36th Parliament, 1st Session

L211b - Wed 25 Jun 1997 / Mer 25 Jun 1997




Report continued from volume A.



Continuing the adjourned debate on the motion, as amended, for adoption of amendments to the standing orders.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate?

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I'm very happy to speak on this matter before the House regarding rule changes which can only be described as changes to the advantage of the governing majority in an attempt to silence the minority in this House. When you examine the changes that are proposed, time and again these changes speak to the need for the government to have everything in its arsenal to shut down debate.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I have requested from the NDP a copy of the amendment, and I believe they have now indicated they are going to get it to us. Thank you. As a courtesy, it's normally extended.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lawrence, you can continue.

Mr Cordiano: As I was saying, with regard to this government's every initiative, every time we turn around there's the government once again trying to ram something through this assembly by the cover of night.

I would like an opportunity to quote my House leader, who sits beside me. I would like to quote what he said back on June 29, 1992, which I think was very profound, and he repeated it in this House. He was talking about the rule changes that were being proposed by the previous government, Bob Rae's government. He suggested, "You make a judgement on people and on governments based not on what they do when they are under public scrutiny, when they can be caught, but on what governments and what individuals do when no one is looking."

That's what this government has attempted to do with these rule changes. When no one was looking, or when it appeared as though no one was paying any attention, they tried to sneak them in. I think what my House leader has suggested by way of those remarks is indeed profound. I'd say those were very wise remarks, because a government in a free and democratic nation such as ours, in a province such as ours, really is given the right to govern by the people of the province, given the right and their confidence and the trust. It's a solemn faith that you are given to govern, and if you betray that faith, then you have betrayed the people who have elected you and violated democratic principles and rights. You are certainly attempting to do that by muzzling the opposition, by muzzling all kinds of opposition. It's not just about members in this House. It's not just about opposition members not having their opportunity to speak.

By the way, I would remind members that today we would not have had a question period, given what transpired. You could have delayed question period because at 4 of the clock time would have elapsed. Today is an example of such an occasion where question period would not have been held.

It's conceivable that the government, when it decides in its wisdom and when it's convenient and when it's to its advantage, will not have a question period. Today is a perfect example, a very controversial issue, an issue the government would not want to be held to account for, would not like to have the scrutiny of question period placed before it, and certainly the government would attempt all sorts of delaying tactics and would have debates of all manner.

So debate would have taken place today, I submit to you, in an effort to stall or delay question period. Once they reached 4 of the clock on that sessional day, then question period would not have been held. That is clearly what's possible under the new rules as proposed. That's what we find so offensive. Any opposition party and any opposition member, and in fact the back bench should find this offensive if they were anything of a real back bench.

If you were here to defend the interests of your constituents, you wouldn't be asking all those fluff questions you ask every day. At some point, when you decide it's your time to get re-elected and your government may not be as popular, you will wish you had the opportunity to ask really tough questions that matter to people in your ridings.

You're giving that right up under these rules. You're forsaking all that. You should be ashamed because your constituents will be asking you: "Where were you when this matter came up and you didn't ask the tough questions?" Question period is an opportunity for you, as a member of this assembly, a right and a privilege that you have as a result of your election to this assembly by your constituents, to ask the members of this executive council to be accountable. Also to you; don't forget that. You have every same right that members of the opposition have, so you shouldn't forget that. You have every opportunity to get up in this assembly to ask questions. If you choose to be wimps about it, there's nothing the opposition can do.

I say that in all sincerity. If you choose to squander those opportunities, then you are going to be held accountable by your constituents, and there's no way to get around it. As chagrined as you may be --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Huron, member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, come to order.

Mr Cordiano: Come on, you can't sit there and tell me that. Day after day we hear members get up and talk about the most unimportant matters, items that are not really questions but statements that any minister could stand up and make in a statement.

I say to my colleagues, isn't that the truth? Let's be honest about what happens here. Shouldn't we try to make this assembly a real functioning assembly? That requires that you stop being trained seals. That requires that you have the authority and the responsibility the people of this province expect you to have. Stop being trained seals. Stand up and be counted, because you're not being counted, you're part of the herd, you're falling in line and you're following executive decrees.

You will pay a price for that at the next election. You will, and any of us who do that pay a price because today the public I think is cynical because we don't have an assembly that functions in an autonomous fashion. We have too much executive power being placed on this assembly and overshadowing the assembly, by virtue of the fact that we elect people in the back bench on the government side who are just simply following the will of the cabinet. That's a real fundamental flaw in our system.

Speak of committees: These rule changes propose to reduce committees to nine from 11 -- even less accountability and less opportunity for members to have a real say on what transpires. Important pieces of legislation -- my God, you're moving at breakneck speed, and yet not one of you has stood up in this House to suggest, "Maybe it's proper for us to slow down and examine legislation that's going through this House, properly and in a timely fashion."

We haven't stopped for anything. You haven't stopped for anything, and as a result of that -- and I remind members that Bill 26, as put forward by this government, would have been a major disaster, worse than it is now. You had 150 amendments made to Bill 26. There's no way we would have had that number of amendments put through if you rammed Bill 26 through this House without the opposition stopping it. There's absolutely no way you would have done that.

You're simply not recognizing the reality of this place. Do you know what? You've been here two years already, since most of you on the back bench got elected for the first time. You should have recognized by now that this assembly works best when you work on behalf of your constituents and when you're autonomous. I am not suggesting you vote against your own government on major pieces of legislation, but by God, you should stand up and suggest time and again that the rules are important, that you have an opportunity. Very few of you have stood up in this House to ask meaningful questions, or at all.

I suggest you should have greater opportunities, and you should have greater opportunities for autonomy in committees as well. These changes don't propose that. I see nothing of the kind here. In fact, your role is reduced and diminished. Is it any wonder the public out there is cynical about what we do in this place? No, they're cynical because you haven't recognized the need for what you do as important.

You're talking about changes. Let me point to some other changes. You're talking about expediting order paper questions, going from the right of the government to respond from 14 days up to 45 days. This government moves with lightning speed when it deems it convenient and advantageous. When members of the opposition or, I remind you, members of the back bench in the government put an order paper question, the government says it needs 45 days. Where is efficiency? Where is the requirement for efficiency at that point when it's not in the government's interest to do so?

Therefore, what are you suggesting? That the government should have 45 days. This government would like nothing better than for this assembly to run by executive decree alone -- no debate, no proper consideration. "If we put in a piece of legislation and there are errors, we'll amend it later. We'll fix it up through regulation."

With the magnitude of change that is being brought forward by this government, I think we're going to pay a huge price down the road. Half of what you introduced has yet to be implemented and work its way through the system. There are going to be huge consequences for that. There is no organization out there in the private sector that hasn't attempted a reorganization or a restructuring and not realized before it was long that to move too quickly is to make haste, the haste that causes all kinds of inefficiencies and results in incredible waste down the road. That hastiness costs you down the road and I think that is something that with these rule changes we'll see more of in this province. That's what it amounts to.

There is a huge number of changes. To require that two sessional days be folded into one day -- two sessional days could now under these rule changes be considered as one day, with one question period -- I think is preposterous. Just be clean about this. Come forward and say: "We want less time for questions in this House. We want less time to be held to account. We want less scrutiny from the public. We've run into all kinds of problems when that has happened, Bill 26 being one of those situations, and megacity legislation."


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): We had time allocation on Bill 26.

Mr Cordiano: You had debate on that because we forced you to do that. Both NDP and Liberals forced the government to its knees. We did that by taking extraordinary measures in this House, something I would never, ever want to do again in this assembly. It is absolutely incredible that we would have a government that would under the cover of darkness attempt to sneak in all these nasty changes which would limit debate in this House.

The traditions and conventions of this place, of this great assembly, are such that they should not be forsaken. Some people have mentioned that these are similar changes to those in Ottawa. I would suggest to you that in Ottawa one of the salient features of the system is that the much-maligned Senate in this case works to the advantage of the House of Commons, where there is sober second thought, where Senators indeed have a chance to scrutinize very closely legislation that has been passed by governments that would move to expedite matters, by governments that would move to the disadvantage of the whole society, having overlooked something that was truly important. There are numerous cases I could point to where that was the case.

The hallmark of any democracy is to grant proper and due deliberation with regard to matters that are of great importance to all of society. In order to do that, I don't see the government suggesting that we're going to have, as a result of these changes, proper debate in this House and a sufficient amount of time granted to the pieces of legislation that are processed in this House. I don't see that there are any changes being proposed that would allow us to have a greater amount of meaningful debate in this assembly.

Isn't it interesting that once members who were in opposition moved to that side of the House, they changed their views with regard to the rules of this assembly? I would refer to the remarks of the current deputy leader. I want to quote what he said back on June 22, 1992. The current Deputy Premier, who was in opposition back then, 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."

It's clear what the member for Parry Sound, now Deputy Premier, was suggesting. He was very clear. He was concerned that opposition members would not have the same privilege, the same opportunity to scrutinize the government, to allow for this slowing-down process so that sober second thought could take place by, yes, even the government members. On occasion, and there have been repeated occasions, governments have been found wanting with their pieces of legislation that have been brought forward, major gaffes. As I said, Bill 26 had at least 150 flaws in it that the government saw fit to amend. That's not just an errant example; that is a piece of legislation that required major surgery. There were many other instances where that occurred.

We're not just talking about getting rid of the nuisance that is the opposition and from time to time the delaying tactics that are being employed by the opposition parties. I can recall when we were in government it became quite annoying when the opposition -- major filibusters on insurance, the member for Welland-Thorold held up the Legislature for 17 hours, I think it was. We didn't like it, but on second thought it allowed for greater consideration of the very important matter that was before us: greater debate, greater public awareness. There is a time for consideration of legislation and for debate to end. We have no quarrel with that. But these rules go well beyond that.

The most galling aspect of this is the ability of the government to delay question period to 4 of the clock, when in a sessional day question period will no longer be held as a result of reaching that time period, 4 of the clock on a sessional day. For opposition parties and opponents and critics of the government and interested observers in the public, one of the hallmarks of our parliamentary government is question period, the ability for members of the opposition of different political stripes to ask members of the government, including the executive branch, to be accountable for their actions in a publicly assembled Legislature such as this.

In an assembly like this -- which is not a hallmark of many other systems; the executive branch in the United States is not held to account by the legislative branch on a daily basis, as our system is -- When you erode the ability for that kind of scrutiny, you're undermining our parliamentary democracy as we know it, parliamentary government. Therefore, it makes this assembly less relevant.

I think the frustrations will grow. You won't stop the opposition. You may silence some of us who sit in opposition, but you will not silence the people out there who oppose you. They will not stop voicing their concerns. They will not do that. If it's not in this assembly, it will be somewhere else: On the streets, on the lawns, in every part of this province there will be every struggle made for voices in the opposition, in the minority to be heard when they are displeased with this government.

That's what you're going to be faced with: more protests, more acrimony and less cohesion in our society. I hate to admit it, but that's what the end result of some of these changes will be. Yes, I'm probably exceeding the limits of what you might deem to be reasonable, but I think in a number of years, as this assembly becomes less able to be a forum for accountability, that will be the consequence down the road. That's a sad day for all of us in this province.

I can tell you this: The next time we find a way to delay the government -- for every rule, there's a way to get around it -- you're going to tighten the rules again. When is this going to end? When do we all agree as legislators that there's some reasonableness required here, that there's reasonableness to recognize the role of the individual member regardless of what party he or she belongs to, and that there is something to be said about that role of the individual member, that it respects the institutions of our democracy, that it respects the rights of his or her constituents to be heard through that member in this assembly? That's what we're talking about. When you deny that, you're denying the right of those people to have a voice.


Someone should do an analysis, and I think this might not be a bad idea, of how often members in the government back bench are given the opportunity to speak in this House. We're going to do this. We're going to show your constituents in each of your ridings that you're not really effective because you're not voicing their concerns, you're not speaking in this assembly.

It's to your disadvantage not to have greater opportunities to speak in this assembly. Opposition members are going to use that against you -- I will -- and I think it behooves you to make the case with the Premier that this is unacceptable, that these changes will limit your ability to function as you should as a duly elected, independent, thinking member of this assembly, regardless of whether you're on the government side or on the opposition side.

There are fewer and fewer opportunities for members to have their say in this assembly or on committee. I can recall a time when we used to have all kinds of committees sitting before, select committees on any number of important matters. I don't think we have a select committee sitting now. I could be mistaken, but there isn't one sitting currently.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): There hasn't been one for a long time.

Mr Cordiano: There hasn't been one for many years. Is that not a reflection of what we think of ourselves, that we simply don't find it important enough to have members who are knowledgeable, who are capable, who are duly elected to deal with matters of importance? Don't tell me that there aren't important issues to be examined these days, more now than ever. Yet you sit there and there isn't one select committee enabling you to do the kind of work that I think members of the public province-wide would find most useful.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'm sorry. It's just that so much is being said here and yet the government has failed one more time in their responsibility to satisfy the assembly with a quorum. The House is not duly constituted. Quorum call, please.

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk at the Table (Ms Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lawrence.

Mr Cordiano: It is indeed unfortunate that this matter is not being taken seriously by all members of the government. The only thing that's being taken seriously is the fact that the government House leader has suggested to the back bench: "This is a nuisance. We need new rules that will effectively deal with those terrible opposition members who delay and cause everything to be debated, cause everything to be properly considered. We don't want to have proper debate in this House." It's unfortunate.

It's unfortunate because we talk about rules around this place and today the Premier suggests that there's nothing wrong with the way in which the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing conducted himself, this after the Integrity Commissioner found him to be in breach of the integrity act. Now the Premier says, "Well, there's no requirement to do anything because he did not impose a penalty."

The Integrity Commissioner is suggesting that the Premier deal with this. He properly suggested that there is no penalty to be imposed under the act but that the Premier should have a set of guidelines to deal with cabinet ministers who violate those guidelines. I haven't heard the Premier suggest that he's got a set of guidelines that are being followed by his ministers. He doesn't have any.

Again, the question of rules being left to the interpretation of a government brings us to the ridiculous extreme where in the face of what's clear evidence, in the face of a determination made by an independent third party such as the commissioner on integrity that would suggest that a minister of the crown is in violation of the integrity act, then of course the Premier is left to interpret that because he has no guidelines. In this case, the Premier saw fit not to have guidelines, so he is able to interpret whatever he wants.

I would suggest that the rule changes do much the same thing. They allow for the government to virtually do what it wants. It is a sad day indeed in Ontario because there will be less accountability, less scrutiny of this government, less ability for the public to have its say, fewer opportunities for those voices of dissent. The right to respond will have been denied to the people of this province, and that is indeed a sad thing for all of us. Shame on the government.

Mr Wildman: I want to enter this debate to speak to the amendments that have been put forward by my friend for Cochrane North. It's a rather straightforward amendment and I want to preface it by saying that we have before us an already amended motion from the government which goes on for over 16 pages, which amends many, many rules, essentially rewrites the standing orders and changes the way this House will operate not just in the near term, for the next few months or the next couple of years. I predict that if the rule changes pass, they will remain in place unless I suppose a minority government is elected.

If there is a minority, then it might be possible that such a government would agree with the other parties represented in the House to revise the rules to properly serve all of the members of the House and the public of Ontario. But if majority governments are elected, I predict that unfortunately these rule changes probably will not change because majority governments are tempted to maintain such rules because it causes them a lot fewer problems.

We know that in 1992, the last time the rules were changed, there was a long period of negotiation among the three House leaders. The member for Parry Sound, when he sat in this same seat as I do, as the House leader for the third party, was involved in those negotiations. One of the rules of this government is now attempting to change is the rule that was suggested by the member for Parry Sound during those negotiations, and the government of the day accepted that rule. That is the rule that prohibits a government from introducing new legislation in the last two weeks of a session and allowing that legislation to be passed through to third reading. The rule allows the government to introduce a new bill for first reading but it can't proceed beyond that stage in the last two weeks. This government now is trying to change what is often called the Ernie Eves rule in this House.


I want to speak specifically to the amendment, but before that I want to say something that I think is of concern to most of the members of the assembly who support the government but are not in the executive council. I think a lot of those members are concerned about the fact that they don't get to speak in debates as much as private members who are on this side of the House. That is a problem in every majority government. It's been a problem for this government, it was a problem when we were in government, it was a problem when the Liberals were in government. A majority, particularly a majority that wants to get bills through quickly, tends to limit the number of government members who can speak in a debate because they want to get the bill through quickly. They're less interested in debate than they are in getting the law passed. That's what's wrong with these rule changes: They limit debate.

One of the things that has been suggested might enhance the role of private members is the fact that after five hours of debate, according to the government's motion, members will be limited to 10 minutes each. The idea apparently is twofold: (1) to try to make it possible to get things through more quickly; and (2) to allow government backbenchers more opportunity to speak. It would have both effects.

It may be too facile for me to say this, but I will anyway: One of the ways the government could give more opportunity for government backbenchers to speak under the current rules is simply not to try to rush things through so fast. They could allow government members to speak for 30 minutes, if they wish, or for whatever amount between one minute and 30 minutes, if they weren't trying to get it through in three days, which is what has become the norm here: two or three days' debate. If they wanted to allow two or three weeks, then they would be able to get --


Mr Wildman: The government members react by saying, "Two or three weeks?" as if that's unreasonable. It is not unreasonable, not at all. We are here representing the public of Ontario. There are some people who watch the sessions every day but they are a very small minority. The vast majority of people do not really pay rapt attention to what is happening in this assembly. The only way they hear about what's going on is if there's enough time for this to become a matter of debate in the media, whether it's radio, television or the press, and they then talk about it, they read about it, they see it on television, they talk to their friends, they talk to their service organizations and the other groups they belong to. It usually takes a few days before it becomes a matter of public concern, if it's a matter of debate in this assembly.

As members, we will go home on a Thursday night or a Friday morning. We will meet with representatives of the various organization in our constituencies. They will talk to us. But under the rules as proposed here, even the amended rules, it would be law by then. What kind of public debate is that? If the law is introduced on Monday, it can be passed by the end of the week.

That raises all sort of other problems too, of course. If you do things quickly, you make mistakes. That's one of the elementary things you learn as a child: If you do things too quickly without enough thought, you make mistakes. One of the reasons for scrutiny and debate is to determine whether or not there should be amendments to bills and changes to bills that might make them better or avoid errors.

If you try to rush things through, you're not going to have the opportunity for that and you're going to be doing things like you're now having to do with the megacity bill. You're going to have to come back later and bring in another bill to amend the one you passed, because you screwed it up.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bernard Grandmaître): Is there a quorum?

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Algoma to resume debate.

Mr Wildman: I must say I'm disappointed that people didn't rush in to hear me, but I understand that some of them may want to have food for the body as opposed to food for the soul.

I want to say one other thing: I really do agree with the previous speaker, the member for Lawrence, who said that there should be some real effort and concern about looking at how this place operates to ensure there is a role for private members on committees. Unfortunately, the committee system in this House has deteriorated. It never was very good but it has deteriorated to the point where particularly in majority Houses the government members on the committee simply act like a bunch of trained seals or a group from the Kremlin who just raise their hands like this and vote a certain way and never independently consider issues. It's really unfortunate.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Wildman: I know the members don't think we're serious about this debate, but we are. I've raised these concerns about the way committees operate for many years. The only time in the 22 years I've been in this House that I've found committees are effective is when we have minority governments. That's the only time when committees are effective because it forces the members of all the parties on committee to actually listen to what the people who come before the committee have to say and to respond and to work with each other. It forces them to.

I don't see why that couldn't be the case in a majority government, if the government -- and I'm not being partisan about this, I'm talking about all governments -- wanted to release their members and give them the freedom to actually act as independent members of Parliament on committee. But they never do; they always whip the committees. It's gotten to the point now where there is a whip appointed for the government members on each committee.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): Oh, not just the government members.

Mr Wildman: I'm not being partisan about that. I'm talking about all governments. When I first came here that wasn't the case. They didn't whip the committees. Sometimes governments were pretty angry when committees didn't do what the cabinet wanted them to do and there were lots of arguments in caucus about it afterwards. It didn't happen very often, but it did happen. There were lots of arguments about it, but I think that was a better system than we've got today.

The amendments put forward by my friend the member for Cochrane North amend two of these many rule changes proposed by the government in this motion. The amendment says that all the sections of the motion dealing with standing order 9(c) should be deleted and that the section of the motion that amends standing order 24 should be deleted.

Let me explain a couple of things about this: The reason we've put forward the motion is that this change to the standing orders proposed by the government would change the number of minutes members have to speak. I would hope that as a result of the discussions last night the government House leader and his colleagues are serious about actually talking about amendments to the proposal of the government. We are putting forward our view here; the government has put forward its view in the motion. If there are serious negotiations, perhaps we might end up somewhere in between. Maybe. That's if the government is serious about negotiations.

We are saying no change: 90 minutes for leadoffs, half an hour for speeches after that. The government is saying: "No, no. We want 40 minutes for leadoff, 20 minutes for speeches after that up to five hours, and then 10 minutes after that." If, and I underline the word "if", we're serious about negotiations, maybe by August we'll end up somewhere in between. We'll see. I'm afraid, though, that we will come back with what is in the motion now and a time allocation motion to get it through. But I hope we're into real negotiations.

We are putting forward a change dealing with standing order 24. Standing order 24 is the one that deals with the minutes, which I've just dealt with, and I don't need to go on at any length on that, but I want to deal now with standing order 9(c).

According to this amendment put forward by the government, the government would now be able with notice, because of the amendment the government brought forward, to extend the hours beyond 6. In putting forward our amendment, I want to make clear that we are not opposed to that. We're prepared to talk and negotiate, if we're into serious negotiations with the government, about extending into the evening if the government thinks it needs more time to deal with issues and deal with whatever the debate is.

We also understand that the government is saying that if they extend the hours they will not be able to debate, under the amendment they put forward, the same thing in the evening that they debate in the afternoon. We understand that is a concession from the government. We don't think it goes far enough, though, and I'll explain why.

The problem with this whole proposal is not the extension of the hours. We're not trying to limit the number of hours the government can sit if they wish, although I must say, and I say this sincerely, I have seen many evening debates in this place. The members who were not elected before 1995 haven't seen as many as I have. They've seen some, though, in the last few days, in the last few weeks, and I think if they were really being frank, they would agree with me that those evening sessions are not necessarily the most productive.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): You mean like now.

Mr Wildman: Obviously that member is not taking anything I'm saying seriously; I'm putting it forward in a serious fashion. I don't think they are very productive, but if the government wishes to extend the debate into the evening, that's fine with us. That's not our objection to the government's proposal. Our objection is trying to have two days for one, to count the evening session as a separate sessional day. If you want to just extend the day, fine, extend it to midnight, extend it to 2 am, whatever you like, particularly now that you have to give us notice. That's fine, but you can't count it as a separate sessional day.

The reason for that is simple. What the government is attempting to do is to get legislation through more quickly. They try to pretend that they're trying to protect the rights of the individual members. But they aren't; they're trying to get things through more quickly. If they get things through in six days, two bills in six days, which is what this means, there's no time for public debate and public involvement, public input into the process.

The government says: "Wait a minute. We didn't just think this up out of the blue; we got this from the British Columbia Legislature. They can do that in British Columbia." It's true they can. The government ignores a couple of things though. First, they ignore the fact that if they're going to have two sessional days in one day in British Columbia, in that Legislature you have two question periods.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): They have 15 minutes for question period.

Mr Wildman: I knew somebody was going to raise that. The government then says, "Wait a minute. The question period in British Columbia is only 15 minutes," but they ignore a very important factor. The Speaker mentioned this to me the other day because he's aware of this. Do you know how long the question period in British Columbia averages? It's 45 minutes. Do you know why? The reason is that the clock only counts the questions, not the answers. They run the clock differently in British Columbia. So when everyone around here keeps saying, "A 15-minute question period," that's not true. They have 45 minutes, on average. It's not as long as ours, ours is about an hour, but it's not 15 minutes.

If the government members have been told in their caucus that they only have 15 minutes in BC, they're not telling you the whole truth. The question period in British Columbia operates quite differently than it does here. First off, they only have about 50 members, so there are a lot fewer members.

Mr Rollins: We'll get it down to that.

Mr Wildman: Well, they have a lot smaller population too, of course.

It's rather interesting: On both sides of the aisle in British Columbia, the leaders don't sit on the front row. So I don't know what they mean when they say "backbenchers" in British Columbia because the leaders sit in the back. That's another interesting point. So I guess when they say they're trying to protect the rights of backbenchers in British Columbia, we know who they're really trying to protect.

There are differences there. You can't just transfer things from one place to another. There may be things we can learn from the British Columbia experience, but don't allow -- I don't think the government House leader would do this. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. We get along very well. We have disagreements, but on a personal basis we get along. I don't think he would tell the members of his own caucus anything but the complete truth. So he must have told you that question periods in British Columbia are 45 minutes. He must have told you that, because if he told you they were only 15 minutes, he wasn't telling you the whole truth.

In actual fact, the question period in British Columbia is 15 minutes shorter on average than ours is each day. But if they extend the House hours in British Columbia and have two sessional days in one calendar day, they have two question periods. So when the government here says, "We're just bringing our rules in line with some of the other assemblies in Canada and the House of Commons," they aren't. If they were really bringing us in line with that rule in British Columbia, they would have said, "Two question periods," and they didn't.


Mr Pouliot: What's a quorum in British Columbia?

Mr Wildman: I don't know that answer. At any rate, I think it's important for us to recognize -- we are saying here you can't force things through, two bills in six days. That's not enough time for public debate, it's not enough time for people to be informed about what's going on and to be able to have input. The government can't do this.

The government House leader has told us that was not the intention of the government when they brought in this rule change. If that wasn't the intention of the government, what was their intention? That hasn't been made clear. If you can't tell us what other reason you have for doing this, then we in the opposition can only assume that the reason you're doing it is to force things through in a rush.

The thing that really gets me about this whole proposal is that I have honestly yet to meet anyone in this province who thinks that this government is moving too slowly.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Would you please have a quorum checked. I don't believe we have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would the Clerk verify the quorum, please.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Will the member for Algoma please resume debate.

Mr Wildman: I know that the members opposite don't think the current rules are acceptable; that's why they've moved a motion to change the rules. You'll notice that when we moved an amendment, we didn't move an amendment dealing with every one of these 17 pages of rule changes. There are 17 pages of rule changes that the government has proposed, and we've only suggested amending two of them. If we were being unreasonable, I suspect we would have gone through these proposed rule changes and amended every one of them. Think about it for a minute. The fact that we have proposed only two amendments may indicate --

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): What are they?

Mr Wildman: They're before the House. Check with the Clerk.

That may indicate that we might be prepared to accept a number of the other amendments. Did you ever think that? Did you ever think that we might be serious about discussing this?

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Nobody ever does.

Mr Wildman: You don't seem to be serious about it. I don't understand why the members of this House can't approach something that is going to affect the way this House operates, that affects every member in this place --


Mr Wildman: I didn't say delete all of the amendments. There are actually four or five amendments that we have a lot of problems with, but there are two that we cannot accept as they are proposed. If you want to have further discussion about them and you want to get somewhere between where you are at in your proposal and where we are at in our amendment, then let's have that discussion, but just don't say, "It's our way or the highway." Don't say, "You've got to agree to these. We've got 82 members and we're going to get these through whether you like it or not," because this doesn't affect just the members of the House who are here now. These rule changes affect the way we as members of the House can represent the people who sent us here.

Mr Murdoch: You sort of did, though.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Grey-Owen Sound, please.

Mr Wildman: You know there were discussions and significant amendments. If the member had been present previously when I was speaking, he would know that I talked about the contribution of Ernie Eves to those amendment changes.

I would just say this: These amendments that we have put forward should highlight for the members of the government and for the government House leader at least -- because I suspect that his staff is listening to this -- should alert them about the two areas in particular that we have significant problems with and where we want to see the ability of this government to move: the number of minutes that members have to speak and the attempt to have two sessional days for one calendar day.

I will get back to the role of Ernie Eves in the 1992 discussions. The member for Parry Sound has been quoted in this House by myself and others to the effect that he said if a government, any government -- he was talking about our government at the time, but he was referring to any government -- moves forward unilaterally with rule changes, it will make the assembly a very acrimonious place. That applies today just as it did then. That's why we did not move forward unilaterally with rule changes in 1992. The other thing he said, which I think is very important, is if you tighten the rules so tight that members of the opposition don't have an opportunity to bring forward their views and to try to limit or slow down the government when they think that's necessary, it will slow down the whole process.

I don't think the members opposite understand that the effect of their rule changes will be this if they go through as they are: You'll be able to get controversial bills through more quickly. You'll be able to do that with these rule changes. But mark my words, every other non-controversial bill will take longer, because it will be an acrimonious place, and you know that the limits for debate in the House will become the minimums. If there were a bill put forward like the House calendar motion or the Waterloo bill or if there was a request for unanimous consent on something, it wouldn't happen. There will not be any unanimous consent ever agreed to, and sometimes the government needs that.

The Waterloo bill will not be passed in one afternoon, second and third reading requiring unanimous consent. We did that here because we were being cooperative and we wanted to get a good bill through. If the government does this to the opposition, mark my words, that won't happen any more. You'd have three days' debate on the Waterloo bill as a minimum.


Sure, you might be able to get something like the megacity bill through more quickly. You'll note that I didn't object, we didn't try to amend the proposal to be able to group amendments. Frankly, we expected that was coming. You want to do that? Fine. We achieved something with that particular strategy at that point. You want to close that off to us now? We're prepared to accept that. But we will indeed find another one.

This is something that Ernie Eves said in 1992 that is of significance: "It doesn't matter what the rules are if there isn't cooperation in the House. Without cooperation and respect, things will grind to a halt." The members of the opposition will find ways of getting around the rules and the tighter the rules are, unfortunately, the more bizarre will be the tactics resorted to.

If the rules are so tight that the opposition can't exercise its responsibility within the rules, they go outside of the rules. We've seen that in this House. That was one of the reasons the government caucus is so upset. What we did in the megacity bill was within the rules. You're now trying to close that off. Okay, fine. What happened on the night that there was an abstention was outside the rules. There will be more of those unless you agree to real negotiation.

Mr Young: Speaker, I am holding a copy of one of the best speeches ever delivered. It's a speech which holds a very important place in history, a speech which has probably meant more to a larger number of people than any other single speech in history, with the possible exception of the Sermon on the Mount, a speech that has been quoted from, read and re-read. It's a living testament to a great thinker and leader and a nation rededicated to freedom.

This speech is so powerful that I could read the first six words and most people in Ontario will know immediately what it is: "Fourscore and seven years ago." It's the Gettysburg address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, November 19, 1863, delivered in plain view of fresh graves of young soldiers who fought the bloodiest civil war in history. This speech elevated the suffering and found the birth of freedom, it found meaning in destruction.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think Mr Lincoln would have appreciated a quorum and so would this member.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Halton Centre, please resume debate.

Mr Young: Thank you, Speaker. This speech elevated the suffering and found meaning in the destruction. The meaning was a new birth of freedom and government of, by and for the people. The length of this speech? Less than three minutes, 274 well-prepared, thoughtful words, weighted with meaning.

I appreciate having the opportunity to speak on this issue. Only two years ago I first took my seat in this House on behalf of the people of Halton Centre. Since that time, I've spent a lot of time listening. I have listened very carefully to what's going on in this place. I've heard the ministers' statements and other responses to questions which were important and enlightening. I've even heard some good questions over the months.

I've also learned. I learned that much of what goes in here is unfortunately a big act: political theatre for the visitors, grandstanding and mugging for the cameras. I've watched adults, the members, act like children and I've watched children, the pages, act like adults. I've seen nine and a half days, 24 hours a day, of purely frivolous activity, the reading of repeated silly amendments with 10,000 street names attached. Then I saw our Speaker stand up and say straightfaced that it wasn't frivolous.

Along with my colleagues, I have been called by the opposition members beside me here a, "Nazi," "dictator," "jackboot," and I've watched as repeated, insincere, absurd points of privilege held up the business of the government of Ontario, the welfare of 10 million people, for days. I've seen the opposition members stand in their place and reluctantly drone on and on, without any real purpose except to waste time, for up to an hour and a half.

For what purpose do we endure all this? In my view, to hold up our government and our democracy to mockery. What an incredible gift we are squandering. One third of the world's population would give anything to live in Ontario, to have the opportunities and the freedoms we have and, of course, the most important freedom of all is freedom of speech. Yet we abuse this wonderful right.

Why do we speak in this place at all? What are the reasons? What is the benefit of debate? Isn't it supposed to be a real exchange of ideas? Isn't debate supposed to utilize persuasion and reason to lead us to better government? We now have better government, but we do not have better debate. The quality of the spoken word is too often denigrated in this place. Quality is sacrificed on the altar of quantity, time allotment and partisan positioning.

I have often looked up to the gallery to watch the puzzled, disillusioned faces of our citizens, the taxpayers, sitting in stunned silence, wondering what on earth is going on. We stop them at the door to the gallery. They're searched, asked to leave behind their handbags and coats and the whole process adds up to the mystique of the parliamentary system. They enter feeling, no doubt, they are about to witness something profound: the seat of democracy, the home of freedom, the forum of truth.

What do they see instead? They see some uninspired opposition member talking and watching the clock for up to 90 minutes, clearly without useful purpose, except to take up time in the House. So when I see our new rules will allow more members to speak on a bill and allow them six and a half times that three historic minutes required to deliver the Gettysburg address, I'm very pleased. I say to my colleagues, if you can't say it in 20 minutes, for goodness' sake, sit down and let someone else try.

Having said that, and having taken only 10 minutes, I will take my own advice and sit down.


Mr Michael Brown: Usually I say it's a privilege to take part in the debate. In this one, I don't feel any great sense of privilege. I feel as if we're living in a world where the privileges are about to be taken away from we who serve in this Parliament.

I've been here for about 10 years and during that time I guess I've seen two or three changes in the rules. It has always been my view that this place started to go downhill the day we decided we would limit members' ability to speak. That's really what this is all about. It used to be, when I first came here, you could speak for 90 minutes, you could speak for 17 hours, you could speak for 10 minutes, you could speak for an hour. It didn't matter. If you had something to say, you could say it.

When was it that governments got in trouble? It wasn't because someone spoke for two and a half hours or 15 minutes or 10 minutes or five minutes. Governments got in trouble in this place when they wanted to allocate the total time allowed to speak. If you would look over the period of the last 10 years and see when there was difficulty in this Legislature, it was always when a government was using something we euphemistically call "time allocation." That means the total House has less time to speak.

What happens when there is less time to speak? I remember Bill 26: time allocation. Government members, members of the Liberal Party and the members of the New Democratic Party were not permitted an opportunity to speak to Bill 26. It was an important, critical bully bill imposed on the people of Ontario but the government decided on Bill 26 that they would not permit members to speak. It didn't matter whether it was 20 minutes, it didn't matter whether it was two hours, you weren't going to be allowed to speak. It didn't matter whether you were a Liberal, a Progressive Conservative, a New Democrat or my friend from Elgin, an independent, you weren't going to be allowed to speak.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I count only 12 members in the House. I believe that's not a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would the Clerk please check for a quorum.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Algoma-Manitoulin to resume debate.

Mr Michael Brown: It's very nice to see the members coming out to hear what I have to say about this particular issue.

As I was saying before we called the government members to maintain the quorum, which they are required under our rules to do, it seems to me that as each government tightens these rules, and I guess they've probably all been guilty since John Robarts on, what has happened is the individual member's control of his ability to speak in debate, hopefully to convince people of his or her position, has been steadily and irretrievably lost.

To me, that has brought about a situation in this House that is truly unfortunate. It causes opposition parties, who believe that the public needs to know what the legislation is about -- we cannot just ram the thing through this Legislature in two or three or four days. The public has a right to know what a bill is about. Indeed, members have a right to fully understand what a bill is about before they debate it. This might seem unusual to the people who are outside, but I will say quite honestly that many members, when it comes to second reading debate, if it comes quickly, don't really fully understand the implications of that piece of legislation.

We have at any given time 130 or 140 pieces of legislation before us, many of which are extraordinarily complex. People around this province have various views about them, and we have not had time to not only read but understand and to canvass the opinions of our constituents on what this bill means to them. Because at the end of the day that's what governments do: They pass laws that impact on those people in Elliot Lake, in Espanola, Spanish, in Massey, on Manitoulin. Indirectly and directly, it affects those people somehow. There's virtually nothing we do here that eventually doesn't impact upon them in some particular way.

There are a lot of unintended consequences. Virtually no one passes a law around here or even suggests a law that's going to do something bad, but often in your mission of trying to do something "good," the bad side causes more trouble and you do more inappropriate things than you fix. We all know that and that's why it's important when we're considering legislation to take some time to think about it. That's why it's so important for the members of this Legislature to have the opportunity to debate.

It is not a terribly efficient way. This place is dysfunctional. There are 130 of us from all over the province of Ontario, from 130 different backgrounds, I dare say, representing a huge number of views. We come together in a place and are supposed to somehow on a given piece of legislation, perhaps in three days under these new rules, come to a consensus and say, "Yes, that's good," or, "That's bad." That's absurd, plain absurd. Democracy was never meant to be "efficient." It was meant to provide the people with a government and the laws that make the place work.


These new rules keep the people of Ontario -- because it is the people of Ontario. When I stand here to speak, I represent my constituents. Some of them write me and say, "Gee, that wasn't exactly what I wanted you to say," and that's the real world, but I try my best to represent what they would think of an issue, as we all do; sometimes well, sometimes not so well, but we give it our best effort.

If what you're telling me is that what we need is less debate -- and that's what this means. It means less debate. It means less opportunity to discuss the issues that are important. It means that the opinion of the Office of the Integrity Commissioner this morning could not be debated to the same extent that it would be under the rules. This is an extraordinary ruling by the Integrity Commissioner. He said that a minister of the crown, a minister of this government has flagrantly breached the rules, the law. I think the people's representatives should have something to say when a member of this place, and most especially a minister of the executive council, has flagrantly breached the laws of this province -- not a standing order of the House but the laws of the province. We know there are at least two other ministers in this executive council who have done the same thing.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We again do not have a quorum in this House.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please check for a quorum.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member for Algoma-Manitoulin to resume debate.

Mr Michael Brown: As I was saying, we have before us a report from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner. We want to debate that because we are required to debate that. The statute says we must debate this report, a report that says a minister of the crown flagrantly breached the law.

We should get to talk about this, because quite astoundingly, this government and Mr Harris have refused to take any action over this at all. Regardless of their inaction, regardless of their apparent disregard for parliamentary tradition and the traditions of this particular Legislature, they intend to just bully this one on through too. Bully is the style: "If we don't like the way the place is going, we bully the change in the rules. If we don't like the ability of the health care system to do what we want it to do, we're going to bully it. We're going to appoint through Bill 26, the bully bill, a health restructuring commission that will do the bullying for us without the normal restrictions you would find through the legislative process."

Time and time again you find the government moving quickly, without thought, into areas that you would wonder, if you had ever read the Common Sense Revolution, they were moving into at all. Nevertheless, that's the style, and that's the reason the opposition needs to have the ability to talk.

If we have the ability and government backbenchers have the ability to speak during debates -- and I'm always amazed at how little time the government back bench takes to speak in these debates. The House leader and Mr Baird, the member for Nepean, say that the back bench over there doesn't get a chance to speak. Why the heck don't they get a chance to speak? They get a rotation just the same as everyone else in this Legislature. Every three times, it's a Conservative. What happens during the debates? They don't get up. Do you see them get up? I don't see them get up. We have more debates around here where the official opposition speaks, the third party speaks and nobody over there speaks, and somehow it's our fault that the back bench of the government doesn't speak.

They have the same opportunity we have, exactly the same, as we go around. They get 90-minute lead speeches at the moment. We get 90-minute lead speeches. There's no difference -- none. You get the same amount of time to speak in the debates as the opposition does. It's exactly the same right now. The fact that you don't take advantage of it, the fact that you don't use it is no one's fault but yours. Somehow you say: "It's the opposition's fault. We've got to change the rules."

Why are they changing the rules? Because they don't want the people of Algoma-Manitoulin to be heard here. They don't want the people of St Catharines or Cornwall to be heard. They don't like what we have to say sometimes and they don't want to defend themselves. They won't get up in the debate. What they want to do is not have a debate. They would be much happier if this place didn't exist. I think Mr Harris would be much happier if his cabinet didn't exist. I think he'd just like to run it out of that corner office, and that's pretty much the way it goes right now anyway.

I see my friend from Grey-Owen Sound here. He no doubt can attest to some of the things I'm saying. I'm sure he will be up speaking in this debate in the next rotation after our friends from the third party. I'm sure Mr Murdoch, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, will have some words to say about these rule changes and how they affect the back bench of the government participating in the debate. The fact is that his whip won't let him get up to speak. That is the problem. It isn't the opposition, it isn't the length of speeches; it is the under-the-thumb control of Mike Harris and the whiz kids down in the corner office.

Who is going to pay the price? It isn't the opposition. I think I heard a member in here earlier say, "The opposition will figure out another way." If they believe the public does not appreciate what the government is doing, if they believe the public needs a little more time to comment on it and convey their views to the government, the opposition will do something to slow things down. It will happen. I don't know what it will be, but it will happen.

Oppositions don't do nutty things. We're serious people over here. We would just as well prefer not to stand and read the lakes and rivers into the Hansard of the province. We would just as soon not do that. We don't want to do silly things like stand and read all the lakes and rivers alphabetically into the record of the province and hold up the government. We don't want to do that. But you know what? Mike Harris did it, because he thought public opinion was not on the side of the government. He thought the public of Ontario needed some time to understand what the government was up to and certainly that public opinion would give the government the message that they should back off. So you read all the lakes and rivers for hours and hours, I think days. He did it, but he did it because he believed it was his only option under the rules at that time to slow the place down just long enough so that the people of Ontario can understand what a particular government, whoever the government might be, is up to.


I think that oppositions don't want to do that. I serve in a caucus where until relatively recently the member for Brant-Haldimand, Mr Nixon, was a force within our caucus, and Mr Nixon believed in debate. Our caucus did not believe in ringing bells, reading lakes and rivers into the record, doing what the public might believe to be a little bit immature sort of tactics. We didn't do that. We wanted to debate. We still want to debate. The members of the Liberal caucus still want to put the points of view of their constituents before the government. When we lose that opportunity is when you get tactics that governments don't appreciate and that probably demean the place, because in some ways they make the whole place be held in a little less high esteem.

I think that's unfortunate, but I come back to the basic message: It only happens when you allocate the time, when opposition and government members do not have ample opportunity to put their views before the people of Ontario.

That is what the government is intending to do. It brought these changes in under the cover of darkness, brought them in on a federal election day when for the first time in over 120 years Ontario's Legislature was called to sit. It gained the government absolutely nothing in terms of time because the opposition had offered to sit the Friday of that week, which would have given them the same number of days. But they did that because they knew the opposition, and the press especially, were more particularly interested in the federal election than they were in at any event that might be around Queen's Park.

Many of us were in our constituencies during the federal election because we needed to vote, and we did. I was one who was not here. I was proud to vote at 10:30 in the morning in Kagawong, but that meant I could not be here. It's too far away. I could not be here if I voted at that hour at my home in the village of Kagawong on the north shore of beautiful Manitoulin Island. It couldn't be done. But that's when --

Mr Pouliot: I live in Manitouwadge.

Mr Michael Brown: I have a friend who lives in Manitouwadge. It would be even more difficult for someone from Manitouwadge to be here on time.

Anyway, that's what the government did. It's just so typical of these people. Everything is done sneakily, if I can say that, under the table. They try to bring things in here, hope nobody will notice, try to get them through before somebody figures out that this is the plan. When you treat Parliament that way, you get parliaments that do silly things.

I would agree that sitting here during the Bill 103 debate, during the megacity debate, it really was kind of silly to be reading all the street names in Toronto in virtually the identical motion. I know, Mr Speaker, you would agree that was something that was rather silly. But it worked. It did what we wanted it to do over here in opposition. Because we were under time allocation and hadn't been able to amply discuss the bill, we had the opportunity through this extraordinary means under the rules to allow public opinion a place to focus, and the government at least got part of the message.

Shortly after that we had the extraordinary announcement by the Minister of Municipal Affairs: "Oops, our famous downloading plan is off. You know what? What people in the opposition and people out in the community have been saying to us all along is this dumping of social services totally on municipalities -- that's off, we're not going to do that any more."

Do you think that would have happened if people hadn't raised their voices and said, "You know, Mike Harris, this is nuts"? I don't think it would have. I think if people hadn't said, "Mike Harris, this is a crazy thing to do," and had the opportunity to understand what he was proposing, he still would have done it. They wandered all through this talking about taking the education tax off property taxpayers. That was widely popular. Everybody wants the education tax taken off residential property taxes. It's a great plan. Mr Snobelen was fabulous talking about that. He sold Bill 104 on the basis of, "I'm taking all this property tax off the residential homeowner." You know what? Leach put it back on. Amazing.

The people are now going to pay that residential property tax, only you're not supposed to notice because now it's collected by the municipality and they just get this bill from the province. The province decides -- I'm sorry, Mr Speaker.

Mr Pouliot: With respect, Mr Speaker, one more time, time and time again, they fail to secure the 20 necessary members. Would you please check for a quorum?

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you please check for 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: The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma-Manitoulin.

Mr Michael Brown: Mr Speaker, as you know, I was speaking to the motion on the rules and I was speaking to the point --

Mrs Boyd: To the amendment.

Mr Michael Brown: The amendment to the basic motion on the rules. What I was trying to convey is the frustration of opposition members when they don't have ample opportunity to debate. This change in the rules does not permit the members of this assembly the opportunity to speak when they need to speak on behalf of the people they represent.

I was saying before I was interrupted by the government's inattention that we all come here representing the people in our constituencies. It's a difficult role. We can't always do exactly what each and every one of them wants to do. But I believe we all come here, regardless of where we come from, with an honest dedication to speak on their behalf.


When we come, we expect the opportunity to speak, to be able to speak. Whether you're a Liberal, a New Democrat, a Conservative, a Rhinoceros, an independent, it doesn't matter: We're sent here to speak on behalf of our constituents. We do it in a number of ways. This is one avenue. We work at our committee work where we speak on behalf, we lobby the ministries, we write letters, we talk to people. There are lots of different avenues for us to speak. But by far the one I believe to be the most effective is this one. To be able to stand in front of this chair is a tremendous privilege that we all have. It's a privilege that has been fought over in the British system of government for hundreds and hundreds of years. Speakers have died, people have given up their lives, for the opportunity to stand and speak in these kinds of places, whether it's this particular Parliament or another one.

What this government is intending to do is bad for democracy, it is bad for the people of Ontario, because it is greatly decreasing the amount of time that your member, regardless of which constituency you come from, can represent your views to the Parliament of Ontario.

I heard a member in the Conservative Party criticizing the quality of our debate. That's fair enough. Some of what gets said around this place is not of high quality, but it is not for me to judge; it is for the people I represent to judge. We have a right to come to speak our minds; we have a right to come to speak for our constituents. That holds for every member in this Legislature. Frankly, this is all about making sure there isn't very much time to speak. That is wrong; it is bad.

You're called the Speaker. Why are you called the Speaker? It's because we speak through you. I guess all speakers are going to be even shorter after this; I don't know. It just seems to me that as a member, I'm not going to be able to do my job quite as well the day after these rules pass as I was before.

I would implore the government, if it wants to change the rules, to come to a consensus with the opposition parties. I would say to them, get rid of some of the nonsense in the rules. Some of the bell-ringing and some of the goofy stuff that happens around here only happens because you restrict debate. Do whatever you want in terms of getting rid of the silly kinds of delay tactics that happen around here, but the tradeoff for that is giving us the ability to debate -- not putting time limits on our speeches, allowing members to speak when they need to speak on behalf of their constituents.

That is what you should be considering, and I think if you go back to that kind of system instead of using time allocation motions, closure motions that cut off debate, you won't have these kinds of problems, you won't have the opposition looking for innovative ways to get around the rules. As I said before, I don't want to stand here and read the lakes and rivers into the record. I think that's a waste of the public's time. It shouldn't happen, but frankly, if one party believes the people of Ontario will back them, that party will read the lakes and rivers into the record of the province of Ontario. I know, because Mr Harris did it. They will do these kinds of things. Frankly, it is only out of frustration with not having rules that permit a wide debate among members.

The government House leader would be a wise man if he stood in his place and just withdrew this motion, went back, talked to the two House leaders of the opposition and said: "Let's get together. Let's find a way that will make this place work a little bit better. Let's make some rules that make democracy work for all." I think we could find an accommodation. But if he goes forward with these rules in this place at this time, it is virtually a declaration of war on the people of Ontario and the opposition, which represents at least 55% of those, according to the 1995 election.

Rather than declaring war on 55% of the people's representatives, you would be wise to go back and find a consensus among the House leaders, who are both reasonable people, to find a way that we can expand the amount of time to debate and lessen the ability to do, or to have to do, the silly things we sometimes have to do around here.

Mr Pouliot: This is a sense of déjà vu. We mobilize the time of the House, the members sitting here, the general public, the services, from Hansard to the table, simply because of the most draconian choice that the government has chosen to adopt.

On June 8, 1995, Ontario gave a mandate to the government we have today. It was indeed a new order. Attached to their Common Sense Revolution -- I trust, Mr Speaker, that you too, with respect, ran your campaign with the mantra on the one hand, with the document, with the manifesto that was written by Harrisites, by Harris and the followers. In it was their agenda for power. They had a litany, a lament, 40 or 50 pages of what they were to do. They were to change the way of business, the face of Ontario, forever, so they thought.

The Common Sense Revolution, that document, was superimposed with a timetable. They had to get it done quick, quick, quick, tout de suite. In order to do this, they had to gag, muzzle, silence the opposition, because you see, by exercising their democratic right the opposition slows things down. The opposition gets in the way. It's the old trick. There is so much, they wish to go so quickly, at blinding speed, and you're to do that in the first two or two and a half years and then the tricks of their trade, of their vulgar profession, are to make you forget in the last two years of their mandate that they had been so evil, that their ill-fated legislation was hurting many, many Ontarians; in fact, hurting more people than it was helping. So the government said, "Look, people will need time to forget."

Let me give you an example. Only yesterday we were debating Bill 129, a post-budget bill.

Yes, Mr Speaker?



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): If I could just ask to stop the clock, if I could have the indulgence of the members, I think it would be appropriate, and I thank the member for Lake Nipigon for allowing me this opportunity, to rule on the points of order that were outlined earlier by many members.

I want to thank all the members who made submissions on the issue of the report of the Integrity Commissioner concerning the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I listened to and carefully considered all of your comments. This matter comes before us because a request was made by the member for York South for the Integrity Commissioner's opinion on a letter written by the minister to the Health Services Restructuring Commission concerning a hospital in his riding. Further details on that issue are in the Integrity Commissioner's report and stand on their own. The commissioner's report, however, now resides with us.

The Members' Integrity Act provides that a commissioner's report of this nature shall be considered and responded to by the assembly within 30 days. Members have made submissions which have expressed varying opinions of what the word "day" in the Members' Integrity Act means. Firstly, the term "sessional day" has a specific meaning in our standing orders, but not necessarily the same meaning in statutes and the Members' Integrity Act.

To clarify the issue of what a "day" means in the context before us, I have consulted with the Integrity Commissioner, the Honourable Gregory Evans. Judge Evans is of the very firm and unequivocal view that the term "day" in the Members' Integrity Act means a calendar day. I concur with Judge Evans. In my view, the act's meaning is plain and is not reasonably subject to any other interpretation.

It is my opinion that section 34 of the Members' Integrity Act places an obligation at our feet. However, when this obligation is addressed and resolved is not within the purview of the Speaker.

Except in an instance of a prima facie case of privilege, there exists no authority within our standing orders for the Speaker to order or determine the business of the House. Such authority and discretion resides directly with the government House leader, conferred by standing order 54 and by practice and custom.

The argument that this report has already been considered during ministerial statements and responses today is without foundation. That process did not consider the substantive issues contained within the report. Having been apprised of this situation today, I am confident that the government House leader will take note and act accordingly.

I'm sorry to interrupt the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want to indicate through you to the government House leader that we would be delighted to comply with any request he would have to debate this tomorrow in the House. He has my assurance of that.

The Speaker: That's not a point of order. That's probably negotiation. We will continue.


Mr Pouliot: I thank you, Mr Speaker. In view of the extraordinary events that took place this afternoon, including Minister Breach -- I mean Minister Leach -- and two of his associates, colleagues, and the repeated relentless requests from both the official opposition and members of the third party that this affair be addressed, I would be only too willing to extend the courtesy of the time remaining, 25 minutes on the clock, so that we can debate this urgent matter.

You will understand then that there is a human dimension attached to it. We have, as I speak, in the political context, a member of the executive council who is probably bleeding to death. We've heard rumours from people in the corridor that again as I speak the Julius Caesar syndrome was very much alive and well and that the vultures were gathering and the circles were getting lower and more focused. In fact, it's been expressed by some members of cabinet just outside before I came here that the true opposition at this time, and this is a sad day indeed, does not lie with the Liberals nor the NDP but with the people around them. So it is not a pretty sight. There are rumours of a carnage that people will expedite, and they are descending on the carcass of one minister who has fallen from grace.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. I was just wanting to understand that you're bringing this within the amendment to the motion that's before us.

Mr Pouliot: I will indeed, but we cannot wait for too, too long, for ministers in disgrace are a bit like fish: After three days they begin to smell a little, to ferment, and their future is indeed behind them.

Rule changes: Again at the risk of sounding repetitious, the pundits, the columnists, the political experts, these people who follow the political scene not only in Ontario, not only in Canada, but worldwide, people who make it their affair to compare, to monitor one system vis-à-vis another, when presented with what is being attempted -- actually with what is being done here -- are beyond appalled and shocked in their reaction. They remind us, rightly so, that this is unprecedented in the legislative assemblies of Canada, that the government has its role, ample opportunity to expedite passage of its will, of its program, and no one will begrudge, no one will say it shouldn't be that way.

Governments in a majority position, when all is said and done, when all the debates have taken place, inevitably, and that's great, shall have their way. If it's legislation that does not find favour with the public -- and not all bills that become law do, because you have to make some unpopular decisions from time to time -- you do so at your own peril. But what is being done here is transparent. It pushes beyond any previous threshold the government agenda, for they have few bills that work in isolation. Their program is meshed, the legislation is webbed, so they must advance on many, many fronts, and if they do it quickly, if they shoot to kill at the beginning, they believe the people of Ontario have a very short memory. They'll do their dirty tricks, and then we're supposed to forget because we're not there to voice the dissatisfaction in the last two years, and then like lemmings go back to the polls when the writs have been issued and mark our little X like very docile, lamblike citizens and say we will return that coalition, the present government, for a second term, that of the alliance of the Reform Conservatives.

It's not going to happen this way because yesterday we were debating Bill 129. How can you forget that if you make $23,000 a year, a family of four, under the tax break you shall receive $450 per year? Whoopee-do. Big time. Let's paint the town blue. But if you make $257,000 per year, more than a quarter of a million dollars, you shall receive, for it is written by the lot there, the government of the day, the princely sum of $15,000, 30 times more than people on small salaries who are trying to round off the month.

If you make $1 million, and some people do -- alas, not too many -- then you've hit the jackpot. You've arrived. Today is your day under the sun, for when you file with Revenue Canada, that group of well-organized people, you're looking at $100,000.

The irony of what the Mike Harris government is proposing is that if you make $1 million and you get their tax break, the tax break alone per year is more than four times the salary of people making $23,000, more than four times their salary.


Mrs Johns: Explain the $100-billion, the billions of dollars a year that you put my kids into debt.

Mr Pouliot: When you mention that, it provokes the worst in people, and they do it by grabbing a club, but it's the reality. I'm not the one saying this. If only I were the one saying this and could change it -- I would never have introduced it and therefore would not have to change it. But it's push, push, push. The agenda is at the station. There is only one train leaving the station. The length of track is their term of office. It must leave on time, and I must give them that. They've modelled their method of delivering, having the trains run on time, and they're quite proud of that. They superimpose, you see. They have an itinerary. They must get there; the brigade must be at the next station to deliver.

It's going to take about four years to change the face of Ontario, but from the time you pass your legislation until implementation, if it's in the last term of office, you begin to wear it.

For instance, remember the bill to close hospitals. They went into that Pandora's box, into that bag of snakes, and they came out with a bill to close hospitals. They said, "We can't close hospitals and debate back and forth, because people will take notice." So they established a commission, another brigade if you wish, a platoon that had the power to do all the necessary raiding, to padlock. At the headquarters, you don't have to deal any more; the commission does -- the commission did. But if you debate, it takes a little time to close hospitals, and if you close hospitals six months before the election, as you know, Mr Speaker, people will start shouting. People will interrupt every proceeding if you do that, and a referee, an arbiter like you, will be asked to bring them back to order.

The opposition is saying, "Look, let's talk about this." There are people who want to cut all the trees, and some people do not wish to cut any trees, but in there you can recycle, you can harvest what is mature and you can ensure prosperity. But before you do this, you must study your plans. You don't wish to make too many mistakes. That's the way you do it. Then you see the collective effort. You will have your way, for you have the majority. You have underestimated, with respect, the capacity of people to deal with change. People will readily admit that subconsciously, even consciously, they go through change every day. They are not opposed to change, but to be able to digest, to assimilate the changes, they have to be well thought out.

I recall again very vividly some of us sat on the committee where you came up with -- if it's your philosophy, I respect you and I respect your opinion -- the megacity. I may disagree, and that's okay. But halfway through, it's not the same any more, and then again it's not all that or it's not all this.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It seems obvious there is no quorum in this place.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please check for a quorum.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): 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 Chair recognizes the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: I too, like my colleagues with the respective parties of the opposition, am quite disappointed, and you will perhaps allow me a mise au point. No less than perhaps a dozen times in the past couple of days we constantly have had to call for quorums. I find it quite difficult in a House which has 130 members, 82 of those 130 --

The Acting Speaker: We're now discussing the amendment to the motion. I just want you to bring your comments within that, please.

Mr Pouliot: Thank you very kindly, Mr Speaker. I understand, with respect, that you're very busy, so when we're talking about standing orders being amended in a severe fashion, the number of seats being reduced from 130 to 103, a logical question would be about what is a House that's duly constituted. It brings us -- you're quite right -- directly to the requirement of people present in the House, which is that of a quorum. The rules come very close, and I believe the analogy has some validity; the parallel is valid. How can you look at these changes that are being proposed by the government without first at the forefront asking yourselves what constitutes the House? It goes hand in hand. This is why I spend a minute or two to talk about the very important composition of the House, the necessities, the requirements, the quorum, that so many members present will constitute the assembly.

I know you were concerned because I saw you, and you shot up, if I may. You got up quickly and you said to talk about the quorum in the context of what is being debated here. I thank you, Mr Speaker, because I know -- I have followed your career -- that you too are concerned. I also know that you, in your position, cannot say too much, for you have to be impartial. I see you shaking your head, sir, and I know that you would like to say what is being done here is wrong. I know you're an educated and intelligent person and I admire you, but you cannot, in your present position, chastise the government for what they're about to do.


Systematic it is; deliberate it is. It's taught. Oh, not by the back bench. These backbenchers want to go fast. They're in a hurry. The career is condensed. They have ambition, coupled with some vanity, a touch, a spice of egocentricity, and it will propel some politicians for a long time. But just in case they don't come back, just in case they have to pack their tents, just in case they have to apologize for having been here, just in case they are overnighters, in case they're not voted for by the electorate because of what they're doing, they have to make sure that they leave a presence, that they leave a legacy, that the train is pushed down the track as far as possible, that they derail everything that has been done before.

Sometimes it's better to do nothing, to wait. Other times, when you have a convention and something is wrong, you must isolate some molecules. You don't have to change everything. But with them it's the only way. Nothing, it seems, that has been done before in our vast and magnificent province is working, for they're changing almost everything.

The United Nations has decreed for the fourth straight year that the best country in the world to live in is ours, Canada, even with our faults. But the onus is on the positive; it gets better. But right now it's no better than in Canada, and Ontario is the engine. They tell us that child poverty is not our best record, that we should do something about child poverty. They also tell us about youth unemployment, which is tragically high.

Are these the kind of rule changes to expedite because we need to help the children who have less? Is this why we're pushing the rule changes, to help the children who have less, give them a helping hand, give them a chance? Are we introducing -- this is the government speaking -- the rule changes to put young people back to work between the ages of 16 and 24? Twenty per cent are not working, are not making a wage, big-time trouble looming. Generation X too wants to buy the big-ticket items. They want a chance to live. You won't find any opposition when you have those measures. People wouldn't dare.

You're changing the rules because you feel that it's not going fast enough. We offer to sit, to prolong hours. Then they say: "You're filibustering. We will decide when you're being childish. We will decide when you're being unreasonable." Never mind that when they were the third party, they spent a full three days reading every creek and river and lake in the province of Ontario in alphabetical order. They were wasting time, but then they were on the other side and now it's we who are wasting time.

The fact is that the system works; the system works because it has checkmarks. It's amazing. It seems that every government wishes at one time to facilitate their agenda, their program, to change the rules. You've got to watch for balance, and it also seems that the opposition, with its determination, always finds ways to express its role -- at times to oppose, at times to suggest, at times to amend, all times to represent. Amazing. They always find a way.

They're saying: "You're being mischievous, you're being biased. You want us to go back and sit there and you want to take our place and govern the province." If it were only that, you are fortunate and you wait a while, wait your turn and the number will come up. We find the measures draconian because we've checked around. We've asked people -- Floyd Laughren, again and again, from Nickel Belt, is appalled, hurt. He is searching long and hard and saying: "Why would they do this? What's the difference?"

Now they can pass a bill in four days. This is very good, that you pass a bill in four days. Our House leader mentioned, in different words perhaps, earlier on, some days you can pass many bills and it takes so little time -- it's not a threat; you're the boss people, you have the majority -- and deservingly so. But I wish I didn't have to choose that kind of terminology where you have the boss and you do as you're told. This is a democracy; this is unlike another forum for discussion. Maybe it should be a little more, some will say a little less, but the system works with the present checkmarks.

If you wish to have full debate -- not by way of threats or ultimatums; it doesn't fit my style -- do what you have to do. How do you want to proceed? There are some choices. We can be most imaginative, most innovative, heaven knows. We have people who excel at that kind of methodology, and they entice the help of many, many friends. Let it not come to that. The opposition will never see itself under a state of seige. The dynamics do not allow; you're not conditioned that way when you have 15 and 30 members. Credibility is important to us; accountability as well. But it has often been said that the process is made to allow the opposition to express the voices of the opposition. When you attempt to take that away, you shortchange yourself. You're doing it to yourself. You're hurting and eating your young.

Let's give our head a shake and smell the coffee here. It's not going to go any faster, and people will be quite upset. You say, "You're upset as it is. We really don't give a darn," if I may be so bold. "Whether you like it or not, just get off the track. I'm coming down the track." Well, well, well, Mr Harris, my man, if you want to play it this way, we will take whatever book, whatever sheet the rules are written on and we will flag it all over to make sure the people we represent have their say. It is not mathematics, it is not nuclear physics, it is not Greek mythology; it's called democracy, give and take, a fair shake, a chance, a voice, not a gag order, not the straitjacket, not the handcuffs, not the shackles, not the chains.


Mr Pouliot: A friend of mine asks me, "How many goosesteps are there to Manitouwadge?" because I live up north. This is not the kind of language. If you ask me how many kilometres or how many miles, maybe I can help, but how many goosesteps to Manitouwadge is not the kind of terminology I will accept, Mr Speaker.

Mr Len Wood: It's not very parliamentary.

Mr Pouliot: It's not very parliamentary. If it's in keeping with the kind of verbiage we hear -- I go back, as I conclude, to the idea that the agenda is to make the trains run on time. What we're saying is that what is being done here is wrong. There has not been any consultation. We're getting the rules shoved down our throats and the province suffers as a consequence of it.

I know that when it will be time to vote many of the foot soldiers and spear carriers on the other side, those ambitious Young Turks would like to vote with the opposition. They're bothered by it; their conscience bothers them. But those ideologues have read and repeated the manifesto so often that I have no illusion that they will side with equilibrium and a balance. I have absolutely no illusion. That's why I've chosen while speaking to them to address the good many people in Ontario who still believe in a democratic system. I want to thank you, Speaker.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Before the interjections start from across the floor, I would point out that I have sat in this chamber without one single interjection with respect to my colleagues the member for Algoma-Manitoulin or the member for Lake Nipigon. I'm looking forward to the same respect in exchange. I think, Mr Speaker, that you will observe that interjections are out of order so that we can have an opportunity to speak in this House, and that's really what all this debate has been about. We're debating the motion to change the standing orders of the House.

The interesting aspect of this debate is that we're here, on both sides of the chamber, and I respect this, passionately expressing our views and, on both sides of the chamber, expressing passionately our concerns: one, the opposition, their concerns about the changes and, on the government's side, our concern about the necessity for the changes. What is it that has brought us to this point?

I actually was encouraged to hear a little time ago, about 45 minutes ago, the member for Algoma-Manitoulin say that he agrees that sitting here reading street names was rather silly. I respect that member for making that statement, for making that admission because frankly sitting here for 10 days non-stop, 24 hours a day, reading 15,000 amendments that were identical in wording, except for the change of the street name --

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It would be in order if we had a quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check whether a quorum is present.

Clerk Assistant: Mr Speaker, a quorum is not present.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: Mr Speaker, a quorum is now present.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: What I was saying was that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin had admitted that he thought it was rather silly to sit here and read street names. In fairness to that member, not to take that sentence out of context, he led into that comment by referring to the fact that the member for Nipissing, in opposition, had read names of lakes and rivers and streams at one point when the opposition parties were trying to make a point against the then government.

But what he didn't say was that when the member for Nipissing did that, he did it for one day; not for 10 days, 24 hours a day. He did it for one day from whatever time he started; I think it was about three and a quarter hours or two and three quarter hours. In any case, if we're going to debate something in this House and we're going to use examples, we have to make sure that the examples are out of the same fruit basket. We can't debate oranges and apples.

I think that the government has a far greater expectation of us as elected representatives of the people of Ontario in this place to do something far better than what we witnessed in the 10-day filibuster earlier this spring. Even in the physical sense, this place, this honoured chamber, this seat of Parliament for the greatest province in Canada, became a pigsty. Because we sat 24 hours a day, we couldn't get litter picked up, we couldn't get the carpets cleaned. We literally lived in this place.

I don't think the public wishes to have their elected members sitting 24 hours a day for 10 days around the clock and not be able to look after their needs and their concerns and service them as constituents in their ridings, even for members who normally are down here and away from their ridings during the week. They can still look after their constituent by telephone and they go home on the weekends.

During that filibuster, the business of this province ground to a standstill. I for one who has sat as a member in this chamber for 12 years was totally embarrassed by the situation we were in. I found the situation in this place deplorable for all of us. Frankly, I know there were members in both the official opposition and in the third party who agreed with me, long-standing members who are here for one reason, to serve their constituents. To have what went on during that filibuster was something that I hope and pray I never live to see again in this place, and I plan to serve in this place for at least another 10 years.


Mr Len Wood: You've got to be dreaming, Margaret. You're going to get defeated in the next election.

Mrs Marland: I think interjections are out of order.

Mr Len Wood: Well, you're not going to be here for 10 years.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mrs Marland: This member did this all last night, Mr Speaker, and I ask you to call him to order.

When we look at the reason we're here, when we look at the privilege it is to be here -- I don't think any one of us will deny it is an honour and a privilege to represent the people in our constituencies -- when we look at what this chamber, this place, this House of Parliament stands for in this, as I said, the greatest province in Canada, the greatest country in the world, do we really want to be a part of some of the things we have witnessed in the past two years?

There were times, longer than two years ago, where there was bell-ringing. So what happened? We changed the standing orders so that the bell-ringing couldn't continue for days. And guess what? When we changed the standing orders to stop the bell-ringing -- and for those members who are new in this chamber, our staff, who were here eight, 10, 12 hours a day, had to work with the bells continually ringing. It got to a point where we agreed to turn the bells off but they were deemed to be ringing. How stupid could that be? But that's what we had to do. So we changed the standing orders, and when we changed those standing orders, even though we were in opposition, we agreed and voted in favour of those changes, even though we knew we were eliminating, supposedly, to use the opposition's words, a tool to fight for democracy.

Incidentally, the member for Algoma-Manitoulin spoke of Bob Nixon and referred to him as being here until recently. As a matter of fact, it was in 1990 or early 1991 that Bob Nixon left. The election was in September 1990 and I think he left before Christmas; I'm not sure. In any case, it's not recently that he's been here. It's actually six or seven years since Bob Nixon was here.

The reason I know that is that I personally have missed the calibre of representation that Bob Nixon, in an opposition party -- and for most of my time in opposition, he was in the government. He was a member of the government for five years, a statesman, I might add, for this province, not of my political persuasion but someone for whom I had the greatest of respect. If anybody in this chamber, when he stood up to speak, demonstrated compassion, commitment, ability and, above all else, dignity, it was Bob Nixon. Bob Nixon would come in this chamber without a single note and could speak eloquently about anything and answer questions with tremendous ability as a member of Premier David Peterson's cabinet.

I'm quite sure that Bob Nixon, whom I considered a friend when he was here, a colleague in this chamber, would have been absolutely horrified to have been here and sat through what we sat through in the fall of 1995 when the member for Scarborough North did his little thing. I'm quite sure that with a statesman like Bob Nixon in the House, the Liberal caucus would not have been reduced to the kind of thing we were reduced to with that particular demonstration.

I don't deny that the official opposition was upset about something the government was doing. That's par for the course. That's totally understandable. That's the role of opposition. I should know; I sat there for 10 years. I concede that is their role, but it is not their role to disobey the standing orders in this place, and the standing orders in this place require that when a member is named by the Speaker, that member leaves the chamber. In this case, that late afternoon the member for Scarborough North was named by the Speaker. He did not leave, and worse than that, he was encouraged by the rest of his Liberal caucus not to leave.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This is a member, the member for Mississauga South, who consistently tries to stand in her place and express disapproval when people are not speaking to the motion at hand. We are speaking about amendments that have nothing to do with that particular change in the standing rules.

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order. I was listening very carefully and I'm waiting for that to develop, member.

Mrs Marland: The motion that is on the floor has to do with the change in standing orders, and I respectfully suggest that my argument is in support of the need for the change in those standing orders.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The item of business that is now being discussed is an amendment to the motion. It concerns two particular sections of the motion, which do not include the section the member is discussing.

Mrs Marland: I have the motion in front of me and I am speaking to the amendment. The amendment is talking about deletion of two sections in the government motion to change the standing orders. The government motion --

Mrs Boyd: They have absolutely nothing to do with the Curling episode.

Mrs Marland: It's very interesting to listen to the member for London Centre with her interjections. Had she been here listening both to her own colleagues and to the official opposition speakers, I would say to her that they did not confine their comments totally or only to those narrow sections. I guess because I'm saying something that the former member of the Bob Rae government doesn't like, I'm going to be interrupted, the same way I was last night. That's fine. It's very interesting that this happens, but I will continue.

I still will tell you that the necessity for changing the standing orders, the necessity for the motion that is on the floor -- the motion on the floor is to make a deletion to the government motion to change the standing orders; therefore, my debate on why we need to change the standing orders, I would respectfully suggest, is in order.

When we look at what has happened in this place the last two years and we see the kind of behaviour we have had, that we have never had before in the history of this place: someone who refuses to leave the chamber when they're named, which is in the current standing orders, someone who stays in the chamber and does goodness knows what under a blanket because that individual is not able to leave the chamber to go to the washroom -- I find that totally disgusting, totally, totally disgusting.

Furthermore, I believe it's totally unacceptable to the people of this province. I believe the people of this province elect us to come here and do the work and the business of government, not to get bogged down with the kind of thing we have had in the last two years.


The member for Welland-Thorold used the kind of language in this place -- it is recorded in Hansard; I think it was a week ago last Thursday -- that I hope and pray we are never subjected to again. I don't believe any member in the opposition is proud of the language that was used by that member on the record in his place, and who then stood in the centre of the floor here and repeated more of this filth that came out of his mouth as he was attacking the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. That kind of behaviour all of us wish to disassociate ourselves from, and frankly, that's what we will disassociate ourselves from.

The subject has been how long people can speak. It's very interesting when you talk about how long people speak. That same member, the member for Welland-Thorold, spoke in this House for 17_ hours on government automobile insurance. He was in favour of government automobile insurance, ironically, because when his party became the government, his own government was not in favour -- not that we were sorry to not see that happen.

But where is it ever written that how long somebody speaks guarantees the quality of that speech? Where is it ever written that if you talk for an hour and a half, you're going to have something better to say than you can say in 30 or 40 minutes?

The argument by the opposition has been that we are limiting the opportunity for all members to represent their constituents and speak in this place. In fact, it's the opposite. The very fact that we are going to go from an hour and a half for a leadoff speaker to 40 minutes, and from 30 minutes to 20 minutes for subsequent speakers, means that more people get to speak. But I don't expect the opposition to understand that. It's very straightforward. There will be more speakers, because we will have 20-minute limitations on subsequent speakers.

Mr Pouliot: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am intrigued by the remarks from my distinguished colleague. Would you check that she is entitled to a quorum?

The Acting Speaker: I don't have to check for that. I know absolutely that she is. If you'd like, I'll check that there is a quorum here.

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 Chair recognizes the member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: The fact that we are changing the time that members may speak from half an hour to 20 minutes will mean that in a given day more members will have the opportunity to speak. If the opposition doesn't understand that, there isn't anything I can do to help them.

The fact that this change in the standing orders will now give the leadoff speaker 40 minutes instead of an hour and a half I think will mean that the level of debate will improve, because people will know that they can't stand in their place and read for an hour and a half from their unlimited choice of Hansard, excerpts from books, newsletters. This will guarantee that the quality of debate will improve, and I would think that would be something we would all want.

When I look at the Speakers I've had the privilege to serve with since I arrived in this place -- and I think of Speaker Turner, Speaker Edighoffer, Speaker Warner, Speaker McLean and the current Speaker Stockwell -- I am reminded of the fact that in that 12 years the deterioration in what takes place in this chamber in terms of behaviour is going downhill compared to what it was 12, 10, eight, six years ago.

This afternoon, when the gallery was full of young students, we had the members opposite lifting these 100-year-old desk lids and banging them with such force that in fact the member for London Centre sent her glass of water flying. These desks are in this chamber as a privilege for us to use. They are not here to bang this lid up and down in the way they did.

I treasure these desks, and I want to tell you why: This desk to me represents over a century of service in this place. In 1993 we celebrated the centenary of this building. These desks, with their inkwells, their brass locks and every other aspect of these desks, mean to me that far better people than we have had the privilege of standing in this place and serving their electorate, people for whom the standing orders have always been important, people for whom the respect of this chamber and what it represents has always been important to them -- not for members to sit in their place, yell and scream and bang these 100-year-old desks as though they were plywood.

That is symbolic to me. It's symbolic that so little respect can be shown for this place as to abuse this furniture, as we saw this afternoon, and such a level of noise that the Speaker had to recess the House because it was in grave disorder. That was all witnessed by the young people, the future of our province, sitting in our public galleries.

I am happy that we're going to change the standing orders. I am happy because I am hopeful that by so doing we may regain the kind of decorum that this chamber, this seat of Parliament for the province of Ontario, should have.

I think the member for Algoma was the person who earlier referred to the tremendous sacrifice that people have made to serve in this place. I would suggest there's been a far greater sacrifice than the people who serve in this place. The greater sacrifice are those thousands of people who have given their lives in any number of wars. You can talk about the great world wars, you can talk about the Korean War -- in our case, not anything more recent than that.


Mrs Marland: Those people who gave their lives -- for whom obviously the people who are now interjecting do not have any respect -- gave their lives so that we can live in a democracy, that we have the freedom in this great country and indeed in this great province to elect people to represent us and serve them. We are the privileged few who have been elected to do that. We are not elected to tie up this chamber reading 15,000 amendments for 10 days, 24 hours a day, while this place totally disintegrates because of the physical condition of the chamber.

Who really wants to turn their television on in the morning at breakfast time and see photographs of people asleep? I remember the leader of the third party asleep in his sleeping bag with his pillows draped over the chair. Who really wants to see those photographs, photographs of members on both sides of this chamber asleep at 2 and 3 and 4 in the morning? No wonder those people were asleep, working non-stop around the clock as they were.

But that's not what this place is about. That is not why people made the supreme sacrifice in order that we live in a democracy where we can vote to elect people to represent us, to run the business of this province. That's not what this place is about and I'm proud to say that is not what this government is about.


This government is doing what no other government, including previous governments of our own party, has had the courage to do. I am proud that our government is saying, "If you can speak for 20 minutes on second reading and 20 minutes on third reading on any bill, if you need any more time than that to represent your constituents, then we're really in big trouble." If you look at the great statesmen of this world, and we can name any of those -- actually, it would be helpful if the member for Renfrew North were in the chamber; he is such a brilliant historian that he could probably name very quickly a dozen of the world's greatest statesmen -- believe me, it doesn't take them more than 20 minutes to represent their point and their opinion and the direction for their countries and their provinces and their states.

It's almost a little humorous that the arguments are that these people will not be able to represent their constituents by the change in the standing orders when in fact it's the absolute opposite. More members will have that opportunity. The bottom line, of course, of all this is how indefensible it is really to argue against these standing orders, which are the standing orders of the federal House of Commons. I don't happen to think that I have less ability than my colleagues in the federal House and I think the federal House can run as it has, not through New Democratic Party governments but certainly through Liberal and Conservative governments. Those governments have run quite happily, quite efficiently and quite successfully, depending on your viewpoint of which political party, with their standing orders, and we in this House are simply adopting the standing orders of the federal House.

I look forward to our getting on with it. I recognize the job and the need etc that the opposition parties feel they have to oppose this government motion. I'm certainly glad that we will pass this motion and then, thankfully, we will get on with the job we were elected to do, which is to serve the people of this wonderful province.

Mr Bradley: I'm glad the member for Mississauga South spoke for her full 30 minutes, because I don't think she could have captured everything she wanted to within her speech in less than 30 minutes. I frankly wish she had more time, because I enjoy listening to her. I don't always agree with her, but she and I have been friends over the years and I've enjoyed the contribution she has made to the House. I find it most unfortunate that under the rules of the House, as proposed, at least, she would have had to confine her remarks to either 20 minutes or 10 minutes, depending on what point in time we were at in the debate. I think she has made a case very well this evening for retaining that 30 minutes, and I will try to remember that when we are engaged in some discussions.

I am pleased to see the amendments that have come forward. First of all I want to say I fully understand that the government wants to avoid a couple of circumstances that arose that stopped the government in its tracks. That's understandable and I expected it, and I'm not condemning the government for it at all. I think some of the changes the government House leader has proposed are changes which probably, on reflection, most members of the House would accept. There are some that I think are going to be detrimental to the operation of this House and detrimental to democracy, and there will be a difference of opinion on those, but I genuinely believe they are important and that if they were withdrawn and the main components the government is really concerned about were retained, you could solve this problem.

There were two basic problems I think the government encountered in terms of being stopped in its tracks. In both instances it was good that the government had a chance to stop and reflect for a while and perhaps reconsider its position. Certainly on Bill 26 and Bill 103 that was the case, where the government reflected very carefully on its position. Both those bills passed, but there were some amendments made to them, some significant amendments made to Bill 26.

I think the House works best when the three House leaders are able to get together and decide upon and agree upon a schedule for legislation to proceed. For instance, there are bills where there is a consensus, where they proceed quickly, where in fact all the speeches are supportive and you see those bills move quickly through the House, and that's good. I think of the victims' rights bill as one example and the truck safety bill as being another example of how we can move rather rapidly. There were other bills as well; the Waterloo region bill was another example.

There are other bills that, because they don't have great consequences but may still be opposed by the opposition, will take less time than we might normally expect. The Minister of Natural Resources is here. There's a bill on the docket now -- we were quite willing, by the way, to pass it by the end of this session -- a bill that I think has a consensus in this House. There would be some concerns about the resources to fulfil it and perhaps some speeches on that, but the intent of the bill is one which all three parties agree with, so I wouldn't anticipate that kind of bill is going to take a long time. That's why I say it works best when the three House leaders are able to sit down and have respect for one another. I can assure you I have the greatest respect for my friend Dave Johnson, the member from East York and government House leader, and Bud Wildman, and I had for Ernie Eves when I worked with Ernie when he was House leader, both of the Conservative Party and as government House leader.

I think that's how the House works best. It's less cantankerous, and I know there are dustups from time to time in here, but I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of members of this House really don't like those highly charged, highly confrontational days in the House. They're very stressful for everyone, they are often ugly for others to observe because of the nastiness that develops in the debate and outside of the debate, and I don't think the House is well served by that.

If the government came in and said, "Look, we want to avoid a circumstance where a member can abstain and refuse to leave the House and stop the House in its tracks; we don't want that to happen again, so we're going to make some changes in the procedural rules to stop that," even though that may from the opposition point of view, and maybe from the point of view of a considerable number of the public, have improved a bill considerably and improved a process, I'd understand that. I can tell you I don't even oppose that, even though it takes away a major arguing point for those of us in the opposition. Or the filibuster: I understand the frustration of the government with some 12,000 or 14,000 amendments coming in on one bill. If the government wanted to bring in a measure which would permit the Speaker of the House to group those amendments so that we could go through them much more speedily, that's understandable, and again I'm not going to be critical of the government House leader for doing that. They're both reasonable things to do.

There are a couple other measures. I look at the bells, for instance, and I like it that the bells can ring for 30 minutes, but I can also understand the government House leader saying, "That's not 30 minutes of productive time; let's reduce that to 15 minutes, perhaps, for an adjournment bell." I understand those things. I don't think they're unreasonable and I don't consider the government House leader unreasonable when he says that.

There are some key components that I don't think are valuable, however, to the working of this House, and I think essentially the government is using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito with this problem. They have some problems they want to address, and I'm prepared to see them address those, but while they're doing it, they are making some other changes which I don't think are going to be beneficial in the long run to all members of this House, particularly if the Conservative Party happens for some reason to be in opposition in the future. I'll tell you what happens. Even though people who believe in the democratic system will advocate a more democratic system, changing the rules that you are about to try to impose, it's going to be hard to convince a future cabinet to do so. I know, I've seen these things happen over the years. New governments tend to take the old rules and perhaps even vengefully, and it shouldn't be the case, use them against the party that imposed them. I don't think that's good for democracy, I don't think it's good for the atmosphere in the House, but it's a reality that I'm afraid happens when you don't try to come to some consensus on what should be contained in any rule changes.


Ernie Eves and Norm Sterling, two cabinet ministers now -- and I'm not going to go through the process of quoting them -- both made good points. Essentially the points were that sometimes the opposition has to slow the government down to allow the government to reconsider its position and to allow the public to gain a better idea of what's going on in the House and a better idea of the components of a bill. If the government wins the argument in the end, so be it. That's democracy; the opposition has to accept that. Sometimes the government is going to win the court of public opinion by saying, "We think the components of this bill are on balance good for the province; the opposition doesn't."

But there are times when the government has to be slowed down and sometimes even brought almost to a halt -- very momentarily and in very rare instances. That's essentially what Ernie Eves was saying and that's what Norm Sterling was saying in his letter as an MPP to the Ottawa Sun in about 1992 when he said, "If I didn't have these" and I'll use the words "bargaining chips to use, if I didn't have ways of slowing the government or deterring the government, then nothing I say would count because I wouldn't be able to influence the outcome of a debate."

That's what is happening here. You are declawing the opposition. That works for efficiency, I want to tell you that; it does. It will move your legislation faster, and without wanting to dwell on this, the unelected people, the Guy Giornos of this world, are going to like that, because they don't sit in this House and they're never going to have to sit in opposition. They're just going to have to sit in the Premier's office and advise. They don't have to worry about that, but some of the other members do, including my friend the member for Mississauga South, who spoke eloquently in this House expressing her concerns, as I think she's entitled to do.

If these go through virtually unchanged or just tinkered with, I can tell you the mood will turn ugly in the House because what invariably happens is the opposition simply will not cooperate in any instance. They won't have an incentive to do so. Today there is an incentive to do so under the present rules. There are times when we will need unanimous consents where the government will say, "No, you can't have them." The penalty won't be just one way, it'll be both ways, but that's what makes things even uglier.

Let me give you an example of what happens: Oftentimes members, because they're busy, don't get a chance till the last minute to file their private member's business or they'll have to change -- someone may be ill, someone may have to go somewhere -- and we routinely accommodate those wishes among each other so that can happen. What you'll start to see happen is both sides saying, "No, you can't do that." Does that serve anybody? No. I prefer to see a private member be able to present that business. If it's in a different cycle of time, so be it. I want to cooperative in those regards. When the government makes a clerical error or a small procedural error, I don't want to have to be over here saying, "No, as a result you're going to lose a bill," or something when indeed that wasn't the purpose of what they did. But that's what's going to happen, that really is what's going to happen and I think members should know that before they make the final decisions on this.

I want to say that less speaking time is not necessarily good. Not everybody can speak for a long period of time or wants to speak for a long period of time, but if you want to accommodate more people, I don't mind those night sessions. The government says we need more time in the House. I don't object to that. What I object to is counting it as an additional day for the purpose of debate. But if it's there to accommodate more members to speak, I'm interested in hearing what other members have to say in this House. Whether I'm in the House or in my office watching the monitor, I listen to what other members have to say. I don't mind that period from 6:30 to 9:30 to be used for that purpose. But you see, the real purpose is not that; the real purpose of that time is so the government can get more legislation through in a shorter period of time and the House doesn't have to sit as long.

The member for Nepean wrote this letter to the Leader of the Opposition where he said, "This House should be sitting more than 25 weeks of the year." I agree. I have no objection to that. If we want to accommodate more debate, let's have the House sit more days and a longer period of time in the day. But what you have to have for all governments is accountability, so you pay the price of another day of debate by having a question period. That's the accountability; you go through that process.

As a former minister I can assure you, and the minister presently in the House will confirm this, it isn't always a comfortable time to be coming into question period knowing there are some great difficulties out there you have to deal with and maybe not even some good answers you have. It's a very stressful time, it's very compelling in terms of the total time you have to deal with your business, but it is an important part of democracy.

I look at where you've placed question period now. Take today, for instance. Not just your government, but a government faced with the circumstances today, an embarrassment, a situation where the Integrity Commissioner has rendered an opinion on what a cabinet minister has done -- I don't want to get into the details of it, but on a day like this what happens is that a government will want to delay question period as long as possible.

By placing it seventh on the list instead of third on the list, the government has an opportunity to introduce a number of bills or get involved in some motions or committee reports or additional statements by ministers, all designed to push the question period back further and further, so that media people have a harder time meeting their deadlines and the interest is abated somewhat. That's good for the government in power, whatever government it is, but it's not good for the democratic process.

Under your original rules, for instance, if question period started, say, at 25 minutes after 3, then you would have a 35-minute question period, because a new rule you have is that orders of the day, regardless of anything else, must begin at 4 o'clock. You can see what that does to the accountability of the government. I think the government should change that. They should put question period higher in that list than it is at the present time.

I think the government should accommodate members who want to speak for 30 minutes in this House. The leadoff time can be used in a couple of ways. You could reduce that to, say, 60 minutes from 90 minutes and still split the time. What I think should happen -- very often you're seeing it happening now -- to accommodate speakers is that instead of one person speaking for 90 minutes, although it may happen in this particular field here, what you see is the parties splitting that time up. I have no objection to the government doing that as well, splitting that time up to set the stage.

Maybe the minister wants to speak, maybe a parliamentary assistant, maybe -- my friend from St Catharines-Brock is here. If it were something dealing with the grape and wine industry, for instance, I would want to see him have that opportunity within that leadoff time available to the government to speak as well. I have no objection to that. That's good. There's nothing wrong with it at all. That's why I think the present setup is fine.

You will win this for the government: You will be assured that your bills will move much more quickly, because when you limit the last speeches after five hours to 10 minutes, that's really going to confine it. If Guy Giorno or whoever it is who likes these things is going to be happy with that, I can assure you there's good reason: They will be happy. I don't think it helps the process an awful lot and I hope Mr Johnson, when he talks to Mr Wildman and me over the summer, is able to see fit to modify that somewhat from what it is.

I was concerned at the fact that -- I should say this before I say that: The best process is one that allows the members and the news media and the public to be fully informed about all the implications of legislation. The only way you can do that is to stretch it out over a number of days. That's why I don't think that the afternoon and evening sessions are a good idea. Stretch it out; let people know about it. Maybe it's a couple of weeks; maybe you're juggling about four bills at that time. Nothing wrong with that. The public then can get a good idea of what it's about.

They may send the minister letters and say to the Minister of Natural Resources: "We think your Game and Fish Act amendments are great. Proceed with them. Let's go." They'll send letters to the oppositions saying perhaps the same thing or perhaps some criticisms. But at least everybody knows what the problems are and then by the time it gets to committee, the government can resolve some of those problems along with the opposition and ultimately the bill is much better. I think the government governs better when it takes its time to do things right instead of rushing things through. I don't care whether it's Liberal, NDP or Conservative; every government does a better job with that.

There's emergency legislation that comes up. There may be a strike -- for instance, a TTC strike -- where the city is ground to a halt. That's a case where the government has gone to the Speaker and the Speaker has said, "Sure, bring the House back." The three House leaders get together and say, "This afternoon that's through; that's not a problem." Or when the Education Relations Commission has found jeopardy for students and the government has come to the opposition and said, "We need this bill through this afternoon. They've found jeopardy," and everyone agrees once you've found jeopardy the bill should proceed. That's very reasonable and you see that go through quickly with a minimum of speeches, and that's the way it should be.

I was concerned with the way this was done. As I've said before, at the risk of being a bit repetitious, I think if governments are going to be proud of what they're doing, they should do it up front. They should put it up front. If you're proud of these rule changes and think they're going to be something that's going to be attractive to the public, then put them up front and say, "Here's what we want to do."


Instead, on the morning of the federal election day there's a press conference held and the parliamentary assistant to the government House leader releases these proposed changes. That's hiding it. Then we got around to the day there was a press gallery party and the opposition was so reasonable that day that the government House leader dared not actually put them down that day, though the motion was ready. But it came Thursday afternoon; at about five to 5 the motion was dropped on the table. Everybody has filed his or her stories and the members are heading back to their constituencies. So again, it's a chance to hide it.

The third case may be less fair, it may have been coincidental, but there we were on the day -- and as I say, near the end of a session it's tough, so can I say this with all certainty? I can't. But I was concerned when I saw, the day we were paying tribute at the funeral of a former leader of the Conservative Party, to a person in this House I really liked, Larry Grossman, that here we were and in come the rule changes again. I remember saying to one of the moderate members of the caucus who has served here a while in the House, "You know what the government's going to do right now? They're going to bring in the rule changes," and he said, "Dave Johnson wouldn't do that." I had to say to him, "Dave Johnson's not going to do that. It's Mike Harris doing it but Dave Johnson has to deliver the goods on that." That was most unfortunate. I'm just saying, if you're going to do this, be up front with it, if you're proud of what you're doing.

We agree that more members should have the opportunity to participate and some of the rules you have will help that out a bit and some will not. What your government wants is fewer days and fewer question periods and that will be the effect of the motion. This House will sit fewer days than you might otherwise sit and you will have fewer question periods if these amendments to our rules go through.

I think that the time for debate is central to democracy. Let me tell you want happens when you start restricting debate. That's when the opposition starts looking for other ways to bring the government to a slower pace. I remember saying out in the hallway to many of the people who are involved in the press gallery -- because it's a war of words out there as well, trying to convince people of the correctness of one's position.

I had to say to many of the columnists and writers out there that I didn't like what we had to go through. It was no more fun for those of us in opposition, I can assure you, than those in government. There's a risk, there's criticism, just as Mike Harris received some criticism when he engaged in reading his lakes and rivers, which I thought was justified, by the way, when he did that, for the period of time he did. It's a risk you take with the public and the public will say, "We don't necessarily agree with that," but you do it rarely.

The problem was there was no other way to continue debate. When you restrict debate, the old-fashioned filibuster debate -- I'm not suggesting my friend who spoke for 17.5 hours, that perhaps we should be that long by any means, but I am suggesting that when you start restricting debate further, that's when the opposition tries stunts or extraordinary parliamentary manoeuvres to try to bring the government to a halt. I don't think that's good. None of us liked it.

I remember my friend from Renfrew North and I had our discussion with Bob Nixon over bell ringing. Bob was never a person who liked bell ringing and I actually don't think Sean Conway ever liked bell ringing that much either. That was a new thing to bring governments to a halt. That was no fun either, because the bells rang and the government was halted, but wouldn't it have been much better if the opposition had to argue why what the government was doing was wrong, instead of being out in the hallway with bells ringing? The answer is yes, and there were rules brought in to stop that bell ringing, just as I understand you want to stop some of the extraordinary procedures the opposition can use at the present time -- taking away the bargaining chips, as I say.

When Norm Sterling talked about the ability to slow the government down, he said you can't do it unless the opposition has some bargaining chips. I'll tell you, if you've got all the rule changes you had when the opposition goes into the meeting with the government House leader, there's virtually nothing we can say that we will do if the government doesn't kind of listen to some of the things we say, perhaps have a couple more days of hearings in areas where the government might not want them or perhaps have the staging or the dates of the hearings changed. We won't have the tools, we won't have the bargaining chips to be able to extract those concessions, which are often reasonable concessions.

I don't expect the government's going to have hearings all summer on anything but I do sometimes expect that there are a couple of communities which have a specific interest where you might want to go to discuss them. I want to use the example of grape growing. If there were a bill affecting the grape and wine industry, I would want that committee to be able to go to southwestern Ontario and to the Niagara Peninsula. If the government of the day didn't want to, it would be extraordinary, but maybe they would be embarrassed by something and wouldn't want to go there. We want to really put the lever on, we want to lever that so you go there. It may be uncomfortable for that day, but ultimately your bill's going to be better or your legislation better having heard the people.

Let me tell you something else that I think everybody here knows. If you give people their day in court, if you let them be heard, some are still not going to be satisfied at the end, I understand that, but by and large at least people can say, "I had my opportunity to have my say." That's the same as members of the House. If we have the opportunity to make our speeches in this House, and sometimes at greater length than you would like and sometimes more vociferously than perhaps you would like and sometimes in an uglier mood than perhaps you would like, at least we can say in opposition we did have the opportunity to place our position before the Government. Ultimately, with its 82 seats, it's all-powerful, overwhelming majority of 82 seats, the government will in the final analysis be able to put through the piece of legislation as it exists in its final stages.

What we are trying to do is to sometimes slow you down so you do it right instead of doing it quickly. I think the government benefits, I think the opposition benefits and I think the people ultimately benefit. We're not asking that you scrap everything in the package that you have. We think there are some things that are understandable, we even think there are some things that may be desirable, and there are some things that are not. That's where our discussions with the government House leader will be helpful. It's a discussion that takes place and I understand why the government put it on the order paper, because it focuses attention. I don't like that, I wish it were another process, but it focuses attention. I understand that. There's a difference between agreeing and understanding; I understand that.

But what you're doing now is -- because today you're going to go through the process of this debate; tomorrow the plans are to bring in a time allocation motion -- you've pulled the pin on two grenades and put one in the pocket of the Liberal House leader and one in the pocket of the NDP House leader and said, "Now negotiate." I would prefer that you just had a couple of bullets in the chamber instead of having a couple of grenades as well, and then we're able to discuss on a better basis.

I don't think there's going to be a great incentive to do it, although I've been surprised, and this is quite surprising to me, the number of people who have said to me that they're concerned about the rule changes. They don't always know what they mean but they're concerned about them.

I was talking to a person two nights ago who generally I would think agrees with a lot of what you people are doing. He might vote for me because he knows me but he generally agrees with what you're doing. I said, "I'm going back tonight" -- I was back in St Catharines -- "to debate rule changes," and his reaction was, "Yes, those rule changes are a bit much, aren't they?" As I say, a person I would say is more conservatively inclined than liberally, certainly not NDP at all, and is a fiscal conservative and so on, said, "I'm concerned about them." Here's a person who's not directly affected but I'm going to tell you, as I said, perhaps through the television audience that might be watching tonight, this is the most important legislative measure this government has brought forward. Yes, there were other bills that were controversial and they were important and they brought about some change, but this opens the door to a government to shove everything through as it sees fit and that's why this is the most dangerous legislative initiative. It's the most dangerous because it greases the skids for the government.


Non-cabinet members and even some cabinet members are going to be sorry about that because there are going to be times when you secretly want the opposition to slow things down. I've been a minister before and sat in a cabinet where I've disagreed with what the government was doing. I would never express it openly in the day, but I've hoped the opposition would at least slow that down or give the government a hard time so it might make a few changes, or even withdraw legislation.

That's not going to happen with the new rules because it's going to be too hard to do. But under the old rules, the possibility was there. It wouldn't always happen, but the possibility was there. I've even heard of cabinet ministers sometimes going to the opposition and saying, "If you are wise, you might make these arguments," and it can often be helpful to the cabinet ministers.

I think too the best rule changes are as a result of a consensus. It's not always easy to reach and sometimes it's impossible to reach, but I'll tell you they're the best rule changes, where there's a consensus, everybody gives a little and everybody understands what it's all about.

Lastly, I'm going to say, a group out there that has a special responsibility is the news media. By and large, editors tell the people who cover Queen's Park: "Look, we don't want rule changes stories. They're boring. They don't affect anybody. Nobody cares." Yet, ultimately, they have tremendous ramifications for the people.

There are controversial bills you're going to bring forward. That's why we're doing this in the House. You know that. You're going to be taking away rights from certain people and there's going to be some rancour over that. But we have a responsibility and the news media have a responsibility to focus on the rule changes, to see how easy they make that. Those who may be -- I'm going to use the word "victims"; maybe it's too strong a word -- the victims of your legislation are going to find out that the opposition has no chance to slow that down or perhaps even to stop the government, rarely and only momentarily, until they can reconsider. That's most unfortunate.

I think the news media has a special responsibility to be covering rule changes. If they think what you're doing is right, then that's fine, that's their opinion. But I think they should take an interest in this kind of debate. Did you see what it took for the opposition to get interested in it the other day? We asked some questions. The NDP asked some questions. We went out in the hallway for the scrum after. Were there any questions? No. When do we get some questions in the scrum?

Mrs Johns: When you --

Mr Bradley: No, I think that's a very unfair characterization. We went over very calmly, placed one copy of the rule book at the Premier's desk and the others in front of him, symbolically, and solemnly exited from the chamber. Only when that happened did the news media pay any attention. That's unfortunate.

Do you know what I would have preferred? I would have preferred they paid attention when we asked our questions. But they didn't, and that's the reality of today. That's what's going to happen as you tighten the rules of this House. You're going to have more and more of that and less and less of the democratic debate which has characterized this House over the years.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I regret very much that more members didn't have the opportunity to hear the comments of the member for St Catharines. I would like you to check to see if there is indeed a quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check if there is a quorum present.

Clerk at the Table (Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk at the Table: There is a quorum present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the amendments to the government motion on rule changes. It is quite clear that one of the fundamental differences between the government party and the opposition parties is our concept of what it really is to have a democratic government. I think it's very clear from the comments that many of our colleagues on the government side have made during the course of this debate, both on the full motion and on the amendments that are currently before us, that they do not see the issues as being fundamental issues of democracy for the people we represent.

Instead of that, I would say to you, quite frankly, that many of the government backbenchers appear to be concerned about their own ability to stand in this place and express their views, as opposed to having government views, opposition views, third- party views aired thoroughly.

The reality is that when a government is a government, it has control over the agenda of this place. It brings forward government motions and the job of this place is to discuss government motions. Now it may be that the members of the opposition are taking exception and do not agree with the government position often. That's not always the case. We all can remember that last week we went through a number of pieces of legislation where there was fundamental agreement about the value of that legislation. We were able to go through it, examine it, talk about some of the concerns about it, talk about the implementation of it, and in fact that was done in a very amicable way.

But when the government members do everything they can to try to make sure that the government voice is the only one that is heard, then we have a problem, and it is our job, we are required, as opposition members, to speak for those in the population who did not vote for the government, who oppose the overwhelming ability of the government to push its agenda through. We all recognize that a majority government has that ability. What the government members seem to be disputing is the fact that we here should be able to do our job in expressing the voice of those who may not like pieces of that legislation.

The whole issue around speaking time is an interesting one because while it may be true that there are times when the entire 90 minutes of opener, for second reading in particular, may not be as focused as government members would like, the reality is that 90-minute speech by opposition members is the only signal to the public out there as to what the concerns about the legislation may be.

Similar is the 90 minutes the government minister or the parliamentary assistant who brings the motion for second reading, and in some cases third reading, has. Their job is to put the government's spin on the action that's being taken and to try to make sure that the message about the legislation is the message the government wants. Our job on this side of the House, quite clearly, is to critique that message and to critique the legislation; to say when a part of that legislation is good, and we have done that on many occasions on this side, but to point out the drawbacks in that legislation, to set the scene, as it were, for the kinds of questions, the kinds of issues that are raised when that legislation goes forward into committee.

When people say the 90-minute speeches are not substantive, there may be some cases where that is true, but in most cases, if the members were listening instead of being out of this place and having to be called in again and again on quorum calls, they would find that there is an analysis of the legislation that makes it easier for the public to understand what is coming forward.

The public does not have in front of it, as these things go through second reading, the actual legislation; the way this government works, very often there is a move to move forward on legislation the minute it is hot off the press and available. There is great reluctance to even look at the standing order that requires bills to be in printed form before they are discussed, because this government is in such a rush to move forward with legislation, and the government members, again and again, seem to misunderstand what their own role is and seem to have nothing but contempt for their own role.


We've seen that in this discussion around this amendment to the motion, in the previous discussion around the motion itself, in the discussions around the Fewer Politicians Act, in every single committee where we have had to struggle very hard to get the committee examination of legislation out there in communities so that people can participate.

The reality is that the members of this government have very little respect for the democratic process. Their comments about 90 minutes versus 40 minutes show that very clearly and, frankly, also show that many of them have not listened to what goes on in this place during the leadoff speeches on second and third reading.

When I speak about third reading, very often the only clue that the public gets about the amendments that have come forward, the amendments that have been accepted and the amendments that have been turned down on a piece of legislation is in the 90-minute leadoff speech. That's extremely important, because for the public out there, it is important for us to help them to understand what the process has been, what has been looked at, what has been rejected by the government and what has been accepted by the government. People are not just talking for their own sake; they're talking about what is going to work, what has been changed as a result of the public process. It is a way of getting people involved in the political process.

I suggest that is precisely why the government members have been so scathing about this amendment. We have, I think really for the first time in Ontario's history, a government that doesn't believe in government, a government that sees its whole purpose as reducing the size and the process of government, bulling through their own interpretation of what's best for Ontario and trying to make sure that all those who have comments to the contrary are silenced as much as possible.

When the members of the back bench in the government party talk about their getting an opportunity to participate more in events here, I think they are fooling themselves. You are not understanding that your government House leader who keeps you from speaking now is going to keep you from speaking then. It isn't the length of time that is keeping you from speaking; it's his all-fired rush to get things through in record time, to pile more and more on the plate of implementation when even at the beginning of the changes you have shown yourselves to be incompetent.

It has nothing to do with the number of minutes people speak whether you get to speak or not. What makes you think, that the whip won't be cracked and you won't be told, "We're going to let the opposition parties share whatever time is left again," exactly as they have, again and again, in the past, just so that the government agenda can move forward more swiftly. I don't think you should fool yourselves that it's going to make your role any more prominent.

We have said again and again that we think you ought to be able to express your opinions, that we think you too have an obligation to speak about what you're hearing in your constituencies. We would prefer that it were less self-serving, less government-serving sometimes than some of the comments that we hear you make, because we often are in your ridings too and we know that the unanimity of approval for your proposals is not there in the communities any more than any of us have it in our communities. We know that there is a real core of opposition to many of the things you are doing throughout the province, and it is stronger in some places than others.

I would agree, and I think all of us would agree, that you ought to have the opportunity to get up and examine some of these issues, get on the record, have your constituents see you standing in this place working on their behalf or see you standing in this place toeing the government line and not listening to them, which is what I really think would be the case.

We don't think the way to achieve that is to cut down on the amount of time people have to discuss things here. The government House leader has within his hands now the capacity to give you the ability to participate. We notice that when you get the floor you very seldom fold after 10 minutes. The member for Mississauga South used every speck of her time, and we watched the member for Scarborough East the other night when we were talking about Bill 98, the Development Charges Act, go on and on, almost his whole 90 minutes. It's not as if there isn't enough to say when you are in engaged in the legislation that is before us, because you too, when you do get an opportunity to speak, often take the full time allotted to you, and so you should. We are not disagreeing with that.

Your problem of not getting heard in this place has nothing to do with the amount of time that the standing rules allow. It has everything to do with the decision by your House leader and your cabinet that you will not have that opportunity in here. If you think that's going to change because the amount of time changes, you're dreaming in Technicolor. I do not think you are going to get any more public exposure to your constituents that you do now, except it may be that some of these evening sessions will be designed so that there can be further discussion of some private members' issues.

But you all know that you still need the House leader's acceptance before those private members' issues go to committee or go any further. You know how many are sitting piled up that cabinet is not bringing forward because they run counter to your policies or create a diversion from your very, very strong and singleminded message, and you all know that. So if you think this is going to change the reality of your ability to speak in this House and gain profile, you need to think again.

One of the reasons we want to amend standing order 9(c), to delete the sections of the motion which amend standing order 9(c), is simply that it will not have any of the beneficial effects you think it will have, and it will have the effect of stifling the ability of the opposition to raise questions and concerns about the legislation that's brought forward. It will severely hamper our ability to do the job the people in our constituencies elected us to do.

This is very much an issue of the privilege of members of this House. I agree with those of you who feel that your privileges and your ability to represent your constituents are hampered by the all-fired hurry of your House leader; that you are not allowed to speak to things that come up in this House. I agree that your privileges are being damaged. There is only one solution to that and that is for your House leader to stop preventing you from participating in the debate. That option is there now and it ought to be there for you.

That doesn't mean we think it is possible for us to simply accede to having our privileges likewise destroyed. Your whole objective in setting the time limits as they are in your motion is to silence opposition, to prevent yourselves from having to listen to those who disagree with you. So of course we are in favour of deleting the sections of the motion which amend standing order 9(c).

To go on to the other section that the amendment is for, the motion to amend standing order 24, to enable the government not only at a moment's notice to call the House back and to sit in the evenings, we don't object to sitting in the evenings. You have never found us objecting to a length of time as long as there is business to do. We have not voted against the motions that have come forward at all in terms of extending the work we do when there are things on the order paper that need to be dealt with. That is not a reality.


What I will say is that for this government to then say not only with very little or no notice -- and it was no notice in the original motion -- can the House be brought back to sit in the evening, but that it will count as a second sessional day, a sessional day being a very important item in this place -- a sessional day as it is defined in our standing orders is the amount of time that counts as a full day of the session. The motion to amend standing order 24 literally gives you two days in one without the accountability of a question period.

You try to claim, and we hear many of you saying, "We are simply bringing our standing orders in line with other legislatures." That simply isn't the case if you really look at parliamentary rules elsewhere. Where there are night sittings, the accountability that is so inherent in question period is not lost, as it would be in this motion. We are prepared to sit at night as long as this is an extension of the day so that we can complete debate. Or, if we were to be called back, the other suggestion would be, okay, a question period and then another session.

Of course you folks want it all, and that has been just the hallmark of your entire rule around here. You want what you want, and what you most want is to get your own way, to bully your way through this place, to be able to change the rules to reflect your own disrespect of the legislative process. It makes me very tired to hear sanctimonious claims of reverence for democracy from members of the government party when they know very well that in legislatures around the world the opposition, against great odds, are those who often speak against the tyranny of the majority. You don't have a corner on love and respect for democracy. We would not be here in the opposition if we did not have an infinite respect for the importance in the democratic process of the clearly articulated view of those who do not agree with a majority government.

The member for Algoma-Manitoulin pointed out to you that our job is to represent the majority of people who did not vote for you, did not vote for this government. The majority of people did not vote for this government. They voted for people within their own party, the party they felt best represented them, and the majority did not vote for you. That happened with us. We know what that's like. We had a majority government but we understood that it very important for us to recognize at all times that although we had a majority government, we had not won a majority of the votes of the electorate --

Mr Young: Social contract.

Mrs Boyd: -- and you need to know that that's the case.

My friend over here who thinks he's Abraham Lincoln keeps talking about the social contract, but we paid the price for the social contract, didn't we? I expect you will pay the price for the actions that you are taking.

Mr Young: Did you vote for the social contract or not?

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It was a disgrace.

The Speaker: Members for Halton Centre and Halton North, I warn you to come to order. That's the third time I've mentioned it. Member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The day one of you votes against your government will indeed be a red-letter day. There are those of you who speak against your government, who have made even stronger comments than we have on this side of the House about the lack of democratic process within your government. The day that we see people having the courage and the integrity to stand in this place and vote against the government will indeed be a day. It will be interesting to see what happens then to those people, having been ostracized as they have for what they said without voting against the government.

I think what we really see is a group of people who did not know when they got into government, except for those who had been in government before, that government involves a good deal of public knowledge about what government is going to do. I think there was a belief that if you win, you can do whatever you like. We've heard those kinds of statements from ministers all along. The Premier is the best example. He arrogantly stands there and says, "We consulted with people before we were elected; we don't need to consult with them now," even though many of the promises that were made have been broken and many of the changes that have occurred in terms of what people expected to happen have been quite shocking for people.

When you are in government there is a process of government. One of the things you do when you pledge allegiance as government is that you pledge allegiance to that democratic process. You don't just pledge allegiance to the Queen or pledge allegiance to your Premier. The whole idea is that what makes all of us equal here is that we are all equally responsible for trying to protect the democratic process in our province. When we as opposition members, as the third party, see you flagrantly through your actions destroying that democratic process, it's our job to speak up. It's our job to do whatever we can do under the rules to try and slow you down, to try and alert the public out there of what you are about. If you know much about history you will understand that has been the process in democratic institutions for a long time.

You are not above the law simply because you are in a position where you are making new laws and changing old laws. You are responsible under and before the law just as anyone else is. That is why today we have had this great discussion about your Premier's refusal to understand that the breaking of a law around integrity that we all passed in this place is important, that it casts aspersions on the government that protects those who have been found guilty of breaching those laws.

If we as opposition members are in a position where we are not able to speak, through question period whenever there is a sessional day as is the issue with section 24, or when we have an opportunity to debate different pieces of legislation or motions that the government brings forward, then we will not be able to do our job, and our privileges will be very, very much diminished in this place.

It is quite apparent that members of the government do not understand how intimately all of these issues are intertwined. You clearly don't understand the passion that is here on our side of the House in terms of the very autocratic actions you have taken not just once but many times, and the necessity for us to take any means that are available to us to counter the weight of your tyranny, the tyranny of the majority. That's the job of people who are in opposition; it's our job. You need to remember that when your party was in opposition that was your job. We did recognize that, just as when the Liberals were in power, it was the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP who had to work all the time to limit the power of their majority, particularly during that time when they had 95 members in this House. It was extremely difficult to get minority views across.


What all of us need to remember is that our seats today may not be our seats tomorrow. The next election will be another whole world for all of us. It may well be that those of you who are most vehement about these rule changes will find yourselves victimized by them and hampered in your ability to act on behalf of your constituents. The balance in this place comes from the fact that we need to go to the people every once in a while, and we never know, with the volatility of the electorate, who will be in a position of power and who will be in a position of opposition. When we make decisions about how this place operates, we need to be very clear that although we may be the majority one day, we are not necessarily the majority the next.

It is very important that we not question one another's sincerity in our beliefs, in our feelings, in our passion about democracy and about the rules in this place as I have heard some members do. I don't at all suggest that you are not sincere in your vision of how you think democracy would work more efficiently if you could get your own way quicker; I know you're sincere about that. That's how you look at government. That's why you decreased the number of representatives, why you keep hacking away at the amount of time that people can go out on the road, why you now want to hack away, as you do in this motion that is before us which we're trying to amend, the amount of time that can be spent, first of all, in discussing issues as they come forward and then in terms of holding the government accountable.

That is the whole issue. You are sincere. You are sincere in your disrespect for the political process. Your own words convict you of that: the Fewer Politicians Act. You are in the process of destroying the political process at the local level all over this province, limiting the availability of local representation to the people who need to have access to their politicians, because you don't respect the political process.

That's why we are bringing forward these amendments, because we think these are the two key amendments that are destructive of the democratic process in this place: first, the limiting of debate in terms of the ability of the opposition to thoroughly explain exactly what it is in a bill that concerns them; and second, of course, the lack of accountability by the government if it can, on a moment's notice, simply double the amount of time, the number of sessional days, without being accountable through question period.

It strikes me very much that these are the kinds of amendments that many House leaders would love to have in the standing rules. The House leader's job is a job of getting legislation through. But every representative in this place who is not a House leader ought to be very sceptical of motions that limit debate and limit accountability. Every single one of us who is not a government House leader has an obligation to try and protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

I certainly will be supporting the amendment to standing order 9(c) and to standing order 24. I hope that everyone else will as well.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm certainly glad to join in this historic occasion of a time for getting on with getting the job done in terms of governmental priorities, in terms of changing some of the fundamental blockages in this House.

Je suis fier de participer dans la discussion à changer les règlements de l'Assemblée législative.

We have heard tonight, and other times during the past number of days, about the effects and side-effects that this particular set of proposals would have on democracy. There's a submission and a thesis, an argument, made by members opposite that in some way, shape or other you are limiting democracy in this House when you change rules which suddenly limit the time that members have to speak.

We've heard from the member for London South, who just referred to the whole idea that limiting of a member's time to speak in this House is equated somehow or other with limiting democracy, and yet in their own particular set of rule changes made in 1992 and 1993, they actually did bring in a number of limitations on speaking. They limited opening speeches to 90 minutes, subsequent speeches to 30 minutes. I guess at that particular point in the argument that wasn't a limit on democracy; that was not an anti-democratic initiative. Well, if they can portray these particular proposals as anti-democratic, we can label the same way with intent and passion when they made their changes in 1992 and 1993.

I think members of moderation from all three parties understand pretty clearly that limiting the time of members to speak in no way, shape or form limits democracy, because if you go back to a root source of the definition of democracy, there isn't one allusion in the definition of democracy as set out in the Concise Oxford Dictionary. It clearly states "practising, advocating, or constituting...favouring social equality." It goes on to talk about the Democratic Party in the United States: "Government by the people" direct or representative, "form of society...ignoring hereditary class distinctions and tolerating minority views."

We've heard from the member for London South that she ascribes to us in this government that we have sincerity and then proceeds immediately to impugn the motives of the House leader and all other colleagues on this side who support these particular proposals in terms of making this place operate in an effective and a clear, smooth-running manner so that members from all sides get an opportunity to speak.

Why is it that we can have 90 minutes of an unlimited time within which the members of the opposition parties get to speak on matters of the day, yet that does not accord itself over here very often?

The member for London South seems to think we are somehow or other fooling ourselves into thinking that we will have less time. I couldn't agree less with her, because if you look through the records of a large number of members from all three parties on any particular subject that they have a passionate interest in, they have always had the opportunity to usually speak.

What I find most disconcerting about the whole direction of this debate about the rule changes is that I went back and looked at the member for Nepean's introductory remarks and rationale regarding the necessity for these rule changes, and one of the most surprising things I found in looking through those remarks was that in the last 10 years only three times have governments in those last 10 years voted on a budget. In other words, 70% of the time you had governments not presenting a budget inside this House, which I always thought was the fundamental foundation for modern democratic parliamentary government.

If you look back at the non-confidence votes of various governments federally, you would find that governments fell, particularly the federal Conservative government of 1979, on a failure of motion of confidence in the budget.

Yet that is not a centrepiece in the consideration of debate in this place: 70% of the time, budgets were brought in and voted on very quietly or passed through concurrences. That brings up another centrepiece to the thesis the opposition parties submit here, that by limiting debate somehow or other you're limiting democracy. Yet members opposite who represented the two previous governments in the last 10 years only subscribed on a 30% basis that a budget was a significant enough document to have it voted on by its representatives of the party.


It's a rather bizarre contradiction and a bizarre submission that the members opposite are making in defence of democracy, yet when it comes to the practising of democracy in this particular Legislature we end up with budgets not being submitted for a formal vote, which leads to a second significant implication: If you don't have a budget vote, you don't have a budget debate.

If debate is as important as members opposite claim it to be, that it is the heart and soul of democracy, why didn't they follow through on the practice of having formal votes on budgets that were presented by the government of the day? These rule changes will bring that about and will in effect enhance and increase the value of debate in this House. If you accept the thesis that a budget is a centrepiece of a democratic parliamentary government's platform, its agenda, undoubtedly you ought to have a vote on it and you ought to have formal debate, whether it's a 90-minute debate or a 30-minute debate by members down the line. There ought to be a full discussion of all the social, economic implications of that particular budget, because it maps out and creates the benchmarks for where a government is going economically. It sets social policy.

It's a rather false impression created by members of the opposition parties when they so passionately and vehemently defend democracy, yet when you look at their past practice, using the budget as a key item to measure how well they believed in democracy in terms of debating a budgetary motion, a motion of confidence or non-confidence, in point of fact 30% is the batting average. It seems to me that's not a very good indicator of their passionate belief in democracy in that particular context.

Now I would like to turn to some of the remarks that have been made over the past two years regarding what I find one of the most abominable incidents; it has been referred to as the Curling incident by members of this government and by members opposite. It was a neat rationalization created by the member for Riverdale in her remarks of last week, which I would like to quote for a moment, about how they came to create what she calls the "strategy" regarding the Curling incident.

"When the government talks, repeatedly there are two incidents it likes to bring up as examples of why we need to fix the system here a little bit. They refer to the Alvin Curling affair, and I notice many of the members referring to that." This is the key quote: "I want to remind the members of the government that it wasn't the Alvin Curling affair; it was a strategy worked out by both of the opposition parties, yes, together. Because at that time we were very aware, when these huge stacks...were dumped on our desks...."

Can you imagine that a member opposite uses what became a very despicable incident in this House, a tragedy for many --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): That's your opinion.

Mr Hastings: That's not just my opinion, but many members of the public out there, unless you haven't been talking to many members of the public, that a minority viewpoint can submit itself and halt democracy. The people across there who are talking about --


The Speaker: Member for Halton Centre, I can take care of the House, thanks very much.

Mr Young: I can't hear, Speaker.

The Speaker: Put your earpiece in. I can take care of the House.


The Speaker: I'm not debating with you. Please come to order.

Mr Hastings: The members opposite talk about a passionate defence of democracy, but if you look back at the consequences of that event, there is undoubtedly a very bad taste left in the mouths of not only members in this House, members of the government and even members opposite; as the member for Mississauga South was referring to earlier, when this incident is cited in parliamentary history -- you talk about it as a defence of democracy. It is not really a defence of democracy at all. It is a halting, a shutdown, a complete cancellation of parliamentary government -- a cancellation.

Yet members opposite, over there, point to that with pride. Can you imagine? If they can't be more inventive, more imaginative in how they can get their policy viewpoints across than simply bowing out of the ball game, it seems to me we have come to a sad day for democracy in this country, of which they speak so passionately.

Earlier tonight the member for Mississauga South was referring to the history, the traditions of democracy in this House. She spoke about the Curling incident within the context of what that particular incident in history must have meant for veterans of the First World War, the Second World War or the Korean War. Those folks went to the defence of democracy, yet we have across the way the justification made that somehow or other -- I think it sullies the whole historic record of why those veterans went into the Second World War. It was to defend democracy against the tyranny of Fascism.

Ms Martel: Dictatorship. Your members are calling it like it is: dictatorship. Three of your own are calling it like it is.

Mr Hastings: The member for Sudbury doesn't have to provide us with any lecture on democracy when she was one of the prime people involved in the whole strategy, a complete destruction and cancellation of democracy.

Ms Martel: A dictatorship; that's exactly what it is.

The Speaker: The member for Sudbury East, please come to order. I'd ask the members to come to order. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale does have the floor. He has 16 minutes left to complete his speech. I'd ask you to cooperate.


Mr Hastings: I know this is a sensitive point with members opposite. If they really talked to their folks back home in the constituencies, there is undoubtedly an unsavoury memory left in the minds of many people about that event, about the destruction --

Ms Martel: Not in Sudbury East, my friend.

Mr Hastings: If they don't understand in Sudbury, I guess we do have many failures of democracy in this country and another reason this particular institution is failing in its institutional credibility. That's is another theme we ought to make some remarks about.

When you look at the rule changes and you look at the limitation on the time of people to debate, so-called debate -- and I share some of the sentiments made earlier tonight by the member for Halton Centre about his impressions of the first two years of being in this great Legislative Assembly, that when people refer to debate, in the traditional sense of that term there is really no debate in this House. It's really an exchange or a monologue of ideas that sort of go across and re-echo in this chamber.

If you had a debate in the classic, traditional sense that was meant back in high school or back in college days, you had a formalized resolution. You have some semblance of that when a government presents a particular bill. But when you go through most of the comments by members and you look for kernels of new ideas, where you really get an engagement of ideas, it's a pretty puny, modest record. The only real place that we get any true debate, in the old traditional, classic sense of talking about the values of democracy, is in parliamentary and private members' hour. That's where members have an opportunity to sort of drop their party hats and become a little more human and appreciate the viewpoints of members opposite. In many instances they are at their finest at that time because they present a specific alternative, a bill they're pushing, and they believe in it fervently and passionately.

But once removed from those two hours on Thursday mornings, you go back and you look at the records of so-called debate in this House, you basically get, from all sides -- I will count myself into that context as well -- not a real exchange of ideas, not a vigorous debate, but simply a monologue of repetition, over and over and over. When you look at the overall quality of debate, you don't really get out of that, you can leave today or the viewer can say: "Jeez, that member brought up a really salient point. That member won that particular point on that debate." You don't get that any more in this kind of forum, I don't think, except in the private members' hour and of course in the usual traditional -- sometimes the interjections are more on the spot than the presentations by the members.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): We agree.

Mr Hastings: I know you'd agree with that.

The House leader for the official opposition pointed out that there is going to be a very bad taste left in his mouth about these proposed rule changes because he argues that these rule changes ought to be brought about by negotiation, which when you think of it is an excellent idea. It should be the way we deal with changing House rules. But in point of fact the history of negotiations in this particular Parliament, if you talk to the previous House leader or the new House leader, when a transaction or a commitment is made, it doesn't normally get kept; it doesn't normally get retained. It either gets cancelled or adjusted or, in some instances, outright ignored.

We could point to various issues, various bills over the last two years where that history of negotiations that is so valued by House leaders broke down and we ended up reverting to other alternatives, given the bill that was in front of the Legislature that day.

So I think the negotiations strategy certainly has not worked when it came to House order and decorum resulting out of the Curling incident. I can remember as a member of the Legislative Assembly committee, the member for Hamilton Centre said at one time near the conclusion on that issue and the surrounding issue of security in this place that came out of that particular situation that House order and decorum had been dealt with. You can go back to March 1996 and you will see that on the record.

It's somewhat shocking to think that members opposite thought that House order and decorum had been dealt with. It has never really been dealt with arising out of that situation because there was always the silent if not implicit threat that if the members of the government on the Legislative Assembly committee proceeded to deal with House order and decorum, there again would have been an outbreak of chaos, but renamed here by the member for Riverdale as a "strategy," a strategy of cancellation and halting.

To continue on the theme of what the opposition claims is the limiting of democracy, one of the key items, one of the key proposals that was brought forward by the independent member for Elgin and has been captured in these proposed rule changes is the role of the independent member. I wanted to highlight that for a moment, that in point of fact, right now an independent member of this Legislature gets little opportunity to raise matters in the House, in terms of question period, in terms of participation on committees. That is a particular proposal that the member for Nepean has included in the House rule changes which I think is an essential advancement of democracy for independent members. It heralds a new day in parliamentary government in terms of even that portion of the package.

It says, "Independent members' recognition in the House and membership on committees." I think that is a key consideration because it gives the member for Elgin the opportunity, on a more continuing and frequent basis, to get issues of his constituents before him. The present set of rules only allow that to occur with the goodwill of the government of the day, and I think it has frustrated independent members in Parliament. I think that's an advance for democracy, not a strike against it.

Finally, I would like to conclude my remarks --

Mr Wildman: Good.

Mr Hastings: That is an excellent interjection, I suppose, in a way, "Good," but it does indicate what the member for Mississauga South alluded to earlier. I think that is part of the whole argument of the failure of this place in institutional terms. Its credibility is severely lacking, and I'll take my share of the responsibility with interjections; I've made several over the last two years. But I've tried to be a little more mindful than usual; I may be failing. But I think it is a good indicator of the lack of compadre, of friendship or of interchange or of tolerance between and among members in this House.

There is a certain sanctimoniousness, unfortunately, that gets read into remarks made. I find it distressing but it seems to be a new reality, given today's social etiquette, or lack of it, and manners. We've had lots of that in this House.

I would like to say in a final comment regarding the remarks of the member for London Centre in which she said that this particular government and members of this government have little tolerance, understanding or acceptance of democratic tradition, I find that somewhat unfortunate, that she is trying to put that tag on to us simply because we are making these House rule changes. Certainly there is a limitation on the time that members can speak, but to impugn the motives of people in government or in opposition simply because you are making some fundamental rule changes, in my estimation, is a serious matter in terms of trying to create better tolerance among members from all sides. I find that rather distressing.

She also made the point that because we do not understand, tolerate nor truly accept democratic traditions and how they operate, how democracy and parliamentary government operate, somehow or other that leads to a lack of accountability. Yet when you go through, and I listened carefully to her remarks, how much accountability was there when you had a government that sat for about 25 to 30 days in 1995? I think we need to put that into the context of this whole debate.

Finally, I would like to say that these particular rule changes will not limit democracy in any way, shape or form. They will advance it. They will create new opportunities for members of all parties to speak out and have greater participation in the operations of committees. It will also give you, Speaker, the significant role of being able to make this House operate in a more effective and timely manner, and therefore it will advance democracy.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to rise to speak to the amendment standing in the name of the member for Cochrane North, which amendment concerns two issues: the two-for-one special, which I agree should be removed from the package, and more important, the question of the length of speeches, which is the specific issue, and some of the attendant questions to which I want to turn my attention.

Mr Young: How long are you going to speak for?

Mr Conway: Brevity is not one of my more notable characteristics. I want to talk, I hope with some seriousness tonight, about a subject that's probably not going to please some of my own colleagues, although I was struck as I came into the House earlier by the remarkable statesmanship and equanimity of Mr Bradley. I thought for a moment he was applying for a job at the United Nations. In my many years of knowing him I have never seen such quietism and such evenhandedness as I saw from Senator Bradley.

I must say -- she was in the chamber a while ago but she's not here now -- I was out on a parish visit this afternoon with Mr Robert F. Nixon and we were sipping tea under the maple trees in the Niagara Peninsula. As I came back in from a not very pleasant drive from down in the peninsula I heard the dulcet tones of Mrs Marland reminding us all about the statesmanship of Mr Robert F. Nixon. She's right, you know. She and Bob Nixon not only used to share great speeches, they shared many a good chocolate bar in this chamber in the time they were here together. I didn't hear somebody else, although I think I heard some reference to the Gettysburg address by somebody in here tonight.

I want to make a couple of comments about length of speeches and quality of speeches. Bob Nixon made many good speeches; he made some great speeches. I would argue one of the reasons that Mrs Marland rightly observed the eloquence and statesmanship of people like Bob Nixon, and he wasn't alone -- Bob Welch was here when I came, but I'll talk about Nixon because the shy and retiring member for Mississauga South raised the issue earlier in the debate.

Bob Nixon grew up in a family where by the time he was born, daddy had been here for five or six years. He'd already been in the cabinet, and Nixon was to spend his entire youth and adolescence imbibing the business of politics. That was reflected in the way he spoke around this place. Mrs Marland was absolutely right: Nixon could on the drop of a hat entertain you with a very good speech on an amendment to the Milk Act, how the Queen Elizabeth Way got its name, some remote township in northeastern Ontario or some arcane aspect of these parliamentary rules. He could do that in part because of his very particular skill, but also because of his particular personal upbringing and education. It's not one that everybody had the opportunity to share. He has great stories and I hope some day he writes the book he keeps threatening to write. Those speeches came out of an environment and they came out of a context, and he worked at it all the time.

Churchill, who is famous for his great speeches, rarely made a speech without a lot of practice. He practised all the time. He worked on the lines, he wrote them and he recited them privately. There's a great story about how Churchill went to visit for a weekend with one of his colleagues and gave the hostess a rather bad time because there wasn't a sufficiently large mirror in the bedroom. Why, Mrs Runciman wanted to know, did he need a mirror of that size? Because he was practising the speech he was going to give the next day at the mechanics' institute or whatever.

A point was made here tonight about the Gettysburg address. If you haven't read it recently, you should, because it is a truly beautiful speech. It took two minutes and 40 seconds to give. I think it's 272 words long.

Mr Young: It's 274.

Mr Conway: It's 274. A great book has been written by a fellow named Garry Wills called Lincoln at Gettysburg. It's a brilliant piece of work. It won a Pulitzer Prize a couple of years ago, as my friend from Wellington seems to know -- a great, great book and a great speech, a speech that's really a prayer more than an oration.

The point I want to make about the Gettsyburg address is that it was very much second fiddle. Lincoln was not the principal speaker at Gettysburg that day in November 1863. The principal speaker that day at Gettysburg was the famous mid-19th-century American orator Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours in length. They all came to hear Everett. This very controversial American President with the high-pitched voice and the very disagreeable visage was not the featured speaker.

Mr Young: Who remembers Everett?

Mr Conway: Who remembers Everett? Well, a lot of New Englanders remember Mr Everett. He was, after all, Secretary of State and a Boston Brahmin and a lot of other things.

The point I want to make is that we talk now about Gettysburg, but if you look at the press reviews of November 1863, it was Everett's speech which captured the headlines. The President's oration was a very brief little prayer that Everett understood the significance of, no doubt about that, but the principal speaker of the day was Edward Everett and he spoke with an elaborate prepared text that went on in excess of two hours.

You look at the great parliamentary performers of this place, but let's go to the more illustrious precedents: Go to Westminster, go to Ottawa. I'm in the process now of finishing a book about Gladstone, a marvellous book by Roy Jenkins. Gladstone was an enormous power in 19th-century parliamentary Britain: Chancellor of the Exchequer for 12 years, Prime Minister for 14, led four different administrations. Gladstone rarely spoke for less than two hours. He would come to the House with his Irish universities bill or one of his budgets and literally blow the place away with a three- or four-hour oration. Disraeli would match it with greater colour, if not greater conscience.

Read Arthur Meighen's speeches about the railway unification bills in the Canadian Parliament of 50 and 60 years ago, four- and five-hour masterpieces; Edward Blake on the Orange societies bill; Edward Blake on the Riel rebellion. But 20-minute speeches, 40-minute speeches? Surely you jest. It was different and I'm not here to argue that we should return to those times. But the world from which we come was a world in which parliamentarians of note worked long and hard, read widely, thought seriously and spoke at great length about the great issues of their time.

I was reading last night, and Mrs Marland knows this -- because this Gladstone book, which I do recommend, really is a good piece of work -- the memoirs of Lord Asquith, long-time Prime Minister of Great Britain, a colleague of Gladstone. It is a bit of a history lesson, but these rules come out of the history. There's a great temptation around this place to say, "Let us just take, for example, the Ottawa rule, and apply it to Toronto." I understand that argument. It's not always inappropriate. But if Winston Churchill came here, he'd look at this place and he'd say: "I'll tell you one thing that's wrong with this place: these seats, these benches. Get them out of here."

When Westminster was bombed in the early days of the war, it was Churchill who insisted the chamber be rebuilt in precisely the way it had been. His argument was that to get a good parliamentary debate you needed a sense and a geography of intimacy. The notion of benches would certainly interfere with that.


How many of you have been to the actual chamber at Westminster? It's not much bigger than this place and they've got 635 members. It is not intended to seat everybody. In fact I think when the place is full, and the clerk could tell me, it probably means 35% of the House has to stand.

The argument was, and it was Churchill's argument, that if you were going to have a good parliamentary debate, it had to be intimate. These benches and, God forbid, these prepared speeches -- the notion that the ministry would prepare speeches for members was beyond the pale.

Asquith -- well, maybe that's too arcane. Well, I will. Margaret laughed last night when I -- I was just thinking about some eloquence. Listen to this. Oh, this is a famous line, actually not given in Parliament but it's typical of the sort of thing Disraeli would have said. Disraeli is about to become Prime Minister for the second time. He's Leader of the Opposition and he's looking at the first Gladstone government, which is coming unstuck and is about to be defeated.

What does the then leader of the Conservative party, Mr Disraeli, say? "As I sat opposite the Treasury Bench," the Gladstone ministry "reminded me of one of those marine landscapes not very unusual on the coasts of South America. You behold a range of exhausted volcanos. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest, but the situation is still dangerous. There are occasional earthquakes and ever and anon the dark rumbling of the sea."

I wish we had some of that in here. We don't, and for reasons -- not very many Disraelis or Lincolns or Blakes were born and raised in this environment. But I agree with Mr Hastings who spoke earlier, because I think one of the things he was trying to say, and if I misstate this then he can correct me, and let me say it in my own name: I'm less concerned about the length of, the containment of speeches, though I think this package is too restrictive and that's why I support the Wood amendment, but I am even more concerned about the quality of speeches in this place.

We are, all of us, not working hard enough, and I accept my share of responsibility. I've delivered some pretty bad stuff over the years. The notion that you just get up and fill time should not be the guiding notion. I was in here last night. I've never served on municipal government. I thought my friend Lalonde from Prescott-Russell delivered a spirited speech about municipal affairs. I was interested. I know his area a bit, and I thought: "That's a good speech. He's gotten up and he's getting a few things off his chest that told me something about what's going on in that part of southeastern Ontario."

Marchese gets up here every so often and goes on about the cultural community, about which I know not very much, and I always learn things. Murdoch will make a speech about some part of the western peninsula and I think: "It's kind of interesting. I didn't know that." I get a sense that there is some personal investment in the speech. There's not enough of that. There are too many bad speeches being given in this place.

Mr Rollins: Do we get a fax copy?

Mr Conway: No, but I say that very seriously. Mrs Marland makes a very good point. If Nixon were up here -- when I came here -- you stayed and listened because it was lively, it was insightful, it was informed and it was engaging. If Welch was up for the government at the time, or Renwick and Lewis and Deans, for new members like myself, you wanted to be here because you learned something substantive. You mightn't agree with it, but you learned something about a subject area and an approach to it and you saw some very good people practising their trade. This is an art at which you have to work.

I want to make that point very seriously tonight. Of course, if good speeches are being made, we have an obligation surely to one another to listen. That's not to say we shouldn't interject. In fact Churchill's argument is that you want a very kind of intimate environment so there can be some engagement. Nobody who has ever sat in government is unaware of the complaint that current government members have made about: "They just won't listen and they just won't be polite. Oh, they're so rude and crude, those oppositionists." Well, that's often a very valid complaint.

You can imagine how people who have been around a while say: "Mr Davis just announced what kind of a school policy?" "Mr Rae just said what about insurance?" "Mr Peterson, what has he just said about free trade?" It is very hard to be a Boy Scout when that kind of stuff is going on. We all react predictably.

This also allows me an opportunity to raise a concern that I've been feeling for too many years now and it's very difficult because we have a very peculiar doctrine of democratic government -- it's parliamentary -- and the notion of responsible government means something most people don't quite understand. The notion is that people in our system get to elect a Parliament and Parliament gets to choose a government. With the advent of parties it is generally a foregone conclusion, but it was interesting being around here in 1985 when we had basically a hung jury. Frank Miller led a party that got 52 seats; Peterson led a party that got 48 seats; Bob Rae led a party that got 25 seats. It was amazing how many people, not just inside the political class but how many pundits thought, "Frank has four more than Dave, so that means there has to be a Miller government."

All it meant was that Parliament would meet and Parliament would decide. On that particular occasion, Parliament decided something that was a little unusual. Two party leaders representing 65% of those who were elected in that May 2, 1985, election decided to form an alliance to create a new government. On June 12, 1985, I think it was, this Parliament voted to retire the Miller administration and create the new administration.

Mr Froese: And went downhill ever since.

Mr Conway: Well, whether it did or not is not something I want to talk about today. The point I want to talk about is that Parliament decided that. Parliament has, in our system, some very significant responsibilities. Let me be very blunt about this. My grandfather was here for nearly 20 years in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and he lived to be a very old man. I often listened to him talk about his life here, first in opposition, then in government, and then in opposition. The independent attitude of a number of the members was quite remarkable. They obviously felt a loyalty and a fealty to their leader and to their caucus, but it was not absolute. Governments often lost votes, sometimes very interestingly.

What do I see, not just today, but what have I been seeing here for some time now? That the life and role and responsibility as a member of Parliament is a notion increasingly foreign to most people. Most people who get elected now want power. Power in our system is the executive council; it's cabinet. The election is held and what do we all think and what do we all do? Well, if you're not in cabinet or about to join cabinet, you are somehow personally and professionally inadequate, and however are you going to explain that to your spouse, your kids, your neighbours and your community? It's all about cabinet, it's all about government. Of course, the opposition isn't really much different. They're animated by the same kinds of things.


The notion that people are serious about their role as a member of Parliament, as a member of the Legislature, is a very diminished notion around here. What has it led to? This may be indelicate, but it has led to some of the most transparent and shameless -- I'll use a 19th-century expression that Sir John A. would have used on a late night sitting. He would have said: "It is obscene, the amount of ministerial boot-licking that's going on around me. It is shameless. It is unedifying." He would have added a few other things to it.

It is almost embarrassing and humiliating for self-respecting men and women, who put their names on the ballot and their credibility on the line before their electors -- not an insignificant commitment -- and they win sufficient suffrage at the local level, to come to Ottawa or Toronto or Winnipeg, and then they do what? It's as though their spine turns into some kind of noodle, and a wet one at that. When Guy Giorno or Hershell Ezrin or David Agnew says, "Jump," the member says, "How high and how far?" There was a time when people would say, "Go to hell, Mr Giorno, Mr Agnew and Mr Ezrin."

I'm not here to argue that we want loose fish and mavericks all over the place, Mr Murdoch, because there has to be an order and there has to be a discipline.

I'm going to tell you, I think it is a fair observation to look at these rules and ask, as a package, who wins? I can tell you who wins. Government wins. The executive arm of government wins. Mr Bradley was very right. I don't care whether it's Dave Johnson, Jim Bradley, Bud Wildman; if you've ever been in government or if you ever think you're going to be in government, trust me, you're going to like this. You're going to like it a lot. There will be very considerable reluctance to retreat from this set of proposals.

I don't want to be too inflammatory, but it's rather as if the closer you get to the shaded greens of Stornaway, the more attractive is that front door, the more compelling is that master bedroom, the more inviting is that larder, and many a virtuous soul has lost his way on the road from Calgary to Acacia Drive in Rockcliffe Park.

I say in all seriousness to Parliament, as Parliament, let us reflect upon our responsibilities. Parliament, as Professor Franks, a noted Canadian political scientist, observes in another book I think you should read some time, The Parliament of Canada, has four functions: First, it's to make a government; second, it's to make a government work, to give it the resources to function; third, it's to make a government behave. That's why you'll see the Leader of the Opposition, whether it's McGuinty, Rae or Harris, standing up and sometimes being indelicately accusatory, because the function that the opposition has and Parliament has is to make the government behave. The fourth function is to make an alternative government.

One of the tragedies of the federal election we just had is that we've got a Parliament that has no alternative government and it is not possible to imagine an alternative government in that Parliament. It's hard to imagine an election soon that would create a rather different Parliament that would still fix that problem, and that's a very serious problem for the nation. For two successive general elections we've got Parliaments that could not, in that mix, meet that fourth function that Professor Franks observes, namely, making an alternative government. Preston Manning and Gilles Duceppe an alternative government? They only agree on one thing, Duceppe and Manning, and that is that Quebec should go. You can't meet that responsibility in that respect.

I want to come back, though, to the point I was getting at earlier, that we have some responsibilities as members of Parliament. We've been losing our way over the last number of years. I think the time has come to really reflect upon this, because whether you're Ned Franks or Norman Ward or J.R. Mallory, most of the people who've observed the Canadian political culture conclude, among other things, that one of the most dominant and remarkable features of the Canadian political culture and the Canadian parliamentary culture is just how incredibly dominant cabinets have become and how correspondingly weak Parliaments have become. And that's irrespective of party, I might quickly add.

Franks has some particularly interesting advice that is counterintuitive; it's not what people would expect. He also makes a point in this book, and I want to just cite it. He says, "Procedure, like most aspects of Parliament, is about power: who has it, who wields it and how it's applied," page 116 of the text, I think. So don't be misled, folks. This is not just an arcane debate about this little piece and that little piece. This is about a fundamental question of power and the balance of power. We should think about that.

This government, like any government, has a right to be upset by some of the behaviour. Bradley was right. I think he was the one who -- bell-ringing is Fascistic. The fact that a finance minister couldn't present a budget to the place is just -- we all lose in that. But I was once a government House leader and made some mistakes, some of them considered and some of them totally inadvertent. Bradley's right. I know that this place is only going to work if there is a reasonable level of consensus, accepting that it is a fundamentally adversarial place.

I love these people. I won't say anything about the Integrity Commissioner today, because how could I? But there are days when I think: "My goodness, I like these -- oh, it's just Parliament. It's just so noisy and they're so negative and they slang one another." Then there's always somebody who comes along and says, "It used to be so antiseptic and so wonderful." It really was, was it?

Peter Waite is a noted Canadian historian. He's written a fabulous essay, in a book called Oliver Mowat's Ontario, called Reflections on an Un-Victorian Society. There's some wonderful stuff about the Parliament of Canada in the 1870s and 1880s. I wouldn't even want Mrs Marland's delicate Mississauga ears to hear some of that. She would be stupefied. There wouldn't be another Girl Guide or Boy Scout who felt a democratic impulse in his or her being if they were ever to find out what Macdonald and -- oh, not just Macdonald. It was indelicate, to say the least.

Folks, this is a system that is adversarial. This place is a substitute for the battlefield. When those western Canadians went to the Speaker's foot 17 years ago -- remember that, that fight over the national energy program? There were some pretty responsible people. Those western Canadian Tories were enraged by Trudeau's national energy program, and their rage drove them to some actions that I'm sure they didn't want to do and are not now proud of. You were talking there about not just selling Girl Guide cookies or not just deciding what kind of avian emblem Ontario would have or what kind of colour we would put on the carpet downstairs. You were talking about issues that were fundamental, about the economic development of the country, about regional pressures in a country that's highly regionalized. So let us not expect that we're going to have a very neat little debating society.


Having said that, Judge Evans, Mr Hastings and others are right to observe that the decorum is too often wanting these days. I think it was Mr Bradley who observed, perhaps even the Premier, when I heard the radio reports, coming back from my prayer meeting with Mr Nixon under those maple trees in Grimsby this afternoon, that antics seem to attract a lot of attention. I can't imagine anybody who would be more expert at knowing that than Michael D. Harris, Esq, of North Bay.

Why I will support the Wood motion is that I think this set of proposals is too favourable to the executive branch of government, that there is not the corresponding redress for Parliament, that the speaking times are somewhat restrictive. But I conclude by saying that the quality of the speeches and our whole attitude and mindset to the importance of Parliament as Parliament and our roles as free-thinking, relatively independent members of Parliament is a more fundamental question with which we are all going to have to deal.

Ms Martel: I'm going to begin by saying that I always enjoy listening to the member for Renfrew North, because he has been in this chamber for some long time now and can speak to experiences because of that long time in this chamber that many of us don't know or have not been accustomed to or have had no attachment to, even though the former member for Sudbury East spent a lot of time in this House and would have listened to Mr Nixon for some long time too and was also a House leader at the same time that he was. Having said that, I must also admit that I never like having to follow, in speaking, the member for Renfrew North, because of that very reason, because of his experience and what he can add to the debate.

But there are some things I want to say about the issue we are engaged in discussing here this evening. I think it's a very important debate and one that I feel very strongly about. We are dealing with an amendment put forward by the member for Cochrane North to make two changes: first, to change what the government has proposed with respect to the limits on individual debates by members in this House; and second, we are trying to change the government proposal that if this assembly sits beyond 6 at night to whatever time at night -- 9:30 I believe is what is in the government motion -- the government can count that as two sessional days. Of course that would be very helpful when the government is trying to force closure on any number of debates.

I have to tell you that the government motion as proposed and the reasons for our trying to amend what is a very bad and negative motion have to do with our sense and our perception that the bottom line with respect to the government's motion is that the government wants to use the rule changes to avoid public scrutiny of the government's agenda, to avoid liability of the government's agenda, and to avoid accountability for the negative impacts of the government's agenda. For our caucus, and for me, that's what's at the heart of our debating this motion, of us moving the amendments and of us trying to impress upon the government, particularly the back bench, that whatever rule changes you bring forward, we can guarantee that this place will not be more effective and that you will not get your agenda through any faster, even though you desperately want to.

At the end of the day what will happen is that it will become much more difficult for this place to operate, period, because when opposition members feel like the government is ramming its agenda down their throats and down the throats of the public, there will be a reaction from the opposition. The reaction will be us doing whatever it takes, whatever we can do to ensure that our voice and the voice of the people we represent is heard.

The government can try to ram through these changes. The government will vote down our amendments and any the official opposition might put forward, but in ramming through these rule changes, which are extremely draconian, I might add, this place will not operate any better, there will be no increased trust among House leaders and there will be great difficulty around this government trying to get unanimous consent for whatever it wants to. All in all, this place will not function one whit better or more effectively on behalf of all the people I thought all of us were here trying to represent.

I listened earlier to the comments of a couple of the government members. I really have to respond to a couple of things that were said, particularly by the member for Mississauga South. I was upstairs, after having finished being involved in the public hearings -- I use that term loosely; I'll speak to the public hearings about Bill 99 later on -- watching the member for Mississauga South on TV speak to this amendment. I hate to use the word "sanctimonious," but it's the only word I can use to describe what I felt about that presentation.

One of the first things she said which struck me was that if you can't say your piece in this assembly in 20 minutes, there's something wrong; if you can't represent the views of your constituents on a piece of legislation in this place in 20 minutes, there's something dreadfully wrong. Then I noted with some amusement that she went on and spoke for the full 30 minutes she was allotted for this debate. I thought, tit for tat, what did that have to do with anything? What kind of comment was she making? What kind of addition did she make to this debate when the same member who stood for a number of minutes on her feet and argued that if you can't say it in 20 minutes, don't say it at all or there's something wrong, then proceeded to use her full 30 minutes?

During her remarks the member also made a great deal of comment about how the place is falling apart, how members are showing disrespect or have a lack of respect for this place, how awful it must be for folks who tune in -- I think she said in the morning -- to this place on TV when, for example, during the Bill 26 filibuster they saw the leader of the third party, our leader, asleep.

I was reminded that this was the same member who, on more than one occasion when I came into this place during the filibuster on Bill 103, was asleep at her desk, with her head on her desk. On more than one occasion, the member for Mississauga South was in this chamber during the prolonged debate, the extensive debate on Bill 103 with her head down on her desk, asleep, but she neglected to mention that during her comments. I would think that people who are appalled at seeing the leader of the third party asleep during the debate on Bill 26 would have been just as appalled to see the member for Mississauga South asleep at her desk during the megacity debate. I thought: "What a contradiction. Why did she forget to mention that?"

If she's concerned about people in this chamber not having respect or adequate respect or appropriate respect, she had better not look that much further than herself, particularly with respect to the example she raised. I thought it was a silly example in any event, given that we were all here all night. I think the public doesn't worry too much about those things, because the public is far more worried about how this government is gutting any number of pieces of legislation and beating up on the poorest of the poor. I thought it was really strange that she would use that kind of example when she herself had been part and parcel of the so-called or alleged problem.


The other thing I was interested in, when she talked about people being concerned about respect and showing respect for the democratic institution and what people were doing or were not doing in this place, this was the same member, as I recall, who was filmed by the TV cameras in this place looking through swatches. Do you remember, Madam Speaker? She had a big book on her desk, in the middle of a debate that was going on, flipping through page after page of swatches, which we came to find out were swatches for the chairs in the government caucus room. What does that say to people who are watching this place? What does that make people think about how much they're paying their politicians and whether they are getting their money's worth?

I just think the member needs to be awful careful about shutting up opposition members in the sense of saying that we are the ones responsible here for the bad public image that people have of all politicians because of our conduct when there have been any number of us -- and I am as much party to that as anyone else in here -- involved in conduct that at the end of the day probably did add to public cynicism. I say to the member, she needs to be awful careful about just talking about the conduct of opposition members, because we have all had and all participated in our share of increasing, not decreasing, public cynicism about the democratic process in this place. That's a fair thing to say.

The other thing the member said --


The Acting Speaker (Mrs Marion Boyd): Member for Huron, member for Algoma, member for Halton North, please. This is a discussion about decorum. I would call upon you to listen carefully to the debate.

Ms Martel: I look forward to the member for Huron participating in the debate when it next goes in rotation to her party. In any event, I listened further to the member -- and this was repeated by another of the Conservative members tonight -- about how appalled they were about what happened with Mr Curling, who is in the chamber tonight, and how awful that was, what a breach of the democratic process that incident demonstrated etc.

I thought to myself, if only this group had been as concerned with respect to what their own government House leader was trying to ram through the House at the same time. If only this group, who were so supposedly appalled by what was done by the member for Scarborough North, had been as worried about the fact that the government, on its own, was trying to ram through an omnibus bill in this place without any public input, without any public consultation, before Christmas, in about a 10-day period. If they had been as worried, then maybe we wouldn't have had to find ourselves in the position that we did and maybe Mr Curling would not have had to take the action that he did, which, yes, was supported by members of the opposition.

I can tell you I was proud to support him in that, because I felt then, and I feel just as strongly today, that the government's only intention with respect to that bill was to shove it down people's throats as quickly as they could, as far as they could, without any public scrutiny, without any accountability, without any public input. The government here has to realize that they were not elected by the majority of people in this province, even though how the system works means that they have a majority of seats. They were not elected by the majority of people in this province, and people in this province and their elected MPPs from the opposition have a right and have an obligation to make the point, to be critical, to criticize, to hold the government accountable.

The member for Mississauga South and her other colleague from Etobicoke who spoke here tonight need to start to understand that when you use tactics that reflect a dictatorship, then you are going to have the opposition respond. The opposition will respond in any way they think they can to that kind of an abuse of process and an abuse of this place. What the government did on Bill 26 was exactly that. They abused their majority; they abused this assembly; they abused the opposition and the public, all of whom had a right to have some input into a bill that fundamentally changed the health care system in this province, municipalities in this province, pay equity in this province and any number of other dramatic changes that were part and parcel of that omnibus bill.

The rule changes as they have been put forward by the government really have as their purpose to shut down and shut out the public from any scrutiny of this government's agenda. That is the bottom line. That is why we are opposed to them and that is why we are trying, through these amendments, to make some changes to what are very draconian initiatives on the part of this government.

The government in putting forward the rule changes that it has, in the unilateral fashion that it did under the cover of the federal election, and then the amendments put forward under cover of a funeral, for goodness' sake, have at their heart the desire for this government to ram through its legislation, especially controversial pieces of it, as quickly as possible without accountability or scrutiny. These rule changes follow very clearly a pattern that was set by this Conservative government on the day it arrived in office in this place.

Take a look at how the government has approached any number of issues.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, speaker. I'm wondering if there's a quorum present. Could you check?

The Acting Speaker: Would you check for 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 Sudbury East may continue.

Ms Martel: The rule changes follow a pattern which this government established when it arrived here. If you take a look at what this government has done with respect to consultation on government bills, with respect to consultation on government discussion papers, with respect to public hearings processes around here, it becomes very clear that every action taken by the government with respect to those things has been as much as possible to shut down those processes, to shut out those people who might come forward and have an opposing point of view, to shut out the ability of the public to come forward and provide solutions which are different than the ones the government wants to impose.

Take a look, for example, at the consultation that has occurred on some of the bills. I use the word "consultation" loosely, because in many cases there wasn't any, or the consultation that occurred on major pieces of legislation that fundamentally changed structures and legislation in this province was only done in concert with the government's friends, behind closed doors, in the back rooms of this place.


Bill 7, for example, fundamentally changed the relationship in the workplace between employers and workers and took workers' rights back 50 years in this province. There was no consultation with organized labour with respect to that. Organized labour is a party to the workplace. There are two, employers and workers, yet organized labour, workers in this province, had no input with respect to the dramatic changes that were introduced by the Minister of Labour which turned back the clock in this province 50 years with respect to the gains workers had fought for and won.

Take a look at Bill 103, the megacity legislation. The Minister of Municipal Affairs tried to say his legislation was incorporating recommendations that had been made by any number of people who had been asked to study amalgamation, not only of public services but of municipalities. The fact of the matter was that everything the government did was contrary to any of the studies that had been put forward which recommended consolidation in the GTA. The government had no consultation with anyone and the studies it relied on frankly were studies that recommended a completely different approach and a different way to deal with that particular issue.

Look at Bill 26. What kind of consultation took place with people who were most affected? What kind of consultation took place, for example, with firefighters, with police officers, with people who work in the health care system who are now being impacted by decisions of the Health Services Restructuring Commission? There was no consultation with people who were and continue to be so dramatically affected by the changes the government has imposed, and that's typical of how this government operates with respect to bills it brings forward.

Look at the public hearings process that goes on around this place. Bill 7: No public hearings on a bill which fundamentally changed the relationship between workers and employers in the workplace; not one second of public consultation on a bill of that magnitude. The bills that changed the Public Libraries Act: One single day of public hearings here in Toronto, despite the many groups who applied for standing, who wanted to talk to the government about the importance of public libraries, who wanted to have their say. A single day of public hearings in Toronto, that's what we got, for the people in Toronto who wanted to have their say.

We were dealing with Bill 99 this afternoon in committee, and that's another farce. That's another blatant attempt by this government to shut out the public, particularly injured workers who have the most to lose by the terrible changes this Minister of Labour is bringing in through that bill. We have the potential of 130 out of over 1,300 people who requested standing, even before the public hearings started, who may be heard at the end of the day. Yet the bill as proposed by the minister dramatically, negatively impacts upon the lives of hundreds and hundreds of workers hurt now and hundreds and thousands who will be hurt in the future, and their families and their ability to sustain their families.

The government has consistently voted down motions our party has put forward to extend the hearings and to ensure that injured workers have a single day in Toronto where they can come and express their concerns directly to the committee. Every time that committee has sat, the government has voted that motion down, because this Conservative government does not want to hear from the public, does not want to hear from injured workers, does not want people to have any say, does not want their legislation to go through public scrutiny and does not want to be accountable for the dramatic and very detrimental and devastating changes they are making through this bill.

The government goes further because the government then passes legislation to protect itself from liability, again not to be accountable, not to have to deal with the fallout that comes from some of their legislative changes, from some of their agenda.

I look at Bill 26 and see that the Health Services Restructuring Commission is protected from all liability and cannot be sued. If the government was confident in its legislation, if the government was not worried about the effects the restructuring commission is going to have on community after community in this province, then why does the government have a clause in the legislation that protects the commission from all liability?

Why did the government do the same thing in Bill 57, for example, changes to the environment, where companies no longer have to get a certificate of approval to operate in the province? The government will set a framework or a standard for various classes, and as long as you meet the particular standard, you don't have to get a certificate of approval. In that legislation too the government passed an amendment which protects the government from all liability if there is a spill, if there is an environmental disaster, because this government decided that companies didn't have to have certificates of approval any more and people didn't have to have any kind of input into the factories, into the shops and into the operations that were going into their neighbourhoods.

Why does the government do that? To avoid accountability, to avoid public scrutiny. If you thought the bill was so good, if you thought it was so right, why do you put in an amendment to try and protect yourself from someone suing you? What kind of perception do you think that raises with people out there who see that kind of thing? What do they think when they see their government passing legislation that protects the government itself from liability for the changes it's making? I don't think it looks very good to the majority of people out there who watch the changes that are taking place.

The government rationale, the real rationale for the rule changes I think was best expressed in this place by the member for Dufferin-Peel. I've heard the government try and tell this House that they're concerned about the ability of members to participate and that some of these rule changes will allow for increased participation. I've heard some of the government members refer to the changes that will benefit the independent member, as if somehow they're so terribly concerned about the rights of the independent member.

But the member for Dufferin-Peel, in his remarks on the amendments put forward by the minister for privatization, hit it right on the head. He said: "We're doing this because the government should not be stopped in getting its agenda through. The government cannot be stopped. The government has a right to govern." Do you know what was interesting? When we said to him, "Name one government bill that this Conservative government hasn't been able to get through in the time it's been here," the member for Dufferin-Peel couldn't answer.

Then the member for Nepean, who has been the front person for these rule changes, got up and said that the government bill that hadn't gone through, that hadn't been passed, was Bill 33. I have a copy of Bill 33, put forward by Mr Flaherty, An Act to amend the Legislative Assembly Act. It was a private member's bill that was put forward by Mr Flaherty. This is not a government bill, I say to the member for Nepean, unless the government is going to start ensuring that all the government members who participate in private members' hour now bring forward the agenda of the government. This was a private member's bill.

I heard the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale talk about private members' hour earlier and how important private members' hour was because it allowed people to drop their party hats. That's what I heard him say. Yet the member for Nepean uses this, a private member's bill, as the example of the government not being able to get its agenda through. What you said was just not factually correct, my friend. There has been no government bill, not a single government bill that has not been passed through this Legislature by the government using its majority. Not one has been blocked. So the argument the member for Dufferin-Peel uses and the government uses and the member for Nepean tried to use is a false one. The government, with its majority, always gets its legislation through. That was the case when I was here in opposition from 1987 to 1990, it was the case when I was here in government, and it is the case now. The government, at the end of the day, always gets its legislation through because it has a majority to do so.


It is a fallacy for the members of the government to say, "We need this because we can't get our agenda through." What is at the heart of this is that the government wants to ram through its legislation as quickly as it can whenever it wants to. That's what's at the heart of the rule changes.

People in this place on the government side think that because they were elected and have a majority, somehow they represent the views of all the people in the province. I remind the government members that the group of us who are over here were elected by the majority of the people in the province. That's the reality. We have, as opposition members, a right, but more importantly an obligation, to represent in this House a different point of view. We were elected to do that.

The people who elected us didn't buy into your revolution, didn't buy into your agenda. The majority of people in this province didn't buy into your agenda or your revolution. Those people have a right to expect that the MPPs they elected who sit on the opposition side will be able to come to this place and have their say and represent their views and represent their concerns and represent a different vision for Ontario than the one you folks reflect. That's what the people who elected us expect us to do and that's what we are trying to do. Your rule changes are a blatant attempt to try and stop us from doing that. When you do that, you affect not only us but the people we come here to represent, the people who have a different vision, a different point of view, who want something different for their kids and their family in Ontario than the agenda you're trying to put forward.

We have moved these amendments, even though we believe the whole package is terribly flawed, because what we are trying to do through our amendments it to ensure that opposition members continue to have an important role in the democratic process in this place and that we continue to represent the views of the public who sent us here and on whose behalf we are now here to serve.

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to add a few comments to the discussion this evening. I have to say I think it would be very easy to approach it from a cynical perspective. From my perspective, I would like to approach it from a more positive viewpoint than perhaps has been articulated this evening.

I'd also like to recognize the member for Nepean and the efforts he has made to bring forward this matter. Anyone who knows the member for Nepean will know him as an extremely focused individual when he addresses a particular issue. This is an issue that he has felt strongly about as an individual, and one he has brought forward in his capacity as parliamentary assistant to the House leader. I know he has devoted a great deal of time and consideration to this matter, one that has been spoken to from different perspectives this evening and one that has brought different viewpoints, both in terms of immediate observations and others based on a more historical perspective.

As I mentioned at the outset, it's easy, as a new member, to be somewhat cynical. We all come to this place with expectations that we are going to make a difference. I think that's a reasonable expectation, an expectation that need not be lost in some of the traditions of this place, but at the same time it's an expectation that needs to be addressed in the context of how we can make this place work better in the future.

One of the observations I made right from the outset -- the member for Algoma alluded to this a little earlier this evening -- centres on our committee system in general. Any new member, any backbencher who comes to this place quickly becomes a journeyman of this place through the committee process, and it's a process I've had the pleasure of experiencing extensively over the course of the last two years. From that perspective, we look at opportunities to improve it.

I myself do not necessarily support the methods by which people are brought to a committee, how we arrive at determining which individuals shall appear, the ability with which we deal with those individuals. I have to reflect on last night, as we dealt with matters the member for Essex-Kent brought forward from a private member's perspective, as well as my colleague from St Catharines-Brock; the method we had to go through to deal with those individual interests outside the formal committee process, one which extended the debate much longer than it perhaps needed to be. That experience, as well as many other experiences we see on a regular basis, speaks to the reason we need to move forward and address some changes in this place.

I was deeply interested in the comments of the member for Renfrew North this evening. I think all members were interested in the comments he made and the response they provided him. I too would have to say it's been my observation that personal interests, political interests, seem to be the primary motivation in this place, versus merit and content of discussion. His comments in terms of the quality of speech spoke very loudly to the efforts that each one of us needs to make as we address issues of importance, both as government and opposition members.

This is not an attack, in my opinion, on the rights of members. It's an issue of opportunity for increased accountability and doing things differently in this place.

I found it interesting that the member for Algoma suggested that no one listens. We don't necessarily agree with viewpoints, but I can say -- and the member for London Centre will know the slippery slope I travelled down one day when I recognized the practical advice she provided to me as a new member to this place, the criticism that resulted from that. Having spent some time in committee with the member for Algoma, I have listened and I have learned from his experience. I don't necessarily agree with his viewpoint. I think he should not lose sight of the fact that perhaps that learning experience is being provided, that we are listening. It's articulated in different formats, and not always in terms of how it's presented in this place.

The member for Halton Centre tonight talked about his experience, and I think he provided some very practical observations of his experience here. It combined a bit of cynicism, I would suggest, a bit of jest, realism and perhaps some true observation of how this place operates. As I said at the outset, I don't wish to be critical of that process, but at the same time, I think there is opportunity to improve upon how we do things here.

It has been my practice from the outset to approach this from one of listening and learning and then attempting to apply what I've learned. The first two have come easily. The third, in terms of applying, I'm not sure has come that easily, either by inability to apply it or perhaps, from a different perspective, not wanting to apply what I've learned. Having said that, I'm far more optimistic that that third point of view will be remedied in the longer term, as I experience more opportunities here. I fully anticipate that all three of those applications I attempt to bring to this job are met at some time in my political career.

As I mentioned, the member for Halton Centre raised some important points, ones I agree with. An interesting part as well, tonight, was that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin described this place as being dysfunctional. That speaks in part to why we need to have some changes here, to remedy the dysfunction we do experience from time to time -- not necessarily every day. It presents itself in different formats. But that dysfunctional observation he's made needs to be addressed.

The member for Algoma referred to the process of tightening the rules. His experience here of some 22 years would lead him to believe that the tighter the rules are, the more bizarre the tactics will become. That's perhaps a reasonable observation, and I suspect the members of the opposition will endeavour to meet that challenge. I have no false expectations in that regard.


But there's some irony in his comments tonight, because there's a lot that needs to be done between House leaders in terms of operations and how we come to agreement on various issues. But to come to the conclusion that we would pursue more bizarre tactics in terms of the rules we're dealing with I think speaks to a larger problem that we have before us.

The issue of changes to the House is one that is important. It's not new to this place. We saw changes in 1989; we saw changes in 1991; we saw changes in 1992. I'm not going to question the motivation for those changes. The member for Renfrew North, when he made his comments, alluded to the fact that during his experience as House leader he made decisions in that capacity, both inadvertently and from a considered point of view. Having listened to him this evening, I suspect his decisions were more based on considered points of view and a reasonable approach than inadvertent.

None the less, we have to recognize that we are not stepping away from something or creating something that hasn't happened in this place before. The government House leader and my colleagues on the government side are proposing these changes in the same context that those changes were made previously. We're making them for the right reasons. We're making them for just reasons and, I believe, in the best interests of the Legislature and the House in terms of the business we do here.

Too often we spend time emphasizing a process or approach that suggests we are about to abuse a process. I certainly do not want to be a part of a process that's abusive. I come here to bring viewpoints on behalf of my constituents. They can be readily expressed in this place or through other avenues, all of which other members of the opposition parties avail themselves as well.

It's about a process of establishing a balance between rights of the members and how we can conduct and conclude the business of this House. Those are important points as we reflect on what have been some very relevant comments this evening in terms of what we're experiencing, what we hope to experience in this place, both from a partisan perspective and perhaps from a non-partisan perspective in terms of what we think should be outcomes with respect to any changes in standing orders.

I would simply conclude, because all the opposition members have been very gracious to outline to the government members that we're not walking the walk and speaking the talk with respect to the proposals in the standing order changes, by suggesting that these are important changes. They're important changes to the government, changes that I believe do not compromise the ability of opposition members to present their viewpoints. They will find a way to do that, both in this place and outside.

I again acknowledge the member for Nepean for his efforts in terms of trying to find amendments that protect the democratic rights of members of this Legislature, his efforts to find a process that leads to more efficiency and more productivity in this place, amendments that, by and large, bring us into line with rules that are in practice in the House of Commons in this country.

There will be much debate around the technical components. I suspect those technical challenges will be met by the opposition as they move forward to do what they have to do in presenting their viewpoints and representing their interests.

I would only say in conclusion that I'm very supportive of these measures. They move us in the right direction, a direction that is in the best interests of the Legislature and in the best interests of doing business on behalf of the taxpayers of this province.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): A lot has been said over the last four or five days, and I feel obliged and compelled to add a few words to what has been said and maybe repeat what has been said.

The exercise we are going through at the present time is most important. I remember that when I was first elected to this House, I came here with a business background, a municipal background, went through 11 elections. I came here with a businessman's attitude. I wanted this government or the party that I belonged to, the Liberal Party, to be run as a business. I realized very shortly after my election that you cannot run a government the way you run a business. It's impossible. I learned this in the few short months after I was first elected.

Fortunately enough, I was only in the opposition for five months; then I was appointed minister. Then it was another circle of business people, not the type who deal with great big deals, but business people. They were looking after the business of the government.

I don't want to start fingering people and blaming people. I think we're all to blame, because the mood, the attitude of this chamber has changed tremendously in the last 12 years. I remember when TV was first introduced in this House. I'm not blaming TV, but I am blaming people who use TV. Because TV is in the House, it changed the mood and the attitude of too many politicians.

TV gives us a stage where we can openly criticize the government for the way they do business, the way this bill or this motion or the amendments were brought in on June 2, federal election day: a very secretive, very private press conference, and it was introduced. Bill 26 was introduced on budget day. Imagine. When everybody was trying to get back into this House, Bill 26 was being introduced. Bill 26 has to be the most -- major change was brought in in this legislation, amending 47 provincial statutes.

No wonder people think that we're silly, people think we don't deserve to represent them. Yet they don't have much of a choice; we are the candidates. But no wonder people think we're cynical, because that's our attitude, that's our mood. We come here with frustration in our hearts, and the way to get rid of this frustration is to insult people.

We want the government to respect us for the simple reason that we have a responsibility: We have to represent our people. But I've noticed in the last five or maybe six or seven years that the way some people think you gain respect is by insulting each other. This is not the way to do business. I don't care what kind of business you're in; you don't insult customers. You don't insult clients. You can consult them, you can talk to them, you can find their needs. This is what we're supposed to be doing. We're supposed to know the needs of our constituents and we are supposed to be their voice in this place.

It doesn't necessarily happen that way. We may not like the way this government operates, and I think this government has a responsibility not only to change the rules but to look at the attitude and the moods in this House. I think if the government -- the previous government did it and we did it when we were in power, we amended the rules. I don't think we did a great job and I don't think the present government did a great job for the simple reason that no consultation was done.


We had this element of surprise: "Let's surprise the opposition." I stand this evening to tell the government that, surprise or no surprise, they will not put us aside. The opposition is needed; it is part of our democracy. We all say that we respect democracy, that we practise democracy, and I don't think we do. Every day we hear the word "democracy," but democracy is put aside to satisfy the government's agenda -- and again, I'm not pointing fingers; we did the same thing -- to satisfy the government agenda.

When I first read the Common Sense Revolution, personally I said: "It's impossible. These people cannot use this commonsense approach" -- they think it's a commonsense approach -- "and do it in five years." Well, I'm mistaken, because at the present time, this government is determined to go through page 1 to page 28, if I'm not mistaken, of the Common Sense Revolution and introduce all of this legislation.

What's happening is that in the first two years of this government, most of their legislation of the Common Sense Revolution is before us, and we know, people know, that the next two years will be some kind of a honeymoon. They'll be reinvesting those major budget cuts that they've made and they'll fine-tune their programs, fine-tune their legislation. People are not crazy, people are not stupid, and if we think they are, we have a major surprise for us, for all of us, as politicians.

I think we need to express our constituents' thoughts and voices. I know we feel frustrated but we have to put this frustration aside. The UN has said that Canada is the greatest country to live in, and I think Ontario is the best province to live in. But it is our responsibility to make Ontario even better, and when I say even better, I mean for everybody. At the present time I don't think the government is including everybody; it's not everybody that's on the bandwagon.

Mike Harris has an agenda, and he was duly elected as a majority government, has responsibilities, and he wants to drive that agenda. It's his agenda and it's his business, but it's the way he's doing business, the way that legislation is being approved, the way people are being put aside.

When I go back home every weekend, I meet people telling me, "This government is doing the right thing." But the following week they say: "Hey, this government is going too fast. It's now affecting me. It's affecting my mom, my dad, my cousin, my aunt; it's affecting people. They're on the right track, but they're going too fast." Now they want to speed up the train. They want that train to get to the station not in two and a half years from now, not in two years from now, they want it in by August 18, which is when we'll be back in the House.

Why? Because they want to pursue their Common Sense Revolution, and it's their business, it's their agenda. But I'm warning you, I'm telling you, I'm pleading with you, take a look around you, and I don't know about your ridings, but I'm sure when you go back home, people don't phone you to congratulate you and say, "Hey, what a great job you're doing." I'm sure you must be concerned about people that are left by the wayside; I'm sure of this.

I don't know how well you're listened to in caucus or in cabinet, but there is a difference between caucus and cabinet. I've lived those differences, and I can tell you that in cabinet, as my colleague from Renfrew North said, when somebody tells you to jump, you say, "How high?" As a backbencher, only for five months maybe, I had this feeling that I was left aside. I was occupying a seat, I was representing 76,000 people, yet I didn't have a voice.

Now this government wants to change the rules because they think that the backbenchers, people who are not in cabinet, will have a better opportunity to express themselves and have better opportunity to debate. But I'm telling you, with these rules --

The Acting Speaker: The member for Nepean, if you're going to carry on a conversation in that loud tone, could you take it outside. I'm having a hard time hearing the member for Ottawa East.

Mr Grandmaître: I think it's about time we straighten out this young man -- this young, ambitious man.

These rules will erode our effectiveness and will affect our democracy for the simple reason that backbenchers feel they're not part of the decision-making process and, by providing you with more opportunities, well, you feel that you will have more opportunities to have a say in this House. This will not improve the work of cabinet. You can have your say, but cabinet is a different animal than caucus, and caucus is a different animal from this House.

We voice our frustration for the simple reason that we feel left out. We feel left out, and we all say that we have to improve the quality of life in this House. If we mean this, if we are serious, we better start now. We better start with having some kind of a committee to look at the rules. We won't be able to satisfy everybody. It's impossible. But I think our main objective is to find a common denominator or close to a common denominator that will satisfy most of the people.

This is why we have filibusters -- I'm not too proud of these filibusters, but they are needed at the present time because it's our only tool. It's the only tool we have to fight the government. I shouldn't use the words "fight the government" but to slow down the government and say: "Hey, you just left half a million people behind you. You're doing good with the business people, but the people who need social services, a better education and all of our great programs in the province, we're failing them, and we're failing them badly."

This government has an attitude that we are a business and we have to improve the quality of the services of our business and we will download some of our responsibilities, a good deal of our responsibilities, on to municipal government. I remember when I was in municipal government and Claude Bennett was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and thank God Claude was from Ottawa so I had a chance to talk to the minister maybe once a month. In those days when AMO would meet, and even today AMO is still asking for power. "We want more power."


I can tell you, councillors and mayors, you're getting the power, but it's not a free ticket. There's a price to pay. Municipal taxpayers will pay that price because they are in need of those services. How many services will be privatized in the next two and a half years? I don't know, but there's a price to pay for this privatization because, I remind you again, we cannot operate this government as we operate a business. It doesn't work that way.

With the number of customers we have, close to 12 million people in Ontario, it's impossible to keep track of all of these people. This is why we have 130 voices in this House, to try to bring all of these voices into this House and make the government realize, "Hey, you're going too fast," or, "I can't keep up with your pace." Seniors can't keep up; young people without a job can't keep up with the pace of the government; people who are sick cannot keep up.

We have to realize that we cannot exclude these people if we want to be a successful province. Even if we are classified as the best country in the world, our task is not finished. We still have a great deal of work to do. I think it's a golden opportunity for us, who believe in democracy and who believe we can do a job, to put our heads together and say not only the opposition but to people in Ontario, "Hey, don't accept this kind of approach."

You know what? We will all gain by it. We will all be winners. It won't be, "This person is a Tory and this person is an NDP and that person is a Liberal." They will respect us for what we are trying to do. No wonder people don't respect politicians. No wonder school children don't want to come to this place. For the simple reason of our conduct it shouldn't be on TV; that's number 1. Ask yourself, "If this House" -- let's call it a program -- "were on radio, how many people would listen to the radio?" Very few people. I can't even get a majority on the other side. But because it is on TV, people want to take advantage of it, and it's too bad. It's a very useful tool to communicate and for the government to use effectively to tell people what we're all trying to do.

I'm accused at times of talking like a Conservative and acting like an NDPer, but I don't mind this; in fact I accept it. Some thoughts could be a little to the right and some of my other thoughts on the left, but if I'm strong enough I'll come back to the centre. When I use the centre I don't say "Liberal," I'm not going to use the word "Liberal"; I say, "to the middle," where I can satisfy most of my people. You cannot satisfy all of the people, but I think we have to try much harder if we want to succeed. If we are serious about managing this chamber, managing this province, we have to be much more serious.

Je n'ai pas l'intention de répéter entièrement mon discours -- je ne devrais pas appeler ça un discours -- faire sortir ma frustration, frustration parce que le débat que nous avons depuis quatre ou cinq jours est inutile. C'est inutile parce que nous sommes des têtus, 130 personnes qui sont têtues, qui ont la tête dure, qui ne veulent pas bouger. À gauche ou à droite on occupe un territoire et on ne veut que personne mette un pied sur notre territoire.

C'est malheureux, parce qu'on pense à notre famille de 130 personnes, mais on oublie 12 millions de personnes en Ontario. Nous avons étés élus avec la responsabilité de faire valoir les idées, les pensées de nos commettants. Si on n'unit pas nos pensées, nos paroles et nos actions, la province de l'Ontario va en souffrir.

Là, les gens vont pouvoir nous accuser, nous pointer du doigt qu'on a failli à la tâche. Si on parle de la génération future, on doit se réveiller dès maintenant. Si on est vraiment sincère de donner la même opportunité à nos enfants que celle que nous avons eue tous, il va falloir changer notre attitude. Il va falloir mettre de côté nos frustrations.

La partisannerie, c'est sûr qu'on va toujours en avoir. La philosophie, on en a parlé. Ma philosophie : c'est bon, consulter les gens, connaître les nouvelles idées, et on peut changer d'idée. C'est en changeant d'attitude, en changeant d'idée que nous allons vraiment améliorer la qualité des débats en Chambre, et qu'on soit sincère entre chacun et chacune.

Si on n'aime pas ce que nos adversaires nous disent, il faut être assez honnête de le dire. Mais par contre, on n'a pas besoin d'attaquer une personne personnellement. Moi, je déteste attaquer une personne, parce que cette personne-là n'est pas vraiment la personne responsable. Surtout dans un gouvernement comme le nôtre, il y a un Cabinet qui fait des décisions. On a des gens, les «spin doctors», qui vont nous aider à faire des décisions. Mais il ne faut pas laisser ça à une dizaine ou à une quinzaine de personnes. Il ne faut pas laisser la dernière décision à 15 personnes. Il faut inclure les 130 personnes qui sont dans cette Chambre. Il faut inclure les gens qui sont derrière nous, les gens qui nous ont élus, les gens qui nous ont respectés. Si les gens dans mon comté m'ont respecté, moi j'espère que vous allez me respecter et, en retour, je vais vous respecter.

I will conclude by saying that I hope the government House leader will rethink his approach. I know a few amendments have been introduced, but those amendments don't really satisfy our needs. Again I'm going to suggest that the three House leaders meet and try to come to a conclusion, try to reason that what is before us is unacceptable. You'll be surprised: At the end of the day we won't be enemies, we'll be allies, because I think we're all serious about this. We're all responsible people. We all know that we want the best. I think the more ingredients we can add to this salad, the better the results will be. I'm asking the government, I'm asking Mr Johnson, the House leader, I'm asking the Premier, I'm asking all of these great brains on the front seat, I'm asking people who have been around this place for 20 years, like Norm Sterling, not that I don't believe in John Baird, but I'm telling you we need people who have been around for more than two or three years.

Mr Baird, the member for Nepean, has been sent to do a job and he's trying to do it, I must congratulate him, but at the same time I think that the young member for Nepean will have to remember that we are part of the team. The opposition is part of your team, like it or not. We're going to use your bench, we're going to use your baseball bat and, who knows, you might hit a home run with us, but I'm telling you it won't be easy.


I want to remind people of this House that it won't be easy to reach a compromise but we have to work at it. If we really believe that we can make a difference -- and that's what we keep telling people, we can make a difference -- show me your guts. Show me that you really mean that you want to make a difference.

I think tomorrow morning you should call an early meeting of the House leaders, and don't admit that you've made a mistake. I'm not asking you to say, "Hey we've committed a sin; we've made a mistake." I'm not asking you for this. I'm asking you to be reasonable. A government is supposed to be reasonable. You know what? It will pay off in the end.

You can have your Common Sense Revolution and people will appreciate you for what you're trying to do, but at the present time people don't appreciate your businesslike attitude and your controversial legislation. It's not going to work. You're not only punishing the opposition -- you know we're only 50-some members in the opposition -- but you're penalizing, you're affecting 12 million people in Ontario.

If you're so sincere about making Ontario the best province ever, better than the days of David Peterson, better than in the days of Bob Rae, show me. Show me that you really mean it, because what you people in this government are saying doesn't really reflect your actions. When you read the Common Sense Revolution, then the way you're introducing legislation changes in the House doesn't reflect what I'm reading in the Common Sense Revolution. You're doing something else. You're ramming it through and you couldn't care less.

Gordie Howe played hockey for 30-some years, I guess 35 years, and he was well renowned for his elbows, but there comes a day that you've got to put your elbows to your side and say, "I can no longer afford to do this." Gordie Howe learned a lesson, being the greatest hockey player who ever lived. I want you to put your elbows down. Don't raise your elbows, because every time you raise your elbows you're affecting people and people are important to all of us in this House. If you don't realize this, we will all be a sorry bunch. I'm asking you to please think twice about introducing those amendments.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Here we are, it's 11:30 pm on Wednesday, June 25 --


Mr Kormos: Well, because a whole lot of folks who watch this think they're watching the reruns. I suppose if people are watching this on cable 10 or on channel 53 -- no, it's not Rogers cable any more down in Niagara. I haven't got the name down pat yet. I don't know what happened there. But the folks are watching it. Leno is on channel 2 and you can pick up David Letterman on channels 4 and 5 down in Niagara right now. If you've got a number return button you can watch both channels simultaneously. When Leno goes to commercial, come back to cable 53 because we'll be here for the next 30 minutes for sure.

Mr Bradley: Cable 15 in St Catharines.

Mr Kormos: Cable 15 in St Catharines, the member for St Catharines points out. I've got to tell you I didn't expect to be speaking, and I'm sorry I don't have my jacket. There's a woman who tore a strip off me around three months ago, a wonderful woman who liked what she had seen on the cable show. She approached me at an event up in Thorold during the spring months. She liked what she had seen on the legislative channel but she chastised me, she tore a strip off me for not wearing a tie all the time. So here I am and I'm not even wearing my jacket.

It ends up that she lives in Manchester, England, and she was visiting Peter and Melva Snowling in Thorold for a month and a half during the spring. Manchester, England, there you go. I told her, and I wore a tie the next time I was in the House, I would wear a tie on one occasion for her and her alone.

A couple of things are remarkable about what's been happening here: The line that's being used by the government backbenchers is that this rule change, the set of rule changes reducing debate to 20 minutes and then down to 10 minutes as the participants increase, is going to facilitate more participation in the debate, but what's remarkable is that for the first time in a long time Tory backbenchers have been engaging in the debate, speaking as often as not for periods of 30 minutes.

That suggests something to me. It suggests that the rule changes are about providing access for more Tory backbenchers, because it seems that a huge number of Tory backbenchers have been participating in this debate, in contrast to the Tory backbenchers who either decline -- and I understand what happens. The House leader/whip says, "Sit this one out." We've seen it afternoon after afternoon. An afternoon is set aside for debate on, let's say, an opposition day. It happened the very last opposition day. The time is split three ways and the Tory backbenchers are told to sit it out: "Don't participate in the debate." They're told that. I understand that. We all understand that.

They've just abandoned, by virtue of following those kinds of marching orders, the right -- Ms Martel talked about the obligation -- to participate in debate. I find it strange that there was a defence fellow up in the corner from a riding down in the Oakville area, Halton Centre, who made reference to the Gettysburg address and its brevity and then of course it was elaborated on and fleshed out a little bit by the member for Renfrew.

The argument by the Tories in this regard is that 10 minutes will suffice, but few of them have been satisfied with a mere 10 minutes or even 20. As I've watched and listened to more than a couple of them as they've gotten wound up and on a roll and had to be shut down at the end of 30, it seemed that more than a few of them were wishing for at least five or 10 more minutes themselves, having a few thoughts they might have wanted to complete.

I had an interesting opportunity last Sunday, because we had the Rose Festival parade in Welland on Sunday. It started up at the Canadian Tire Acceptance up on Prince Charles Drive and travelled down across the canal and then down south to the arena, as it does every year. A good chunk of Wellanders and visitors to the city were lining the streets. I'd say there were a good 10,000 or 12,000 or 15,000 people lining the streets.


Mr Bradley: You were walking.

Mr Kormos: I was walking; I didn't ride the car. Mel Swart never rode the car, and I haven't for 10 years now. At some points during the parade road, as the sun's beating down on me and I'm sweating and it's getting hot and the feet are swelling, I wish I hadn't adopted Mel's standard of walking instead of riding. But the car was there. David Chev-Olds once again provided the car. That's the Chev dealership up on Niagara Street, unionized, CAW workers in the shop. I appreciate David Chev-Olds for providing the car again this year and I'm grateful to them. They're good community members, they're responsible corporate citizens and I entrust them with any auto repair work. I trust their shop completely. Cathy Robertson is a salesperson for David Chev-Olds. She once again drove the car in the parade.

One of the opportunities in walking that parade, as compared to merely riding it, is it gives you a chance to talk to the folks who are lined up on either side of the street. As I say, there have to be 10,000 or maybe 15,000 people by the end of the day. You don't get to talk to every one, but you get to talk to a whole chunk of them. One of the persistent comments, beginning up on Prince Charles Drive North by the Canadian Tire Acceptance, to the end, down on King Street at the arena, was concern about a government that seems to be moving along at full speed without any concern for the damage they're leaving in their wake.

That was a persistent theme, and the comments I got from people Sunday past, June 22, down in Welland --

Mr Bradley: Even the people who support them.

Mr Kormos: -- as has been pointed out; even from people I know -- I know not everybody in Thorold voted for any one of the three candidates. That's clear; that's obvious. I know there are a whole lot of people there who didn't vote for me, who voted for Conservative and Liberal candidates. I understand that. You've got to be from another planet not to understand that. I know who these folks are. They're not hesitant about telling me who they are. I've been blessed with that kind of relationship with the people in my communities, down in Welland-Thorold.

Even folks who I know haven't supported my campaign, and yes, who voted Conservative in 1995 -- because a whole lot of people did; let's not kid ourselves. They had an expectation level, just as I know they had an expectation level in 1990 when they voted for New Democrats. People did, just like they had a huge expectation level when they voted for the Liberals in 1987, in a sweep that resulted in even more Liberals in this Legislature than there are Conservatives today. We can look at the history of those respective governments, be they Liberal or NDP after them, 1987 to 1990, 1990 to 1995.

Even people I know to be supportive of one or another or a combination of some of the things this government has as its goal, things that I've got to tell you I'm not in agreement with, have expressed concern about the government's reluctance, inability, failure to understand that this is, as my colleague from the Conservative caucus -- firstly, I suppose, my colleague from down in Oakville from the Tory benches, Gary Carr, who said that Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship.

There are a whole lot of people out there who understand full well what the opposition has achieved over the course of the last two years with a great deal of difficulty, having to become increasingly, let's say, creative. I think we've been pretty blunt. Everybody has been pretty blunt talking about the fact that yes, from time to time the opposition has to engage in stunts. People have been very blunt about that, far more frank and responding with greater candour than the government members do about the actions they've been taking. People in Ontario have a far better understanding of the balance that's created by the presence of a meaningful and effective opposition than the members of this government.

They want to debate? Good, let's debate. Let's debate the report from the Integrity Commissioner that was tabled today regarding the conduct of Al Leach. The opposition members, both caucuses, spent a considerable amount of time today prevailing upon this government to consent to a debate, as is mandated, required, under provincial legislation, under the Members' Integrity Act of 1994. You heard it. More than a couple of hours today were spent trying to persuade the House leader of the Tory government to do precisely what these backbenchers insist they're eager to do now, and to do it in compliance with our requirements as an assembly under that piece of legislation.

We had tabled with this House a report that is most damning of one of our members -- I will speak non-partisanly for a moment -- one of the members of this assembly. Judge Evans, who is the commissioner for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, described the Minister of Housing's conduct as "a flagrant breach of parliamentary convention" -- not a mere misstep, not a mere sin of omission.

Judge Evans is experienced. He's been a lawyer and a judge in this province for a long time. I've known of him and his reputation for a long time and I tell you he's highly regarded as a former member of our Supreme Court in this province. He neither minces words nor does he paint the lily. He knows how important words are when you use them in the sort of report he prepared today, just as he did when he prepared judgements during the course of trials and other of his courtroom work.

Understand that this was an inquiry conducted by the judge in response to a complaint, an inquiry wherein the minister, Al Leach, had an opportunity and in fact did reply to the concerns raised. After assessing all the evidence, including the defence raised by Minister Leach, the Minister of Housing, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the sponsor of -- do you remember Bill 26? Judge Evans found that it was "a flagrant breach of parliamentary convention."

He goes on to say, "Al Leach contravened the Members' Integrity Act by communicating with the chair of the Health Services Restructuring Commission." This isn't an equivocal finding, nor is it a finding by anybody less than one of the most responsible people in this province.

Anybody who has read the Members' Integrity Act knows that the commissioner, Judge Evans, has some very limited but precise powers that permit him to respond to a breach or a violation of the act summarily. It's a strange beast and it's a very powerful tool. We're not talking about somebody who has undergone, let's say, a trial by virtue of contravening the act, but somebody who has undergone an investigation by the commissioner; akin to a trial, no two ways about it, but not the same process. The commissioner can determine that the member's seat -- we're talking about any MPP, because the minister here who has been found to be in violation, to have committed a flagrant breach of the members' integrity legislation, could have been asked to -- well, not asked, but could have had his seat declared vacant, finished. Judge Evans has the power to do that under the act. He has the power to suspend the member for a specified period of time. He has the power to reprimand the member, I suppose, in a formal way such that it appears as some sort of formal reprimand, although clearly this sort of finding, when you read what else Judge Evans had to say -- again, you've got to understand, it wasn't necessary for Judge Evans to put this in, this wasn't the heart of his finding.


He said that in his opinion, "Mr Leach is having difficulty in adopting an attitude which is less confrontational," -- I guess I could have some empathy with that -- "more consistent with his present office as a member of the executive council, and more appreciative of the parliamentary conventions associated therewith."

Let's understand why Judge Evans might have said that. You see, Mr Leach is a recidivist. He is not a first offender. This isn't his first time around the block. It's not his first time up in the prisoner's dock, if you will. He has been found by the Speaker to have been guilty of a prima facie contempt of this Legislature. He was also found to have breached convention when he came to the defence of a staff member who attempted to intervene in litigation against the ministry. That's referred to in Judge Evans's report.

Judge Evans has very limited powers in response to a report, and that's whether or not to interfere with the member's rights as an MPP. Judge Evans declined to exercise that power.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I wonder if you might rule as to whether the member for Welland-Thorold is sticking to the topic at hand.

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate the guidance.

We're talking here about the need to debate and the government claims that their rule changes are going to facilitate debate. I'm trying to illustrate how that has nothing to do with the rule changes. I'm getting around to subsection 34(2).

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'm rising on the same point of order that was made by the member for London Centre when I was speaking earlier in the day, and that is that in my opinion the member for Welland-Thorold is not speaking to the two amendments, a very narrow sphere. I ask you to rule on that.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, the topic under discussion is the amendment to the motion on the rules.

Mr Kormos: Quite right, Speaker. The member for Mississauga South's opinion would be relevant had she been elected Speaker. If she wants to express her opinion, her opinion about whether or not I'm on topic isn't the issue here; the Speaker's opinion is. I'm talking about debate. I'm talking about the fact that this government shies away from debate. Opposition members spent hours today trying to impress the government, its House leader, its Premier, and yes, looking for some support, I suppose, from the backbenchers about the need to debate, as the law requires us to debate, the gross misconduct of one of Mike Harris's ministers.

The Premier came into the House today saying: "Oh, Al Leach, third-time offender, ah, heck, the poor young boy was just misguided. He didn't know any better. Gosh, he thought it was okay."

The Minister of Health knew it wasn't okay. Jim Wilson indicated clearly that it was improper.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, in keeping with the requests of the other members, would you please keep to the topic.

Mr Kormos: I certainly will, Speaker.

The Minister of Health knew it wasn't okay; his colleague the Minister of Housing simply didn't care. That's what Judge Evans says. You've got a minister who has been incapable of learning the conventions.

The opposition wanted to debate this, the very sort of debate that the Tory backbenchers argue is going to be facilitated by their rule changes. But not one Tory backbencher stood up today with the same concern that people across this province have today, this evening, about the misconduct of their minister and the obligation of members of this assembly to consider and respond to the report of the commissioner. Not one Tory backbencher stood up and concurred that yes, there should be compliance by this assembly with the Members' Integrity Act and that there should be a debate and that they'd be willing to participate in it. I've got some real problems with the argument the government is using to support their so-called rule changes.

I listened with great interest to the highly appropriate comments of the member for Renfrew North and his observation, which I think was most pointed, that this is all about reserving yet more power for the inner circle, for the Premier and the cabinet. Somehow government backbenchers have bought into the bill of goods that has been peddled off to them and have allowed themselves to be used, I tell you, as dupes, pawns, in what is yet an increasing concentration of power by a Premier and a cabinet that, notwithstanding the promises -- do you recall the promise of consultation? Do you remember that one?

I took a look at it again, where it says "Public Involvement" in the little blue book the Tories, like Maoist zealots, waved above their head, chanting in unison "Revolution now" during the campaign in 1995. In that little blue book it says, "We are ready to listen, to learn and to work with anyone who wants to" -- maybe this is the operative word -- "join us." You see, if you're not with them, they're not prepared to listen, they're not prepared to learn and they're not prepared to work with you.

I beg to differ with some of the defensiveness, the highly inappropriate defensiveness, of more than a few of the Tory comments. They talked about preserving those things so many Canadians fought for in wars. Let me tell you, when the working people I know, including the veterans, witnessed this government's attack on workers by virtue of Bill 7, without one hour of consultation, they shook their heads in disgust, because that wasn't democracy, it wasn't listening to people, it wasn't consulting people, it wasn't learning from people; it was this government imposing its arbitrary will on a whole class of people, working people, who deserve far better treatment from any government, regardless of which colour or stripe they are.

This government holds democracy in disdain. They want to talk a big game. An illustration of the disdain this government has for, let's say, speaking up and speaking out is the treatment of their parliamentary assistants who dared to speak up, who dared to say what was on their minds and what was on the minds, I'm sure, of some of their constituents. You saw Toni Skarica -- out; Bill Murdoch -- gone; Gary Carr -- out.

What did Gary Carr say about this government after he was treated so abruptly when he tried to speak up? Gary Carr, former parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, said, "Mike Harris has got to realize this is still a democracy, not a dictatorship."

The Acting Speaker: It being 12 o'clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 0002.