L262b - Tue 16 Dec 1997 / Mar 16 Déc 1997
The House met at 1831.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move government notice of motion number 61:
That, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order in relation to Bill 64, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations; Bill 65, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism; Bill 66, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Environment and Energy; Bill 68, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines; and Bill 69, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services, there shall be two hours allotted to consideration of the abovenoted bills together at the third reading stage after which time the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put all questions necessary to dispose of the order for third reading of the five bills without further debate or amendment;
That the vote on third reading of the bills may, at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House, be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding, "Deferred Votes"; and
That, in the case of any division, the division bells shall be limited to five minutes.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm rising to ask you to declare the motion to be out of order. Each of the time allocation motions which close off or choke off debate in this House seems to be more drastic as it comes forward, seems to be more sinister as it relates to the privileges of members of this House and as it relates to healthy, democratic debate for the people of this province.
The last time allocation motion the government had, which you dealt with just a day or two ago, prohibited any consideration of amendments, or any other matters, for that matter, before a committee. They simply wanted it to go to committee and eject it from committee back into the House.
We have today a time allocation motion which would allow the government to take five bills - previously they wanted six bills; one of those bills passed - that are before this Legislature and with one motion end debate on those bills after two hours. This to the opposition, and I believe to the vast majority of people in this province, is unacceptable. Whether people agree or disagree with the contents of the bill or the effect of the bill is one question. That is a question for debate by members of this assembly duly elected to represent the people of this province. I will not get into the debate on the specifics of those bills - I would be out of order to do so, in my view - and second, that is not what we are debating when we discuss a matter of whether a motion is in order or not.
It seems to me that you as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly have a very significant role to play. Whoever sits in the chair is the person who stands between a government which is bent on disregarding the rules of this House, ignoring the rules of the House or putting aside the rules of the House in order to advance its own agenda and a timetable which would be clearly unacceptable to members of the opposition, perhaps to some government members and as well the people of this province.
It is not sufficient, in my view, for Speakers of this assembly to simply say, if I may use a very simple statement, "The devil made me do it," the devil in this case being some outdated precedents, some advice that one might receive or simply the efficiency of the operation of the government. It seems to me that Speakers have a special role and responsibility other than to deal with the devil, which is in fact the very narrow literal translation of what the rules of this assembly might be.
I must say of this particular Speaker in the House, and I say it not to gain any benefit or to be persuasive of the Speaker, but I must make the comment that this Speaker has been innovative and made some bold and courageous decisions early in his mandate, particularly when there were some difficult matters before the House. I think that was appreciated by all who believe in the democratic process.
The government on this occasion has once again gone too far. Some of my colleagues may get into the intricacies of the details of this legislation. I simply ask you to look at the fact that it is dealing with five bills. They are not in the same policy field. There is not the consent of the opposition. Of course the government will wish to cite precedents, one of those precedents being in 1992 when there were a number of bills - I believe three or four at the time - under the NDP government put together that dealt with the advocacy legislation related to health care. In that specific case there was the consent of all the parties. In that specific case as well all of them were in the same policy field, within the purview of the same ministry or associated ministries. None of that is in existence this time. If this government is permitted to do it, if it is your decision that the motion is in order, this will be a new precedent which will allow the government then to simply, at the end of the session, bring in as much legislation as it wishes and with one fell swoop pass that legislation with a minimum of debate in this House, with a minimum of consideration.
I know around here at this time of year there are many distractions, so a government may feel the public is not watching. We are in a holiday season. In this Legislature itself one walks down one hallway and there is construction going on, which is very loud and very intrusive. Nevertheless, that is one of the things that is happening. There are a number of other events that are going on in this building this very evening, and I must say throughout the last two weeks of the Legislative Assembly. The House sits at night while members have other obligations which keep them, quite legitimately, in other places. That is why it is particularly suspicious to those of us who sit in the opposition when the government in the very last week begins to bring in these kinds of time allocation motions.
Were there a lot of debate, were there extensive debate on a bill and a government had felt that debate was going on for an excessive period of time and wished to bring in a time allocation motion, a debate would take place or perhaps people would rise on points of order to suggest to you that should not happen, but the government's case is more compelling when there has been extremely extensive debate, particularly when the bill would be of little consequence for the province, the government nevertheless wishing to pass to it. It would seem to me if that were the case, the government would have a better case for individually bringing forward time allocation motions.
I remind you, Speaker, this is the 17th time allocation motion of this government which restricts debate. The government has also, I think, or someone will correct me, brought in three or four closure motions which close off debate completely. This is all in the context of new rules initiated and imposed on this Legislature by this government, which were supposed to take away from the opposition the bargaining chips, if I may use that terminology, the opposition might have to slow down the government or to persuade the government it should provide for more hearings or make some minor or perhaps a little more significant concessions to the opposition. Those have been removed by those rules.
Even under the new rules, which are an imposition on this House, which are restrictive of the opposition rights and indeed some rights of non-cabinet members in this Legislature, even with this new rule regime that the government has, it continues to bring in time allocation motions which, as you have pointed out, set aside the new rules, which are stacked, in my view, in favour of the government, set aside those rules only to say that the government, regardless of what the rules may say, wishes to ignore those rules, to disregard them, to set them aside in order to proceed as the government sees fit. If every time the government does this, the Speaker of the House simply follows some literal interpretation of the rules to say, "The government does have this right to set aside the rules at any time," then this House becomes irrelevant.
I think this is a landmark ruling on your part. I think this is an extremely important ruling on your part this evening because it is going to have an effect, not only on this Parliament, but on future parliaments. All members of this assembly, regardless of the fact whether we sit on the government side or the opposition side, must know that when the rights of the democratically elected members of the Legislature are diminished, then the rights of all citizens who vote us in or vote us out, who happen to cast their ballots at election time, are diminished as well.
There may be others who will make arguments which are of a more technical nature, but I believe we have seen a government, in my view - it's not the only view that exists in the province and I respect all other views that are advocated - which to say the least is hasty in its approach, a government which has moved very quickly, which has moved very drastically and which, in my personal opinion, doesn't always look at the consequences of its actions.
The opposition role is to help to slow the government down, and I think ultimately better legislation for all the people of this province emerges when the government is forced to take a little longer to pass that legislation. If the government is intent upon passing these bills, I suggest to the government House leader - it will be at the behest of the Premier because the Premier ultimately makes these decisions in all governments - and ask that you reconvene the House in January of next year, just a couple of weeks away, and the House will consider further legislation. If the legislation is that important and if the government House leader will make the case that the legislation is that important, then the government should wish to come back at that time to bring forward that legislation for the consideration of members of this House in a normal fashion with, if necessary, some hearings that might be held.
Mr Speaker, I look to you for what I hope will be a ruling which will allow this House to operate in a democratic fashion, which will not allow the government to continue its option of setting aside the rules to impose its own will with motions which are written highly in favour of the government and certainly not of the opposition. You have that opportunity. If I want a ruling which goes right by the book, a technical ruling, I can go to the table and get a technical ruling because that is the role of the table. They are there to interpret the rules. They do it for all governments. They do it impartially. They are servants of all members of this House. I would be surprised and disappointed if they would do anything other than to provide those kinds of interpretations to a Speaker because it is their role to do that. We all benefit from their good advice and we all respect that advice.
But I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that you have an opportunity to stand up for all members of this House and to not allow the government to proceed with what I consider to be a new and more drastic, more innovative, if you wish, and more sinister procedural manoeuvre.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I rise to intervene in this point of order. As a member of the minority in this House, recognizing your great responsibility in presiding over this chamber in the debates in the Legislative Assembly and your responsibility to ensure order but also to protect the rights of the minority, I want to make reference to an argument that was ruled upon earlier in this assembly regarding the new standing order 1 and the responsibility of the presiding officer to ensure that the proceedings here are done in accordance with the democratic rights of MPPs. The ruling that was rendered regarding that was that it was understood in the previous standing orders that all proceedings in this House would proceed in accordance with the democratic rights of MPPs. I think that cannot just be words; it must have some meaning.
Unfortunately, all of us who love democracy will understand that simply saying that the proceedings are in accordance with the democratic rights of MPPs does not make it so. It is not just understood, because the rules are such that a majority can in fact abrogate the rights of the minority, and that is simply not acceptable. What determines a democracy is not simply majority rule, but how the majority treats the minority. That is the measure of democracy and it must be the measure of the proceedings in this House.
With regard to this point specifically, this time allocation motion allocates time for consideration of five bills - Bills 64, 65, 66, 68 and 69 - for third reading. Instead of calling each bill for debate, the government House leader wants to group these bills together for third reading consideration and allow for only two hours of debate for all five bills. I want to point out that if we have a debate on five bills in two hours, that works out to 24 minutes per bill, if each gets the same allotment of time, or 12 minutes per party per bill for the two opposition parties or four minutes per party per person. "All aboard. Let's get this train rolling on time." Four minutes. It is outrageous that we would say that it is within the democratic rights of the members of this House to allot four minutes per bill per person.
There are other reasons this is out of order. First, the bills being grouped together in this omnibus time allocation motion are not related to one another in any way. This is an omnibus motion that groups together bills that don't even come from the same policy area.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Holier than thou.
Mr Wildman: Speaker, I shouldn't listen to what's happening across the way, but he refers to me as holier than thou, as if caring about the rules in this House is irrelevant to what -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.
Mr Wildman: I mean this really does confuse you, doesn't it?
The Speaker: Order. Please address your comments to the Chair. Members, heckling on this particular point of order will be fairly inappropriate.
Mr Wildman: The process around here does matter, despite the fact that many members of the government apparently don't understand that. I refer to Beauchesne: "Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of the bill, there should be a theme of relevancy among the contents of the bill." We're dealing with a motion, but it does apply. There is no theme. The government might argue that there is a theme in terms of getting rid of red tape, which is the phrase they use, but the fact is these bills are all dealing with different kinds of tape. They have no relevance to one another at all. They originate from different ministries and they set out to amend completely different acts or regulations. They are completely different policy areas.
Bill 64 deals with the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Bill 65 deals with the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Some would argue that those two might be related. Bill 66 deals with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Bill 68 deals with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and Bill 69 deals with the Ministry of Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services. Obviously there is no relevance among them at all, completely different policy areas.
Standing order 46(a) allows for the use of time allocation motions. It says, "The government House leader or any minister of the crown may move a motion with notice providing for the allocation of time to any proceeding on a government bill or substantive government motion." Let me emphasize that it states, in the singular, "bill," not "bills" in the plural. The standing order under which this motion is permissible allows for only one bill at a time to be time-allocated. It does not read two or three or, in this case, five bills to be time-allocated.
There have only been two precedents in this Legislature when a time allocation motion has been used for more than one bill. One was in 1992, as referred to by my friend from St Catharines. As he said, at that time the motion had the consent of all three parties in the assembly. Allow me to quote the MPP for Carleton, who is now the government House leader, in his comments in 1992: "I want to make it absolutely clear to this Legislative Assembly that we are in concert with this motion and have voluntarily agreed to it." As a representative of the third party at that time, the now government House leader was stating that he was only agreeing to the motion in a voluntary way and that's why it had the agreement of the parties and could proceed. In fact, the motion was agreed to without a division; it passed on a voice vote because it had the support of all three parties. This time allocation motion has no such consent.
The only other time we have seen a time allocation for more than one bill was in 1989 when two bills that were companion pieces were passed under time allocation. But I would point out to you, Speaker, that in that particular case the time allocation motion was passed after 60 days of legislative time that they had been on the order paper - legislative time. These bills have been on the order paper for a long time, but I would point out that the government has not called these bills for debate at all. The government had the opportunity to call these matters for debate. As a matter of fact, when the government called Bill 63, one of the bills that they considered related to these other bills, we debated it last week and we passed it. We didn't delay the debate; it passed. It was done in one session, one day.
This government should call each of these bills for debate. If there's any delay that the government is unhappy about or frustrated with on these bills, it is the government's own fault because the government House leader has not called the bills for debate. It is not opposition delay that has caused this. Time allocation motions are used as a drastic method when debate has been stalled, not when the government can't get its act in gear. This government hasn't called these matters for debate. I don't see how they can argue they've been stalled when they haven't called them for debate.
Speaker, you know that it's your responsibility to protect the rights of the minority and to uphold the intent and the purposes of our standing orders. I would ask you to rule this time allocation motion out of order on the basis that it deals with a number of bills together that are not related and that have not been stalled in debate in this House.
Hon Mr Sterling: Mr Speaker, I believe this time allocation motion is in order and has been precedented in this Legislature before. We are talking about five pieces of legislation which were introduced the same day, bills which have a common title, which is part of the requirement of looking at whether bills are related to each other.
These bills all received - and I might add these bills were introduced some year and a half ago in June 1996 - second reading. These five bills received second reading at the time when the principle of the bills is supposed to be discussed at as long length as members in this Legislature might desire, along with three other bills. So there were seven or eight bills - I'm not sure exactly of the number - passed in one legislative session on December 3, 1996.
If one is to draw any conclusions with regard to our attempt to have these bills brought forward, it is that the opposition have used them not to fully debate the merits of the bills but as a delaying tactic. Therefore it is left to us to move this omnibus time allocation motion, which we would rather not do. We have attempted in the past to negotiate the passage of these bills unsuccessfully with the opposition.
I want to talk about the precedents that have been struck in this House and other parliaments with regard to this and about the commonality of these pieces of legislation. On January 23, 1989, the then Liberal government allocated time on Bill 113, An Act to amend the Retail Business Holidays Act and Bill 114, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act.
At that time, opposition parties argued that time allocation motion was not in order because it proposed to time-allocate two bills. The Speaker, in his ruling, turned to the precedents and practices of this House and other jurisdictions for guidance. He referred to a number of precedents of this House where more than one bill was subject to time allocation motion.
The Speaker ruled that, "Although the standing orders speak of" - and he's quoting the standing orders of the time - "`the allocation of time to any proceedings on a bill,' the rule has not been interpreted to prevent a time allocation order from allocating time in one motion to more than one bill."
The Speaker then referred to the rules of the Australian House of Representatives. The provisions for time allocation in the Australian standing orders are similar to those of the standing orders of our assembly. Their standing order 92 reads:
"A minister may declare that the bill is an urgent bill and on such declaration the question that the bill be considered an urgent bill shall be put forthwith and on such question being agreed to a minister may forthwith move a motion or motions specifying the time which shall be allotted to all or any of the following...." It then lists all the stages of the bill: the initial stages, the second reading, the committee stage and the remaining stages.
Please note, however, Mr Speaker, that it does not anywhere qualify the provisions by stating that the standing order is applicable to numerous bills simultaneously. Indeed, like our standing order 46, it refers to "the bill" or "a bill." None the less, the Australian Parliament recognizes that the standing order is appropriately applied to either a single bill or multiple bills simultaneously as is proposed in the motion before us today.
As the previous Speaker of this chamber ruled, the standing orders, while specifically providing for the allocation of time, speaking of the time allocated to stages of the bill, have not been interpreted as preventing the allocation of time to a group of bills. The manner in which we have included multiple bills in this motion should not only be deemed acceptable, as is fitting with the precedents of this and other parliaments, but also be deemed to be acceptable as they substantively meet the test for omnibus status.
To demonstrate this, we look to the definition of an omnibus bill. Beauchesne states, "Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy amongst the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill."
The test applied to the definition of an omnibus bill can also be applied to those elements of an omnibus time allocation motion such as we have before us today. The bills included in this motion certainly meet the test of sharing a theme of relevancy among the contents of the bill. These bills could easily have been grouped into a single bill. They are all administrative bills whose purpose is to simplify government processes and to reduce red tape.
These are all pieces of legislation which resulted from the government's red tape review and were introduced into the House as a package on the same day, and these bills have continued to move through the legislative process as a group, having all passed second reading on a single day, as I mentioned before, and then been referred to third reading. Their continuation as a group in the form of this motion is most appropriate and is indicative of how they have been dealt with this far in the House.
Bills 61, 63 and 67 have been passed separately from the set under consideration here, as it was the decision of the government that these had a particularly pressing nature to them and their expedient passage was of greater importance at the time. I do not believe that their separate consideration undermines the fact that they too were of substantive relevancy to these bills and of these bills to each other.
Further, I would argue that these pieces of legislation could also meet the omnibus test because their long titles fit under the same umbrella of relevancy. Each of these bills is entitled "An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of..." and they name the various different ministries that these bills are of concern to. Then they go on to explain different administrative changes within those ministries. It is clear that they are very appropriately grouped together under the same umbrella and thereby are appropriately part of the same omnibus time allocation motion.
Having demonstrated that the contents of this motion satisfy the criteria of being omnibus in character, it is our contention that the motion should be accepted as tabled. Omnibus bills are procedurally accepted. Rulings by Speakers of this House and precedents of traditions all support the practice of using one bill to demand one decision on a number of quite different although related subjects. The same should hold true for this omnibus motion, particularly given the content of the bills in question and the precedents from this House and other jurisdictions.
I would also note that the scope of the legislation dealt with in this motion is far smaller than the larger omnibus bill introduced by the former NDP government. That government introduced Bill 175, An Act to amend the Statutes of Ontario with respect to the provision of services to the public, the administration of government programs and the management of government resources, 1994. Bill 175 amended 139 statutes and covered 14 different ministries.
The member for Dufferin-Peel objected to the bill on the grounds that it lacked a theme of relevance. These were his quotations, "Amendments range from automating the land registry office to allowing alcoholic beverages to be sold in provincial parks...to allowing individuals to pay for driver's licences, permits and plates by credit card and to banning the use of leg traps in the wild fur industry... "
The then Attorney General, the member for London Centre, in whose name the bill stood, argued, "The act amends a number of statutes to increase the efficiency of the government and to improve the service that the government provides...to the people of Ontario." She also contended, "The matters included in the act have come from diverse sources, including many recommendations of the government's clients and the proposals from experts in the public sector."
That bill was found to be in order and carried. I could cite several other examples, but the precedents are clear: Omnibus bills are in order as long as there is a theme of relevancy among the contents of the bill. The bill's contents are covered by the umbrella of the long title.
The legislation which forms the subject of the motion before us today is far less diverse and far less broad than that found in the Bill 95 brought forward by the NDP government. There should be no doubt as to the appropriateness of these bills being considered as part of this motion and demonstrating the theme of relevancy to each other.
These bills are of a housekeeping nature. They are not controversial but are a routine part of carrying out the business of this province. These bills are the sort which historically have sailed through on a nod, particularly on third reading, which is supposed to consider the process after the committee has considered a bill. That is why these bills were introduced individually and thus as part of a single omnibus bill. This motion will simply serve to facilitate the expedient passage of these bills as is traditionally done by this House.
We have been compelled to allocate time for the passage of these bills because the opposition has chosen to obstruct their passage and the passage of other bills which would normally require little legislative time.
I might also remind you, as I mentioned before, that these bills, along with three other bills, received little second reading debate. In fact, if you count the time allocation motion today and the two hours put forward in the time allocation motion which we will be considering perhaps tomorrow, that time will exceed the second reading debate on these bills.
The reason there was such little debate on December 3 when they received second reading is that their content is not controversial. Indeed it is because the opposition is stalling at this particular juncture -
The Speaker: I need some argument more than I need an interpretation.
Hon Mr Sterling: - that it's necessary for us to put forward this particular motion.
Mr Speaker, I think I've put forward all of the procedural arguments that are necessary to put forward our case. I believe that this time allocation motion is in fact in order.
The Speaker: You can help me. I've got a question: relevancy. Define "red tape" then, to give me a relevancy argument.
Hon Mr Sterling: Mr Speaker, if it's your function to cross-examine -
The Speaker: No, it's not cross-examine. I need some clarification.
Hon Mr Sterling: The Red Tape Commission of this government, headed by the member for Lincoln, who will be speaking on this time allocation motion - I think "red tape" is a common phrase that has been used. It was used by us during our election campaign. It relates to needless bureaucracy. It means processes in government which are not necessary, which can be contracted, can be done away with, so the whole idea of running the government can be made more efficient. That, along with the principal titles of these bills, I believe brings together the commonality of all these bills.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I just want to make a couple of very quick points because you've already heard quite a bit about this.
(1) Of the two precedents that have been cited by the government House leader, one deals with the case of unanimous consent, and we all know that by the unanimous consent of this House we can change the rules of this House immediately and we do so every day whenever there is unanimous consent. So to use that as a precedent, in my opinion, is totally irrelevant.
(2) He himself admitted that the Australian case he mentioned dealt with an urgent bill. Surely to goodness, bills that have been sitting on the order paper since second reading, since December of last year, are not of an urgent nature.
(3) If all of these bills are the same, it begs the question, why were two of them called separately, debated and voted on separately?
(4) Standing order 46(a) is quite clear, as has already been pointed out by the member for Algoma. It talks about: "The government House leader or any minister of the crown may move a motion with notice providing for the allocation of time to any proceeding on a government bill...." It doesn't talk about "bills."
I would also refer you to Beauchesne, sections 533 and 534. I'll just read them to you. They are very short.
"Time allocation is a device for planning the use of time during the various stages of consideration of a bill rather than bringing the debate to an immediate conclusion." Again, it talks about it in the singular; it does not talk about it in the plural.
Section 534 states: "A motion for the allocation of time may set out in detail some or all of the provisions which are to be made for the further proceedings on the bill." Again it's in the singular. We're not talking about a whole group of bills here.
If the government House leader is suggesting that he may have made a mistake and should have brought in all these so-called red tape bills in one omnibus bill, that unfortunately, at this point in time, is something he has to live with. He called them that way or he brought those bills forward that way in June 1995. For him to suggest, and I take great personal offence to him, that the opposition has somehow stalled these bills over the last year or so is absolute nonsense. He calls the bills and no one else.
Mr Wildman: I would just like to raise three points.
First, I think the government House leader's argument is contradictory. He contradicts himself. First he says that the opposition has been obstructive and is stalling the bills. Then he points out that at second reading there was very little debate. How can he claim that the opposition has been stalling and has been obstructive? The fact is, we passed them at second reading with very little debate and, as I pointed out earlier, we passed Bill 63 in one session just last week.
The other point the government House leader makes is on Bill 175, and the member for Kingston and The Islands has made this point. The government House leader knows full well that was with all-party agreement, which is a different situation. We can do anything in this House by agreement. That was the so-called omnibus bill that the NDP government brought in in 1994 and it was done with all-party agreement before its introduction. It dealt with a lot of different bills, that's true, but it was an omnibus piece of legislation; it wasn't a time allocation motion.
I would point out that these bills in themselves are omnibus bills in most cases. Bill 64 amends three different acts. Bill 65 amends legislation relating to the Historical Parks Act, the Ontario Place Corporation Act, the St Clair Parkway Commission Act and the Tourism Act. Bill 66 amends the Consolidated Hearings Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Energy Board Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. Bill 67 amends the Ambulance Act, the Cancer Act, the Charitable Institutions Act, the Healing Arts Radiation Protection Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Homemakers and Nurses Services Act, Homes for Special Care Act, Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act, the Immunization of School Pupils Act, the Long-Term Care Act, 1994, the Mental Health Act, the Ministry of Health Act, the Nursing Homes Act, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation Act, the Private Hospitals Act and the Public Hospitals Act. Bill 67 repeals three acts: the Cancer Remedies Act, the Hypnosis Act and the War Veterans Burial Act, and I could go on.
The fact is we've got now an omnibus motion to pass a bunch of omnibus bills. The Solicitor General and Ministry of Correctional Services Bill 69 amends the Anatomy Act, the Coroners Act, the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act.
This is an abuse.
Hon Mr Sterling: I would just like to answer some of the points of order. When I was referring to the Speaker in terms of the Australian Parliament, the Speaker used that precedent with regard to the number of bills passed and was not referring to or considering the urgency argument.
The other point I would like to make is in Speaker Warner's ruling on January 23, 1989, when he was talking about whether or not this procedure had been used when unanimous consent was given -
Mr Wildman:It wasn't Warner then.
The Speaker: He made a mistake. He meant Edighoffer.
Hon Mr Sterling: I'm sorry. Speaker Edighoffer referred to a 1986 motion where there was a time allocation motion for two or more bills. On page 425 he's talking about the January 9, 1986, time allocation motion where three related bills were moved together. He said: "Although this motion was passed by unanimous consent on that day, it still represents the will of the House and this does not take anything away from the absolute right of the House to determine its own procedure." So notwithstanding some of the time allocation motions which have been done on unanimous consent, that does not take away from the right of the House to have this kind of motion in order.
The Speaker: Thank you very much. I am going to take a brief recess - I would say 15 minutes - and I will come back.
The House recessed from 1918 to 1944.
The Speaker: I thank all members for their submissions on this matter. The motion before us seeks to allocate time on five government bills. The question before me is whether more than one bill may be the subject of one motion for time allocation. I reviewed the precedents of this House and would like to cite two of them.
On May 28, 1992, which was in fact cited by a number of the people who made submissions, this House considered and passed a motion by the NDP government to allocate time on four bills from three different ministries: Bill 74, the Advocacy Act, standing in the name of the Minister of Citizenship; Bill 108, substitute decisions; Bill 110, standing in the name of the Attorney General; and Bill 109, consent to treatment, standing in the name of the Minister of Health.
Members have argued that this motion cannot be considered a precedent on the grounds that there was general agreement to deal with all these bills together. In the words of the member for Carleton, the opposition of the day was in concert with this motion. This is also true.
However, this did not impact on the orderliness of the motion at the time. Unanimous consent was required only to move it without notice. Had the motion complied with the notice provisions, unanimous consent would not have been required.
Members have also referred to an earlier precedent on this subject, from January 23, 1989. The Liberal government sought to allocate time on two bills: Bill 113, which amended the Retail Business Holidays Act; and Bill 114, which amended the Employment Standards Act. On that occasion, Speaker Edighoffer ruled the motion in order. In the course of that ruling, Speaker Edighoffer made reference to the rules of the House of Commons at Westminster as follows:
"Although the standing orders speak of `the allocation of time to any proceedings on a bill,' the rule has not been interpreted to prevent a time allocation order from allocating time in one motion to more than one bill." In essence, it isn't out of order to move it in more than one bill.
Finally, in Erskine May, at page 409 it states that "time allocation is applied in each case to a particular bill or several bills jointly."
Having considered the arguments of the honourable members, the precedents and practice of this House and relevant authorities, I am completely persuaded that the motion before us is in fact completely in order.
Government House Leader.
Hon Mr Sterling: I will be sharing my time with the member for Lincoln, the member for Niagara South and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
I also request consent to share the time equally among the three parties.
The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.
Hon Mr Sterling: As I mentioned to the House before, these five bills are of a housekeeping nature, as we have often talked about in this Parliament. Therefore, I believe they can be dealt with, and it's unfortunate they weren't dealt with, through a degree of cooperation that unfortunately was not here.
I want to now turn our debating time over to the member for Lincoln, Mr Sheehan, who has been the chairman of our red tape task force.
Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): It's a pleasure to rise tonight and speak on the topic of a time allocation on Bills 64, 65, 66, 68 and 69. The Speaker asked the question, "What is a definition of red tape?" Our commission determined that red tape was legislation, it was written regulations, it was licences, permits, approvals, standards, registrations, filings and certification requirements, guidelines, procedures, paperwork, enforcement practices or other measures that are not truly needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians and maintain environmental quality.
We've known for years, the province has known for years and there's little doubt in my mind - and after I was elected any doubt I had was totally removed - that the people of Ontario have been totally victimized by all those items I've just read out in my definition. These red tape regulations and what have you have impeded Ontario's economic advancement, competitiveness, they have put in place unnecessary blockages to the investment decision and actual running of one's business. In short, the government plan was that we would eliminate this red tape. It was right alongside our commitment to cut taxes and cut the size of government.
The member for St Catharines the other night seemed to be totally in agreement with what we're talking about and I'll quote him: "I want to tell my friend from Lincoln that I agree with this bill. I welcome its introduction into the House and I am confident it is going to be passed, because it is a bill which lends itself to the simplification of government, the simplification of process without causing any major problems."
Before we were elected we were borrowing over $1.25 million an hour to pay our debts. We had unemployment at a peak. We had more people on welfare than you can shake a stick at and - I'm lost.
Mr Sheehan: Yeah, right. The battle plan of our first mandate was to identify and eliminate the most obvious and harmful examples of red tape, to design a process that would weed out potential red tape from the new legislation and make recommendations for long-term change. We began by reviewing the legislation and looking for the best way to fight this red tape. We awakened a sleeping giant. The government's red tape burden had been tying us down, and in considering the image passed on to me by one of our external advisers, is probably illustrative of the problem. It's not any one individual piece of red tape or regulation, but he likened it to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, where Gulliver was tied down by a myriad of tiny red strings, any one of which he could have broken, but in concert they impeded his ability.
Mr Wildman: Jonathan Swift suggested eating all the first-born of the Irish.
Mr Sheehan: Did he? Well, he missed me. The point the government is trying to make on this time allocation bill is that all of these bills deal with process. The bills clearly show, and I will review them with you -
Mr Gerretsen: You don't care about process.
Mr Sheehan: I don't care about process either, John, but the fact of the matter is everybody wants to design a process and nobody is concerned with the consequences of the process. A member of the University of Toronto said: "The best way to protect the environment is to simply tie it up in a myriad of red tape so that it would be impossible to make a move. They forgot to define the subject of the environment. In fact, there are four bills that have the word `environment' in them; two of them contradict each other and the other two acts don't even define it."
Talking about these various bills and their commonality and why they should be time-allocated, Bill 66 says that we amend the administration of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and the general purpose of the amendment is to simplify government processes and efficiencies. We look down through the particulars and we have a case where it allows the minister to stipulate one person can represent a class, another one on the Environmental Appeal Board is a member to represent a class, another one deals with the size of the panel. Right now it stipulates that the size of panels is fixed. The next one deals with the establishment of fees for copies of documents. These are very, very critical things that the -
Mr Wildman: Come on, this is a waste of time. I want to vote. Just a waste of time. Let's vote on this. We don't need debate in this place. We don't want debate in here. Let's just vote.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. There's a proper way to go about that, if you want, and it's not to shout it out. I won't have it. I want to be able to hear the person who legitimately has the floor in this House and I demand the same respect for the speaker as you would want for yourselves.
Mr Sheehan: We're dealing with the need to set up a uniform accounting system, the taxation of cost - what have we got here?
Mr Wildman: We don't know.
Mr Sheehan: You don't know. You've read all the bills, haven't you? We require the oral reading of evidence in an appeal board, the relief of a responsibility for filing records and transcripts of an appeal board, the regulations under the Pesticides Act, which allows for the classifications of pesticides under the act, to be done by the Minister of the Environment. We have another one here about the record of oral evidence to the Environmental Appeal Board.
They just keep going on and on. I guess all this particularity is the proper object for the consideration for the members of the opposition because they want to wrap themselves up in all this clutter instead of getting on with some significant debate. There doesn't appear to be any need for us to be concerned with -
Mr Wildman: Let's have a vote. We'll have as much debate on this as we had on 164 in committee.
Mr Sheehan: You're the guys who held this up. We've been trying to get these things on for six months.
Mr Wildman: You never called the God-damned bill. How the hell can we hold it up if they didn't call it?
The Acting Speaker: Order. Please take your seat.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): We don't decide what bills you call; you do.
Mr Wildman: You guys are the ones who call the bills.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You're incompetent.
The Acting Speaker: Order. It's five to 8. I would ask that the person who has the floor, who is entering into debate, address his remarks to me and through me, and those other ones who have remarks to make, you would also use the democratic process.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Speaker: We've been here for the last two days, when on these particular bills the comment has been made by government members that the opposition has held up these bills from being passed in this House. They have not been called for a whole year. I think you should straighten out the government members.
The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. If you want me to do those sorts of things, then you would have to empower me through your rules to do that. Up until now you haven't.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member has indicated that these bills have been stalled or held up. Could you inform the House as to what dates these bills were called so we would know when the previous debate occurred on third reading of these bills?
The Acting Speaker: Indeed, that is not my function. That is not a point of order.
Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Specifically, can you tell me if it's in order for a member of the House to mislead someone in their comments? Is that in order?
The Acting Speaker: I don't like the tone of the question and I would just as soon, if it was a serious request, that you rephrase it.
Mr Bisson: To be quite calm, to be quite respectful to the Chair, I'm asking the Chair to tell me: According to the standing orders, is it in order for a member of this House to stand up and mislead the House? Is that in order, yes or no?
The Acting Speaker: The rule is that it is out of order to accuse someone of misleading the House.
Mr Bisson: On a further point of order, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: No, I'm recognizing the member for Scarborough Centre on a point of order.
Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I think I have a point of order that we can all agree on tonight, that we should all applaud that Paul Quantrill of the Toronto Blue Jays has joined us this evening in the members' gallery.
The Acting Speaker: That is not a point of order. The Chair recognizes the member for Lincoln.
Mr Sheehan: These bills clearly show that the intent and purpose of these bills is directed at issues which affect the management of government and how the government administers its affairs. It has been pointed out that some of these bills can address several acts, but I would point out in response that it's the nature of ministries to represent more than one set of interests in more than one bill, but their responsibility in administering these acts is what these bills are all about.
One of the first recommendations of the commission's final report was to make red tape progress an ongoing initiative of the government, and we are well on our way to doing that in our second mandate. Our focus for the second term simply picks up where we left off. We will continue to work together to identify, eliminate and prevent barriers to business in this province.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Lincoln has the floor. There are too many conversations going on. I can't hear, therefore I won't be able to make a ruling, so I would ask, please, for your cooperation.
Mr Sheehan: Specific aspects of the red tape process will dominate our agenda. For instance, we'll continue our efforts to create a working group whose purpose will be to solve the problems of poor customer service and excessive paper burden. We'll also work to resolve some of the issues of the federal-provincial regulatory overlap. By the same token, we'll proceed towards a one-stop shopping environment by reviewing and eliminating duplications between ministries and we'll establish and attempt to create a formal process in which ministries and the government will adopt an ongoing regulatory review process in their business planning processes.
Finally, the Red Tape Commission will continue its proactive public consultation process on red tape issues affecting business, institutions, consumers and the taxpayers.
Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): It's a pleasure to speak to the motion in support of the chair of the Red Tape Commission, Mr Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln. Certainly, it's been a privilege and a learning experience to work with the chair on red tape bills such as those that we have here before us today. In fact, I remember back in 1995, in the runup to the election, knowing the member for Lincoln by reputation but not knowing him on a personal level, certainly a reputation very strong for being a very outspoken watchdog for the taxpayer, a strong critic of government inefficiencies and waste.
I remember the member for Lincoln gave the school boards in the Niagara Peninsula a tough time, and deservedly so, on many occasions to make sure those dollars that were coming into the school boards were being used wisely.
Some of the member for Lincoln's earlier work in politics dealt with the Taxpayers' Coalition in the Niagara Peninsula, again acting as a watchdog to make sure municipal government or school boards are actually acting on behalf of those who are paying the dollars into those boards. So it was quite consistent and really of no surprise when Frank Sheehan declared his candidacy for the riding of Lincoln in the provincial election, because without a doubt, the philosophy of the Common Sense Revolution to eliminate red tape, cut taxes, cut government waste and increase jobs in that fashion was very much in line with what you saw in the early days with the member for Lincoln's politics and the Taxpayers' Coalition. So it came as no surprise that Frank Sheehan contested that nomination.
I think his reputation spoke very well for him in the Lincoln area, because not only did he win that riding, he won that riding with a very strong majority, I will have to check the statistics again, but I believe the largest majority of any of the six Niagara area seats. So there was a tide that swept through Niagara, a blue tide that brought in four seats and Frank was part of that. But the member for Lincoln's reputation as well helped him to elevate himself even beyond that. With that kind of reputation and that low level of tolerance, I guess, for obfuscation and for red tape and for government waste, it was really no shock to anyone in our caucus that Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, was named as the chair to the Red Tape Commission.
I was very pleased when Mr Sheehan asked me to participate on that commission as well in its early days. I remember some very early meetings and Frank, as the chair, made sure that those meetings completed their work in time as we went on to our other functions in the House.
Mr Gerretsen: What's that got to do with the motion?
Mr Hudak: To demonstrate where these bills came from, the long process involved, and to show the consistency throughout government on where these bills came from and why it's important to put them through in the time allocation motion before the House today.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like you to draw the member's attention to the fact that we're debating a time allocation motion.
The Acting Speaker: I think many people make mistakes in debate sometimes and I'm being a bit patient. I'm sure you will come back to the issue. Please continue.
Mr Hudak: The bills in this time allocation motion before the House came through, as I was saying, a long, very dedicated red tape committee process. There were some very strong members with very strong opinions and with the same degree of energy Mr Sheehan displays in these areas, like John Hastings, the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, who sits next to me in the House and who will also be speaking on this bill, another important part of that red tape reduction commission.
Certainly over the last 10 years, which many people call "the lost 10 years," you saw a real gathering of red tape, as government saw it, to engineer a lot in society, to interfere in the operations of business and government. So it was important to set up the Red Tape Commission to make sure that bills like these in the time allocation motion can come through the House in a timely and due process.
The bills in the time allocation motion are but some of the red tape bills that have already come through this House, and I anticipate many more to come, because the Red Tape Commission is not just a one-time deal. In fact, the Premier has made it a permanent fixture of this government, a fixture as permanent as our commitment to cut taxes, as our commitment to balance the budget by the year 2000-01. Certainly when you heard the Minister of Finance's speech yesterday, he said that we are ahead of schedule in balancing the budget because this government is willing to make the tough decisions. Certainly we've made some tough decisions in the bills before us in this time allocation motion today. Ask yourself, would any other government in the past have had the ability to make the decisions quickly enough to make sure they could get through these bills so we could debate them through the time allocation motion before the House today? I think you saw that commitment with the member for Lincoln and with the rest of us on the Red Tape Commission.
One important component is what the member for Lincoln calls the knothole. Any kind of legislation or regulation would have to fit through this knothole, which is basically a cost-benefit analysis to say: "Can you justify new regulation? Can you justify a law, a piece of legislation, on the basis that it will improve society compared to the costs it will impose on the actors, whether it be business, individuals, government or other actors in our society?"
When these bills came before us today, Bill 64 and such, they had to pass through that knothole. We tried, with Bill 64 in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations or Bill 65 in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, to go through that closet of old regulations, old laws, old bills and to see if they actually fit through that knothole. What came out was a number of changes that should be made to ensure that government operates efficiently, that it interferes in business only at the point where it can be justified for the common good, for the commonweal, as opposed to just interfering for the sake of power.
When you see the red tape bills being passed through this House, and the ones before us today, what that means is that government will be acting in a more sensible manner in terms of how it interacts with business and other actors in our society, whether for-profits, not-for-profits or such, towards the goal of ensuring that jobs are created at a rapid pace, which we're seeing in the last few months in Ontario, to ensure the budget will be balanced by the year 2000-01.
Again, in the context of the finance minister's speech yesterday, you're seeing that kind of progress here in Ontario, and these red tape bills before us are helping us get there, for the deficit has been reduced quite effectively and we're ahead of schedule on that. Bills like those in the time allocation motion we're debating today also have supported us in eliminating 1,000 regulations in Ontario to ensure that more jobs are being created. You can see jobs being created, because Ontario has the fastest rate of growth in the economy, not only of the 10 provinces in Canada but highest among OECD nations, a rapid growth in Ontario as people realize the changes we're bringing to this province to reward business, to eliminate red tape as we're doing through these bills and the time allocation motion, to balance the budget and to ensure that for the children of the members here, the children in the audience who may be watching, their future will be much stronger, their opportunities greater and vaster than those that were facing them five or 10 years ago.
It is an important motion that I favour because I want to see these bills get through, to build on the successes we've had so far with job creation, balancing the budget and eliminating the red tape that we have seen build up in 10 years. There are 1,000 regulations gone and I'd like to see 1,000 more gone.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): To continue the discussion of these particular bills, I think it's important to focus on some of the detail that's in them. We're dealing with time allocation and we're dealing with the content of the bills and we'll deal with the items as we see fit, the way you folks always deal with them over there.
Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: While I appreciate the latitude the member will have, and I always like to see that, we are not dealing with the bills. In fact, we've been allocated only two hours to deal with the bills.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
Mr Hastings: It's interesting to note that the member for St Catharines is a stickler for detail suddenly, sticking to the actual discussion of the item under analysis, but when it comes to his treatment of other items under discussion in other hours of other days of this session, we have seen him use any kind of latitude -
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As you well know, it's a well-established practice in this House not to impute motives to any members. This is what the member is doing right now with respect to the member for St Catharines.
The Acting Speaker: Please take your seat. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
Mr Hastings: Thanks very much, Speaker. I am sure we will have another interruption in a moment. It's simply a matter that the members opposite really do not treat the content of these bills or see the overall symbolism or significance of these bills in terms of the reduction of red tape.
Mr Wildman: I have a point of order on two matters, Mr Speaker: First, the member is imputing motives on the part of the opposition members, on which you have not called him to order; second, I suppose it's fine for him to debate the content of the bills, even though we won't actually be doing that in order until we get to third reading and we're not at third reading. But it's probably all right because this government has made it clear that all debate in this House is irrelevant so it doesn't really matter what he says. Let him say whatever the hell he likes.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I honestly think that we can debate in a friendly way to the point without creating an atmosphere which isn't too conducive to good debate. I would ask you to be tolerant, as we all are of each other, and pay attention to what the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has to say.
Mr Hastings: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It's unfortunate the member for Algoma has to look at the context of these debates in terms of just stating what he has said -
The Acting Speaker: No, go back to the motion.
Mr Hastings: - that any particular matters before this House are irrelevant. If that's true -
Mr Wildman: You think they're irrelevant.
Mr Hastings: No, I do not. If anybody's imputing motives around here, I would suggest that members opposite have done a pretty good job at that over the years. However, to concentrate on the particular -
Mr Wildman: I wasn't imputing any motives. I was just stating facts.
Mr Hastings: Oh yes, we know.
The Acting Speaker: Order. I will just wait a few minutes while temperaments cool down a bit.
The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
Mr Hastings: If we look at some of the proposals contained, for example, in Bill 69, An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Correctional Services, it would be interesting to hear from members opposite, if they are concerned about providing solid alternatives, what their alternative would be in dealing with the specific matter of when inmates are transferred from one penal institution to another at the provincial level.
Prior to the introduction of this bill and the Red Tape Commission dealing with Bill 69 -
The Acting Speaker: Your time is up. Thank you.
It's very difficult for the Chair to be able to control the debate when there are all kinds of conversations going on. There are serious matters to be debated and I would ask your cooperation, please. If not, I have the power of decision. I don't want to use it.
The member for St Catharines.
Mr Bradley: Thank you, Mr Chairman, for the opportunity to participate, though I regret very much that we're participating once again in a time allocation motion debate. In fact, one area where I would agree with the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale - and he may find it odd that I would agree with him - one place I would agree with him and indeed with the member for Lincoln is the fact that I wish we were taking the time to debate the bills rather than time allocation motions.
If you look at particularly the latter part of this session, this House has spent more time dealing with time allocation motions, that is, motions which close off or restrict debate, than we have anything else. I'd be much more interested in hearing what members have to say to defend and to oppose the legislation that might be before us, because the members may make some very valid points in this regard.
As I mentioned to my friend from Lincoln, some of the content of some of these bills is acceptable and reasonable, and I don't think you would have seen the opposition take an unduly long period of time to debate them. What we want to do, however, by having a fairly comprehensive debate on these bills is to highlight the areas where we feel there might be a danger.
I know it is in vogue, particularly with this government, to talk about eliminating red tape, but I don't think it's good enough simply within a set of bills to talk about eliminating red tape and not look specifically at what is happening. It's a glib phrase, but of course it can mean the loss of thousands of jobs in some cases. It can mean that restrictions which were there for proper reasons are gone.
For instance, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the Ministry of Environment and perhaps the Ministry of Health are three that come to mind immediately as ministries that do require regulation. Remember, regulations were formulated and passed by governments usually in response to problems which arose. They usually were not put there in the first place but rather they responded to difficulties which were being experienced.
Members of this Legislature may have been called, for instance, by people who were trying to sell to them or to their offices some products. I noticed recently there is a company that is calling around and using the name of the constituency office assistant, and they can get that out of a book. They've probably done a market survey before about what equipment you might have in the office. Then they'll phone up and say, for instance, "We have a product to sell you for your Xerox equipment." Staff who are busy dealing with a multitude of items may not recognize immediately that the Xerox company contract may call for a provision of materials, so they've ordered it over on top because someone has said, "We're going to put up the prices next Tuesday and, if you want a chance to purchase, you'd better purchase now." I agree that the Ministry of Consumer and Consumer Relations - and the minister answered a question today, by the way - has a role to play in cautioning and in bringing to the attention of consumers potential scams that may be perpetrated upon various kinds of people.
I say to the members that as you remove some of these regulations, you remove the protection that is there for some of the people of this province. I would suggest that most people, at least the consumers in this province, and, I may add, good business people with good business practices, often support certain regulations which others who wish to break the law or wish to con customers might feel get in their way. So I want to compliment the thousands upon thousands of good business people in this province who have over the years asked for this kind of regulation to allow for what I would call a level playing field.
Let me give you an example. There are a number of people in the industrial field who may have felt that the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement program, which was implemented when I had the privilege of being the environment minister and then further implemented by subsequent governments, was an imposition. But what happened was, when government started to back off on those regulations, those good corporate citizens who had spent the money on training their employees, who had purchased new equipment, who had modified their systems to comply with what were reasonable regulations, were angered when they saw governments back off and allow others who weren't prepared to be good corporate citizens and not put that kind of investment in their business in people, in equipment and in systems, in all three areas.
Your good corporate citizen, your good businessperson and your consumers often want to have these regulations in place, so what I caution members of the House about is just accepting this glib saying. This government is very good at putting out a glib, easy-to-understand saying that at first look seems to be reasonable. When you go beyond the first look sometimes it's not and sometimes it is; I don't want to say it isn't always the case.
The problem with implementing this by means of a time allocation motion is that we have now another precedent before this House for governments to come in, in the last of the session, and simply sweep bills through this House without debate on third reading. I happen to disagree with the Speaker's decision this evening, though I always respect the decisions of the Speakers of this House, which are taken only after considerable observation, considerable study.
This evening the Speaker took a very significant period of time to assess the arguments that were put forward by members of the House from all sides. I happen to think that the decision that was rendered is one which most members of this House will live to regret, because it is going to allow governments now, as in this case, to sweep five bills together - they wanted six bills previously - and to simply end the session in that way.
Why this is particularly dangerous is that now under the new rules imposed by the Mike Harris government, rules which radically change procedures in this Legislature, governments can introduce and pass legislation in the last two normal weeks of the session. The member for Algoma, the government House leader of the New Democratic Party, has aptly named this the Ernie Eves provision, because when Mr Eves, the member for Parry Sound, was the House leader of the third party, he insisted when the last government changed the rules of the House that there be a provision which would prohibit governments from introducing and processing new pieces of legislation in the last two weeks.
Mr Wildman: Then he introduced Bill 164 himself.
Mr Bradley: Exactly. The minister himself has, the member for Algoma points out, introduced a bill in the last two weeks. So what's going to happen now for all governments, and I just warn the members of the opposition, not in a nasty way but in a very matter-of-fact way, that all governments who get this opportunity are going to do it. I mean, what you're doing is setting this up for a government with which you disagree.
There are a lot of people on the government side who would characterize themselves as pro-business. That is something that they're proud of, and justifiably so. The problem is, what if you get a government which you would characterize as anti-business and they bring in bills which would bring in brand-new regulations; in other words, re-regulate in many areas that you felt were inappropriate? That government can now, under the precedent set by the decision of the Speaker this evening, bring in five bills or more and have them all passed at the end of the session without people out there knowing what they're about, without looking at the consequences of these bills.
I know it's convenient, as I've mentioned before, to the people who have great power in all governments, this government included, and that is the people in the back rooms, the unelected people who advise government. Sometimes they are public servants or civil servants and other times they are political advisers. It's convenient for them because it fits their agenda. But I say, for elected members of this House, the problem is that when that agenda doesn't suit you and those bills are being shoved through the House with one motion, it is exceedingly dangerous.
I think we've seen a significant step backwards this evening. I mentioned that I thought the Speaker was making a landmark decision this evening, and indeed the Speaker did make a landmark decision. I think as a result of this motion being declared in order, we've taken a significant step backwards in terms of parliamentary democracy in this province. But it is only part of a long series of steps backwards this government has taken.
Our arguments may be for or against the individual bills being brought forward by the government, by various ministries, and there are probably some good arguments in favour and some good arguments against on each one of those, but those arguments will be confined to two hours for five different bills because of this motion this evening.
I believe what you're seeing is the continued diminishing of the role of this House and, as I've said on a number of occasions, the problem is that we are the only elected people. We are the only ones that the people can get at. If they are unsatisfied with what we are doing, the electorate may, in the next election, change any one of us. Our job is always on the line in every election. But the unelected advisers are not subject to that and they can't get at those people, so they feel frustrated. I know even some members of governments over the years who have not been members of the inner cabinet have expressed the concern that they feel unelected people have much more influence with the government than they have, and this particular motion plays exactly into that.
We're not discussing the merits of the bills. Although I have looked through them and I have some concerns about certain of the bills, on other bills I've looked through certain provisions and I don't have any concern at all. In fact I think in some cases there could be an improvement. The member for Lincoln quoted me on one. Of course, people in this House tend to quote when they feel it's appropriate to make their argument, and that's acceptable, I understand that. But he's quite accurate in saying that in some of the bills coming forward in this series of bills, you're not going to get considerable opposition, if any opposition, from members of this House who sit on the opposition side.
It's a most regrettable evening. It's most unfortunate that we are proceeding in this way. I think we've made a major error as a House in having this presented and having it accepted as an order, and I will certainly allow some of my colleagues to make further comments as to the appropriateness of this particular motion of the government House leader.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I must salute my colleague from St Catharines who in his rational, non-emotional way put forward the argument and I think the concern of many members here, and certainly a major concern of mine.
The first thing I would like to say is that I'd like the members of the government to explain where and how the bills were stalled in any particular way, because I do not believe that to be the case. They were on the order paper and they were not called by the government, and that is the basic fact.
I think what we're seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg. My colleague from St Catharines says this is a historic evening in that it has now been recognized that a new precedent has been set where a variety of bills in one full sweep can be moved quickly, in a matter of two hours. My colleague from Algoma pointed out that that would really mean, with time allocation, an opportunity for three members from each party to speak for four minutes to each bill.
Is that the function of this particular House? Is that what democracy has come to mean in this particular day and age under this government? I must say, sadly, that unfortunately it has. Ever since the opening, since Bill 26, we have seen the demise of this Legislature, especially with the rule changes.
We are now in an interesting position in Ontario. Ontario is now the only provincial Parliament that allows a government to take a step towards passing a law without a corresponding question period that makes it accountable for taking that step. That's not the only area. I'm doing some research on this at the moment because I'm so concerned about it that I have to consider my future as to whether I want to be a member of this Legislature in future, especially if it would happen to be in opposition, because your rights are limited. Regardless of the ruling of the Speaker, which I respect, I will give you an example of where the members' privileges are breached in being able to make representation duly in the tradition of our parliamentary system.
Time allocation, Bill 136: This was the bill that was going to deal with the unions, the labour relations bill that would help facilitate a minimum amount of discord. It created a tremendous amount of discord and finally the government backed off. A time-allocated bill in the House: How much time for debate? Time was allocated for a certain number of hearings. Time was allocated for discussion about amendments. The Liberal Party put forward 57 amendments. We were able to talk to only five or six of those amendments; time ran out and that was the end of it. The government voted. They accepted no NDP amendments. They accepted no Liberal amendments. They endorsed all of their own, of course.
Even prior to the amendments being asked for - we had finished the hearings on a Friday afternoon, which wasn't a scheduled day of meeting but the committee met to listen to, in total, about 87 people make presentations. We were told at 5 o'clock that we had to have our amendments in at 10 o'clock on the Monday morning. Now you tell me whether that is a kind-hearted, generous or even fair government. That was time-allocated.
So you time-allocate the debate, you time-allocate the hearings, you time-allocate the amendment period of time and you even allocate the time in which you get your amendments in. I suggest to you it's a mean-spirited thing.
Over the weekend we worked until midnight almost each night to try and get those together, to do the research, to get the legislative counsel together because it had to put into legalese in preparation for Monday morning. Do you think that is fair? It's not fair, it's not just and it's not the tradition of this particular Legislature.
I get very, very upset, and so do my colleagues. When the Speaker asks for a feeling of harmony, I must tell you, it is very difficult to have a sense of calmness when you feel you've been insulted and the members, regardless of whether they're on the government side of not, have lost their privileges to perform their duties and functions, because I tell you, right now we cannot do that. Therefore that's why this Legislature now is the sickest and the most undemocratic Legislature in all of Canada. I'm documenting this. I'm doing a comparison of the other legislatures. We should be ashamed of ourselves. This place belongs to the people of Ontario. All of the members, whether they are NDP or Liberal or Conservative, it doesn't matter, each person is representing a group of people.
This time allocation that we're talking about tonight is another way of saying: "We're closing you down. We're limiting your capacity." Sometimes it may be justified, when you have extended days and days of debate. But I must remind you that in our parliamentary system the loyal opposition is there for one purpose and it's to prevent tyranny. That's right in the mission of the standing orders, to prevent tyranny, in order to cause the government to reconsider or take more time to reflect upon the proposals they are putting before the House.
Essentially the overall, only function of the opposition is to address the government to say: "Just one moment. We have some questions about your legislation. We're hearing from the public too and here is what they are saying." We need time for the media to take an interest in what's happening. Sometimes they don't catch on to an issue for three or four days. Now, of course, in three or four days something could be right through and at committee, and before you know it, something happens and people are saying, "How did that pass?"
Here's an interesting thing that I will tell you that I find most discouraging. Here's what this government is creating: You've reduced the opportunity for the opposition to play its historical role, and that is to raise issues and to question the government in certain directions. Everybody agrees that a majority government has the overall power and responsibility, and I concede that it must proceed with its business. That's not the issue. But when you limit the opposition to a certain number of hours, what happens? The teachers went out and did the job of the opposition. The unions are going out and doing the job of the opposition because we can't play that role. We couldn't raise the same questions. We didn't have the time. We were limited on the amount of time that we had to raise the questions in relation to the bill. The teachers did that.
You're going to find that municipal workers, nurses and teachers - all of the constituents - now will say: "We don't have any voice if the government decides to do something because the opposition is now moribund to a great degree. Therefore we will have to do what we have to do." You've caused a revolution all right. You've caused a revolution where people are going to take to the streets on their own because now they feel that this particular Legislature is ill, is sick and the most undemocratic Legislature - and I'm sad to say this - in all of Canada. I'm embarrassed to say that and ashamed to say that, but it is true and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): First of all, I don't know why we are debating time allocation when we should be dealing with other bills. There are many other bills that we should be debating, especially Bill 170, the Milk Amendment Act. The dairy farmers are waiting for it. They were told that third reading would be before Christmastime. They have the list of all their inspectors. I just got a call tonight that some of the inspectors are going away. They're looking for another job because the government is not moving. The last word I got is that the government is saying to the farmers it is the opposition stopping everything. We are not. We are ready to debate it tonight. We are ready to debate it next week.
Bill 146, the right-to-farm act, has been discussed, discussed, discussed. The farmers have been waiting for this bill and again we won't hear anything until the next session.
The downloading itself is a matter that should be in front of this House and should be given plenty of time to discuss.
I'm looking at the community reinvestment fund. When I look at it, the figures this government came out with are unbelievable. I just don't trust those figures and they're not true figures. I'm telling you, they say Prescott and Russell will collect $442,000 in fines, but who's going to pay the police? All the municipalities. But they will not be allowed to collect any fines. This is right in black and white right here.
I'm looking at the county of Prescott and Russell. They'll have a shortfall of $8.679 million in the year 2000.
I don't think we should be debating time allocation. We should be debating those very important issues at the present time. The government is trying to hide again. They're trying to pass this bill which to me is another omnibus bill trying to take control. I call them control-grabbers; I call them money-grabbers. That's what it is.
We are trying to make this a gambling province in everything we look at. Casinos are the most important part. We're trying to take away money from the poor people.
When we look at home care services, they're down the drain again. The people in Ottawa-Carleton are saying: "What are we going to do around Christmastime, around New Year's time? All the offices are going to be closed."
Those are the points we should be discussing tonight, not time allocation on these bills that we are talking about.
Mr Gerretsen: It has already been said earlier tonight that this is truly a historic night. It's a night of infamy because this is the night when the government decided to take five bills that it could have called on an individual basis for third reading since December 6 of last year at any time they wanted to. Since that time, we have had close to 200 sessions in this House. At any time your House leader could have called these bills one at a time - they all deal with different ministries - and they would have been debated and passed.
I respect the Speaker, and I respect the Speaker's ruling, but it doesn't mean that I have to agree with that ruling. What the Speaker in effect has said is that it's all right for a government to bring in a time allocation motion and put as many bills together as they want. I can well see a time in the future when a government decides in the last two or three days of a session that it will just bundle together all the bills that it hasn't been able to pass during that period of time, just clear the entire order paper, bundle it all together and say, "All right, we're going to deal with them all at once." That just isn't right. It demeans this House, it demeans what we're doing here and it doesn't speak well of the democratic process.
I know government members think that this is a bit of a joke, that these bills are somewhat less controversial than most. I will agree with that; they are not as controversial as some of the other legislation that we have seen. As a matter of fact, of the 20 different bills that have been time-allocated here, this is the first time in the 20 time allocations that we have seen over the past year where actually we have taken non-controversial legislation and put it all together and time-allocated it.
You've got to look at it on the basis of precedent. I am quite sure that when those House leaders who made that deal back in 1992 agreed on a consent basis to put two bills together in a time allocation motion, they never thought that the fact they consented to do it at that time could be used as a precedent in a case where each party wanted to debate a particular bill. It has been used now in a situation which is totally different from a consent kind of situation. We have seen many times in this House where on the unanimous consent the rules are temporarily changed, in order to pay tribute to an individual or in order to talk about a matter that all the parties feel should be addressed on that particular day, but it has always been done on unanimous consent. We now have a situation where unanimous consent to time allocation at one time is being used as the reason for allowing time allocation on a number of different bills at the same time.
I'm sure there are many people out there who are saying: "What's the relevance of all this? It really doesn't matter at all, surely." I say to you, Mr Speaker, that it does matter. When you think about it, until fairly recently, I think up until about 10 or 12 years ago, it was almost impossible to put closure on any item in the House. I can remember Mr Kormos one day talking about an insurance bill for - what was it, 48 hours straight?
Mr Bradley: It was 17 hours.
Mr Gerretsen: For 17 hours straight, and the reason he did that was there was no such thing as closure in this House, and I believe that was less than 10 years ago. Unfortunately, what has happened is that over the last 10 years, these kinds of situations where either closure is invoked or time allocation is invoked have become almost the norm and almost the standard.
I hope the people of Ontario will start taking notice of this. They didn't take any notice last summer when the rules were dramatically changed. Why are we even here this week? Under the old rules, we wouldn't have been here this week, because it would have been up to the Speaker to decide whether we were to meet in a week that was not scheduled on the House calendar. That's all changed too. The government can just call us back whenever they want. They don't need the Speaker any more; they just go ahead and do it. I suppose they could call us all back on January 3 or 4 if they wanted to. We would have said that's fine in this particular case; we want these bills debated.
Time allocation is basically undemocratic. I think that in the long run a society is judged by the way it treats a minority, whether that minority be the vulnerable in society or whether it be the democratically elected minority. This government has shown disdain for that. They are bullies. Once again their bullying tactics have succeeded in this case, but I'm sure that one day the people of Ontario will stand up and take notice and say, "What have we lost in this period of time?"
Mr Bisson: It's with a certain amount of regret that I rise tonight to speak on yet another time allocation motion on the part of the government. We need to be clear and make sure we try one more time to get the government members to understand what it is they're doing here, because I really don't believe a lot of the government members understand what their House leader is doing.
You need to be quite clear about this. The whole idea of the House is, yes, the government has to have the ability to pass this bill; nobody in the opposition parties argues that. In extraordinary times - and that happened in this House on a couple of occasions; once under Bill 26 and another time under the megacity bill - the opposition put the feet of the government to the fire because it was felt not only by the opposition members but by the general public that the government was going too far in its approach when it came to those two particular pieces of legislation.
When the standing orders were created, when this whole idea of democracy was created, it was decided that in the British parliamentary system we would allow the government the power to pass its bills by way of majority, but we would give some power to the opposition to hold the government accountable, but at the same time in extraordinary circumstances to slow the government down so it could reflect on what it was doing. That's what the whole principle of British parliamentary democracy is supposed to be all about. The government members don't understand that this particular time allocation motion is not needed and flies in the face of what this parliamentary system is supposed to be all about.
Mr Speaker, there's a conversation going on here fairly loudly. I wonder if you can bring it under control.
The Acting Speaker: I am sure you will understand that, because you did the same thing a minute ago. I would ask you to continue the debate. I would ask the other members to please try to keep your conversation a little bit lower.
M. Bisson : En français on dit «Touché.»
As I was saying, I want the government members to understand this is not a case of the opposition saying, "Oh, my God, the rights of the minority have yet again been contravened by this government." There is a legitimate argument on the part of the opposition. We understand that the government has the power and the ability to pass bills. But what the government has to understand is that the minority in the House, in this case the two opposition parties, also have to have the ability at times to hold the government accountable. That's the principle by which democracy is supposed to work.
What the government is doing in the case of five red tape bills, Bills 64 through 69, where there hasn't been any opposition on the part of the two opposition parties - neither the Liberal opposition nor the New Democratic opposition has held these bills up in the House. In fact, these bills, which were introduced a year and a half ago, have had ample opportunity, if the government had called them forward, to be passed. But this government, because it had major initiatives like megacity, like Bill 160, like downloading and a whole bunch of other huge bills and huge initiatives provincially, chose - and the operative word is "chose" - not to call those bills forward to final reading at third reading. They have done so at second reading, but they took a year and a half to get to the point we're at now. The government is saying, "We need a time allocation motion to pass these because the opposition members are stalling the bills."
When these bills came to the House at second reading, that was not the case. There wasn't huge opposition by the opposition. In fact, they passed through second reading fairly quickly. You would remember, Mr Speaker - you were here as Speaker of the House and as a member on occasions when those bills came forward - there was not substantive debate to the red tape Bills 64 through 69. In fact, I believe when Bill 63 came to this House for third reading last week or the week before, it was passed on the same day. There was an agreement among the three parties that that bill had to go through.
As we have said to the government, we don't have substantial opposition to a number of these bills, Bill 60 through Bill 69. This is the part that really confounds the opposition. There hasn't been substantive opposition to these bills; there hasn't been an attempt on the part of the opposition to hold up these bills in lengthy debate. The reality is that the government House leader did not call them forward. Then he comes to the House in December, at the end of the session, and says: "Oh, I haven't called them forward and I haven't done my job too well because this government has been too busy passing other substantive bills through the House. I want to get these through and I've only got three days. So what am I to do? I'll blame the opposition and bring in a time allocation motion." The reality is that it's your own fault.
Why do you come into this House with a time allocation motion? The important point is that you're doing it because you yourselves were not able to manage the House. That's what the problem was. It wasn't the opposition.
The other point -
Mr Wildman: He wants to prevent the government backbenchers from debating at length.
Mr Bisson: That's a point. My House leader is saying -
The Acting Speaker: The member for Algoma, let your colleague express himself.
Mr Wildman: I was helping him out.
Mr Bisson: He was helping me out and I appreciated it. It was quite good, and he makes a good point. By way of this, he's not even allowing the government members to debate these bills.
The point I make is simply this: The government are the ones who did not call these bills forward, and because they didn't call them forward, they find themselves in the position they're in now. There was no substantive debate on these bills, or opposition on the part of the two opposition parties, so the government brings forward a time allocation motion which in effect is an omnibus time allocation motion. They're saying, "We want to pass a time allocation motion that will pass five omnibus bills that we've already brought into the House: Bills 64, 65, 66, 68 and 69.
We're saying to the government: Be careful. The precedent you're setting here you may one day have to live with. How would the government members feel if the NDP government, when elected in the next term of government, came into this House and said, "We are going to pass five bills that amend a whole bunch of different acts that you have philosophical problems with"? What would they do? I really want to know. What would happen if the NDP government were to come in and say, "We're going to pass Bills 1 through 5 that amend 40 pieces of legislation individually"? What would the government members say, those who were lucky enough to survive to another term to get into opposition? They'd go ballistic. You're setting a precedent here and you have no idea what you're setting up.
The government members across the way say, "I remember 1989 and I remember 1992." You weren't even here. In 1989 there was a substantive debate in the House on the issue of Sunday shopping. At the time, there had been substantive debate under the Peterson government on this bill, and to achieve the result the government wanted, they had to amend two acts to get the thing done. One was the Retail Business Holidays Act and the other one was the Employment Standards Act. Only after substantive debate did the government House leader of the day come into the House and introduce a time allocation motion to bring those two bills through the House.
In the case of 1992, there was an all-party agreement. The House leaders sat down, the way it's supposed to be done around here. The House leader of the NDP government of the day sat down with the Liberal House leader and the Conservative House leader - they were the third party - and there was an all-party agreement on bringing these bills back into the House and then, to boot, unanimous consent was given by the House to deal with the time allocation motion, because you couldn't do that without notice at the time. There was an all-party agreement at the House leaders' meeting and that was followed by unanimous consent in the House. You come into the House and say, "Oh, we have precedents to be able to do this because of what happened in 1989 and 1992." They're not even related to what has happened in the past.
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): The Speaker ruled.
Mr Bisson: You weren't even here.
Mr Spina: I was watching on television.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Brampton North.
Mr Bisson: Oh, I'm sure you were watching on television. Oh, yeah. If you were watching on television, I can tell you you'd be somewhat upset watching what the government does.
Mr Spina: The Speaker ruled.
The Acting Speaker: Order, the member for Brampton North.
Mr Bisson: For the government members to make the argument that they can do this because somehow or other there's some precedent in the past - I understand and respect the decision of the Speaker. I understand and accept the ruling of the Speaker. The point I make to the government backbenchers is that on the previous occasions, on one there was unanimous consent in the House in order to allow it to happen, and on the second they were two related bills that had been debated at length.
What the difference here is and what you don't seem to understand is these are five bills that are omnibus bills in themselves that amend over 40 pieces of legislation and there has not been an attempt on the part of the opposition to hold the bills up. In fact, we have gone to the government House leader and asked him when he's going to deal with some of these bills, like the Milk Amendment Act and others. It's not our fault in the opposition if the government hasn't called them forward.
Why is it they haven't called them forward? In fairness to the government House leader of the day and the one today, Mr Sterling, they had marching orders from Mike Harris to pass very controversial pieces of legislation. They had a very busy House agenda and they had more on their agenda than they could deal with in the legislative days given. But whose fault is that? That's not the fault of the opposition. The government had way too much on its agenda. At the same time, it was trying to do far too much, I would argue, in the wrong direction, and now finds itself in the position, three days to the end of this session before we prorogue the House into the next session, of having these bills about which they said, "Oops, we haven't been able to pass them."
I don't accept the arguments of the government. These were not held up by the opposition, so why should they use this particular time allocation motion? They're setting a precedent here that I think they will rue if ever they're in opposition. They will go ballistic. If the Tories are lucky enough to be back in this House with two MPPs after the next election, those two MPPs, who will not even form a caucus in the next Parliament, will go absolutely ballistic if any government tries to try to do what they're doing. I say to you, be very careful of what you're setting out in the way of precedents.
Just to give you an idea of how huge an implication this is, the government is going to do these five bills by way of time allocation, with third reading tomorrow night. Get a load of this, Mr Speaker. You understand this. You've been in this House long enough to understand it. It means each of those five bills will get 12 minutes of debate for each party. These bills are quite substantive in some cases.
Mr Wildman: Each opposition party.
Mr Bisson: Each opposition party has 12 minutes; it's even less than that if you count the government in. But for each opposition party there will be 12 minutes per bill to debate at third reading and some of these bills are quite substantive. Tomorrow night we'll get into the debate and we'll get into the detail of what those particular bills are.
Je veux seulement dire, pendant les dernières minutes que j'ai, que le gouvernement cause un précédent ce soir qui est très dangereux à cause de ce qui se passe à l'Assemblée. Ils vont se donner avec cette motion l'habilité de passer cinq législations en même temps par une motion de fermeture.
Le précédent qu'ils commencent ce soir, c'est un précédent qui est très dangereux dans une démocratie. Comme je le dis, si jamais il y a des Conservateurs qui sont assez chanceux de gagner un siège lors de la prochaine élection, je vous dis qu'ils ne seront pas trop contents lorsqu'ils vont regarder le précédent qu'ils ont créé. Le précédent, Monsieur le Président, comme vous le savez, c'est de vraiment causer un affront à la démocratie ontarienne qu'on a connue dans cette province.
En terminant, le gouvernement a démontré au cours des dernières deux années et demie que oui, il a un agenda, que oui, il est préparé à le mettre en place, mais il est préparé à le faire d'une manière qui est assez non-démocratique et qui n'est quasiment pas acceptable par la majorité seulement des membres de l'opposition mais de la plupart de la population.
Je peux vous dire que dans mon comté, il y a une «gang» de Conservateurs qui ont de grands problèmes avec ce gouvernement quand ils regardent la manière dont ils agissent. Dernièrement, quand ça en vient à l'agenda de ce gouvernement, il y a beaucoup de monde qui disent, «Ce n'est pas une question que ce gouvernement va trop vite et trop loin, c'est une question que le gouvernement s'en va dans la mauvaise direction quant à la plupart de leurs politiques ici à l'Assemblée législative.»
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to join with my colleague the member for Cochrane South in condemning the government for yet another time allocation motion. I know the government House leader and others on the government benches like to stand up and say, "Well, this is how many we've done and this is how many the Liberals may have done and this is how many the NDP have done." The fact of the matter is that we're comparing apples and oranges entirely in terms of this government's approach to what democracy means in this province and what any other government in the past, including former Tories I might add, has seen as the traditions of this important place.
This is the government of Bill 7. This is the government of the brand-new Ontario Labour Relations Act: without one minute of public hearings, not one minute of committee hearings, rammed it through in less than a month with no discussion with anyone ahead of time, just dropped it in the middle of the floor, let the mushroom cloud form over this place and rammed it through in less than a month - unprecedented, unheard of.
Never in the history of this province has any Premier, particularly former Tory premiers, ever changed even a comma in the Ontario Labour Relations Act without picking up the phone and at the very least talking to the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. This government just completely ignored everyone - no discussion, no negotiation, no consultation, except with their pals - and then rammed it through in less than a month.
What did that bring us? I'm talking about this government's record as it relates to time allocation. What has that bill given us today? Certainly it's seen scabs reintroduced back into this province in probably the most ugly fashion we could imagine.
Go talk to the workers who were at PC World, where the employees there finally had to take over the plant in order to get the democracy they were entitled to, because scabs were being used to keep that plant going. As a result of their action, I might add, and as a result of the support of their union, the CAW, and workers all across this province who showed up at that site by the busloads, the corporation was forced to bring in a mediator and ultimately a collective agreement was got through binding arbitration.
If they hadn't done that, they'd still be out there striking just like the workers at S.A. Armstrong. The S.A. Armstrong workers have been on strike now for over 17 months because there are scabs in that place and the scabs are keeping that plant going. This government brought that about as a result of Bill 7, which was brought in in the most undemocratic fashion you could imagine, similar to what we've got going here on this time allocation motion.
Just today my leader talked about Goldcorp: For 18 months those workers and their families and that relatively small community have been held to economic hostage by the fact that there are scabs in that workplace doing the jobs of those workers.
Not one minute of discussion in this place or in committee, let alone the public and the people who will be affected, when that law was brought in here, and here we are again with another time allocation motion.
In Friday's Hamilton Spectator there was an article about scab-herders, a US firm that's being brought in, professional scab-herders. What's their slogan? This is something. This is a piece of work. This is in their brochure, "Because you never know what tomorrow's union negotiations could bring...bring in Huffmaster Associates." "We believe there's a future in this," said the fellow that's the head of it, "and hope that it will grow in the next year."
That's the kind of jobs you're creating in Mike Harris's Ontario: US firms that come up here to hire people to be scabs, brought in and made legal under a law similar to the time allocation motion we have here today, at least the concept of shutting down democracy. That's your legend of Bill 7.
Of course Bill 26, we know what had to happen there in terms of what our colleague Alvin Curling did. We forced the government once again into some semblance of hearings. Even they were totally inadequate, but better than what you were trying to do two years ago now, I guess it was, as you tried to ram that omnibus bully bill through with next to no public input - unprecedented.
Bill 49: yet another piece of anti-worker legislation brought in here, and the word from the government was, "You don't need any public hearings on this; it's only minor housekeeping, nothing you need to worry about."
Hon Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Speaker: Perhaps he would like to outline how many hours of public consultation there was on the social contract.
The Acting Speaker: Minister, that's not a point of order.
Mr Christopherson: I'd love to debate that issue with the honourable government House leader. Particularly, if he had been listening, he would have noted very carefully that when I talked about Bill 7 I was talking about the fact that there was no discussion with labour people about that at all - not one phone call; not a single meeting; not one minute. You wrote that bill, you had it done outside this place, you talked to your corporate pals and it was dropped in this place. This province was told, "Eat it, whether you like it or not," so don't talk to me about comparing our consultation methods with anything you're doing now, because it won't stand up at all.
If I might continue on the motion before us, once again, in Bill 49, an attempt to shut down democracy. They even introduced that bill when the labour leaders were out of the province at a national conference. They were told: "Don't worry about it. There's nothing in here of any major significance." Eventually we were able to shame the government and get enough publicity around what was really in that anti-worker bill and there were four weeks of province-wide hearings. When we had those hearings, they got slaughtered in every single community across this province. Their backbenchers couldn't wait to get out of those committee rooms and get back home to the safety of their constituency offices because facing the people was just about as unpleasant as it gets.
Bill 99 is another example. Again, the time limitation - I'm just mentioning a few that are consistent with the kind of shutting down of basic democracy and the traditions of democracy in this place. Bill 99: This government's attack on the most vulnerable workers in the province, injured workers, and at the end of the day, after the government had promised we would have province-wide hearings - oh yes, we had the Minister of Labour of the day on her feet on behalf of the government saying: "We will have province-wide public hearings. Don't worry, we will do that" - we ended up with a mere six days on a bill that even I acknowledge was much more far-reaching than Bill 49.
Bill 49 wasn't nearly as far-reaching as Bill 99, but we got four weeks on Bill 49. What didn't they like? They didn't like the fact that there were more people who came out opposed to them than in favour. That was the last time any piece of labour legislation saw the light of day in terms of any kind of meaningful public input.
I can't leave the issue of Bill 99 without also saying, in addition to taking $15 billion out of the pockets of injured workers and giving $6 billion of it back to your corporate pals, one of the very last things they did in committee, after the public was long shut out of the system, was to introduce a motion that they never talked about at first reading or second reading or indicated in any of the committee hearings or allowed anyone to comment on. There was a final amendment in there that made all their new time limitations retroactive.
Tens of thousands of injured workers' cases are going to be affected by that, Speaker, and I suggest to you tens of thousands of Ontarians are going to be denied basic democratic rights because they don't know about the new time limitations. The government knows that. They're planning on it. They've done nothing to hire the kind of people who are necessary to deal with the backlog that will come in if every one of those active cases sent in their notice within the time frame.
It was a deliberate attempt, first, to deny the public knowledge that it was happening and, second, the resulting legislation will have literally tens of thousands of people denied an opportunity to even have their case heard because at the last minute this government snuck in, in the sneakiest of fashions, a powerful amendment that took away even more democratic rights.
Here we are today debating a time allocation motion yet again and in a fashion that I think my House leader argued very effectively we've never seen before - unprecedented. Why is it whenever we talk about anything undemocratic about this government, the word "unprecedented" always follows? That's because they are. No one has ever witnessed anything like this. While some of you may be naïve enough to believe that's something you ought to be proud of, let me tell you, when they write the history books about this time it will definitely be some of the darkest days of democracy in the province of Ontario.
The time allocation motion itself, in the few minutes that I have left, Bills 64 to 69 all deal - here we go again. After a while you get to know their formula. Most of the bills start out, "An Act to simplify government processes and to improve efficiency in," and then they name the ministry. That's basically what these are.
We've talked about this before, about what this red tape commission really is all about and what cutting red tape really is about with this government. It's not just eliminating redundant language or duplication of processes or paperwork. It can be, but that's not what this government means when they talk about streamlining and efficiency. When they talk about that, they point to places like the United States and Alberta and say, "They've got the right idea of how to run government and that's where we're going."
It's interesting. My friend Maureen McCarthy brought to my attention the article in yesterday's Hamilton Spectator with the headline, "Booming Edmonton Plagued by Poverty," and it says in part that with one of the strongest economies one in 12 Edmonton families with children lived in absolute poverty in 1995 - one in 12. That's 8.1%. That's for 1995. In 1993 it was 3.3% - from 3.3% to 8.1%. Then when the social services minister was asked, guess what his answer was? "I just find it hard to believe that in an economy where we have 5.6% unemployment and people are up and working that we're worse than six cities in Canada."
Then it goes on to say, that's the end of the quote, "How can the capital of the province with the greatest growth and the lowest unemployment in the country also be the poverty capital of Canada? `Easy,' says Brian Bechtel, head of the social planning council. `Sure Edmontonians are working, but that doesn't mean they aren't poor.'"
Sound familiar? This government likes to stand up and say: "We've got this booming economy and now we've got all this money that's going to pay off the debt and, oh, the unemployment rate is dropping in some areas. Everything is wonderful." That is not the case. That's not the reality and that's why I wanted to make mention of those labour laws, because when you take a look at what you're really doing to people, working middle-class families, the reality is your numbers may look good but people are hurting.
The article written by Marta Gold of the Edmonton Journal goes on to say, "`It's the same strategy the United States is following where you have a very low minimum wage and low taxes to attract industry and you just let the labour market take care of itself,' says Gordon Laxer, a political economist at the University of Ottawa. Says Mr Laxer: `It's the Alberta advantage. Take advantage of the poor and give advantage to corporations and the rich.'"
When we deal with bills by this government that talk about promoting efficiency and streamlining and in the same breath they talk about how wonderful things are in Alberta and how much they like the way the economy is going in the United States, let's take a real look at what happens to the most vulnerable and to working, middle-class families and our communities. They lose. Your rich corporate friends win. Ordinary Ontarians lose.
The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members; this will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 2114 to 2119.
The Acting Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise, one at a time.
Baird, John R.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Jordan, W. Leo
Leadston, Gary L.
McLean, Allan K.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Young, Terence H.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise, one at a time.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Conway, Sean G.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 51; the nays are 15.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
It being close to 9:30, the House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2122.