LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Tuesday 6 November 2001 Mardi 6 novembre 2001
Tuesday 6 November 2001 Mardi 6 novembre 2001
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OAK RIDGES MORAINE CONSERVATION ACT, 2001
LOI DE 2001 SUR LA CONSERVATION DE LA MORAINE D'OAK RIDGES
Resuming the debate adjourned on November 5, 2001, on the motion for second reading of Bill 122, An Act to conserve the Oak Ridges Moraine by providing of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan / Projet de loi 122, Loi visant à conserver la moraine d'Oak Ridges en prévoyant l'etablissement du Plan de conservation de la moraine d'Oak Ridges.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Toronto Danforth had finished her debate and we were in the mode to go into questions and comments.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe that we have a quorum.
The Acting Speaker: I assume you want me to check and see?
Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk at the Table: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments? The member for Toronto-Danforth has two minutes to respond.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): I'm really disappointed. I gave a speech the other night for an hour and I wanted to hear what members thought of that speech. But let me guess what some might say.
I pointed out in my speech last night my concerns about this bill which I did not have the opportunity, in my few minutes in response to the minister's statement, to give because I was also talking in response to the minister for women's issues.
There was an article today by Lawrence Solomon, the executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute. He pointed out some of the very flaws in the bill that I talked about. I just want to make it clear to Lawrence Solomon that I support his contention in here, and I made that clear in my comments last night, and that is, moving the development to other environmentally sensitive land, leapfrogging over the Oak Ridges moraine, there's going to be another big battle on the minister's hands. I'm sure he can see it coming.
What I suggested last night -- and I think Mr Solomon would agree with me -- was that the minister might want to look at brownfield development in downtown cities. For instance, Ataratiri has been sitting there in downtown Toronto, hasn't been developed. The government has brought in a new law on brownfields, not adequate but, nonetheless, there might be an opportunity to do legitimate land swaps, only the legitimate ones that the Supreme Court of Canada said need to be funded. We don't want to see sweetheart backroom deals with developers, good friends of the government, to get compensation they don't deserve. They were speculating. But there are other ways to do this. Bring back the green planning act. So the things that Mr Solomon is talking about, the things that I expressed concern about -- if you have a proper planning act, then we won't have these kinds of problems.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): I will be sharing my time this evening with the members for Eglinton-Lawrence, Thunder Bay-Superior North and Sudbury.
I think this is certainly one of the most important --
The Acting Speaker: Your leadoff has been deferred. I have to know if this is your caucus leadoff or not.
Mr Peters: This will be our leadoff. The individual who is going to be speaking to this most important piece of legislation has just arrived in the Legislature this evening.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Eglinton-Lawrence.
Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill 122. I'm going to take time to try to put this bill in a bit of historical perspective, as well as in an environmental perspective and a planning perspective. I hope I can be of help in terms of trying to perhaps put forth some suggestions, some ideas that might fulfill some of the dreams of a lot of people who've been working for years in communities across southern Ontario, really, to protect the area known as the Oak Ridges moraine, which stretches from the plains of Rice Lake all the way to the beautiful Caledon highlands just this side of Orangeville.
This is part of a really underrated, in some cases, and sometimes little appreciated part of the province which is at the doorstep of about six million people. In this part of Ontario, you can almost do anything -- if you want to grow apples and be an apple farmer, if you want to ride horses, if you want to live in very moderately sized communities that are like small-town Ontario, little places like King City, which is small yet vibrant and historical. You can be in Uxbridge, on the other end, near the Ganaraska forest. So there's everything. There are brown trout; there are five-lined skinks. The skink is Ontario's last lizard. It's almost on the verge of extinction. It lives up there on the moraine. There are blue heron. Again, if you're a fisherman, or a fisher person, whatever you're supposed to say these days, if you're a nature lover, if you're a hiker, a birdwatcher or you're a person who basically wants to live in a quiet community, you can live on the moraine in compatible surroundings with wonderful wildlife, with trees of every species, with wildflowers. Everything is there on the Oak Ridges moraine.
As you know, the Oak Ridges moraine is really the source of water for over 30 to 40 rivers and streams, everything from the Don River, the Humber River, the Rouge, the Holland River to Duffins Creek, Carruthers Creek. There are so many wonderful creeks and rivers that flow from the moraine because it is basically leftover residue from the last ice age which created this gravel and sand, which acts like a natural filter and essentially provides aquifers for the water sources, for people's wells as well as rivers.
As you know, a few years ago in this House, we started to ask questions as members of the Liberal opposition. We asked questions to this government repeatedly. There were six or seven ministers. We asked them again, "Isn't it the duty of the provincial government to protect this valuable piece of natural geography, almost a natural well, from unbridled development?" Repeatedly, over and over again in this House, to minister after minister, whether it was Minister Clement or the Minister of the Environment, Mr Newman, whoever was here, we'd always ask, "Isn't it your job to protect the moraine?" Repeatedly, we got the same answer: "It is not the job of the provincial government to protect the Oak Ridges moraine." They said that in this House.
They said it was the job of the local municipalities. They said there was no need for stronger legislation. They said that those of us in opposition who asked for protection were basically not to be taken seriously. They said that the thousands of people throughout the moraine who were asking for protection -- the people in Goodwood, in King City, in Richmond Hill were told, "Let your local council take care of it." Repeatedly, local MPPs on the moraine, who are Tories for the most part -- it's not to say they were not doing their job, but they basically weren't allowed by the Harris government and the cabinet to do anything about their natural environment up there.
So I introduced a couple of private member's bills, trying to make this government aware that there was something magnificent up there that should be protected. We had those bills before this House on two occasions, both voted down unanimously by the government, which, as you know, in the last dying months has all of a sudden discovered the moraine, when they wouldn't even say the word "moraine" in this House. They were afraid to talk about it because they basically were in favour of unbridled development.
This government systematically, since 1995, has done everything to promote what we call suburban sprawl. In other words, they didn't care about preserving farmland, which we're losing by the acre on a daily basis. They did nothing to preserve the aquifers. This government changed the Planning Act. In 1996, they gutted the Planning Act and made it a free-for-all so developers could basically do anything on the moraine. This government sat back while the moraine was being paved over.
I remember going to meetings in Aurora, meetings in Caledon, meetings in the city of Toronto. We had a number of meetings here in Toronto to get people in Toronto to join the people in King City, the people in Uxbridge, the people in Markham, to come together in a coalition to make people aware of the fact that we were losing this precious resource, the Oak Ridges moraine.
At first, when we brought this to the attention of this government, we had comments like those from Minister Clement, who had many hats during this period when this government was denying there was a moraine issue. Minister Clement was Minister of the Environment and Minister of Municipal Affairs at the time, a key minister in this government. When asked a question about protecting the moraine, here's what the Tory government said then: "`We have something in place that is workable. If applied properly, it can provide a balance,' Clement says. He has rejected calls for a freeze on the moraine development until the province can come up with a development policy."
In other words, they were saying that these old guidelines of 1991 were fine, that it was premature to ask for any kind of development freeze and there was no need whatsoever to do this. In fact, they said, "Development freezes would be something that only other governments would do. We as Conservatives would never freeze development. That's anti-free market." It wasn't necessary. As we saw three or four months ago, this government stood up in this House and said they were going to freeze development on the moraine, after six years of saying it was a stupid idea. They still haven't come to explain why this reversal took place, but I'll speak about that a little later, why all of a sudden now they are starting to say that we are right.
What's really difficult to accept is that this government for years ridiculed and laughed at local environmentalists, local town councillors who said there should be protection on the moraine. They said, "Don't pay attention to those people who want moraine protection. They don't know what they're talking about." Now that this government is introducing legislation to protect the moraine, isn't it odd that these same people who were saying, "Don't pay attention," all of a sudden are saying, "Pay attention to us now," because they are government and they know what they are doing. But for six years they denied any opportunity for people to be heard on this issue and refused to accept good, solid advice.
In fact, it was ironic how bad things were at one time. Minister Clement sent a letter to Roger Anderson, the regional chair of Durham region, explaining to him that he could circumvent the environmental protection laws in putting a sewer in to feed the Gan Eden development. People in Uxbridge were outraged. Here was the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Municipal Affairs basically counselling Durham regional council on how to circumvent environmental protection laws while everybody in Uxbridge was totally against the development of the Oak Ridges moraine in Uxbridge and the Gan Eden development. That was the government then, basically coercing and advising developers over the heads of local councils; the minister himself writing letters, circumventing the process the municipality had to protect the moraine. That's how bad it was.
Here is Minister Clement again. This was in the Globe and Mail, November 25, 1999: "`There isn't going to be a freeze,' environment minister Tony Clement told the Globe yesterday. `That's just a quick fix. That's not going to get you anywhere, because we haven't solved the underlying public policy issues.'" So certainly they didn't support a freeze. They supported very little. They left the moraine out to dry for six years while it was being bulldozed by the development industry.
What was the province saying? Here's another minister of this government, Mr Newman, Minister of the Environment. It says, "Mr Newman had no comment yesterday, but last Friday he said, `The government's position is clear.'"
"`There are local planning decisions that are left to the municipalities and the regions and we go from there,' Mr Newman said." This was the position of this government, which continually blocked attempts by citizens' groups and local councils to protect the moraine, saying that they had no role, that it was wrong, that it shouldn't be done.
Now, all of a sudden, with this government's popularity in the polls plummeting, they've had a complete reversal. We know why they've had this reversal, because the people in Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Toronto were sick and tired of the pro-development, laissez-faire attitude of this government. They were in bed with the development industry and refused to listen to ordinary people. But ordinary people kept on meeting, ordinary people kept on e-mailing, they kept on writing. They did not get intimidated by this government's ministers, who were telling them, "Be quiet. You don't have to change anything." Time and time again, local residents were basically told to be quiet.
Here is another. The former disgraced Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Gilchrist, said, "The municipalities have the power. They have to use every tool at their disposal." Well, we know the municipalities had no power. The moraine entails over 30 municipal governments and regions. How can the little communities of Caledon or King City take on a planning issue that crossed 32 regions and boundaries of municipalities and regional governments? They couldn't. The disgraced former minister is wrong. The municipalities did not have the tools.
That's why this government has now had to totally change its position and admit that we were right. The local citizens, the grass roots, the opposition who asked for provincial intervention were right. They still have not admitted that they were wrong and we were right for the last six years.
The government of the day has put forward a freeze and now they've come forward with this legislation. I'm going to speak to some parts of this legislation that are most concerning. We notice, ironically, that a lot of the wording in Bill 122 is actually extracted almost word for word from my proposed private member's bill, which this government defeated on a couple of occasions. So it's good to see they've at least plagiarized some of our ideas, but we think this bill could be made stronger. We think this bill could be made better and could be more progressive in its attempt to protect the integrity of the moraine. They didn't listen to us for six years. I hope they start listening to us now, because if they had started listening to us six years ago on stopping sprawl and protecting the environmental integrity of this precious area, we wouldn't have had thousands and thousands of acres paved by this government.
So when we make these recommendations, I just want to put it in perspective that a lot of these recommendations are made by people -- not only by myself -- who I have met at public meetings that I have held myself or local residents have held in dozens of communities across the moraine. I think the people know what they're talking about, and that's why I think their suggestions on how to improve this bill should be listened to.
Primarily, one of the things that is most concerning about this Bill 122 that's supposed to protect the moraine is that this government now has put together a piece of legislation that in its skeletal outline is able to perhaps protect the moraine, but it needs more than a skeletal outline. It needs some muscle, it needs some real power added to the skeleton here to make it a protective piece of legislation that will endure in time. That's why we're going to make a series of recommendations that I think will be most helpful.
Let me state first of all that one of the things that is most concerning to groups among the six million people who live on the moraine is that, as part of protecting the moraine, the minister has announced a series of land swaps to placate the developers who own lands in the Richmond Hill area. We certainly believe the developers should not be stripped of their land rights, but we also believe the developers should not be rewarded beyond what their risk was or beyond what land value they already hold.
In other words, they have these acres in the corridor in Richmond Hill. The minister has said that he is going to give them acreage to the east, in what we call the Seaton lands or Pickering lands, in return for the fact that they're going to give up those lands for development in the Richmond Hill corridor. But in some ways it's like someone goes to the casino and plays the roulette wheel or -- I don't know what they do there -- the slot machines, and they lose money at the slot machines, and then we, the taxpayers, have to reward the gambler who played the slot machines or the roulette wheel. That's what is said right here in this deal that the government is offering these developers. They're saying, "You bought this farmland at $5,000 an acre. Now we're going to give you government land in Pickering at $200,000 or $300,000 an acre." I don't think any developer should be rewarded at that rate.
That's why we in the opposition are saying, like a lot of people are saying right across the moraine, that the development swap, the land swap, should have been in this legislation. In other words, the rules, the principles, the parameters of maybe the largest land swap, which could be worth up to $1 billion, should be in the open. It shouldn't be behind closed doors. This land swap deal, again, worth up to $1 billion of taxpayers' land, is being done behind closed doors. We have no idea of what the land swap details are, or the parameters or the rules. That should have been in the legislation, so that we would know that everybody was playing by the same rules.
What worries me is that this government has a history, through the Ontario Realty Corp, of giving away a lot of taxpayers' land at below-market price. We saw it right around the corner here, where they gave this land to Addison on Bay, through the Ontario Realty Corp -- I think it was the same Minister of Municipal Affairs -- basically for nothing. He's now in charge of this land swap worth $1 billion, that's going to give these developers land in Pickering, in a very sensitive area of the province too, which is on the headwaters of Duffins Creek, Carruthers Creek. He's going to give acreage there to these developers. We don't know at what price; we don't know how much. We've heard rumours that the developers are very happy, and that worries me. Some of the developers are supposedly getting three acres in Pickering for every one acre they gave up in Richmond Hill. That is not acceptable, and that's why one of the amendments we'll be proposing is that the land swap arrangement that is being done behind closed doors, in order to make the process transparent, should be a public process with public rules.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): Bring it out in the open.
Mr Colle: Yes. Don't keep it in the dark, behind closed doors. It should have been part of the legislation. I really have to ask the minister why the land swap, maybe the largest in Ontario's history, is not in the legislation. It should be. At least the rules of the land swap should be in the legislation. It is a glaring omission. It is nowhere to be found in this legislation.
In fact today, Lawrence Solomon, who I think is a former prof at U of T, writes in the Globe and Mail, and the headline says, "Ontario Land Swap Nothing But a Morass for Taxpayers ... Deal Merely Exchanges One Environmental Nightmare for Another." He's very concerned that this government is to undertake a land swap of environmentally sensitive land in Seaton at a greater price to the taxpayer than we should be paying. That's why Lawrence Solomon is saying in his article today in the Globe and Mail: "And yes, sprawl is a major problem around Toronto. Government policies that have promoted a haphazard proliferation of settlements have spurred wasteful energy use, unneeded highways and the conversion of high-value, greater Toronto area farmland into mostly low-value tract housing." He says, "The cost to Ontario taxpayers of this rescue for the developers, coupled with a public park and other initiatives driven by the government's need to save face, could top $250 million."
I would think this could be a heck of a lot more. That is just one small part because, strangely enough, one interesting part of this deal -- there's land known as Gan Eden in Uxbridge that was bought on the eve of the freeze, when basically everybody knew there was going to be a freeze in Gan Eden and Uxbridge. They knew that the land would probably never be developed. This developer went and bought the land. So we have heard that this acreage in Uxbridge now is going to be part of the land swap. What a bonanza. Here we had land that wasn't going to be developed. He buys, and now he's going to be rewarded for buying farmland. Will he be rewarded at the price of acreage per farmland value, or will it be for $200,000 an acre? These are parts of the deal that are not in the legislation. That is a gaping omission in Bill 122 and it is one of the things we think should be in it. This could be a great piece of legislation, but it won't be, with this very, very suspect land swap that is not open to public scrutiny. We're very concerned about that.
The other thing that's very concerning is that the minister himself at any time, by regulation, could revoke the Oak Ridges moraine protection plan. There are two parts to this bill: there's a bill with the rules, and then there's the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan. The minister, in this act, says that any time he wants, he could throw this plan out the window, in the garbage, and say it is of no value. I really wonder whether that is at all part of the deal, supposedly, is part of the agreement that the advisory committee came up with. But for the minister to basically say he can throw this out unilaterally -- without legislation, without consultation, he can say this plan is out the window -- is very suspect. That means at any time we could lose the protection of the Oak Ridges moraine because the minister could, again without notice, without legislation, kill the Oak Ridges moraine plan any time he wants.
That is too much power than I want to give any minister of the Conservative government, given the fact of their track record of six years where they paved the moraine, they changed watercourses, they did nothing but destroy the environmental integrity of the moraine. That's why I don't want to leave that kind of power in the hands of one minister who today says he's going to protect the moraine but for six years was doing the opposite. I really don't trust any minister of this government, because for six years they told me and they told the people of Goodwood and the people of Snowball Corners that we were wrong. So we do not believe them. We want that omitted from the legislation. The plan should not be revoked unless there's legislative change. It can't be done by the imprimatur of one minister at any time he or she feels like it.
Another thing that's very concerning is that it's very difficult to understand what happens to all the development applications that were before this government prior to the freeze. I'll give you a couple of examples. One of the real centres of controversy -- and I think some of the bravest people who took on this government, the Mike Harris government, and all his ministers -- Hodgson, Clement, Newman; you name them, they took them on -- were the brave people of King City. The people in King City do not want to be hooked up to this huge sewer pipe that means massive development going into beautiful, small King City. There are about 20,000 people. They fought against that pipe -- "the big pipe," they called it, the King City pipe -- for years.
The people of King City in many ways have led the fight to protect the moraine, and yet King City's big pipe, with this legislation, will proceed. You can rest assured that the population of King City doesn't feel that Bill 122 and the Oak Ridges moraine plan is of any value to them. King City will lose a lot of its historical integrity if this bill goes through, because there's no protection for King City in this bill. That's why all the reform councillors who were elected -- the brave leader of the fight, Jane Underhill, is very upset with this legislation because there's no protection and the big pipe that will bring in countless numbers of development applications in King City will go ahead. This bill does nothing.
Another very interesting thing: another group of people who were very brave were the people who live around Bayview Avenue in Stouffville. Developers around Bayview Avenue are trying to get the government to extend Bayview Avenue right through the heart of the moraine. It's called the Bayview extension. It is probably the most important linkage of the moraine in the Bayview Avenue area. That's going north from Stouffville Side Road, I think it is.
I've been there. In fact, I've protested up there with the good people, as you know, Mr Speaker. For the last couple of summers, to educate myself, because I'm a city person, I've walked back and forth across the moraine a couple of times with people from all these good communities, and they have taught me a lot. Some of the bravest people beyond the people of King City were the people who live in Richmond Hill near the Bayview extension. Bill 122 allows for Bayview Avenue to be extended right through the heart of the moraine. This bill does not stop the extension of Bayview. You wonder, if this bill is going to stop development on the moraine as everybody thinks, why do you need this road widened through wetlands? There are blue heron in there.
Mr Peters: Salamanders.
Mr Colle: Yes, there are salamanders in there, a rare species; skinks.
So the question is, if this bill is really going to protect the moraine, why does it allow for the paving of the moraine up Bayview Avenue? Nobody wants Bayview Avenue extended up there except a couple of developers and this government. There is no stopping of the Bayview extension going up north.
When those bulldozers come out going up to Bayview, certainly I will be there, side by side with the good people of Richmond Hill and Stouffville. We'll be there trying to stop those bulldozers. We don't care that we may possibly be pushed out of the way by the bulldozers. We're going to be there saying, "You can't bulldoze the moraine up Bayview Avenue." The government knows they're on notice for that. That's why I'm surprised they didn't put stopping the Bayview extension in this bill. It's not here. I think it's a huge gap, because if Bayview goes through, you're basically going to divide much of the moraine in half. It's something that could be included in this bill very easily.
Another thing that has happened -- and this is a bit confusing in this legislation, as I was trying to explain to people, because what's in the bill and what's in the Oak Ridges moraine plan, which is part of the same thing, are contradictory. We'll be bringing this up. I don't think the people who drafted this bill really understood what they were doing in one section, and I'll explain that.
The contradiction is what happens to the applications for development that took place before the freeze took place. According to one piece of legislation, they said they will be grandfathered. In other words, they can go ahead. According to the others, they will not be allowed to go ahead. I hope the government clears that up.
This act allows, in essence, most of the developments that are already on the books in a lot of the very sensitive areas -- I've mentioned some of them already -- to go ahead. I don't think that is acceptable either. As you know, the first thing the government did when it froze the moraine was that the next day it allowed all these exemptions without any consultation. The question is, is the government going to allow all these sensitive developments that are already there, that started a while ago, to take place? Are they exempt? I don't think they should all be exempt. There should be an attempt to essentially curb some of these developments because they are not, you might say, in cohesion with some of the government's pronouncements later.
We want to make sure that the developments in Coppin's Corners, for instance, some of the developments that are taking place up the Humber River, some of the developments that are taking place certainly in Richmond Hill still, that have jumped the queue in a way or have been there before others got in the queue, the developments in Musselman Lake, the developments around Wilcox Lake -- they should not be allowed to go ahead until there is a thorough environmental investigation by this government. This legislation is contradictory, but it seems to be implying that these developments are grandfathered. In other words, they're going to let them slip through without any kind of protection.
The minister also has to ensure that this bill and the plan have what we call a watchdog. In other words, there's a lot of legislation here, it's very complex, there's a lot of geography here, yet this government doesn't have an Oak Ridges moraine commission, which we have asked for in opposition. We think there should be a watchdog of quasi-judicial people appointed by a peer group of environmentalists and hopefully by an all-party committee. We could appoint some of the best and the brightest environmentalists and citizens to sit and be the watchdogs on the moraine. In other words, we need a commission to overview, even more powerful than the one that oversees the Niagara Escarpment. This bill does not have provision for an oversight body.
You know what happens -- and no offence to you and your good name, Mr Speaker. I'll give you an example of what happens. Over the summer, right in the middle of the freeze, this councillor in Pickering known as Bulldozer Johnson had the nerve in the middle of the night to bulldoze two parts --
Mr Marchese: Is that a relative?
Mr Colle: He's not a relative; I'm sure he's not. He's one of the other Johnsons.
Bulldozer Johnson bulldozed part of the Trans Canada Trail. It was a trail of maybe about 12 feet. He took his bulldozer and bulldozed it to a 60-foot scar across the moraine on the Uxbridge-Pickering town line.
I wrote the Minister of the Environment. I wrote the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I said, "You've got to stop Bulldozer Johnson. He has just bulldozed not one part of the trail but two parts." This government did nothing to stop Bulldozer Johnson. He bulldozed it.
Mr Marchese: They didn't respond to your letters?
Mr Colle: They said it was a local responsibility. When I sent the letter, Minister Hodgson said, "It's not my job. It's someone else's job." That is why I've called for a protective commission, because there are too many Bulldozer Johnsons out there. Again, no offence to the Acting Speaker, who is one of the other Johnsons.
That's why I'm saying the public doesn't have the wherewithal, the money, to be watching every nook and cranny of the moraine, because it's huge. Again, it stretches from Peterborough all the way up to Caledon. We need a commission to make sure that people like Bulldozer Johnson are stopped in their tracks, their bulldozers confiscated and, if need be, they're put in jail for violating the Oak Ridges moraine.
But this bill does nothing and did nothing to stop the likes of Bulldozer Johnson. If you want to see what he has done, you can go to the Uxbridge-Pickering town line. In fact, yesterday there was a town meeting in Pickering trying to push local government into taking action against Bulldozer Johnson. But that's not the job of local council. That should be the job of the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. They refuse to do anything to stop the likes of Bulldozer Johnson.
But as I said, there are all kinds of Bulldozer Johnsons out there. That's why we need a protective moraine commission. Only then can we ensure that the moraine becomes a haven for wildlife, a haven for fishermen, a haven for birdwatchers, a haven for people who just like going for a nice walk or hike on a Sunday morning, people who perhaps like picnicking, butterfly catching, photography, whatever. There are some of the most wonderful parts of the province up there, so we need a commission to ensure that the moraine is protected, conserved and promoted as a place to come to for bed and breakfasts, a place to come to to share in the beauty, the smells, the sounds of this sensational part of this province which we will protect if we can get a few improvements to this piece of legislation.
I also want to let people know that in the press in the last number of days after the announcement there have been a lot of pronouncements of people saying we have to thank this government and we have to thank this minister and we have to thank this Premier. I think, first of all, we have to thank the brave people in all these communities who took on local councils.
Strangely enough, most of them were women. The people who led the fight -- not strangely enough, but bravely enough -- were women. I would say they're brave souls, like Teresa Johnson in Goodwood, who was not afraid to take on this government, not afraid to take on developers, not afraid to take on anyone who dared touch her beautiful moraine. Mary Kay Maynard is another brave person up in Goodwood, and all the good people in Goodwood. There were the likes of Jane Underhill in King City, Nancy Hopkinson in Nobleton with Nobleton Alert. There was Kathy Crowe in Aurora. Again, it's all women. Someone should write a book about how women led me, certainly, to learn about the moraine and showed me the bravery that was needed. They were much braver, it seemed, than the men in this battle.
I'll tell you about one interesting individual. This was David Tomlinson, who is a birder and naturalist who lives in Aurora. He would go to Ontario Municipal Board hearings by himself.
Mr Marchese: Who was that?
Mr Colle: David Tomlinson was his name. He was from Aurora. In the Aurora council chambers would be the five OMB lawyers, five Aurora town hall lawyers, 20 development lawyers with their Bay Street pinstripe suits, and here's David sitting at the table, taking on 30 of the highest-priced lawyers, basically taking them to task for not caring about his precious wetlands in Aurora. He wasn't afraid of the developers, as were all the brave people across the moraine. But I have to mention these wonderful people who for years have been going to meetings who don't get their picture in the paper, who weren't thanked by the media because the media always go after the politicians or the superstars. But they forget that there were so many brave souls like Dorothy Izzard up there in King City. There were so many people who gave their $10 or $15 to help pay for pamphlets so they could spread the word of the moraine all through Ballantrae, all through Snowball Corners. They're the people who should be thanked, because this victory, and I think we will get a victory once we expose the weakness of this bill and make it stronger, is their victory. It's the victory of the grassroots over big government and big developers.
When we started this battle, people said up in the moraine, they said in Toronto, "You can't win this battle. They'll never freeze development of the moraine." The ministers -- Hodgson, Clement -- said, "Building is good for the economy, progress. We've got to bulldoze for the future." That is not what they're saying today, because these brave people have turned it all around. They were brave enough to say that bulldozing is not good for the future. You don't bulldoze everywhere. You sometimes have to stop, and sometimes you have to promote what is called slow growth. In other words, you don't always have to have fast growth, rapid growth. Once in a while you've got to have slow, planned growth that doesn't create automobile slums. That's what this government has basically done.
There's nothing wrong with automobiles, as you know. I drive an automobile, I'm proud to drive an automobile, but you just can't always build everything for the automobile. You also have to build for the future, and that is by keeping farmland, by keeping watercourses, protecting aquifers. That is what the grassroots kept on telling me, kept on telling the media: that it's not right just to bulldoze and build cookie-cutter homes from Oshawa to Oakville. They said that the sprawl must be stopped. They said that the provincial government has a duty to stop sprawl. For six years, this government did nothing but make it impossible for local citizens' groups to stop sprawl, to save their parks, to save their fish and their wildlife.
I don't congratulate the government. I've said thanks to the minister for bringing forth the legislation and I've said that a number of times, but I congratulate the wonderful citizens of southern Ontario who came to meeting after meeting, who were not intimidated by the developers, who were not intimidated by this Legislature, who never gave up when they were blocked. They went over and over again.
I can remember the famous scene in Richmond Hill, where there were about 2,500 people in one of the big hotels there. There were 2,500 people in Richmond Hill, and Richmond Hill council was there. There was going to be a night where they would look at Richmond Hill's attempt to curtail sprawl and stop this development that was proposed by one of the world's largest developers. If you can imagine the scene: 2,500 people sitting there in a ballroom and the council was there and they said, "We're going to discuss this development application by Mr So-and-So." I think it was Mr Lebovic at that time.
The first thing that happened was that the town clerk picked up a letter and said, "Sorry, this is a letter from Mr Lebovic saying that he wishes not to attend the meeting tonight with his application because he doesn't have to. He is going to take the application to the Ontario Municipal Board. They will decide on the application." In other words, it didn't matter what Richmond Hill council decided. It didn't matter what 2,500 people were saying. The developer said, "I don't care what you think. The Ontario government allows me to go to the Ontario Municipal Board and they will rubber-stamp my development." That was totally unacceptable to the people of Richmond Hill, to the point where they basically forced Richmond Hill council to change their vote and helped to turn around this whole awareness about the Oak Ridges moraine.
In fact, they also wanted to give some praise to the city council of Toronto, who had the guts to put forward their money where their mouth was and put $1 million toward fighting this government and fighting the developers at the Richmond Hill Ontario Municipal Board hearings. What they did was, they were able to hire with that money one of the best lawyers in planning in Toronto, Alan Heisey, who joined with the Jefferson Forest Ratepayers' Association and Save the Rouge, and they blocked this government from bulldozing Richmond Hill. That was a very brave commitment of money by the city of Toronto, where this money should have been coming from this government to stop the paving of Richmond Hill. The government in fact was on the other side. They refused to tighten up the planning rules to stop it. Instead, they forced the city of Toronto to pay money to fight the development in Richmond Hill.
These are the countless stories of how this government's wrong-headed policies for six years promoted, as I said, automobile slums. We have automobile slums all over North America -- in Toronto, in Richmond Hill -- because what happens is that it's much easier to put up a strip mall, it's much easier to widen a road, it's much easier to put up another parking lot, especially over farmland, and this government's policies have promoted that free reign over precious land, creating what James Kunstler calls an automobile slum. We can have automobiles, but they should be in their place. What we need is liveable, sustainable cities and towns. We've got to preserve our small towns like King City; we have to preserve our small towns like Uxbridge, our hamlets like Goodwood, Caledon, Orangeville, Pefferlaw. All these communities are wonderful places to raise a family. They're wonderful places to interact.
You've got some of the most involved people I've ever met in these communities across the moraine who care about local art. They care about the disadvantaged in their community. They care about their neighbourhoods. They are supportive of the local police. They are supportive of the local Rotary. These are, you might say, the backbone of all the people I would like to congratulate for at least bringing it to this point. I will continue to mention their names because they represent some of the best and brightest people I have even walked with. I had a 77-year-old woman with a hip replacement walk through farmers' fields with me because she felt so motivated about losing farmland. When you see that, you just know that if you're able-bodied, you can at least do a little bit to help preserve the moraine.
There are countless little stories about First Nations people hiking through King City who were so happy to see us hiking through the backwoods of King City, saying, "Thanks, that you share our love for these natural areas." We had story after story of people who said, "It is wonderful to have this kind of togetherness." David Suzuki came to speak to us and told us we have to change our ways. Pierre Berton has been with us and Hal Jackman. All kinds of people have said, "Don't listen to the side of darkness that says you have to pave everything black. Progress is not just paving. Progress can be preserving. Progress can be conserving.
I also want to say to people all across the province and all across the GTA who are still wondering where we go from here that in the last year there have been about four different occasions where we've read the big, bold headlines in the Toronto Star and other newspapers which say, "The moraine is saved."
I remember one time they had this map on the front page of the paper saying, "The moraine is saved because the province has put out a map." So I'm getting all these e-mails and phone calls from right across the province saying, "The moraine is saved. Great. It's on the front page of the paper." That map represented about 1% of the moraine, but because the headline said, "Moraine Saved," they all, in their hope, thought it was true. But I told them at that time, "Please, before you accept the moraine as saved, wait for a couple of weeks. Let's go through the proposals, let's separate the truth from fiction, and we'll find out whether the moraine is saved." That was a false alarm. That map was basically useless. It was an attempt by this government to pretend they were doing something.
Then we had another occasion when the freeze was first announced. People said, "The moraine is saved again. They froze it. It's gone." I said, "No, no, it's a temporary freeze. It's not saved yet." Then, as you know, within a week the government announced about 10,000 acres of paving as part of the exemptions to the freeze. Again I told them, "Please, don't think it's saved because a freeze is announced."
Then another occasion occurred when this panel of experts the government appointed to bring forward a plan for the moraine, some good people, had their first draft. They had their press conferences and the government said, "This is great. Everybody's got to accept this first draft to protect the moraine. It's a wonderful plan. You've all got to salute it." Some of us said, "Here we go again. This is the fourth time." The moraine was not saved by the first draft. The first draft was basically miserable. It didn't really do anything.
I guess this is hopefully the second-last or last stage, where we had all this fanfare. We had Bill 122 announced. We were told again, "We've got to salute this bill. It's fantastic. Mike Harris is going to be knighted along with Conrad Black," all this kind of thing over the e-mails and newspapers. They were going to name it the Mike Harris Moraine Park, all this kind of stuff. And I said, "Just wait a minute, please. This is the fifth time we've been told the moraine is saved."
What I also tell them is to remember that this is a desperate government that knows that the polling --
The Acting Speaker: Would the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London --
Mr Peters: Sorry, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Eglinton-Lawrence.
Mr Colle: Now we've had the fifth introduction of good news that the government is going to protect the moraine. As much as I think we are close to protection for the moraine, I still think we can make this legislation much stronger so that it will last for decades and generations. But I implore people out there not to break out the champagne yet. We have a duty. I say to them, "Remember the other four times when we were told to accept these plans. They weren't good enough."
This is a government on the run. This is a government that is being forced into this position. They're going to protect the moraine; they have no choice. None of them would be elected. All the members of this party who have ridings in the 905 won't win a seat if they don't protect the moraine. So rest assured the moraine will be protected, but don't take just half a loaf. Be tough, be informed. Let's strengthen this bill, let's amend it, let's make it stronger so we get rid of the backroom land swapping. That cannot be part of this attempt to save the moraine.
We have to make sure that the plan can't be revoked by the minister with just the stroke of a pen. We have to make sure there are no exemptions, all across the moraine, of sensitive developments. We've got to make sure that Bayview Avenue, for one, is not bulldozed through the moraine. I ask people in Uxbridge, in Cobourg and all across the moraine to join with us for this last leg of the battle, to make sure that the people of King City get their protection, to make sure that the people who live around Bayview Avenue get their protection.
Certainly I also want to ensure that somehow -- this bill also does not allow full protection for the eastern end of the moraine, which is part of the Northumberland section that goes all the way past the great plains of Rice Lake to the Trent hills. This bill excludes that from the highest level of protection. That's why I've said over and over again to the people of Newmarket, Thornhill and Toronto, let us keep pushing to make this better legislation that includes everyone, that includes all the moraine, because geographically this bill includes only three quarters of the moraine. One quarter of the moraine is not protected.
I think that part of the moraine -- the Northumberland forest, the Trent hills and the plains of Rice Lake -- is a marvellous natural area that cannot be susceptible to bulldozers. There is wonderful farmland there, there is wonderful fishing there, and it's essentially a buffer between Rice Lake and Lake Ontario. The moraine is right in the middle. It feeds both Rice Lake and Lake Ontario, and I think that should be part of the protective plan. I don't understand why that part of the moraine has been left out. Just like that phony map the government put out early on when they said that 1% of the moraine was going to save the moraine, that's not the moraine. The moraine is not just Oak Ridges, Richmond Hill or Uxbridge; the moraine, as I said, goes all the way to the Trent hills, to Dufferin county, all the way down to Peel, and it is a precious area. What I wonder and worry about is that, as much as there's a green corridor, a lot of these exemptions which the government is allowing in this legislation may put a lot of grey-black areas through the green corridor.
I hope there are meaningful public hearings, and I invite people from all across southern Ontario to come to the meetings. I hope, and I'm sure, the brave women, especially, who have been leading this battle across the moraine -- Deb Crandall and Teresa Johnson, all these wonderful people -- continue to ask for better and improved legislation. Bill 122 can be strengthened and improved, and in the public meetings that will take place -- the government has promised public meetings -- we can come up with some expert analysis, some expert amendments to make this a strong bill that will endure the test of time.
I don't think we'll ever have another kick at the can here and I think we've got an opportunity to get it right. We've brought the government, kicking and screaming, to this point. For years they denied they had to do anything about it. The polling, the election results in Vaughan-King-Aurora, a whole host of things -- the government knows people will not accept anything but a full protection plan. We have a plan that may be the beginning, that is the genesis of a protection plan, but I think through good input from the public out there -- we had 400 scientists who said the moraine should be protected. I would like to get input from them.
As much as it's great to celebrate, I think it's a bit premature. We have perhaps a few more weeks to add some -- in opposition we will do this. We will put forward some very thoughtful amendments. We've thought of some already. I've mentioned some of them tonight. We do it because we think there are a lot of backbenchers who have been calling for this, even on the Conservative side, but they haven't been able to express that because the cabinet members have squashed every attempt to protect the moraine. We've seen them do that over the last six years.
I think the first signal this government has to give that it's serious is to ensure that the multi-million dollar land swap they've announced is not secret, because the genesis of all the problems in the Oak Ridges moraine area has been the secret pressures from the development industry, who exert undue pressure on local councils and bring undue pressure to bear on this government. I think the land swap for Seaton has to be in the open, with public rules, public principles and public parameters, and with no hidden agendas. It's got to be a public agenda.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Marchese: I want to congratulate the member for Eglinton-Lawrence for his vigorous defence of the Oak Ridges moraine and for his defence against development and particularly developers. While it is true that Liberals know a couple of developers themselves, in this instance the Liberals have fought against developers and development.
What he says is also very true: he praises, quite correctly, the men and women -- particularly the women -- in that 905 region who have been very, very effective organizing against this government in protection of the Oak Ridges moraine. There were a lot of good men and women fighting the amalgamation of the city of Toronto -- just as strong, just as good, just as vigorous in defence of their local cities. But they weren't very successful in convincing the Tory members of the Toronto caucus, let alone this other caucus that comes from the rest of the province. So, yes, praise the men and women from the 905 region who convinced this government to see the light.
But it's not a matter of seeing the light; it's a matter of an election coming soon, right? It's not a question of Mike Harris all of a sudden rediscovering the Oak Ridges moraine. He said, "Holy cow, we're coming near an election. We're in big trouble. What do we do?" It wasn't so hard for the men and women to be effective in convincing Mike Harris and the rest that they had a problem. Nevertheless, irrespective of that, they have succeeded and they were victorious, unlike in other regions of the province where men and women of good will have not been able to persuade this government to do the right thing.
The member for Eglinton-Lawrence talked about the fact that this government still controls and has the power to revoke this plan with the stroke of a pen. They still have the power to do that, and there is no protection against the power of the government to do that. And we know they've used it in the past.
I congratulate the member.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): I'd first like to make a remark on the member for Eglinton-Lawrence's comment that he had travelled around parts of my riding, including Orangeville. Just to emphasize, Orangeville is nowhere near the moraine. If he was tramping around Orangeville, he got outside the boundaries a little bit. What it does affect in my riding is parts of Caledon, Caledon East, Palgrave, and parts of Mono township which, to be fair to the member for Eglinton-Lawrence, is in Dufferin county.
I would like to comment specifically with respect to grandfathering and the land swapping issue, which he mentioned throughout his remarks. He's got to realize that this has been a very difficult issue. This has gone on for a long period of time. There has been a great debate among municipal politicians, environmentalists, residents, all kinds of people.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Trinity-Spadina, come to order.
Mr Tilson: To give credit to the advisory panel, which represented the various interest groups, they got together and worked out an arrangement. If they hadn't worked out an arrangement I'll tell you where you'd be: you wouldn't be in this House today; you'd be before the Ontario Municipal Board, the very board you despise so much. You would not be here. You would not be here debating this bill tonight. So you have to thank --
The Acting Speaker: Member for Trinity-Spadina, come to order.
Mr Tilson: Let him ramble, Mr Speaker. He does that. He's irrelevant.
The various interest groups have been represented by the advisory panel. They got together, they worked out an arrangement with all these people and, I repeat, if they hadn't done this, we wouldn't be here tonight.
Mr Peters: First off, I'd like to say I don't think the member from Trinity-Spadina is irrelevant. I think he does a very good job in this Legislature. But I think somebody who has done a better job in this Legislature is the member from Eglinton-Lawrence. Since 1995, we've gone through four municipal affairs ministers, but we've had one individual with the tenacity to keep at this issue, and that has been Mike Colle. I'm extremely proud of Mike for what he has done, because this isn't Mike's riding. This is outside of Mike's riding, and Mike has ensured that this issue has stayed on the forefront of the agenda of this government. It's obvious right now, as the polls come out and we see that their support in 905 is slumping, that they had to come out and do something. We're very pleased that they came out and finally recognized the importance of this huge natural asset that has been left behind.
What I'm extremely concerned about -- and the member from Eglinton-Lawrence made reference to it -- is some of these sweetheart land deals that have the potential to unfold here, where developers who made investments at the last minute are going to be rewarded with lands in Seaton. But more importantly, we need to recognize that a real issue we as legislators have to tackle is the whole question of urban sprawl. It's one thing that we can stand up now and say, "Hurray, hurray. We've saved the moraine. Don't pave." But we're also looking at some of the best agricultural land in this province that's in jeopardy right now.
I think we need to express some concern that in the land swap, if it's a one-acre-for-three-acre land swap, some of the best agricultural land in this province is going to be taken out of production. We've seen how this city has grown and how this province has grown, but we can't allow this constant erosion of agricultural land. I'll tell you, we can talk about security and everything, but one of the things this government has neglected is the need for a food security policy in this province.
Way to go, Mike Colle. Keep it up.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I like the member from Eglinton-Lawrence, Mr Colle. He has been here for a while. I was here in 1995 to 1999; he was here from 1995 to 1999. We chat every now and then; we get along very well. The member from Elgin-Middlesex-London was not here from 1995 to 1999. The only thing I have to say about his kudos to Mr Colle, the member from Eglinton-Lawrence, is that if you check Hansard between 1995 and 1999, I think you might be able to count on one hand the number of times the member from Eglinton-Lawrence mentioned the Oak Ridges moraine. I may be wrong, but quite frankly I don't recall this issue being raised in the Legislature at any length whatsoever from 1995 to 1999 by any party -- the NDP, the Liberals or the government. The fact is, it didn't really become something the government dealt with -- and the members opposite dealt with -- until Mr Gilchrist raised it as the Minister of Municipal Affairs in 1999.
Mr Peters runs for the Hansard. He wants to find some kind of reference. That's fine. But I'm willing to bet that if you look at Hansard between 1995 and 1999 and look for how many times Mr Colle stood in this Legislature and went on at length about the need to protect the Oak Ridges moraine, you'd be able to count the number of times he mentioned it on one hand.
So let's be honest and let's be fair. Once it became an issue, after 1999 -- Mr Colle is a wonderful showman; he knows how to jump on an issue, and he has since 1999. But prior to that -- let's be fair and let's be honest -- it wasn't that often that he mentioned it.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Eglinton-Lawrence has two minutes to respond.
Mr Colle: Before I deal with some of the pettiness by the government members, I want to make sure I thank Earthroots -- one of the best organizations that helped me and everybody protect the moraine -- and Richard Brooks and Josh Matlow, who were some of the brave foot soldiers. I want to endorse them in any way I can. They were doing such good work right across this province in everything from saving wildlife to protecting cities from urban sprawl.
I also want to thank the member from Trinity-Spadina, who is certainly right in making this part of a battle, really, a victory for the grassroots, like the battle to protect Toronto from the megacity legislation.
I do want to say to the member from Orangeville, Mr David Tilson, that what I was also mentioning in my travels was that I did go to Toronto. I know Orangeville isn't technically on the moraine, but the good people of Orangeville supported the battle to protect the moraine. He can get petty about where this is or where this isn't, but I'll tell you I had people on and off the moraine that I visited. I had meetings on and off the moraine, and they were all together. So I say thanks to the good people of Orangeville, that you were part of the battle even though your member doesn't recognize that.
I want to say thanks to the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London, because this is an agricultural preservation issue too. I've got a lot of respect for people who work day and night preserving farmland, and this government is doing nothing to stop farmland from being paved from Niagara all the way to Kingston.
I certainly want to thank all of you for those comments. I am looking forward to looking at this government's involvement, through the Ontario Realty Corp, in the Seaton lands. I want to see what they did with the Whitevale golf course. I'm interested in the Box Grove development. I'm going to be going up into the Seaton lands quite regularly, up in Duffins Creek, Carruthers Creek. I'll be there in Box Grove trying to unearth what this is all about.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): Mr Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Niagara Falls.
I am pleased today to speak on second reading of Bill 122, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001. This proposed legislation represents a milestone for the people of Ontario. If it is passed by the Legislature, it would allow the government to establish an ecologically based land use plan that would protect 100% of natural and water resource features on the Oak Ridges moraine. The plan would preserve agricultural land and it would limit almost all development to approved settlement areas.
I think we all know why this is so important. The Oak Ridges moraine is one of Ontario's most significant landforms, stretching from the Niagara Escarpment in the west to the Trent River in the east. Its rolling green hills, forests, lakes and streams make it a valuable resource, but its physical beauty is only one aspect of its value to the people of Ontario.
It provides an important link between several of southern Ontario's important river valley systems and serves as a habitat for many plant and animal species, some of them endangered. The moraine contains the largest concentration of headwater streams in the greater Toronto area and acts as a storage reservoir and recharge area for groundwater which feeds streams, rivers and lakes. Perhaps most important of all, it is an important source of clean drinking water to local residents. Aquifers within the moraine provide drinking water for more than 250,000 people in the greater Toronto area and a water supply for agricultural, industrial, commercial and recreational uses. So it is little wonder that so many people are so concerned about the long-term health of the Oak Ridges moraine.
But even though people have been concerned about the moraine since the late 1980s, ours is the first government to actually do something about it. Our plans for the Oak Ridges moraine build on our other environmental accomplishments, including the managed forest tax rebates and Ontario's Living Legacy.
The bill that was introduced last week and that the government intends to put in place by regulation if the legislation is passed would protect the long-term health of the moraine. As the members are aware, the plan reflects the recommendations of the advisory panel which was appointed early in the summer. The panel spent much of July and August looking at the wealth of information that already existed, including public input received in June by the three regions in response to their own proposals for protecting the moraine. The panel also looked at information that had been produced in the course of a number of Ontario Municipal Board hearings on applications for development on the moraine. They made recommendations which formed the basis of the Share Your Vision document which was released for comment in August. The public commented on that document, and those comments were also taken into consideration when the minister prepared the draft plan.
At this point it is important to take a minute to thank the panel for its hard work through the summer. There are many caucus members as well who have taken an interest in the moraine and worked hard on behalf of their constituents to protect it.
Let me take a few minutes to cover the highlights of the plan. As recommended by the advisory panel, the plan would divide the moraine into four land-use designations: natural core areas, natural linkage areas, countryside areas and settlement areas. Almost all new development would be concentrated in the settlement areas, which constitute just 8% of the total land area of the moraine.
The natural core areas would include large concentrations of key natural features, significant hydrological areas and complex landforms. Permitted uses in these areas would include existing uses, passive recreational uses such as nature parks and hiking trails, and agricultural uses. Natural core areas would make up 38% of the total area of the moraine.
The natural linkage areas would include woodlots, wetlands and rural lands that link natural core areas with each other and with other natural corridors. These corridors include the river valleys that extend north of the moraine to Lake Simcoe and south to Lake Ontario. Permitted uses in the natural linkage areas include all the uses permitted in the core areas and some new mineral aggregate operations, subject to strict conditions. Natural linkage areas would make up 24% of the total area of the moraine.
That means that nearly two thirds of the moraine would fall into these highly protective designations. Eighty-four per cent of the moraine's woodlands and wetlands can be found within these two designations. Eighty-eight per cent of kettle lakes and 93% of species at risk on the moraine would be protected in these areas.
Countryside areas would include land currently in rural and agricultural uses. Here, the plan would permit small-scale rural commercial, institutional and industrial uses -- seniors' residences, for example -- and active recreational uses such as golf courses. New subdivisions would not be permitted. Within these countryside areas there are existing rural settlements or hamlets. Some minor infilling in these settlements and hamlets would be permitted, as would some rounding out. Countryside areas would make up 30% of the moraine.
Finally, settlement areas would be those already approved for urban land uses. All urban land uses would be permitted. These existing settlement areas make up just 8% of the land area of the moraine.
Regardless of the designation, though, any new development would also be subject to strict ecological constraints to protect the moraine's significant natural resources and functions and its water quality and quantity. That's why we can say that the plan would protect 100% of natural and water resource features. Even those features that may exist in settlement areas would be protected by strict policies.
The legislation would require that all new Planning Act applications made on or after November 17 conform to the proposed Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan. Within 18 months, municipalities would be required to amend their official plans and zoning bylaws to conform to the proposed plan.
There is a provision in the legislation for a 10-year review of the plan. I raise this now because I know that some of the members are concerned about it.
The legislation does say that expansion of settlement areas could be considered into countryside areas if it can be demonstrated that expansion is in keeping with long-term municipal growth requirements. The approval of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing would be required, and such an expansion would be subject to public input.
But let me be clear about the purpose of the 10-year review. Regularly scheduled reviews are a common feature of the planning system. In fact, there is currently an undertaking of a five-year review of the provincial policy statement. Why? To evaluate how well it's working; to see where it could be improved; to see where changing circumstances should be reflected by policy adjustments. Frankly, it would be irresponsible not to review plans and policies. Even the most well-thought-out plans are rarely perfect. But it's only after they've been in effect for a few years that the strengths and weaknesses become apparent. And even if a plan were perfect the day it was put into effect, things change. More scientific data become available. Farming technology improves. Any number of things could happen that might lead us to adjust the approach to protecting the moraine.
The 10-year review is not a loophole, as some people have suggested. It is a vital tool to allow us to improve and strengthen the plan when it is appropriate to do so. But in order to make absolutely sure that the review is used to strengthen rather than weaken the plan, there is included in the legislation a clause to the effect that the 10-year review cannot -- and I stress "cannot" -- be used to reduce the size of the natural core and natural linkage areas.
I should also stress that the legislation and the plan are just part of the government's broader strategy with respect to the moraine. We believe everyone, including seniors and people with disabilities, should be able to enjoy the beauty of the moraine. That's why one of our priorities is the establishment of a continuous east-west trail, from one end of the moraine to the other.
We also plan to establish a foundation along the lines of the trust recommended by the advisory panel. The foundation would be involved in funding land securement and conservation easements to protect high-priority sites. It would fund public education programs and stewardship programs to encourage landowners on their own lands. And it would support the trail by funding the purchase of access points and the construction of facilities, bridges and interpretive centres.
From this brief overview, you can see that this will safeguard the moraine now and in the future. It will provide certainty for environmentalists, developers, municipalities, aggregate producers and farmers. Furthermore, it would create a system of parks and a continuous trail that will be a lasting legacy for our children. It is a tremendous achievement. I ask every member of this House to support this important legislation.
Mr Maves: It's a pleasure for me to rise and join in the debate on the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001. Previous to coming here this evening, I happened to stop by the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, well known as just the Royal, which has really become a tradition in Ontario, down at the CNE. I had occasion to talk to some of the folks down at the fair who have been there for many, many years. I chatted with many of the vendors and they're having a bit of a down year and they were hopeful that maybe I'd come back here tonight and do a little bit of advertising for them and remind folks around the province about the Royal, that it's on at CNE right now. I believe it ends this coming Sunday.
Get down there and take in the Royal. See all the animals, all of the displays and go see some of the guys that have been there for many, many years, like Graham Wasnick at the Fox and Hound, and have one of Rick How's cinnamon rolls. They just melt in your mouth. Get down there and try one of those. Mark Harrison, who has Harrison's fine ice cream products, is there every year. I'm sure that a lot of school kids will go there in the next couple of days with their classes. That's a tradition. We really need to get the people of Ontario back to that fair. It's a great place to bring your kids. Spend some money, help the economy roll and help those good people down at the Royal.
But I digress. I obviously can't speak too long. I don't have a lot of time to talk about the Royal. I'd love to go on about that great tradition.
What I really want to talk about are a couple of quotes I read once the Oak Ridges moraine act was introduced the other day by Minister Hodgson. All the papers and all the media outlets, even some of the members opposite, quite frankly, were full of praise for the minister.
Mr Marchese: Ecstatic.
Mr Maves: Ecstatic, as the member opposite says; they really were. I happened to notice that even some of the government's long-time critics who will pick at the government over just about any issue went out of their way to support the government.
Mr Maves: The member opposite asks, "Who?" John Barber, for instance, in the Globe has never really been a great fan of the government. And what did Mr Barber say? He said, "When the full effect of this week's work becomes apparent -- in 40 or 50 years' time -- the Mike Harris memorial greenway will be seen for what it is: priceless."
Everyone in Ontario knows the politics of the Toronto Star and the editorial board. They're not fans of the government, for sure. What did the Toronto Star editorial say? It said, "Hodgson and his cabinet colleagues deserve credit for listening. Three provincial governments have grappled with this tough issue. Finally this government acted." "This is a huge victory," it said. Really, what caught me in that last quote was, "Finally this government acted."
I also found another quote that had a similar sentiment to it, this one from Connie Woodcock, who said, "You have to hand it to the Harris government. When they get behind an idea, they carry through." Everyone around the province of Ontario knows that is probably the hallmark of the Harris government, that what the Harris government says it will do, it does. You can go back and you can get our campaign platforms from 1995 and 1999 and you can just tick off every single promise that we made in those platforms. We do exactly what we said we were going to do.
Six months ago, we put a freeze on the Oak Ridges moraine and we said we were going to act. Several years ago, we undertook a Lands for Life exercise. When it was completed we had the largest natural park system in the world, recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as an incredible achievement. That Lands for Life process was really an example of and a precursor for what happened with the Oak Ridges moraine. The government enlisted hunters, miners, foresters, environmentalists, ecotourism groups, got everyone together and had all kinds of meetings and consultations. A long period of time was spent, a lot of work was done in building a consensus. You know what? We didn't just leave the results of that on the shelf, which is what the other governments quite often did. We acted on it, and the result of that was the Lands for Life process.
Now, in a much speedier process, one has to give credit to Minister Hodgson, who said, "We're going to put a freeze on this. I'm going to go and speak to a lot of the people involved -- the developers, the environmentalists and the municipal people." And Mr Gilchrist, a previous Minister of Municipal Affairs and someone who, unlike other members of this Legislature, has known about and talked about this issue for many years and deserves a lot of credit for a lot of these quotes that are given here, a lot of the kudos given to the Mike Harris government and Chris Hodgson. A lot of that credit should go also to Steve Gilchrist.
Minister Hodgson took in all of these groups, sat them down and said, "Look, we've got to come up with a plan for the future of the Oak Ridges moraine." He came up with a plan. He listened to what they all said and he acted. That's why all of these different organizations -- and I've only talked about the ones that have quite often been critical of the government, to show how much support we have for this legislation.
I'll finish off. John Riley from the Nature Conservancy wrote a long letter, a two-pager, to Oak Ridges moraine supporters. He finishes off with, "Unfortunately, it is politically incorrect these days to thank politicians for anything. However, I want you to know that I have extended to Chris Hodgson our special thanks for taking on this intractable issue, for trusting the process that we recommended to him, for trusting the advisory panel made up of very strong individuals, for listening to the public and expanding on the panel's recommendations, and for driving everyone to a successful" --
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I'd like to congratulate my colleague from Eglinton-Lawrence for his speech tonight. I wasn't here between 1995 and 1999, so I don't know how many times the Oak Ridges moraine was mentioned between 1995 and 1999. I can't question the member from Niagara Falls --
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Zero. Check Hansard. Zero.
Mrs Bountrogianni: Mr Gilchrist, if you want to heckle me, get back to your seat.
Mrs Bountrogianni: OK. Seriously, I want to congratulate the member from Eglinton-Lawrence. I wasn't here between 1995 and 1999, so I can't question Mr Maves's assertion that it was never discussed between 1995 and 1999, but I can say that between 1999 and now, my colleague Michael Colle has been relentless on this issue. Regardless of whether it was in his riding or not, he has had the best interests of the environment at heart. There hasn't been a caucus meeting, there hasn't been a retreat --
Mr Gilchrist: He never met an ambulance he didn't want to chase.
Mrs Bountrogianni: Get to your seat if you want to heckle me.
There hasn't been any kind of meeting where Mr Colle has not talked to us about this. In fact, to be honest, at times I thought, my goodness, can't he talk about something else? And he has: the abolishment of puppy mills, which we firmly support, of course; better legislation for puppy mills. However, to question even indirectly his --
Mrs Bountrogianni: I'm almost finished, Mr Gilchrist, then we can talk, OK?
To actually question Mr Colle's commitment to this I think is a little bit sad, because he is tremendously committed to this. Like I said earlier, at times I was even tired of hearing about it, but all the work of all the environmentalists, all the support groups and, yes, finally the government, has led to a successful conclusion.
There are a couple of loopholes, and we will be bringing amendments in the committee. For example, we want the land swap to be open. We want the meetings to be open. We don't want sweetheart deals between the government and the developers. However, we are very pleased on this side of the House that the environmentalists' and the opposition groups' efforts have paid off.
Mr Marchese: Listening to the member from Niagara Falls, you get the impression that he has always loved trees and critters and water. Good God, he sounds like a real lover of the environment and that it has always been thus. Quite frankly, member from Niagara Falls, I'm not quite sure I ever remember you talking about the environment in the same way the member from Eglinton-Lawrence did. Even if it wasn't mentioned every day, it is true that the member from Eglinton-Lawrence has talked about this issue in the past, as did Marilyn Churley from Toronto-Danforth. They both have, including so many other citizens. So it is truly unfair for the member for Niagara Falls to say that they have never talked about this issue.
Mr Maves: I can count it on one hand.
Mr Marchese: One hand? All you have to do is simply say that and it's proof, it's evidence that that's the way it is. Because no one is going to be able to check. It's not as if the good citizens of the 905 are going to be able to go into the Hansard. They could if they wanted to, it's true, but the majority of people are not going to go into Hansard and say, "Let me check this out and see if Bart is really" --
Mr Marchese: Therefore, to the good citizens, the member from Niagara Falls also says --
Mr Gilchrist: You're off message.
Mr Marchese: No, no; for fairness' sake from time to time, please.
He also mentions that a few people got together -- a few good, kind people of Ontario got together -- they sat down, and they worked something out. They came up with this wonderful thing because they really love to listen to the public. It's a bit funny to listen to that kind of stuff, because this government's legacy in terms of its modus operandi is not to listen to anybody. They don't listen to anyone, except that in the 905 region it's key and they really depend on those votes in that area so, yes, in this case they listen.
Mr Gilchrist: It is so amusing to listen to members like Mr Marchese stand up and make the comments that he just did, because there is no government in the history of Ontario that has had more hours of public hearing than our government. There is no government that has gone out on committee across Ontario -- left this building -- for more hours of hearings than this government. There is no government that has allocated more time to debate in this Legislature than our government. Those are the facts.
Let's talk about the environment. I know that Mr Colle, the member who is deserving, according to Ms Bountrogianni, of the accolades of the Liberal Party, has never met an ambulance that he didn't want to chase. But the facts are -- and I would invite you to check Hansard -- neither Mr Colle nor anyone else in your party used the words "Oak" and "Ridges" and "moraine" in the same sentence ever before 1999. But after the media told them that the Tories were onside for this, they were very quick. I'll give you guys credit: you're fast on your feet when it comes to trying to chase that ambulance and catch up to it.
The bottom line is that the cold, hard fact that the members opposite don't seem to have any evidence to refute, so I'm doubly comfortable citing it again in this House, is that in the entire history of Ontario, all but two parks that exist today were created by Conservative governments. You talk the talk; you don't walk the walk. The fact of the matter is, whether it's the Rouge Park on the edge of my riding that Bill Davis froze, David Peterson froze, Bob Rae froze -- it was the coldest place in the province of Ontario, but nobody made it a park and gave it the appropriate protection. We did. We protected the Scarborough Bluffs. With Ontario's Living Legacy, we created more parkland than any government in the history of the world, and now we've created the Oak Ridges moraine, the biggest preserve of its kind anywhere in Canada, and we did it in 835 days.
Mr Gravelle: I think it's remarkable how the members of the Conservative government are having such a difficult time at least acknowledging the extraordinary work that the member for Eglinton-Lawrence, Mr Colle, has done on behalf of keeping this issue alive -- a man who was extraordinarily diligent, and I think they know that. Here they are quite literally splitting hairs as to when he got involved. The fact is, his involvement has been very genuine. It's not part of his riding, and he still cares a great deal about it. Let's also give credit to the people themselves who fought so hard to get the government onside. Let's give the member for Scarborough East some credit as well for being very involved in it; absolutely true. There are many members.
But I don't think it should be so difficult to give Mr Colle credit, and indeed they should. This is real progress. There was real resistance, and again the member for Scarborough East will even acknowledge that his own government was somewhat resistant to moving this forward in the fashion that he wanted to. He put a private member's bill forward himself to try and get his own government to move forward. I think that is not a complete exaggeration to say. There was a need to get the government to move on this. Certainly the members for Niagara Falls and York North, I would like to think, would acknowledge that as well.
Having said that, some things have happened. A piece of legislation has gone forward that, generally speaking, we're very pleased to see. There are some real flaws in it. There are some real concerns that I think need to be addressed through amendments, and I hope that during the consultation process the government will recognize some of those. It is somewhat alarming that the land swap has been just done like that, and that is not part of the legislation. That should obviously be an open and transparent process. I would think everybody would agree with that.
I think there are also some concerns related to the fact that the minister responsible for this legislation can, simply by the flick of a pen, determine that indeed this legislation no longer needs to stay in place. He's got regulatory powers that are far too extreme.
Those are concerns we all have, but let's thank Mike Colle, please.
The Acting Speaker: The member for York North has two minutes to respond.
Mrs Munro: Thank you to the members for Hamilton Mountain, Trinity-Spadina, Scarborough East and Algoma-Manitoulin.
Much of the comment has centred on the question of who claims to have been a part of this. I think it needs to be seen in the context of the action that this government has taken.
The whole notion of finding consensus I think is the hallmark of this particular initiative in the legislation that we're looking at. When you look back at some of the issues that have been addressed in a similar fashion, it becomes evident that it is a hallmark of the action of the government, when you look at the managed forest tax rebate, the kind of securing of forest lands in this province done earlier by our government, the ability to bring together all of the groups to be able to provide the Living Legacy, which others have referred to as the most extensive park system in the world and certainly a significant achievement in this province.
But the question of the issues around the Oak Ridges moraine was something both the previous governments could have taken on had they wished to. They chose not to. This government has taken the bold step of bringing together all of the interests that were there that had issues with the moraine and been able to come with this piece of legislation.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'll be sharing my time with the member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan. If something happens to her on the way here, then the member for Thunder Bay-Superior North may fit in.
The first thing I would like to acknowledge is that everyone agrees this is a very special occasion, that something significant has taken place. There are surprises as to exactly the timing of certain things, but nonetheless something has taken place.
I'd like to start off my comments tonight by quoting a few thoughtful people related to the overall context of this particular bill. I would quote, for example, our Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, who said this: "We've always had problems with the Great Lakes ... but what's happening is we're coming into what we economists call the carrying capacity of the land. We're reaching our limits for the first time in Ontario.... If present trends and mechanisms continue without alteration, then things like species extinction are a certainty within 20 years."
"The great ecosystems are like complex tapestries -- a million complicated threads, interwoven, make up the whole picture. Nature can cope with small rents in the fabric; it can even, after a time, cope with major disasters like floods, fires and earthquakes. What nature cannot cope with is the steady undermining of its fabric by the activities of man." Gerald Durrell, British author and naturalist.
"The collective actions of humans -- developing and paving over the landscape, clear-cutting forests, polluting rivers and streams, altering the atmosphere's protective ozone layer, and populating every place imaginable -- are bringing an end to the lives of creatures across the earth. I think we must ask ourselves if this is really what we want to do to God's creation, to drive it to extinction. Because extinction really is irreversible, species that go extinct are lost forever. This is not like Jurassic Park. We can't bring them back." That's from "The Sixth Extinction," written for National Geographic by Stuart Pimm.
"Seven out of 10 biologists believe the world is now in the midst of the fastest mass extinction of living things in the 4.5-billion-year history of the planet, according to a poll conducted by the American Museum of Natural History.... That makes it faster even than the crash which occurred when the dinosaurs died some 65 million years ago. Unlike that and other mass extinctions of the pre-human past, the current one is the result of human activity, and not natural phenomena."
I have two more quotes that I think are pertinent to the context of this, if I may.
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a commodity to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and with respect." Aldo Leopold.
Finally, "As the human population grows and our demand for natural resources increases, more and more habitats are devastated. Today, we may be losing 30,000 species a year -- a rate much faster than at any time since the last great extinction 65 million years ago that wiped out most of the dinosaurs. If we continue on this course, we will destroy even ourselves."
Some people may say those are melodramatic statements related to a bill that is protecting an important part of our dear province, but I suggest to you that somehow we have to think of our connection to our world. We forget sometimes that we are of and from nature; it's not the other way around. Whenever we try to dominate nature, somehow we make miserable mistakes. This is akin to the genetically engineered food that is now emerging that is tampering with the very DNA of species, plant life and humanity itself, which is quite disturbing.
I suggest there is an opportunity for some celebration here. There are some cautions, and I will try to point out a few of these, but I applaud the government's move. I also want to acknowledge the efforts -- as so many have, except on the government side -- of the member for Eglinton-Lawrence, his tireless work and his interest in this. I say "tireless work" because this was not a 9 to 5 experience for him. He obviously took this on with a great amount of zeal and a great sense of mission.
The member for Niagara Falls quoted John Barber's article. I would just quote another section of the same article in the Globe and Mail which says, "Yes, they were pushed. The Tories had already lost one by-election in their heartland and knew, by dint of serious polling, that more carnage loomed. So they moved decisively to contain the damage," etc. You get my drift, or at least you get the drift of what John Barber is saying.
Later on in the article he goes on to say, a third party, "No politician did more to organize and encourage the rural grassroots than Mike Colle, a big-city Liberal who raised eyebrows when he first showed up in Snowball two years ago, preaching conservation." So there you have it. I want to likewise, as my colleagues have, acknowledge his particular role. It's a little petty to say, "Well, he wasn't speaking too loudly about this five years ago." The fact is that he did play an important role. The evidence of that is that the government adopted essentially the wording of his private bill and incorporated it. That's a compliment. Most people watching on TV, the thousands of people who would be watching, wouldn't know that. That's a compliment to a member in opposition, when a private member's bill is taken and incorporated by the government. I salute him for that particular reason.
There is a good deal to support in this particular bill, and I think most members who have spoken on this certainly have said that. However, there are some things.
The government says it has consulted more than any other government. I find that hard to believe. It has consulted more than any other government on pieces of legislation that have been the least important. It has certainly not consulted with the people on the most significant of bills. You need to look at "consultation" by this government, in my opinion, in that particular light.
The bill itself is not particularly large, although there is a draft plan that I see, and I've had a chance to review this. I note in the explanatory note -- one of the shortest explanatory notes; it's almost as short as the title of the bill is long -- that "This bill provides a framework for the establishment of the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan, which would govern land use in the area of the moraine. The objectives of the plan are set out in section 4 of the bill." And that's it.
As you go into the bill a little bit, it identifies the role of the minister. As in most political systems, the buck has to stop somewhere, or there is a delegation of authority to an agency or some grouping that will play the role of either watchdog or of guardianship for the particular area. In this particular case you're talking about the Oak Ridges moraine. "The minister may, by regulation, establish the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan" -- he may -- "for all or part of the Oak Ridges moraine area." So he "may." It is not, "the minister shall," which in legalese parlance is an important distinction.
It goes on, "The minister shall ensure that a review of the plan is carried out every 10 years...." Ten years is a long time. One can do a lot of damage in 10 years, let me tell you. I've seen it happen in many areas. I have a hospital in my riding called the Grace Hospital, run by the Salvation Army, that was deemed to be not worthwhile. Of all people, imagine that. A fantastic hospital, and it was demolished. It's a pit and there is something being rebuilt on the site right now. That was a sad day. So I know what can happen in short order. I know how quickly you can chart out a subdivision and put up housing within a year or two, contrary to what the developers say when they talk about their time frames when they first purchase land etc. So I have some questions. There will be some amendments coming forward that will address this particular issue.
One I will cite is a sensitive one, and that is that there is no condition or qualification, it seems to me, related to aggregates -- aggregate pits or mines or whatever you want. As many of you know, aggregates are important in the construction industry, so we have to look at ways in which we can find those pits. It seems to me we have a lot in Ontario. But they can also be a heck of an eyesore. An aggregate field is the beauty of a lot of the moraine because it's the filter system through which water that may be polluted filters its way through rock, shale, stones, pebbles and sand, and after a while becomes purified and goes into the aquifer. So it plays a very important role. Having said that, can you imagine that there are no qualifications at all on this? It would seem to me that at some point there has to be some relationship between the integrity of the particular environment that has been protected and indeed the need for aggregates. So I would identify that one as one particular area.
There's another thing that does worry me. The member from Scarborough East talked about how the government had identified the Rouge Valley, and I can remember as Minister of Government Services providing some support to try and protect the Rouge. The Peterson government in 1988 did say, "We will have no further development in this particular area and it will be protected for generations to come." It didn't stay in power long enough to put through the actual mechanism of what that would be, a conservation authority or a special watchdog commission or whatever it was. That was done at a later date, and I acknowledge that. It went through three different governments.
But I must tell you that I was shocked somewhat when I went to the Web site today and looked at the lands in Pickering, where everyone knows the lands have now been swapped, land that developers owned in the moraine; they're in the Pickering-Seaton area, which is smack against the Rouge Valley, Rouge Park. Some of the disturbing comments that were made suggest to me that many of the good people who were concerned about this a few years ago are now worried sick, that there's continued erosion by the conservation authority in the Rouge Valley area and that it's not as safe as we hoped when we talked about this being a grand opportunity for an ecological wonderland within minutes of a major metropolis called Toronto.
I raise the questions and also cite a few comments that were made by some writers this morning -- "Pickering Set to Buck Moraine Land Swap" -- when they said that sensitive lands have been swapped for sensitive lands. If that's the case -- and I read here that there is already mobilization of some people in the Seaton area who are saying: "Just a minute. We fought this battle years ago, when this land was being expropriated for a federal airport, which never did happen. Now it seems we may have to fight again, because we don't know the conditions under which so-called development may take place."
Those are a few of the concerns I have. I would like at this point to extend to my colleague from Thunder Bay-Superior North the last five minutes of this 20-minute opportunity.
Mr Gravelle: I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for his thoughtful comments, as always. I think it's important to remind members of the government of the involvement we on this side of the House have had in terms of this issue for some time. We've been fighting for the protection of the Oak Ridges moraine for many, many years now. Although again we are pleased to see this legislation finally come forward, there is no question that there are some real concerns about what we view as being holes in the legislation, which I would hope the government members themselves would be sensitive to.
Certainly the fact that the land swap -- which seems to have been the key to finally pulling this announcement together last week -- was done essentially behind closed doors is obviously a great concern. As my colleague from Ottawa Centre pointed out, it's an exchange of environmentally sensitive lands, in essence, and there are some who have said to me that the lands in Seaton are indeed even more environmentally sensitive. So I think it's very important that we have an opportunity to look at that in terms of the deal. What does this mean for the developers? What kind of sweetheart deal have we got here? Quite frankly, we'd rather not be making those kinds of comments, except for the fact that the details are not there for us to see. I think that's something that all members of this Legislature and certainly the public should be concerned about. We want this legislation to work.
There are other aspects of it that give us concern as well. The fact that the minister can, by regulation, basically decide that the process isn't working and can get rid of it -- he can do that under this legislation. That is something that gives us a great deal of concern as well. Those are areas of concern.
One of the examples of how the process can work, which has been used by the members of the government a couple of times tonight, and probably previously, has been the Lands for Life process, which I'm very familiar with, coming from northern Ontario. Well, there have been a lot of serious concerns that we in northern Ontario have expressed about the Lands for Life process, now called the Living Legacy. We're watching that one very carefully as well. I can tell you that even during the several-year Lands for Life process, we were concerned about how the consultation was really being done. Was it being fairly done? Were we being listened to?
Certainly we are very glad to see that this legislation is on the table. We are very, very pleased that in general most environmental groups are happy with this, and most people who have fought very hard for the protection of the moraine are very happy about this. But there are some real concerns. There are concerns about the Bayview expressway being pushed up through the moraine. That's a real concern as well. We want to make sure these protections really are in place.
Some of the other concerns that have been expressed are related to transition issues. Development applications in the settlement areas that were in process but that had not yet received final approval before the May 17 development freeze will be allowed to proceed under the old planning rules. Development applications that had started in rural areas will be allowed to proceed under the old rules with only minor environmental protections. This is a concern we obviously have. Overall, 15,000 new homes may be allowed to sneak in under the old planning rules. That's a great concern, and I think the member for York North got it wrong when she was talking earlier about grandfathering. These are concerns.
Certainly the new infrastructure, including the major new 400-series highways -- we can't necessarily allow them to go through the areas of the moraine. We have to make sure this legislation actually does the job it's supposed to.
My colleague for Ottawa Centre made reference in his remarks to the enforcement and oversight of the plan, and to the putting together of a commission. I think an independent authority or commission with dedicated resources is required to oversee and enforce the moraine plan to make sure it happens.
There continue to be a number of issues that we want to have addressed, and I think it's responsible for us to be asking that these issues be addressed. You can't simply say, "Thank you very much. This is perfect," when it's not, when there clearly are holes in it, when there's a concern about the details related to the land swap, when there are concerns about the minister's ability to actually close out the whole process if he or she sees fit, depending on who's in place. We can't have that.
These are concerns we want to express, certainly concerns that my colleague Mike Colle, from Eglinton-Lawrence, expressed extremely well in his remarks earlier and ones that I know we will continue to express. We want this legislation to work as much as anybody else does. Therefore we think it's important that the consultation process and the committee process that goes on afterwards be allowed to bring these things out and make those corrections and hopefully the amendments that will indeed make this a worthwhile piece of legislation.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Tilson: I'd like to respond to the members of the Liberal caucus who have entered the debate with respect to Bill 122. I'm pleased they're going to support the bill.
You know, there has been widespread support of the bill from the media, from the public. I'd like to briefly refer to an editorial in support of the Liberal members from the November 2 Toronto Star: "Municipal Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson called it a monumental occasion. And he's right." He is right. It is a monumental occasion. The Star goes on to say: "Residents deserve credit for speaking out. Hodgson and his cabinet colleagues deserve credit for listening." This is an interesting statement: "Three provincial governments have grappled with this tough issue. Finally, this government has acted."
The only criticism I have -- and I don't want to provoke the Liberals, because it appears they're going to support the bill. They boast about what they've contributed to the process. This goes back to the time when they were in office, and they did zippo, absolutely zippo. Now they're coming along saying how wonderful they are.
The Toronto Star talks about: "The measures proposed by Hodgson yesterday would entrench in law many of the recommendations of a provincial panel that worked over the summer to develop a moraine policy.
"The legislation would protect the most sensitive parts of the moraine -- wetlands, woodlots, fish and wildlife habitats -- and link them by natural corridors. Most new development would be restricted to existing settlement areas, which make up just 8% of the moraine." This is the Toronto Star that's saying these things.
They talk about the land swap and how former Mayor David Crombie negotiated a land swap -- I have run out of time, other than to say that the paper says an "important landmark has been saved for future generations."
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): I'm very happy to be able to add two minutes of comments on my colleagues' participation on this bill. I want to echo their praise of our colleague Mike Colle, who has really provided the leadership on the issue of preventing development on the Oak Ridges moraine. We know that at a time when the government was not particularly interested in any kind of protection of the Oak Ridges moraine, communities on the Oak Ridges moraine were feeling frustrated because there was no one to listen to them and their concerns about the preservation of the environmental sensitivity and the ecological diversity that's represented on the Oak Ridges moraine. It was Mike Colle who went out and met with people in those communities, literally hundreds and hundreds of people in those communities, to hear their concerns and to help them have a voice and to have the government hear their voice.
Needless to say, we were absolutely delighted when the government, recognizing the concerns of those communities which had been voiced through the efforts of our colleague Mr Colle, decided that they would, in a somewhat unprecedented move for this government, move to have protection of the Oak Ridges moraine in a fairly substantial way. I do want to recognize that it is a substantial move to provide that kind of environmental protection of a significant piece of land that was potentially going to be urban developed land. I happen to have been Minister of Natural Resources when the last significant preservation of land in southern Ontario took place, and that was the preservation of the Rouge valley park, so I know how much it means to people when governments are prepared to make that kind of commitment.
I do want, however, to recognize the concerns that were raised by both of my colleagues around the land swap. I think there are still questions to be asked about the values of the lands that the developers were planning to develop on the Oak Ridges moraine, and I think there are also questions about sensitivity of those lands.
Mr Maves: The members opposite, I want to talk about their comments in a second. The member from Thunder Bay again fell into the attempt to take a little too much credit for members of her party for the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001. I mentioned earlier that I could probably count on one hand the number of times the member from Eglinton-Lawrence mentioned the Oak Ridges moraine between 1995 and 1999. I actually went and did the Hansard check. I can't count it on one hand because the answer is zero. I don't even need one hand.
In fairness, since he became the critic for municipal affairs after the 1999 election, and after Mr Gilchrist raised the issue and he was concerned about the issue as the Minister of Municipal Affairs, then he started to be concerned about the issue and perhaps meet with people and agitate on the issue and seek some change on the issue. I'll give him that. But let's be honest, johnny-come-lately, it wasn't until after 1999 when the Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Gilchrist raised the issue that members opposite tweaked to it and started to do something. I want to be clear about that and I want to be fair.
Members opposite, when they spoke, complained about aggregates and that we are still proposing that aggregate operations in some of these areas can continue. We have to be clear on this. In fairness to the people of Ontario and the municipalities around this province, which the members always purport to speak for, municipalities are one of the largest users of aggregates throughout the country. To continually push aggregates further and further north is to raise the cost of those aggregates. It is bad for the environment, actually, because trucks have to go up to the north and then we have that problem. The plan would permit only existing aggregate operations in natural core areas. There's a minimum width of 1.25 kilometres of natural linkage area for these operations. We did take this into consideration.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre has two minutes to respond.
Mr Patten: I want to thank the member from Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey -- that's quite a lengthy riding name -- the member from Thunder Bay-Atikokan and the member from Niagara Falls.
Commenting on aggregates, just to touch on that, I don't think anyone was complaining about it other than to say that in terms of aggregates we are well aware that they're important to the construction industry in all its facets. But that seems to be in the bill unfettered. There are no limitations whatsoever. It is excluded from conditions, and it seems to me, to carry that a step further, that all of a sudden aggregates are a way in which you can destroy some of the environment, because it is open-pit mining at its best. The moraine would lose part of the value it has, and that is that it is a major sponge that cleanses rainfall or sewage or impure water before it reaches the aquifer. So I simply add that particular point.
I want to reinforce that there are many examples where I come from, for example. In my riding, which is an urban riding, a suburban riding, with a touch of agriculture by virtue of the experimental farm, there are good examples of protected lands by virtue of its utilization and a respect for the environment. Across the river in Quebec, the Gatineau Park is a fine example. This is with the National Capital Commission, which has protected major pieces of land there. There are some excellent examples for this.
At the end of the day, everyone hopes that this is a great success. Our worry is that there are always problems. We need to have a mechanism in place in order to address those.
Mr Marchese: I'm happy to have 20 minutes to speak on this bill. We sometimes don't get enough time to debate, but 20 minutes on some issues is probably more than what we need, given that our lead critics have an hour to discuss this and to raise a whole lot of points that need to be raised. Our critic is Marilyn Churley from Toronto-Danforth. She has stated support for this bill and concern about this bill, to which I will speak. She, along with many others, has said that this is in many ways a victory for the environmental community and the people of the 905.
I've got to say to the good citizens watching -- by the way, it's 9 o'clock on a Tuesday night. Welcome to a political forum.
It's good to tell you that this government has listened to the people of the 905 in a way that they don't listen to some other communities. When we in Toronto took the government on when it decided on its own, unilaterally, that it would amalgamate all of the cities within the metro region into one big city of Toronto, when they decided unilaterally that that was best for Toronto and they, the people of Toronto, said no to that plan, this government didn't listen to Toronto, did not listen to those activists, did not listen to those people who tirelessly would meet once a month, in some cases once a week, to discuss strategies to defend themselves against the aggression of this government that simply would not listen. It is a wonder to me that the people of the 905 have in this particular incident been victorious in many respects.
Why is it that the people of the 905 have been more victorious than the people of the 416? It's because they -- you -- have more clout with this government than the rest of us. It's sad, isn't it? It's sad to think that mere geography could give you more power in the 905 than we in the 416; mere geography could create such gaps, such a distance, could create such a difference in the way this government would either listen to you if you're in the 905 or simply dismiss you, as they have done with respect to amalgamation in the 416, particularly Toronto. It's sad, it's unfair, it's is iniquitous. It shouldn't be so. It should be that you would treat everybody justly and fairly.
But lo and behold, there is an election looming and the Tories, God bless them, are not doing as well as they would like. Maybe they're not praying as often as they should, I don't know, but they're falling in the polls. Eh, Jimmy?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): We are not. We are in the same place we always were.
Mr Marchese: You've dropped, Jimmy, come on. The Minister of Energy knows that they dropped in the level of support. He knows that. The people of Ontario know it, Jimmy.
Hon Mr Wilson: We have not.
Mr Marchese: If you don't, then you're lost and you shouldn't be there and driving the limousine. Please. You're slipping.
Hon Mr Wilson: You're full of myths.
Mr Marchese: When you get the two minutes you can tell the good people of Ontario that you are right up there and that they still love you as they did in 1999. They don't like you as much any more and for good reason. I don't know why they didn't boot you out in 1999. But the voters are the ultimate word.
Hon Mr Wilson: You just make this up. You've read one article that said we were lower.
Mr Marchese: I don't know. I believe you've slipped and you're slipping. But it's important to maintain the mythology that you guys are doing well, in the same way that you maintain the mythology that the economy is great because you people have introduced an income tax cut. By the way, Jimmy, in the same way you argue you're at the same level of support, that nothing could bring you down, similarly you argue --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Raminder Gill): Member for Trinity-Spadina, will you address the member by the name of his riding, please, rather than saying "Jimmy."
Mr Marchese: In the same way the member from Simcoe-Grey argues that you guys are still up there in popularity, which is a mythology you need to put out to the public -- it's the same mythology you're putting out to the public that the income tax cuts are the things that have kept the recession at bay. Yet we are deep in a recession, and clearly you have not created a recession-proof economy. You're slipping. We're slipping. We've lost 26,000 jobs and, I tell you, it's not going to be pretty in the next year. It will not be pretty. I know you want to maintain the mythology that you're doing fine, that the economy is fine and that if it were not for you it would be worse, that the income tax cuts you have instituted, both personal and corporate, are the things that are holding the economy up.
You have given away billions and billions of dollars. Cumulatively billions will never be recovered, lost forever, including the $1 billion you just gave away because you wanted to give $200 to every working person in Ontario -- $1 billion just gone, lost forever, never to be recovered. In the same way that you think this economy is holding up well because of your policies -- I tell you, people are understanding and learning that things are not so pretty, they're not as rosy as you paint them to be. They're not, and people are feeling it.
Hon Mr Wilson: We just had an economic statement telling you it wasn't rosy.
Mr Marchese: The economic statement, member from Simcoe-Grey, said, yes, things don't look so good, but they are in good hands, they're holding steady to their tax policies. "They're slipping a little, but don't you worry," the Minister of Finance said, "Next year things will be much better. And the year after that, the economy will be booming," as if somehow he has this omniscience about him. Have you noticed how smug your Minister of Finance is? He's so smug. He doesn't look at the critics when he speaks to them. He never answers their questions. He dismisses them ever so smugly. Do you notice that, Acting Speaker? I've noticed that. I don't quite understand where and when he has acquired this smugness. His inability, or unwillingness, to answer questions puzzles me all the time. He thinks it's a skill, but I have to tell you that not once have I listened to this man answer questions in some genuine, frank way.
Anyway, the point is the economy is slipping. Your tax policies have failed, and you've given cumulatively billions and billions of dollars we will never recover. As a result of that, because of the balanced budget law they instituted, when we are deeper into this recession, they won't want to get into a deficit position. What do you think will happen, good taxpayers and good citizens? If you thought that in this good economy we saw a hospital system in disarray, our health care system in disarray, our educational system in disarray, where teachers are disillusioned, dispirited and quitting, if you think that was bad, including an environmental ministry that's been decimated, a labour ministry that's been decimated, a natural resources ministry that's been decimated -- if you think it has been bad in good times, wait and see when next year emerges ever so slowly, and it will, like every sunrise; well, the sun doesn't shine all the time. But it will surely come: you will find that these people are going to cut so deep, deeper than they've done in good economic times, and it's not going to be pretty.
I'm saying to you 905 residents that you have done a good job of persuading this government to protect the Oak Ridges moraine. You've done it. Yes, the critics of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party -- Marilyn Churley from Toronto-Danforth -- have reminded the government of its obligation to protect the Oak Ridges moraine. We've done that as opposition members. But the ones who have reminded the government of its obligation were you good citizens, all you men and women.
We were told by Mr Colle that a lot of women have been great organizers in keeping this minister and this government in line. And now they proudly come and say, "We've always been supportive. We are the only government that has responded on this issue. Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats have ever been brave enough to do it. Only the Tories have done it," as if they've always been concerned about the environment. They tell it like they've always been environmentalists.
I have to tell you, good Ontarians all, the Tories have been able, on one hand, to resist the developers by saying, "No, you cannot build in the Oak Ridges moraine." They resisted them, held them at bay, because you were persuasive enough to convince them that your vote matters more than the developers' support for this government and the good-smelling green dollar that comes their way for all the good things they've done for the developers. They know they can't displease the developers, but they know that to displease you in the 905 would be worse, because your vote is more important than the developers' money that may not flow as fast or as much as it might have. But that land swap should still keep the developers happy.
While they made you 905ers happy, they now have to contend with Pickering. While they protected the Oak Ridges moraine, they now have to deal with people in Pickering, dealing with the Seaton lands. While many of you said, "No, you can't go here in the Oak Ridges moraine," others in the Seaton lands, in the Pickering community, are going to say, "Hold on a moment. This is an environmentally protected area." Hopefully their members, the Conservative members, from that area will say, "We as a government will defend it to the end."
Surely the government would find a different kind of swap -- like the Ataratiri lands, as an example, which could have been developed -- as opposed to going into the Pickering area, which will gobble up environmentally sensitive lands. On one hand, you saved yourselves in the 905, but I don't know how you're going to deal with Pickering, because those communities are going to be equally angry with you. I don't know how -- sitting at the table with a couple of good people, as you say you did -- you came up with an agreement that would solve the Oak Ridges moraine problem and never did that group think that maybe the people from the Pickering area and the Seaton lands would be unhappy. I don't know if you thought that through. Surely those good people would have thought about it, but I'm not sure what they thought about. So the swap is not entirely a good thing for all Ontarians, in terms of our concern for protection of environmentally sensitive lands.
What concerns me as well with respect to this is that the swap, in my view, ought to be as transparent as possible -- and I know you're not going to want to do that -- because we believe this swap is giving the developers more than they ought to be compensated as a way of making them feel good. To make them feel good about the fact that you punished them, so to speak, you have to devise a compensation package that is richer than it otherwise should be to please them. I understand that you have to continue to please your friends, because the developers feed you guys, politically, just like some of the working folk support the NDP through their contributions of $25, $50 and in most cases $100. That's about as much as we get. It's true that from time to time we get a little more from some individuals, but by and large, that's what the good folk of Ontario give to the New Democratic Party. But the developers know no bounds, and you know that. That is why --
Mr Patten: What about the union contribution?
Mr Marchese: The member from Ottawa Centre says, "What about the union contribution?" It's sad, member from Ottawa Centre, because unions support you guys as much as they support the NDP; it's truly sad. I have to tell you, you shouldn't have brought that up, because this is a bit of a problem for me as a New Democrat. Here I stick my neck out on the line for unions, and at the end of the day they come and give you money, give you support and give you, probably, more money than they give the New Democrats, and I say to myself, "Liberals never once supported a labour initiative when we were in power, yet they continue to give these people support and money." Why?
Mr Patten: A little bit; not much.
Mr Marchese: Add it up, member from Ottawa Centre. You probably get more than we do. We get about 15%, 17%, 20% of union support. That's about all we get. You Tories get all your money from the banks, the developers, the rich people, the ones who have the big, deep pockets. And the Liberals --
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Don't kid yourself --
Mr Marchese: No, be fair. The Liberals always denounce you guys as the only ones who are perched there on the wire waiting for corporate dollars, but these people have the same kind of fundraisers and the same kind of corporate donors: banks, insurance companies, developers. Greg Sorbara probably knows a couple. But you guys are all so deeply connected to the same network. These same guys go to the Tory parties as go to your party. So please, member from Ottawa Centre. I don't mean to attack the Liberals at this moment, because I'm trying to attack the Tories. Don't distract me.
Mr Dunlop: You might as well attack them.
Mr Marchese: If they distract me, then I have to attack the Liberals as well, right? And I don't want to do that all of the time; I just want to do that some of the time.
So we get a little support from the working man and woman out there in the streets, the ones who are working, the ones who are making a living of sorts. But David Turnbull, Minister, all of your money comes from these developers. So you said, "OK, look, we know we're making you unhappy. We're going to give you a swap. We'll give you a little more. Don't tell anybody, because we're not about to put things out on the table or make this whole process transparent, but between you and I" -- nudge, nudge -- "it'll be OK. You'll be able to build your 8,000 residential units, no problem, but please, please don't fight us. Let's work together on this, because we have a stake in it, you and me together."
Mr Dunlop: If you had wanted to work together, you would have done something about the Oak Ridges moraine. You did nothing.
The Acting Speaker: Order.
Mr Marchese: I know, you guys are the only ones who all along were just so environmentally concerned --
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): You didn't even know what a moraine was before --
Mr Marchese: Oh, yeah, of course, Marchese doesn't travel that far. While that's true, Joe -- I don't travel that far; you're quite right -- we are certainly a bit aware of Ontario and the importance of the Oak Ridges moraine. The member from Toronto-Danforth reminded you of that on a regular basis. You know that. You don't need to live there to know that's an important area that we need to protect. You don't need to know that the people of the 905 were so concerned that they fought you every step of the way. We listened to them as you were listening to them, quite clearly. The election is coming close, Joseph; you know that. The election is so close that if the 905 doesn't support you, you are in big, big doo-doo. You know that; I know that. So all of a sudden you've become good listeners. It's intriguing to know that you've become good listeners.
This compensation that you're providing, is it given at the value of the land as it relates to agricultural land, or residential, is something we want to know. Please make it clear because the value of one or the other is different. Please put out on the table the nature of the swap, the value of the land -- is it based on agricultural land or residential -- because we think we are entitled to know those things.
We also want to remind the people of Ontario that the minister still retains the power, by regulation, of course, to revoke this plan that they are so proud of. I imagine they will say, "Why shouldn't we have the power to do that?" If you're so interested in protecting it and you're so good at consulting and listening, good heavens, you don't need that ministerial power to revoke the plan, because you guys are so good at listening, and you're so good at bringing people together to solve the questions that are in the minds of Ontarians. Therefore, please take that power away. You don't need it, Minister.
And the 10-year review -- I have to tell you, I'm a bit worried about that 10-year review. While some people think it's a good idea, I'm not entirely sure what it means. What that 10-year review means in my mind is that if you can win the election for the next time around, gain the confidence of the 905, if you get to that 10-year period, by that time you'll say, "We can do anything we want." That's what it's all about. That's what worries me about the 10-year review.
But, good Ontarians, don't worry, because this government is so consultative, and they're so good at bringing together round tables of concerned citizens to protect the environment that you need not worry about that ministerial power. You need not worry about that 10-year review, because you'll be part of the process and you'll be able to remind the government what good listeners they are and will be.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Dunlop: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It's good to see you back in the chair.
I'd like to congratulate the member from Trinity-Spadina for his comments. Again, I'm a little curious about where he's coming from on some of his comments. This Bill 122, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, has been so positive, has had such a positive response across our province, it's hard to believe people are finding any fault with it at all. You're searching for anything tonight. You talked about the Liberals and who's contributing to their campaign, and you're accusing our government of only receiving campaign contributions from developers, which of course is absolutely wrong. I'm sorry to hear that.
On the other hand, the Liberals are trying to claim it was a Mike Colle bill. I found that was amazing, as I heard the debate over the last few evenings.
The fact of the matter is that Minister Hodgson, when he introduced the moratorium a few months ago, created an advisory panel made up of representatives from municipalities, from the aggregate industry, from the development industry and from environmentalists and naturalists. I think it was a very positive step that he took there when he created the advisory panel. They've come forward with great recommendations, recommendations that are unprecedented in the history of our province. Every government ahead of us had the opportunity to create this piece of legislation. They did nothing. This government -- I will give Minister Hodgson and the cabinet full compliments on the fact they've made this important step in the history of our province. I wish everybody would support this piece of legislation and I fully expect that everybody will support this piece of legislation. Thank you for this opportunity.
Mr Patten: It's a distinct pleasure to respond to my friend from Trinity-Spadina, who has a particularly engaging approach to presentation. He didn't dwell too long on the bill, but he did make a couple of points that I thought were worthy of highlighting. One was the point that somehow this government listens differently to what happens in the 905. I just want to add to that particular comment, because I think was a fairly astute observation, and others would share it, that without the support of the 905, this government would fall or this party would not be in government. After having lost two out of three elections in the last little while, there's perhaps a wakeup call that maybe they should take a second look at some of their policies and review them.
In the minds of many people, this was an about-face by this particular government in supporting something of this nature, when they were so adamant, with their feet dug in, because of all of what's at stake with the developers they had. Somebody came up with the idea of a swap with government-owned lands in Seaton, in the Pickering area right next to the Rouge Valley.
I do want to say that the member alluded to the nature of the swap, which we're all going to be watching as closely as possible, whether this is truly fair in terms of the people of Ontario, the taxpayers, or whether this is going to be a way of giving more value to developers who had something in order for them to be happy about the arrangement.
There's an opportunity to create a new kind of community out there that may be beyond simply the usual --
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments.
Mr Maves: As we near the end of the evening, it's a pleasure to rise and comment on the member from Trinity-Spadina's speech. I'm sorry to have to say to part of his comments, something the Liberals just supported, it's complete bunk, this concept that this government listens only to the 905 area because the 905 area has supported this government. Yes, they did support us, with a great deal of support, but had anyone across the way listened to my comments earlier about the Lands for Life process? For two years we were up north; we were all over the province.
We weren't in the 905 area for the Lands for Life process. We listened to miners, we listened to foresters and we listened to environmentalists. The result of that listening process was that we set aside more parkland than anyone has ever set aside in the history of this country -- in fact, probably in the history of most jurisdictions in the world -- something for which we've gotten recognition from people all over the world.
These theories they advance about, "They only listen to the people who supported them," is bunk. We listen to the people who vote for us all the time. Of course, we do. They said, "Implement your platform." We did. We ran again in 1999 on a platform and we are implementing that platform. We listened to the voters. It's a concept that's foreign to them, but it's something that's a hallmark of this government. Their conspiracy theories are garbage.
Before I finish, I want to thank my nephew Matthew for attending with me all day. We got up very early this morning and drove in. He stuck with me all day, through all kinds of meetings and through the House for bring-a-nephew-to-work day.
I again want to remind people about the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the CNE. Get on down there. I didn't mention Gayle MacPherson earlier and I should have. She's the chair of the fair and doing a great job. So get out there and support the fair.
Mr Gravelle: Let me welcome the nephew of the member for Niagara Falls as well. Matthew, it's good to have you here.
What's the expression? The devil's in the details. I don't think even the government members would be particularly critical of us for trying to look very closely at a piece of legislation we've been waiting for for a long time. It's very important that this legislation achieve its stated goal. Therefore, we hope the concerns we have will be listened to.
The fact that we have thanked our colleague from Eglinton-Lawrence for his hard work I think is something that's quite legitimate as well. Clearly it is recognized that he's worked very hard, particularly over the last two and a half years, to make sure the government listens to him on this. The fact is that we have an obligation on behalf of the citizens of this province, and certainly the people of the Oak Ridges moraine, to fight to make sure this legislation truly achieves its purpose. I would hope the government wouldn't be critical of us for that.
One looks at legislation that was introduced just yesterday, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation we have been fighting for for six and a half years to get this government to bring forward. Yesterday the legislation was brought forward and some positive comments were brought forward about it. Like everybody else, I want that legislation to be extremely meaningful. I must admit that the more I look at it, the more concerns I have.
I want to talk about the disabilities community. The fact is that it is the second time it has been brought forward. It was brought forward the first time and it had to be withdrawn; it wasn't there. If indeed the government members get mad at us for perhaps not trusting them, for perhaps not believing that everything they put down is something that should be supported -- that certainly includes this legislation right here -- I would hope they would do the same thing we are doing, which is to look very carefully at legislation and make sure it is going to achieve the goal it is supposed to, and if it isn't, let's fix it.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Trinity-Spadina has two minutes to respond.
Mr Marchese: Thank you to those who have responded to me. The member for Niagara Falls says, "Yes, we listen to the people who vote for us." That is a direct quote. Of course they listen to the people who vote for them. That's why they listen to you from the 905, at the expense of so many others in the 416. We, in Toronto, weren't listened to but you in the 905 were because, like the member for Niagara Falls says, "Why is there a problem in supporting those who vote for us?" He's quite correct and quite open about it. Is there anything sinful or immoral about supporting those who vote for you? I guess not.
But as to listening to the others who have had serious concerns, where 80% of the people in Metropolitan Toronto voted against amalgamation, what do you people do? "Sorry, we have other plans for you. Yes, we only have six members in Metro, but we have more in the 905. We only support those who vote for us." There is a double standard and this government plays it well.
The member for Niagara Falls says, "It is just simply illusory. It is just bunk coming from the opposition benches. Don't listen to them because we listen to everybody." It's true they didn't listen to Toronto when they were amalgamating and they forced amalgamation on us, but that was then. "Now, in the 905, when so many of you are concerned about the protection of our water, as well as protecting open space and wildlife habitat, yes, we are listening to you. But please, we are going to listen to you again. Yes, we are making the swap with the people from Pickering. Yes, we are protecting the Oak Ridges moraine. Do we have a problem with Pickering now in terms of protecting that? What are we going to do?"
I hope you're going to listen to the people of Pickering as you did to the people from that area of the Oak Ridges moraine. I hope you will.
The Acting Speaker: It being past 9:30, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 2131.