L022a - Mon 8 Jun 1998 / Lun 8 Jun 1998 1
The House met at 1331.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Sadly, I must inform the House of the untimely death of Sudbury's first elected regional chair. Chair Peter Wong died suddenly of an apparent heart attack this past Saturday, serving the people of our region well while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Saskatchewan.
Peter's very quiet manner was coupled with a diligence and a determination that knew no bounds. He felt deeply about our region, and in his short seven months in office had started the process of change which would ensure our region continued to remain strong well into the future.
Peter had very many strong qualities as a politician, but the strongest was that he put people before politics. All his decisions and directions were based on what was best for the people of the region, regardless of what political price he had to pay personally. For Peter, people came before politics.
As chair, he celebrated when the people of our region celebrated. As chair, he hurt when the people of our region hurt. Today all citizens of the regional municipality of Sudbury and we here in the House want to tell Lynn, Peter's wife, and their children, Nancy and Eric, that we grieve together. The passing of this good man reminds us that politicians like Peter deserve our love, respect and honour. They also deserve our grief, and today we grieve together.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I too want to make some comments about the passing of Regional Chair Peter Wong, because our whole community was shocked over the weekend to learn of his death. He had been attending the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Regina when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Peter Wong was the first chair who was actually elected as regional chair in our community, and that came in November 1997. Although that term was very short-lived, his activity in local politics in our community spanned many years. At the political level, he was mayor of Sudbury and a regional councillor for nine years. He was a trustee for the Sudbury Board of Education for three terms. He served as a director of the Ontario Good Roads Association and as regional director of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He was a vice-chair of the Ontario Highway Transport Board and a vice-chair of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. He was chair of that latter organization when I was Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and it was a pleasure and an honour to work with him during that time.
He was active in our community as well. He served as the United Way chair in 1995 and was secretary-treasurer of the Sudbury Blueberry Festival, president of the childhood-enfance breakfast programs, co-chair of the FoodShare spring food drive, a member of the hospital restructuring transition team, and a board member of the Sudbury Regional Hospital.
Despite his many responsibilities as regional chair, he took time for little things. He attended with me last week at the official opening of the new site for the Garson Food Bank.
We will greatly miss his contribution.
Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): It was three years ago today that Ontarians made a choice to move away from the period of drought between 1985 and 1995. During this period, public confidence was low, unemployment was high, and many people were on welfare, with little hope.
It was on this day three years ago that the people of Ontario responded and made a choice for jobs, hope, growth and opportunity. They made this choice when they elected the Mike Harris government, and evidence shows that promises are being kept and Ontario is more prosperous today.
Sixty-six tax cuts have been implemented or announced during our mandate so far. Ontario's budget deficit has been cut in half and is on track to being eliminated. Over 263,000 people have left the welfare rolls since June 1995, almost a 20% decline.
Our education reform increases classroom spending, provides equal funding to separate schools, and protects $1 billion in funding for special education.
Health care spending is at $18.5 billion. It is now at the highest level in Ontario's history.
Unlike the previous two governments, we have kept our promises to reduce barriers to growth, and it is clear that Ontario has become a better place to live, work and raise a family. I regularly hear from constituents in Etobicoke about the prosperity they are now experiencing, and I look forward -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you so much.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Representatives of the community of St Catharines gathered at the B'nai Israel cemetery in St Catharines in a rededication ceremony that saw people of many faiths, ethnic backgrounds and political affiliations stand as one, side by side, with the Jewish community in a display of solidarity against hate and intolerance exemplified by the desecration of gravestones just a few weeks ago.
With Rabbi Martin Applebaum leading the service, Roman Catholic Monsignor Schaefer offering the opening prayer and the Central Gospel Temple Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble providing the music, those who were assembled at the cemetery on Sunday afternoon, through their attendance, expressed their revulsion at the acts of hateful vandalism perpetrated upon the gravestones of the Jewish deceased and their unity with Jewish people in St Catharines at a time of crisis.
Representatives of all levels of government, including the Attorney General of Ontario, were there to demonstrate the significance which all people of goodwill placed on the rededication of the gravestones and the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The Niagara Regional Police Service, represented by Chief Grant Waddell, was the recipient of praise and commendation for its swift and thorough handling of this hate crime and its determination to deal with such incidents in the most serious manner.
The emotion of the day was shared not only by those of the Jewish faith but by everyone who gathered on that momentous occasion at the B'nai Israel cemetery.
Let it be known to all that the Jewish people of St Catharines will never stand alone.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm pleased to inform the House today that we are one step closer to achieving the third councillor for East York in the new city of Toronto. I want to again thank the Minister of Municipal Affairs for his cooperation.
As you know, the minister had confirmed in the House, in response to my question, that he would support the achievement of a third councillor and would be willing to work with me in terms of the private member's bill. He had an outstanding concern, however, which was that the motion from the city of Toronto requested that the province pay for the by-election as a transition cost. The minister has said the government is not prepared to do that; they believe it is a municipal initiative and it should be paid for municipally. He sent a letter to that effect, in which he said:
"As you may know, Ms Frances Lankin, MPP for Beaches-Woodbine, has already introduced a private member's bill in order to add a third member to the East York ward by means of a by-election. We intend to work with the opposition parties. With unanimous consent, the bill can be accommodated on a crowded legislative agenda. In view of the above, I would like council to confirm whether the city is willing to pay for this by-election."
At last week's council meeting, council dealt with this issue. They passed the motion, indicating that the city would pay for the by-election. Now it's just a question of getting the private member's bill before the Legislature and passed and we will be able to achieve this. I, again, appreciate the cooperative effort that is going into this. The people of East York have fought long and hard for this. It is something they deserve, and I am sure they appreciate the cooperation on all sides of the House.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I rise in the House today to congratulate the town of Cobourg on its 200th anniversary and to mention some of the events that are taking place throughout the year to celebrate this significant milestone.
Cobourg was first settled in 1798 and was named after the royal marriage of Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George IV, to Prince Leopold of the Bavarian state of Saxe-Coburg, Germany.
To celebrate its 200th anniversary, the town of Cobourg and the Heritage Cobourg committee have organized events all year long.
Since January, Cobourg has put on a gala ball, a Robbie Burns supper and a heritage film presentation.
Some of the upcoming events include an antique boat show, a German teddy bear collection display, a visit from citizens of Coburg, Germany, and a gala music concert.
It is important to recognize the industries, retailers and service organizations in Cobourg which have come together to find innovative ways to recognize this very special occasion.
I applaud the Cobourg council, the Heritage Cobourg committee and the volunteers who are planning and coordinating the many activities and events.
I encourage all members of this House to visit Cobourg and to tour the many historical landmarks, heritage homes and Cobourg's beautiful waterfront during its 200th anniversary celebration.
Mr David Caplan (Oriole): I rise today to bring to the attention of this House the government's appalling record and broken promises when it comes to our college and university students. Three years ago Mike Harris and Dave Johnson promised that "tuition fees should be allowed to rise over a four-year period to 25% of the operating costs." Right now, as it stands, tuition fees account for an average of 35% of operating costs, and they're on the rise.
The Tories promised changes to make OSAP work better for students. Debt loads continue to grow and grow. How have you responded? You promised an income-contingent loan repayment program, but you're unable to do anything about it yet because the banks won't touch this program. Why? Because student debt levels are too high and they want you to take some real action before they would consider getting involved.
Is OSAP more accessible? No way. Today it's harder for students to qualify. They have to live away from home longer, their parents have to contribute more and there's no loan program for part-time students.
There's more. The end of rent control will mean higher and higher living costs for students. Deregulation of tuition fees will mean that only the rich, not the most talented, need apply for professional programs like medical school, law school and business.
All government members should be ashamed of Mike Harris's and Dave Johnson's record on this issue. I know I'm proud to support my leader, Dalton McGuinty, in his commitment to freeze tuitions. I am so sorry that many government members are unwilling to make the same commitment to our young people.
WINDSOR CARROUSEL OF THE NATIONS
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): This Friday marks the beginning of the annual Carrousel of the Nations, Windsor's multicultural festival presented by the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County.
Over the course of the next two weekends Carrousel will pay tribute to the multicultural council's 25th anniversary. There will be 24 ethnocultural villages located in various parts of our community, including Polish, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, three Slovak villages, Slovenian, Pakistani, Irish, Macedonian, Scottish, two Ukrainian villages, Japanese, two Serbian villages, Korean, Latino, German, Greek, Hungarian and Caribbean.
I want to welcome a new arrival this year, the Arabic village. Almost half of these villages are located in the riding of Windsor-St Clair, and all will be presenting the best in traditional cuisine, entertainment and arts and crafts. Best of all, admission is free.
I want to recognize and express my thanks to Casino Windsor, sponsors of this year's Carrousel, and also say a special thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who make this event a success every year.
I invite everyone to come to Windsor over the next two weekends, tour the world, and experience a community where persons of different cultures celebrate Carrousel together.
FATHER BERNARD HAYES
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Last week I attended a celebration for Father Bernard Hayes of Kitchener on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, along with hundreds of people whose lives he has touched in an extraordinary way. Father Bernie taught thousands of young men at the well-known St Jerome's high school in Kitchener. It's hard to believe that I have known Father Bernie for almost all of those 40 years. He taught me very shortly after being ordained and was the best teacher I ever had.
He is much loved, and I don't say that lightly. He is one of the most highly regarded, highly respected and loved men I have ever known. I enjoyed being one of his students but, more than that, when I needed sage advice, he was there. In short, Father Bernie Hayes became a friend, not only of mine but of my family. When I got married he celebrated the mass, when our daughter was born he baptised her. When I was still a high school student, Father Bernie cast me in the part of Charlie in the major play Charlie's Aunt, despite his doubts, while always encouraging me.
I have never forgotten his example. I used it in the raising of my own daughter. Even when she blew it as she was growing up, I would always try to guide her along. You see, Father Bernie Hayes has had an effect on not only those whose lives he touched directly, but on our children. He more than any other individual, other than my own father, affected the direction my life has taken.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to pay tribute to a man who, on the occasion of his 40th anniversary of being a priest, deserves all the recognition we can give him. I think it is fitting that in this House, where representatives of all the people of Ontario sit to do the province's business, I can pay tribute in front of all the people of Ontario to Father Bernie Hayes, my friend.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege today under standing order 21. I should point out that, pursuant to standing order 21(c), I have submitted this point of privilege to your office prior to 12:30, this morning.
Earlier today, in this morning's edition of the Globe and Mail, a request for proposal appeared from the Ontario Lottery Corp for mechanical spinning reel slot machines, or as they are more commonly known, one-armed bandits. That request for proposals reads,
"The Ontario Lottery Corp is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) on June 8, 1998, to select and acquire the mechanical spinning reel slot machines," that's one-armed bandits, "that best meet the financial and operational requirements of the charity casino and racetrack gaming program conducted and managed by the Ontario Lottery Corp."
Several weeks ago the government announced that rather than introducing video lottery terminals, that is, VLTs, into every neighbourhood in Ontario, it would instead introduce these so-called mechanical spinning reel slot machines which, as I've said, are better known as one-armed bandits. The distinction between VLTs and slot machines was not clear to most residents of Ontario.
My point of privilege is directed to Bill 15. Section 34, Part VI of Bill 15, which is currently before the Legislature, repeals the definition of "video lottery terminal" contained in the Ontario Lottery Corp Act, section 6, chapter 26, 1996.
Mr Speaker, you are aware that Bill 15 has not yet been passed by this Legislature, and it has just in fact, I'm given to understand, begun committee hearings today. I seek your ruling on whether it's appropriate for the government, through the Ontario Lottery Corp, to be advertising a request for proposal for one-armed bandits that they intend to install in every neighbourhood in this province when in fact this Legislature has not passed the amendment to the Ontario Lottery Corp Act which would allow the government to do so.
This, in my view, presumes a decision of the Legislature before I, as a duly elected member of this Legislature, have had an opportunity to vote on this matter. In fact, I would question the appropriateness of Bill 75. If this amendment is not needed, does that mean that slot machines, or one-armed bandits, are perfectly legal anywhere else in the province? I await your decision on that matter.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I will report back to this House as soon as possible after reviewing the point of privilege.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The government has given notice of a motion for time allocation under standing order 46 which would not allow any debate at all - that's zero debate - on third reading on Bill 108, An Act to deal with the prosecution of certain provincial offences, to reduce duplication and to streamline administration. That's the government name for it.
Under the present government in the first session of the 36th Parliament, that is 1995-1997, the Harris government moved time allocation 19 times. Eighteen of these motions time-allocated debate at various stages on 20 bills. These motions curtailed debate at third reading as follows: 14 of the time allocation motions allowed one sessional day of debate at third reading; two allowed two hours of debate at third reading; one allowed debate for the remainder of the sessional day on which the bill was called for third reading; and one allowed for no debate at all at third reading.
The time allocation motion which allowed no debate at all at third reading was approved on June 3, 1997, and applied to Bill 57, the Environmental Approvals Improvement Act. However, this motion was introduced after the House had already debated this bill for one sessional day at third reading, approximately four hours and 35 minutes, so the motion was in order.
Since standing order 46 was added to the standing orders in 1992, it has been invoked twice to introduce a time allocation motion which has allowed for no debate at all at third reading of a government bill. However, on both occasions the bill had already been debated for one sessional day at third reading.
I will ask you to make a determination, if you will, whether in fact this time allocation motion which would allow no debate at third reading is in order, considering the fact that there has been no debate already at third reading. It would in effect terminate, end, obliterate, any debate at third reading on this bill.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member, under what standing order are you standing on?
Mr Bradley: Standing order 46.
The Speaker: Forty-six what?
Mr Bradley: It just says standing order 46 in my note here. Maybe the government House leader can help me on this.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): To reinforce the point briefly, time allocation, by definition, usually allocates time for debate. In this particular case there is no time being allocated for debate. The motion states clearly that there will be no debate at third reading; there will simply be a vote. How on earth can we have a time allocation motion that does not allocate time?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I only refer to Bill -
The Speaker: If you want to stand and get into this you're more than welcome to. Right now, I'm trying to hear your government House leader. Could the place come to order, please. Government House leader.
Hon Mr Sterling: I would point out to the members of the Legislature that Bill 108 has had considerable debate to date. Before you can move time allocation, there is a requirement that there be at least three days of debate with regard to the bill on second reading and that during the time allocation motion there is another day of debate that primarily focuses on the bill as well, which is outside of the normal procedures. However, I guess the substance of it is that standing order 46 does not specify any minimum time requirement with regard to any part of our process that we go through. This motion is not unprecedented. I understand Bill 161 had no debate at all on third reading.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Was Bill 161 time-allocated?
The Speaker: I think I'll reserve with respect to this one as well. I want to get it clarified, exactly what it is we're searching for on this as well.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
GREATER HAMILTON AREA MUNICIPAL RESTRUCTURING ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 SUR LA RESTRUCTURATION MUNICIPALE DANS LA RÉGION DU GRAND HAMILTON
Mr Skarica moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 32, An Act to amend the Municipal Act to provide for the restructuring of municipal government in the Greater Hamilton Area / Projet de loi 32, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les municipalités afin de prévoir la restructuration des gouvernements municipaux dans la région du grand Hamilton.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): This bill requires the minister to establish a commission to draft the necessary legislation to implement a restructuring proposal for the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth dated February 23, 1997, that the councils of the regional municipality and the area municipalities have approved in principle. Under the restructuring, the regional municipality would be dissolved on January 1, 2001. The commission is required to submit the draft to the minister within one year of the establishment of the commission. The minister is required to introduce legislation on or before November 1, 2000, to implement the restructuring.
SCHOOL CLASS SIZES ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 SUR LA TAILLE DES CLASSES SCOLAIRES
Mr Bartolucci moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 33, An Act respecting the number of pupils that may be enrolled in a school class / Projet de loi 33, Loi concernant le nombre d'élèves pouvant être inscrits dans une classe scolaire.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Very briefly, this bill limits the number of pupils that may be enrolled in any class in any school in Ontario. The limit depends on the grade level of the class. It is not dependent on averages. If we're looking for fairness for all students, averages are not the way to go; capping class size is.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AMENDMENT ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA PROTECTION DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT
Mr Carroll moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 34, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): The legislation that I'm putting forward today would be a win for Ontario's environment and farmers. This bill would require a minimum oxygen content in gasoline offered for sale for motor vehicles. Such a measure would expand the use of more environmentally friendly fuels, such as ethanol. An expanded use of ethanol, which comes mainly from corn, means less carbon monoxide and less dependence on foreign imports, imports of oil, and a boon to farmers. I encourage all members of the House to join me in promoting a cleaner air bill for Ontario.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that pursuant to standing order 9(c), the House shall meet from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm on June 8, 9, 10 and 11, 1998, for the purpose of considering government business.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Statements by the ministry?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Northern Development and Mines): I join all members of the House today in expressing our collective shock and sadness at the sudden passing this past weekend of Sudbury Regional Chair Peter Wong. Mr Wong had dedicated much of his life to public service and improving life and promoting economic development in the Sudbury region in northern Ontario.
In fact, he was attending an annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this past weekend. Mr Wong had recently won the first ever regional chair election. In the past he had served as a Sudbury Board of Education trustee for three terms, mayor of Sudbury for nine years, from 1982 to 1991, and vice-chair of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. He was also involved in many community organizations, most notably the campaign to eliminate drunk driving.
I, like many of my provincial colleagues, had the pleasure of meeting and working with Mr Wong. He was kind and courteous, a true gentleman. He presented his case intelligently and forthrightly. He was an eloquent -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I don't mean to interrupt you. I just have a tough time relating this to ministry statements.
The Speaker: Yes, why don't we seek unanimous consent. Sorry, my fault.
Unanimous consent for statements? Agreed. Go ahead. Sorry.
Hon Mr Hodgson: He presented his cases, any time I had dealings with him, or any other members of this House, in an intelligent and forthright manner. Invariably, he had the interests of his constituents in his mind and in his heart. He was a true champion of Sudbury's causes.
Throughout the years, Mr Wong proved himself to be an inspired and compassionate leader. A soft-spoken man, he had a rare ability to smooth away differences between people and encourage those with different views to work together. His council colleagues will miss his quiet guidance.
Our thoughts are with his wife, Lynn, and children Eric and Nancy. Ontario has lost a true friend.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to thank the minister for those kind words. On behalf of the people of the regional municipality of Sudbury, certainly I know they will be comforting to Lynn and their two children.
Mayor Wong, now Regional Chair Wong, was a unique individual. He was able to bring all sides together to sit down and to talk in a rational, constructive way. He thought it was much better for him to build bridges than to destroy them.
He worked very hard in the seven months to ensure that the massive pressures that were being placed on the region for a variety of reasons were certainly not enough to break the region. He worked very hard to ensure that the restructuring of the region would be done in a very positive and constructive way.
He was also very active in ensuring that the people of the region felt a self-worth that only Peter could instil in people because of his very quiet approach to life. Peter believed that it was important for every individual within the regional municipality of Sudbury, every committee that he worked on, in fact all the committees that he was a part of an executive of, to ensure that they were very important in the total framework of life in their particular area or their particular concern.
He brought the best out in people because he showed through his example that any cause, regardless of how big or how small, was paramount and the most important thing we should be working on, given the situation that presented itself for the creation of such a committee or such a cause.
He will be sadly missed, not only because he was the first directly elected chair but he's going to be missed because he brought with him a unique style of leadership. Most of the time we see people being very gregarious and very outspoken, and actually going after headlines and media. Peter was exactly the opposite. Peter thought that if he approached a problem in a very quiet, concerned manner, the possibility of reaching a solution would happen much greater and much more quickly. You know, he was right.
Peter was able to bring to fruition success in achieving those goals that he had set for himself, those goals that he had set for his family, those goals that he had set for his city when he was the mayor of Sudbury, and those goals that he had set for the region as regional chair. He did it in a way that he, his family, his friends, his fellow politicians and the regional municipality of Sudbury residents can be very proud of.
Peter's wake will take place on Thursday between the hours of 2 and 5 and 7 and 9. There will be a public viewing at Civic Square, or the Tom Davies Square, as it's known now. There will be a funeral Friday afternoon at Christ the King church.
I might tell you that Peter Wong was 66, going on 67 very soon. In those 67 years, he lived a full, productive life, a life that will be characterized as one of caring, sharing, commitment and concern. What greater words can you have than to say that Peter Wong was a dedicated, determined, honest politician?
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I am pleased to join with my colleagues this afternoon in this Legislature to recognize the enormous contribution made by a very active member of our community, Mr Peter Wong. It's interesting, although somewhat sad, to have to note that in the last number of months our community has had its share of losses of truly worthy individuals who have led our community over a number of years from a very single-base economy devoted almost entirely to mining to one which is very diversified today. A number of months ago we suffered the loss of the former chair, Tom Davies, and today we are grieving as a community the loss of the new chair, who was elected by the people for the first time in November 1997.
Peter Wong was a very different man in terms of his political style in relationship to the former chair. He was a very gentle man. All of us who knew him and had the honour of working with him saw how that was reflected daily, whether in his political life, which was very active, or in his community life, which again was very active in that he served for any number of years in any number of organizations to make the quality of life in our community just a little bit better.
In terms of his political life, it is worth repeating in the House that he was the mayor of the city of Sudbury for nine years. He also served as a regional councillor during that whole time. He served for three terms as a trustee for the Sudbury Board of Education. He was a regional director for the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. He was also a director of the Ontario Good Roads Association. He served as a vice-chair for the Ontario Highway Transport Board, and also served as a vice-chair for the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.
It was in that capacity and connection that I knew him best. At the time that I was Minister of Northern Development, I appointed him as a director for NOHFC, and then the collective determined that he should be vice-chair. He served in that capacity, trying to better the lives of people in northern Ontario, very honourably over the time that he was vice-chair.
In terms of his involvement with the community, he served in a number of capacities in a number of sectors. He was the chairperson for the Sudbury Blueberry Festival. He was, in 1995, the chair for the United Way campaign. He was a director for the breakfast programs in our community. He was a director as well of a campaign against drunk drivers. He was on the transition team for the new Sudbury regional hospital, and after the new corporation was established he also became a board member. He was a director as well of the FoodShare spring food drive, which he took an active interest in.
It's interesting, though, that despite his large and long political and community career, some of the very little things were the most important to Peter Wong, and I think most people in our community will remember him for these things. Despite his many onerous responsibilities as regional chair, he took the time to go to any number of events that were being sponsored in the community. Last Saturday, for example, I had the pleasure of being with him when we opened up the new site for the Garson Food Bank in that community. As a director of the food drive it was very important for him to be there, and he was at a number of events for the food drive all during the month of May. Later in the afternoon, he came to my community of Capreol, and there he participated in the annual inspection of the Irish cadet corps. In fact, he inspected the cadet corps that afternoon. He always took time, despite how busy he was, to do some of the small things where there wasn't media attention or wasn't media attraction but where it was very important for him to have a presence.
We will greatly miss Peter Wong. He has made an enormous contribution to the life of my community. We wish his wife, Lynn, and his son and his daughter all the best. We give them our sympathy. We know that our community will not be the same without Peter Wong.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Deputy Premier. I thought it only appropriate, this being the third anniversary of the election of the Mike Harris government, that we take a moment to reflect on some of your government's special accomplishments.
I want to start with health care. As you know, Deputy Premier, health care is an important measure for Ontarians as to how well their government is doing or not doing. I want you to comment, if you would, on the fact that now we enjoy the privilege of being dead last in Canada when it comes to the number of nurses we have available for our patients in hospitals in Ontario. What kind of an accomplishment do you feel that is, to be dead last in Canada in having the lowest number of nurses available for our patients in Ontario?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I'm sure the Minister of Health will be happy to respond.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): We certainly recognize the concerns of the nursing organizations in Ontario and that's why we have been moving forward very aggressively in recent months to address the concerns that have been expressed by the organizations, and recently we have moved forward. We have indicated we're prepared to invest $5 million to ensure that nurse practitioners can be well utilized throughout Ontario in underserviced areas particularly, and into the community health centres as well.
We've also indicated to the nurses that we're setting up the nurses task force so that we can respond very specifically to the concerns they have about the role of nurses in the province at the present time and how we can ensure that patient care continues to be, first and foremost, on the minds of everyone. Certainly we are addressing and we are responding to the concerns that have been identified.
Mr McGuinty: Back to the Deputy Premier. So we're last in the country now when it comes to the number of nurses available for our patients. Let's take a look at some of your accomplishments in education.
As we struggle to build a knowledge-based economy and as everybody understands the importance of investing in knowledge in our young people, tell me, how does it feel to know that we are last in the country when it comes to the amount of funding that we have available for our universities on a per capita basis? We are the lowest funder per capita for our universities in this province of Ontario than in any other province in Canada. On top of that, we will shortly be charging the most for post-secondary education of all of the provinces.
We're last in funding, soon to be first in the cost of university and college education. Tell me, how does it feel, Deputy Premier, knowing that those are more of your wonderful accomplishments?
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The Minister of Health has the floor.
Hon Mrs Witmer: I will refer it back to the Minister of Finance.
Hon Mr Eves: I don't know if the Leader of the Opposition was here on budget day or not, but there were several items in the budget, in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars that benefit the post-secondary education community in Ontario. If he happened to be listening to CFRB this morning, he would have heard the president of the University of Waterloo, Mr Downey, talk in glowing terms about a number of the measures that this government has taken with respect to post-secondary university education. You can snicker and laugh if you want. If you don't value the opinion of a true leader in the educational community, the president of the University of Waterloo, you should stand up and say so.
Mr McGuinty: So we're dead last in Canada when it comes to the nurses available for our patients, we're dead last in funding for our universities, and we'll shortly be first in the cost of tuition in all the country.
Let's turn to the fiscal aspect for a moment here. This is a government that has proclaimed the evils of the debt for ages and told us how the previous government, the NDP government, had more than doubled the debt. This government now has the privilege of talking about its special accomplishment of adding $16 billion to our debt as a result of expenditures on a tax cut that we can't afford.
I want the Deputy Premier, also Minister of Finance, to stand up and tell us how proud he is of the fact that he is adding $16 billion to our provincial debt, a legacy for the next generation of taxpayers, as a result of money that he's spending on a tax cut that we can't afford.
Hon Mr Eves: That is truly Liberal math. Your government and their government built the debt in this province, I agree, to a totally intolerable rate of $100 billion. Does the leader of the official opposition -
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Eves: Mr Speaker, I'm sorry I caused all that commotion for a brief period of time.
I wonder if the leader of the official opposition has any idea what the interest on $100 billion worth of debt is. Obviously not. Those were your priorities - your priorities - and your priorities were to spend over $9 billion a year on interest payments; those are not our priorities.
The leader of the official opposition talks about Ontarians not being able to afford a tax cut. We have reduced taxes, as he knows, some 66 times in three years and we've generated $3.3 billion more in revenue -
The Speaker: New question.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the Chair of Management Board. You will remember that a week ago today I raised a very serious allegation regarding conflict of interest with respect to the awarding of the Niagara Falls casino contract. Specifically, I asked you if it was true that Michael French, your government's point person on the Niagara Falls casino bidding process, was also on the payroll of one of the bidders, in fact the winning bidder.
Minister, you've had a week to look into this. It's been eight days since the story was made public. Tell me today, was your point person on the Niagara Falls casino contract also working for one of the bidders, yes or no?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Northern Development and Mines): As I told the House last week, I've asked the Ontario Casino Corp and their lawyers to report back in full. There are conflict of interest guidelines. I've asked their lawyers to investigate this and report back to me. I expect their report some time this week.
Mr McGuinty: There's every indication here, Minister, that you are quite simply stalling. If the news was good, if the facts were exculpatory, if they put you and your government in a good light, what that would mean -
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Is "exculpatory" parliamentary? We don't use big words like that in our caucus.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Stop the clock. Order. Exculpatory: For the member for Nepean, that's in order. It's not as bad a thing as you think, actually.
Mr Baird: I didn't know what "exculpatory" meant. I was nervous.
The Speaker: Leader of the official opposition.
Mr McGuinty: I apologize, Speaker. I will refrain from using big words.
Minister, if the facts put you and your government in a good light, I believe you would have put those facts on the table long before today. Once again, you're the guy in charge, this has happened on your watch and you bear ultimate responsibility for this process. Why don't you have that answer for us today, right now, in this Legislature? Have you phoned anybody? Have you contacted anybody and said, "Give me the answer because I need it for the House"?
Hon Mr Hodgson: The Leader of the Opposition can put those big words on any documents he wants to, out to the public. We can't run government by innuendo. We can't ask for flip, quick, instantaneous responses to meet the question period time line. What I have asked the Ontario Casino Corp is to ask their legal counsel to report to me in writing on the serious innuendo that's been raised, first in a newspaper article and then repeated in this House. I've asked them to do that in a thorough manner to try to get at the facts of the issue. I've told you that when I receive that, and I expect it later on this week, I'll report that at that time and do the appropriate thing.
Mr McGuinty: On the one hand it's a very, very serious matter, but on the other it is simple. The issue here is quite clear: Has Mr French been involved with another company which happened to win the bid or not? Has the guy you appointed to run the competition for this contract been involved with the winning bid or not? Yes or no? You don't need to conduct some kind of legislative inquiry to get to that. All you've got to do is stand up in the House today and provide us with the information you already have.
Is he or is he not in a position of conflict of interest? We need to know that now. It's completely unacceptable for you to continue to stall. If you can't provide us with that information, if you won't provide us with that information, then I suggest to you, Minister, that you ought to step aside and let somebody else do the job.
Hon Mr Hodgson: I've tried to explain to the Leader of the Opposition that in a matter with this serious an innuendo that has been raised, you can't just snap your fingers and say, "I want it now because I want it."
I've asked OCC, the Ontario Casino Corp, which is responsible for the selection process, to ask their lawyers, a respected law firm, to give me in writing the facts around this matter. It's taking a bit of time, and they've told me they want to do it in a thorough manner and that they'll have that to me some time this week.
The Speaker: New question, third party, the member for Dovercourt.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is also to the Chair of Management Board. That's exactly why we have been asking for the last number of weeks that this issue should go out to a public inquiry, because you know that for the last couple of weeks your government has been embroiled in a scandal. The casino affair reeks of political payola. We know there are serious allegations surrounding the role of Michael French in the awarding of the Niagara Falls casino to Falls Management, a company that is owned in part by the Latner family, a family that donated over $48,000 in 1995-96 to the Conservative Party.
You told us, and you reiterated today, that the Ontario Casino Corp, through its lawyers Davies Ward and Beck, is investigating possible conflict of interest in the selection process. I just want you to be clear on the record that when you get that report later this week, you will make it public right away. Will you do that, Minister?
Hon Mr Hodgson: I've been quite clear on that matter for the last week. Our position has not changed. But I can tell you that the Latner family has done business with this province for over 20 years. I pointed out last week a number of dealings they had with your party. To make spurious allegations against this family without any fact is regrettable. If you have facts - that's what we're interested in - tell them to us. The innuendo around Michael French is a serious innuendo, and I've asked the Ontario Casino Corp, through their lawyers, to give me a written report on that.
Mr Silipo: If you stopped stalling the investigation or a public inquiry from taking place, then all of that information would come out. The long and the short of it is that this is your government's Patti Starr affair. I want to remind you what your Premier, Mike Harris, said at the time. "The message appears clear: If you donate money to a Liberal campaign, if you're friends with a Liberal cabinet minister, this government will look after you." That's what Mike Harris said then, and that's exactly what your government is doing for the Latner family companies.
We've raised with you this issue of $48,000 that the various companies controlled by the Latner family have donated to the Tory party in 1995 or 1996. But in 1997 alone the Latner family companies paid an additional $41,500 to the Tory party coffers. That's in one year alone. That brings the total to almost $90,000, and we're still looking. It's clear that the various companies owned by the Latner family must be very happy with the policies of your government.
Again I ask you, will you come clean? Will you agree to a public inquiry so we can get to the bottom of this situation?
Hon Mr Hodgson: The allegations around the Latner family, I think we've told you, are nonsense. Under your government, there was $83 million for social housing alone. Last week I went through some of the areas where they gave these contracts out. A family you're trying to smear in this House day after day has done business with all three parties over the last 20 years. The innuendo about Michael French is serious, and I've asked the OCC to investigate that through their lawyers, and they'll report back some time later this week.
Mr Silipo: The issue you continue to ignore completely is not so much the Latner family as individuals; we're talking about the kind of political influence money seems to be able to buy in your government. Minister, $90,000 certainly seems to buy a lot with your government. We know about Dynacare and the regulation you passed. We know about Greenwin Property Management and how they benefited from gutting rent control. We know about Comcare and how they benefited from privatized home care. We know about Gaming Venture Group and how they were given a bunch of charity casinos. We all know about Falls Management being bumped from number three to number one.
The public deserves answers. This reeks of Mulroney-style politics. When are you going to call a public inquiry?
Hon Mr Hodgson: This question has been asked over and over again in the last week. It's totally unfounded; it's a lot of nonsense. I'm trying to proceed here to get to the facts of this in the most open and transparent manner I can. If you have any more of these innuendoes that you'd like to spread around, I suggest you do it outside the House, where you're held accountable for your statements.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a very different kind of question to the Minister of Health.
You will be aware that Dr Luigi Di Bella is here, starting yesterday, talking to patients, doctors and the public about his treatment for cancer. I want to ask you this question in the most non-partisan way I possibly can and hope that your answer will follow suit. You know the high incidence of cancer, that it's rising by 3% and that there are 23,000 deaths every year from it, many of them many people say preventable. There is a great deal of fear about these statistics and it's therefore no surprise that there is a great deal of interest, not just here in Canada and in Italy but across the world, in Dr Di Bella's treatment.
People need hope and they need to know that research into new treatments is continuing. There are a number of issues around this question, some of them, like the clinical trials, which we know are predominantly within the federal sphere of responsibility.
Minister, I would like to ask you, as the minister provincially, to commit yourself on behalf of the people of Ontario to do what you can within your role with respect to those clinical trials and other areas where you can cooperate in ensuring that this treatment is looked into.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): We certainly appreciate and know that there are many people in this province who suffer from cancer and we're looking at treatments that will deal with the disease. I can certainly indicate that on behalf of the Ministry of Health we would not be opposed to any clinical trials, but as you have pointed out, we are not in a position to make those decisions. We depend upon the research community to make decisions as to what clinical trials will take place. Certainly, we would not stand in the way and we would be prepared to support those.
Mr Silipo: I thank the minister for that answer. Let me ask you about something that is more closely within the provincial domain. That is the whole area of prescribing medicines for treatment. As you know - it's my understanding, and I may or may not be correct in this - the various medicines and vitamins that form part of Dr Di Bella's treatment are individually prescribable. In fact, they may or may not be also prescribable as a package, as part of the treatment. That is one of the areas where there seems to be some ambiguity, but certainly some uncertainty about whether doctors in Ontario, for example, would be able to prescribe that treatment if they felt in their professional judgement that it was something that was in the best interests of the patient suffering from cancer.
Minister, I'd like to ask you if you would be prepared to clarify that and, most important, work with the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons and doctors to ensure that that information is available to doctors, and whatever barriers exist in the way of doctors being able to use this treatment, if they feel in their professional judgement that it's appropriate, for them to be able to use that.
Hon Mrs Witmer: I understand that Dr Di Bella is going to be making a presentation to the medical community. Obviously, at that time they will have an opportunity to ask him questions. As you know, our ministry requires scientific evidence in order to assist us in making decisions as to how our resources are going to be allocated. So obviously there is going to be that opportunity for questions, and based on whatever scientific information is provided, appropriate decisions would be made by the Ministry of Health.
Mr Silipo: I, like I believe members from all parties, was present at the press conference this morning. Some of us I believe are meeting with Dr Di Bella this afternoon. One of the things that struck me in his presentation this morning was his point in terms of evaluating his treatment, the need to compare that treatment that builds on using a variety of ingredients that are familiar to the organism, as opposed to the kinds of treatments that exist and are in use now, but his sense of the need to compare those treatments to the existing treatments that are available now.
Again, Minister, I ask you, will you ensure that in the discussion that happens there is a completely open mind about this and that you will play, as minister, the role that you can, understanding that the decisions need to be made through the medical community but that you will ensure discussion happens and that we do whatever we can to ensure that people have the information and that doctors particularly feel comfortable in knowing they have at their disposal all of the information necessary so that they can make the professional decision?
Hon Mrs Witmer: As I say again, we rely on the scientific information and evidence that is presented to us, and that then enables us to make decisions at the Ministry of Health as to how we are going to be allocating our health resources. Certainly in this situation we would treat that particular treatment and therapy in the same way as we would treat all others. It would go through the same channels.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Deputy Premier. Over the weekend we became aware of an auto worker from Woodstock whose name is Brian Cox. He launched a petition to your government, the Ontario government, asking for more funding for special education after his son David, aged 12, with attention deficit disorder, lost the extra help he was getting in school.
Deputy Premier, you may know that schools are losing their educational assistants right across Ontario. To date, 547 educational assistants have lost their jobs. How does this fit in with your plan that the disabled community will not lose aid?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I am aware of the issue that the honourable member raises in the House today. I would like to remind her that for the first time ever in the province of Ontario's history, there is $1 billion that is being set aside for special education needs in Ontario.
One can debate whether or not -
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's not new money.
Hon Mr Eves: Just a minute. I didn't say it was new money. For the first time, boards are going to be held accountable, I say to the member for Algoma, and the Minister of Education is going to ensure that that money is indeed spent on special education needs -
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): They need it now.
Hon Mr Eves: - which has not always been the case in every single board for every single dollar in the past, I say to the member for Fort William, when you were on watch, so to speak.
Mrs Pupatello: You cannot hold them accountable when you are now holding the cards for funding of school boards. It is your new formula now that is making the situation even worse.
Brian Cox said that his son is bright but is having difficulty this year. His son David's frustration is leading to discipline problems such as fights at school.
The Thames Valley District School Board confirmed 40 layoff notices to 40 educational assistants last week. This means that the problem will get worse. His MPP will not return his phone calls.
Deputy Premier, you said, "No cuts to the disabled." You said, "Not one cent from the classroom." What do you say to Brian Cox and his son David?
Hon Mr Eves: I'd be more than happy, and I'm sure the Minister of Education will be, to look into the particular circumstances about this particular case. But I do want to reiterate to the honourable member that the fact remains that in the funding formula that the Minister of Education has announced, classroom spending funding has been increased by $583 million. We've increased spending on educational assistants by $15.6 million.
I would also like to inform the honourable member about the viewpoint of Mary Margaret Laing, chair of the Ontario Parent Council, about the funding model for special education needs, the very thing that the member is talking about. "This model recognizes the special learning needs of many students and provides funding to meet those diverse needs. Boards will be able to spend these grant amounts directly on their students, rather than on the vast amount of administrative resources which have gone into special education up until now." We are trying to change the system, I say to the honourable member, for the benefit of students like Brian Cox.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Deputy Premier regarding education as well. It might be helpful to the government if they would listen to some of the school parent councils rather than the government-appointed Ontario Parent Council, because parents, as well as teachers and students and other staff of boards, are rallying today because of the cutbacks in the so-called funding formula.
Here is one of the examples of the cuts they are protesting: The government's cutbacks formula gives $75 per elementary student and $100 per secondary student for textbooks, computer software and library materials, yet for a typical grade 11 student taking seven academic courses, the cost of textbooks alone is more than $400. Could the minister explain where the other $300 is going to come from to meet the students' needs for textbooks? How are the boards going to come up with this $300 per student?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I hope the honourable member's figures on secondary textbooks are better than his figures on elementary, because what's happening in the elementary system is that we are already spending $76 per student at the elementary level, and we have doubled that amount to $152 per elementary student. That's not what you just said a few moments ago.
Mr Wildman: Since the minister doesn't want to deal with grade 11, perhaps he would deal with the fact that students in classrooms in both elementary and secondary are doing without needed resources under the cutbacks formula announced by the government, and yet at the same time the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which has just finished administering grade 3 tests, has tendered for catering for marking that test to a cost of $250,000. Does the minister think it would be a better idea to have the $250,000 that has been tendered for catering for grade 3 test marking as money spent in classrooms to ensure quality Canadian textbooks for students?
Hon Mr Eves: I say very directly to the honourable member, no, I do not consider that to be money spent in the classroom, and I would be more than happy to take that situation under advisement and refer it to the Minister of Education upon his return.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Two weeks ago Warren Bailie, chief electoral officer of Ontario, tabled a report, Looking to the Future: Electoral Reform in Ontario. This report outlined Mr Bailie's recommendations for changes in Ontario's electoral system, a system that has not been updated for 12 years.
I understand that you chaired a meeting recently with Mr Bailie and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, chief electoral officer of Canada, at the end of April. Can you tell me and the members of this Legislature what initiatives the federal government has undertaken with election reform and the savings they expect to achieve?
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): You're aware of the report, because of course it was sent to you and all members of this Legislative Assembly.
I did meet with Mr Kingsley and Mr Bailie, and it was brought to my attention, any update from the federal point of view. This was in the form of an establishment of a central registry of voters. This has been worked on for a number of years, and we now know that this is going to be more accurate by using sources from both the federal and provincial ministries. Here in Ontario, the data will be from the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations as well as the Ministry of Transportation, and we have interim agreements in that regard.
Mr Kingsley advised me also that with this federal register of electors, we are expecting to save in excess of some $40 million here in Ontario. I think that's important.
Mr O'Toole: That certainly makes very good sense to me.
As I mentioned earlier, Ontario's election officer has tabled his report, and I notice that he has recommended the same changes as his federal counterpart, specifically a permanent voters' list. I understand that this initiative, along with combining the bureaucracies of the election finances commission and Elections Ontario into one, is expected to save an enormous amount of taxpayers' money.
Minister, can you tell me how much money will be saved and what effect combining the two bureaucracies will have, besides eliminating duplication and waste?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: I'd like to make myself clear with regard to the answer. The federal register of electors will save us some $40 million. Here in Ontario, just looking at bringing ourselves in line, I might say, with all the other provinces, one of the results of the recommendations of looking to the future electoral reform in Ontario, if we were to look at a permanent voters' list, which is what we're looking at, we would save ourselves about $10 million in this regard.
I think it's interesting, Mr Speaker, for you and I who've been around for a little while but certainly not 30 years, that these recommendations were actually made in Ontario some 30 years ago, so the reform that we're looking at has been long-standing, something that governments have looked at since this first suggestion by the Ontario select committee on election laws, and I think it's long overdue. We now have two separate bureaucracies and the taxpayers of this province should only be supporting one - $10 million saving.
Mr Peter North (Elgin): My question is to the Minister of Health. In the county of Elgin there is an extreme problem with a lack of rural physicians. Right now the count I think we have is about 16 less than what we should have in Elgin county. In the west end of Elgin county, in the Rodney area, it is devastating right now in terms of the loss of physicians, and we're losing even more in the next few weeks. I wonder if the minister could tell me what the Ministry of Health and her office are doing with regard to a lack of physicians in rural Ontario.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): Certainly I'm quite familiar with the Rodney area. Our government has taken initiatives beyond what had been taken in the past to ensure that we can provide the doctors to communities throughout the province, not only in the rural and urban areas of this province but also in the north. I would encourage you to make sure that all the steps have been taken to make the Ministry of Health aware of the situation that is faced by those people.
Mr North: Some time ago Elgin county had various parts of it designated "underserviced." We too have had some experience with regard to the program for northern Ontario. We actually had a doctor in the Rodney area who was enticed to move to northern Ontario under the circumstances provided by the Ministry of Health. I wonder if you could tell the people of west Elgin what you will do to ensure that a large majority of seniors in west Elgin will have a physician in the very near future.
Hon Mrs Witmer: Regarding the individuals who live in west Elgin, as I've just said, our government has moved forward. We have introduced incentive plans. As the member has indicated, these people have been designated "underserviced." That does enable them to have some special and unique opportunities to encourage physicians to come to their community. The problem in this province continues to be that while we do have the number of physicians to serve the people, the difficulty is encouraging those individuals to leave the urban and teaching centres to go to areas where they are most needed.
We have not only introduced incentives, we have also introduced disincentives where people are penalized for staying in the overserviced areas, and we will continue to move forward with any further suggestions that we get regarding how we can encourage doctors to locate in those areas where they're most needed. I am pleased that some of the academic health science centres now are going to be taking steps to move some of their students -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, official opposition.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Finance. Your government's revolution in education is leading to complete chaos in the classroom and to impossible choices for school boards.
Last week the Lakehead board of education found itself having to decide which of your laws to break: the law about class size or the law about staying within your financial limits. The trustees chose to keep teachers in the classroom. As the director of education said, "What the board decided was that if it was going to contravene the law, it would do it on behalf of children."
Minister, you have not given them enough money to pay for enough teachers to meet the class size averages that you have made law, so the board will be in a deficit position unless you revisit your funding formula. Will you give the Lakehead board the funding they need to do what your own law requires, and if your answer is no, will you please tell the board which one of your laws you think they should break?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the honourable member, I'm sure the Minister of Education would be more than happy to talk to the director of education for the Lakehead board about specific concerns of that particular board; however, there is one thing that the government is committed to, and I want her to understand that. We are the first government that has taken a step in putting a limit on class size that has been growing quite rapidly over the last few years with respect to negotiations between individual boards and various teachers' federations across the province, and we are determined to keep the ceiling at 22 and 25 students per board.
Mrs McLeod: The problem, Minister, is that boards need enough dollars to pay for enough teachers to meet those average class sizes that you have mandated. The problem is not just a problem with the Lakehead board; the problem is with the funding formula and your financing of education, and the problem is that you are part of a government that has chosen to take control over everything and take responsibility for absolutely nothing.
The Superior-Gemstone board is another board which has made a decision to keep teachers in the classroom. They have no idea how they're going to pay for it. Your colleague Jack Carroll is trying to get $5 million more for the Lambton-Kent board so they don't have to make drastic cuts to the classroom. The Avon-Maitland board, one of the lowest-spending public boards in the province, has come up short. Doug Rollins from Quinte is engaged in an ongoing debate with his board about how they could possibly be facing the kind of cuts they're facing.
The bottom line, Minister, is that your funding formula is an absolute mess and the chaos is going to hit kids in the classroom in September unless you go back to the drawing board. I ask you, are you going to fix the mess of the funding formula or will your Minister of Education have to exercise the new power he has, step in and take over the Lakehead board and the Superior-Gemstone board and every other board that can't make your rules work and find -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Minister.
Hon Mr Eves: I just want to point out a few facts to the honourable member with respect to education formula funding in the province of Ontario. The education funding formula announced by the Minister of Education will result in $583 million more being spent in the classroom at its fruition. I understand that. I also want her to listen to the next two points.
In the budget of May 5 this year, we set aside a special fund at the request of the Minister of Education of some $69 million to deal with in-year or stub-year funding problems for particular boards and the Minister of Education has a $385-million transition fund for exactly those types of transition problems that the honourable member is talking about. I urge those boards to talk to the Minister of Education and talk about access to that $385 million.
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): My question is to the Chair of Management Board. Over and over again we've raised issues about the Niagara casino deal, a deal that stinks of conflict of interest and payoff to the Conservative Party. But there's another story that's close to my community with respect to the Windsor casino, and it's a story that stinks of incompetence.
Recently you announced that you may keep three casinos open in Windsor, but the Ontario Casino Corp had already announced that they were returning the Northern Belle to Hilton. Then you announced you intend to keep it open, at least for a while.
My question is about the interim casino in the art gallery building. Working conditions are less than ideal and the art gallery is anxious to plan for their future. Minister, will you commit today that the interim casino in the art gallery will close when the permanent casino opens?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Northern Development and Mines): The member of the third party is aware, or should be aware, that an agreement was entered into by the NDP government back in 1993 which stated that the art gallery would either revert back to an art gallery or there would be compensation, and I can tell him that we will live up to the 1993 agreement.
Mr Lessard: You still haven't answered my question about committing to close the interim casino when the permanent opens.
Let me ask you about the other casino, the one that was in the Northern Belle. I understand that the Ontario Casino Corp paid $23 million for the use of the Northern Belle. The lease was supposed to run out in two days, that is, June 10. The option to extend that lease was missed because of your failure to communicate with the Ontario Casino Corp.
This wouldn't have happened if you were doing your job, Minister. Can you tell us how much it cost to extend the lease for the Northern Belle? How much did your dithering cost the people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Hodgson: If the member opposite didn't like the agreement that his government made in 1993, he should say so. Otherwise, we're going to live up to that agreement.
Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Attorney General. I've asked you questions previously dealing with the criminal courts backlog in Scarborough and I'm pleased that you've dealt with that issue. I know my constituents in Scarborough Centre are very pleased that you've dealt with this very serious issue that we inherited three years ago today when we formed the government.
My question today deals with the cost in delays within the civil justice system, and it too is a very real concern to my constituents in Scarborough Centre. Minister, what is the Ministry of the Attorney General doing to address my constituents' concerns and reform the civil justice system in this province?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Thank you for the question from the member from Scarborough. Once again, Ontario is leading the way for the rest of the country in civil justice reform. We're introducing a case management system across the province over the next four years which will ensure that cases move forward and backlogs don't exist. We're also developing a comprehensive system of information technology so that all parts of the justice system will be able to communicate with one another.
We are as well developing a pilot project now that's under way involving electronic filing of documents with our courts so that law firms can file documents from their offices to the court and that operates seven days a week, 22 hours a day.
The Ministry of the Attorney General is also working on the development of the first rule of civil procedure in Canada dealing with mandatory mediation for all appropriate non-family civil cases. We hope that rule will be implemented very shortly so that parties to litigation will have an early opportunity to try and resolve disputes by mediation.
Mr Newman: As a supplementary to the Attorney General, I'm pleased to hear that you are responding to the changes in the civil justice system, but how will this new mandatory mediation program benefit the people of Scarborough Centre, and in fact the people of this province?
Hon Mr Harnick: The mandatory mediation rule will involve an opportunity for litigants in the civil system, at an early stage, before proceedings really begin beyond the exchange of pleadings, to be able to mediate their dispute, to be able to sit with one another, the parties involved in the litigation, with their counsel, with a mediator, and begin the process of trying to resolve the dispute before the litigation really has to begin and before serious costs are incurred.
We've had two pilot projects, one in Toronto and one in Ottawa. The one in Ottawa is ongoing. It involves private sector mediators. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that as a result of the work in Ottawa, most individuals who are involved in litigation have access to mandatory mediation in Ottawa, and I'm pleased to say that about six out of 10 cases that are filed with the court go to mandatory mediation within 60 days of the delivery of a statement of defence and are settled.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Finance. The Harris government and the Ministry of Agriculture spent a lot of money on a task force which toured the province looking into the problems facing rural youth. The Rural Youth Strategy Report identifies access to services as an incentive to creating jobs and keeping young people in rural areas.
On one hand, the government says it wants to invest in rural development, but then you have, through your Minister of Education, come up with an educational funding formula that is ripping the heart out of rural Ontario.
I have a letter from Robert Shepherd, chairman of the Romney School Advisory Council. Their school has been identified for closure because of a $17-million shortfall from your government for the Lambton-Kent school board. Mr Shepherd says: "It's because we are a small rural school. The only important thing is saving money."
Parents are also concerned that another eight rural schools are in danger. At what cost? The destruction of rural communities? The government has closed vehicle licensing and other government offices in rural communities. You are planning to close rural hospitals. Now the viability of rural communities is on the line with rural school closures. Will you promise to keep rural schools open?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): There is no policy of the Ontario government that is mandating or instructing or suggesting that rural schools should close.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Get real.
Hon Mr Eves: I can say to the honourable member that I happen to represent more rural municipalities than any other member of the Ontario Legislature. I represent some 35 organized rural municipalities and some 42 unorganized municipalities in Ontario. If anybody understands the needs and priorities of people in rural Ontario and their school system and how much it means to them, it's me. I can tell you, there is no such policy that the province has.
Mr Hoy: With your answer, Minister, I'm sure that you will sympathize with the people from Romney Central school and I know you can relate to their very deep concerns. That school was not built by the board of education. It was built by local funds and run by the local community. A shortfall from your government, under your funding model, of $17 million has caused the Lambton-Kent board to have very little choice in this matter.
The former Kent county board was one of the most frugal boards in all of Ontario. It was recognized by your government's Who Does What panel for its effectiveness in savings, yet it has received the highest level of cuts in the province. Minister, what will you do to ensure that your funding cuts will not force the boards to close schools, like Romney Central, that are the very heart of the rural communities you say you support?
Hon Mr Eves: I will certainly be happy to take the very facts that he talks about in this particular circumstance back to the Minister of Education. However, as I said to the member for Fort William earlier, in response to a question that she asked, there are several avenues of support for boards of education across the province. Ultimately, of course, there will be another $583 million in the education system, but I understand that may not help boards in a transitional situation. Hence, the Minister of Education has some $385 million in a transitional fund and some $69 million for boards that are having in-year, stub-year problems with respect to expenditures as the result of amalgamation of boards.
I'd be more than happy, though, as I reiterated, to take those facts back to the Minister of Education.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, you would know that as a result of your government's cuts to provincial hospital budgets, hospitals across Ontario are cutting back on hospital services offered to people.
Let me draw your attention to but one example of the effects your cuts are having on the people in our community. As a result of your cuts at the Timmins and District Hospital, the Timmins and District Hospital board has decided to lay off Doug Heath, the only behavioural therapist in our community. That means, for example, that people with eating disorders, as well as other behavioural disorders, have no one to turn to.
Minister, I ask you a very simple question. Are you prepared today to commit to restore the adequate budgets to hospitals like the Timmins and District Hospital in order to ensure they can reverse these types of decisions so people in our communities don't go without services?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health): I would just remind the member that our government has actually increased the funding for health care in the province of Ontario. When we were elected, we were spending $17.4 billion. We have seen the increased need in order that we can provide a continuum of care that starts with prevention, primary care, acute care, long-term care and community services. In fact, we've recently invested $1.2 billion into community care and long-term-care services. We are going to do everything we can in order to ensure that people have the appropriate health services as close to their home as we can possibly provide them. Today, we're spending in the neighbourhood of $18.7 billion, an increase of almost $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion a year.
Mr Bisson: Minister, nobody buys it. Everybody knows it's your government, and you're the minister who has reduced hospital budgets by over $2 billion in this province. It means that in communities across Ontario we're having situations such as are happening at the Timmins and District Hospital. Boards are being forced to lay off much-needed staff and citizens in our communities are going without public health services.
I have here a letter written by Molly Mignacco, one of the letters that appeared recently in the Timmins Daily Press. It reads as follows - and I think it's interesting - "I was under the impression that maintaining and improving services was to be the primary consideration, and laying off the only behavioural therapist certainly does not meet with that criteria." People understand what your cuts are doing. We're going without the services.
I ask you again, will you reverse the decision that your government has made to cut hospital budgets in this province so that we can go on with making sure that people in communities like Timmins, as across Ontario, can access the services they need when they get sick?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Our government is taking steps that should have been taken many years ago; that is, we are ensuring that the appropriate health services are in place, that we can support the people in this province. As I've just mentioned to you, we are spending more on health care than we ever have in the history of this province.
In fact, I would just remind the member opposite that during the first year of the NDP rule there were 61 hospitals in this province that had a deficit. In the last year of your rule, there were 68 hospitals. This is the problem we find ourselves with in this province. Because of the neglect of previous governments we are now trying to ensure that the appropriate services are in place to deal with the needs of our aging, growing and changing population. We are reinvesting in the hospitals and we are making available priority services that were not there before. We continue to work with the hospitals to ensure that the appropriate services are provided.
Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Last week, there was a story in the paper about a woman named Nancy Campbell who had to pay $1,200 in back rent. This problem dates back to 1990 when she appealed a rent increase under the Liberals' rent control system. Clearly, a system that takes several years to resolve one person's appeal doesn't work well for tenants and doesn't work well for landlords. The current system, brought in by the NDP, has had the effect of almost totally stopping construction of new rental properties altogether and allowing the existing stock to deteriorate. Minister, can you tell this House what our government is doing to make the system more fair and more responsive to everyone - landlords and tenants?
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for York East for that very good question. I'd be more than pleased to tell the House what this government is going to do to correct the mess that's out there right now.
The example used was of a system that was so complex and so confusing that it took the courts eight years to find out that there was a $1,200 rent increase due - eight years. That's how complex and messy the rent control system the Liberals had in was. There was no new construction. The stock was deteriorating. There was certainly insufficient protection for tenants and landlords both.
What are we going to do? We're going to put in a system that protects tenants and also gives an incentive to landlords to get back into the building business. We said our first goal is to make sure that tenants are protected and the new Tenant Protection Act does just that.
Mr Parker: The current system makes it difficult for both tenants and landlords to have their disputes settled. Often it can take months and cost thousands of dollars for a dispute to be resolved. Minister, how does the Tenant Protection Act propose to deal with landlord and tenant disputes?
Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member for York East for that very fine question. What are we doing to make sure that the system works well and to make sure that we don't run into circumstances where it takes eight or nine years of court time to resolve a very simple landlord and tenant concern? We're putting in a rent control tribunal that will deal with tenant and landlord disputes in a very fast, efficient and effective way. They'll be able to be settled within days or weeks or at the most several months, rather than seven or eight years.
Do you know that from the Liberal rent control legislation, we still have 10 cases in the courts from 1988? It has taken that long for the courts to try and figure out what that complex legislation was. I can assure you that the legislation we're putting in under the Tenant Protection Act will allow tenants and landlords to resolve their differences in a very expedient manner.
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of the Environment. As your government reaches now its third year in office, I am reminded of a promise made by the Premier related to the environment. He was quoted three days before the election of June 5, 1995, three years ago, as saying that there would not be one cent cut out of the environment. He said, "We can find the $6 billion in cuts without touching the environment."
Minister, you've cut $135 million out of your budget, you've laid off over 700 staff, you've cut monitoring stations across this province, charges are down, prosecutions are down, environmental controls no longer exist in this province. Can you explain to me how you can sit there and defend the statement of your Premier, who said that you would not cut one cent out of the environment, when you have gutted your ministry and you've abandoned all environmental protection, at a cost of $135 million? Who's right: Your cuts or the comments of your Premier?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the member about some of the wonderful things that the Ministry of the Environment is doing. Last week, you may know, I announced some $120 million in grants to a huge number of municipalities across the province, some 43 different municipalities where we gave this money so they could improve their sewage and water treatment.
The member opposite mentioned air quality monitoring. Our air quality monitoring in the province of Ontario is better now than it was last year. It has markedly improved from five or six years ago, because we have improved the equipment, we have more modern equipment, we have equipment which measures many more parameters than the previous equipment. The odd part is that this year the Ministry of the Environment's budget for operating expenses actually increased.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Briefly, I want to correct my earlier record. I believe I referred to the Superior-Gemstone board. It is, of course, the Superior-Greenstone board.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission recommends two sites, two boards and two administrations for Cornwall and area hospitals; and
"Whereas the HSRC recommends the closing of hospital lab services in Cornwall; and
"Whereas the HSRC recommends building on a site that has no room for growth beyond the year 2003 and will be unable to meet the community's future needs;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to instruct the Health Services Restructuring Commission to consolidate all hospital services at the Hotel Dieu site, which offers 28 acres of property for future development, with one board and one administration."
This is signed by 11,200 residents of Cornwall, S-D-G, Prescott and Russell and St Regis.
FRAIS DE SCOLARITÉ
M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : J'ai ici une pétition de la Fédération canadienne des étudiantes et étudiants. C'est une déclaration en faveur du gel immédiat des frais de scolarité, et elle se lit telle que :
«Attendu que les frais de scolarité ont augmenté de plus de 140 % au cours des dernières dix années ; et
«Attendu que depuis 1986, les augmentations annuelles du coût de la vie n'ont pas dépassé 2 % tandis que les augmentations annuelles des frais de scolarité se situent entre 7 % et 20 % ; et
«Attendu que les frais de scolarité élevés représentent un obstacle aux étudies postsecondaires, notamment chez les étudiants et étudiantes de milieu de faible revenu, et ceux qui ont des responsabilités parentales ou des besoins spéciaux ; et
«Attendu que les étudiants et étudiantes paient maintenant plus de 40 % des coûts de fonctionnement des universités et des collèges ; et
«Attendu que la qualité de l'éducation s'est détériorée, en partie à cause de la dégradation des installations de classes ;
«Nous, les soussignés, faisons appel au gouvernement de l'Ontario pour la mise en oeuvre immédiate d'un gel des frais de scolarité.»
Je signe cette pétition.
Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition that I'd like to present today, and in accordance with standing order 38(b) I'll just summarize the petition by saying that the 34 people from my riding who have signed this are asking that the Legislature cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions. I'll file that today.
Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): I have a petition here to the Legislature of Ontario:
"Whereas red light cameras can dramatically assist in reducing the number of injuries and deaths resulting from red light runners; and
"Whereas red light cameras only take pictures of licence plates, thus reducing privacy concerns; and
"Whereas all revenues from violations can be easily directed to a designated fund to improve safety at high-collision intersections; and
"Whereas there is a growing disregard for traffic laws, resulting in serious injury to pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and especially children and seniors; and
"Whereas the provincial government has endorsed the use of a similar camera system to collect tolls on the new Highway 407 tollway; and
"Whereas mayors and concerned citizens across Ontario have been seeking permission to deploy these cameras due to limited police resources;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"That the province of Ontario support the installation of red light cameras at high-collision intersections to monitor and prosecute motorists who run red lights."
I affix my signature to it.
FINANCEMENT DE L'ÉDUCATION
M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : J'ai ici une pétition soussignée par environ un couple de mille citoyens de nos communautés de Timmins, Iroquois Falls et Matheson. Elle se lit telle que :
«Attendu que l'éducation de nos enfants est prioritaire ; et
«Attendu que nous trouvons que le système d'éducation publique, tel qu'il existe, répond aux besoins du plus grand nombre d'élèves possible, y inclus ceux qui ont des besoins particuliers ; et
«Attendu que les changements proposés à travers la Loi 160 élimineront les possibilités d'action locale pour répondre aux besoins spécifiques de nos élèves ; et
«Attendu que ces changements ont affecté la salle de classe de façon négative, diminuant les ressources disponibles aux enseignants et enseignantes ;
«Il est résolu qu'on appelle au ministre de retirer le projet de loi 160 et entend des discussion sérieuses avec la FEO et ses filiales afin de répondre aux inquiétudes de tous les partis.»
Avec plaisir je signe cette pétition.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition from some 250 Knights of Columbus. It's regarding abortions, some 45,000 being at a cost of $25 million in the year 1993. They recognize that pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and they petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions. I file that petition today.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): As you know, there's a mental health care crisis in Thunder Bay. We have many people writing us petitions, with great concern expressing that. This petition reads:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas proper mental health care is essential to all Ontarians; and
"Whereas mental health care is severely underfunded in northwestern Ontario; and
"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has called for the closure of the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital with no replacement services in its place; and
"Whereas appropriate community mental health treatment is so lacking in northwestern Ontario that those who need treatment, support and rehabilitation are incarcerated in district jails; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Health has not delivered on its commitment to set up the Northwestern Ontario Mental Health Agency over one year after it promised to do so; and
"Whereas there is a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists in northwestern Ontario, to the point where the doctors are severely overworked; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Health promised a 12-bed adolescent treatment centre and has failed to deliver on that promise;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to commit those funds necessary to provide full and proper mental health care to those in need in northwestern Ontario and call on the Minister of Health to cancel the closure of the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital."
ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED
Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have here a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:
"Whereas the Premier of Ontario has committed the government of Ontario to enacting an Ontarians with Disabilities Act during its current term of office; and
"Whereas the expiry of the government of Ontario's current term of office is approaching; and
"Whereas the Premier of Ontario has further committed the government of Ontario to working with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, to develop such legislation; and
"Whereas the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has unanimously passed a resolution urging the government of Ontario to keep its promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act during the current term of office and that the government of Ontario work with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, to develop such legislation; and
"Whereas the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, of which the Bloorview MacMillan Centre is a supporting member, has provided to the government of Ontario the document A Blueprint for a Strong and Effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which contains many examples of barriers experienced by people, including children and young adults with disabilities; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario committed in its 1998 budget address to supporting people with disabilities through a variety of measures, including the creation of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, of Bloorview MacMillan Centre, a family-centred rehabilitation facility serving Ontario's children and youth with disabilities and special needs and their families, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to immediately act on its commitment to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act during the current term of office, and in doing so include effective means to eliminate barriers experienced by children and young adults with disabilities and special needs and their families, and also to involve the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, among others, including children and young adults with disabilities and special needs and their families, in developing such legislation."
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas we are concerned about the quality of health care in Ontario;
"Whereas we do not believe health care should be for sale;
"Whereas the Mike Harris government is taking steps to allow profit-driven companies to provide health care services in Ontario;
"Whereas we won't stand for profits over people;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Do not privatize our health care services."
I'm pleased to join the tens of thousands of citizens of my community in signing this petition.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'd like to present a petition for pay equity, from the nursing staff, health care aides and registered practical nurses, dietary staff, laundry staff, housekeeping staff and activity staff.
"We, the staff at Central Care Corp Nursing Home, request payment of all proxy pay equity amounts owed to us."
I'll affix my signature to it.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition from the Canadian Pensioners Concerned, which has a number of whereases, not the least of which is:
"Whereas red light cameras can dramatically assist in reducing the number of injuries and deaths resulting from red light runners; and
"Whereas there is a shortage of police officers; and
"Whereas mayors and concerned citizens across Ontario have been seeking permission to utilize red light cameras;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario support the installation of red light cameras at high-collision intersections to monitor and prosecute motorists who run red lights."
In support of that, I add my signature.
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and
"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and
"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and
"Whereas the province has exclusive authority to determine what services will be insured; and
"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and
"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and
"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."
CHIROPRACTIC HEALTH CARE
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition here that reads:
"We, the undersigned, as active chiropractic patients, represent almost 10% of the Ontario population. We feel that we carry too much of the financial burden for chiropractic care. Any cutbacks to OHIP funding of chiropractic care are not acceptable. We feel there should be increased OHIP funding with respect to chiropractic care."
I affix my signature to this.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 80 people.
"Whereas the Ontario health system is overburdened and unnecessary spending must be cut; and
"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness and abortions are not therapeutic procedures; and
"Whereas the vast majority of abortions are done for reasons of convenience or finance; and
"Whereas the province has exclusive authority to determine what services will be insured; and
"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require funding for elective procedures; and
"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is in fact hazardous to women's health; and
"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded over 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to cease from providing any taxpayers' dollars for the performance of abortions."
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"Whereas proper mental health care is essential to all Ontarians; and
"Whereas mental health care is severely underfunded in northwestern Ontario; and
"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has called for the closure of the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital with no replacement services in its place; and
"Whereas after-hours psychiatric care is so lacking in northwestern Ontario that those who need help are incarcerated in district jails; and
"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has not delivered on its commitment to set up the Northwestern Ontario Mental Health Agency over one year after it promised to do so; and
"Whereas there is a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists in northwestern Ontario, to the point where the doctors are severely overworked; and
"Whereas the Ministry of Health promised a 12-bed adolescent treatment centre and has failed to deliver on that promise;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to commit those funds necessary to provide full and proper mental health care to those in need in northwestern Ontario and call on the Minister of Health to cancel the closure of the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital."
This is signed by a large number of my constituents who share these concerns, and I affix my signature in full agreement.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here yet another petition, signed by a number of people in our community, that reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the Ontario government wants to take up to an additional $1 billion out of the education system this year; and
"Whereas the Ontario government will remove up to 10,000 teachers from the classroom across the province; and
"Whereas the Ontario government will have unbridled regulatory power over public education; and
"Whereas the Ontario government wishes to remove the right to negotiate student learning conditions; and
"Whereas the Ontario government proposes to undermine shared decision-making among students, parents, educators, trustees and taxpayers;
"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, petition the Legislative Assembly to withdraw Bill 160."
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I'm pleased to present a petition from a number of my constituents in Durham East with respect to the spring bear hunt.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the spring bear hunt takes the lives of many bear, we petition the Ontario government to outlaw the use of dogs and baiting during the bear hunt season in Ontario."
I'm very pleased to support and sign this petition.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
TIME ALLOCATION ATTRIBUTION DE TEMPS
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order relating to Bill 108, An Act to deal with the prosecution of certain provincial offences, to reduce duplication and to streamline administration, when Bill 108 is next called as a government order in committee of the whole House, 15 minutes be allotted to consideration of the bill in committee of the whole House;
That, at the end of that time, the Chair of the committee shall without further debate or amendment put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto and report the bill to the House;
That any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put, the members called in once and all deferred divisions taken in succession;
That, upon receiving the report of the committee of the whole House, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, which question shall be decided without debate or amendment, and at such time, the bill be shall be ordered for third reading;
That the order for third reading of the bill shall then immediately be called and 30 minutes shall be allocated to the third reading stage of the bill. At the end of this time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment.
That, in the case of any divisions relating to any proceeding on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes and no deferral of any division pursuant to standing order 28(h) shall be permitted.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Speaker: You will recall that my friend from St Catharines raised a point of order on this motion -
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): No.
Mr Wildman: I'm sorry. I apologize.
The Speaker: That's okay.
Mr Sterling has moved government notice of motion number 16. Government House leader?
Hon Mr Sterling: I'm going to open with a few comments. I will be sharing my time with the Attorney General, the member for Northumberland, the member for Durham East and the Minister of Agriculture and francophone affairs.
This particular matter should not have come to a time allocation motion. Bill 108 has been in front of this Legislature for some time now. There was an amendment put forward by the third party which was defeated at the standing committee stage. When the bill returned to the Legislature and was put into the committee of the whole House, the third party introduced here again the same motion that they had introduced at the standing committee stage. We had several debates over a long period of time to deal with that particular motion. However, it was apparent after I believe two sessional day sittings that the third party was going to continue and talk this bill out.
This bill, and I'm sure the Attorney General will elaborate upon it, gives considerable revenues to various municipalities from fines related to the Provincial Offences Act.
Subsequent to Bill 108 being stalled in committee of the whole House, I asked the Attorney General to talk with various francophone groups that might have been concerned with regard to the implementation of Bill 108. He was successful in obtaining from them a compromise position which would put an amendment to Bill 108. He obtained significant support from various groups with regard to that. However, the third party continued to hold the position that this was not enough, notwithstanding the fact that the community which the third party was holding out to represent was ad idem with the Attorney General, or was in sync with the Attorney General, with regard to the amendments which he put forward.
When members of this Legislature get up and talk about the government having to time-allocate this bill or that bill, it's not because we are not trying to accommodate amendments, we are not trying to listen to the opposition, we are not trying to find a compromise, because we found a compromise which pleased everybody but the members from the third party. In other words, it pleased the stakeholders, the people of Ontario who are concerned with this issue, but it just didn't satisfy the NDP members, particularly the NDP member for Cochrane South, I believe it is.
Unfortunately this Legislature is going to have to spend all this afternoon and we're going to have to spend some time in another sessional day to deal with this bill. We've already spent, I believe, about four or five days of debate in the Legislature on this bill, which is clearly non-controversial in terms of all the other provisions the bill contains. It went out to committee, we had public hearings in the committee, and the public had an opportunity to put forward. There were some amendments, I believe, in the standing committee when it went out of the Legislature.
We have a very intransigent third party with regard to this matter. They will say, I'm sure, in the future, "The Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris is time-allocating this bill and they're time-allocating that bill." I want the public to understand why we have to time-allocate: because we do not have a reasonable opposition in terms of dealing on these matters. When we try to accommodate them, they will not move from their position at all, and therefore we're in the position again of time-allocating a bill which all of the municipalities across this province want.
It's unfortunate that we have to go to this length, that we have to chew up the time of the Legislature on a matter where, as I say, everybody but the politicians agree. The groups that represent the francophone community have agreed with the amendment, and I'm sure the Attorney General will put that forward.
I expect that we will be forced to time-allocate other bills in the future if we can't gain any cooperation from the opposition when a dispute arises. I'm really disappointed that on this one we could not reach an accommodation, that we could not negotiate back and forth on what a suitable amendment would be, especially since we had such a great degree of support from the francophone community.
I'd like at this point to pass it over to the Attorney General, who is responsible for Bill 108.
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the government House leader for those opening remarks.
The subject matter here today is Bill 108, which proposes amendments to the Provincial Offences Act. The amendments will enable the government to transfer to municipalities all the remaining administrative functions and some of the prosecutorial functions of the Provincial Offences Act.
There are four key benefits to this proposed legislation: It transfers matters that have local impact into the control and accountability of local authorities while ensuring that there are clear and consistent provincial standards for the administration of justice; it enables the province to focus on prosecuting serious criminal offences by allowing municipalities to prosecute minor ticket-type offences; it meets a commitment this government has made to eliminate waste and duplication by bringing administrative functions together under one level of government; and it provides municipalities with a new source of net revenue to improve local services.
I want to assure the members of the House that the preservation of the integrity of the justice system is fundamental to this transfer. The province will continue to be responsible for setting and monitoring standards for the administration of justice to ensure uniform, fair and equal justice across Ontario.
In developing this initiative, I have consulted extensively. In fact, I want to take this opportunity to thank the considerable number of individuals and groups who have assisted the ministry with this initiative.
Over the past two years, many municipalities have provided time for their representatives to consult with the ministry. For example, ministry staff and I have met with the new city of Toronto, the city of Brampton, the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, the town of Milton, the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, the city of St Thomas and the city of Thunder Bay. Since last December, the list of municipal representation in the consultation group has grown to include the city of Barrie, the county of Simcoe, the new city of Chatham-Kent, the city of North Bay, the district of Nipissing, the region of York, Halton Hills and the county of Renfrew.
Indeed, we have received valuable input from many municipalities, the judiciary, the bar, enforcement agencies, ministry staff and legal experts. These contributions have enabled us to engage in a constructive and productive dialogue on the proposed Provincial Offences Act transfer since it was first recommended by the Crombie Who Does What panel in August 1996. Their invaluable assistance, as well as the participation of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, has been instrumental in the design of the transfer.
I would particularly like to thank those who came to show their support for the bill at the standing committee on general government, in some cases from significant distances.
Many municipalities raised the issue of local control during committee hearings. For example, the town of Caledon, which is now part of the court service area of Dufferin, said that it supported the proposed Bill 108 because it would help the municipality achieve the administration of justice at the local level.
Offences committed under the Highway Traffic Act, and speeding infractions in particular, form the bulk of offences for which tickets are issued under part I of the Provincial Offences Act. These types of violations have a considerable impact on local communities, so it simply makes sense that local governments should play a role in administering and prosecuting these offences. They also need the net fine revenue to help them improve local services.
All municipalities in Ontario have been sent background information about the Provincial Offences Act and the proposed transfer. The province is currently offering information sessions for interested municipalities which will outline the scope of the work proposed to be transferred. The province is also providing interested municipalities with financial information related to provincial offences in their areas. This information will help municipalities prepare for the proposed transfer.
The response has been very positive. Municipalities are eager for this information. They are interested in becoming partners in the proposed transfer. They are preparing for the proposed transfer. Preparation planning is key to ensuring that justice standards will be met.
Municipalities continue to express their enthusiastic support for the transfer. I have received many letters and phone calls urging me to work towards the quick passage of Bill 108.
The proposed transfer is voluntary. However, municipalities that want to participate will have to demonstrate that they are ready and able to meet all provincial justice standards. The proposed transfer agreement clearly sets out these standards, which include standards for prosecutions, for court operations and for French-language services.
Once selected, the municipality will sign a memorandum of understanding, which clearly sets out the respective roles of the Ministry of the Attorney General and the municipality.
As I indicated, one of the standards is the obligation to provide existing levels of service in French. It is clearly stated in the memorandum of understanding as a responsibility of the municipality. Services in the French language will be maintained at current levels provided by the province during and after the proposed transfer of Provincial Offences Act responsibilities to municipalities.
These existing levels of French-language service include the right to a bilingual trial before a French-speaking justice of the peace everywhere in the province. The proposed transfer agreement will require municipalities to provide a prosecutor who speaks French when someone asks for a bilingual trial anywhere in the province. In designated areas of the province, municipalities must continue to provide bilingual counter and telephone service for court users. These justice standards are contained in law and in the transfer agreement.
The province will be monitoring municipalities' performance and will ensure that they meet these justice standards. I will be establishing a review committee to assist in monitoring municipal compliance with provincial justice standards, including the provision of services in the French language. If a municipality isn't meeting the standards, the proposed approach allows us to quickly identify the problem and to correct it. Also, the review committee will have the power to recommend that the ministry impose real and effective sanctions when necessary.
I am pleased to say that the Association of Francophone Municipalities of Ontario, which represents 45 municipalities serving more than 85% of the province's francophone population, and the association of francophone jurists, representing French-speaking jurists in Ontario, have accepted my offer to put forward representatives to sit on this review committee if the bill passes.
I have worked closely with the francophone community to ensure that their concerns would be addressed. I have taken the necessary steps to ensure that French-language services will continue. I have consulted extensively with the francophone community, through discussions with the Association of Francophone Municipalities and with the francophone jurists' association. Indeed, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the francophone organizations, both AFMO and AJEFO, for their cooperation over the past few months. They have offered to assist the ministry in developing and implementing the tools municipalities would need to ensure that French-language service requirements are met.
These associations have also expressed their willingness to provide support to those municipalities with few resources to provide French services. However, because of AJEFO's concerns about a potential loss of French-language service to the community through the transfer, I met with their representatives to understand their concerns. At the same time, I met with representatives of the Association of Francophone Municipalities. We met on several occasions.
An agreement was made to propose an amendment to clarify the section of the bill that was in question. I also accepted their suggested improvements to the proposed transfer agreement. These changes would have reinforced the obligation of municipalities to continue to provide the same level of French-language services as the Ministry of the Attorney General now does.
We had an agreement. That agreement was reached with two independent francophone associations that represent the francophone community, who are not tied to any particular political party. Both associations confirmed their support for this agreement by letter to me and to the opposition. Even though we were able to reach an agreement that met the concerns of the francophone community, the opposition has chosen to ignore this support and is now stalling this bill by criticizing the bill for their own political gain. Because of their criticism, we have not been able to move forward on this bill and satisfy the needs of municipalities that want this bill to proceed as soon as possible.
The only option left, then, is to go ahead with the bill so that we no longer deny municipalities and the citizens of Ontario the benefits of this proposed transfer, while at the same time doing our utmost to protect the right to French-language services. There is simply no reason to delay this bill any further. There has already been much debate on this issue and on this bill. There was second reading debate on February 12, 1997. Then we had eight hours of public hearings on May 1, 1997, followed by debate at clause-by-clause reading on May 8. We debated during committee of the whole in December, and the same questions have been discussed during question period. Nothing new is being said. It is the same repetitions over and over. Further debate will not be productive.
I can assure the members of the House that the preservation of the integrity of the justice system is fundamental to this transfer. Under the proposed legislation, the province will continue to be responsible for setting standards for the proper administration of justice to ensure uniform, fair and equal justice across Ontario.
I am confident that municipalities are capable and willing to meet these standards. Again, at no time during our extensive consultations have municipalities expressed unwillingness to provide these services; in fact, we have already received expressions of interest from several municipalities.
As a result of this delay, municipalities are being denied access to a new source of revenue that can be used to improve local services for their residents. It makes sense for local justice matters to be dealt with locally. Further delay prevents the government from meeting its commitment to reduce overall costs to the taxpayer. Without this legislation, the ministry won't be able to work with its municipal partners, francophone and anglophone alike, to streamline administration and prosecution of provincial offences.
The government appreciates the cooperation it has received on this initiative. Despite our efforts, and the dedication, the assistance and the cooperation of stakeholders, anglophone and francophone alike, the opposition has not allowed us to move forward. Further delay is harmful. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Ontario to provide a justice system that enables the province to focus justice resources on more serious criminal offences. In the long run, it is not the government, but rather the taxpayers of Ontario, who will benefit from this legislation, and it is the taxpayers who will suffer if delays continue.
I just want to very briefly review the comments that I have received from the francophone community. I have received letters from the association of francophone jurists and they confirm that:
"Inasmuch as there is incorporation by reference, this text is acceptable to us as it strengthens citizens' recourse to the courts if their language rights are violated. This is a compromise which, in my opinion, benefits all parties. The government ensures respect for the basic principles of justice and for the language rights by municipalities interested in signing an agreement with the Attorney General. The Franco-Ontarian community will benefit from the fact that in Ontario language rights are associated with statutory and common law rights.
"I would like to thank you for the successful result we have achieved by protecting existing language rights in this way as part of the transfer to Ontario municipalities of prosecution responsibilities with respect to certain provincial offences and certain federal contraventions. You are the first government to clearly specify the right to a French-speaking municipal prosecutor. I am also pleased with the wording used: `will ensure the delivery of counter services in French.'"
I'd just like to digress a moment because I want to contrast the way this government is transferring Bill 108 responsibilities to municipalities with the way the former government transferred parking ticket infractions under the Provincial Offences Act to municipalities. I want to say that the people who are about to stand up and debate this issue, when they were in government, did absolutely nothing to protect French-language services with respect to parking infractions when they were transferred from the provincial government to municipalities across this province. Nowhere in this province today, as a result of their negligence and as a result of the fact that they totally ignored francophone rights, does a francophone person have an opportunity guaranteed to have over-the-counter services in the French language.
When you hear the debate that is going to be offered - I know it's not parliamentary to say that their arguments will be hypocritical, so I'm not going to say that. But I can say that they did not guarantee any French-language rights when they were the government and I can certainly say that they weren't getting any letters like this from francophone organizations supporting the method that they did their transfer in, compared to the way we're doing our transfer.
I just want to continue to read what they say:
"I would like to take this opportunity to renew our association's offer to contribute in various ways to the devolution of responsibilities to the municipal sector, in particular by participating in the review committee provided for in Bill 108.
"Finally, I would like to thank you for your personal intervention in this matter and for your suggestions that allowed us to protect language rights, which are so important to our Canadian identity. I am very happy that we were able to work together to amend this bill in so positive a manner."
The only person who doesn't understand the amendment that we've proposed and that we will be providing when we meet again in committee of the whole, if this motion passes, is the member for Cochrane South.
I want to read what the Association of Francophone Municipalities has said. They have indicated that:
"The government indicated to us that language rights are incorporated in the notion of a fair hearing in the part of the agreement that could be argued according to the government's amendment to the bill. Accordingly, a defendant could not risk losing his or her language rights if these rights were not offered because doing this would be a contravention of the agreement which would violate the defendant's rights."
They go on to say: "We therefore consider it imperative that the Legislature deal with this particular issue as soon as possible."
Mr Speaker, I'd like to tell you about a communiqué put out by ACFO, l'Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario, and it's entitled, Someone is Listening. Here's what ACFO said when they put out their communiqué.
"It is quite encouraging to note that linguistic rights and basic principles of law will be preserved when Ontario municipalities are transferred the responsibility for lawsuits and some provincial infractions. We were called during negotiations for the transfer of programs. Francophones voiced their concerns around access to French-language services. Under the French Language Services Act, municipalities are not obliged to offer services in French. Throughout these discussions l'Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario, the francophone lawyers' association, repeatedly highlighted the risks involved for the franco-Ontarian community. Now, with the proposed modification to Bill 108, municipalities will have to respect certain principles concerning the administration of justice. This modification protects the linguistic rights included in the transfer. ACFO is very pleased. We say kudos to the Ontario government and we thank l'AJEFO."
Again, I point out that the issues we are now proposing will permit us to proceed, will permit us to deal with this bill in a way that respects the rights of the francophone community, guarantees rights to the French language in our courts, and certainly no municipality will qualify to have provincial offences transferred to them if they are not prepared to enter into an agreement that in fact guarantees these language rights in conjunction with the bill we've proposed.
We've had great support for this bill. The only individual who seems not to understand the impact of the amendment we are proposing is the member for Cochrane South. As I said, where was he when parking infractions were transferred by his government with no guarantees of French-language rights? I didn't see any kudos from any French-language organization going to the former government.
Municipalities desperately want this legislation. They want to go ahead with this. They're concerned about the delay and they know the delay has been caused as a result of the politics the New Democratic Party is playing with this issue. Quite simply, they see right through that. They want this to proceed. This motion is important because it reflects very much the concerns of the municipalities all over Ontario to see this legislation pass and to see the Bill 108 implementation of the provincial offences at the municipal level.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to have made these remarks and I know that the member for Northumberland and the member for Durham have more to add.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's certainly a pleasure to be able to speak on the time allocation motion so we can get on with Bill 108, An Act to deal with the prosecution of certain provincial offences, to reduce duplication and to streamline administration. Certainly the title of that bill is a theme that our government has been carrying throughout the last three years, and it's particularly appropriate on June 8, the third anniversary of our election.
I hope the opposition is quite pleased with this bill. It's some 22 pages. They complained bitterly about Bill 22, which had two pages, and in the last session they complained bitterly about Bill 26, which had over 100 pages. So maybe, like Goldilocks, we've hit just about right in the middle here.
This bill is about empowering local government, getting it to one level of responsibility. It's about simplifying government and its activities all through the Who Does What and, as the previous government wanted to talk about, disentanglement. It's about managing efficiently. It's about accountability. It's about costing less for the taxpayer. These are really recurring themes that have come up in many bills we've been dealing with. It's also recognizing all of the activities of the Who Does What committee, what they did and how hard they worked. This is just part and parcel of completing that particular exercise.
It's difficult, as we've already heard, to understand why the opposition, particularly the third party, would be holding back a bill such as this. They talked about the need to respond more to the francophone community, when in fact at the time they were speaking we had the support of the francophone community. We had the support of the French municipalities; we had all kinds of support from various francophone associations. Of course, the third party ignored that, and I can only gather they were trying for some political gain, similar to the reason they held up Bill 146, the right-to-farm legislation, which was such an important bill for the farm community.
Bill 108 is certainly the next logical step, which should have been taken some time ago, in the Who Does What exercise. This is about transferring ticketable offences, which was recommended by the Crombie study. We accept this, recommend it, agree with it. It's what Bill 108 will accomplish: getting those ticketable offences to the municipalities. Municipalities have expressed an interest. They want it to happen. They want the responsibility and they need the revenues from those tickets. They're already looking after parking fines, so they're in the business. They might just as well be fully into the business of all of the ticketable offences. Certainly, developing this bill and working it through has been about consensus-building with our municipal partners and our francophone communities.
Municipal management of this whole area makes sense. As mentioned, it's the goal of the Who Does What exercise. It's municipal responsibility for a local issue. Therefore, it's going to be more accountable, it's going to be simplified, it's going to be understandable and it's going to be more efficient. Minor ticket offences have a local impact. Criminal offences, on the other hand, are more general and will stay with the province. The province will then, with their staff and inspectors and police, have more time to focus on the problem of criminal offences once this transfer occurs through Bill 108.
The former government - actually, both former governments were unsuccessful in streamlining activities. The Liberal government went through a major examination of restructuring of the Ontario public service. I believe it was called Project 2000, if I remember correctly. Then they dropped that when the election, an unnecessary election, came up in the summer of 1990. The NDP came along and they were going to have a great customer service study and a disentanglement study. They studied it and they studied it and they studied it to death, and ended up not going anywhere.
I'd like to give you a quote from Lou Holtz, who is a coach at the University of Notre Dame. He said, "The guy who complains about the way the ball bounces is usually the guy who dropped it." That's what has happened with the previous two governments. In both cases they studied how to change and how to restructure, how to do some customer service and the disentanglement process, and they dropped the ball rather than playing the game and getting on and doing things. Now they're upset because they didn't accomplish what they set out to.
We're using our existing resources effectively. There are a lot of things that will not change, that will be consistent. The court services, for example, basically will remain unchanged. The court computer system and methods of fine payment will remain the same. Generally, the location of the courthouse will remain the same, where people will go to court and to pay their fines.
This is going to be a new source of income for our constituent municipalities throughout Ontario. They'll be able to get at least $65 million, and probably more, as they recover the fines from these offences. They'll be able to use them for local services. That's really what this is all about. It will help to offset some of those services that are in the community. It's all about what's going on with realignment and putting the dollars into the right place. It was recommended by the Crombie report and all the other studies that have been carried out.
We have heard an awful lot from some of the bleeding NDP councils. They haven't included some of this revenue. They make their case without putting all the facts in there. I'd like to quote from an NDP trustee in our area; she now happens to be the chair of the school board. Going back about a year and a half ago, dealing with some of the bills on education, she came out with a statement that if the provincial government put these bills in place, they "wouldn't even be able to buy a toothbrush." Where are they today? That very school board, led by that NDP, who has run several times for the NDP -
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Unsuccessfully.
Mr Galt: That's right, very unsuccessfully.
At the very first meeting of the new board in January 1998 they spent $2.9 million to buy a building and renovate it. They thought they could renovate it and buy it for $2.9 million. That's what they put in the press. What came out about a month ago in their minutes and has been in the press just lately? They underestimated a bit on the renovations and now the grand total will be $4.2 million, and they haven't even lifted a hammer, they haven't even gone into the building to do anything. You can just imagine. It'll be over $5 million, maybe $6 million, by the time they get finished - crying that they couldn't afford to buy a toothbrush yet they can do this to the taxpayer, getting ahead to September 1 when the new funding formula will come in. At the same time, they are picking up another $3 million for that public board over what they were getting before, and in the same area the separate board is getting a marked increase, well over 10%.
I know there's been some concern about the prevention of conflict of interest. Some of the opposition has been concerned that it might be something like some of the US states where they tax through ticketing. Certainly I'm very pleased that this bill has all kinds of safeguards in place to ensure that that won't happen here in the province of Ontario in some of our municipalities. Certainly the prosecutors and enforcement officials will be protected from political interference. It will be the municipality's responsibility to uphold the provincial standards that will be firmly in place.
This is about managing efficiently. Already the municipal administrations are prosecuting for parking offences, which I mentioned just a little while ago. They'll also be gaining quicker access to the revenues. In other words, fines will be paid directly to the municipality; it won't go through the province and then finally come back. The costs will be reduced significantly because of the streamlining. The process and the scheduling of trials will all be run by the local municipality. There will be one level of government administering this whole thing. It will be eliminating a tremendous amount of red tape which has been overburdening our court system in the past.
This overburdened court system has been something like the weather in the past: An awful lot of people complain about it and talk about it but they don't do anything about it, as we saw with the previous two governments. This government is doing something about it and this bill will certainly help the overburdened court system.
Bill 108 is designed to and will accomplish many things. With the administration and prosecution at the local level for local matters, it will be looking after the taxpayers and will really be quite a saving for them as they roll through this. The municipalities will be able to retain the revenue for local services, and really that's where it should be applied. Where local offences occur, they can then use those dollars to put into the system. The provincial government will be there to monitor compliance and to promote consistency, openness and fairness in our justice system.
There are many things in this bill that are really great, but in summary I'd like to wind up by mentioning that it will be empowering local government. It will be at one level of government to give out the tickets and also collect the fines and use them on a local basis. This will be simplifying the system. It will be managing far more efficiently by using this system. It will be more accountable to everyone, particularly for the taxpayers but also to the system, and it's going to cost less for our taxpayers. There's no question that these are recurring themes that we've seen in many of the bills we've brought forward, particularly for the Who Does What exercise.
I'm very pleased to be able to support this Bill 108, and particularly the time allocation so we can wind up this particular bill and get on with the whole Who Does What exercise.
With that, I'll turn to the member for Durham East for a few comments.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Northumberland. He hasn't really left very much for me to say, except to repeat, in many cases, the points he's made, but it is worth emphasizing the importance of accommodating the municipalities in Ontario. The member for Northumberland has pointed out and indeed the Minister of Environment and Energy, Minister Sterling, and Mr Harnick have pointed out the essential important ingredients of Bill 108.
To draw it into perspective, I think those who are watching today may be interested to know that this bill was first introduced on January 20, 1997. Imagine that: On January 20, 1997, we introduced the bill. Second reading was February 27. Everyone was moving along rather smoothly and, as Mr Galt said, it was part of the Who Does What exercises. The municipalities had wanted this change. The minister was trying to accommodate the change and of course, wouldn't you know it, a little bit of politics entered into it.
It's a rather small bill but it's not an innocuous bill by any stretch. I'm just going to read the explanatory note so we have a better understanding of the essential ingredients of the debate:
"The bill amends the Provincial Offences Act to allow the Attorney General to make agreements with municipalities permitting them to undertake courts administration and court support functions for the purposes of the act and the Contraventions Act (Canada), and to conduct prosecutions for the purposes of parts I and II of the act and for related Contraventions Act purposes. Complementary amendments are made to the Courts of Justice Act and the Municipal Act."
In that respect, a lot of it's administrative. Really specifically today the debate is about the reasons for the time allocation. I've explained it was introduced in January 1997. Here it is over a year later and this government isn't able to respond. We need to act responsibly to AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, as well as my own local municipalities in the region of Durham. Further delay of passage of this bill only hampers municipalities in their efforts to improve their local services and indeed to balance their current budgets.
This is new revenue for municipalities. The bill represents a new source of revenue which we'll be able to use to improve local services. The bill was held up in committee of the whole in December 1997 only because the opposition claimed we had not responded to the francophone concerns. The Attorney General, the Honourable Charles Harnick, made it very clear today, and I'm confident that later in the discussion or debate today the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, the minister charged with francophone affairs, will make a few comments to reaffirm for the people of Ontario that this indeed does not pre-empt any access to services for our French-speaking Ontarians.
The bill was held up unnecessarily. At the same time, we've already had support from the Association of French Municipalities, AFMO. In the spring, the Attorney General again consulted with both AFMO and the French jurisdictional associations, AJEFO. After many long hours of extensive consultation and legal advice, an agreement was made to propose an amendment to Bill 108 that would clarify the section of the bill that was in question - one small section, rather technical. The francophone associations AFMO, AJEFO and ACFO were in full support of the bill with the proposed amendments. They wrote letters of support and have agreed to assist with training, to participate on a review committee and to assist those municipalities that have few resources to provide this service to their constituents.
However, as usual, the NDP opposition has chosen to ignore this and is stalling the bill for its own political gains. I am surprised at those sorts of tactics. Of course I'm new here and I'm left speechless many times with the indifference to providing services, responding to the people of Ontario. The only option left for the government is to go ahead with the bill. That's the reason for this debate today: so that we can no longer deny municipalities and the citizens of Ontario the benefits of the proposed transfer, while at the same time protecting French-language services.
The government's commitment to this proposed legislation, as I said, goes back to January 1997. The time has come to deliver the service to our communities. They've wanted it and we're the government that will do it. That's entirely what differentiates us from other tired and true-tested forms of government.
The Provincial Offences Act is a procedural act which provides that charges under the provincial acts and municipal bylaws can be laid under one of three parts: part I, part II and part III. For the viewer today, I'll just very briefly go over the three parts to clarify what indeed it gives the municipal level of government the power to do, something they've wanted for a long time.
Part I offences relate to certificates of offence or ticketing procedures. Approximately 80% of these part I offences are issued under the Highway Traffic Act. Infractions include speeding up to 49 kilometres per hour over the limit, failing to stop at stop signs - we've heard much about that in the past few weeks - and failure to wear seat belts. These are infractions that are actually ticketed by a police officer or bylaw officer, in some cases parking. That action will result in direct revenue to the municipality. They want it. AMO has wanted it. When I was a councillor I often heard that debate going on.
Other part I offences include minor Liquor Licence Act infractions, such as an open bottle in the car, or being intoxicated in a public place, a nuisance, if you will.
Doesn't it make sense to have the whole trial system closer to where the infraction occurs?
Part II offences are parking tickets. I would clarify that today, as we speak, those functions to a large extent have already been transferred to the municipalities and I think, from all reports, is working very well. There was quite a backlog. You may recall that a few years ago they had to throw all the tickets out because of the Askov ruling. This was almost entirely under municipal control already, as I said.
Part III offences, largely Highway Traffic Act offences, are often more complex and can result in jail sentences upon conviction. Of course those provisions will be left to the province.
The proposed legislation provides that the administrative work and court support for the Provincial Offences Act charges be transferred to municipalities along with the responsibility for tickets, as outlined in part I prosecutions.
It is important to emphasize that Bill 108 makes no changes to law enforcement or adjudication of provincial offences. Police or enforcement officers will continue to lay charges and provincially appointed judges and justices of the peace will continue to decide Provincial Offences Act matters.
It's clear, for those viewing today, what does not change. I felt it was important to outline not just some of the changes, like speeding and that the revenue goes to the local municipality, but what doesn't change. We have to provide uniformity of standards across the province, and of course everyone would agree with the Attorney General that this is a provincial responsibility.
The province retains responsibility for amending legislation, setting standards and monitoring the justice system itself. The province retains responsibility for supporting independent adjudications by provincially appointed and trained justices of the peace. The province retains responsibility for prosecutions of provincial offences under part III of the Provincial Offences Act, as I mentioned before.
A very important thing is that the victim fine surcharge will continue to be remitted by the municipality to the province for the victims' justice fund, which we've initiated to help victims of crime. No one will disagree with that, from any side of the House, I'm sure.
The province will ensure that municipal staff receive training to meet justice standards, including French-language standards and program requirements. The Ministry of the Attorney General will monitor compliance with all aspects, as the Attorney General said here earlier today, transferring agreements including prosecution and administrative functions.
Highlights of the Provincial Offences Act: If we could just go through this very brief, five- or six-page bill, there are a few sections which I think are important to review briefly. The responsibilities proposed to be transferred to the municipality under Bill 108 include the administration of parts I, II and III, prosecutions of part I ticketable offences, and the province will continue to prosecute part III offences, as I said before. Allowing municipalities to prosecute minor ticketable offences will enable the province to focus on prosecuting more serious crimes. We've got to relieve the courts of some of these less significant justice issues.
Since our government remains committed to the victims of crime, Bill 108 provides that fine revenues continue to be subject to the victim fine surcharge. These moneys will be directed to the victims' justice fund, a dedicated fund for providing services to victims of crime. Section 1 of part I amends section 60.1 of the Provincial Offences Act to ensure that fine payments made by a defendant are first credited to the victim fine surcharge fund.
While Bill 108 transfers matters that have local impact to local authorities, it does so with full appreciation of the needs for consistent provincial standards for the administration of justice. This is why the province, under the proposed transfer, will retain responsibility for setting and monitoring standards to ensure uniform, fair and equitable justice. Let me stress that the maintenance of current standards and the preservation of the integrity of the justice system are fundamental to these transfers.
Under the proposed transfer, the Ministry of the Attorney General will issue clear program standards which all partner municipalities will be required to meet. We will work closely with external and internal legal and academic experts to develop province-wide standards which are contained in a memorandum of understanding signed between the Ministry of the Attorney General and our municipal partners.
These articles include standards for French-language services. Nothing in Bill 108 changes the legal requirements of the official bilingual court system set out in the Courts of Justice Act. This is the falseness of the argument that I am sure will be heard later.
The proposed transfer agreement sets out the requirement for municipalities to provide a French-speaking prosecutor when someone asks for a bilingual trial anywhere in Ontario. And, in the designated areas of the province, municipalities will continue to provide bilingual counter service and telephone service for the courts and the users.
The benefits of Bill 108 clearly outweigh the disadvantages, and I'm going to, for a few seconds, outline those. I'm certainly anxious to hear the comments from the Minister of Agriculture and francophone affairs to summarize the comments today.
The proposed transfer creates a new revenue source for municipalities, as the member for Northumberland has clearly indicated. It's over $65 million a year. This is an important part of the Who Does What exercise. The proposed transfer was contained in that exercise and we as a province have delivered.
This transfer was designed on consensus-building, and we are working together - the government, the municipalities, both anglophone and francophone, and legal associations - to ensure that the municipalities are ready. Those discussions have been ongoing for the past year.
The proposed transfer makes sense; it makes common sense. It moves matters that have a local impact into the control and accountability of local authorities. By allowing municipalities to prosecute minor ticket offences, municipalities will be responsible for local matters and the province will be able to focus more of its time and resources on more pressing, serious criminal issues.
The government knows that the transfer of the Provincial Offences Act responsibilities works. Four years ago parking tickets were successfully transferred to municipalities, and it works. This is the next logical step in the complete partnership with municipalities and their partner, the government of Ontario. They now handle 90% of those tickets at the local level successfully. This experience has shown that this service can be provided to the public at a lower cost and that there are a number of other benefits to be gained by involving municipalities more clearly in the justice system. We are now proposing the next logical step. I hope there is no opposition. I'm sure this should pass unanimously.
The government has made a commitment to eliminate government waste and duplication across all issues. If it makes sense, we're doing it. We owe it to you, the taxpayer, to live up to the commitments we made with Bill 108.
With those comments, I mentioned that the minister is going to comment on the French-language parts of the bill, and I'll leave that time for him. Thank you very much for your time this afternoon.
L'hon. Noble A. Villeneuve (ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones) : Chers amis, il me fait toujours plaisir de discuter des services en français, que les amendements au projet de loi 108 vont absolument confirmer maintenant.
Il est intéressant de voir que le gouvernement antérieur, quand ils ont transféré les contraventions de stationnement aux municipalités il y a quatre ans, n'a mis aucune garantie pour les services en français à ce moment-là. Il est intéressant de voir qu'après la discussion que nous avons eue jeudi dernier, le projet de loi 17 a été adopté. Je veux féliciter mon ami de Cochrane-Sud pour avoir fait accepter son projet de loi mais, par contre, je crois qu'il est très important, il est absolument important, comme je l'ai mentionné à la réunion de l'ACFO en fin de semaine, que le projet de loi 108 soit passé aujourd'hui avec les amendements qui garantissent les services en français.
J'espère que mon ami de Cochrane-Sud est à l'écoute et qu'il va traiter au sérieux la situation à laquelle nous faisons face dans le projet de loi 108.
Comme je l'ai mentionné samedi dernier, vous savez que le procureur général propose un amendement à ce projet de loi, un amendement qui indique que les protocoles d'entente avec les municipalités couvriront l'obligation - je dis bel et bien «l'obligation» - de fournir les services en français au même niveau que ceux qui existent présentement.
Cet amendement a été proposé par les efforts de l'AJEFO, l'Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario, à mon collègue le procureur général, et endossé par l'AFMO, l'Association francophone des municipalités de l'Ontario, pour absolument garantir que les services en français vont bel et bien être disponibles dans le projet de loi 108.
J'espère que le gouvernement ne sera pas forcé d'adopter la Loi 108 cette semaine sans l'amendement. J'espère que vous allez agir au sérieux et desservir votre population francophone avec les amendements, les amendements qui sont recommandés fortement par l'AJEFO et l'Association francophone des municipalités de l'Ontario. Ce n'est pas le choix de mon collègue le procureur général ; ce n'est sûrement pas le choix de l'AJEFO et de l'AFMO, qui font des efforts de «lobbying» considérables auprès de l'opposition pour éviter que le travail d'un an ou plus soit réellement mis de côté. Ce sont des obstructions avec des buts politiques, avec des intentions politiques qui ne desserviront pas les gens que M. Bisson veut desservir.
J'ai ici, transmis par télécopieur, une correspondance signée par Me Tory Colvin, représentant de l'Association des juristes d'expression française, et je cite de sa correspondance :
«Nous maintenons ce que nous avons écrit au procureur général, le 7 mai 1998 : dans la mesure où il y a, par référence dans la loi, incorporation de la partie de l'entente (entre le procureur général et une municipalité) au sujet de l'audience équitable, le compromis est acceptable pour notre organisme car il renforce les recours aux tribunaux qu'ont les citoyens en cas de violation de leurs droits linguistiques.»
«L'avis de Me Beecroft apporte...une dynamique» assez intéressante....
«Ce que le gouvernement nous a indiqué, c'est que les droits linguistiques sont incorporés au concept d'audience équitable dans la partie de l'entente qui pourrait être plaidée, selon la modification apportée au projet de loi par le gouvernement.»
Alors, je plaide ma cause et je vous dis tout simplement, mes chers amis : laissez-nous l'occasion d'inclure l'amendement dans le projet de loi 108. C'est pour renforcer les besoins linguistiques qui se font sentir à travers la province de l'Ontario.
En terminant, je veux tout simplement rappeler que si le projet de loi 108 passe sans l'amendement, ce sont les francophones de l'Ontario qui vont être les perdants, les grands perdants. Encore une fois, je demande à mes collègues de nous appuyer.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this time allocation motion this afternoon. The time allocation motion is one which I regret is before the House again, because it demonstrates that this government is dealing almost exclusively with time allocation motions.
For those who are watching at home, a time allocation motion is a closure motion, a motion which chokes off debate on a piece of legislation. What used to be an exception, what used to be a rarity in this chamber, in this provincial Parliament, that is, the use of closure to end a debate or the use of a time allocation motion to restrict and limit debate, is now commonplace in this Legislature. That's most regretful, but I must say it reflects very well the style of the Mike Harris government
We should know that the procedural rules of this chamber have been changed considerably to favour the government side, to once again restrict the opposition in its ability to provide constructive criticism, to provide alternative suggestions, to point out weaknesses in legislation and to try to improve that which is presented to the House for consideration.
The government has moved a time allocation motion which is significantly different from others in that on this occasion, with this motion, it will terminate any effort at what we call third reading.
There are three readings of a bill, which members of this House will know; perhaps not everyone at home. The first reading is routine. It often goes through, in fact almost always goes through, without even a vote, because that is the introduction of the bill, ordinarily by a minister though on occasion by an individual member when the time allows for it.
The second reading is a debate on the general principles of the bill. It is a wide-ranging debate which allows members of the House to carefully analyse the contents of a bill, to examine the ramifications for the province and, for those in opposition particularly, to point out the weaknesses in the legislation or at least to provide alternative arguments to those provided by the government when it tries to justify the presentation and passage of such legislation.
Second reading debate I believe should range up to many days. On some occasions, it certainly may last one or two days if it is a bill of little significance or a bill which is not contentious. Unfortunately, what the government has now seen as the maximum number of days for debate - and a day is really an afternoon or an evening; it's not a complete day as we think of it, a 24-hour day. The government has now decided that three days is sufficient for any bill.
It might well be that for some pieces of legislation three days is sufficient. But for many pieces of legislation which are introduced in this House, and often legislation which is rather reckless, rather pronounced in its ramifications, the debate should go on for several days, for a couple of purposes: so that those in government can hear and react to the objections of the opposition; and as important, so that the public who follow this through the news media or, in this case, through provincial television, have an opportunity, through the Legislative Assembly channel, to listen to the various debates, to hear about aspects of the bill and to come to its own judgement. This government is restricting that.
The government House leader, the member for Carleton, will say there is plenty of time. Our answer to the government House leader is that the government could have called the House back into session. Not many of our constituents would know that the provincial House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, was in recess - that is, it did not sit in session - from late December until very late April. All of that time was available for debate in this House. If the government saw fit, it could have called the House back in January, February, March or early April to debate important bills, if it had important bills to bring forward. Instead, the government chose to wait almost until May was upon us and then to try to rush its legislation through with a series of time allocation motions which, as I have explained, choke off debate in this House.
One could certainly not accuse this government of being overly democratic; it of course has been exactly the opposite. It has, in my view and I think the view of many objective observers, been a government which is more interested in ramming its legislation through as is than it is in getting it right. In other words, it wishes to hurry legislation, not look at the ramifications of that legislation, not look at the impact and not analyse it to the extent that it doesn't have to make amendments along the way.
This particular bill that we're dealing with, as I explained - Madam Speaker, I know you will be chagrined by the fact that there is no provision for third reading. Because after the bill comes out of committee of the whole and is dealt with there - committee of the whole is for the purpose of making amendments and passing the bill on a clause-by-clause method - there should of course be provision for third reading. Unfortunately, there is not.
If you think carefully of the first inclinations of how undemocratic this government was going to be, how bullying it was going to be, you have to go back to Bill 26, which was a major piece of legislation introduced by this government in late 1995. Premier Harris wanted the bill to go through before Christmas with a minimum of debate, despite the fact that it amended or changed in some way some 47 acts of this Ontario Legislature. The government wanted to push it through without province-wide hearings.
To point out how that deals with the democratic process in this House, you will know that bill established the hospital restructuring commission or, as I would prefer to call it, the hospital destruction commission, in this province. That was part of that bill where the government started to show its pattern of wanting to rush legislation through with a minimum of debate and a minimum of consideration by the people of this province through the committee system, where there could be public hearings in various communities.
We have seen the results of that. We have a restructuring commission which goes around this province closing hospitals; that has really been its role. There have been 35 hospitals either closed or forced to merge with other hospitals in this province. That despite the fact that in May 1995, during the leaders' debate during the provincial election campaign, Mike Harris, the leader of the Conservative Party at that time, was asked what effect his health policies would have. He was asked if these health care policies would mean any hospitals would be closed.
Mr Bradley: My friend from Scarborough East, who interjects, will know what the answer was. The man who is the Premier today, Mike Harris, that day said to Robert Fisher, who was the questioner, "Certainly, Robert, I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." Yet across Ontario we have seen hospitals close. That was part of Bill 26, which demonstrated the beginning of how this government was going to deal with procedural matters in this House. That was a huge, massive omnibus and ominous budget bill which really drastically increased the powers at the centre, the powers of the unelected people and some elected people, those being certain members of the cabinet.
As a result, some of the other members of the Legislature, on the government side particularly, have had no say. They've had to listen to Guy Giorno, who is the guru of gurus, 33 years of age, with all the answers. I think he was 29 when he first came around here. Someone who knows him will tell me; I think he's 31 now. He has just had a birthday, as a matter of fact. He has all the answers, he and the backroom people. I can't say "the backroom boys," because there are some female people there too. So it's the females and males in the smoke-filled back rooms of the Conservative Party and the Conservative government who are really making these decisions.
In fact, the member for Scarborough East, when he was president of the Conservative Party at the age of 19, I think it was, some age like that, because that's when the YPCs take over, had more power then than he has today within the Legislative Assembly.
I said that of, if I can use the name, Tony Clement, which is what he was called in those days. Now he's the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Transportation, the member for Brampton South. I said to him the other day in this House - the member for Oakville South will know this - that the member for Brampton South had more power when he was a whiz kid than he has today. Even though he's in the cabinet, he's in the outer fringes of the cabinet and therefore he doesn't have that power. But he's part of a cabinet that decides when there are going to be time allocation motions brought before the House.
Here we have a bill that downloads more responsibilities to municipalities, but this one has a carrot in it. It says if you are like - what's a backwoods place in Georgia? I never travel in the south.
Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [children's issues]): Louisville.
Mr Bradley: In Louisville, Georgia -
Mr Bradley: - Marietta, all those places, what they have there are these small police forces that wait at the bottom of the hill, I'm told, as the cars are coming down, and the speed limit changes at the bottom of the hill.
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Niagara Falls.
Mr Bradley: The member for Cambridge is correct. I understood the other day that in fact there were several provincial police cars catching people where the speed limit changes just going into Niagara Falls, because somebody phoned me and asked if that was part of Georgia. At that time I said no, it couldn't be. There was probably a good reason for that happening.
But what happens is you are providing an incentive for municipalities now to use the forces that they have for fund-raising activities as opposed to dealing with true crime. I know that our police officers in this province would rather be trying to break the drug-dealing rings and catch murderers and thieves and people who are committing real crimes than be bothered with those kinds of activities which simply generate revenue for the municipality. I have a concern that when you turn that over to municipalities that are strapped for funds because of the downloading of responsibilities of this government, somehow those municipalities may find it attractive to get involved in activities which will generate funds through the provincial offences system.
I hope it doesn't happen, but the temptation is going to be out there with the dire straits in which you have placed most municipalities. Parry Sound is excluded, because I understand they got some additional special funding from the provincial Treasurer for their police forces, and that's purely coincidental. It's as coincidental as Waterloo not getting any hospitals closed - where the Minister of Health is.
You may want to know this, Madam Speaker. We had the hospital destruction commission in St Catharines last week. A few of the representatives were there, and they were lurking. They were flying around like vultures waiting to see what hospital they could pluck and take away from the people of our community or how they could force some mergers, lift one hospital from here and place it over here and force a merger.
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): They're listening.
Mr Bradley: The member for St Catharines-Brock says they're listening. He had a wonderful ad in the newspaper the other day. I clipped it out because some people wanted to see that. I hadn't seen it, but somebody had seen it.
Hon David Turnbull (Minister without Portfolio): Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I am at a total loss to know what the present comments have got to do with the matter at hand.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): I understand in time allocation motions it's pretty free-wheeling and broad, but I would ask the member perhaps to come back to the time allocation motion.
Mr Bradley: I will get back to that, but I know my friend from York Mills will want me to finish this part of it. I saw him walking, by the way, in the downtown area of York Mills one Saturday when I was driving through there. I saw the member walking right down the main street of his riding. In fact, I have seen him in Port Dalhousie, because he is quite an expert on rowing. It's in the family, and I want to say -
Hon Mrs Marland: He is not such an expert in the -
Mr Bradley: Not nearly so much as the member for Mississauga South, who has -
The Deputy Speaker: Member for St Catharines, I do have to wonder what this has got to do with the time allocation motion.
Mr Bradley: The member for Mississauga South has had Olympic aspirations within her family and some degree of success in rowing that has been achieved within her family. I wanted to put that on the record.
Hon Mrs Marland: A gold medal.
Mr Bradley: A gold medal. You can't go higher than a gold medal.
I'm just trying to respond to the members over there on some of these matters. I know that I have a couple of colleagues who want to get into the time allocation motion and how it affects this bill.
Where was I? I was on the hospital closing commission. I am very concerned. The member for St Catharines-Brock got out his bowl, like Pontius Pilate - is it fair to say that, Tom? - and he washed his hands and said, "If they close any hospitals, it's going to be the big bad commission." Poor Tom, my friend, wouldn't be in that position if it wasn't for Bill 26. That's why I tried to save him from Bill 26. That's why I tried to save the government from Bill 26.
You'll remember that the government wanted to ram that through. Time allocation is what they had in mind in those days. They wanted to put all of these things into one bill, and that would be enough to have the member for Scarborough West out protesting, walking with the protesters, or to have the member for Scarborough East at the GO Transit station protesting against his own government's downloading. But I digress and I shouldn't digress.
Hon Mrs Marland: No, but it's interesting.
Mr Bradley: I'm glad the member said that.
Our member for Downsview, Ms Castrilli, offered what I thought was a clear, concise, commonsense amendment that would allow this government to deal with legislation in a very good way. She offered this amendment, supported by members of the Liberal caucus, that would have allowed the opportunity for all of us to have this legislation passed and implemented, and the government rejected that amendment.
My colleagues from Prescott and Russell and Ottawa East are going to elaborate on that, because I don't want to spend an undue amount of time dealing with the procedural matter alone. I simply want to say that this is one more example of Mike Harris getting in the seat of the bulldozer and driving that bulldozer across the Legislative Assembly and across the democratic process in this Legislature.
Now I turn to my colleagues the member for Prescott and Russell and the member for Ottawa East, who will elaborate and provide us with the kind of detail that all of you are waiting for with bated breath.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I want to congratulate the member for St Catharines, because Jim is always interesting and he brought to light why this government is forever asking for time allocation, or closure, as he said.
Bill 108 is a very interesting bill. I think it's a trial balloon for the government because this is not the first time or the last time we're going to have this debate; not on Bill 108 but on French services. I would like to take my seven or eight minutes to, let's say, compliment, if I could use the word "compliment," the minister for francophone affairs. I'd like to comment on his speech.
Le ministre des Affaires francophones, M. Villeneuve, tantôt a mentionné que finalement l'Association des municipalités de l'Ontario et l'Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Ontario étaient d'accord avec les amendements proposés qui sont ajoutés à la Loi 108.
Par contre, qu'est-ce que M. Villeneuve, le ministre des Affaires francophones, a oublié de mentionner ? C'est que l'association des juristes, aussi bien que l'association des municipalités et l'ACFO, ont pris des mois et des mois à négocier les changements apportés dont le ministre des Affaires francophones est joyeux de nous dire aujourd'hui que finalement tout le monde a compris. Laissez-moi vous dire que les associations que je viens de mentionner, si ces associations n'avaient pas fait le travail et si l'opposition n'avait pas fait le travail que nous avons fait - aujourd'hui nous ferons face à une attribution de temps : «Limiter le débat, et même pas de troisième lecture. Passons donc au vote. Allons en avant.»
Le ministre des Affaires francophones ne peut pas se frapper dans l'estomac en disant : «Le gouvernement va en avant.» Le gouvernement va en avant aujourd'hui à cause des pressions de l'AFMO, de l'ACFO, de l'AEFO, de tous ces gens-là qui se sont aperçus dès le début que la Loi 108 ne répondait pas aux attentes des francophones. D'autres vont nous dire qu'ils ont des avis légaux, que la Loi 108 ne répond pas encore, ne garantit pas les services en français aux francophones. Je ne suis pas un avocat, je ne peux pas vous donner un avis légal. Mais je peux vous donner mon avis, et la peur, l'inquiétude que j'ai présentement de voir un gouvernement qui est dédié d'aller en avant avec très peu de consultation avec la communauté francophone, ça m'inquiète.
Il faut les ramener vers le centre à chaque fois qu'on présente un projet de loi qui oublie la communauté francophone, chose qu'on ne devrait pas faire. Nous avons un représentant, un ambassadeur des services en français, et c'est le ministre des Affaires francophones. Il doit être vigilant, il doit guetter le gouvernement lorsqu'il présente un nouveau programme comme le délestage des programmes d'aujourd'hui et d'autres demain. Que ce soit dans le logement, dans le domaine de la santé, dans le domaine des ambulances, nous allons faire face aux mêmes débats.
Moi, j'offre un petit avis au ministre des Affaires francophones, et pourquoi ne pas l'inclure dès maintenant dans un projet de loi, quant au délestage de services : que dorénavant les services en français seront automatiquement inclus. Si le gouvernement veut hâter le processus, il peut le faire en incluant dans le projet de loi que les services en français sont garantis dans tous les domaines, dans tous les programmes que le gouvernement a l'intention de délester aux municipalités. Pourquoi ne pas l'avoir fait dès le début ? Mais non, il faut rappeler la mémoire au gouvernement : «Vous avez oublié quelque chose.»
Maintenant peut-être que M. Villeneuve n'a pas écouté le Conseil des ministres. Pourtant, il est assez pesant, si je peux me permettre le mot «pesant», qu'on devrait l'écouter. Mais non, on passe par-dessus le ministre responsable des Affaires francophones. Il n'a pas trouvé les moyens de convaincre le Conseil des ministres que nous, la communauté francophone en Ontario, avons besoin des garantis. Nous voulons faire confiance au gouvernement, mais on oublie trop souvent. Peut-être que je me répète, mais je voudrais que le ministre des Affaires francophones quitte ce soir et qu'il dise au Conseil des ministres librement que dorénavant pour chaque programme, chaque projet de loi présenté en Chambre, on doit reconnaître les services que nous avons présentement sous la Loi 8. On ne peut pas obliger les municipalités à offrir des services en français, alors qu'on fasse les modifications nécessaires pour que les services en français soient garantis dans tous les programmes et dans tous les projets de loi.
On peut en discuter. Comme mon collègue de St Catharines a mentionné, Mme Castrilli, la critique de ce projet de loi, avait offert des amendement en deuxième lecture. Mais on les a oubliés, on les a mis de côté. C'est pour ça encore aujourd'hui qu'il faut défendre la même chose. Il faut répéter la même chose jour après jour. On oublie la communauté francophone.
Alors, je vais céder ma place à mon collègue de Prescott et Russell parce que je suis sûr qu'il pourra vous parler beaucoup plus longuement sur le projet de loi 108.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Tout d'abord, je veux féliciter mon collègue d'Ottawa-Est ainsi que mon collègue de St Catharines pour ses interventions sur ce projet de loi.
I refer to some of the articles that I read from newspapers like the London Free Press:
"This is not a small matter. French-speaking Ontarians deserve to have their day in court in the official language in which they are most comfortable.
It is not a favour to francophones to provide that service. It is something they are entitled to."
This is the London Free Press, and I just wonder if they are supporting the Liberals, the NDP or the Conservatives.
This goes on: "The association is right. Now is not the time to weaken official language rights in our province. To do so would be to open the door for Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard to gain more fuel for his separatist fire.
Ontario should not be a party to that. Nor should it be party to denying francophones their rights in this province."
I go to the Toronto Star which was published on May 4:
"If Canada is to have a future, English and French must not only respect each other but take care of each other.
Eroding existing rights would send the worst sort of signal at a time when the separatists remain a threat.
If French-language services do falter, pressure will grow to declare Ontario officially bilingual, making all court and government services available in both languages.
Canada's most populous, richest province must not expose itself to the charge that it is chipping away at the very francophone rights it professes to care about."
Lorsque nous regardons ces deux articles des journaux de la semaine dernière, cela demande que non seulement nous, les francophones, sommes inquiets du contenu de ce projet de loi. Même les journalistes anglophones qui ont un haut respect pour les francophones de cette province reconnaissent les droits des francophones, mais nous, ici à la Chambre, sommes portés à oublier que le Canada est fondé par les francophones et les anglophones qui ont toujours voulu travailler ensemble, mais aujourd'hui nous voulons peut-être faire une division, division qui peut être un peu inquiétante. Je regarde un pamphlet que j'ai reçu à mon bureau aujourd'hui de l'APEC, qui voudrait avoir tous les francophones disparaître de l'Ontario, mais je crois que lorsque je lis les journaux comme le Globe and Mail de temps à autre, et le Toronto Star ainsi que le London Free Press, c'est là que l'on reconnaît que les anglophones de cette province reconnaissent que l'on doit respecter les services ou les droits des francophones.
C'est bien beau de dire que nous allons garantir aux francophones de cette province les services lorsque le transfert sera fait aux municipalités. C'est vrai que l'on a eu des lettres de l'ACFO, de l'AFMO, de l'Association des juristes de l'Ontario, mais même si le ministre des Affaires francophones nous dit qu'il a reçu l'appui de ces organismes, je me demande pourquoi nous avons reçu tant de correspondance de ces organismes qui nous disent de faire très attention pour nous assurer que nous défendons la cause des francophones.
Je regarde ici une lettre qui est adressée à mon confrère M. Grandmaître le député d'Ottawa-Est, que les programmes offerts par les municipalités devront garantir les mêmes droits. Oui, c'est vrai, mais lorsqu'on a reçu la correspondance, ou le ministre ou le procureur général en a reçu de l'ACFO, de l'AFMO ainsi que de l'AJEFO et de l'association des juristes de langue anglaise de l'Ontario, nous n'avons jamais mentionné que la «schedule» que nous avons présentée, qui est assez volumineuse, ne ferait jamais partie de ce projet de loi, et toutes ces associations sont sous l'impression que l'annexe fera partie du projet de loi. La seule chose qu'on dit dans le projet de loi, c'est qu'on devrait avoir une entente avec les municipalités. C'est bien vrai actuellement. Nous avons 23 régions de l'Ontario qui sont désignées bilingues. C'est parce que nous remplirons les critères qui ont été établis, soit les 10 000 personnes, ou le 5 % - monsieur Grandmaître, mon collègue, 5000 personnes ?
M. Lalonde : Oui, 5 % ou 10 000 personnes, c'est ça. Lorsqu'on a atteint ces objectifs-là, les critères, la région peut être déclarée une région bilingue. Mais jamais, jamais on n'a voulu rassurer les francophones ou les associations telles que les trois associations mentionnées auparavant. Ils sont toujours sous l'impression que cette clause-là fait partie de l'entente.
J'ai des lettres ici qui ont été adressées à plusieurs personnes, dont l'honourable Charles Harnick. Je regarde le troisième paragraphe. On nous dit, «...au maintient des droits et acquis, mais aussi leur créativité en insérant dans leur projet de loi et leur protocole d'entente des formulations d'amendements proposées par l'Association des juristes d'expression française.» Madame la Présidente, nous avons complètement omis d'inclure cette partie dans le projet de loi.
Je regarde ici une lettre de l'Université d'Ottawa, signée par le professeur Martha Jackman. Elle dit ceci à propos du projet de loi 108 :
"I write in support of the amendment of Bill 108, the streamlining of Administration of Provincial Offences Act, 1997, to include a provision which ensures continued access to French-language judicial services, including those transferred to the municipal level."
Again, we have forgotten to include that.
"Access to judicial services in both official languages is a basic right of citizens of Ontario. It will be most unfortunate if Bill 108 had the effect of impairing this important right."
This was written by Professor Martha Jackman.
Then I got another one from barrister and solicitor firm Stikeman, Elliott:
"Bill 108, which proposes to transfer some provincial court procedures to municipalities, has no provision to ensure that French language rights are protected. As you are aware, minority language rights are an important concern to the citizens of Ontario. Francophone citizens of Ontario must be entitled to judicial services in both official languages if these services are devolved to the municipal level. It is necessary to insert a clause in Bill 108 protecting francophone linguistic rights."
This is not a francophone lawyer's office.
Then I go to Marc Duguay, from Toronto, a barrister and solicitor:
"I do trust you will see fit to intervene and correct the bill to ensure that French services continue to be made available to Ontario's francophone minority. Ontario must continue to lead the way of tolerance and political maturity in the matter of French services.
"At this moment in our history, with our own country at stake, we need to unequivocally affirm our collective desire not to turn back the clock on the wonderful progress we have made."
Another, from ADR Chambers, says:
"There is widespread concern in the francophone community that Bill 108 inadvertently omits protection of existing rights to access to justice in the French language.
"I join with many others in urging you to ensure that the oversight is corrected before the bill becomes law."
I could go on. These are all letters that we received from different law firms. Here is the association des juristes de l'Ontario :
«Nous souhaitons donc que, suite à une intervention de votre part, les membres de l'Assemblée législative reconnaissent la pertinence d'une clause de maintien de droits linguistiques et qu'ils acceptent de modifier en conséquent le projet de loi.» Encore une fois, on semble avoir oublié d'apporter des corrections.
Donc, il y a plusieurs groupes qui sont inquiets de voir que nous anticipons passer ce projet de loi qui va transférer des responsabilités majeures aux municipalités. C'est peut-être vrai que les municipalités sont prêtes à accepter les argents que l'on veut nous transférer, les amendes que l'on va pouvoir émettre afin de rembourrer, remplir les coffrets des municipalités.
Je regarde la circonscription de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry, dont le ministre des Affaires francophones est le député. Ils vont recevoir 722 000 $ d'après les rapports qui ont été préparés par le gouvernement. À Prescott et Russell, ils vont recevoir 544 000 $. C'est bien beau de dire qu'ils vont recevoir des argents, mais à quel coût ? Est-ce que nos municipalités vont pouvoir se permettre d'entreprendre les dépenses afin de s'assurer à ce que les services qui étaient couverts par la Loi 8 soient retransmis ou deviennent la responsabilité des municipalités ?
«On doit respecter la Loi 8.» Je ne crois pas, madame la Présidente. Est-ce que les municipalités sont prêtes à venir à une entente avec le procureur général pour dire : «Nous allons signer une entente pour nous assurer à ce que les services en français puissent continuer à être donnés dans les secteurs des 23 régions ontariennes» ?
Cela inquiète tous les francophones de l'Ontario, et non seulement les francophones. Même les journalistes anglophones du sud de l'Ontario et d'ici-même à Toronto nous disent d'être sur nos gardes, qu'on doit inclure dans ce projet de loi-là la référence de la «schedule» qu'on nous a donnée. Comme j'ai dit, c'est un document qui comprend une cinquantaine de pages.
Je sais qu'on ne peut pas l'inclure toute, mais je soupçonne que les associations n'ont pas reçu ça, parce que je regarde le document et c'est bel et bien décrit. C'est une ébauche de l'entente des municipalités, mais c'est écrit «Confidentiel». Lorsque je vois le mot «Confidentiel» sur un document - en anglais c'est "Confidential Draft" - est-ce que les associations ont vu ce document ? Est-ce que c'était seulement réservé aux membres de l'Assemblée législative ? Je me pose la question. Si nous ne voulions pas que ce document-là soit confidentiel, on aurait certainement retiré le mot «Confidentiel», qui est inscrit sur chacune des pages de ce document.
Même maintenant il va falloir commencer à faire des recherches, parce que je ne l'ai obtenue qu'aujourd'hui, cette copie-là. Puis encore là je suis de plus en plus inquiet du fait que le gouvernement voudrait procéder immédiatement avec la troisième lecture de ce projet de loi aujourd'hui en Chambre.
Ceci termine la présentation que j'ai à vous faire. J'espère que le gouvernement va se pencher sur leur position et qu'ils vont avoir un haut respect pour ceux de la langue française afin de s'assurer que la langue des Canadiens français de cette province soit respectée selon les mentions de la Loi 8.
M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : J'aimerais mettre sur le record les notes suivantes faisant affaire avec le débat sur la Loi 108. Mais je veux expliquer, pour les membres de l'Assemblée qui n'ont pas suivi ce dossier de très près, exactement ce qui se passe, l'historique du dossier, pour mieux comprendre où on se trouve aujourd'hui.
Très simplement, le gouvernement a décidé de transférer certaines offenses provinciales aux municipalités. Ça veut dire que dans le futur, si le projet de loi passe, les municipalités de Timmins, Sudbury, Windsor, Toronto, n'importe lesquelles, vont avoir le droit d'aller rechercher de la province l'habilité de contrôler les offenses provinciales dans leurs municipalités. Ça veut dire qui si la police municipale arrête quelqu'un pour la vitesse ou une autre offense provinciale, la municipalité a place de charger la personne et d'envoyer l'argent collectionné sous la charge provinciale à la province et la municipalité va avoir le droit non seulement de donner les billets mais elle va avoir le droit de garder l'argent.
Sur ce point-là, je veux être très clair au commencement du débat : le NPD n'a aucun problème avec cette habilité des municipalités d'aller le chercher de leur gouvernement provincial. Ça fait du bon sens. C'est quelque chose que nous avons fait, faisant affaire avec les contraventions de stationnement en 1992, qui était transféré par notre gouvernement de la province de l'Ontario aux municipalités.
Le problème est ceci. Présentement, si on se fait donner une contravention provinciale, en d'autres mots on se fait arrêter par la police puis on se fait donner une contravention de vitesse et on dit : «Eh, une minute. Je ne pense pas que je dois me faire donner ce billet. Il y avait des circonstances pour une raison ou une autre. Je vais aller en cour pour plaider ma caus, parce que je me trouve innocent,» présentement, sous le projet de loi Courts of Justice Act, qui traite de la question des offenses provinciales, on a un droit acquis comme francophones de demander que le procès soit en français, pas de question.
La loi existante va aussi loin que, si moi comme francophone vais plaider en cour et le juge dit : «No, we don't speak French here,» j'ai le droit comme francophone de dire : «Arrêtez le procès toute de suite. Je ne vais pas aller plus loin. Je vais avoir un procès en français,» et la cour doit arrêter le procès et le donner en français. C'est un droit acquis.
Le problème avec le projet de loi 108 est que le gouvernement dit : «On veut transférer le droit d'actionner les infractions provinciales aux municipalités,» mais une fois qu'on transfère le service, tel que la loi était écrite au commencement sans amendement, il n'y aurait aucun recours aux francophones d'avoir leur droit respecté en français. En d'autres mots, si la projet de loi passe tel quel sans amendement, un francophone qui s'est fait donner une contravention provinciale par sa municipalité, comme une contravention de vitesse, va aller se pointer en cour municipale et il ne va pas avoir le droit de demander les services en français à la cour, même jusqu'au point où la cour elle-même va être faite en anglais sans aucune considération légale comme cela. C'est là que tout ce débat-là a commencé.
Mon bon ami Rosario Marchese de Fort York, mon autre bon ami Tony Silipo de Dovercourt et autres ont indiqué, quand ce projet de loi était en comité législatif à l'Assemblée au gouvernement : «Une minute. On a une problème.» On n'a pas de problème à transférer des services, mais il faut donner des garanties à ce que des services en français soient respectés. Nos collègues, avec Mme Castrilli, qui était au comité, a pointé ce fait au gouvernement. C'est pour cette raison qu'on a proposé un amendement au comité législatif une fois qu'on s'est aperçus qu'il y avait un problème avec le projet de loi.
Le gouvernement a refusé, et quand on a demandé la question au procureur général et au ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones - si vous vous rappelez, j'ai demandé la question spécifiquement à ces deux ministres-là. J'ai dit : «Écoutez. Comprenez-vous que les services pour les francophones ne vont plus être garantis avec la Loi 108 telle que vous l'avez proposée dans ce temps-là ?» Ils m'ont dit : «Non, ne vous inquiétez pas. Les services aux francophones sont garantis. C'est vous qui êtes en train de faire des bruits pour rien, en essayant d'inventer une problème qui n'existe pas.» On s'est fait traiter comme on ne savait pas de quoi on parlait.
Ce qui est arrivé à ce point-là avec une stratégie qui était développée par mon chef et autres dans notre caucus, on a décidé que c'était assez important pour notre caucus, comme c'était pour l'autre caucus, celui de Mme Castrilli, de trouver une manière pour faire le point au gouvernement qu'on n'allait pas accepter ici en Ontario l'érosion des services en français. C'est pour cette raison que j'était fier, comme membre du caucus NPD, d'introduire un amendement une fois que le projet de loi est venu au comité plénier - committee of the whole - qui était très clair et très simple. L'amendement que j'ai proposé dit seulement que, si la province décide qu'ils vont transférer la responsabilité des offenses provinciales aux municipalités, que des droits et des services en français soient garantis tels qu'ils existent en loi aujourd'hui. C'est bien simple. On a proposé cet amendement au procureur général durant le débat au Comité plénier, et le procureur général n'a pas accepté. Il a dit : «Non, c'est vous autres qui êtes en encore train d'aller courir une obstruction. Vous êtes en train encore, l'opposition, de parler sans savoir de quoi vous parlez.» On s'est fait traiter comme on ne savait rien de quoi on parlait.
On a continué l'opposition. Une bonne affaire, parce que tout à coup le gouvernement a commencé à réaliser, «Houp, on a un problème.» Tout à coup le gouvernement a réalisé que, le NPD et autres membres de l'opposition avaient raison. Avec le transfert de services tel qu'ils existaient sous la Loi 108, les droits des francophones ne seraient pas respectés une fois qu'on transfère les services des offenses provinciales à travers la Loi 108. Et parce qu'on avait fait l'obstruction, oui l'obstruction et j'en suis fier, le gouvernement a commencé à négocier avec nous et avec l'AJEFO, pour trouver une manière d'être capable de répondre aux préoccupations que moi, dans le caucus NPD, et autres avons soulevées quand ça vient à la protection des services en français. C'était très honnête, notre obstruction. Avec cette obstruction, on était capable, à travers l'AJEFO, d'essayer de négocier un amendement à la législation de la Loi 108 qui dit que les services en français doivent être protégés.
Finalement ce printemps - je ne me rappelle pas exactement la date, je pense que c'était à la fin du mois d'avril ou le commencement du moi de mai - le gouvernement a communiqué avec moi, et avec l'AJEFO. Il proposait un amendement qui, selon le gouvernement, protège les services en français tels qu'ils existent comme c'est là avec la loi existante. Puis, quand j'ai entendu dire - j'étais à la réunion des chefs parlementaires quand j'ai été communiqué cette information. Moi, j'ai dit au chef parlementaire, comme j'ai dit au ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones et au procureur général, si votre amendement dit ce que vous dites, je suis fier et je vous donnerai notre support, et j'irai même dehors pour dire que le gouvernement conservateur a fait la bonne affaire. J'étais préparé à donner le crédit plein, parce que, moi, j'ai communiqué, j'ai été très direct. J'ai dit que je suis préparé à sortir et à dire : «C'est toute l'idée du gouvernement. N'acceptez pas mon amendement à moi, qui est clair, écrivez le votre si vous êtes plus contents. Et je vais vous donner en le crédit plein.» Ce qui est important pour moi et mon caucus, comme pour l'autre caucus, c'est qu'on veut protéger les droits linguistiques des francophones.
Puis, ce qui est arrivé, c'est qu'on a eu l'amendement, j'ai eu la chance de le lire pour la première fois plus tard dans l'après-midi de cette journée-là quand on m'a donné une copie. J'ai lu l'amendement. Je vais vous le lire, il dit - pour comprendre comment ça marche, dans la section 164 de la loi - je vais lire comme c'est là, «Aucune instance n'est invalidée pour le seul motif qu'une personne n'a pas observé l'entente.» Ça veut dire que le gouvernement nous proposait qu'ils étaient en faveur d'écrire dans l'entente qui va être signée entre la municipalité et la province pour garantir les droits et services en français que le gouvernement a indiqué qu'il voulait donner des garanties à travers l'entente. Autrement dit, la municipalité et la province allaient signer des ententes qui disent qu'on va garantir les services en français. Le gouvernement nous donne un amendement, puis l'amendement nous dit, «Without limiting the generality of subsection 3, that subsection does not preserve the validity of the preceding, if the failure to comply with the agreement results in the prejudice of the defendant's right to a fair hearing.»
Quand j'ai regardé cet amendement, j'ai dit, «Le gouvernement me dit qu'il veut protéger les services en français. Ils disent tous les beaux mots, il semblerait qu'ils sont sérieux.» Mais quand je lis l'amendement - pourquoi c'est si compliqué ? Pourquoi le langage est-il écrit d'une manière qui n'est pas claire, d'une manière même qui est ouverte à l'interprétation devant les cours ? Il y a quelque chose qui ne marche pas avec ça.
Alors, j'ai communiqué avec le conseil législatif de la province de l'Ontario. Je leur ai envoyé l'amendement que le gouvernement m'a donné avec l'entente qu'ils veulent signer avec la municipalité, et j'ai dit que j'allai demander au conseil législatif de l'Ontario de m'écrire une opinion légale faisant affaire avec cet amendement. J'ai dit, si cette opinion revient disant que les droits sont protégés, je vais donner mon support au gouvernement, que le caucus NPD va louer l'amendement à passer.
On m'a donné une réponse de la part de M. Beecroft du conseil législatif daté le 12 mai 1998 - je ne vais pas tout lire ; la décision est assez longue. Ce qu'elle dit à la fin est intéressant.
"In other words, failure to provide a bilingual prosecutor in accordance with the agreement might not invalidate a proceeding in every case." En d'autres mots, si on ne donne pas un procès en français, ce n'est pas nécessaire - la personne peut invalider le procès lui-même.
"But it would invalidate a proceeding if the failure resulted in prejudice to the defendant's right to a fair hearing. The issue of whether the right to a fair hearing was prejudiced would depend on the particular circumstances of the case. It might be relevant, for example, whether a French-speaking defendant was also fluent in English. It might also be relevant that in provinces like Ontario, with residents who speak many different languages, it is not unusual for a defendant to be prosecuted by a prosecutor who does not speak the defendant's language.
Une minute, là. J'ai reçu cette opinion. Un point qui est important est que cette opinion légale écrite par le même bureau qui a écrit l'amendement pour le gouvernement. Le gouvernement a demandé un amendement à ce bureau. C'est le même monde qui écrit les amendements pour le gouvernement que pour l'opposition, et l'opinion légale du bureau des conseillers législatifs est le monde à Queen's Park qui écrit des lois. L'opinion est revenue en disant : «L'affaire n'est pas claire. L'amendement est ouvert à l'interprétation qui suit. Je vais essayer de l'expliquer d'une manière aussi simple que je suis capable. Si un francophone se pointe à la cour municipale et dit : «On m'a donné une contravention de vitesse et je vais plaider ma cause dans la cour municipale,» l'amendement tel que proposé par le gouvernement, l'opinion que j'ai reçue du conseil législatif dit que j'ai seulement le droit de faire appel à la cour si moi je peux déterminer, si je peux faire preuve devant la cour, que l'on était préjugé contre moi ayant recours à la cour seulement en anglais. Plus loin M. Beecroft dit qu'en Ontario cela se passe tous les jours avec toutes les autres nationalités. On donne un interprète à la personne qui va devant la cour et c'est assez pour garantir que la personne n'a pas été l'objet d'un préjugé.
Quand j'ai vu cette opinion, j'ai parle à mon caucus NPD et on a parlé sérieusement avec mes collègues M. Hampton, M. Silipo, Mme Martel, M. Wood, M. Lessard et j'en passe. Ils ont dit : «Minute, jamais qu'on pourra accepter l'amendement du gouvernement.» C'est très clair. M. Beecroft dit que les droits des francophones ne sont pas nécessairement garantis. Ce qui est plus intéressant, c'est quand tu lis la Loi 108, section 164 - Puis je la lis, parce que c'est ça qui est important - n'oubliez pas. La garantie que le gouvernement veut nous donner est dans l'entente. Ils vont signer une entente séparée avec des municipalités qui dit que les droits des francophones sont garantis - dans l'entente. C'est le point qui est important. Ça dit, selon la Loi 108, section 164, section 3 : «Aucune instance n'est invalidée pour le seul motif qu'une personne n'a pas observé l'entente.»
"No proceeding is invalidated by reason only of a person's failure to comply with the agreement."
Ceci veut dire que la municipalité peut casser l'entente et tu n'as aucun recours aux cours. Tu ne peux pas faire appel aux cours, parce que ça dit dans la loi que si la municipalité brise l'entente, il n'y a rien que tu peux faire. La loi est très claire. Et l'amendement que le gouvernement nous propose dit que le seul temps que tu peux amener la municipalité en cour pour avoir cassé l'entente qu'ils ont signée avec la province, c'est si tu peux déterminer et faire preuve au juge quand tu vas faire l'appel que tu as été préjugé dans la décision que tu a eue. Mais tu ne peux pas la faire cette preuve, ce qui arrive avec Gilles Bisson, ou Mme Martel, ou M. Wood qui comprend le français et le parle, qui vont en cour et qui disent, «Moi je veux avoir un procès en français.» Le juge va dire : «Excuse me, you speak English. I don't have to give you a court in French, and you're not going to be prejudiced because you understand English.»
Et moi, j'ai perdu mon droit acquis tel que je l'ai présentement sous le Courts of Justice Act. C'est pour ça qu'on s'y est opposé.
Ce que j'ai fait, j'ai envoyé cette opinion légale à l'AJEFO, l'Association des juristes d'expression française. Ce point-ci, je ne l'ai jamais relevé, mais c'est important à relever dans le débat aujourd'hui parce que le ministre et le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones ont soulevé deux points auxquels j'ai besoin de répondre très clairement.
Premièrement, ils disent toujours que l'AJEFO est très clair et qu'elle support le gouvernement avec l'amendement, carrément, nette, frais, sec.
Je veux lire ce que l'AEJFO m'a écrit. Moi, j'ai reçu la décision de M. Beecroft du bureau des conseils législatifs le 12 mai. C'est datée le 13 mai 1998. C'est signée par Me Tory Colvin, le président de cette association.
«Je vous remercie de nous avoir fait parvenir une copie de la lettre de M. Douglas Beecroft, vous envoyée le 12 mai 1998. Nous sommes très préoccupés par l'interpretation que le bureau des conseils législatifs fait du texte de l'amendement proposé par le gouvernement,» et c'est important. «Il est essentiel que les trois dernières phrases de l'avis de M. Beecroft soient clarifiées avant le vote sur l'amendement du gouvernement,» quelque chose que le procureur général ou le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones ne veut jamais admettre : que l'AJEFO, oui, a négocié un amendement avec le gouvernement, et l'AJEFO a pensé originalement que cet amendement était clair. Mais l'AJEFO, eux, ont dit, «Une minute. L'avis de M. Beecroft nous inquiète, et nous, l'Association des juristes d'expression française, voulons avoir une interpretation du procureur général, et on veut avoir sur le record ce que ça veut dire. Est-ce que M. Beecroft est correct, ou est-ce que c'est le procureur général qui l'est ? Ou veut avoir des assurances, quelque chose que le procureur général n'a jamais donné.»
C'est pour ça que nous, on n'a jamais cédé ce débat. M. le procureur général, il est plus "smart" que tout le monde, il est brillant. Il ne veut pas croire M. Beecroft du bureau des conseils législatifs de l'Ontario.
Je dis a moi-même, okay, il ne croit pas Gilles Bisson, il ne croit pas le conseil du bureau législatif de l'Ontario, il ne croit pas l'Association des juristes d'expression française. Peut-être qu'on a besoin d'autres preuves. Des fois, c'est dur à faire comprendre ce gouvernement. Ce n'est pas du monde qui aime écouter. J'a dit, «Okay, pas de problème. On va retrouver quelqu'un d'autre.»
Est-ce qu'on connaît M. Paul Rouleau ici à l'Assemblée ? Il est avocat chez Genest Murray DesBrisay Lamek. M. Paul Rouleau est un des avocats les plus reconnus - pas le seul - dans la province quand ça vient à la question de l'interpretation des droits linguistiques. On est tous d'accord, oui ? Je vais lire ce que M. Rouleau m'a écrit dans la lettre endatée le 25 mai.
Moi, je me dis, «Écoute. M. Harnick ne croit pas, il méprend la décision du bureau des conseils législatifs, il méprend l'amendement du gouvernement, il méprend l'entente. Je vais tout envoyer directement à M. Rouleau et je vais demander à M. Rouleau de s'organiser pour regarder cette décision et voir s'il y a possiblement quelque chose que j'a mal compris.» C'est possible. C'est peut-être moi. Il se peut que le procureur général est correct.
Je lis de la lettre du 25 mai 1998, écrite à moi. C'est une longue décision. Je ne vais pas toute la lire en détail, mais je veux dire un couple de parties qui sont importantes.
«Pour les motifs qui suivent nous sommes de l'avis que l'effet de la Loi 108 est de restreindre le droit statuaire des Franco-Ontariens(nes) à un poursuivant bilingue dans le cas des poursuites déléguées aux municipalités sous la Loi 108 lorsqu'ils choisissent un procès bilingue et que l'amendement proposé par le gouvernement à la Loi 108 n'aura pas l'effet de garantir le droit à un poursuivant bilingue.» Pas mal clair.
Le bureau législatif de l'Ontario, et là M. Paul Rouleau, écrit une décision qui est très intéressante et très longue, puis je n'ai pas le temps de tout mettre sur le record. Mais je veux faire - il a fait une analyse qui est excellente. L'analyse dit, «Écoute, le problème qu'on a c'est que la municipalité va signer une entente avec le gouvernement qui supposément protège les services linguistiques pour les francophones.» Mais quand on lit la section 164(3), il dit que, «Tu ne peut pas invalider un procès si la municipalité a cassé l'entente,» en autres mots n'a pas donné les services en français, tel qui est exigé dans l'entente.
Numéro un, tu ne peux pas invalider le procès s'ils ne suivent pas l'entente. Ça veut dire l'ntente n'a vaut rien. Ça ne vaut pas le papier c'est écrit dessus, parce que la municipalité peut la casser, puis il n'y a rien que le gouvernement provincial peut faire. C'est bien clair.
La deuxième affaire qu'il dit dans cette opinion légale qui est intéressante est, quand tu lis l'amendement du gouvernement 164(4):
"Without limiting the generality of subsection (3), that subsection does not preserve the validity of the proceeding if the failure to comply with the agreement results in prejudice to the defendant's right to a fair hearing."
Là quoi j'ai besoin de faire, selon M. Rouleau, c'est d'aller à la cour provinciale et de dire, «Moi, j'étais préjugé par le juge municipal, parce qu'il ne m'a pas donné mon procès en français.» Puis là, le juge provincial va dire : «Démontre-moi comment tu étais préjugé. Puis ils l'ont fait en anglais. Monsieur Bisson, parlez-vous l'anglais ?» «Oui.» «Tu n'a pas été préjugé.» Bien simple. Parce que j'ai compris tout qui était dit.
Même pire, quand tu lis l'opinion de M. Rouleau, qui était écrite par lui, datée le 25 mai, c'est que même si tu ne comprends pas l'anglais et que tu vas en cour puis ton nom c'est Mme Tremblay de Hearst, tu ne parles pas un mot, deux mots d'anglais, te pointes à la cour municipale et puis donne ton procès en anglais avec une interprète, l'interprétation de quoi qu'il dit en anglais, le juge va dire, "Did they provide an interpreter, Mrs Tremblay?" Ils vont faire l'interprétation et ils vont vous donner une interprète, madame Tremblay. Puis elle va dire, «Oui, j'ai eu une interprète.» "Sorry, you weren't prejudiced. Section 164(4) says you have to prove you're prejudiced. Mrs Tremblay, go home. You were not prejudiced." C'est ça qui va arriver.
Ça ce n'est pas Gilles Bisson qui le dit, c'est M. Paul Rouleau, dès la décision que j'ai eue de lui datée le 25 mai 1998, selon l'opinion que j'ai eue de M. Beecroft, du bureau des conseils législatifs, datée le 12 mai 1998, et selon l'AJEFO, le lettre qu'ils m'ont donnée le 12 mai, ce même mois. Ce n'est pas assez? Okay, on va aller chercher une autre opinion.
J'ai dit, «Okay, le gouvernement ne vont pas croire ces mots. On va demander une autre opinion. Peut-être qu'on n'a pas assez d'opinions.» Ce n'est pas le seul jeu qu'on a besoin de jouer avec le gouvernement. J'ai demandé pour une autre opinion légal, de Racicot, Maisonneuve, Labelle, Cooper de Timmins. C'est signé par mon ami, un avocat qui connaît son affaire, M. Michel Labelle. Il m'écrit, datée le 26 mai de 1998, la lettre suivante. Il arrive un peu a faire les mêmes assignations que M. Paul Rouleau a fait, et j'ai trouvé son opinion plus claire. Je vais la lire, parce que c'est intéressant quoi qu'il dit.
«Par l'entremise du projet de loi 108, la province désire transférer aux municipalités le droit de mener certaines poursuites. La municipalité n'agirait toutefois pas comme mandataire de la couronne du chef de l'Ontario, ni du procureur général.
«Toutefois, la municipalité et la couronne seraient partie à une entente (memorandum of understanding). En vertu de cette entente, l'article 2.1.6 reconnaît le droit des francophones à une audience en français tel que stipulé dans la Loi sur les tribunaux judiciaires.» Là il écrit la section du MOU, de l'entente.
«Nous sommes d'avis que la clause ci-haut mentionnée conserve le droit à un francophone à une audience en français si la municipalité serait dans l'obligation de respecter cette entente. Toutefois, le projet de loi 108 prévoit que le non respect de l'entente par une municipalité n'invalide pas une instance pour le seul motif qu'une personne n'a pas observé l'entente.»
Il dit la même affaire que M. Rouleau. Oui, l'entente qui est signée par la municipalité dit qu'on va préserver les droits, mais ça ne veut rien dire, parce que la municipalité peut casser l'entente, et selon la section 164(3), ils ont le droit de casser l'entente et il n'y a rien qu'on peut faire de l'affaire. C'est dans la loi.
Le gouvernement joue un jeu. Ils nous disent qu'ils nous donnent une protection, mais il y a une section dans la loi qui dit qu'on ne peut pas invalider un processus sur la condition que l'entente a été brisée.
Je suis revenu à l'Assemblée et j'ai posé la question au ministre. J'ai dit, «Monsieur le ministre, on a offert trois opinions légales, celles de M. Rouleau, M. Labelle, M. Beecroft, et tous les trois disent la même affaire : votre amendement ne donne pas la protection législative aux francophones tel que dit.» Le procureur général répond en nous disant que les droits des francophones protègent les droits français.
Monsieur le Président, combien d'opinions légales a-t-on besoin d'amener à ce gouvernement pour les faire comprendre que l'amendement qu'ils proposent ne donne pas les protections linguistiques aux francophones ? Combien a-t-on besoin d'amener ?
L'AJEFO, selon leur lettre daté le 13 mai, dit qu'il est essentiel que les trois dernières phrases de l'avis de M. Beecroft soient clarifiées avant le vote sur l'amendement du gouvernement. Ils reconnaissent, comme avocats, qu'il y a un problème.
Cette fin de semaine, j'ai assisté à la réunion annuelle de l'ACFO, l'Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario. M. Villeneuve y est venu nous dire, «Si M. Bisson ne cède pas la place dans le débat au comité plénier, nous autres, on va introduire une motion de clôture,» a time allocation motion. «On va arrêter le débat et on va passer le projet de loi sans amendement.» Une minute, là.
Le gouvernement, eux, nous prennent pour qui, comme législateurs ? Pour qui prennent-ils la communauté ? Ils ont une majorité à la Chambre. Il y a deux motions de clôture présentement devant nous, une qui dit que le gouvernement a le droit de passer le projet de loi avec amendements et une qui dit qu'il a le droit de passer le projet de loi sans amendements. Le gouvernement a choisi. Il a choisi d'appeler cette motion, et cette motion est très claire que le gouvernement va passer ce projet de loi sans amendements. Je peux seulement conclure que c'est parce que ce gouvernement croit que leurs amendements ne protègent pas les droits des francophones. Moi, quand j'ai la chance de poser la question au ministre, il continue à nous dire qu'il protège les droits en français. Excuse-moi. Ça ne les protège pas.
J'ai eu l'opportunité, cette fin de semaine, de demander encore aux avocats, M. Paul Rouleau, M. Gérard Lévesque et autres, leurs opinions pour m'assurer que j'ai bien compris les lettres que j'avais. Ils ont été clairs. Ils ont dit : «Écoute, Gilles. L'affaire n'est pas claire. L'amendement que le gouvernement nous donne ne protège pas les services tel qu'ils nous ont dit.»
L'avis que M. Rouleau nous donne est que la meilleure chose est de faire cet amendement. Pourquoi ? Pour des raisons légales faisant affaire avec la Charte, selon M. Rouleau, il pense que c'est mieux de faire valoriser l'amendement parce que, au moins, de cette manière, on peut faire une plainte à la Charte et à la constitution pour avoir encore nos services en français dans nos cours. C'est le gouvernement fédéral qui a premièrement transféré les offenses aux provinces, et il ne s'est pas assuré que les droits aux services en français seraient protégés. Selon M. Rouleau, c'est mieux de ne pas avoir un amendement là-dedans. Au moins, d'une telle manière, on a une opportunité à plaider au cour fédéral pour avoir nos garanties.
L'autre affaire que je veux clarifier et qui est très important : M. le procureur général dit que quand le gouvernement Rae était au pouvoir et qu'on a transféré les offenses de stationnement aux municipalités, on n'a pas garantit les services en français, qu'ils sont, eux, le seul gouvernement qui a jamais, dans l'histoire de la province, donné cette garantie.
Excuse-moi. Il est plein de quelque chose, puis je ne vais pas vous dire de quoi.
Moi, j'étais membre de ce gouvernement, de M. Rae, et je me rappelle très bien ce débat, parce que c'était l'AJEFO qui est venue nous voir quand on était le gouvernement pour nous dire, «Il y a un problème avec le projet de loi de M. Rae.» On a donné les garanties législatives à la législation quand on a fait des amendements au projet de loi. Puis M. Harnick oublie ça. Pour lui d'entrer dans cette Assemblée puis de faire croire que le gouvernement Rae a donné les droits des francophones quand on a transféré les offenses de stationnement, il est plein de quelque chose.
La réalité c'est que quand l'AJEFO est venue nous voir - parce que ce qui est arrivé avec nous c'est la même affaire qui est arrivé avec eux - on a commencé à transférer les offenses de stationnement aux municipalités. Nous autres, on a fait la même erreur que le gouvernement semble faire comme c'est là, et l'AJEFO est venue nous voir. Si je me rappelle bien c'était M. Lévesque - ils sont venus nous voir, et ils ont dit : «Une minute, M. Rae, il y a un problème. On n'a pas de garantie pour les francophones faisant affaire avec les droits.»
Ce qui est important à noter, c'est quand l'AJEFO est venue nous voir et parler au gouvernement - dans le temps c'était Mme Boyd qui était la procureure générale - ils ont dit: «Il y a un problème avec ce projet de loi. Les droits des francophones ne sont pas protégés de la manière que l'on veut. Les droits des francophones vont être diminués si la loi est passée telle quelle.» On a fait des amendements à la loi qui sont ici dans ma main.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Maybe you should say it in English.
Mr Bisson: That's a good point. I think I need to say this in English so that the government picks this up.
The Attorney General argues that when the Rae government was in power, it transferred parking offences to the municipalities, and he puts forward the argument, incorrectly, that when the Rae government transferred those parking offences, we did not, as that government, protect French-language service rights. I have the bill here. The legislative guarantee was given, because when l'Association des juristes d'expression française came to see us, they pointed out the error we had made, and yes, there was an error made. I admit that. For that reason we amended the legislation. We reintroduced the piece of legislation when we reopened the Courts of Justice Act - I have it here - and we protected in the legislation French-language service rights. We could do it.
Interjection: Bad research again.
Mr Bisson: Bad research on the part of the government.
Government members, it is interesting to note the pieces of paper. If you don't believe the pieces of paper printed by Hansard and the bills printed by this House, you have a problem.
Le point que je fais est ceci : je crois sincèrement que le gouvernement, quand il a fait la Loi 108, a fait une erreur. Je suis préparé à accepter ce point. Il n'y a pas un gouvernement dans le monde qui n'a jamais fait des erreurs. Mon gouvernement en a fait, tout comme le gouvernement de M. Grandmaître. On fait tous des erreurs. Mais, quand on voit qu'on a fait une erreur, c'est à nous autres de la corriger si on croit à nos convictions. Je sais, et j'ai toute confiance, que s'il avait été le gouvernement de M. Peterson, comme était le cas avec le gouvernement de M. Rae, que l'erreur aurait été corrigée. On a une croyance que les droits linguistiques sont importants.
Mais, ce gouvernement nous dit, «Non, le procureur général, lui, il est smart. Il est assez smart, c'est épouvantable. Il est le seul gars qui sait comment faire un amendement, puis il est le seul gars qui sait comment faire l'interprétation. M. Beecroft ne sait pas de quoi il parle. M. Labelle ne sait pas de quoi il parle. M. Rouleau ne sait pas de quoi il parle. M. Bisson ne sait pas - personne ne sait rien, sauf lui. Il est donc brillant.» Je suis vraiment excité, comment qu'il est brillant cet homme là. Le même gars, te rappelles-tu ce qu'il a fait avec le Family Responsibility Office ? Je ne veux pas m'implanter dans ce débat là. C'est le même gars, quand ça vient à the Family Support Plan, il a tout complètement bouleversé le système, il a tout complètement cassé. On l'a poigné avec les mains chaudes dans la marmite en train de casser le système, puis il dit : «O non, je n'ai rien fait. Ce n'est pas moi, c'était ma main.»
Je n'ai pas de confiance en ce procureur général quand ça vient à n'importe quoi qu'il fait, parce que je te le dis, il a what we call the inverted Midas touch. N'importe quoi qu'il touche ne vire pas en or, ça vire en quelque chose d'autre. C'est ça que ça vire. Puis dans ce cas-ci, le procureur général serait mieux servi de faire ce qui est important, de respecter la communauté francophone, d'admettre qu'il a fait une erreur, et de faire un amendement qui est clair, qui dit, «nous, le gouvernement de l'Ontario de M. Harris, voulons protéger les droits linguistiques des francophones quand on transfère des services aux municipalités, et on veut écrire un amendement qui est clair et au point, qui dit que les francophones, une fois ce service transféré, vont se trouver avec les mêmes garanties qu'on a présentement dans la loi.» C'est bien simple. Si le gouvernement ne choisit pas de faire ça, ça me dit que, soit ils n'ont pas de confiance en leur amendement, ou qu'ils sont en train de nous faire passer un gros sapin. On s'en fiche bien, c'est vraiment le point.
N'oubliez pas, puis j'ai besoin de répéter ce point. Le gouvernement a deux motions de clôture, «two time allocation motions». Ils peuvent choisir. Ils ont fait un choix. Une motion du gouvernement, avec sa majorité, qu'il peut passer avec aucun problème, qui dit, «On va permettre au projet de loi 108 de sortir du comité plénier et introduire l'amendement du gouvernement.» L'autre motion dit, «on sort le projet de loi sans amendement.» Le gouvernement peut en choisir l'un ou l'autre. Peu importe lequel ils ont choisi, ils ont choisit l'amendement qui dit, «aucun amendement». Ils s'en fichent bien. Ils disent, «To heck with the francophone community», on ne croit pas en les services linguistiques, les droits linguistiques des francophones.
Peu importe ce qui arrive, ils disent qu'ils n'ont pas confiance en leur amendement, parce que, s'ils avaient confiance, le procureur général appellerait l'amendement de clôture qui permet clairement au gouvernement de faire passer son amendement. Comme mon bon ami, M. Wildman, vient juste de me pointer, c'est ce gouvernement qui considère les francophones comme un groupe d'intérêt. C'est ça le point. Pour moi, c'est quelque chose qui est dégueulasse, quelque chose qui me fait mal comme francophone. Je ne me considère pas un groupe d'intérêt. Je suis sûr que M. Grandmaître, M. Poirier, M. Lalonde et autres députés présents aujourd'hui, et autres francophones à travers la province, ne se sont jamais vu comme une communauté d'intérêt. On est des francophones. On est des Franco-Ontariens. On demeure dans cette province, et c'est la nôtre. On a certains droits linguistiques qui nous ont été accordés, et on veut les garder. Et moi, ça m'insulte de voir ce que fait ce gouvernement.
Justement pour ce point, c'est pour ça que j'ai introduit la Loi 17 dans l'Assemblée, ça fait à peine un mois, et que il est passé à deuxième lecture ici à l'Assemblée, parce que le gouvernement n'a pas eu assez de membres de l'autre bord - victoire pour l'opposition. Parce que nous, ici de ce bord de la Chambre, croyons en les droits linguistiques des francophones. On veut protéger ces droits, et on est préparé de mettre - comme on dit en anglais, «To put our money where our mouth is». Je ne trouve pas comment traduire ça de l'anglais. On a mis sur papier un projet de loi qui dit qu'aucun transfert aux municipalités d'un service provincial qui est présentement couvert sous la Loi 8 ou the Courts of Justice Act ne va être protégé sous la Loi 108.
Moi, je vais vous dire l'affaire qui m'a vraiment bouleversé, comme j'ai dit toute à l'heure, puis la preuve est que ce gouvernement pense qu'on est un groupe d'intérêt. C'est les commentaires que le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones a fait dans l'Assemblée jeudi. Il est venu parler contre le projet de loi, il a parlé contre les droits linguistiques et il a voté contre. Pour un francophone de faire ça, un francophone au sein du cabinet, il faut que tu te demandes, «Pour qui parle-t-il ?» Il ne parle pas pour nous autres.
Jusqu'au point - je vais vous faire signaler ceci - au congrès annuel de l'ACFO, le samedi matin, quand M. Villeneuve est venu avec M. Hampton et M. McGuinty, M. Villeneuve s'est fait posé la question - je pense que c'était M. Marchand qui l'a demandé. Il a dit : «Monsieur le ministre, pourquoi que vous ne parlez pas pour nous les francophones ? Pourquoi ces affaires-là arrivent, puis on lit ça dans la Gazette après, dans les journaux, on voit ça dans les nouvelles - tu ne regardes pas ce qui se passe dans le cabinet ?» Les mots du ministre ont été bouleversantes - il faut rire parce que ça me dit jusqu'à quel point ce gars, il est compétent - il dit, «Bien, tu sais, je suis le seul francophone au cabinet, puis je ne sais pas toujours ce qui se passe.» Imaginez ça. Qu'est-ce qu'il fait au cabinet ? S'il ne sais pas ce qui se passe, c'est soit (a) son gouvernement n'a pas confiance en lui - puis s'il n'a pas confiance, que le Premier ministre trouve quelqu'un en qui il a confiance - ou (b) qu'il démissionne parce qu'il est incompétent. Il n'a pas de poids. Il ne parle pas pour la communauté francophone au sein du cabinet.
Même le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones a fait un point à Ontario Trente avec moi-même et Mme Bureau le vendredi ou jeudi passé. Quand il a essayé de défendre sa position votant contre la Loi 17, M. Villeneuve a dit, et c'est incroyable pour un ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones de dire ça - M. Pouliot avait besoin d'écouter ceci, parce que vous, vous avez été un ministre, comme M. Grandmaître l'a été. Écoutez.
Il s'est fait poser une question faisant affaire avec pourquoi il avait voté contre mon projet de loi 17. Il a dit, «Écoute. Ce n'est pas nécessaire pour un francophone d'avoir les même droits linguistiques à Prescott et Russell qui existent possiblement à London.»
Pouvez-vous imaginer que le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones pense que les francophones peuvent avoir des droits différents dépendants de s'ils demeurent à London ou qu'ils demeurent à Prescott et Russell, deux endroits couverts sous la Loi 8 ? Le point, c'est que le ministre pense que c'est correct.
Je veux mettre quelque chose sur le record. Les francophones à London ont besoin, et possiblement plus, des protections sous la Loi 8 que ceux à Prescott et Russell, parce qu'ils sont moins nombreux et ils ont moins de chance de faire l'accès aux services en français. Ils ont besoin de garanties législatives pour protéger les services en français. C'est très important à Prescott et Russell, mais je pense que c'est possible que c'est même plus important à London. Ça me dit que ce gouvernement et ce ministre ont vraiment un agenda quand ça vient aux francophones.
Ils ont essayé de dire de bonnes paroles. Ils disent, depuis un couple d'années, «Nous autres, on aime les francophones.» Il faut les juger par leurs actions.
M. Bisson: Exactement. Ils essaient de nous endormir.
Le même gouvernement qui essaie de fermer l'hôpital Montfort, grâce à la communauté francophone et Mme Gisèle Lalonde s'est fait renverser leur décision. C'est le même gouvernement qui a mis seulement - c'est quoi ? - un francophone sur le conseil de santé de la région d'Ottawa, ce gouvernement qui prétend parler pour les francophones, le même gouvernement qui a fermé des centres de santé communautaire tels qu'à Timmins, le même gouvernement qui alloue la fermeture de garderies francophones dans la province par le changement des règlements dans la domaine de garde d'enfants, le même gouvernement qui essaie de nous enlever nos droits linguistiques dans la Loi 108, comme ils vont faire aussi quand ils transféreront une gamme de services aux municipalités.
Monsieur le Président, ce n'est pas acceptable. C'est pour cette raison que notre caucus - M. Marchese, M. Silipo, moi-même et le reste - a dit qu'on va, au caucus NPD, si le gouvernement en est incapable et ne veut pas, essayer de protéger les droits linguistiques. On va faire tout dans notre pouvoir comme opposition pour trouver une manière d'assurer les droits linguistiques pour les francophones. Nous au parti ND, on y croit, et on met en pratique ce dont on croit. Ce gouvernement va dans la direction opposée.
C'est clair. Le gouvernement sait qu'ils ont un choix à faire. Le choix, c'est qu'ils acceptent mon amendement. S'ils ne sont pas capables, s'ils ne le veulent pas, c'est correct ; pas de problème. Qu'ils écrivent leur amendement eux-mêmes, et je le dis publiquement, on va leur donner le crédit. Je le dis aujourd'hui à l'Assemblée, si le gouvernement rentre avec un amendement qui dit, Conservateurs, on va protéger les droits linguistiques, moi, je vais aller en avant des médias pour dire, «I give government full credit.» Je n'ai pas de problème à le faire, puis je le dirais tout de suite.
Ou, s'ils ne font pas ça, il y a un autre choix : acceptez un de leurs deux motions d'allocation de temps. Ils ont le choix de dire, un, que le projet de loi passe avec l'amendement, parce qu'ils ont le droit, ils en sont capables avec les motions tels qu'elles sont présentées devant l'Assemblée, ce qui veut dire que leur amendement passerait, s'ils croient à ce qu'ils font. Ou ils font comme ils ont choisi. Ce gouvernement a choisi de ne pas inclure un amendement. Pourquoi ? On peut seulement penser que soit qu'ils n'ont pas confiance en leur amendement, ou qu'ils essaient de parler à la base réformiste de leur parti en disant qu'on n'est pas trop fort quand ça vient aux droits linguistiques des francophones. Ou ils essaient nous faire passer un sapin.
Ce n'est pas acceptable. C'est pour cette raison que notre caucus va continuer, avec l'aide du caucus libéral, à oeuvrer à protéger les droits linguistiques des francophones. Si le gouvernement en est incapable, si le gouvernement ne veut pas, nous, on est préparés à le faire. On continue la lutte.
The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Notice of motion number 16: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please 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 1755 to 1800.
The Speaker: All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Baird, John R.
Eves, Ernie L.
Ford, Douglas B.
Jordan, W. Leo
Leadston, Gary L.
McLean, Allan K.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Young, Terence H.
The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 59; the nays are 26.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:30 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1803.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.