had this kind of grass-roots movement on your corners in Kitchener? He nods.

Mr Wettlaufer: They want more efficiency.

Mr Marchese: They want more efficiency. No, member for Kitchener. The guy from Durham said they're clamouring for changes out there, a grass-roots movement. That's deception.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, please refer to members appropriately.

Mr Marchese: I'm doing my best, Speaker: These honourable guys and women. No?

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Scratch the "honourable."

Mr Marchese: Scratch the "honourable" part?

The majority of Ontarians have no clue, and I mean this respectfully, about the rules of the assembly; they don't. For the member to say there's a grass-roots movement to change the rules is really deception, in my view; it dissembles the truth, truly it does. It doesn't speak to the reality we're aware of on our streets and street corners. What it does speak to is what Mr Skarica was quoted as saying. He says, "There's something wrong when the Premier" --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, please refer to the member by his seat name.

Mr Marchese: Where is he from? I'll find him, Madam Speaker: Wentworth North. It takes some time to find out where some of these guys come from. He said, "There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province." That's what I'm speaking to, and that's what these rule changes are all about. It all connects back. I'm going to try to find the riding for Mr Carr in a second. That's what this is all about. It relates and connects to the style, the modus operandi of the Premier and his cabinet ministers and the few guys who surround the Premier in terms of the style of work. The member for Wentworth North knows that's the way this government operates. He has been there for a couple of years; he's still there -- at least he's not an independent -- so he knows very clearly what this government is all about.


Another member, Mr Gary Carr from Oakville South, says, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship." He's completely right.

Mr Kormos: What did Bill Murdoch have to say?

Mr Marchese: I've got to find out where Bill is from: Grey-Owen Sound. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, Mr Bill Murdoch, says this: "You have to be nicey-nicey" -- I like that, nicey-nicey -- "and kiss ass" -- if that's permissible in this House; I'm not sure -- "if you want to get ahead." I won't impute any motives to anybody doing anything in this House in order to get somewhere. We have seen this as a general practice for those who aspire to the cabinet office. That's a practice I've seen here: You've got to be nicey-nicey if you want to get ahead. The other person says, "This is still a democracy, not a dictatorship." They're all right.

When you change the rules, you are complementing your style of autocracy, your style of dictatorship -- as if you haven't done enough damage to all of us and to the most vulnerable citizens of Ontario. As you do these changes, you pretend it's good for somebody. The Minister of Labour I call Madam Fair, because everything she does is always fair to somebody. It's usually even fair to the victims. You have the Minister of Labour talking in her usual sweet tones about how she's about to change the Workers' Compensation Board and all those changes are going to be good and fair to those injured workers. It's like when Brutus -- no. Who was it who stabbed Caesar?

Mr Kormos: Yes, "Et tu?"

Mr Marchese: It wasn't Brutus who stabbed Caesar. No one's helping me out here.

Interjection: Cassius.

Mr Marchese: Cassius? The name escapes me and I feel bad when the name escapes me. Anyway, you're getting stabbed in the back and the person stabbing you in the back tells you, "This is good for you." It's really what this is all about. The Minister of Labour is about to stab injured workers in the back, as it were, and she says it's fair, it's okay for them. This government is about to change the rules and they say this is good for somebody; it's good for democracy.


Mr Marchese: The member for Nepean says he's doing a good turn for democracy. They clap as they do it and they have this fine face, a wonderful veil brought down every time they introduce something that is about to inflict pain on somebody. They make it appear on the outside that this is good.

That's why I brought up the example of the Minister of Labour. When you're about to whack injured workers and you're about to give $6 billion to the employers and you're about to take away $15 billion from the injured workers, you call it fair. They clap and they say this is good. I don't understand how something that is profoundly unfair can be turned into something that is fair. That's the propaganda approach of this government.

You've noticed throughout my speeches that I've referred to the fact that a number of bills -- the tenant protection package is one of many; there's a long list of these bills -- have one title but their real content is the opposite. We know that.

That's why those of you who are watching need to mistrust what this government is doing. I tell you, when you have a majority government, you, the public, need to ask yourselves the question, "Why do we need to change the rules to get our agenda completed?" They are completing their agenda and they're completing it in great haste, with a great deal of harm to the public. Do they need to change the rules even more to accomplish what they have begun? I argue no. They have the power and it is within their power to carry on with this ideological Reform agenda. They can continue to do it. They don't need to change the rules to do that.

The member for Nepean says, "Finally, we're going to get rule changes so some of us can speak." These people want to speak? You, the general public, those of you watching, have observed that when most of them speak in the House, it's with a prepared text. They read it, because Mike Harris wouldn't have it any other way. Speaker, you're in that caucus; you know that. Mike Harris wouldn't have it any other way, because he says to the people here, "We can't trust you to say anything that's not written for you."

Mr Kormos: Toni Skarica didn't use a speech from the Premier's office.

Mr Marchese: Exactly. Look where he is. He's pretty well out. If you depart from the text, if you get out of that little framework, you're pretty well out.

These guys on the other side want to speak more? To what purpose? So we can hear a repetition of what the minister has already said with respect to a bill? They talk about repetition from us. Do you, the general public, you good people, want to hear more of these members, as if you haven't heard enough from the minister? I warn you, you're not likely to get to see or hear many of these guys, these fine people, these honourables, very much or very often. I really believe that. You're not going to get to hear them. But if you do, you're going to get a prepared speech. Is that what you want? Not only a prepared speech, but highly repetitive of the propaganda message of the minister.

Mr Kormos: And inevitably boring.

Mr Marchese: And inevitably boring, of course. If it's repetitive, it's boring, and if it's a read speech, it's boring indeed.


Mr Marchese: I know you want me to wrap up. The time is running out, I agree. I thank you for that.

You have 82 members. You can do what you want now. The rules are not going to help you. If you put a gun to our heads, as you have done, you will get very little cooperation and respect from the opposition benches. If some of you clamour for respect and a different kind of chamber, if you don't treat the opposition with the respect we deserve and the public with the respect it deserves, you will find chaos in this chamber and you will find greater chaos from the likes of the people who came here today protesting the dictatorship and the autocracy of this government. The modus operandi of this government is distasteful not just to us in opposition, but to the general public. I appeal to you, as they did, to repeal or get rid of these changes.

Mr Gilchrist: It's indeed my pleasure to speak today to this very important topic. As is my colleague from Nepean, who spoke a few minutes ago, I too am a new member, with only two years' experience under my belt in this chamber. Perhaps I can be accused of some naïveté, but prior to the election, when putting my name forward to serve on behalf of the people of Ontario, hopefully on the government side, I certainly thought that once in this chamber, if I was successful, I would have an opportunity on every piece of legislation that came before us to bring forward the points of view of the people --

Mr Gerretsen: This won't do that. What are you talking about? That's absolute nonsense.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. Interjections are not permitted.

Mr Gerretsen: But he's not speaking the truth. There's five hours of debate on this.

The Acting Speaker: Would the member for Kingston and The Islands come to order, please.

Mr Gilchrist: As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by the member opposite, the fact of the matter is that I thought it was going to be my role to bring forward the points of view of the constituents to whom I owed my position in this House. I thought it was incumbent upon me to both canvass their views and articulate them once in this House. I'm pleased to say that within 24 hours of being elected I came down to the government of Ontario bookstore and I bought a copy of the standing orders. You can imagine my chagrin and my consternation to discover that very, very few members have an opportunity to stand and speak on any particular piece of legislation -- not under our government, under any government that's come before us.


The fact of the matter is that three days marks the typical amount of time given to debate on any bill. The opening comments from each of the three parties take up four and a half hours of the seven and a half hours of debate: 130 members representing 11 million Ontarians, and three members representing only 300,000 people get 60% of the speaking time. That is shameful. It is utterly shameful.

What is more troublesome is that the member for Fort York, who obviously didn't think it was appropriate to stick around and hear responses to his comments, suggested that when we speak on this side, it is from a stock script. I would challenge that perception, and I would say just the opposite. When the members opposite stand, they very rarely deal with the topic before us. They're the ones who stand up with a litany of complaints about the government in general without dealing with the specifics of the bill that we're debating on any given day.

We don't get the chance, none of us in this chamber, to hear the contrary point of view, to hear specifics, to hear the sort of tangible input which would allow us a contrast to the original proposals we bring forward when a bill receives first reading. Instead, we hear rhetoric. We hear glib and self-serving rhetoric from people who are very frustrated that they are on that side of the House.

The bottom line is, these changes will break that control of three speakers for 60% of the time. It will guarantee that more members on this side and that side of the House, the backbenchers on both sides, will have a greater opportunity because there won't be any more 90-minute opening comments.

The fact of the matter is, as my colleague just showed me, even the Globe and Mail agrees that backbenchers will have an opportunity to raise their voices in this chamber. All of us, every single member on the government side and the opposition, have an equal right to state their case, an equal right to express the views of their constituents. We don't have that right under the rules today. We are constrained by arbitrary and prejudicial rules that have served the interest of governments far too much in the past, and we are hoping to break that hammerlock.

We are also doing a number of other things. I am astounded that the members opposite have not seen fit to at least recognize things that I would have thought any reasonable person would agree are dramatic improvements in the standing orders.

The ability to ensure that the budget of the government of Ontario receives full debate and an opportunity to guarantee that there is a vote on that budget: We have never had that before. I would ask you, what would the motives have been? What would the motives have been of the previous governments who did not want full exposure of their spending habits, who did not want full exposure of their taxation habits? Why did they not want guaranteed as a right to the people in this province six days of debate, or the opportunity of whatever number of days of debate we provide in here, and in particular a guarantee that there's a vote?

The opportunity to do that now -- and I know the rule will change a lot of the time periods, the number of days for particular bills and the number of minutes given to each member, but the bottom line is that the goal of these changes is to improve our access and to improve the ability of all of our constituents to be heard in this House.

We've had a number of interesting contrasts in the debate so far today. As my colleague from Nepean also pointed out, as I wipe the dust off this, the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly during the time of the NDP government prepared a report on the rights that should be accorded to independent members in this chamber. In fact, quite ironically, a former NDP cabinet minister, the current member for Elgin, was the gentleman who circulated this report, who sent this report in when the member for Nepean asked for all members in this chamber to provide input to his original suggestions for possible changes. I guess while we seem to get no credit from the other side when we do listen, the fact of the matter is that the member for --


Mr Gilchrist: We have a new member in the House here, Mr Speaker.

We have proposed the acceptance of 100% of the recommendations of the report that was commissioned during the NDP's term in office, and we've had a number of other contrasts here today.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Somebody has been allowed in the chamber here that I do not recognize.

The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr Gilchrist: Thank you, Mr Speaker. In fact, the interjection from the member for Kingston and The Islands I think proves the point here. Given that his party pretty well restricts the input in this chamber to about four members, as is the case with the NDP, and given that the government allows a disproportionate amount of the time to the opposition members, it's quite understandable he may not have met any number of the members on the government side of the House, because they've never had a chance to speak.

Just to pick up on that point, I'm still trying to reconcile the fairness of 45 members opposite -- that's 34% of the population in this House -- having two thirds or 66% of the speaking time. That's a two-to-one ratio. It highlights dramatically the fact that the 82 members on this side, who obviously represent very many more people than are represented by the members opposite, don't have that same right. These proposals are all about restoring that balance, quite frankly regardless of which government is in power.

Let's go back to the contrast we've heard, because it was quite interesting that so far today we've had the input of a number of members who have risen in this chamber before and have spoken on this very topic before.

Mr Baird: What did they say?

Mr Gilchrist: I'll tell you what they said. In some cases their contributions earlier were made when they were also in opposition, but in some cases they were made when they were the government members themselves.

Mr Baird: What did the NDP say?

Mr Gilchrist: Let me give you an example of what the NDP has said before. Mr Bisson, who of course is the member for Cochrane South, in June 1992 -- that would be when he was a member of the sitting NDP government -- said: "The government does have the right to govern and at the end of the day it must put forward its agenda. Democratically, they have that right." But today he would suggest that we don't have the right. He said, "If a member can't stand in his place and make the points within a respectable period of time, 30 minutes, why do you need two hours to make that particular point?" We agree. Ninety minutes for opening statements is absolutely obscene.

Every Legislature in Canada and the federal House of Commons have similar rules. They have similar rules because they have recognized that you have to have a process to allow the Legislature to do its business, to allow legislation to go through the House. He isn't talking about rules that allow members to use Javex bottles under a blanket in this House. He's not talking about rules that allow people to introduce 8,000 frivolous amendments at a cost of almost $250,000 a day to the taxpayers in this province. He was talking about rules that allowed full and honest debate on the merits of the pieces of legislation that are before us. That's supposed to be our role: not theatrics, not grandstanding, not showboating, but speaking to the topic of the day.

Instead of the stunts, instead of the showboating, if they spent less time on motions to adjourn and less time on debating things such as the very fact that we're here tonight on midnight sittings -- they themselves wasted an entire day of debate to go through something that is automatic at the end of every session and always has been. Instead of that, we would have another day to deal with this issue or Workers' Compensation Board reforms or education reforms or any of the important challenges that face this province. Unless their suggestion is that it is more important to play those procedural games than to deal with those important topics, those important challenges, I don't understand why they wouldn't embrace these rules, why they wouldn't be as excited as our members are.


I can tell you that it's somewhat frustrating to know that the member for Nepean circulated his original proposals and many of us sent back our comments, including, as I had said earlier, the independent member for Elgin. It's frustrating that while they're prepared to come in here today and vilify the government and suggest there's no need for change and suggest everything's perfect, they didn't see fit to take the time to read these suggestions and to comment on them as Mr Baird, the member for Nepean, had requested. So again, while the TV cameras are on, they'll come in here, as they do every day, and at high noon they'll tell you that it's night outside as they put on their sunglasses. I'm sure the people who watch at home are getting just a little tired of that diatribe.

Let me encapsulate just some of the changes that are proposed by this. There would be a guarantee that any bill or resolution put forward by any individual member will ultimately be put to a vote during private members' hour. Let me just deal with that starting point. Many of the members in this chamber, including opposition members, have introduced very laudable pieces of legislation. They have introduced pieces of legislation that provide a perspective, that in some cases deal with minor changes to legislation that particular ministries may not have had an opportunity to address.

I have two private member's bills on the order paper. One of them is sitting at second reading, and given the fact that we have a lottery and each of us is entitled to have only one bill debated, it is likely to die on the order paper. As a result of that, we're going to go to this civic holiday in a few weeks and in most of Ontario it will be called civic holiday. Here in Toronto it's called Simcoe Day. Our opportunity to celebrate some of our British heritage, to celebrate one of the founders of this great province, to celebrate something that makes us unique and that I would have thought would be worthy of recognition, that minor change that would have seen province-wide recognition of Lord Graves Simcoe, will die on the order paper.

I have another bill which not only went through second reading but went through committee successfully. I believe it's the only bill that has done that. But it too in all likelihood will die at the end of the session because the three House leaders are not able under the current rules to find enough time to debate pieces of legislation like that for third and final reading. I'm not alone. I know Mr Wildman from the NDP and many of the Liberals have also introduced pieces of legislation that quite frankly I could support. In private members' hour, as all the members will attest, during the last two years there have been bills introduced by members from all three parties that have received the acceptance of this chamber and that have moved on to either committee or, as I said, in some cases third reading. But that's where they're quite likely to die.

All the time and effort that was put into that and all of the benefits that would be accorded to people in this province will be lost because the current rules allow the House leaders opposite to ensure that we do not have the regulated amount of time to debate important private members' initiatives.

I mentioned earlier a guaranteed amount of time to debate on the budget and a requirement that the budget be voted on. Again, who could argue with that laudable goal?

Changes to make it easier for the Legislature to work longer hours: Here we debate today these important changes. Quite frankly, if you go through the math, in only about four and a half days of midnight sittings, every member opposite, if he or she chose to make a contribution to this debate, would have an opportunity to speak the full allotment of time. But again I would remind everyone that just a few days ago we wasted an entire day of the duty in this House debating the fact that we could even go to midnight sittings today. Their suggestion was that having the time, having another eight and a half hours of debate, having another 17 members able to contribute their point of view to this issue, was less worthy than to simply stand up and bash the government for two and a half hours, at which point there was the inevitable successful vote because we believe it's important that we put in time to guarantee that as much legislation as possible is passed this spring session.

There are provisions to ensure that funding for social programs and other vital government operations is not interrupted. We have the concurrences and we have the other financial dealings of the province that again, under the current rules, can be tied up. We could very well find ourselves in a situation where as a result of delays on the other side we are not able to write the cheques to pay the 80,000 civil servants who work for the government of Ontario. What is served by that? Clearly we have an obligation, we have a responsibility, but the rules allow that sort of stonewalling.

Of course, there are measures to ensure that the legitimate business of the House is not frivolously interrupted by MPPs who break the rules or find other arcane procedural delays and stalling tactics. For example, there could be no reasonable agreement that there should be a motion to adjourn before we finish what are called routine proceedings every day. The members opposite presumably believe it's important to ask questions during question period, presumably believe it's important to bring forward the petitions they receive from their constituents. Presumably they believe it's important every day to be able to stand up and make members' statements, which could be according some praise to an individual or group in their riding or pointing out to the people of this province that an event upcoming in their riding is something to be celebrated. Presumably the introduction of bills is something that they believe is also an important aspect of how this government and how this chamber should do business.

But the rules right now allow us to waste 30 minutes -- actually, by the time the vote is taken, 35 minutes -- just by having someone stand up on the other side. When it costs about $1,000 a minute to run this chamber, the folks at home can do the math of what that sort of frivolous abuse of the rules costs all of us, not just on this side. For us, it's just frustration. For the taxpayers, it's an out-of-pocket expense. It's lost time. It's a province that's gone further into debt, it's a province that's gone further down that road that we're trying to put a U-turn in back to prosperity and fiscal sanity. Every time we're delayed, every time we're held up at a stop sign, this province is beggared that much further. Nobody, not us in this chamber, not the people we represent, is served by that.

We've had a couple of other points made today that I really must take exception to. We've had two comments made by members opposite. Mr Wildman earlier made a comment that --

Interjection: The member for Algoma.

Mr Gilchrist: The member for Algoma -- thank you -- made a comment earlier that the PCs, when they were in opposition, actually cost the NDP one day of debate by calling quorum. I feel it's incumbent upon me to correct the record. It was in fact Mr Mahoney, a Liberal, who called quorum that day, and the day's debate was cost by the Liberals, the official opposition. I don't think it's appropriate that anything less than a full and factual accounting of history be part of the transcript from today's debate.

Second, the mythology on the other side, I'm sure, supports the comment made by the member for Carleton East just about an hour ago wherein he suggested that the little theatrics put on during the Bill 26 hearing by one of his colleagues somehow resulted in the committee hearings that occurred some weeks later. Leaving aside the fact that it was a disgusting antic to pull in this chamber, the seat of government in this province, the fact of the matter is that they were offered more hours of debate before that stunt. They wound up settling for fewer hours and fewer people in this province had a chance to give input to Bill 26 because of the time wasted here and quite frankly because they didn't like the first offer. Good negotiating. Great negotiating. I say that to the member opposite, who is in the chamber today.

We have circulated to all the members in the chamber these submissions that the House leader has introduced. They are very much an extension of an evolution of the rules in this House that go back right to its inception in 1867. I could spend some time dealing with some of the other changes that have been proposed over the years. I'll find my notes here. There might be a suggestion to someone who doesn't watch every day, and in particular someone who has not been following politics in this chamber for many years, but we have a history just in the last few years where the Liberals made significant changes to these same standing orders. Their changes included: prohibiting motions to adjourn the House till after question period, something that was undone by the next government; the establishment of the House calendar; the establishment of an estimates review process.


In 1991 the then government House leader, the member for Sudbury East, who has vilified us here today for suggesting that changes should be made, proposed a provision for evening sittings, as we have. She proposed the automatic passage of concurrences if not passed by the end of the fiscal year; we agree. She proposed the elimination of debates of committee reports; we've proposed that here today. She proposed that notice to the Speaker for matters of privilege be introduced but not take up the time of the House until the Speaker has had a chance to review them and come back to report.

I'm left to struggle with the contrast from the same member who is standing up suggesting that the package of changes we're making today is inappropriate, that it's undemocratic and draconian, to use their words, the words of the very limited bash-the-government vocabulary that are part of every speech over there -- except for the member for Renfrew-Thesaurus; I accept that.

The suggestion is that when it comes from this side of the House, when it comes from this party, when it comes from this government, the changes are mean-spirited, undemocratic, dictatorial, that they'll somehow impede the rights of the members. Yet when she proposed them they were a great idea and she was quite concerned that they didn't find favour with the other two parties of the day.

I remind you that she was the government House leader at the time. She couldn't even make them happen when she was in government, so maybe it's a sense of frustration that her rules are now coming back in a different form. But I don't think it's appropriate to create the impression for those people watching at home or those people who read Hansard that somehow she genuinely disagrees with these rules when she herself proposed the same things just six years ago.

It went beyond that, because in 1992 they made a change; they made a lot of changes during the NDP's term of office. There was a new government House leader, the former member for Windsor-Riverside, and his changes included a formal time allocation procedure, a shorter House calendar and speaking time limits.

Interjection: We voted for it.

Mr Gilchrist: As my colleague points out, the PCs, the third party at the time, supported those changes even though they limited the amount of time that could be spent on debate. The old rules would have allowed almost unlimited debate on a bill; they're the ones who brought it down to the current roughly three days before you can bring in a motion to close off the debate. They went from unlimited to three, yet somehow our changes, which increase the number of members who will be able to speak to a bill, are wrong. Again I'm left struggling with that contradiction.

We're not allowed to use the H word in here, but it's somewhere between "hypodermic" and "hypochondriac." There can be no other answer, and I really think it becomes tiresome.

Earlier today we heard a long-winded diatribe from the member for Oakwood. I set the context of his comments here today. His entire entry into politics, back in 1981, was on the basis that York should be amalgamated with all the cities of Toronto. He formed a group called Reform York -- a word that's taken on a different context in the last few years -- and ran on a platform that nothing short of the elimination of the city of York was acceptable, that York was an anachronism.

Of course today, now that either his House leader told him to or his conscience allows it, he was the opposition's number one spokesman against that self-same amalgamation here in the city of Toronto.

Interjection: Was that Mike Colle who said that?

Mr Gilchrist: Yes, that was Mike Colle.

We have the kind of contrast where they say one thing about House rules when they're in government, contradictions about the positions taken on other important pieces of legislation, and we're left to believe there's any credibility to the comments they're making in this? It is very frustrating.

We call on the members opposite. We have two years left in our mandate. Again, maybe I was naïve on the day I was elected, believing that members opposite, regardless of how the chips fell, whether I wound up in opposition or in government, would have an opportunity to bring forward their views and, more important, actually have input in the bills.

I can understand their frustration if they've been ordered to do this, but I find that somewhat hard to believe, because they're all independent thinkers on the other side, as I know all my colleagues are on this side. But they have gone through two years with the mindset, "It's far better to get zero percent, and we'll just bash every bill and try to create the mindset out there that every single clause in every single government bill is ill-considered and does not deal with the important challenges out there." All but the most mundane and housekeeping type bills have received that treatment, rather than their saying: "There are clauses in the bill," whether education reform or health care reform, "that any reasonable person would support. We're going to come down on the side of the government with those. We're going to build our credibility by saying that when it is good, we'll stand up with them, so that when we say there are clauses we do disagree with, sections of bills we really think need improvement," obviously on our side we would be far more likely to believe their input.

But in committee, in this House, it is a litany of woe. The nattering nabobs of negativism have decided there is nothing to be gained by actually being involved, by bringing forward the views of their constituents, nothing to be served by getting 5% or 10% of the legislative output of this government, of working with us, recognizing that our parliamentary system always accords a disproportionate amount of the authority in shaping legislation to the government side, particularly given that each of them in the last 10 years has had the opportunity to experience the differences between being on the government side and on the opposition side. I would have thought, with that experience behind them, they would recognize that it is far better to work with the government, far better to seek changes where they are appropriate, far better than to spend their time simply standing up and bashing everything that comes along.

People don't want that pessimism. People got that pessimism in spades from the last government and the fact is that they voted for change on June 8, 1995. They voted for optimism, they voted for jobs, they voted for a prosperous economy, and they're getting all of that. These changes allow us to carry forward and move even more firmly in that direction, and I support all these changes.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Scarborough North.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Thank you, Mr Speaker, but I presume one has to wait a bit before the hot air dies down, if it ever goes down.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on these proposed rule changes, which we know this government put forward. It's not surprising the way they have done it. It's quite customary for them to sneak things through and then subtly: "Oh, it is just a little private member who suggested it or a backbencher who suggested it. It has nothing to do with the government." But as soon as they put that individual forward, they send the other guns out, the House leader and the Premier backing it strongly. We very much know that these proposals were drafted by the whiz kids in the back and the government itself who wanted all this, and then saying, "We wanted change."

I want to talk a little about democracy and a bit about the democratic process. When I came to this House in 1985, I was elected by the people of Scarborough North. One mandate I had, a very straight mandate, was that I should bring to this House the concerns and the aspirations they hold dear and some of the frustrations they have and let them be known, so that whenever laws, regulations or what have you are being discussed, the concerns of the people I represent are heard. But lo and behold, in 1995, when this government was elected, some of those approaches through which that could happen here just went out the door. They went out in the way they were doing business.


First, when the Conservative-Reform government got elected, they felt very strongly that they had a mandate to do anything they wanted at any time to anybody they wished to do it to. Immediately, with one stroke of the pen, they took 20% of the income from the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, those who depend on an income from the welfare system -- no discussion, no debate, just a stroke of the pen. Those individuals said, "I'd like to speak about the impact it has on me," and the opposition tried to say, "Let me tell you what you have done, the concerns of those people suffering under the 20% cut." If the Premier got up one day and said he would take 20% of the salaries of the people in the Premier's office or from the members of Parliament here, we would have had a long debate, but those who had no representation, who thought they had representation through people like me and my colleagues, could not make those presentations to this government, because they said that with one stroke of the pen they can do that.

When people demonstrated, they called them interest groups. They called out the police with horses to keep the people from approaching their elected members, the ones who said they had a mandate to govern. Therefore, inaccessibility becomes the order of the day for the representatives to the House of Parliament. That's what it's all about, the democratic process through which people are elected to present the concerns and the aspirations of people, but they could not be heard.

I think we have had more demonstrations since this government has taken governance of this province than any other government we have seen. Each day we have concern. The people are saying, "We'd like to meet the minister." They were an endangered species; I thought they were dying out in the first year or two years. I didn't see one, not one of those members, on any public occasion in my area. The member for Scarborough East was found wanting. We couldn't find him. Where was he? Hiding, because he was so busy trying to cut away some of the representation that the people want so much.

When those people on welfare got 20% cut from their income and they said, "I cannot pay my rent," they were told to go and negotiate it with their landlord. Furthermore, when they said, "If I do pay my rent after the 20% decrease I got, I'll have no food for the children." The audacity of one of the ministers -- he told them, "Come, I'll give you a menu and I'll tell you what to cook and what to eat, and here's how you should shop and what you should buy." They already had the answer. They needed no representation.

Of course, he said he had been buying dented tins of tuna and that it was cheaper than buying the things they wanted for their children. He was going to tell them how to eat and where to live, because they would deprive them of their income. One stroke of the pen caused that.

Then in the wee hours of the night, they concocted Bill 26. I was extremely interested in it. When I saw this huge bill to make all these massive changes, I wanted an opportunity to read it. I lacked the opportunity to read it. When we stood in the House to say this bill was coming through and pleaded with the Speaker to give us the opportunity -- the mandate I got and many of us got to represent the people in this place -- we were denied that. We were denied even the time in which to digest or understand what we were voting on. The budget was being done at the same time, sneaked into the House to be passed, again not only denying me the time to read it but even the opportunity to vote on it.

I was not the only person who felt that way; all my colleagues in the New Democratic Party and in the Liberal Party and of course some members over here felt that way. The difference is that the members of the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party recognized that and decided, "We shall not continue unless we have the opportunity to read the legislation," because what we heard coming from the House leader and the Premier of this province was: "We will not give you your mandate to exercise one bit. As a matter of fact, we need this legislation by Christmas, first, second and third reading. That's it." We said: "Oh, golly, this huge thing giving you all these great powers? Don't you expect us to make you accountable for the things you are doing, to do the job as an opposition, to point out to you the things that would happen, the repercussions, the consequences?"

They decided to ram this thing through, and when we linked forces that this should not go through in any way, the only concern that the Conservative-Reform party over there had was, "We're wasting time," that democracy somehow was getting in the way, "Discussion and debate are getting in the way of our doing our job in the way we want to do it." Hence they got the name "bully" -- pushy and very undemocratic in their manner.

I sat here and many of my colleagues sat here all through Wednesday night and into the morning to send a clear message that the people would not tolerate that, and we, the representatives of the people, who were elected by the people to do the job for them, would not tolerate that. They said their bill was a perfect bill and needed no discussion. As a matter of fact, on many occasions we couldn't even find a Tory member to debate, to put their contribution into many of the bills put forward in this House.

Now they want rule changes because they feel backbenchers need more time. There are backbenchers in the Conservative Party who sit quietly, day in and day out, not making one contribution, but they need more time. You had your instructions to go along with what the House leader told you to do, and when we spoke from this point of view, they said, "You are holding up the process, so we will put in something called closure and we'll shut this debate down, because we want to get on with the things that the people told us to do."

But I think they forget there's one thing in your way: the people in this province, who have a long memory, not a short memory. There are many people in this province, in this country, whose grandparents and fathers fought in wars to get a democratic process so their voices would be heard, their concerns would be heard. There are some countries, as you know, that have fought for this and many have died for it. Many of us have relatives, grandparents, fathers, brothers or what have you, who died so that all people can be represented, and the best way they can do this is in this democratic process.

But this government does not see it that way. They come through saying, "We need to move on with this to do the things we were mandated to do." We cannot find anything in your mandate that tells you that you will deny especially the opposition to speak.


Then they start saying that what they should do is limit times. They are so concerned about the backbenchers and the opposition and who should speak. I think they should be concerned, very much so, about the people out there who want to hear if their concerns are being articulated effectively and well.

Some of the things we may say are rather boring, so some of us can express ourselves in five or 10 minutes and the message is heard by some. Many times when we speak in this House, we are not speaking to the members here; I am speaking and many of us are speaking to the constituents who have elected us to come here, who say, "I wonder if this member understands my concerns."

Just today I asked a question about the family support plan, a program this minister put forward and has really botched up so terribly. Five minutes afterwards, I had three calls outside from people who called and said, "I'm glad you raised that question." Again, if we consider that we're making rules here for our own selves, we're wrong. We are making rules in the democratic process so that all our people can be represented in the way they should and so they can understand that, but you're pushing this through without having a full, proper way of doing this.

My colleague from Carleton East made one of the most profound speeches I've heard in this House, a very compassionate, very sincere speech to say that the way you are doing this is wrong. If our colleagues here missed it, I would say to you, go back and read it. If any individual outside, beyond the walls of this tower, would like a copy of that speech, they should call in at any time to the Legislature so we can send it, so they can understand what he was saying. It was very non-partisan. He was saying, very much so, that the democratic process should rule, that we have an opportunity, in a very non-partisan way, all of us, the 135 -- or the 103 to come -- to express the views of all the people.

Sometimes those interest groups that we're talking about, if a law affects five or six people in this province in a very negative way, we are here to address those concerns. Therefore, if it takes three people to be an interest group, I'm interested in their concerns. I'm interested in every single individual in my constituency, to see that the laws and the regulations of this place are conducted in a manner to serve them all -- that's what we're here for -- but not in this arrogant manner that we see.

The example we saw that was so vivid was Bill 103, the megacity, affecting almost three million people. The people were saying to themselves, "We would like to know that we have a contribution to say whether we'd like it or not." The arrogance of this Premier and this government saying, "It does not matter what the people say; we will do what we feel we want to do and to heck with them all." The people were saying, "You are going to affect my life, you are going to raise my taxes, you are going to change so many things in my life that I'd like to tell you what impact it has on me," and he said, "It doesn't matter if you say you do not want it."

In this great mandate that he had in his Common Sense Revolution book, it said, "I will accept a referendum," but when the time came to realize that a referendum would not work in his favour, where the people themselves were saying, "I don't want to go the way you are going," he said, "It doesn't matter; I will not listen to the people" -- another set of arrogance in itself.

We come before this Parliament and before the people about a rule change. It sounds rather simple but it's going to have a great impact on us.

I just want to emphasize the importance of the opposition. Even when I was in government and had to listen to the points of view raised by the opposition, quite a few of the things I heard I didn't like and quite a few of the things maybe too I did not understand. Then it took me beyond that. I had to take another position beyond just listening, to make sure that an opportunity of further discussion happened, that I or my government would not in any way start saying: "There's no way. You have a limited time to speak, a couple of hours, and we'll ram this thing through for second and third reading and make this law." We had to listen.

A good example of that was Bill 51, when I was the minister doing rent control. I said, very much so, that we had to listen to all. Does it impact on the landlords? Does it impact on the tenants? And not only tenants and landlords within the city but all across this province. So there we were, we went out to have that consultation and we did change many parts of it. As a matter of fact, we set up a tenant and landlord panel committee to discuss most of that and to make our changes.

This government feels they don't want any amendments. When we went back to Bill 26, which they thought was just perfect and needed no amendments but would have gone through within a very short time of two or three months, what happened was that the government itself had over 150 amendments. Just think about it. When it was introduced, it was perfect. If there had been no discussions, all those amendments would not even have seen the light of day in this legislation. We had to demonstrate in a most exercised manner what the opposition could do to stop them in their tracks, to say, "It shall not be so." The government themselves came back with over 150 amendments -- as a matter of fact, more than that -- to say, "Yes, many of the things we have said here have been wrong." We wanted very much for them to pull back this omnibus, draconian bill giving them enormous powers, to find out the impact it had.

They didn't mind at all. They don't care, because within the back rooms of the Premier's office this legislation and these policies are being drafted and handed to the Conservative-Reform Party inside their caucus, and they're told, "You just fall in line and vote accordingly." And here we are now. Those backbenchers who did not speak up at all, neither on Bill 26 nor on Bill 103 -- and many, many other bills -- there they are talking about bringing forward amendments, Mr Speaker, if I can get your attention for a moment, there they are saying they want more backbench representation when they themselves did not participate in many of these things.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Because you took up all the time.

Mr Curling: The member says because we took up all the time. Sometimes democracy is a very slow process and sometimes an arrogant government feels that democracy gets in the way of doing their job. They come here with their business sense. They say: "We're running a business. The bottom line is money. The bottom line today is that we cannot talk about things at all; we just want to get to the end of it all. We've got to balance the budget, we have to do all these things, and in that process, don't let democracy get in the way. It's a very tedious thing." They go further. "People get in the way," they say. Not only the concept of democracy but people get in the way.

"Why should I be listening?" the Minister of Labour said. "I don't want more than three people talking to me." Why is it that as many of these delegations came forward, the Premier immediately stated that they were interest groups? "People are getting in the way of doing our business." While doing the people's business, people are in the way.

We want to make sure that when the rules are changed around here, they're not only changed for us but they're changed for all the people of this province. We know, of course, that you have a mandate and you can't go beyond your five years. But the damage you're doing right now to this province, some of it, it will be a long time before we can reverse that damage. Rest assured that we will be reversing some and that we will try to correct it, like the elimination of rent control. They had promised at one stage they would not and then they came in and wiped out rent control, calling the people, in a certain way, fools. "They don't understand this, that we're not taking it away." But I can tell you that the people are quite astute and always more intelligent than many of us here. When we stop listening, then we condemn that process.

I know that my appeal to these members here will never change their mind, because the pattern has been set. The arrogance of their attitude over the two years they've been here has given them the label of a bully government; bully because what they intend to do, they will do, regardless of who is there; it is the arrogance of this government, which felt that racism and many things don't exist in this province, so they eliminate employment equity, dilute the Human Rights Commission and do all these things because these things are dealing with people and their concerns, and they're getting in the way of doing business.

But the big boys on Bay Street don't get in their way. As the Minister of Housing stated to the landlords, "Now you have a friend," and then told the tenants, "You're all a bunch of interest groups, and I don't want to even listen to you." Is that the message you're giving?

But the power of the vote will be there. If you had the opportunity, you would of course eliminate elections too, because that would get in the way and that has to do with people. No matter what rules you make today, no matter what rules you change to make your government and your bully attitude more efficient, the morning comes. It may be dark now, but the morning comes. The light will come up, when you have to look them straight in the face, you the Speaker, you the member, every elected member will look the voters straight in their eyes and say, "I have done the things I want to do." They will then say to you, "Maybe you have done that, what you want to do, but you have not done the things that I wanted to have been done," because you have set yourself up as a demigod.

"But the fact is that we are right and you, the people, are wrong." They'll say: "How come I'm not better off today? How come fewer people are making more money and more people are making less?" You'll say: "Well, aren't you happy that we balanced the budget? Aren't you happy we have a great surplus in our budget?"

Then they'll ask you: "Are you happy that my children are hungry? Are you happy that my rent has gone up 20% or 30%? Are you happy about that?" Maybe you are, and maybe those who are making money will say: "Wait a bit. The fellows I gave the money to will be giving you jobs sooner or later." They'll say: "It's funny now that they're investing outside of my country; they're not investing in me. So I don't see any jobs. More profits in the banks is what I see. I see more profits all over." The fact is that the people are saying: "I don't think you'd listen to me at all. I don't think you want to do the things I want you to do because you feel that you are right. You are right and we are wrong. When we elected you in numbers, in popularity, and you became the government, you stopped listening. You shut this place down." People are even finding it difficult to come and listen to their people within the Parliament here, this democratic process, to see their members.

A rule change here will make no difference. An attitude about how we represent our people is the key to how we conduct democracy. Again, in my speech, I'm not appealing to the members here. It's no use appealing to them. They have set their pattern of arrogance, their pattern of bullying through this process. They have set their ways because they're concerned about their bottom line. They're concerned about making sure their friends can get a nice tax return, and the poor, the majority, will continue to suffer. The numbers of the poor in our society are getting larger. Food banks are larger. The population that comes to the food banks is getting larger. So we reduce welfare because we can kick them off and we can introduce any draconian policies we want.

One of the things I would suggest to them, since I am on that fingerprinting stuff of the welfare people, is that I would like you to fingerprint all the corporate people in businesses that got money from the government, because they are getting government money just like the welfare people. Fingerprint them all. Once you give out money from the coffers of the government, I think they should be fingerprinted. I think that should happen.

As for democracy, I would say to the people outside, take a keen look at these people here, this democratic process we are in, this Conservative-Reform mentality we have seen. Take a keen look at them. Come the day we have to be accountable, they will not be found hiding like they've hidden for the last two years, and now want to ram things through, shut this place down and then go out smiling, hoping people will forget. They shall not forget you because you have set your pattern as a bully. We will continue to remind the people that it's these people, the Conservative-Reform, who have put them in the state they are in today. The big fellows on Bay Street and all those who are making big profits will put the money in their pockets, and you will not be able to respond to those people in the right way that you should. Long live democracy. I hope you people go down the way you should.

Mr Kormos: This is the second time in five years, five years almost to the day, that I and a whole lot of other members have been confronted by so-called rule changes. I don't think it will come as any surprise -- it didn't come as a surprise to very many when I opposed the rule changes of 1992 -- that I oppose these today.

One of the interesting things is the argument that the rule changes are being performed to facilitate participation of backbenchers. Why I find this remarkable in this context is that that was the same argument that was used in 1992 by members of that government who made similar speeches and by a House leader who withstood the outright wrath of, among others, Mike Harris, who as leader of the third party was unrestrainable in his concern expressed to the House leader that this should happen without negotiation, that it should be imposed by a government abusing its majority and that, although said to be done for the purpose of facilitating, among other things, the participation of backbenchers in debate, really has a far more significant and further-reaching purpose.


I know that the Conservatives, some six, seven, eight of them, voted for the rule changes. I've got their names here. Not all of them are present. Some I suspect were concerned about it. But at the end of the day, the motive of the last government was no more preferable to the motive of this government. I suppose these Tories haven't changed their stripes. They're as reluctant to see meaningful debate now as they were five years ago in 1992.

What I find interesting is the number of second and especially third readings wherein the Tory caucus abandons its shared portion of the time for debate. Just last week, another round of debate where the whole afternoon, because the Tories didn't want to participate in third reading, was left up to the Liberal caucus and the New Democratic Party caucus. I can tell the members from the Conservative --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): What bill?

Mr Kormos: I can't remember the bill.

Mr Gilchrist: Name the number then.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Kormos: But I do remember watching the Tory backbenchers sit there silently, merely keeping a quorum, declining every opportunity to participate in the debate. I find it remarkable --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: You were muzzled by your own government.

Mr Kormos: Mr Villeneuve refers to me as being muzzled. They may have wanted to administer rabies shots from time to time but they never muzzled. Notwithstanding the best efforts, they didn't muzzle.

We've got a group here now, most of them two years here in Parliament, all of them -- and I indicated this when I spoke back in 1992. I was confident that every member who ever ran for this Legislature or any other Parliament did so with the best of intentions, was committed to making meaningful changes on behalf of their constituents or even meaningful changes around the Legislative Assembly or the process in it. I have no hesitation in saying once again that I suspect every member who was elected here, even these Conservative members, came here with the best of intentions.

I'm concerned, however, about what appears to be one of the solutions to backbenchers not being able to participate in debate, and I'm convinced that a whole lot of Tories after 1998 or 1999 will have the chance because they'll be a member of a much smaller caucus. I can assure them that it's far easier to be involved and engaged in debate when you're in an opposition caucus with only 30-plus or 16 or 17 members. I'm confident that the Tory backbenchers who are concerned about not having an opportunity to debate when they're in an opposition caucus in relatively short order will have plenty of opportunity, will be called upon more frequently than they would want to be to engage in debate on second or third reading or on motions like this.

This is a slippery slope. People in the New Democratic Party caucus who approved similar rule changes and who probably are accountable, quite frankly, for the progression that we see now -- I have no hesitation in saying that -- understand now, and you've heard them as they've spoken to this motion, how dangerous the proposition was in 1992 and how even more frighteningly dangerous it is now. This government is effectively recommending that backbenchers, if they're going to be allowed to participate, have but 10 minutes to engage in comments if you're after the first time slot --

Mr Baird: Five hours.

Mr Kormos: If you're after the five hours of initial debate, but 10 minutes to participate in debate.

This government witnessed in the gallery this afternoon an outburst by members of the community. I suppose it wasn't particularly desirable and was uncomfortable for everybody involved, including the people who felt compelled to do it. I spoke to them after they were escorted out of the visitors' gallery. I can tell you this, Speaker: There's going to be more and more of that sort of disruption here in this Legislative Assembly and in communities and in public places across this province if this government persists in what has been described as jackboot tactics -- jackboot tactics which haven't been equalled by any previous government, even on their worst day.

I was down at the Croatian National Home last week. One of the members of the Croatian National Home was working in the kitchen doing cleanup. He came to me and he said, "Pete, I've lived under a whole lot of different kinds of governments. I've lived under the Germans when they occupied Croatia," he has lived under Nazi governments, "I've lived under Communist totalitarian governments and now I'm witnessing what I see coming out of Queen's Park with Harris and his government." He said, "Peter, I thought I had seen it all, but the Harris government challenges everything I've ever experienced" under what he believed was the worst of jackbootism, the worst of totalitarianism, the worst of anti-democratic practices and exercises.

I was down in Thorold on Queen Street at the Exolon strike picket lines. It's not a strike yet, because the contract negotiations are taking place. Seventeen of the 36 Exolon workers currently engaged in negotiations are struggling hard with a profitable company that has no qualms about paying its corporate bosses big bonuses, trying hard to resist the demand for concessions. They expressed concern to me. They watch the legislative channel, and the government members know there are a whole lot of people who do, and are expressing incredible concern to me about a government that suppresses debate, a government that doesn't listen to either members of the opposition or members of the public who take time out of their lives to come here and protest.

Mr Gilchrist: You voted against your own colleagues.

Mr Kormos: One moment. Repeat that again, Mr Gilchrist.

Mr Gilchrist: Did you not vote against your own colleagues in their rule changes?

Mr Kormos: Mr Gilchrist makes a point. He suggests that I didn't support my colleagues when they presented their rule changes. I quite frankly didn't. I thought at the time that the restriction on debate to 30 minutes was an incredibly oppressive exercise. I thought it was an incredibly undemocratic thing. Now I find myself struggling to maintain a mere 30-minute time limit.

I don't understand where Mr Gilchrist -- he's not sure whether he wants to agree with me that it was right or concur with me that he is wrong in supporting these rule changes. All I'm suggesting to him is that what goes around comes around. Mr Gilchrist, if he's among the fortunate Tories to be re-elected to an opposition caucus, will find himself frustrated and angry.

Mind you, I witnessed the Harris filibuster -- nowhere near as creative as some filibusters that preceded it and nowhere near as riveting to the members of the Ontario public -- the reading of bills. I recall the government of the day -- I just read the Hansard -- attacked Mr Harris, accusing him of spending some $300,000 of taxpayers' money by consuming that time in the Legislature, not a particularly novel critique, because of course it's one that this government employs on a regular basis.

I don't understand why these government members talk about wanting more opportunity to participate in debate when those who do speak out find themselves silenced in such short order, be they the Toni Skaricas or the Gary Carrs or the Bill Murdochs et al. I find it troublesome that they talk about wanting to participate in debate, they talk about wanting to make a difference, they talk about wanting to speak on behalf of their constituents, yet most of the exercise appears to be simply doing the trained seal act and nodding when told to nod, applauding when told to applaud, lessons being learned oh-so-quickly by the likes of Skarica and Carr and Murdoch who, when they do speak out, find themselves ousted.

Not one of these people has found the courage yet to vote with their conscience rather than with what they perceive to be short-term goals in what will inevitably be brief political careers.


When I'm down on the Exolon picket line with workers from Exolon, I'm confronted by the concern that these working people have about a government that is increasingly unresponsive not only to debate in the House, but to public comment and public opinion. We witnessed just a couple of weeks ago the futile effort of Mr Sheehan from Lincoln to create right-to-work legislation here in Ontario, to import the standards that prevail in the American south in places like South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida. That bill was defeated -- not soundly, because it was clearly in tune with what a whole lot of the government backbenchers support.

I find, notwithstanding the defeat of that bill on second reading, a resolution now from one Mr Fox to be debated June 26, 1997, again echoing the sentiments of the Sheehan Bill 131: "That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should disallow the undemocratic requirement of mandatory fee collection by unions." Undemocratic requirement? That reveals a complete ignorance of any understanding about what democracy is all about. "Trade unions should have the right to exist as the bargaining agent for employees, but there should not be a provision to allow for mandatory deduction from the wages of each employee in the unit affected by the collective agreement, the amount of the regular union dues and the automatic remittance of the amount to the trade union."

This is the contrary of any sense of democracy. Too many people, like the people from Welland-Thorold, like workers in industry there over the course of generations, have struggled too hard and for too long to developing some modest rights for working people to see them being placed under direct attack by this government without there being a considerable and substantial response.

This government is willing upon itself confrontations and levels of violence which haven't been seen in this province for half a century. This government which talks about law and order is creating in fact disorder. This government which talks about family values is doing more to attack families and undermine healthy families than any government ever could. This government sustains higher and higher levels of unemployment; in Niagara region 10.9% and among young people, people under 25, levels of unemployment that are twice that.

This government abandons a high-wage economy and pursues southern US style -- we should be talking to people about what "right to work" means, what the model is that this government's importing in the most brutal way. Right to work means the virtual abolition of minimum wages. Right to work means undermining trade unions so that they barely exist in name alone, so that their power or their effectiveness in negotiating on behalf of workers and protecting seniority rights, in achieving fair wage settlements, is undermined to the point where they become the ilk of trade unions in the most totalitarian regimes that the world has ever witnessed.

That's the kind of standards this government is importing into this country, standards that are a direct confrontation of anything akin to democracy and standards that reveal that this government -- I'm not convinced that it isn't aware of what democracy is. I'm confident that it's well aware of what democracy is, but I'm also confident by its blatant conduct that it's prepared to undermine democracy in this institution and across this province as effectively and as thoroughly as it can in as short a period of time.

This government attacks workers. It attacks students. It attacks seniors. It attacks retirees. It attacks kids who are trying to get education in elementary and high schools and in community colleges and universities. I've had occasion to reflect with people in Niagara about what this government's attitude towards post-secondary education means to so many young people in our province. This government cut a deal with the University of Western Ontario so that it could charge full-fee, American-style tuitions of $18,000 a year for the two-year MBA program. This government refers to the good old days. It means the good old days when only the children of the wealthiest families could ever dare think of receiving post-secondary education.

This government talks about the good old days. Well, the good old days were when the poorest and the weakest and the most vulnerable had to use soup kitchens and rode on the bread line looking for handouts. The good old days were when people with disabilities were relegated to institutions or, even worse, to homelessness and poverty and complete isolation from the mainstream of the economy or the community. This government talks about good old days when women didn't have access to programs and second-stage housing to protect them from violent, abusive family situations and household situations.

Where I come from, those weren't the good old days. Down in Niagara, and I'm convinced across this province, people understand that there's nothing about much of our history that we should be particularly proud of. There's nothing about the struggle of working people for rights in the workplace that shouldn't be held in the greatest regard and respect. There's nothing about the struggle for universal access to education and health care as well and the sacrifices that were made by so many people in the course of that struggle that shouldn't be held in anything but the highest regard. This government holds those sorts of values in total disdain.

The government talks a big game about its tax break, two thirds of which is going to go to the top 10% of income earners. People understand that increasingly across the province. People have seen their tax break. It hasn't amounted to much. I'm talking about working people and the working poor, the unemployed, seniors and retirees. They've seen that tax break, and as far as they're concerned, if the drive to provide that tax break is what's causing this government to undermine and underfund public education, to underfund and undermine health care, to shut down hospitals like they're doing across Niagara region and throughout the province, if that's what this tax break is all about, the working people I talk to, the retirees, the pensioners, the seniors, are saying the government can keep its tax break.

This government talked a big game about creating 725,000 jobs. Yet we've seen the total number of jobless increase in Ontario and in Niagara region, not just the number of jobless but the percentage of jobless as well, where unemployment has actually increased rather than followed the national trend of some modest downward movement.

I'm concerned that this government doesn't recognize the crises it is creating. I'm concerned that this government, ideologically driven, probably true revolutionaries in that regard, has disregard for the democratic process and for debate.

This bill isn't about allowing more government backbenchers to participate in debate. This bill is all about reducing and stifling the amount of debate that can take place here in the Legislative Assembly in response to the legislative agenda that it pursues with such great haste.

One wonders why the government would be so concerned about the backbenchers' right to participate in debate when it's similarly using time allocation more frequently than ever before, than any government ever has in this province. I understand the allure of time allocation. I understand how uncomfortable it is for a government to be subjected to criticism day in and day out, but I also find it increasingly troubling, and I'm confident that people across the province do as well, that this government talks about wanting to have more debate but in fact is, on a continuous daily basis with its time allocation motions, restricting debate.

This government talks about wanting more debate, but it's going to be limiting the amount of time that many backbenchers will have on the floor to engage in debate to a mere 10 minutes. Again, their motives aren't to encourage debate; their motives are to discourage debate. It's incredibly frustrating and again unfortunately not very many of those government members knows this. There are some here in the chamber right now who were here when the Conservative Party was the third party, quite frankly some of them who, when there was opposition to the Liberal government's Bill 68, applauded and encouraged some extraordinary efforts that were made on the part of the opposition parties to stall and delay Bill 68, the David Peterson auto insurance bill, which was being rammed through the Legislature and which was running contrary to the will of virtually every sector of the community but for the insurance industry.


The Conservative caucus members of that day, when they were the third party, as I say, joined in and applauded some rather extraordinary tactics that were utilized around Bill 68. Their own leader, with his lakes and rivers and creeks and drainage ditches of Ontario bill, again far less creative than the Bill 68 debate, none the less had the full support of his caucus, and I say for good reason. As important as it was in the Bill 68 debate, the issue around the Liberal no-fault auto insurance, it was important to the Conservative Party to draw attention to their concerns about what was happening in the Legislature, when Mike Harris read the list of lakes, rivers, streams and drainage ditches across the province. It was important to them when Bill 162 was being debated, when Shelley Martel, the member for Sudbury East, led the struggle against the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act that were introduced by the then Minister of Labour, Greg Sorbara. Again, the Conservatives were in there thick as thieves. Can I say that? It's just a saying. They were there thick as thieves, without hesitation.

Now they find themselves in government -- I'm sure to the great surprise of more than a few of them, as it was two years ago almost to the day -- but they're not going to be in government forever. They talk about wanting more debate, so they move a motion that would restrict time on the floor for individual members to a mere 10 minutes at the end of the day. Yet they don't acknowledge that they're importing rules that are being applied in the federal Parliament, with some 300 members, into a House which will have after the next election but 103 members. They have effectively reduced the number of people who will be representing Ontarians in the Legislative Assembly and then want to dramatically reduce the amount of time that they have on the floor to engage in debate.

The public doesn't buy it. People in Niagara don't buy it, and people in Niagara aren't that much different from people anywhere else in Ontario. They just don't believe this government any more. They know that the government does a real good job at doctoring up spin, at getting the flippant phrases across and at building some mythology and imagery. It's the sort of tactic that this government used during the course of the last election campaign where they found some hot buttons, and where they couldn't find some hot buttons, they created them. Where they couldn't find legitimate fears, they generated some fears and then exploited those.

I am beyond merely disappointed; I am fearful. I am fearful because in not quite 10 years of elected position here at Queen's Park, I'm already into my third government, and I anticipate that I'll see the fourth in short order as well. I have no hesitation in indicating if you look at the pattern: 1987 through 1990, a massive Liberal majority, rejected almost summarily by voters in the province; 1990 to 1995, a massive NDP majority, suffering the same consequence come election time. Once again, as the pattern is being established, a massive Conservative government, which I tell you is certainly no less disappointing than either of the previous two governments and at the same time is regarded by people as a heck of a lot more dangerous, one which does not bode well for their future or for the future of this province.

It's also bothersome because one of the things that the leader of the then third party, Mike Harris, spoke out about frequently during question period around the New Democratic Party rule change motion was the lack of precedent for presenting this in the manner that it was rather than it being developed through a consultation process, through a series of negotiations by House leaders.

Mr Baird: Just like the Rae-Kormos years.

Mr Kormos: Well, Mike Harris pointed out that it was unprecedented that a majority government would want to ram through legislation. Mind you, as it was, and one of the things I said when I read the comments I made about the last government's rule changes was that, as a result of there having been negotiations among the three House leaders, the end result that was put forward in the Legislature by way of motion was a lot less onerous than what had been contemplated in the first place. Did I support it? No. Did the Liberal caucus support it? No. Did the Conservative caucus vote for it? Yes, although they were highly critical of it during the course of debate and during the course of question period.

Five years ago, I was expressing concern about restricting the amount of time that a backbencher can have on the floor to a mere 30 minutes. Now I find myself, only five years later, expressing concern about being restricted to a mere 10 minutes, when our ridings are getting bigger, when our constituencies are getting larger, when the issues that this assembly is dealing with are affecting more and more people in a more dramatic way and when the need for debate has never been greater.

As I indicated and as all of you know, we witnessed some disruption in the chamber earlier today. Don't think for a minute that's going to be the last. I rue the day, but I expect that response may well be to enhance security, to build metal detectors, to restrict access to public galleries, to turn this back into an élitist private club where the public can't have access because there is the perpetual fear on the part of this government of the prospect of disruptive behaviour or, frankly, behaviour of even greater concern as the result of the increasing levels of anger.

Working people aren't going to put up with the likes of Bill 131 or the resolution that is ballot item number 87. Too many people pay too great a price, sacrifice too much to build some modest rights for working people to let this government take it away. Injured workers -- you witnessed an expression of some of the anger yesterday here when this government began committee hearings of three days in Toronto and a mere six days across the province for a sweeping not just reform, but a rewriting of workers' compensation legislation.

I have some great concern about what my friend from the Croatian National Home mentioned to me a week ago. Fascist, Communist, totalitarian governments, he's seen them all, but he hadn't seen anything of the like of this government. He didn't speak from a distance. He has been there, done that, and when I hear a person with that kind of experience in different parts of the world say, as he did to me, that nothing he had experienced in his life had prepared him for what this government is doing, for this government's total disregard for democratic tradition, I'm fearful too.

I plead with government backbenchers to show a little bit of the independence that they insist they are capable of, to reject this motion, to refer the matter to a legislative committee, to refer the matter as something that House leaders should be dealing with and negotiating. But this bill is all about stifling debate. This government doesn't want to hear what the opposition or the people of this province have to say about their new brand of right-wingism, and I'm fearful for our future as a result of this motion.

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I'm pleased to rise this evening and to say a few words with regard to the debate going on here on the motion to change the rules of the Legislature.

When I came here in 1981, there were 22 new members in that back row, and the Legislature was the best democracy that you could get in the world. When I sat here and listened to the debate, listened to the question period and listened to the answers and took part in that, I thought this was the greatest institution anywhere. Those were the days that you could hear yourself when you asked a question or when an answer was given.

From what I heard today from the member for Algoma and the member for St Catharines, obviously there is not going to be an agreement with regard to coming to an agreement on the House rules. I observed what they said, and it indicated to me that the only way it will be brought forward will be by a closure motion.

I'm not very happy that those types of things have to happen. I remember, back when the Liberals were in government, that they had about eight motions that brought in closure. When the New Democratic Party was in power, they brought in about 17 motions to bring in closure. To me, if there were a possible way the House leaders could meet and try and determine the best route and the things they could agree with, that would be the best way to go, but I don't think that will be what happens.


I remember when in 1989 Mr Conway brought in the changes to the rules. I also know why that happened. I was here for the insurance bill, Bill 68, when the member for Welland-Thorold went on for some 17 hours, reading phone messages indicating the great concern there was for automobile insurance. It wasn't long after this that Mr Nixon was presenting his budget and the same party did not allow him to present his budget in the Legislature. It had to be done outside the door. So it has gone on for some time whereby we have not had what we call a pleasant atmosphere in this Legislature.

When I look at what students tell me after they come here, when I listen to them, they are telling me that what goes on in this Legislature is a disgrace, and sometimes I have to agree with them. It's pretty difficult in this Legislature for a Speaker to control the House if the members do not want him or do not allow him to do that. I know that when we've had points of privilege and points of order that have gone on for some period of time, it's difficult to get control.

The only way this place will operate is by agreement of all members of the House to want to make it work. If they don't want to make it work, it's not going to happen. It doesn't matter what we do or how many changes we make, there is always going to be some way that there will be interruptions, one way or another. That's why I'm saying that if the House leaders could come to an agreement on some changes, then it would be fine. Why did the Liberals have to bring in House rule changes? Why did the NDP bring them in? Why is the Tory party bringing them in now? It doesn't matter what rules we have: If the members don't want it to work, it's never going to work.

That's exactly what I'm saying about decorum in the House. If they don't want to allow the House to work, then it won't. That's disgraceful, because this is I think the best Legislature in the world and I hate to see what's happening here. I also hated to see it when Bob Nixon couldn't present his budget. That's not the only thing that's happened around here. The Curling episode, the overnight sitting, I don't think adds anything to the Legislature. I hope there are better ways of showing some displeasure than with that type of atmosphere. Not only that, we had 10 days of filibuster with regard to the naming of streets and resolutions. What did that do for democracy? It ended up with the same thing: The bill was passed; it was done. The same thing with Nixon's budget outside: It was finally passed and it was done.

One of the things I like about this motion is that it gives members the opportunity to debate the budget. It gives them a chance to get up and talk about a budget. We haven't had that chance for quite a while, and I think that's excellent. I believe there's an opportunity, and I've seen it since the rules have changed, where the leadoff speaker would speak for an hour and a half. I think that is more than enough. I think with some negotiations there could be change. I don't understand why the House leaders can't get together and come to an agreement on some of these things. Is it that bitter in this Legislature that we can't talk any more?

Mr Bisson: Because you guys have got a pretty rigid agenda, that's why. You want to change the face of Ontario in five years.

Mr McLean: The member for Cochrane South is chirping over there now when I'm speaking. Do you know what that member said back in 1992 when we were changing the rules? He said, "What really irks the opposition and one of the reasons they're so upset about this is that with the changes to the rules in this Legislature, if it should happen, it will totally change the strategy of the opposition."

Mr Bisson from Cochrane South said: "One of the things the opposition has to do in order to get re-elected, in order to try to defeat this government in the next election, is to try and put the case to the people of Ontario.... They have to be able to prove we're not able to do what we want as a government. But how can you make that happen if the story is absolutely not true? You do that by slowing down the process of this House."

That's what the member said when he was in government, bringing in the new rules.

The member also said that we only passed 30 bills in the legislative session. The Liberals and the Tories passed 30 bills, approximately, in their two mandates, and that's what's going to happen again. "The reason they're so upset is that the rules of the House will allow for debate." The member for Cochrane South does not want debate? That's what he said in his statement when they were bringing in the rule changes in 1992. "The rules of the House as proposed are to turn around and put some sort of rules around this place that make debate in this House somewhat more productive." That's what some people believe they're trying to do today, to try to make it more productive, but it's hard to make a place more productive if the members have the attitude that they don't want it to happen.

We had demonstrations in the gallery and we had demonstrations downstairs. How long do we put up with demonstrations in the gallery, the same people doing it? If you continue to allow that to happen, there will be chaos.

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'd like the members to come to order. I'm trying to listen to what's being said and I can't hear because there is chirping. Please bring yourselves to order.

Mr McLean: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

When we talk about decorum, about the children who come here, about what happened today, what happened yesterday, how long can we put up with that? How long can we hear Mr Sewell say, "We want to be heard?" Well, I can tell you how Mr Sewell can be heard: Go and get elected and sit in this chamber and he can be heard. I think it's a disgrace for an individual to be hollering from the gallery. Some people agree with that. Some people encourage that. I certainly don't encourage it at all.

What this motion is doing is guaranteeing that a bill or resolution put forward by any individual MPP will ultimately be put to a vote during private members' hour. It guarantees the amount of time for debate on the budget and a requirement that the budget be voted on. That's something that should take place.

Changes to make it easier for the Legislature to work longer hours when necessary: We're sitting here tonight, we're debating this and we've debated it all day. I said at the start of my remarks that it's probably going to end up with closure. If closure is coming in, what is the debate taking place tonight for? It's because they said today that's what's going to happen.

Measures to help the legitimate business of the House not impeded by MPPs who break the rules or by frivolous procedural delays and stalling tactics: If the members want to make the House work, they can, and if they want to be obstructive, then that's what they're going to do.

Some of the main points that are being changed are points of privilege. I think that is a major improvement.

"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.

"(b) Once the Speaker finds that a prima facie case of privilege exists it shall be taken into consideration immediately.

"(c) Any member proposing to raise a point of privilege, other than one arising out of proceedings in the chamber during the course of a sessional day, shall give the Speaker a written statement of the point at least one hour prior to raising the question in the House."

I think there are very few members here who would not agree that the Speaker should have that warning if you want to get up and make a point of personal privilege. I think that's only appropriate. I've seen many members here in the past who have a legitimate point of personal privilege. They have given the Speaker a copy of it ahead of time, it was proceeded with and the Speaker returned and got a reply back.


Basically those are some of the things I've seen that need to be changed. I believe that increased accountability and efficiency in the Legislature is something we all should be working towards.

The extra time to allow for the budget debate and the time that we should be dealing with some of the major issues that are before us -- we spent a day here in this Legislature deciding that we're going to sit at night. We knew we were going to sit at night. The opposition knew we were going to sit at night and it was a voice vote at the end of the day. Why did we spend a whole afternoon debating whether we're going to sit at night or not when we knew we were going to sit anyway?

When you talk about the loss of time in here, I think it's important that those are the main issues that we should be looking at and that's what this is trying to change. I also say that 40 minutes is probably long enough to speak first as the leadoff speaker. I believe that --

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Why have any debate at all? We know they're all going to pass.

Mr McLean: No, you don't know it's all going to pass. But normally the government of the day has a chance to govern and they should have the ability to put their agenda forward and to be able to deal with it.

Those are the main issues I wanted to talk about. I just want to say that if you want to make the House work, it'll work, but if you want to be obstructive, then that's going to happen too. From what I've seen of the House leaders' meeting and what I heard from the two House leaders today, there's not going to be an agreement on these rules. So the bottom line will be, there will be a closure motion.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Surprise, surprise.

Mr McLean: That's exactly what we're saying. That's what they want and that's exactly what they'll get.

Mr Gerretsen: Let me say I agree with the last member to this extent: that the only way the proper decorum and the proper procedures are taking place in this House is if there is some level of consensus around the rules. If one party comes in and merely says, "We are the government that's got 82 seats and you the opposition only have 45 seats. We can outvote you at any time and these are the rules we're going to play with from now on, take it or leave it," that's not the kind of consensus-building that we need around getting the rules changed here, and it's not going to work. You're going to have the kind of demonstrations not only inside the House but also outside of the House that we've seen here really for the last two years on numerous different occasions.

Democracy is not a neat thing, it's not a tidy thing. Sometimes this notion that we can run government the way we run business is totally inappropriate, because if government were just a business, there are many functions and many operations which help people on a day-to-day basis you simply wouldn't be involved in because business is out there to make money, and rightfully so. Government is involved in a totally different enterprise. Democracy may not always be neat and tidy and it can't always be run in a businesslike fashion. I think that's where this government is totally wrong.

I think in the long run societies and peoples are judged by the way in which they treat their minorities, whether we're talking about differences in creed, colour or race or whether we're talking about the minority opinion that exists in a jurisdiction or a province at any one time, such as there exists right now. When you were elected, you elected the majority of the members. I'll grant you that much, but that doesn't mean that the minority opinion that is representative of the 45 members in the opposition isn't worth listening to. I think that ultimately you will be judged as to how well you are listening to us and how much you are willing to modify the proposals that you bring forward on an ongoing basis to adhere to the views of the minority.

Of course, the other interesting thing is that you weren't elected by the overall majority of the people in this province. You were elected by 45% of the people in this province and there are 55% who voted against your government, your style and what you stood for. I realize that in our parliamentary system, the way it operates currently, you got the vast majority of the seats, but you certainly didn't get the vast majority of the people of Ontario behind you to basically implement the type of program that you are implementing and that you have implemented over the last couple of years.

I guess the first bill was Bill 26. We keep coming back to Bill 26, and I know there were some catcalls by some of the members in the back bench of the government today, that that was somehow a travesty to democracy. I can tell you that most people out there who I've spoken to in the last couple of years viewed the results of Bill 26 and what happened at that time, the sit-in here and the aftermath and the public hearings that we had, in a totally, completely different light. They see the fact that we stood up to you and basically didn't accept the fact that you were only going to give two weeks of public hearings here in the city of Toronto right before Christmas 1995 as being adequate to deal with such a huge omnibus bill.

They agree with us, the fact that we stood up to you and said, "Look, we want more time to debate this bill, we want more public hearings, we want hearings outside Toronto" -- in fact, we did have two weeks of hearings outside Toronto as well -- as a positive thing. The mere fact is that as a result of those hearings and as a result of the different input that was received from many different sources throughout the province, over 150 amendments were made to a bill that, in our opinion, was still extremely flawed at the time it was passed.

You agreed that your own bill, that according to you was near perfect when you presented it to us, needed 150 amendments. Those amendments would not have come forward if it had not been for the fact that the opposition stood up to you and said, "No, the kind of hearing process that you want in this particular case isn't enough; we need more than that." You can shake your head and say that isn't the case; the fact still is that's what happened. There were 150 of your amendments that you brought forward that were required in order to bring some sanity to that bill, which of course we still think was grossly overdone.

It was exactly the same thing with the megacity bill. You talk about the ultimate hypocrisy. You're the government that on a number of occasions in your Common Sense Revolution has said: "We want to institute referenda. We want the people to have a say over various issues and various items." The referendum held here in the city of Toronto and its adjoining five other cities, in Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, York and East York -- those people overwhelmingly, by 75% to 80% in some municipalities, rejected the notion of one megacity.

What did you do? The Premier said right in the House, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs said on a number of occasions in the House as well: "We don't care what the people said. We don't care what conclusion those referenda came to. We don't care that the people of Ontario or the people of Metro Toronto don't want a megacity. We're going to implement that megacity." That's what that was all about.

How about your own members who aren't in the House today? I'm sure that they would be embarrassed to have these kinds of quotes read back to them, yet they said it. What did the member for Wentworth North say? He was quoted as saying: "There's something wrong when the Premier and a couple of unelected staff people can run the entire province. It's a dictatorship." This isn't from a member of the opposition; this is from a member of the government itself.

What did the member for Oakville South say? "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy and not a dictatorship." The member for Grey-Owen Sound, a man whom I have known for many, many years in municipal circles as well, said, "You have to be nicey-nice and kiss...if you want to get ahead." You can fill in the blank. Those are comments from your own backbenchers. I can understand the sense of frustration that some of the backbenchers have. They want to get up. As the member for Scarborough East said, "I thought I could speak on every bill."

Wouldn't it be nice if we heard every member on every bill? I will tell you, even with these rule changes and with the time limits that you have imposed in these rules, you will never hear from more than about 20 or 25 members on any given bill. Let's get away from this notion that somehow you can get every member up on every bill and that this somehow accomplishes that.


Mr Gerretsen: You said it, friend, and you're wrong, because the kind of time limits that you've set in here of five hours in most situations simply will not allow that to happen.

I went through the bill. The member for Nepean talked about how this bill creates more democracy. I will just go through a number of sections, about 20 sections or so, because I'm sure the people out there watching for the last six hours or so must be saying to themselves: "What's this all about? How come the government is saying this is more democracy and the opposition is saying there is less democracy?"


Let's talk about the real issues in this bill. Let's not talk in generalities, let's just talk about what kind of rule changes you're actually proposing, and then let's have the people of Ontario decide whether these rules are for the betterment of this House and for the betterment of the democratic system.

The first one is a very interesting one. It's a change to standing order 9(c), and that states that:

"The House may meet between the hours of 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm on the passage of a government motion for that purpose. Such motion may apply to one day or to more than one day. The question on such a motion shall be put forthwith and without amendment or debate."

Now there's real democracy for you. A government member, a House leader can just get up whenever he feels like it and say, "I move," and we'll have to vote on it right away without amendment or debate. We may sit on any particular day until 9:30 that evening, without giving any reason or any justification for it, because there's to be no debate and no amendment to it.

I would think one of the basic principles of democracy is that when somebody puts something forward, when somebody wants to change a rule, when somebody wants to implement an unusual procedure, at least you have the opportunity to hear each and every party address that particular issue, but that's not what this particular amendment says. It just says, "The question on such a motion shall be put forthwith and without amendment or debate." That's what this is about: no amendments, no debate, we just vote.

Let's go to the next section, which is 9(c.1). Where a motion under (c) has been moved, "the motion shall indicate the business to be considered, the time or times reserved for such business, and any special procedure to be followed."

This deals with private members' business. This is time allocation, but it's time allocation for private members' business to the absolutely worst degree because this doesn't say whether you can talk about it for an hour, two hours; no, it could be five minutes, it could be 10 minutes, it could be a minute, it could be no time at all, because it specifically states that the motion itself will include the time or times reserved for such business without putting any kind of limitation on it. So you could bring a bill forward and not have any time for debate at all. Read it. It's right on page 17 of the orders issued on this past Monday.

Let's go on to the next one, standing order 10(a): "...if the government advises the Speaker that the public interest requires the House to meet at an earlier time, the Speaker shall give notice that the House shall meet at such time, and thereupon the House shall meet to transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time...."

We're going to have the situation where we're not going to have any kind of a House calendar. Any time that the government House leader feels the House should meet he just speaks to the Speaker and the Speaker will simply call the House back any time at all. Is that more democracy, without any debate either in the House or between the House leaders? I don't think that's more democracy. I think that's a dictatorial approach whereby one side, namely, the government in power with the majority of the seats, can at a moment's notice call the House back.

Next, standing order 13 will be changed. This is also on page 17 of the Orders and Notices of this past Monday: "(b.1) The Speaker may rule on a point of privilege or a point of order when it is raised without allowing any discussion apart from the member raising the point."

Quite frankly, that is probably another very dictatorial move; not probably, it definitely is. You know on almost any issue that's raised in the House there are at least two and possibly three different opinions or views. We all come from a different philosophical background, each one of the three parties, and we may be approaching the problems in a slightly different way.

What this is saying is that because somebody raises a point of order or a point of privilege, the other two parties or their House leaders can have absolutely no input in providing the Speaker with the best kind of information that can possibly be made available to him in order to make the proper kind of ruling. That's what you're saying here. You're saying that nobody else other than the person who raises those points can possibly have any input into that.

I can tell you there have been many, many times in this House when all of us have been on our best decorum and different points of order or points of privilege have been raised, when different members have had different input in a particular situation that the Speaker then takes into account when he makes his ruling.

Next, we've got standing order 15(b) that is going to be changed. It states: "When a member is named by the Speaker, if the offence is a minor one, the Speaker may order the member to withdraw for the balance of the sessional day; but if the matter appears to the Speaker to be of a more serious nature, the Speaker shall put the question on the motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed, `that such member be suspended from the service of the House,'" and such suspension on that motion shall not exceed eight sessional days.

What you're doing there is setting up the fact that even in procedural matters you are going to win every vote, which includes the expulsion of a member from this chamber for up to eight days. Read what it says: "the Speaker shall put the question on the motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed." That will be a question put to this House, and you can just guess what a particular vote will be on that if it happens to be a member of the opposition. It means you can turf out a member of the opposition just about any time you want. Is that democracy? Certainly not where I come from.

Next, standing order 21(c) you want to change. The member for Simcoe East has already raised this issue.

"Any member proposing to raise a point of privilege, other than one arising out of proceedings in the chamber during the course of a sessional day, shall give the Speaker a written statement of the point at least one hour prior to raising the question in the House."

The reason he's saying that is that in a lot of situations where a procedural point is being raised, the Speaker is sometimes tipped off about that beforehand. But to make it a necessity that somebody in effect gives the Speaker one hour's notice of a point of privilege that affects not only the privileges of that individual member but possibly the privileges of all the members of this House is, in my view, an absurdity. It just doesn't make any sense at all. Why is that necessary?

If the Speaker feels that he needs time to deliberate on something, as he has done many times over the past two years, he will simply recess the House for five or 10 minutes or half an hour and retire to his chambers, and undoubtedly work with the Clerk and other people as well to get different input from the table and make his ruling. But to make it an absolute requirement that he be given one hour's notice of the matter in writing doesn't make any sense.

The other one, of course, is the one dealing with standing orders 24 and 25, this whole notion that 90 minutes is too long, in your opinion, for an opening statement or speech by the critics of the different parties. I suggest to you that in most cases currently, in the vast majority of situations certainly over the last year or so, that 90 minutes is usually split between two or three members of that particular caucus, and there may very well be situations where it has got to be longer than that. We've had a perfect example here today.

What you're suggesting with your 20-minute rule is that in all the speeches we heard today, somehow the last 10 minutes of what anybody has said here, including your own members, isn't of any importance. The member shakes his head yes. That member hasn't spoken yet and we'll see if he adheres to his 20 minutes.

The other thing you've got to remember is that we're talking here about government backbenchers wanting to have more say in what goes on in this House and having a greater opportunity to get up and give speeches on various items. From what I've noticed, from a practical viewpoint, in many, many situations, the government House leader or the different cabinet ministers simply don't want backbenchers to get up and talk about a particular piece of legislation, or if they do, it is from prepared texts that are prepared by the ministries involved.


I know there's a lot of chuckling going on because you know what I'm saying is correct and it's true. In many situations it's the government whip or House leader himself who has decided, "We're only going to put up one speaker or maybe two speakers or three speakers and nobody else on our side will speak, in order to move the process along."

Mr Crozier: It'll still happen.

Mr Gerretsen: As the member behind me stated, that's certainly still going to happen.

The other thing is, it says that following the speech of each member -- this is a change to standing order 25 -- after the first five hours of debate, every speaker will not be allowed to speak for more than 10 minutes. It may very well be that particular speaker at that point of time may have much more to say on that.

The other one that I find very curious is standing order 28(d). That's the one that states: "Members are not compelled to vote and those who wish to abstain should remain in their seats when asked to rise and record their vote. An abstention shall not be entered in the Votes and Proceedings or Journals." I must admit that I don't know exactly what's behind this situation, but we're here elected to make decisions. That's what the people have elected us for, to make decisions. I suppose if you don't want to vote on something and if you don't want to come to the House on that particular day, that's between you and your own caucus and your own whip and House leader and whoever else is involved in that. But for people to actually sit in this House and not be required to vote and to sort of be passive participants, I have some great difficulty with.

I have no idea why this is here. We've been given absolutely no explanation, by the House leader or by the first proponent of these ideas or all the subsequent speakers, why this is here. It almost offends, to my way of thinking, democratic principles, that people here are elected to make decisions. To actively abstain when you're in the House I don't think is proper and correct.

The change to standing order 30, in which basically oral questions are going to be dealt with after members' statements, reports by committees, introductions of bills, motions etc, of course this is mainly done in order that for the government side there are absolutely no surprises. What the government backbench members simply don't understand is that the power an opposition has at times is purely to delay to allow you a second sober thought.

Let me just quote something to you. It's been quoted before but there may be some people out there watching right now who haven't heard this, so I think it bears repeating. Let's just hear what a House leader, both of this government and when he was in opposition he was the House leader as well, the now Minister of Finance, said with respect to the NDP rule change on June 22, 1992. This is what Mr Eves said at that point in time:

"I think one has to understand that the only way opposition -- not just opposition members but any public opposition to any proposed piece of legislation -- can be effectively dealt with or talked about under our system of government, under the parliamentary system of government, is through the opposition parties' ability to debate, and yes, on occasion even stall or slow down progress of a particular bill, and that has worked very effectively over the years against governments of all political stripes."

He knows what he's talking about. He knew it back on June 22, 1992, and I hope he remembers these words today as well; that was almost exactly five years ago. I think he's right and I certainly hope he will have some influence with the government House leader.

There's another very interesting comment that I was made aware of. It's by one Norman Sterling in a letter that he wrote. It was read into Hansard by Ernie Eves, as a matter of fact, on the same day, June 22, 1992. The now Minister of Environment was correct when he stated: "Over the past six years in opposition I have been successful in forcing the government of the day to accept some amendments to their legislation. My only tool was to delay or to threaten to delay. What sense is there for me to bother to debate if I have no means to make them listen?"

That's exactly one of the roles of the opposition, to make you listen, because, believe me, you might think you've got all the answers to all the problems in the world, you actually may think that -- I think you're foolish if you do, because I don't think anybody's got all the answers in the world. I don't have all the answers in the world and neither does our caucus, and neither do any of the parties here, but there may be other ways of looking at resolving problems or at solving problems as well. Maybe that sober second thought might just want you to take some of the real edges off your proposed legislation.

Much has been said here today that we're just adopting the rules of the House of Commons. As has already been pointed out, the House of Commons is a totally different situation. There you're dealing with 300 members, not 130. There you're dealing with a chamber that, after it passes a particular bill, it will be referred to the Senate where it's given another chance for sober second thought that we certainly lack here once a bill's been given third reading. By the way, in that particular case, opposition days number 20 per year, which doesn't come anywhere close to the number of opposition days we have here.

Let me just go on. I see I've only got five minutes left and there's so much to talk about. Here's another interesting one. I'll just pick them one at a time. You're talking about more democracy and I'm showing you how there's less democracy. Here's an interesting one, standing order 55, a very short one: "Before the adjournment of the House on each Thursday during the session, the government House leader may announce the business for the following week." You know what it says currently? "Shall." Why should that no longer be a requirement? Why say "may"? Because you really don't want the opposition to know what you're going to deal with?

Here's another interesting one. Standing order 58 is going to be changed. It states in the proposed change, "All main estimates shall be presented to the House after completion of the budget debate but not later than 12 sessional days following the presentation of the budget...." You know what you want to change it to? Five days. You want to limit the time. That's more democracy? Not where I come from.

Here's another one, standing order 62(c), where you talk about "after three hours of debate" the orders for concurrence, if the debate did not commence as the first of the day can be passed. You know what it is currently? Not three hours but six hours. Is that more democracy? That's what I heard earlier here today, that these rule changes are about more democracy. It sure doesn't sound that way to me.

Let's look at another one. I could talk about dozens and dozens more examples but I've only got four minutes left so I've got to hurry up. Standing order 97: You propose that it be changed to read, "No member shall have more than four questions on the order paper at any one time." Right now there's no limit.

People out there probably are wondering: "What's this all about? What are these questions on the order paper?" The questions on the order paper, quite frankly, give the opposition, or basically any member in the House, an opportunity to find out what's going on in particular departments.

Let's just read from some of them that just happen to be in this particular edition, which we get on a daily basis. We get questions here from NDP members, questions from Liberal members. I'm not sure whether there are any here from government members or not, but I doubt it very much.

It talks about, for example, "Would the Minister of Transportation provide a list of ministry contracts allocated to private sector firms that did not adhere to a standard tendering practice between July 1, 1995, to April 18, 1997." I just took one anywhere, but those are the kinds of questions that are asked of different ministries to get information about their tendering contracts that are out there and about different practices they're involved in. Those are the kind of questions people are interested in. Sure, some members have as many as 40 or 50 or 100 of them. So what? They want that information so they can better serve their residents.

What do you say in your proposed newly democratic rules? Not New Democrat rules but the newly -- I think you know what I'm saying. In this so-called new democracy you're talking about you're saying that no member can have more than four of these on the order paper. Let me just go on.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): How long do they have to answer now?

Mr Gerretsen: Oh, that's another good one. I'm glad you asked that one because I was almost going to skip over that one.

Mr Crozier: That's the important part.

Mr Gerretsen: That's right. It's standing order 97(d). The new proposed answering time is 45 sessional days that a ministry has to answer the most simple question about the operations of a department or the kind of contracts that have been signed -- 45 sessional days. I don't know what that is in real time, but it seems to me that's probably close to, let's say, three months or so.

You know what it currently is? Fourteen calendar days. That's about more democracy, where you've got a constituent who may be involved in a particular business and they want to know who got the contract and for how much in a particular situation and they've got to wait for three months, according to your new rules, to get those kinds of answers, rather than the 14 calendar days that is currently the case? I could go on and on and on. So don't talk to me about more democracy. You're taking away democracy, and that's what this is all about.

As I stated earlier, what this is really all about is how a society is judged by its own people and by the people outside of that society or outside of that province or outside of that country. I think the true test is the manner in which minorities and minority opinion, as reflected in our parliamentary democracy through the opposition parties, are dealt with.

The rules that you're proposing limit that, and not only limit that, they are draconian and they are in essence about the kind of government, the dictatorial kind of government, that you've operated here for the last two years.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Before we move on, the member for Kingston and The Islands, the last comment was out of order and I'd ask you to withdraw.

Mr Gerretsen: What was the last comment?

The Speaker: The dictatorial government.

Mr Gerretsen: Okay. All right. I withdraw that.

The Speaker: That was really helpful that you withdrew that. Thank you so much. Further debate.

Mr Bisson: We have but 30 minutes to debate, as the rules allow now, this particular issue that's before us, which is the whole question of the government coming by and changing the rules of the House.

Let me just say out front, it's always the same. Governments come forward, my government did, this government does and the future governments probably will do the same, with rule changes for a fairly particular reason. Governments, especially ideological governments, like to see their agenda passed through, and they don't like to see any kind of meddling in their agenda in regard to trying to slow it down or trying to do anything to thwart the will of the majority, in this case the majority government, by opposition parties.

Clearly what's happening here today is the government has rules, and it's very simple; the rules are about one thing. It's about giving more power to the cabinet of Ontario and to the Premier of the province to do what they want as a government. That's what this is all about.

As much as we want to debate, as much as we want to talk about high principles of democracy, we want to talk about anything, the reality is this is all about Mike Harris and Ernie Eves and other people within the cabinet saying: "We need to have more power. We need to have more power to exercise our will as a cabinet over this Legislature." That's basically what's happening over here.

It brings me directly to the point, which is that one of the things I've reflected on over the years I've been here is just how little sometimes this Legislature really has relevance to anything that is really close to being democratic. Every election, every four or five years, people go out and elect local members in their constituencies to come and represent the constituency to the best of their ability here at the Legislature, and the people of our constituency really believe that we can come here and we can make a lot of difference.

The reality is that, yes, in our ridings we do a lot of work to represent our constituencies when it comes to how they interact with government. But when it comes to the government's agenda, when it comes to government putting bills before this House, in reality, the only people who really have a lot of influence here is the Premier of the province and the cabinet. They decide everything.

What backbenchers in the government feel or what backbenchers in the opposition feel about the legislation being good, bad or indifferent really has no relevance on what happens around here because in the end the cabinet gets what the cabinet wants. What the government is doing here, quite simply, is putting forward rules that allow it to pass legislation through this House a lot more quickly.

Does that surprise me? No, not from the government of Mike Harris. This government, since 1995, has demonstrated over and over again just how undemocratic they are in their approach to how they govern. We have seen all kinds of examples in this Legislature how this government has put forward legislation with not a lot of consideration for what the points of view are of the citizens of Ontario. I can't count how many times I've seen in this Legislature people come before committees, people try to meet one on one with ministers, people even come and protest in front of Queen's Park, and sometimes inside, to express their displeasure about what the government is doing on a particular issue.

This government has demonstrated I think over and over again that it has an agenda and it's going to carry that agenda come hell or high water. It doesn't matter what the people of the province say, it doesn't matter what the opposition says, the Mike Harris government is going to do what the Mike Harris government wants to do, not necessarily what they campaigned on but what they feel is the right thing to do as a government.

There lies the problem. This Legislature, in my view, is supposed to be a place where people from across Ontario come and represent their constituencies to be able to express points of view. For what reason? So that we can all sort of learn by the collective knowledge of this assembly and govern more wisely on behalf of the people of Ontario. That's what I certainly hope we would strive for as members of this assembly. If we're here today debating rule changes in the House, I would much rather see us talking about other things. Let's talk about, how do you really reform this Legislature? How do you reform the Legislature of the province of Ontario so that you truly have a democracy, so that you truly have something that works for the people of Ontario and not rules that work for the cabinet or rules that work for the members of this assembly?

In the end, that's what we're supposed to be here to do. We're supposed to be here to represent the people of the province and we're supposed to be here in order to express their views and to try to give people a voice in the process of governing. What happens in this place, I sometimes think, is quite to the contrary. I think back to the debates that we've had in this House around Bill 103, the megacity bill. We had a process that went on for almost a year where the Citizens for Local Democracy and others, the mayors, the councillors, elected representatives of the cities of Toronto and Scarborough and others were really upset about the government's move, unilaterally, on its own, without really the support of the people of Toronto to do the big merger and do what was called the big megacity in the city of Toronto.

You had a process where the people of Toronto spoke out by way of a referendum and overwhelmingly rejected the agenda of the government. In the end, what happened? The government did what it wanted. The government said: "Damn the whole issue of what people have to say in the city of Toronto. We're the Mike Harris government, we know better, we're smarter. We know what's good medicine for you. It might taste bad now, but we're going to shove it down your throat, like it or not. You'll see; tomorrow morning you'll feel better."

And there lies really the problem. That's not what this place is supposed to be all about. I always thought that the Legislature or the House of Commons or any elected government is about trying to find a way, on behalf of all the people here that we represent, to govern wisely and a way to govern so that the will of the people is expressed and seen in the laws that pass in this Legislature. I think that if we are having a debate today on rule changes, we should be really trying to have a debate here about how, in a meaningful way, we change the Legislature, how it operates, how the rules of this place should operate for the people and not for the cabinet, and quite possibly how elections are carried out in this province.

The system of parliamentary democracy that we are governed by is one of the oldest systems of democracy that we know, and it has served the people of Ontario and the people of the Commonwealth well over the years. But one of the failings of our British parliamentary system is that it has not been very good at responding to change and keeping itself modern when it comes to how a democracy should function.

When the people who sat down and devised the system of democratic government called parliamentary democracy, what drove them and what was important to them and the issues of the day were much different from what we're faced with as legislators today. Back in those days a lot of people who now have the right to vote didn't. Women didn't vote. People without property didn't vote and couldn't even run for office. They went to the House of Commons in England at the time and passed laws for their own benefit, and as well as for the benefit of the people to a certain degree. But what has not happened in our system of parliamentary democracy, in my view, is to have a real hard look at how we modernize a parliamentary democracy to work for the people it is supposed to represent. I want to take the 20 minutes I've got to put forward some of the suggestions I think might be useful in the province in Ontario about how this place works.


The first thing I think we really need to do is look at how the legislative process itself works. One of the problems we have today is that the whole legislative process is really driven only by the cabinet. As it stands now, the cabinet decides when a bill will be brought into the House, what the bill is going to be about, how the bill is going to be written, when it's going to be debated, and even who is going to speak on the bill from the government side. They decide how long the bill will be in committee, they decide where the bill will travel if it's a travelling committee. They decide, in the end, will there be any amendments to the bill, yes or no. They decide collectively, and sometimes individually as ministers, the entire legislative process. What we say as members of the opposition, or what backbenchers say, in this case the Tory caucus, has very little significance at times as to what the bill ends up looking like, because it's the will of the cabinet that's followed.

Why don't we enter into a debate in this Legislature on changing the legislative process? Why don't we have a legislative process that gives people a voice so that the government bills reflect an actual need within our communities, within the community of Ontario? That's one of the problems we have with the present legislative process.

The second problem we have is that it's a very confrontational process by its very nature. Once the bill is tabled by cabinet into the House, the government must defend and the opposition must oppose, and that's basically how this place runs. I don't think that, quite frankly, serves the public well and I don't think it serves this Legislature well. Maybe what we should be trying to do is say: "Let's change the legislative process to make it work for the people. How can we do that?"

One suggestion is that we could try to revise the legislative process in such a way that we say a bill is tabled in the House at first reading. What you would be tabling is actually not the bill in detail but a white paper, so you would have an actual debate in the House about the merits of the issue. We, the members, the elected representatives of our constituencies, would then go back to our constituency and talk to the people and the stakeholders who are affected by the legislation, and then come back and have debate in the Legislature about the pros and cons on the issue so that the government doesn't end up being in a position of having to defend and the opposition does not necessarily have to oppose.

Then that issue could be referred to a standing committee that would be responsible for either drafting the legislation itself or possibly giving the framework for how the legislation is to be drafted. In that way you would see probably less confrontation when it comes to how we as a Legislature operate, and possibly we'd be able to get stronger legislation for the people of Ontario. Members of the assembly, quite frankly, could end up having a much larger role to play.

One of the ideas that was batted around in one of the groups I've been dealing with about how you reform that is you take a look at possibly even using referendums by some mechanism. If the government is trying to do something that is not within its mandate, possibly a consultative-type referendum would be used to give people some voice about the merits of the bill: Should it or should it not go forward?

I'm not a big fan of referendums per se. I think referendums used unwisely can be very dangerous in a democracy. I think there are some examples in California we should pay heed to because there have been some cases where referendums I don't think have worked quite well. The point I'm trying to make here is that we need to try to find a way to get the legislative process to work for the people of the province and that members play a role.

One of the other things we could take a look at is the way we elect members. In this system of parliamentary democracy -- and I point out, it's only Canada and Great Britain of all the parliamentary democracies that elect people the way we do here. We say you have an election every four or five years, and it's the first past the post. If I run in a campaign and I've got 38% of the vote and everybody got less vote than me, never mind that I didn't get 50% of the vote, I'm elected as the member.

Then you come into this Legislature and the amount of seats is based on who won in their constituencies. The effect of that is that if you go back and look at the results of elections in Ontario in the past over 100 years, it would seldom be the case that a majority government actually got elected by a majority of the voters of Ontario.

In the case of Mike Harris, he was elected with somewhere around 40% of the vote, yet has over 60% of the seats in the Legislature and, in effect, has a huge majority to do what he wants, even though a majority of the people of Ontario did not vote for Mike Harris. In the government before him, Bob Rae, it was the same case: 38% of the total electorate voted for NDP candidates in the election of 1990, and at the end of that process we, the New Democrats, ended up with a Legislature controlling about 60% of the seats. That I think is a weakness in our system.

We should take a look at what has been in Germany and in Australia and in places like New Zealand, where they have moved to proportional representation. Proportional representation, simply put, says that at the end of the election -- it doesn't matter how you do it, but at the end of the election, the number of seats you have in the Legislature is based on the percentage of support your party got in the last election.

The idea would be, in the election of 1995, the Mike Harris government would have no more than 43% of the vote if that's what they got in the previous election. They would still be the government, they would still control cabinet, Mike Harris would still be the Premier, but the big difference is that the members in the government, and the cabinet especially, would have to work with all members of the House to be able to pass its legislation.

The government would not have been able to do Bill 103, something that was not supported by the people of the cities of Toronto, because never would Mike Harris have got support of the majority of this House to pass that bill. The government could not have, I think, passed Bill 26, the omnibus bill that gave the government far-sweeping powers and the cabinet more power than had ever been given to any cabinet in the history of this province.

We need to take a look at my view about how we get this Legislature to function for the people, and maybe proportional representation is one of the issues we can take a look at about how this place works. Otherwise, if we continue down the path we are on now, we end up, by its very nature, having majority governments elected by a minority of the people that they are supposed to represent, and governments with huge amounts of power deciding what they want to do with little or no regard for what the people of the province they represent are actually willing to put up with. I think we need to try to address some of these issues to make our democracy work better.

I recognize, and I've talked to some of the members in this Legislature about PR before, when you talk about proportional representation in Ontario, you talk about it in Canada, period. It's not a concept that has been talked about a lot in political debate and it's probably one that will take some time to get people to understand and to support. But I think if we're not trying to find a way to modernize this Legislature to make it work for the people, we're letting the people down. We need to try to find a way to make democracy work and not have a Legislature that works in the way it does now, quite the contrary, where you have a government that basically does things on its own.

The government is suggesting by way of these rules to do a number of things. Some of the proposed rule changes make some sense; some of them don't. But let's not forget what they're about: They're about giving the cabinet the power it needs to be able to pass its agenda. For example, one of the things that it's saying it wants to be able to do -- right now the way it works, for people to understand, is that for a government to pass a bill, technically they have to have three days of debate at second reading and three days at third reading. A sessional day is considered like one full day. If you come into the House on Monday and you have the first day of debate at second reading, that's considered one sessional day, so it would take six of those days to be able to pass a bill as it is now. I think that's far too fast.

One of the problems we have in this Legislature is that bills go through this House at a breakneck speed and the people of Ontario don't have time to really contemplate what the government is doing, and even, equally as important, the legislators don't have time to look at the bills in any kind of detail to say: "Are there truly some problems in the mechanics of how this bill operates? Can the bill be made better?"

What the government proposes to do by way of these rules is to introduce a bill at first reading, and at the end, have the bill passed by Thursday. How does that help democracy? It doesn't help democracy. I think it gives the cabinet just that much more power. But even more troubling, how can we assure ourselves as legislators that the bill is sound, that the bill actually works, that the bill does what it's supposed to and it does it in some sort of an effective way and we don't have bad legislation?

We have all been parties to legislation passing through this House too quickly. I've seen this government pass bills through this House so fast that they've made errors within their own bills so that afterwards, to try to deal with it, they've had to fix a bill after the fact. I don't think that's good for the government. I don't think that's good for the people. This is not indicative of just this government. This has happened before. We're trying to do too much too quickly to put our stamp on what we want to be remembered as, as governments. In the end, that's probably not a good thing. In the end, we probably need to have more time to take a look at some of these bills to make sure they work.


I said in 1992 and I'll say it again: Rule changes in themselves -- we have to understand what they're all about. They're about basically the government taking power unto itself to be able to pass what it wants by way of legislation.

The other thing I want to comment on: I listened intently as our former Speaker, Mr McLean, spoke to this issue. He raised two points that I thought were rather fascinating. One of them he repeated over and over again. I wrote it down because I thought it was kind of interesting. He said, "Why should we debate bills ad infinitum if we know in the end that the bill's going to pass as written?" That's pretty interesting, for a government member to get up in the House and to say that, because what he's saying is that basically it doesn't matter what anybody says, the government's not listening and it's going to do what it wants. I thought that was a rather interesting comment for a former Speaker to make in this House.

The other one he made, which I thought was even more interesting, was that it was really a disgrace when the people of this province came to the House and protested their displeasure against the government. I'm sorry, democracy is about giving people the right to express their support or express displeasure about a government. For a former Speaker of this House to come in here and to talk about people protesting as a bad thing, as something we should not tolerate as legislators, is really indicative of what this government is all about, which is, "If you don't agree with me, step aside or we're going to run over you." That's a really sad statement for the former Speaker of this House to be making.

People in a democracy have the right to express themselves. If they feel so inclined, they have the right to protest. We need to accept that. I don't like it. When I was in government I didn't like hearing people say bad things about my government, but I accepted it because they have the right to do that. For the government to somehow say that we shouldn't be tolerating people coming to this Legislature and protesting their displeasure is a pretty bad comment to make, especially from somebody who is a former Speaker of this House.

Democracy is about people having expression. If people feel they can't express themselves, it's a pretty sad thing. The other thing is on this whole thing of expression. Far too often I hear across the province --

Mr Kormos: Please, Speaker, there is no quorum.

The Speaker: Quorum?

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: As I was saying, this Legislature is supposed to be working for the people of the province. I don't see how these rule changes in the end are going to be any better when it comes to being able to get the people of the province to have some confidence in their Legislature. We need to take a look at options about how we reform the Legislature and how we reform the electoral process to make it work for people so that they can see themselves in the Legislature. That's really the true test. If people don't see themselves in this place, feeling as if they're represented, it doesn't meet the test.

As to the other point I was saying about this government being dictatorial by nature, there's a comment I hear over and over again throughout the province as I travel to communities and speak to leaders, executive directors and others, of various groups that are dependent on provincial funding. There's really a fear on the part of a lot of people who are dependent on government for funding for their organizations about how they may be punished if they happen to say something or do something that's in opposition to this government.

That really troubles me, because basically this government has put the fear of God into many people who run organizations in this province and not being able to raise any kind of an oppositional voice to what they are doing. I remember in the first year this government was formed, the minister for women's issues, Dianne Cunningham, actually had a number of people in her constituency office and made that comment, that if people raise an oppositional voice to this government, that would not be a good thing when it comes to their funding.

It's something that's indicative and shows this government quite frankly doesn't like opposition, doesn't like people opposing what they're doing. When they do, they're prepared to use any tactic to stop what they're doing in opposition to them. If you're the head of an organization, you threaten their funding. If they're an opposition party in the House, you change the rules. And somehow this is better for democracy? I don't think so. With that I'd like to terminate my comments.

Mr Grimmett: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the proposed changes to the standing orders, which I will be supporting. I want to perhaps begin by commenting on the reaction I had upon coming to this place, having served in a variety of organizations that had procedural rules. Being a lawyer in a small town, I had a couple of public duties -- being the only lawyer in the community, actually. One was to be the butt of all the lawyers jokes in town and the other duty was to serve as the local expert on procedural matters in just about any organization I belonged to or that people wanted me to join. I had the experience of being involved in procedural matters on a service club, on the school board when I was a member of the district of Muskoka school board, and also in several community organizations such as the Muskoka lakes fastball league and student councils when I was in high school as well.

Interjection: Were you a lawyer then too?

Mr Grimmett: I wasn't a lawyer then. I also had the pleasure of course of attending in court. That is another matter and I'll leave that aside because that may not help my argument this evening. I appeared at township councils on many occasions. I have to say that before I came here all of the organizations I was involved with in dealing with procedure had as their main goal in establishing procedures that polite, orderly discussion be the order of the day, and when there was debate, that it be substantive and that it be polite. I would say that polite discussion was the rule in all of those organizations. Disorder was very uncommon.

However, I have to say that in this place, disorder at times is the rule. Calm debate is the exception. I have had some frustration, having served on the Legislative Assembly committee, at the lack of concern by members about the need to amend the standing orders to deal with the problems of order and decorum. It's in that light that I'd like to take a quick review of some particular sections that are being dealt with in the government notice of motion dealing with the standing order changes.

First, I'd like to start with standing order 1(b) which up until now has been a fairly vague suggestion that the Speaker or Chair in making the rulings shall base decisions "on the usages and precedents of the Legislature and parliamentary tradition." The proposed wording in the revised standing order 1(b) states: "The purpose of these standing orders is to ensure that proceedings are conducted in a manner that respects the democratic rights of members." It also indicates that, "The standing orders shall not be interpreted or applied in a manner that permits a member to obtain a procedural or a tactical advantage by contravening a standing order."

I would say that in coming to Toronto and representing the people of Muskoka-Georgian Bay, that kind of approach is one I'm sure the people I represent would want me to support and it's something that would be taken for granted in all the organizations that exist in my riding.


I'd like to speak for a moment about the attempt in this motion to recognize the rights of independent members, and I note on page 28 of the motion that there is a substantial attempt to permit independent members to sit on committees. I think that is something that is probably long overdue and I wonder from time to time how the member for Elgin deals with the frustrations of not being able to sit on committee and have influence over legislation or issues of the day that come before committees. I think that's long overdue and I can't imagine any members thinking that their constituents would oppose that kind of suggestion.

I'd also like to speak in support of the proposed changes to standing orders 24 and 25. Those standing orders will deal with the length of time that members are permitted to speak, not only in the House but also in committee. I've unfortunately been able to sit in on committees when it has been quite apparent that members are speaking for a lengthy period of time only in an attempt to prevent other members from speaking in committee.

The most recent example of this that I can think of is when the member for Windsor-Sandwich spoke at length on the issue of referendums in the Legislative Assembly committee, but I know other members have done that. Some people regard it as an art. It does take a lot of concentration, but I think it's inevitable that unless the Chair or the other members are vigilant, there's a tendency to either repeat the same few points or speak way off topic.

The same I think applies to the suggestion that in the House there will be a reduction in the usual 90-minute opening speech. Invariably, from the speeches that I've listened to, the speakers in a 90-minute speech are off topic. They tend to drone on with their own party's propaganda.

Now, there are some speakers who have the rare skill to rise and actually provide enlightening commentary on the pros and cons of a legislative change. They are able to stay on topic and they avoid constant repetition. But I think I can say honestly that in the time that I've been here I've never heard a 90-minute speech in which that happened. Of those 90-minute speeches that I've heard, several opposition members seem to enjoy speaking in excess of 20 minutes but even the member for Renfrew North, who is a man of rare oratorical skills, usually lapses into pedantic history lessons, which are entertaining but are not in my opinion as lively or relevant as they might be.

We have a list of quotes from opposition members -- I'm not going to use it this evening because it has already been referred to at length -- in which we have quotes from members of both opposition parties when they were in the governing party, making statements such as, "If you speak on a topic for 20 minutes, you've pretty well said all that's going to be said on that topic." I think that is quite an obvious point and one that most people back home would agree with me on. If you have 20 minutes to speak, you pretty well can make your point on any legislative issue, and I think the rules that we've set out here recognize that. Those really are the points that I wish to make on the proposed motion.

Mr Crozier: It's a pleasure for me this evening to be able to add to this debate on the government's motion with regard to the standing orders. I wanted to start off, so that I could put my comments in some context, by quoting again from something that was said by the current Minister of Finance, Mr Ernie Eves, speaking on proposed NDP rule changes on June 22, 1992. He said:

"I think one has to understand that the only way opposition -- not just opposition members but any public opposition to any proposed piece of legislation -- can be effectively dealt with or talked about under our system of government, under the parliamentary system of government, is through the opposition parties' ability to debate and yes, on occasion, even stall or slow down progress of a particular bill, and that has worked very effectively over the years against governments of all political stripes."

I think that's an admission that there are times when it is necessary for debate to be slowed so that further consideration can be given to it. If we think, as some government members have suggested to us, that they're being gratuitous by these proposed rule changes, I think perhaps the sky in their world is a different colour than the one in the real world, because I too believe that many of these proposed changes to the standing orders are really intended to limit debate, by the opposition in particular.

I want to give you a couple of examples why I really don't believe the government is being as gratuitous as they might lead us to believe. I think back to the 1996 budget, I think it was, the introduction of that budget. As with normal procedure on budget day, many of us were locked up. Many of the government members perhaps were locked up as well, but certainly the opposition was locked in rooms and we couldn't leave those rooms until the budget was being presented.

A certain bill was presented that day prior to the budget presentation when all of us were locked in a room. That then gave me the impression that there was something this government wanted to do that certainly didn't give me as a member of this Legislature my rightful opportunity to be here when the bill was being presented.

Reference has been made to the introduction of Bill 26, and I will agree with government members who said, as far as the number of hours of committee hearings that were going to be given are concerned, we ended up having less. But the important thing at that time was that the government only wanted Bill 26, the omnibus bill, debated or at least in committee in the city of Toronto. As you know, Mr Speaker, there are many of us who live far from the city of Toronto and the opportunity that we felt had to be given to our constituents was the opportunity to attend committee meetings and speak on that particular bill. Again, it gives me the impression that the government was trying to limit the debate on it, to keep it in a smaller area to have fewer people who would be able to voice their opinion.

Then I come to Bill 103, the megacity bill. Frankly, I think this was an example of the mismanagement of this government. I can recall when we were debating Bill 103 in committee of the whole House that government members throughout that long debate would come to me and say, "Don't you agree that reading all these similar amendments is a waste of time?" And I said, "Well, if it is a waste of time, you should go to your government, to your House leader, to your whip, and say that what they've done is mismanaged this."

They didn't have amendments ready for their own bill. The only way they could be introduced was in committee of the whole, so they had to allow the bill to go to committee of the whole. That then opened the door and we were in fact able to slow that bill down because it was in committee of the whole. If they had managed their legislative agenda, they would have had that bill prepared so that it wouldn't have had to go to that particular committee.


I want to tell you a bit about what my expectations were when I came here and why I have concerns about some of the changes that are being proposed to the standing orders.

I, like many of the backbenchers who have spoken on this bill, felt I should be given every opportunity to speak on every bill which was of particular interest to my constituents. As well, in committee I felt I should be able to represent my constituents on any matter that appeared before any committee and should be able to speak to that.

What has happened is that not every member, myself included, wants to speak on every bill. Not every bill presented before this Legislature has a direct effect on the constituents of Essex South. Not every member wants to speak on every bill, so that eliminates a great many at the outset. When we're in committee, not every issue that comes before a committee directly affects the constituents of Essex South, or maybe it isn't an issue that we need comment on beyond the regular members of that committee. Because not all of us want to speak on everything and not all of us want to speak to every bill, there is an opportunity over a period of time for all of us to have the opportunity to speak on issues that affect our constituents directly.

There are some bills, of course, that affect all the citizens of the province for which we may have a critic's interest, and therefore I would speak in my critic's role. But all I have to do is go to the whip, say I want to be put on the speaking list and hope the government doesn't invoke time allocation or closure before I get that opportunity.

When some government members complain they haven't had an opportunity to speak on a bill, chances are it's because of a decision that has been made by their House leader or by the government whip that they haven't been given that opportunity.

For example, notwithstanding the changes being suggested to the standing orders as they now are, closure can still be invoked. Closure is covered by article 47 of our standing orders:

"A motion for closure, which may be moved without notice, until it is decided shall preclude all amendment of the main question, and shall be in the following words: `That this question be now put.' Unless it appears to the Speaker that such motion is an abuse of the standing orders of the House or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate. If a motion for closure is resolved in the affirmative, the original question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate."

So notwithstanding these proposed rule changes that are supposed to give members greater opportunity to debate, the government can still bring in closure and, in so doing, limit the debate of their own members.

Another part of the standing orders that will still be in existence and that the government has used from time to time and that affects their own backbenchers' ability to speak is time allocation. That's covered by section 46 of the standing orders:

"The government House leader or any minister of the crown may move a motion with notice providing for the allocation of time to any proceeding on a government bill or a substantive government motion.

"At the end of the sessional day during which debate on the time allocation motion commences as the first government order of the day, the Speaker shall without further debate or amendment put every question necessary to dispose of the motion. If a recorded vote is requested by five members, the division bells shall be limited to 15 minutes."

Standing order 46 goes on to say:

"A time allocation motion may not be moved until at least three sessional days of debate have taken place on second reading consideration of any government bill or a substantive government motion when that government bill or substantive motion has been called as the first government order of the day on each of the days."

What can really happen with this motion we're dealing with now is that when the government so chooses, notwithstanding the fact that maybe every government member wants to have a say in these changes, if the government House leader so chooses, they can ask that the question be called. The Speaker then would have to determine whether an adequate amount of debate has been given and, if that's the decision of the Speaker, debate would end.

We can make these changes, we can change the length of time we can speak, which may make us feel as though more opportunity will be given to speak, but in the final analysis it's the government House leader who usually decides that and, in so doing, very often limits the debate of his own members.

That's why our concern with some of these changes is that it might not result in giving government backbenchers more opportunity to speak; in fact, it may very well give them less opportunity to speak.

The discussion today has covered a number of issues in these changes to the standing orders, not the least of which are sitting extra hours. When I came to this Legislature, I didn't expect that the only work we do would be in this Legislature. Oftentimes when there's debate going on in the House, both government and opposition members are not necessarily in their seats. We may be back in our offices working; we can follow the debate on television. You don't have to be in this Legislature to be carrying on the work of your constituency. In fact, in some cases we might even be back in our constituency offices or in our constituency area. We have nothing against the House sitting extra hours, but as I've said, these changes are really more about the government designing this to expedite the legislative process than it is to give more opportunity to debate.

The government wants to reduce speaking times and limit access to inspection through order paper questions. I'll cover that in a little more detail in a few moments.

Speaker, you'll be more aware than I, because you have more experience than I -- some members of this House who have served upwards of 20 years will have a better idea of what these changes really mean and how, over a period of time, opposition members have been stifled by changes in the standing orders. That's why I have a little difficulty believing that these changes to the standing orders are simply being suggested by one member who has a limited amount of experience in this House. In fact, I think he said earlier today that these changes weren't all necessarily his idea, that many of them came from previous reviews of the standing orders.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Davis government created a standing committee on procedural affairs which produced a number of reports, and only one of the reports was ever debated in the Legislature. Apparently, the committee was ineffective in bringing significant changes to the standing orders.

During the mid-1980s, 1985 through 1990, there were major changes implemented. Opposition days, for example, were brought into the standing orders. There were standard time limits on bills, secret ballots for election of the Speaker, increased responsibilities for committees, among other measures introduced by the government House leader of the day, Mr Conway. Like this debate, the debate over those changes was acrimonious at times, but in the end, it was the House leaders who came together and made the final negotiations successful, resulting in some changes to the standing orders.

Some of the proposed rule changes coming from this particular motion, and there are some 44 changes being proposed -- just a few I'd like to cover individually. I'd like to try and explain to those who may be watching my interpretation of what those changes mean and how I think it's going to affect me and my effectiveness in representing my constituents.


There's the one we're labelling the two-for-one special, that the House may sit from 6:30 to 9:30, through a motion, with no debate and a 15-minute bell. It would count as a sessional day, with no corresponding question period. This proposal is one of the ones that concerns me most -- not that we would sit from 6:30 till 9:30, because many of us from out of town are here all the time anyway and we don't have constituency meetings to attend in the evenings, so oftentimes it would give us something to do. But the point in this change is (1) that it's done with no debate and therefore not in as democratic a way as we might like, but (2) a sessional day is counted without the opportunity for the opposition to have a question period.

Question period is an important part of our day. If we were going to count an extra sessional day, it would be reasonable to assume that we would have an extra question period as well.

Another change is to eliminate the need for a House calendar motion by getting rid of standing order 10(a). This means the government does not need the permission of the Speaker to sit when the parliamentary calendar does not have the House scheduled to sit. The government, with this proposal, can unilaterally bring the House back when it pleases and in effect it makes the parliamentary calendar obsolete.

Normally we sit for two 13-week sessions a year, give or take a week. We have a week off in the middle for constituency week. We start the third week in September and we go through till near Christmas, and we start again in the second or third week in March and we go through to the end of June. That's when the normal parliamentary calender exists.

Why has it been set up that way? Why has there been some regularity put into it? It gives us an opportunity between sessions to have committee meetings for the committees to go out around the province. If the government could simply call us back whenever they liked, I'm not sure how we'd schedule committee meetings over any specific period of time. It allows us to get back into our constituencies, to work in our constituency offices, to get out around the constituency, to find out what our constituents' concerns are. That's why the parliamentary calendar was set up with some regularity to it, so we could plan our year.

It would appear to me that if this government wants the opportunity to call Parliament back any time it wants, without any parliamentary schedule, it's another tinge of mismanagement, because they don't really know what's going on and when they want it to go on. I think there should be some regularity to it. I think there should be a parliamentary calendar and I think it should be adhered to. Certainly if there's an emergency, any kind of emergency, that would be good reason to call the Parliament back outside of the parliamentary calendar.

Another rule change the government is suggesting is that losing a quorum call during private members' business on Thursday morning still allows the House to reconvene at 1:30. I'd like to explain to those who may be watching and who are concerned about the operation of Parliament what that really means. It's the government's responsibility to maintain a quorum. Sometimes they find it a little aggravating that we call quorum, but after all, it's the government's responsibility to do that. What they're saying here is: "We don't want to really have to have 20 members in to watch the private members' business. We'd like the opportunity to just go on about other business and not pay an awful lot of attention to it."

As you know, Speaker, and as some watching at home may know, there isn't always a quorum. In fact, we don't always make quorum calls. It depends on the business before the House. It depends on whether a member feels it's an issue of importance, that we should have more than 20 members in the House. It doesn't mean the House can't operate with less than 20; it's just that when a quorum is called, the government is responsible for making that quorum up. It's a responsibility that it seems the government doesn't want to have.

Speaking times are reduced from 90 to 40 minutes for leadoff and the standard 30-minute speeches are reduced to 20 minutes. To some extent I might agree that there are occasions when there are 90-minute speeches made when what has to be said could be said in less time, but I think that should be up to the individual. I think of our member for Fort William; I can remember a speech very recently that Lyn McLeod gave on education, the leadoff speech. It was a 90-minute speech that I felt compelled to send out to a number of educators. It was an important bill, an encompassing bill, and it took 90 minutes, and maybe it could have taken more, to set the tone for that bill. There are times when the 90 minutes aren't taken, and I think that should be the option of the person leading off that debate. Sometimes the time is split so that two or three speakers may use up the 90 minutes. Limiting that amount of time, I'm afraid, limits the amount of time someone has to set the tone of the bill.

The standard 30-minute speeches are reduced to 20 minutes. That might not be all bad; that would have meant that I would have been finished three minutes ago, and maybe that would be good in this particular instance. But again it's up to the member to decide whether they need that 30 minutes or not, and if they don't, they simply have their say and sit down.

After five hours of debate, the speaking times are 10 minutes. That's getting pretty restrictive. It's difficult to develop the context of a speech in 10 minutes in this Legislature. We are very opposed to this time restriction. I believe it should be left up to the judgement of the person giving the speech the length of time it should take.

Another change that has ramifications far and beyond what someone might normally consider is answering petitions from eight days to 45 days. We stand in this Legislature each day we're in session and read petitions from concerned constituents. I think the constituents should have an answer to their concern, regardless of what the petition is. They've taken the time to sign a petition to express to the government either a point of concern or a point of support. I think the government, with all its resources, should be able to answer a petition in eight days rather than 45 days.

The time restraint for the presentation of statutory reports is eliminated. What that means is that if the government decides simply not to make a statutory report, it can simply forget about it. That's certainly abdicating a responsibility of the government.

The government House leader "may" instead of "must" do a business statement for the up-and-coming week. Many of us plan our legislative calendar through the House schedule. As critic for consumer and commercial relations, for example, it's important for me to know what's on the House schedule so that I can be prepared to discuss that particular issue. In fact, all too often these days, rather than bills being on the calendar for the upcoming week, we get "To be announced." That could be one of two things. It can be either intended to keep the opposition off guard or it can mean that the government really doesn't have its act right and doesn't know what it's going to call from one day to the next. That, I hope, wouldn't give governments the opportunity to just simply mismanage their business.

Estimates may be reported to the House in 12 instead of five sessional days after the budget. The budget is one of the most important documents to come before this Legislature in any given year, but the estimates that are the nitty-gritty of those budgets are even more important. Great fanfare is made about the budget. Budget day is exciting and full of a lot of fanfare and announcements, but what's really important is what's in the estimates, and the quicker we can get to those estimates, the quicker the government can get those estimates out, the better it is in explaining to the people of Ontario what that budget really means.


Government bills may be introduced during the last two weeks of a session with allowance to proceed for second reading. I see this as a bit of a bully move, a great bully move as a matter of fact, because what they can do is save important legislation until the last two weeks of the session, get it on the paper, get it into second reading; in other words, ram it through. What the current standing order is for is to say to governments that if you're handling things in what this government likes to term a businesslike way, then there's no reason in this world why you shouldn't have that kind of legislation ready to go before the last two weeks of the session and therefore not be accused of trying to simply ram the bill through.

Answering order paper questions: from 14 to 45 days. We don't all get an opportunity to ask questions in the Legislature of any given minister. What questions on the order paper allow us to do is to put the question to the ministry, ask for information, ask for an answer. It gives the ministry an opportunity to take some time to answer, and in many instances I think we get a better, more complete answer. Taking it from 14 to 45 days: With the resources that the government has, that a minister has in his or her office, or that the ministry in total has, they should be able to answer in the 14 days that are given.

"No member shall have more than four questions on the order paper." I don't know why they picked four. I don't have any questions on the order paper right now, but on the other hand as things develop in my constituency I might want to have 10 questions on the order paper. What's the difference? The point is we have questions that need to be answered from time to time and the order paper is one of those ways in which we can ask them.

I caution the government to look at these changes in the standing orders very carefully and to keep in mind that the opposition is here to represent the minority and that anything that's done to take away the rights of the minority, our rights to ask questions on their behalf, really, as my colleague from Kingston and The Islands said earlier, goes to the heart of the kind of government we have. I think we all want an open, accessible and accountable government, and I'm not so sure these standing order changes will allow that.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I certainly agree with the previous speaker that what we have here is a challenge to democratic process as we have known it in this province. It is a very serious matter when we find a government bullying through, as they are in the last few days, a motion like this that changes very directly the kind of government we have. What this motion really means is that Ontario will suffer a tyranny of the majority, and it's extremely important for us to understand what that means in terms of democracy as we have known it.

In our province since the beginning of this place, it has been extremely important for there to be a protected and clear voice for those who do not support the goals of a particular government. In a democracy we expect there to be differences of political opinion. We have a democracy because we know we are not all alike and we do not all have the same political philosophy. We do not all share the same view of how to solve the problems of our society. We do not all have the same public policy philosophy.

If in fact we have no disagreement, there's really no point in having a democracy. If in fact what we want is a chamber that only allows the majority to express its opinion and to have sway over all others who might oppose them, then it's not a democracy any more. I would suggest that what we have before us in this motion is more than the thin edge of the wedge; it is indeed the wedge that is being put there into the democratic process, prying away the ability of those who are in opposition to the government, particularly to a majority government, to express the views and concerns of those who are not members of that government.

One of the things that is most offensive is that this is just the last in a long row of affronts to democracy by this government. Again and again we hear in this place, as we did earlier today from the member for Peterborough, comments about how what we do in this place is a waste of time, that nobody ever says anything important.

I think it is extremely serious when members of a government do not believe in the democratic process. It is easy for them to undermine the democratic process when they themselves don't believe in it. Much of this debate has centred around the view that this government has of the whole issue of democracy. It sends a chill down my spine because it really portends very ill for us.

What have we seen from the beginning of this government? We've seen contempt for the governmental process. We've seen contempt for this Legislature. We have seen effort after effort to bull things through this place without the knowledge and without the ability of the public to scrutinize what we do and to have an opportunity to comment. That has happened again and again. That has been represented in this place as the way in which government efficiently does its business.

Government is about more than efficiency. Government is about ensuring that what we do is to come up with solutions to the problems faced by our economy, by our social structure, by our justice system, by all the elements that go to build us as a community, and come up with solutions in a way that is going to be positive, not in a way that ignores the views of those who disagree. The measure of a democratic government is the respect and consideration it gives to views that are not its own.

There is a great claim -- we've heard it a number of times in the last few days -- that this government has consulted more than any other government. Well, that simply is not the case. It will not stand up to any scrutiny. It is simply not the case, but it's not surprising that this government again and again makes statements that are somewhat short of accuracy in many ways, and I'll give you an example.

The member for Nepean in his very melodramatic presentation earlier today about these rules kept saying -- he must have said it at least five, possibly even 10 times -- that the whole reason he wanted this thing to happen was because we had spent two days in December last year talking about whether we would work for an extra week.


Let me read to you the motion we talked about for two days:

"Notwithstanding standing order 6(a) the House shall continue to meet commencing Monday, December 16, 1996, until Thursday, December 19, 1996, and that when the House adjourns on Thursday, December 19, 1996, it stand adjourned until Monday, January 13, 1997, which date commences the spring sessional period."

In other words, we did not spend two days talking about an extra week of a session at all. We've spent two days talking about a bill that threw out the legislative calendar, that set in place a precedent in terms of moving into a spring session without having a period of time for committee work, with the intention expressed by the House leader that there would be a very limited number of items debated in the period in which we came back, all of which we had no notion of because the bills had not been ready. The government was so incompetent that it knew it needed a session, a special, extraordinary session, but it still didn't have the bills ready. It didn't have the information ready that would allow people to scrutinize the legislation that was supposed to come forward in some of those cases.

What we see is the ploy of starting a spring session on January 13 so that the government, when it got its act together, could introduce legislation and flout the rules of this House. That's exactly what this was all about.

When the member for Nepean claims that the whole reason, and tries to make this great presentation to the people of Ontario that the opposition was so lazy that it worked for two days to try and prevent itself from working for an extra week -- that's not at all what the opposition was about, and that is a misrepresentation of the facts, which are here in Hansard.

Both House leaders, as I understand it, have made it quite clear that everyone was willing to meet that extra week. That was not the issue. The issue was the government's attempt to go around the rules of this House, get its own way when it didn't have its act together and it wasn't ready to do what it needed to do in the regular session -- another example of incompetence on the part of this government, and there have been many.

It is quite frustrating for us on this side to recognize that the members of the government party themselves have no respect for this place, and no respect for the importance of public discussion of the issues that face us day to day in this province. They prefer very much to simply go their own way. They do not want things brought to the light of day. They do not want the public to know what is happening.

My colleague from Essex South went through item after item in this motion that shows that the government does not want to shed any light on what it's doing. It does not want to answer questions, whether they come in the form of petitions, whether they come in the form of question period, whether they come in the form of letters or order paper questions. All of this they want to limit because they do not want people to have information about what they're doing until they have it in place, at which point there's no recourse either for us in the opposition or for the general public.

What we are seeing, what we are witnessing with this motion is a further erosion of the democratic rights of the citizens of this province, and I'm not overstating that. It is an extraordinarily serious matter when a government has sat down and tried to figure out how it can block the voices of opposition, how it can block the information flow to the citizens of this province, how it can limit discussion as much as possible so it can simply go ahead with its agenda.

When we hear member after member of the government say that the speeches that are given in this place are meaningless, to whom are they meaningless? They are meaningless to people in the government party who don't like to hear any opposition, who don't like to hear logical arguments against the positions they have taken, who do not want us to express those publicly so that the public out there will begin to question the undemocratic way in which this government wants to function. It's simply the case.

We have seen it again and again. We have seen the numbers of times the House leader has stood in his place and moved that we move directly to orders of the day, leaving out the possibility of petitions, which are one of the very few ways that citizens are able to have their voice heard in this place, and we've seen that happen again and again.

Are we going to see more of it? Certainly we are, because this proposal to have the whole process turned on its head so those kinds of proceedings come before question period is simply an effort to try and prevent the opposition from raising questions of order, questions of privilege that exist from time to time.

This government sees any kind of opposition as delay. This government does not see opposition as an effort to make the legislative process work, and work more smoothly, in spite of the fact that again and again they have brought forward flawed bills which when they have gone to committee have resulted in many, many amendments to make the integrity of those bills an actual fact.

This government wants to truncate the process so that within a very short period of time it can continue its radical revolution, its revolution of the right, its efforts to block the possibility of real democracy within this province. It's a simple as that.

When we look at this proposal that at any given time, without notice, the government could bring forward a motion on any given day, that very day this place would sit for an extra session in the evening -- without notice -- they could bring that and their huge majority could force it through this place. They even want to limit discussion and they don't want any discussion on the motion and they want to limit the bell to a 15-minute bell.

People don't understand what the purpose of that is, and there are several purposes to it. First of all they get an extra sessional day without a question period. They get a whole extra day of work, which means they can push more and more legislation through without having to be accountable.

Question period is about accountability. It's about asking the ministers if they know what they're doing and whether they know the effect of what they're doing and how they propose to remedy some of the chaos they are causing. I'm not surprised that this government doesn't want question periods, that they want free legislative days without question periods, because the level of chaos they're creating is such that they know question periods are politically dangerous for them because they expose very clearly the kind of agenda this government has and the incompetence this government is displaying in terms of implementing its program.

The other purpose is to make sure that opposition members are tied to their desks at all times, because the government will know when it's going to call that motion. Government members can still go to events in their own constituencies, government members are going to be able to perform their political tasks outside of this place, but this will make it impossible for the opposition parties to carry out the tasks we have been elected to carry out on behalf of our constituents. It will not be possible for us, either as critics within our field of criticism or as constituency representatives, to do our job when we are unable to leave this place because we never know when a bill of ours might be called.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): That's what it's all about.

Mrs Boyd: That's what it's all about, as the House leader for the opposition suggests. It's all about making sure the democratic process doesn't work by infringing on the privileges of opposition members. It is the tyranny of the majority over the minority, not only in this place, but since we represent large areas of this province, the tyranny of the majority over our constituents as well.


What this really tells us is that this is a government that secretly knows that the kind of agenda that they are putting forward is not meeting with the approval of the population. This is a government that knows that every opportunity to expose the flimsiness of the kind of platform that this government has, to expose the fallacies in its ideological perspective, calls danger upon them and their re-election. They are moving now to make sure that the voices of opposition are silenced one way or another. They are doing everything they can to make sure that theirs are the only voices that get heard out there.

Again and again over the last two years, we have heard the contempt with which this government views the legislative process: their efforts to shorten debate, their efforts to make fun of questions, the kind of smug satisfaction that they express at every turn about their own policies and their own so-called successes. During the megacity debate, the constant ridiculing of the process by members of the opposition, even when those members were in the chair, as Chair of this House, was simply disgraceful. If they don't know that the people of Ontario did not appreciate the ridicule that they piled on the democratic process, I can tell you that the letters we all have received on this side of the House, the comments that we receive all the time, tell us that they are wrong.

Why should we worry? There may be those in the government who are saying: "If all of this is true, why are they so worried about these rule changes, because if they're right, then we won't win the next election and so we'll be hoist with our own petard." We're not quite as selfish as that. The opposition in this place really believes in the democratic process and we do not want to see rules that do not permit this kind of discussion.

Much has been made of the fact that in 1991 the then NDP House leader made a motion that had some similar elements to those that are in this motion, and much has been made by the member for Scarborough East about the fact that that means we would have done the same thing. That's nonsense. We had a majority, we could have done the same thing, we didn't. We listened to the objections of people like Ernie Eves, the member for Parry Sound. We listened very, very hard to the concerns that were coming forward. In fact, that has been the character of both the previous Liberal government and our government in terms of the changes that were made to the Legislature.

I want you to know, and you do, because you've heard some of the speeches on this topic, that we had rampant backbenchers who seemed to think that a change in the rules would enable them to have more authority and more say.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Peter Kormos, yes.

Mrs Boyd: We certainly did, and you've heard from them. But we as a government understood that you don't appease your backbenchers at the expense of democracy, and that's precisely what this cabinet has agreed to do.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, it's quite clear that there are citizens in Ontario who are just as passionate about democracy as the members of the opposition.

It is really, really important for us to be very, very clear about the ulterior motives here. This has nothing to do with efficiency; this has everything to do with silencing opposition. We've seen that happen again and again and again at the hands of this government. This government consistently wants to make sure that any kind of opposition is immediately ended. The way they have treated this place, the way they have treated the members in this place, is quite disgraceful.

I would say to you, Mr Speaker, that the passionate comment about listening is very real. How can you find anything important if you don't listen? It's very clear that these folks don't listen. They have their little private meetings, which they have at such a high level that most of us can't even hear ourselves think, much less talk, and they think nothing of that. It happens all the time, and you as Speaker know that you have to call them to order and ask them to take their meetings outside again and again, just as every Speaker does.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Marion, easy now.

Mrs Boyd: It is very, very important that you understand how you are appearing to the public, even now --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Easy, Marion.

Mrs Boyd: -- especially the Minister of Agriculture, who is being ridiculous in terms of his efforts to try and put down a member of the opposition who is speaking about a very --

The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Len Wood: Throw the Minister of Agriculture out.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane North. The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: It's very typical of the members of this government that when someone disagrees with them, their response is ridicule, and that is exactly how you behave. You behave that way to your constituents, you behave that way to other members here, you behave that way in the public media, and you think people don't notice this? I've got to tell you, your lack of respect for the electorate in this province is becoming evident to even the most apolitical person -- very, very much so.

Mr Gilchrist: Why don't you talk about the social contract? Talk about respecting the unions. Talk about respecting --

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Scarborough East.

Mrs Boyd: The only rebuttal that this government has is to try and paint other governments with the same brush and they're not succeeding. That's why they're so frustrated, that's why they want to move their agenda ahead even faster, even though they've shown again and again that they have no capacity to implement what they've already passed.

We've had a dreadful, dreadful session, and question after question about the family support plan and the lack of ability of the Ministry of the Attorney General to implement a plan that was touted by this government to be very efficient and very helpful. We have admissions, daily, by ministry people that they cannot possibly carry out their mandate with the kind of staff they have, given the cutbacks that have happened. We see forest fires raging in northern Ontario and 2,000 people who used to work maintaining the safety of our natural resources thrown out of work.

Do you think that all of the people can be fooled all the time? Do you really think so? One of your own members the other day, the member for Carleton, said, "You can't fool all the people all the time unless you have a majority government." It was a joke, wasn't it? Only it isn't a joke, because it's exactly the way you're governing. "We can do whatever we like because in the two years before the last election, we went around and talked to our cronies around the province and consulted with them so that we would hear what we wanted to hear, and so we don't need to consult any more. We don't need to listen any more. We were elected, we've got a majority, we can do what we want to do."

I suggest that the member for Peterborough, who earlier today said nothing we do in here has any importance, is exactly the element that is destroying a democratic process. What's the difference between that and governments in Europe that simply suspended their Legislature? Not much. Is that going to be the next step? You get through what you want and then what do you do? Suspend the calendar and never call us back again until you're ready for an election? Is that what you want to do?


Hon Mr Villeneuve: You did that. You're a farce, Marion. I used to respect you, but I don't any more.

Mrs Boyd: The feeling is mutual.

The Deputy Speaker: Order.


Mr Len Wood: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Minister of Agriculture should apologize for the last words he said.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear what he said. Have you said anything wrong?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I said the former Minister of Justice was a farce and she told me the feeling was mutual. I am sorry. I apologize for saying that.

The Deputy Speaker: That is not out of order, as far as I am concerned. It's not conducive to good conversation, good debate. At the same time -- the member for London Centre?

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, just so you're clear on this, what I said, "The feeling is mutual," about to the Minister of Agriculture was that he said, "I used to respect you," and I said, "The feeling was mutual."

This outburst is exactly what I'm talking about. We did meet in the fall of 1994, as you are well aware. An election was called in April, so there was a period of time when this Legislature did not meet. What you are talking about is going through a form of democracy that is a joke, because what you are trying to do with your rules is make sure this place has little relevance at all to what you want to do.

You envision a system of government where you decide behind closed doors what you want to do. You bring it in here. You frogmarch it through this place in such quick order that the public doesn't even know what's happening and there's no chance for them to raise any kind of question about what you're doing; and then you go through a series of efforts to try to ensure that the public consultation process is as quick as possible so that people don't have a chance to prepare and gather their facts and prepare their responses, and keep it as short as possible and in as few places as possible. You know that is exactly what these rules are designed to do.

They were even presented in a duplicitous manner, with the member for Nepean suggesting these were all his own idea in the morning at a press conference and the minister announcing he was going to bring these in in the afternoon. Even the manner of bringing these forward was simply an effort to try to pretend this is something it is not. You can't fool all the people all the time, and you're being found out. What is betraying you is your own undemocratic actions.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I am pleased to speak on the proposed standing order changes. There are a number of areas in these changes that I believe will improve the business of government, and isn't that why we're all here? At least I thought that's why we're here. Isn't that what the people of this province elected us to do, to run this government in a businesslike fashion and not the display we just saw two or three minutes ago?

We have heard words bandied around over the last couple of days, words like "respect," "bullies," "parasites," "lack of democracy," "trickery" etc. I suggest that those words used by the opposition are rhetoric only, words that show their lack of comprehension of this proposal. The opposition talks of reduced democracy. I suggest that these changes protect the democratic rights of its members.

I've listened for two years to the so-called debate in this House, when people ramble on for 90 minutes talking about the same thing over and over and over again, usually the same stock speech with a few new lines every now and again put in. That is not debate. You know it and I know it. That is called grandstanding, by the same people talking about the same issues. There is no interaction whatsoever in this House. That's what debate is all about. Why should they have a monopoly on debate, these ones who stand up for 90 minutes?

I'm an elected member of this House. My constituents are equally as important to me as anybody. Then why is it not my right to speak or to have the opportunity to do so? Under the proposed changes I will have the right and the time to debate on behalf of the people of my riding. That's why I'm here and that should be my right, to also be listened to.

Private members' bills are extremely important. They reflect the concerns, the suggestions and the wishes of the people of this province. You talk about wanting people to have more say and more consultation, yet you restrict the time allocated to debate on these very important bills. We are limiting the rights of members to have a fair and equal time on these bills, bills that reflect the ideas and the concerns of the people of this province.

I constantly hear the oldtimers say, "For those of us in the know." I heard it this afternoon from the member for Algoma: "For those of us in the know." Yes, you have been around longer compared to the rest of us, but maybe, just maybe, these new ideas are long overdue. I know the word "change" is very unfamiliar to you folks over here, but only if we have new ideas, new rules and new people can we prepare this province for the next century.

This government is the first government in many years that made promises and has kept those promises. The people of this province want a change and elected us to carry --


Mr Miclash: Mike Harris said he had no plan to close hospitals: 37 hospitals closing. Also, registration fees in northern Ontario. He should resign. He said he would resign if he didn't keep his promises.

The Deputy Speaker: Order, members. Member for Kenora --

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): We're being provoked, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Just cool down.


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, it's the last time I warn you.

Mr Stewart: As I said, I always enjoy it when members like the member for Kenora make these comments, because what it says is that we've struck a nerve that is factual, that they can't cope with. That's the nice part about this. Maybe this is debate at its best.

Mr Miclash: You said no new user fees. Vehicle registration in northern Ontario is not a user fee? Give me a break.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Kenora, it's also the last time I warn you. That's enough.


Mr Stewart: I guess this is one of the best reasons we should be changing some of the standing orders, when you see the type of display that is going on now, especially from the member for Kenora and others. For grown human beings to conduct themselves in this fashion, I am disgusted, and I think the constituents in your riding would be as disgusted as I am.

This government, as I said, is the first government in many years that made promises and indeed has kept those promises. The people of the province want changes and they elected us to carry out those changes.

We have heard today that we do not listen to people, that we do not consult with people. That is wrong, dead wrong, and it's wrong on behalf of our critics. The opposition constantly refers to us pushing things through the House and that under these new changes we will bypass the wishes of the people.

I remember the two previous governments' interpretation of listening to people. First of all, during the last government the House rarely sat. They spent as little time as possible listening to the people. Listening was not in their vocabulary. Input was not being considered. Their policy was not to call the House to order but rather to put through things by regulation. I believe in the last year they put through 940-some regulations that the public had absolutely no input into whatsoever.

This leads to the issue before us. The people voted for change, voted for reform, voted for productivity and, finally, voted to get on with it as soon as possible. The difference between what we are doing and what the opposition parties did is that we understand what the people wanted because they told us. We consulted with them four years before we were elected, and they asked us to get on with it and put it in place just as soon as we were elected. They wanted it done quicker, they wanted it done more effectively and indeed they wanted it done more efficiently.

Another area I would like to address is the proposed changes that would allow a member to abstain from voting. This is allowed in other provinces and at other levels of government. Why not in this House? There are many occasions when a member may believe that the interests of their constituents could be better served if they voted in abstention. I believe this is a member's democratic right, whereas some just don't come into the House. I hear the opposition members talk about democratic rights. I suggest the opposition members should jump at the chance to support this type of clause.

The final change I want to address is increasing the amount of productivity and efficiency through longer hours. We have to make it easier to extend the House when necessary. I appreciate that some members have a different work ethic. If any of the public witnessed the conduct in this House today and this so-called debate, that suggests our work ethic is very limited and the public is being very shortchanged.


The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Stewart: I guess it proves what I've been talking about. For those of you who have not been in business --

Mr Bradley: Why does it prove what you have been talking about? Break away from the notes that Mike has provided for you.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Mr Stewart: For those of you who have not been in business, and certainly many of you haven't, or in administration as owners or managers, or dedicated workers, I can appreciate that many of you may balk at the extra hours. Let me assure you that extra hours are necessary if we want to increase productivity. Some of you would not know that term, but it happens to be out in the real world. Surely some of the opposition must understand that. When there is work to be done, I suggest we do it. Industry does it, retail does it, labour does it. We do it in our everyday lives. Why not in this House? Let's get the business of government into reality and prepare for the future. The future for this Legislature is this type of changes to the standing orders.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The behaviour of this government continues to remind me of the bully in the school yard. They just keep wanting to hit harder and harder and harder in the hope that maybe the victim, if they're beaten up enough, will finally give in and go away, and then the bully will have its own way and be able to do whatever it wants to do without being checked in any way.

In that kind of context, it seems to me that perhaps the member for Nepean resembles no one so much as that junior in the school yard who is so eager to be accepted that he's prepared to do whatever the big boys say has to be done. So we have these so-called rule changes supposed to be in the interests of democracy when every one of us knows that the purpose of these rule changes is to limit criticism, to limit debate and to attack the democratic process in this Legislative Assembly.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton East, I warned you already.

Mrs McLeod: This government once again, as it has been from the very beginning, is concerned only with getting its own way, getting its own way unchecked, ramming through its agenda. They really don't care what happens to democracy in the process.


The Deputy Speaker: Order. Member for Hamilton East, I ask you to leave. I name you.

Mr Agostino was escorted from the chamber.

Mrs McLeod: The way in which the rule changes have been introduced is typical of the kind of bullying tactics which we have seen from this government.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nepean, this is the last time I warn you too.

Mr Len Wood: Throw him out.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane North.

Mrs McLeod: As my House leader has reminded us in his contribution to this debate, this government brought in these rule changes at the very last possible moment in this session, late on a Thursday, and then called them for debate on the next sessional day, clearly in the hopes that they could force the rule changes through with very little opposition and with nobody taking very much notice.

It certainly takes us back to the original bully bill, Bill 26, which I know a number of my colleagues have already talked about, but I go back to that because that showed us the true face of this government and the way they intended to govern.

People will remember that was the bill that paved the way for the hospital restructuring commission to be put in place, and all of us have seen the dictatorial way in which that commission is marching into our communities and shutting down our hospitals, regardless of any of the expressed concerns of any of the residents of those communities.

That was the bully bill that prepared the way for the municipal amalgamation that said that this government could force communities to amalgamate, no matter how many residents of the community said, "This is not what we want." On the megacity bill, they rammed that through in spite of the opposition of 74% of the people who wanted to express their concerns.

This was the bill that set the stage for the user fees, that set the stage for the government, with legislative sanction, to be able to bring in the copayments for seniors on their drugs.

All of this was wrapped into one bill that the government introduced when we were in the middle of a lockup on the budget. The government not only didn't want us to notice that they brought in the bill, they didn't want us to see what was in this omnibus, giant bill that covers so many areas at once. They wanted it passed without debate. They wanted it passed without public hearings. They wanted it passed before Christmas, in two weeks' time. That set the stage for the kind of bullying tactics we have continued to see from a government that rammed that bill through and has been beating up people in communities across this province ever since.


Now these rule changes are going to make it just that much easier for the government to push things through even faster. I guess all of us wonder why this government has to be in such a hurry.

I think most people would feel that there's a measure of political opportunism in this, that the government has some very nasty things to do, that they have some dirty work to do they know is not going to be well received, whether it is the copayments for seniors' drugs, the user fees they said they'd never introduce, or the closure of our hospitals which Mike Harris said he had no intention of doing, or the ramming through of municipal amalgamations which Mike Harris himself said would actually cost more and which he would never do.

They have a lot of dirty work they have to do, so they want to get it done fast so they can spend the next year and a half or two years appeasing people, patting people on the head a little bit, trying to reassure them that they really are a kinder, gentler government, not really a bully government at all. They want people to forget the anger and the frustration people are feeling right now at the sheer string of broken promises that have come from this government.

It won't work. It won't work because what this government is doing now is being done so fast and so badly that they are creating nothing but chaos and the chaos will not go away in the next two years. People will not forget that it was this government in such a hurry that created the chaos they're living with in their communities.

We are going to see, just as an example, chaos in collective bargaining. Bill 136, which the government introduced just two weeks ago, is a bill that's like a War Measures Act in what it imposes on public sector employees who are already losing their jobs at a rate never before seen, a bill giving employers the unilateral right to suspend the right to strike in a collective bargaining situation. This is a War Measures Act imposed to solve a war created by a government that was bringing about municipal amalgamations and school board amalgamations and closing hospitals and creating the kind of chaos that took a War Measures Act to control.

We are going to see chaos in hospitals across this province, because there have been millions of dollars taken out of our hospital budgets. Those cuts are forcing hospitals to close and there is no plan for reinvestment of those dollars, no matter how many days in a row the Minister of Health talks about reinvestment.

All we have from the Minister of Health are political announcements, such as the dollars that would go into cardiac care, which he talked about today, without any recognition that those kinds of political announcements, designed to tell people, "Yes, we're reinvesting money in health care," don't make up for the fact that the dollars taken out of our hospitals come out of the core services, and you cannot provide specialized health services when you can't have core services like hospital beds or a hospital in your local community. So there will be chaos that will continue on for the next two years in health care and in hospital services.

There will certainly be chaos in education. This government is forcing through changes in governance with school board amalgamations, changes in collective bargaining that's bringing chaos. It's forcing through changes in curriculum.

The member for Simcoe Centre talked about people being resistant to change, that it's an uncomfortable thing. I'm resistant to change which is not thought out, which brings about sheer chaos. I'm resistant to changes in curriculum that are brought in at the end of June to be in place for September when not only is there no training for teachers but there are no curriculum materials available for the teachers. This kind of change that is being forced through is change all right, but it is much too much and much too fast. It is sheer destruction that is being brought in, not constructive change, and it will leave us with chaos and people will not forget the legacy of a government in too much of a hurry.

I suggest to the government that rule changes that let them go even faster, that let them go without any checks or balances from the opposition or from critics are not going to serve their political purposes well at the end of the day. Nevertheless, I know this is a government that is going to continue on, that is going to continue to want to push through these rule changes, to ram them through, and one of their goals clearly is to shut down any opposition concerns, any criticisms.

My colleague from Scarborough North earlier tonight talked about the way in which this government has limited concerns being expressed, even demonstrations of the most innocent kind on the part of concerned citizens. He was reminding us of the day the dogs were brought in because of the fear of what was going to occur outside this building if concerned citizens came to express their concerns. I remember during the megacity debates when our galleries were empty even though there were lineups of people outside wanting to get in and hear the debate, but the scrutiny was so intense, they were so worried about having the public hear our debates, that we couldn't fill the galleries with the people who had come to hear them.

I wonder why this government just is so resistant to criticism. Why is it that they don't feel they can withstand any kind of opposition? Why do they have such a need to muzzle not only the opposition in the Legislature but the critics among those who are affected by their policies, those whom they dismiss as being interest groups? In the education hearings even parents who were critical of the government were dismissed as being an interest group.

I suppose some might suggest that there's an arrogance there, that this is a government that doesn't feel it needs to listen. They have a majority. They say they have a mandate to bring in these changes, and so they say they don't really need to listen when they're given that kind of a mandate. I suppose that may be the reason they feel it's okay to muzzle any opposition.

I wonder sometimes if there's a degree of cowardice in this, because any of us who have been in politics for a long time know it is a whole lot tougher to make those tough decisions about public policy when you know what the criticisms are, when you've really heard all the different perspectives, when you've weighed the concerns that are there. It's so much easier just to pull up the drawbridge and adopt a seige mentality, protect yourself from any criticism and just get on and do what you want to do. That is not strong leadership and that is not making tough decisions. That is taking the easiest way out and getting on with what you have decided you're going to do.

I sometimes wonder if the reason this government wants to muzzle opposition, doesn't want to hear criticism, is because they don't really believe their agenda can stand up to scrutiny. If we look at a government that made cuts for the sake of making cuts because they had to deliver one fundamental commitment, and that was the promise of a tax cut, they know full well what they're doing out there cannot stand up to public scrutiny.

Even some of their contracting-out measures we can prove ended up costing more than they saved, so it's not surprising the government doesn't want to hear the reality of what they're doing, so maybe they don't think their agenda can stand up to scrutiny.

Maybe the real reason they want to muzzle opposition is because they're afraid their own backbenchers might actually hear the criticism. Maybe they're afraid that if the backbenchers hear the debate, that if the debate goes on for any length of time, maybe the backbenchers will bring some opposition within the government itself.

Maybe there will be others with the kinds of concerns and the kind of courage to stand on principle that we saw from Mr Skarica, or from Mr Carr, or from Mr Murdoch, who were prepared to say: "We hear the criticisms, the concerns that come from our constituents. We want to raise those with government. We think that's a legitimate part of the democratic process and an important part of our role as representatives of our constituents. So let us speak freely to those concerns, and if hearing those the government decides to continue with what it's doing, so be it, but at least let the debate take place so that all perspectives can be heard."

I suspect that when it comes right down to it, none of these reasons fully explains why this government wants to take these steps to muzzle opposition. I suspect the real reason is that it is those Young Turks in the back room who really want to protect their ability to just ram things through with no disturbance whatsoever.

Those are the ones who were described publicly by a member of the government caucus as sitting in the back rooms with a copy of the Common Sense Revolution in one hand and Machiavelli's The Prince in the other and not much in between. They want to be able to get on with their anointed role without having the inconvenience of a messy debate and criticism being raised in the Legislature. They're the real bullies and there is no question that they are running the show.

This government's rule changes, which I'm concerned they are just going to ram through again, will leave the government itself -- and I say to the government House leader that you've got to be worried about this -- with no reasonable chance to review its own legislation, no reasonable chance to revisit it, to make amendments, to actually take that time to get it right. I wonder how they can be so convinced that they are immune from error and don't need the checks and balances of the debate in the Legislature or the public hearings or a full committee process.


Their record has been disastrous to date. It has been full of the most gross mistakes that the government itself has had to correct. Look at Bill 26, the original bully bill. People have spoken about the 150 amendments the government itself brought in. We didn't even get through the whole bill and we had 150 amendments from the government itself.

Remember some of those pretty major mistakes. Do you remember the Minister for Municipal Affairs had a little part in there that was going to allow municipalities to raise a head tax on every resident of every municipality? Oh dear, they found a drafting error, they said afterwards. Just a small drafting error that they hadn't noticed in the original bill, but a fairly large mistake. Thank goodness we had a sit-in in the Legislature that forced the government to have public hearings long enough that they could at least fix that very large mistake, or Ontario residents would be facing a head tax as municipalities struggle to try and meet the needs in the face of government cuts and government offloading.

Remember the part of Bill 26 that the privacy commissioner said was a violation of the rights to privacy of individuals on the most sensitive of their health records. The government was forced by the privacy commissioner to bring an amendment to that part of Bill 26. The government had to scramble to bring in amendments to fix the worst of its mistakes in that bill.

The megacity bill: We thought maybe the government had learned that you've got to get the legislation at least reasonably right before you ram it through the House. The megacity bill had to be taken back and essentially rewritten by the government, not to respond to the concerns of the residents but to do some damage control because the government had everybody saying how wrong this was.

Today they fixed it by setting in place some community councils which in name only are like the original municipalities that they're shutting down. Today we find that some research has actually been done and community councils have been found to be completely ineffective. Don't you wish the government had taken the time to find that out before they brought in their community council amendments to fix the legislation that was so bad to begin with?

The family support plan -- I'm going to run out of time to chronicle all the mistakes this government has made in the two short years that it has been bringing forward its legislation -- where there was absolutely no plan for getting it right, for implementing it to meet the needs of the people who are out there, families waiting to get their support cheques. The Ombudsman last week said this government must learn from its mistakes on the family support plan so they don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I don't think the government heard the message from the Ombudsman. I don't think the government wants to understand that it has to slow down if it's going to get it right.

Bill 104, the education bill: Over and over again parents came to our committee and they said, "Please take the time to get this right." This government has to bring in another piece of legislation to do what wasn't done in Bill 104 on school board amalgamation, and that's in spite of the fact that they put another commission in to give them advice on how to do all the things they didn't know how to do when they brought in the bill. They still made huge mistakes, even in the simplest things they did in that bill.

Amalgamation of school boards: They've had to go back and split up the boards in northwestern Ontario because they were so huge as to be completely unworkable, but they haven't had the time yet to fix the mistakes they've made across the rest of the province. This is a government in a hurry and prone to make a great many mistakes.

I think we have to talk about what good legislation is. I think we have to have some understanding of why we're here in this place, government members and opposition members alike. It is to be involved in a process of setting laws in the interest of the public that we represent and the public whom we serve. Surely our goal, all of us, is to create good law, good legislation -- that's why we're here -- legislation that's developed with an understanding of all the perspectives. Good legislation cannot be developed without consultation with everyone who is affected. Good legislation can't be developed without review by the critics, because that review is one of the important tests of whether your legislation is good or bad. There has to be a willingness to refine the legislation so it can be the best it can possibly be. That's our responsibility as legislators, and a government in a hurry is not prepared and clearly not able to bring in truly good legislation.

I think it's more than that, because good legislation is also legislation that brings people along, that can be implemented because people are supportive of it, they understand it, they're given the tools they need to be able to work with it, and that's not the kind of legislation this government in a hurry brings in.

Again, I'm not going to have time to chronicle it, but I know that on the school board amalgamation bill there are expectations of parent councils, and the parents have said: "What are they going to do if we're not prepared to do what the government wants? Are they going to bring in parent press gangs and force us into service?" The government doesn't think about how they bring people along so they can implement their legislation. It's like the curriculum which is being dropped on teachers to be implemented this September, when teachers don't know what it is, aren't trained to do it and don't have materials to deliver it. It's like telling communities their hospitals are going to close and then forcing them to go out and raise millions and millions of dollars to support the closure of their hospitals and the government's restructuring plans. It isn't going to happen. If people don't believe you've got a good idea, they're not going to work with you on it, and the government in a hurry is going to be foiled by the very people it is forcing its legislation on.

I'm not going to have the time to go over the details of this legislation and the specifics that cause us to be concerned. My colleagues have done that in some detail. I want to take a moment, though, and comment on this idea that we should be extending the hours in which we debate because we are somehow, I think as the member for Nepean suggested, working a 20-hour week and should be working longer. I think it was the member for Simcoe Centre who said there was something wrong with our work ethics because we're not prepared to work longer.

First of all, this is not about spending more time in debate, as our House leader has said. If the government wants to spend more time in debate, we will come back and sit in the evenings, we will come back and sit in the month of July, as we came back and sat in the months of January and February. We'll be here to get the work done. This isn't about more time; this is about condensing two days into one so the government gets out of more question periods and so they can push legislation through faster.

I am offended beyond belief by the suggestions that the work we do here is our entire work as legislators. I suggest to the member for Nepean that if he is only working a 20-hour week, then maybe it's because he doesn't want to be in his constituency office talking to constituents. Maybe he's afraid of what his constituents are going to come and tell him about. Maybe he is only working a 20-hour week and maybe he's not spending time sitting down with the people who are going to be affected by the legislation and finding out what they think about it because he really doesn't want to hear what the people affected by the legislation have to say.

I spend a lot of time talking to people who are affected by the legislation this government is going to bring in, and it takes me a lot more than the 20 hours I spend sitting in the Legislative Assembly and participating in debates here. To me that is all part of the work we do, and I don't think we can do our work adequately as representatives of the public unless we're out there meeting with the public. If any members of this assembly are only working 20 hours a week, then they should be apologizing to the constituents they claim to represent.

There are a whole lot of people who should care about what's happening here, because this is about beating people up. It's about finding ways to rush through legislation that allows a government to ram through an agenda which has made victims of a lot of people in this province already and which is going to continue to make victims of people.

The ability of this government to continue to ram through its agenda is not just an issue for legislators; it's an issue for people who are sick and are waiting in the hallways of emergency rooms because there aren't enough resources in their hospitals; it's an issue for seniors, those very people who have had their user fees rammed through on them in their earlier legislation; it's an issue for children whose educational opportunity is threatened by this government's initiatives.


This greater ability of the government to ram through its legislation should be an issue for women and children who are victims of abuse, because they are also a target for this government as they want to shift, as they call it, to prevention from protection of those who've been abused.

This should be an issue for people who are on welfare, who have been hit and hit again by this government. It should be an issue for students, who are facing high tuition fees and greater debt loads because of this government's initiatives. It should be an issue for the injured workers, who were in the hallways of the Legislative Assembly this week trying to make their voices heard. It's an issue for public sector employees, it's an issue for police, it's an issue for firefighters, all of whom have come to this place and tried to make their concerns heard.

I am a legislator. I have been a legislator in government; am a legislator in opposition. I am conscientious, I believe, about the fact that I was elected to participate in governing, not as some kind of personal right. Never, including when I was part of a majority government, did I think I had a personal right to govern people. I had the privilege of representing people in order to bring about the kind of governance that would serve their interests, and never in the 10 years that I have taken a role in both opposition and government in this Legislature have I been more distressed at what I believe to be truly bad legislation. Never have I felt more strongly a sympathy with the citizens' need to express civil resistance to what I truly believe, over and over again, is bad legislation by a very bad government.

But I am afraid, given the past history of the last year and a half at least, that the bullies once again are going to ram through their legislation. They're going to ram it through, just as they eventually rammed through the original Bill 26 bully bill, just as they rammed through their megacity legislation, just as they rammed through their education bill.

I just actually had a note from the House leader that suggests there was a comment made by a member opposite that I think I'm not even going to dignify by responding to. There is not only an arrogance but an old boys' club attitude that comes into this Legislature sometimes, which I think maybe we just have to ignore in the hopes that maybe some of the members opposite will one day grow up and deserve to take their place as legislators in this assembly.

This government believes that if they get these rule changes through they will be able to do whatever they want to do with no opposition because the bullies will be in complete control of the school yard. I want to serve notice, as my colleagues have served notice on this government, that we are not going to let them beat up on democracy. We are not going to fold up our tent and go away because they have tried to muzzle us in every possible way. We are not going to just quietly accept this government's dictatorial approach, no matter what they try and do to silence us. We are not going to leave the school yard to the bullies, because this is not a school yard; this is a Legislative Assembly.

And it concerns me that perhaps those who have only been in this place for some two years have no real sense of the purpose of it, of the role that we play. Perhaps we all need to step back and remember, as my colleagues, including the person presently in the Speaker's chair, have so eloquently expressed over the course of this evening, that democracy is indeed about people. It is about government that is for the people and of the people, even though with this government it is clearly not government by the people.

People do have differing views, as my colleague from Kingston and The Islands has said. Within this House we will have at least two, often three different perspectives. There are more than that when we really take into consideration the different concerns and needs and perspectives of all those whom we represent. The purposes of a democracy, of government for the people, of the people and, hopefully, sometimes by the people, cannot be served unless there is time taken to fully understand the concerns, the different perspectives, of all those whom we represent.

That means that inevitably democracy will be about dissent and about debate. Inevitably it is going to be messy and often it is going to be confrontational. But even when it is messy, even when it is confrontational, even when it is angry, the democratic process and the debate and dissent that then leads to the best legislation and the best government that can possibly be provided is simply too important to lose because we have a government run by folks in the back room who are so anxious to get on with their agenda that they don't want any inconvenient democratic debate to get in their way.

Mr Len Wood: I'm pleased to take the next 30 minutes to enter into the debate on the government motion that was brought forward to change the rules of this Legislature and muzzle the opposition members so that they're not going to be able to enter into a fair debate and make sure the public is well aware of the legislation that is being brought forward, whether it be an attack on workers, as we see in Bill 99, the WCB bill, or whether it's Bill 136, the attack on the public sector workers, where they're going to be asked to pay for all the downloading that the government has decided to do when they are restructuring hospitals, school boards and the rest of the public sector.

It's fairly serious when we look at the rule changes that are being brought forward. I'm sure there's a lot more discussion that can be entered into, but at this time of night I just want to begin on it and point out that some of the people right within the Tory caucus are saying there's something wrong in this province when the Premier and a couple of unelected people in the Premier's office can run the show.

When we see the changes that are being brought forward here to limit the debate, to try to muzzle the opposition, to try to change the time that question period debate can take place to 4 o'clock instead of having it at the regular time -- I don't see that much wrong with the rules that are here other than the fact that the government Tory caucus has a hidden agenda. They have other pieces of legislation they would like to bring forward, and instead of having it debated at first reading and second reading and then going into committee and travelling around the province, they would like to have the right to bring it in and have it passed into law in about three days.

The member who brought it forward is saying, "We want to make the rules very similar to the House of Commons." We have to understand that there are 301 members in the House of Commons, and as the next election rolls around, there will only be 103 members in the Ontario Legislature. I don't think changing the rules to allow the backbenchers more time to debate is necessary, because they're controlled by the government whip and the government House leader and the people within their own caucus. They're telling them whether they can debate legislation or whether they can't debate legislation.

I started out talking about an attack on workers. There's another resolution that's coming forward. You talk about the attack on the workers. Mr Fox has brought forward a resolution that is another attack on the unionized workers in this province that is going to be debated in a resolution next week. It's one attack after the other. Continuously over the last two years we've seen nothing but attacks to destroy, eliminate or, in this particular case, reduce the amount of time --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. It is now midnight and this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2400.