37th Parliament, 3rd Session



Wednesday 29 May 2002 Mercredi 29 mai 2002



Wednesday 29 May 2002 Mercredi 29 mai 2002

The House met at 1845.



Resuming the debate adjourned on May 28, 2002, on the motion for second reading of Bill 135, An Act to recognize Ontario's recreational hunting and fishing heritage and to establish the Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission / Projet de loi 135, Loi visant à reconnaître le patrimoine de la chasse et de la pêche sportives en Ontario et à créer la Commission du patrimoine chasse et pêche.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): I rise tonight to speak to this bill as a fisherman. I have been a fisherman since I was a little boy. I rise as a member of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and I'm very proud of it.


Mr Wettlaufer: In answer to Mr Caplan across the way, yes I have caught some that big. I've also caught some this big, and I've lost my share. I don't hunt any more. I don't pull the trigger. I choose to hunt with a camera.


Mr Wettlaufer: I listened to you for an hour last night and I didn't interrupt you.

It has disturbed me greatly, listening to the debates the last couple of nights, listening to the Liberals and the NDP try to pick holes in a bill that meets what the members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters want. We want a bill that enshrines forever our right to fish and hunt.

They come across with all kinds of arguments, saying the bill doesn't do this, the bill doesn't do that. Let me assure you, it meets our needs. It meets the needs of fishing and hunting within the laws. Of course, any bill is going to demand that whatever we do meets other laws. No fisherman or hunter claims that what we do should be contrary to a law. I'm very proud to have been a lifelong fisherman, but anything I have ever caught has been within the laws.

Mr Bisson, the member from Timmins-James Bay, said last night that we've imposed slot sizes. Yes, we have. Slot sizes are good for conservation. They may not always meet with what an individual fisherman's expectations are in an area or in an individual lake. But in the interests of conservation, slot sizes need to be imposed. Sometimes barbless hooks need to be used. Sometimes catch-and-release needs to be employed. I have been "victimized" by all three rules and regulations, but I'm proud of it. I'm a conservationist.

My earliest memories of being a fisherman are of going out as a very young boy with my father and my grandfather in a rowboat. We didn't troll back in those days; we fished with a worm. I remember my earliest disappointment was when I hooked a very large bass and then lost it. I got him to the top of the water but, of course, not being a very good fisherman then, I didn't know how to bring him into the boat.

The important thing was, whether I fished with my father and grandfather, as we did year after year, or whether I did it with my daughter as I got older and wanted to show her the outdoors, I learned something very valuable about the heritage of fishing, and that is what the members of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters want. They want us to protect the heritage, the memories, being able to fish with our children and grandchildren so that future generations will also be able to fish with their children and grandchildren.


I can remember taking my daughter to a creek one sunny afternoon. We saw a couple of speckled trout in the creek. Just the way the sun was shining through the trees on to the creek we could see the fish and she got all excited about being able to see the fish. Had I been a tree hugger from the city of Toronto, who thinks the sun rises in Markham and sets in Mississauga and doesn't know what a fish looks like, other than what they get down at the local fish market, at the St Lawrence Market, I would never have had this opportunity to show this to my daughter. She would never have had the opportunity either.

Fishing contributes to male bonding as well. Whether you call it male bonding -- in some cases, women go out fishing together as well. They go on fishing trips.

Hon John R. Baird (Associate Minister of Francophone Affairs): Do they do male bonding too?

Mr Wettlaufer: They don't do male bonding, I say to the government whip. They do female bonding.

I say to the government whip and, Speaker, I say to you that I am sharing my time tonight with the government whip and also the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.

I want to point out that when I was elected in 1995, one of the notable quotes that was given to a member of the local media was, "You sure get to know a person when you spend all day with him in the boat." That meant a lot to me because that individual knew my weaknesses and my strengths. That's what fishing gives you.

As I want to share some of my time, and by the clock I can see that I am out of time, I would like to relinquish the rest of my time and defer to the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.

Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): I consider this proposed legislation, the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act, a very important piece of legislation, recognizing that for generations we in Ontario have enjoyed hunting and fishing. It's part of our heritage. Certainly in rural Ontario and in the north the connection is much stronger. In my riding, for example, hunting and fishing are, for many, much more than recreation. They are a way of life, especially if you are a farmer.

As a former parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Natural Resources, I joined former minister John Snobelen and former northern development minister Dan Newman to announce the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act. The bill was introduced November 19, 2001. This act does fulfill our government's 1995 commitment made to anglers and hunters across the province to enshrine the right to hunt and fish and to guarantee that future generations will have continued opportunities. The proposed legislation, in spite of what we may hear, does not change current laws. The government will continue to set standards and policy to ensure sustainable hunting and fishing and the management of the resource.

Secondly, this act has no provisions that would affect aboriginal or treaty rights. As part of this act, our government, as we know, will establish the Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission to provide advice to the minister.

Across Ontario -- and I think we heard this in the House previously -- the numbers of people who hunt and fish are staggering. Every year, there are more than 2.4 million people who participate in recreational hunting and fishing. This cannot be repeated enough. This contributes more than $3.5 billion to the provincial economy and provides 30,000 jobs. It provides jobs in my family. Both my sister and my brother-in-law manage what's called the Long Point Co, a duck-hunting club that has operated for well over 100 years out on Long Point on Lake Erie.

Hunters and anglers cherish the outdoors and they play a key role to protect it. In fact, over the last 15 years, hunters alone have contributed $335 million to habitat restoration and conservation. I think of the efforts to restore the wild turkey. We lost that particular species in Ontario from lack of habitat. We've also seen in Ontario a 200% increase in the number of white-tailed deer. Given the impact on our economy, our way of life, conservation efforts and the money that goes in from volunteer organizations, it's certainly time for this government to recognize these important contributions.

Support for this legislation is overwhelming. I chaired three regional stakeholder consultation meetings last year, held in Thunder Bay, Timmins and Sutton. Input was encouraging. This legislation was posted on the province's Environmental Bill of Rights, and well over 18,000 comments were received. Of those 18,000 comments, 97% of the people supported the right to hunt and fish.

I recall some of the comments that came in on this EBR registry. One person wrote, "My grandfather and father lived off the land and hunting and fishing to me is a real heritage....a heritage to be preserved." Another said, "I can think of no better way to instill upon our youth of today the values we cherish and enjoy than by hunting and fishing with parents and friends of the generation ahead of them."

As a lifelong hunter myself -- I'm not much of a fisherman; I admit that -- I couldn't agree more with the sentiments that came forward on this Environmental Bill of Rights. In short, the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act is timely, it will ensure that we can continue to enjoy activities that many of us take for granted today, and through it, our government will preserve a way of life and part of our heritage. It plays not only a very vital but a social role in the province of Ontario.

This is not without precedents in other jurisdictions. For example, a number of states have passed similar legislation. The state of Alabama in 1996: "All persons have a right to hunt and fish in this state in accordance with the law and regulations."

The state of Virginia passed legislation in the year 2000: "The people have a right to hunt, fish and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe by general law."

In 1998, the state of Minnesota, a neighbour to the northwestern part of our province: "Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good."

The state of North Dakota in the year 2000, and I quote a statement from their legislation: "Hunting, trapping and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage and will be forever preserved for the people and managed by law and regulation for the public good."

In Canada, a provincial policy statement reads, "Newfoundland declares and affirms the traditional privileges and freedoms of hunting, angling and gathering of wild foods by the citizens of this province subject to the laws of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada and to laws for the purpose of conservation and proper management of all wildlife, fish, game, wild foods and other natural resources."

I commend the wisdom of this government for having the foresight to create legislation such as we're seeing before the Legislative Assembly this evening. I suspect, if anything, this may serve as a barrier for any hare-brained ideas in the future to try and take away something we now take for granted.


Hon Mr Baird: I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak very briefly on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Nepean-Carleton on the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act. This is a very important piece of legislation to a good number of people in my constituency. Over the winter months, a lot of people spoke to me and said this should be a priority when the Legislature resumed and that it should be passed and that the rights contained in the legislation and the commission in it should be put into the force of law.

I wanted to indicate my strong support of the whole idea of legislating the right to hunt and fish, and having the power of enshrining that in legislation. It's part of our heritage. It's something that we want, as a province, as elected representatives and indeed as citizens of Ontario, to pass on to future generations in the province. It's just a huge part of our heritage, really in every part of the province, whether in my part of the province, in eastern Ontario, in central and southwestern Ontario or indeed right across the north.

I was impressed the other day with the speech of the Minister of Natural Resources when he spoke about the importance of this where he grew up and how essential it was to his family life. I thought he spoke for many people in the province of Ontario and certainly many of my constituents in Nepean-Carleton.

I'm not a big person to promote regulation for the sake of regulation, but I do think it's important and responsible to regulate hunting and fishing activities in order to ensure that they're sustainable, to protect these resources for future generations. There could perhaps be no greater responsibility that we have than to pass off a better environment and to protect our natural resources so that we, as the custodians of those resources, can pass them on to future generations. Things like catch-and-release, setting limits for fishing -- I am a fisherman but not a hunter -- those practices and exercising those rights responsibly are incredibly important, and this legislation certainly recognizes that.

Recreational hunting and fishing create literally thousands of jobs across Ontario, more than $3.5 billion -- this in an incredibly big industry. The tourism sector in many parts of Ontario is one of the centrepieces of the local economy. Indeed, this is the case big time in southern Ontario. In northern Ontario I've had the opportunity to visit the constituency of my colleague the member for Kenora-Rainy River. To see the number of outfitters who depend on this type of industry is really incredible.

I was really astonished at the number of American tourists who come up, particularly to northwestern Ontario, to enjoy the good outdoors in Canada and the hospitality of the tourism sector and to share the beauty of our environment. There is great walleye fishing up there, and largemouth bass in Lake of the Woods, which is undoubtedly one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the province of Ontario.

I know Will Stewart will suggest that he was able to catch more fish than I was on one of those occasions. In fact, I had to teach him how to fish, and after I did he was able to learn a bit, which was fortunate for him.

I'm a strong supporter of this new Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission. I think having a body that can advise the minister and the provincial government and indeed all Ontarians about the conservation of this important resource is something that is incredibly important. I wanted to indicate my support and the strong support of so many people in my constituency for not just the commission but for establishing and legislating and enshrining the right to hunt and fish in a provincial statute and to give this piece of legislation my strong support.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Questions or comments?

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): In but a few moments, Howard Hampton, leader of the New Democratic Party, is going to be speaking to Bill 135.

New Democrats have, and you heard the leadoff speech from our member from Timmins-James Bay, support for hunters and fishers but also serious concerns about the legislation. I want to tell you that if you listened to the debate engaged in by Mr Bisson with respect to this bill, you heard some of that concern, quite frankly, from a number of perspectives. It's not just hunters and fishers who should be concerned, because the argument has made very clear that the bill is zero; that at the very best it's symbolic.

At the same time, there are communities in this province about which and in whose interests and for whose interests we should be very concerned. They need spokespeople in this Legislature as well. Quite frankly, it's going to be from among New Democrats that you're going to hear people speaking on behalf of yet other constituencies.

This is not as clear-cut as many would have many others believe. There are issues here in conflict and, quite frankly, when you hear from Howard Hampton, leader of the NDP, you'll be hearing that we believe this bill should be submitted to the committee process. The members of the public, interested parties, have a right to make their views known and raise concerns about what are, albeit it is a brief bill, some very subtle connotations in the bill that have generated a great deal of concern among some very specific communities and very specific constituents. That's why I urge people to listen carefully to the upcoming speech by Mr Hampton.

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton): I want to congratulate the two members from our caucus who spoke to this bill.

Hon Mr Baird: He wants to congratulate the two of them but the bonding thing scared him.

Mr Chudleigh: Yes, the bonding thing I'm a little concerned about, but I know the member from Kitchener is extremely serious when he talks about the times he has with his family and his children in hunting and fishing -- in his case fishing.

I know in my family I have had tremendous moments of time, afternoons and mornings, very early mornings sometimes, fishing in a stream, trying to catch the elusive speckled trout and occasionally a brown trout. It's very rare that you ever get a brown trout on your line. In fact, you see them far more often than you can actually catch them. I understand they aren't very good to eat anyway, so it's best just to leave them in nature. But those moments in time when you're in a stream, perhaps a very cold stream, in your waders up to your knees, are indeed very special times in the memories that you have with your family, particularly of when that family was very young.

I certainly think that hunting and fishing are a heritage right that should be preserved in this province and indeed among our civilization. After all, I think it's where we came from and if we don't remember our roots, certainly it's a questionable future. So I would love to support this bill and I thank the member from Kitchener and the member from Haldimand-Norfolk for their comments.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I listened intently to the discussion by the three members, not two, who spoke from the government caucus and I didn't hear one of them address some of the concerns that we have in regard to this bill. As we've said, this bill gives anglers and hunters no rights. It says you have the right to hunt and fish provided you follow the law -- that's what we do now so there's nothing new -- and you set up a commission where there's a committee to advise the minister.

In meetings I've had with MNR and in the briefings I was at, I've asked the question: what does this give anglers? Could the anglers have any kind of new ability to stop a government from taking rights away from the hunter as hunters see it -- new slot sizes such as this government did, cancellation of the spring bear hunt as this government did, taking money out of the special-purpose accounts that are supposed to be there for anglers and hunters, which they did -- and the answer is no. The anglers would have no ability to stop any of that. Any government could do what it wants because it writes the laws. I asked the government to show me in this legislation specifically how they figure anglers are going to get new rights. There's nothing. It says anglers and hunters have the right to hunt and fish provided they follow the law, so this bill does nothing.

This is the first question: tell me how you're going to give people rights by definition of this legislation. We've passed it through the various ministry people, we've passed it through lawyers, and we're all of the same opinion.

The second thing is, are you, at the very least, prepared to accept some of the amendments I put forward yesterday that I talked to you about that deal with some of the issues anglers and hunters are really concerned about, such as emulating what we have in the sustainable forests redevelopment act as a type of citizens' committee approach, or even using the existing citizens' committees to refer all those questions to, so that anglers, when they're being attacked, as they have been by this government, have an ability to influence the process before the decision is made?

Are you at least prepared to accept some of those, as I would see them, friendly amendments that would actually enable us to protect some of the issues that are near and dear to anglers and hunters?


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): Je peux vous dire que oui, je suis prêt à appuyer ce projet de loi puisque c'est un projet de loi qui va définir vraiment par cette commission les droits déjà acquis par nos chasseurs et nos pêcheurs.

Les personnes qui sont portées à faire de la chasse régulièrement sont portées à respecter les lois qui sont en place. Nous savons que, actuellement, nous avons beaucoup d'animaux dans la forêt Larose de la région de Prescott-Russell, où je demeure, et aussi dans la région des terres humides d'Alfred qui sont en voie de disparition. Une commission qui serait mise en place, comme le projet de loi le décrit, aidera définitivement à faire comprendre au public l'importance de conserver notre patrimoine.

Il faut se rappeler qu'avant la construction de grandes routes, comme seul moyen de transport nous avions la rivière des Outaouais, pour un exemple, à partir de Montréal, qui se rend à la baie d'Hudson. Nous procédions dans ce temps-là à la vente de fourrures. Depuis ce temps-là, la vente de fourrures a diminué. Il n'y avait aucune directive, aucune politique en place afin d'assurer la protection de ces animaux-là qui étaient en voie de disparaître.

C'est la même chose pour la pêche. Je demeure dans une région qui est située entre la rivière des Outaouais et le fleuve Saint-Laurent. Il est connu que la plus grande pêche de l'Ontario se produit dans la rivière des Outaouais, et c'est une région où auparavant nous avions des pêcheurs qui n'étaient pas vraiment expérimentés, qui étaient là pour faire la piastre, comme on dit toujours, qui étendaient des filets et qui éloignaient vraiment le tourisme de la région qui aujourd'hui est très important.

The Acting Speaker: Merci. Response.

Mr Barrett: Throughout the consultation and debate there has been a modicum of resistance to this initiative. We recognize that there is an anti-hunting community, an anti-fishing community and certainly an anti-firearms community. I think what's very important to keep in mind is the significance of hunter training and hunter education. Many of us have taken these firearm safety courses, perhaps several times over. I do give the federal government credit. The federal firearms safety course is an excellent program and I recommend that to anyone. But what's very important is for people to make decisions based on knowledge of hunting and fishing and of the equipment that is used in this kind of activity.

The key word is "safety" with respect to the hunter safety program. I'm very proud of this government's having brought in the hunter apprenticeship safety program for 12-year-olds. Many of us first learned to hunt, for example, when we were 12 or 13. I was given my first firearm at the age of 13. The whole key to any activity, and certainly hunting, which is a very safe activity, as is fishing, is the safe and proper handling of the firearm, a respect for wildlife and a respect for private property, something else that is very important with the significant urbanization of this province. What's key in a lot of this hunter training program is to give people more awareness of the principles of wildlife management and the importance of regulating habitat and wildlife.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): The riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London covers about 80 kilometres of the north shore of Lake Erie and extends out to the middle of the lake, much like Mr Barrett's riding, out to the American border. The northern boundary is the Thames River. Included in the riding are a number of watersheds: Talbot Creek, Kettle Creek, Catfish Creek, Otter Creek.

It's a riding that has deep roots. As an individual who's extremely interested in local history and the origins of what we have in our own backyard, I've taken time over the years to study our past. We have a long history. You can look back and find evidence of archaeological sites dating back over 10,000 years, to the paleo and archaic times. As these sites have been examined over the years by archaeologists, one of the things they found is that we've learned a lot about the past. But at the same time as we've learned about the past, how you can relate the past to the present, these sites excavated have shown evidence that the First Nations were hunters, they were fishermen, that it was a part of their life.

You can find evidence of many animals that are no longer present in southwestern Ontario. You can find evidence too of a lot of fish that we can't find in southwestern Ontario any more, either. But there is a past, and the past does relate to the present. I think it is important that we do recognize those traditions and that we recognize the right -- albeit in many ways with this legislation it is a symbolic gesture recognizing that hunting and fishing is of importance to many people in this province.

I think too we need to respect those individuals who have expressed concern about this bill. We need to ensure -- and I will agree with my colleagues from the New Democratic caucus that it is unfortunate that we're not going to committee hearings with this legislation. Far too often we see with bills before us in this House a piece of legislation being put through, but the opportunity should be granted for public hearings and the opportunity granted to put forth amendments. And if I have to be critical of the government with this initiative, this legislation, it would be that you're not giving the public the right to have input into this legislation.

We need to ensure that -- and the information we've received is that this bill will not alter or supersede any existing legislation and it will not impact on constitutional or treaty hunting and fishing rights. Because if it did, we would be extremely opposed to this legislation.

I think too we need to accept the fact that this isn't going to reduce the ability of the Ministry of Natural Resources to enforce conservation laws or give away any of the minister's decision-making power.

As I said earlier, where I grew up in my own riding, my house backed over the Kettle Creek. The Kettle Creek valley was my playground. I can't stand up here and say that I'm a hunter, because I'm not a hunter. But I respect the rights of those individuals who choose to hunt. Am I a fisherman? I guess I would have to say I don't get a chance to fish. But when I have an opportunity, I do go out and I enjoy it. I think I've only kept one fish in my life, and that was a big lake trout that I caught with a good friend of mine, Tony Bianchi, on Lonely Lake, outside of Echo Bay in northern Ontario. It was a great night. I'll never forget catching that fish. I think it was the only fish that I ever kept, and somebody else filleted it and cooked it. We had a good meal and we did have a good time.


So I don't have a lot of fish stories that I'm going to stand here and tell you about tonight, because my experiences are probably catching sunfish, little catfish or the occasional mud puppy.

One of the things I would comment on, that I think we all need to collectively accept some responsibility for, is how we have altered our environment and how we need to be ever diligent in ensuring that revenues derived from hunting and fishing licences are going back to support conservation programs, because we've done so much damage to the environment in this province. I can see it in my own backyard where, every spring, I would watch the Kettle Creek rise. At the old dam at Waterworks Park, you'd see the fishermen down there dip-netting. You'd watch them catching the pike. But you know what? The pike are gone.

It's like the Great Lakes and what's happened in Lake Erie. We've lost so many of the great fish that we had in the past: the blue herring, they're gone; the sturgeon, gone. We can't say that it's because of overfishing. We have to accept that what we've done, from an environmental standpoint, has had an impact. I think we need to be ever conscious of that. We need to be more conscious of what we do to the environment.

We've heard a lot of talk over Walkerton. A lot of fingers were pointed at the farmers of this province and it was said that the farmers were damaging and destroying the environment. But we have to recognize and accept the collective responsibility.

As a former mayor of a municipality who watched, every time it rained, our pollution control plant bypass and dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into our creeks, which then eventually ended up in our lakes -- we have to accept some responsibility. As a municipality, the city of St Thomas recognized that. We built a combined sewer overflow which is going to help remove about 90% of those bypasses.

We have to look too at the rural communities and septic systems. Septic systems are polluting the environment. It gets into the groundwater, which gets into the creeks, which gets into the lakes and damages our environment.

We need to recognize too that there are many people with boats who are irresponsible and pull the plug on their sewage holds and let it flow into the water.

So as we stand here today and enshrine this right to hunt and fish, that's good. But I think every one of us in this Legislature needs to recognize that we do need to do a better job at looking after our environment. There are many groups and organizations out there doing that.

What I'd like to do tonight is pay tribute to some of those groups for what they're doing to not only help educate us and make us better aware of issues facing the environment today but at the same time make efforts to help turn around and undo some of that damage we have done which we need to accept responsibility for.

As an example, I would pay tribute to the Lake Erie salmon and trout hatchery in Port Stanley and the work they have done over the years, ensuring that we've tried to stock our creeks and the Great Lakes, to bring back some of those species of fish that have disappeared. I pay tribute in particular to a friend of mine, Kit Brown. Kit has worked tirelessly to ensure that they could do what they could do.

I look at the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority and their efforts at Springwater Park. Right now, as we speak, they're holding their annual trout derby, where they stock Springwater Pond, the old White's Pond. They try to encourage families to use it as an opportunity to spend time as a family group and come out and participate in a fishing derby. Proceeds are going back into conservation measures and I commend them for that.

I want to talk about a couple of other organizations that are in my riding, the St Thomas Gun Club and the East Elgin Sportsmen's Association. These are organizations that are, from the standpoint of handling a firearm, trying to teach individuals how to handle a firearm in a responsible way. I think that is important; education is important. They also offer opportunities from a recreational standpoint: target shooting, skeet shooting and trap shooting.

I want to go on the record tonight, in particular to the East Elgin Sportsmen's Association, and talk about a subject that I think is of extreme importance, and I am glad to see Mr O'Toole here tonight. It's the issue of a product known as SoundSorb that's being used at gun clubs around this province. My issue has not been with the East Elgin Sportsmen's Association and what the sportsmen's association is doing, because I commend them for what they're doing.

My concern, though, is with the Ministry of the Environment and the irresponsible way that the Ministry of the Environment has not set forth in a clear and concise manner whether these gun club berms, these SoundSorb berms that are being constructed across this province, are safe. The government has been studying this for over six months and they keep telling us the report's coming, but they can't tell us if this is a safe product.

I'll stand up in this Legislature and apologize to the East Elgin Sportsmen's Association if the Ministry of the Environment says this is a safe product. But they haven't done that. I know Mr O'Toole has raised it and he too has waited for these answers. We haven't heard.

I know why the sportsmen's association is doing it. They're doing it to comply with federal gun laws and they're trying to save themselves money. I understand that. I'm not trying to cost them more money, but I think it's irresponsible for the Ministry of the Environment not to give that assurance to the East Elgin Sportsmen's Association and other gun clubs, whether they be in Napanee, Oshawa or Madoc, the assurance that that's a safe product. Because if it is shown that it's not a safe product, those gun clubs have had to accept a terrible liability.

I know there's another one -- I see Mr Martiniuk here from Cambridge. There's another new club that's opened up in the Guelph area which is using this SoundSorb product. But again, the Ministry of the Environment has not demonstrated that it is a safe product. If they do, to my friends in Aylmer and East Eglin, I'll say, "Sorry." It's not an issue of guns; it's an issue of the environment.

In talking about this legislation that's in front of us tonight, we need to ensure that the government does everything they possibly can. There's no doubt that what we're really seeing in front of us is a feel-good piece of legislation. As is the mantra of this government, "promises made, promises kept," they're doing their best to keep another promise.

I just wish they'd keep other promises, though, like having enacted a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They didn't do it. I wish they had kept the promise to the farmers of this province with their made-in-Ontario safety net program. They didn't do it.

It's interesting how they come and go as to what they promise, what promises they keep and what promises they don't keep. It is a piece of legislation that in many ways does recognize that right to hunt and fish, but there could be more to it. We could be working to ensure for those individuals out there who are concerned about aspects of this legislation that those are preserved.


I want to talk a little bit about some of my own experience with the spring bear hunt. I truly believe it has something to do with the spring bear hunt. I've been going for the past 10 years to visit my pal Mike McKechnie at Massey, Ontario. Mike is the deputy mayor of Sables-Spanish Rivers municipality. I've been visiting Mike for 10 years up there. For 10 years we never saw a bear. The only time you'd see a bear is if you went to the landfill site. Well, last year I was up to visit Kech and, you know, every day that we were there last summer we saw a bear -- we saw a bear in the morning, we saw a bear in the evening. I've never been so spooked in my life, as I told the Speaker at the time, as when I was driving down the road and this bear came out of a ditch and across the road in front of us. We hit the brakes; the truck's all over the road.

I'm not saying -- I don't know if it's the spring bear hunt, but for some reason there is a lot of bear in the Massey area now. I didn't see them, as I say, in 10 years of going up there, but I almost got done in by a bear. And that's not a fish tale or anything -- the truck did a fishtail -- but it was true.

I guess I just want to sum up and go back to the points of the environment. I can remember the days when we didn't have the fishing licence. I've got my licence in my wallet and I want to ensure that those dollars are going back in to support conservation programs.

We can talk all we want about ensuring the right to hunt and fish, but I would urge the government to do a better job, to go farther from an environmental standpoint to ensure that we're doing everything we can to act in a responsible manner to preserve the environment, and not just enacting the legislation to make it happen but coming to the table with the dollars.

As we're dealing with the nutrient management legislation that's going to regulate farming in this province, we know that it is a piece of legislation that is going to be good for the environment in this province. But the legislation is going to be useless without those capital dollars being put in place to help the farmers, to make those capital improvements that are going to be required. We need to do that, and we need to do that with other pieces of legislation. We need to support programs such as the fish hatcheries of this province. We need to support the programs that are taking place in the Spanish River to reintroduce the muskie. We need to do what we can to support the programs that are taking place in Lake Nipigon right now in looking at the sturgeon population. We need to work with the commercial fishing industry in this province.

I, like Mr Barrett , Mr Crozier and a number of others, represent a large commercial fishing sector. We need to ensure that we strike that balance between the rights of anglers and the rights and the needs of the commercial fishermen in this province. We need to support that industry. We need too to ensure that the rules we put in place in this province are going to be comparable and that our American friends are putting in place the same rules. There's a lot that we can do. Enshrining the right to hunt and fish is just that; it's that right. But can we do more? Yes, we can do more. Do we need to do more? We need to do more, and we need to work together collectively to do that.

With that, Speaker, thank you very much. I yield the floor.

The Acting Speaker: Questions, comments?

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I listened with some considerable interest to the speaker, the member from Elgin-Middlesex-London. I think he hit most of the salient and key points that he should. He was absolutely on point when he talked about the environment and how environmental degradation has very much hampered redevelopment of fish stocks and I think some of the animal life, particularly in southern and southwestern Ontario. He was very key on point when he talked about the declining fish habitats and the fact that people in southern Ontario, which is the majority of people who live in this province, live in areas where there simply aren't the quantities or the qualities of fish any more. He gave some very good examples of declining habitats or the fact that there are no sturgeon left and the problems with the muskellunge, and he mentioned several others as well.

I would commend him for what he had to say, but the most important thing he had to say, and I thank him for this, was that he believes this bill should go to committee. This is what we think as well. We believe that it should go to committee because there are many people in this province who can provide first-hand and accurate knowledge to the members of this Legislature. They can provide information about fish habitats, they can provide information about environments, they can provide information -- he didn't talk about it, and perhaps I will later, if I get a chance -- about the native people of this province and the role that we have to play with them to preserve the wildlife and fish habitats of Ontario. That is the key and salient point that he wished to make, and I wish to reiterate it and to thank him for making that point, that this cannot be done in isolation of all of the people. This must be done in conjunction with the hunters, in conjunction with the anglers, in conjunction with the native people.

I look forward to speaking more on this when I get my own turn.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I'd like to respond to the comments made by the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London. With all respect, he gave a fairly balanced account of the opposition's position on this and his individual commitment.

My riding, of course, is Durham. It's literally filled with streams and creeks, the greatest salmon fishing in Bowmanville Creek. In Lake Ontario, the southernmost extreme limit of my riding, sports fishing is extremely important. It also includes part of the Oak Ridges moraine, which has a great abundance of wildlife. I might say there's a large disposition of hunters. Mr Ouellette, the Minister of Natural Resources, I believe shares part of my riding boundary, and I know his personal commitment to the outdoors, the quality of life that he spoke to and the quality of family life that he spoke to in the tradition.

I would say that my fondest memory would be when I was growing up on the farm just outside Peterborough -- being an older person, almost 59, I think probably I was in the order of under 15 certainly, so it was some years ago. I would be sitting with my father with the trusty old .22 that used to hang over the doorway on the farm, sort of sitting on the rail fence and poking back a few groundhogs that were causing a disturbance either in the fields or in the pasturelands around. That may not be permitted today, but certainly we'd sit there on an afternoon, perhaps in the spring or fall, and I got to know my father. I think it's that relationship part -- whether or not the gun was ever discharged was not the issue. It was the issue of forming bonds and the relationship that's been spoken to.

But he did mention in the last minute here that the "protect the ridges group" in my riding has done a tremendous amount of work with respect --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions or comments?


Mr Lalonde: I want to congratulate the member for Elgin-Middlesex-London for the knowledge of this issue that he has shown. I really feel and I strongly believe that establishing a commission is very important at this point in time. More and more we see that the fish habitats are disappearing, are going. I'm not really a hunter myself, but I know what the fishing is, especially in my area, since the Ottawa River is known for the quality of fish that we have there.

But let me tell you that going back a few years ago we established a committee in the Ottawa area called the Ottawa River Committee, formed by myself as president and the minister, Brian Coburn, as vice-president. We noticed at that time how important it was to protect the fish habitat and also to protect the heritage that we have in place at the present time. We know that at one time it used to be big, big business in the Ottawa River. People were coming down from all over, installing nets, catching a lot of fish and going to the market in Montreal. Also, in our area it's now rare that we get to catch a fish like a 45-pound sturgeon, for example, or an 18-pound pickerel. And the eels in the Ottawa River -- we used to have tonnes of them and they were shipped over to Asian countries. But today, without having control of sport fishing, it seems that this type of fish is gone. That is why we have a commission with a person appointed who has full knowledge of what fish habitats are.

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I wanted to say that I appreciated the comments that were made by the member from Elgin-Middlesex-London because I think they added to this debate. What I found most particularly interesting and useful was his comment, which was repeated more than once, that this bill should go to committee so we can use the committee process to do more for anglers and hunters. That, of course, is the position that was taken by the New Democratic Party late last fall when we were dealing with this government on this bill, and since.

What I find interesting about this position is that it appears that perhaps this member, or maybe his party, is now thinking about coming around to our point of view. I remind the member that it was his party on the last night we sat, December 13, that looked for unanimous consent to pass the bill without debate, without any kind of public hearings -- on second and third reading at 10 o'clock on the night of December 13. That was it and that was all. It was New Democrats who said no, because we believe there are important things to be said and issues that have to be raised, and the public should have a chance to come and have their say at public hearings.

What's even more interesting is that the same position articulated by the Liberals on the night of December 13 was just articulated by his colleague from Sudbury two nights ago, on May 27. Mr Bartolucci got up and said, "It's the position of the Liberals that this bill should already be law. It was our position on December 12, when we asked for unanimous consent ... to have passage of this bill. Listen, this bill should be law already." So which is it? Do you want public hearings so we can actually do something important for anglers and hunters or not?

The Acting Speaker: Response?

Mr Peters: I appreciate the comments made by the members from Beaches-East York, Durham, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and Nickel Belt. First off, I wasn't reading from a prepared script, the speaking papers that I know a lot of the government members have. They come in here and read those speeches that have been written for them by somebody in the minister's office. I didn't come in here with that. I have my little notes that I made in researching the bill.

I think one of the things we do need to respect is that, as individuals -- one of the things we don't hear often enough around here is that each of us should have the opportunity to express ourselves and not tout the party line. If once in a while you or I say something that may be a little different than what some of my colleagues have said, so be it.

Mr O'Toole: This isn't private members' business.

Mr Peters: I know it's not private members' business. But what we need to have more of around this place -- and if this government had the guts to do it we would see that opportunity -- is that more of us could express ourselves on what we want to see. That's what Dalton McGuinty has put forward with a charter of rights that would change the way we do business around here. I know Mr Wood has talked about it. We do need to change the way we do business around here.

With that, I want to thank everybody for participating in the debate this evening. This legislation needs to go forward so we enshrine that right to hunt and fish in this province.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr O'Toole: I'm waiting for some instructions from headquarters here.

Bill 135 is a bill that I've briefly spoken on and am somewhat familiar with. There's been some talk about having public hearings and there's been talk -- pardon me. I'm going to share my time with the former Minister of Natural Resources, now the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Chris Hodgson.

Interjection: How about Hodgson now?

Mr O'Toole: Hodgson is up now and that's the way I'd like to leave it, because I know he's passionate about speaking on this.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank my colleague from Durham for sharing his time so graciously; he's left me the vast majority of his time.

I'm pleased to rise in the House today to support the passage of Bill 135. As I think the member for Durham mentioned, I had the privilege and honour of being Minister of Natural Resources from 1995 to 1997. I've also been a hunter and a fisherperson all my life and I can definitely say that this type of legislation is truly necessary to ensure that future generations also have an opportunity to enjoy one of the great traditions in our province, hunting and fishing.

One of the first ways our government demonstrated our support for hunting and fishing was the establishment of a special purpose account. I was pleased to be the minister when Premier Harris fulfilled a commitment to dedicate the fishing licence and hunting licence revenue to a special purpose account. A few members in this House will recall that previous governments said this was impossible to do, could not be done. Well, our party made a promise and we kept it.

An important element of the new special purpose account was the creation of a Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board. This Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board has been essential to providing solid advice to the Minister of Natural Resources on how best to use the dollars in the special purpose account. We owe a great deal of gratitude to those individuals who helped guide the province in these important decisions. They've volunteered their time and they've done a great service to the people of Ontario.

Whether it's rehabilitating wetlands or building fish ladders or cleaning garbage from the sides of our lakes and rivers, anglers and hunters show that they are conservationists first. They understand the importance of a sustainable resource, and without it we wouldn't need Bill 135. So to build on the great work of the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board, Bill 135 would establish a Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission. The commission would provide advice to the minister on a wide variety of fish and wildlife initiatives. It would function as an advocate for recreational hunting and fishing by fostering outreach programs for youth, tourism opportunities and greater participation in fish and wildlife conservation programs.

Hunting and fishing isn't just great fun, it's an important business for Ontario and by passing this act we would show our support for those important initiatives. Resource-based tourism is crucial to our economy and we need to do everything we can to grow that business.

This proposed legislation will keep an important promise made to anglers and hunters across Ontario. I'd like to thank a great number of people in this province who have been consulted and have contributed and given advice to help us get to the point we're at today. I congratulate Minister Ouellette for bringing it forward for second reading. I also congratulate the former minister, Mr Snobelen, for the groundwork and the consultation in getting it into this House.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is very important to the people of my riding. Hunting and fishing has been a part of our way of life for generations. I look at this bill that enshrines the right to hunt and fish for today's generation and for future generations as sort of like minority protection, a bill of rights for a way of life that the vast majority may not participate in, but I can assure you that those who do are conservationists first.


I'd just like to comment on a few of the things I've heard here tonight about the deterioration of our natural resources. While that may be true in some instances, there are also a lot of success stories that we should remember. When I was younger, growing up around the lakes in Haliburton, there were some lakes that had very few fish. Haliburton Lake today has more fish in it than it had at any time in my life. You now have in the leader of the third party's riding, a former Minister of Natural Resources, pelicans on Lake of the Woods. That was unheard of a generation ago. They've come back because of the quality of the water, and the environment has improved.

We sprayed DDT in the 1950s. We've made some huge improvements. The Grand River rehabilitation project now has brown trout once again. In my riding in Beaverton, where there was an old mill that had stopped the fish from coming up the river and spawning, we now have fish ladders and stream rehabilitation brought about by the outdoor community in that area and we now have brown trout.

In Haliburton, where we had the mill, because of the high school, the local outdoors association and the local businesses all coming together, we've got a rehabilitation project that has brought in spawning beds for pickerel. We also have something that's very beautiful for our community that helps in the promotion of tourism. It's a legacy that we enjoy today but that future generations will really appreciate. The whole town got involved in it.

In the Great Lakes we've reintroduced the stocking of salmon. It's a great tourism event and good for business, but it's also a sign that we can do some things right as a society as we put our act and our minds together and work co-operatively.

When I was minister, we brought in a new Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997. Minister Snobelen had the honour of signing it into proclamation. Before we got to that point, that act hadn't been changed in almost 40 years. We brought together 20 groups that represented environmentalists, the hunting and angling community, commercial fishermen, and I said, "Where we have a consensus to go forward and modernize the act, we will." They all signed on to the wording of the act and the regs, we brought it forward to this House and this House passed the bill. That's a modern act that will stand us in good stead.

I could go on and talk about the improvements I see in our Great Lakes and some of the rehabilitation projects that have been brought about by the outdoors community with their licence revenue. Through community enhancement projects we're restoring wetlands and preserving spawning beds.

There have been huge improvements in the way we manage wildlife. As Ron Vancort, a former deputy of MNR, told me when I first got the job, "Really, we're managing people. The wildlife will look after itself if we manage people and make it in their interest to recognize the importance of sustaining our environment."

Conservative governments historically have done that with the creation of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and the huge expansion to parks under the Living Legacy program, which started out as Lands for Life. These are monumental achievements that this government and past Conservative governments have been able to achieve.

The Oak Ridges moraine will stand the test of time. In that legislation is the protection of cold-water streams on the moraine and leading off the moraine up to Lake Simcoe. It's a lake that is very important to my riding. It's a lake that we want to make sure maintains itself as a cold-water lake and fishery. It will need some added attention to make sure the phosphate loading and the development pressures don't ruin that ecosystem.

There are challenges. There's more we can do, but I want to say that this bill will go a long way to help sustain our culture, our traditions, the businesses that thrive on the outdoor community's purchases, and it's also good for the environment.

I also want to point out that some people have talked about the need for more consultation and public hearings. There has been a lot of consultation on this bill. There have been hundreds of submissions on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. There have been tours by the minister, but if the House leaders in their weekly meetings decide that they want hearings, I will leave that to the experts. I notice that two House leaders are in attendance today and they will bring it up with our House leader as well.

There have been some suggestions that we need to have a definition of conservation. I know that with a little bit of work -- this is my own personal opinion -- I'm sure we could get a consensus on what a proper definition of conservation should be. When I was Minister of Natural Resources, we developed a definition of conservation that people from various backgrounds -- environmental groups and outdoor associations -- agreed with. There are also definitions that the FON and others would agree with, which I'm sure we could include in a bill if that was the will of this House. I don't see that as contentious.

We've got issues around First Nations, and that's not contentious. The law is quite clear. The Constitution is quite clear. There are myriad protections for First Nations' rights when it comes to hunting and fishing. In my own personal opinion, if we want to reiterate some of that, I don't see a problem. That's the law of the land. That's in our Constitution. There's no way that this bill was ever intended or will ever be used to denigrate or have any impact whatsoever on First Nations' rights. I think you would have a consensus on that from all interested parties.

It has been my privilege to serve in a government that recognizes the importance of the conservation of the tradition of hunting and fishing. I hope, as I fish with my daughters on Haliburton Lake this summer, that I will be able to rest assured that this House, in its wisdom, has seen the light and passed this bill before summer so we can enshrine that.


Hon Mr Hodgson: I hear the NDP member talking about slot sizes. I can tell you there has been a lot of controversy about slot sizes. One thing it does is that it gets people's attention and they start to appreciate their resource. Secondly, the NDP did it in a lot of areas. I'm sure your leader could explain to you that those decisions are not taken lightly; they're very difficult decisions to make.

But I can tell you one thing: when you have the people in the Ministry of Natural Resources that I had when I was there, people like Gord Pizer from the Lake of the Woods area, who brought about fish hatcheries and gave ownership of the resource to the local people -- and I was able to learn from people like that and set up a fish hatchery in Haliburton -- then someday we won't need slot limits. But until that day comes, we have to have rules in place to make sure the fish are sustainable.

I'm sure the minister of the day, when he made decisions around slot sizes, didn't do it lightly, and I'm sure you would appreciate that the ministers in our government never make those decisions lightly either. But sometimes we have to do things in the long-term interest of the wildlife and the fish in this province.

In conclusion, I'd just like to say that some great things have occurred in the last number of years, both in legislation and in our local environments across Ontario. I know this bill will stand the test of time and preserve those important traditions in our society.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I again stand in my place and suggest that the Liberal caucus is very much in support of Bill 135, the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act. I would suggest that it should be law by now. There's absolutely no question.

I come from a community that probably has more freshwater lakes than any other city in Ontario. Within our boundaries, we have more than 200 freshwater lakes, and we fish from many of those. Within a three-minute walk from my home, I can be fishing for pickerel. Not many people in this House can say that. I would suggest that we're very, very fortunate in the north -- and across Ontario, but certainly in the north -- to have the ability to hunt and fish.

I remember growing up as a young boy and turning into a young man who went hunting with his father almost every weekend. Those were perfect opportunities for father and son to bond, to get together and talk about the important things in life. Hunting and fishing is important to many people in Ontario. The Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act, I think, does not violate any law or take anyone's rights.

So we are very much in favour of this bill. We believe it provides something. There's more rhetoric to this bill than anything else, but you know what? It is important to a lot of people. I happen to be one of those who feels this to be very, very important. This bill has certainly enshrined the rights of all peoples. Many of the concerns out there certainly wouldn't stand the test of time or law.

Again, I say that the Liberal caucus is in support of this bill. We believe everyone's rights are protected within this legislation. I'm certainly happy to report that any angler or hunter I've talked to since Christmas can't understand why all three parties haven't supported this.


Mr Kormos: I am so pleased how the progress around second reading of this bill has resulted in cabinet ministers -- the Minister of Housing -- wanting to participate in the debate, as well as parliamentary assistants and government backbenchers. You see, had they really not believed debate was critical, they merely could have sat in their places.


Mr Kormos: Well, it's true. You've done it on other occasions and with respect to other matters, such as the MPP salary increase. The Conservatives and the Liberals didn't want to debate it. The New Democrats had to carry the debate by ourselves. We were the only people who voted against it.

But with Bill 135 this evening we hear from Liberal member Mr Peters, from Elgin-Middlesex-London. Mr Peters made a valuable contribution to this debate. This is why we need debate around these bills, because Liberal member Mr Peters agrees with New Democrats that there should be some committee hearings, that people deserve to be heard, that people have a right to have input. We've made a specific request on behalf of First Nations people. I tell you, Minister of Housing, they don't think they were consulted, at least not meaningfully, in the first round.

But that's OK. This can wrap up relatively soon in terms of second reading debate. We need a commitment for some committee hearings -- as a matter of fact, I'll tell you what, some committee of the whole. We'd even agree to a three- or four-hour time limit on it.

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): Oh, yeah.

Mr Kormos: Well, we'd put it on the record. We need some committee of the whole to get some questions and answers, because you, sir, Minister of Housing, suggest that this bill constitutes protection of a minority, like a bill of rights. That's frightening language to the First Nations people. That's exactly what they're concerned about. You either mean it or you don't. Let's find out. Let's have some committee hearings. This bill could then progress as it should.

Hon Mrs Johns: I just wanted to add my comments to the member for Haliburton-Victoria-Brock's comments. I know the minister well and I know he spends a lot of time in his riding enjoying the things he talked about today. I know he's an avid hunterman and fisherman. The thing I think I have recognized most about him over the six years we've sat in the Legislature together is that he does a lot of these things with his children in an effort to be close to his kids and be involved in their lives. I think that shone through today.

When people listen to him and hear him speak about the ability to enjoy a rural way of life, it makes we from rural Ontario proud that we enjoy that also. But today he also spent a lot of time talking about how we can make the system better. Everyone needs to recognize, as he does, that we can go forward, we can work to do better conservation, we can work to make our environment stronger, and at the same time find room to allow hunters and fisher people, as he called them -- I would call them huntermen and fishermen; it's not politically correct, so I will correct that -- to be involved in the activities that really help us have a quality of life in rural Ontario. I give him my congratulations, and as usual, I am always in awe of his ability to enjoy a rural life.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): I listened to my colleague the minister, and I know of his own personal background as a hunter and fisherman. I'm not personally a hunter. I have fished a bit in my life. My riding is bounded by the Detroit River and Lake St Clair, which are two of the greatest freshwater fisheries in the province.

We in the Liberal caucus support this bill. Perhaps the NDP House leader would like to talk at the House leaders' meeting about whether or not we have some hearings. We don't see it as a huge deal, but certainly we'd welcome it if there can be agreement on that. So the public knows, these things are often tied up in other issues as well. I don't recollect, at any House leaders' meeting, having discussed this possibility before, just a blatant attempt to block the bill before Christmas.

I think it's important that we recognize the rights of hunters and fishers. The law is limited. The law really, in our view, makes a statement more than anything else. I would say to the minister and I would say to the government that if we truly want to respect the rights of hunters and fishers, we'd do more on the environment to protect our water, to protect our air, to protect our land. I challenge the government that these kinds of statements, while important in recognizing hunting and fishing as part of our heritage and part of our culture, part of the culture of many peoples who have come here -- in my community there's a very large Italian community, and hunting is a very integral part of that community so we hear often from them about the importance of hunting to them.

So I would say to the government that we're pleased to support this bill. Certainly we can talk about hearings at a House leaders' meeting. I don't think anybody would preclude that as a possibility. The minister certainly expressed an openness, and we appreciate that.

The Acting Speaker: Response?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I'll start by thanking my colleague from Sudbury. Coming from Sudbury, he appreciates the progress we can make when a community pulls together. The greening of Sudbury is truly phenomenal.

I'd like to thank my colleague the member from Huron-Bruce. She works hard on behalf of rural Ontario day in and day out, and I hope her constituents know that. Sometimes we have to spend a lot of time at Queen's Park and in Toronto, especially being in cabinet, but they should know and appreciate the fact that your heart never leaves where you call home. For a lot of us that is rural Ontario, and this is a very important bill for rural Ontario.

To my friend the House leader for the Liberal Party, from Windsor-St Clair, I'm appreciative of the fact that he supports this bill. I know he will do his best, in Thursday morning meetings with House leaders, to make sure this bill is passed in an expeditious manner.

My colleague from the NDP, from Niagara Centre, is pretty smooth. You know, you've got Thursday mornings to negotiate with the House leader. For those watching on television, this place works on consensus. Sometimes it takes a few parties to be reasonable, so I'm very pleased to see that he's reasonable. He wants to talk to the House leader about how he can have short committee hearings to make sure we get input. But I'm sure he's willing to trade and offer up some concessions. Last night I listened to the NDP party call for 30-minute votes all night, obstructing this important piece of legislation once again, like they did before Christmas. Quite frankly, a lot of your colleagues represent ridings where this bill is very important. I beg you to listen to your constituents and represent their wishes as you come forward into this Legislature and to help and assist in passing this important piece of legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? I would just remind members that we are now into 10-minute speeches.

Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): I proudly stand here as a member of a very urban riding, St Paul's, to commit the Ontario Liberals to angling and hunting in the province of Ontario. I stand here with a thumb that was recently bitten by a muskie in the Kawartha lakes. If it weren't for the Ontario Liberal commitment to angling and hunting in Ontario --

Mr Kormos: It was a rat from the Bridle Path.


Mr Bryant: It was not a rat from the Bridle Path. I want to assure the government that it was a fish. It was confirmed by the member for Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, Mr Cleary, that it was a fish.

I also stand here as the Attorney General critic who looked across at the public safety minister last week when he proved to this province, to this country, that when it comes to hunting down terrorists this government is engaging in a catch-and-release program. This government thinks terrorists are trout. In fact, we need not to be engaging in a catch-and-release program when it comes to fighting terrorism in Ontario; it means catching them and keeping them in Ontario. This is a public safety minister who mistakes the Ontario Legislative Assembly for a sleeper cell.

Hon Mr Hodgson: You're talking about hunting terrorists, not hunting wildlife.

Mr Bryant: I'm getting there. I'm making an analogy.

Really, what troubles me is that we do not right now have the opportunity to speak to the most important piece of business before the Legislature at this time -- surely the third party would agree with me on this -- which is the blank cheque bill that was introduced in this Legislature this afternoon. The blank cheque bill, unlike this bill, is a blank cheque for privatization. This blank cheque for privatization is one that the official opposition will, using every resource we have, cancel. The opposition will dismiss the bill.

Ms Martel: Come on. What did Dalton say in December?

Mr Bryant: Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals have said from day one --


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for St Paul's has the floor. I would like to be able to hear what he is saying.

Mr Bryant: The member for St Paul's is speaking to a heritage hunting bill, so this should be interesting, OK? I'm surprised I'm being heckled by the third party.

Mr Kormos: We're not heckling.

Mr Bryant: Yes, you're helping.

In any event, with respect to Bill 135, of course we support this bill. It recognizes the important cultural, social and economic benefits of recreational hunting and fishing in this province and the contributions made by hunters and anglers, not just those who have had their thumbs bitten by the muskies of the Kawarthas but for those who have committed their lives and passed down from generation to generation this heritage whereby we are committed to -- I mean, this surely must be the most glorious, beautiful province in the country. I don't think anyone is going disagree with me on that front. Hear, hear. One manner in which the people of this province celebrate this extraordinary beauty is in the great outdoors, and how do they do it? Among other things, they do it through the heritage, passed down from generation to generation, of angling and hunting.

I'm proud to stand here. I think it's fair to say I've been an advocate of gun control in this province, speaking on issues of phony guns, speaking on issues ensuring safety in the province of Ontario. But that, to me, has always been a very separate issue from that of angling and hunting. Angling and hunting means responsible outdoors persons in Ontario engaging in activities that have been passed down through the generations. We are reaffirming this through this bill. The Ontario Liberals have reaffirmed this in our support for this bill. Notwithstanding all the efforts to distract the member from St Paul's, I stand before you as an angling and hunting missionary --


Mr Bryant: Thank you, thank you -- ensuring that we continue to reinforce and recommit ourselves to this issue that is so important to so many Ontarians. Surely that's the purpose of the heritage hunting act.

We also support the bill because it doesn't override existing provincial hunting and fishing laws or regulations, as the Minister of Natural Resources has acknowledged. He said the government of the day will always have both the authority and the responsibility to regulate hunting and fishing, which means there is an affirmation here that the government will continue to remain accountable on this issue, when they have sought to cede accountability when it comes to the future of energy in Ontario. This government is an absentee shareholder when it comes to Hydro One, a government that has somehow, unlike under this bill, relegated its responsibilities, refused to be there at the table when the important decisions were made and, as a result, we have the extraordinary compensation package that is currently being pursued through a power play whereby the Hydro One board has boxed in the government of Ontario and, in turn, the government has suggested it's going to face down the board with threats of legislation. I say, "Pearson airport redux."

I say, no matter what the government does, unless they pursue the status quo and keep Hydro One public, as they should, it's going to be a situation where yet again the government finds itself in the courts, dealing with their multi-billion dollar botch-up that is their electricity reform project.

Let's not forget where this all started, in December with the government trying to sell Hydro One without a mandate; then the government being caught out, this being an illegal sale of one of the province's most valuable assets. Then, when the law of Ontario said they couldn't do it, for some reason they decided both to appeal before the Court of Appeal, on the one hand, and pass legislation here on the other hand.

I asked the Premier about this today. Why is the government always faced with issues that are before the courts, saying quite simply, "We can't deal with that matter because it's before the courts"? There is a minister in this House, Minister Hodgson, who I think has said, "The matter is before the courts and therefore I cannot answer that question," maybe one thousand times.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask that the member speak to the bill that is currently in debate.

Mr Kormos: Joe, he can't.

Mr Spina: He seems to be really drifting. I would ask you to judge that, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I am certain that the member for St Paul's will relate all that to Bill 135.

Mr Bryant: I'm making an analogy between the mega-billion-watt rip-off of Ontarians on the one hand, and the 1.8 million Ontarians who take part in hunting and angling each year. If that isn't self-evident to the member, then I suggest he listen a little more closely.

Mr Kormos: To Joe?

Mr Bryant: That's true. Given the member in question, fair enough.

Recreational hunting and fishing contributes more than $3.5 billion to the provincial economy. On the other hand, Hydro One, this --

Hon Mr Hodgson: Are you in favour of this bill?

Mr Bryant: Of course I'm in favour of this bill. I support this bill. I said this at the very beginning. Hydro One, on the other hand, is a natural money-maker, in fact generating enormous profits for the province of Ontario -- maybe not $3.5 billion to the provincial economy each year like hunting and angling. But again, because I'm faced with 25 seconds and a limited mandate to speak to this particular issue, thanks to the member, I'm going to have to close by saying this: Ontario Liberals are committed to this bill. The principles in this bill are principles that are self-evidently supportable and celebrated by this caucus. Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals look forward to further debate, further celebration and commitment to hunting and angling in the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Kormos: Wow, Speaker. December 12, 2001, after the announcement of the Hydro One IPO, the initial public offering, quote, "Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty said privatizing Hydro One was the right move, but should have been done following an open debate in the Legislature," maybe so that Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals could have voted for it, like they did on June 28, 1998, voting in favour of this government's Electricity Competition Act on second reading.

So I say to my colleague from St Paul's, don't go, colleague from St Paul's. Stay.

Mr Bryant: I'm here.

Mr Kormos: You and Joe Spina can spend some private time; perhaps you'll do some Wettlauferian male bonding. But during the course of that you might want to reflect on where your Liberal Party has been on the issue of privatization.

Mr Bryant: I'm reflecting.


Mr Kormos: Just as now they appear to be coming from all over the place on this bill, one of your colleagues, your whip, wanted this bill to pass second and third readings with no debate. He doesn't believe, you see, in the parliamentary process. I know you do, which is why you debated this bill tonight.

You wanted to spend your 20 minutes debating Bill 135. As a Liberal, you felt it was your obligation. Be damned if you were going to let this slide through without debate. Be damned if you, as a Liberal, were going to let Bill 135 pass without your participation, even if it would delay the passage of it. By God, this bill could have passed in December had New Democrats not said no. Michael Bryant of St Paul's has a right to engage in the debate; the Minister of Housing has a right to engage in the debate; Dwight Duncan has a right to engage in the debate; Rick Bartolucci has a right -- and they have. Steve Peters has a right to engage in the debate, and he did. And it was New Democrats who made it possible. It's a great country, isn't it?

Mr Duncan: I'm pleased to respond to my colleague from St Paul's. Like him, I represent a largely urban riding and like him, I support this bill. Like him, I recognize the straightforwardness of the bill. The ability to pass this bill sooner certainly could have happened had we had that agreement from the NDP.

When one talks of flip-flops, when one talks about history around this place, I think the New Democrats ought to reflect on their own history, on the social contract. The party of organized labour that would never strip a collective agreement, the party that campaigned for public automobile insurance, what did they do when they got elected? They didn't do it. The party that campaigned against Sunday shopping, what did they do when they got elected? They opened the doors wide open. What party introduced private electricity generation in Ontario? It was the New Democrats in the Rae government: TransAlta in my community of Windsor, which is providing a good service.

What they're good at is twisting other people's words. What they're good at is breaking their own word. So we need no lecture from them in the rump over there about what we say or what we do versus what they say or do.

The NDP House leader spoke eloquently about the pay raise MPPs voted themselves. They voted against it. But what did they do? They took it. My goodness. Hypocrisy stands no taller than in the NDP caucus collectively.

The Acting Speaker: I would like you to withdraw the word "hypocrisy."

Mr Duncan: I retract that.

Conflict of opinion, voting one way, doing another thing, stands no taller than it does in the NDP caucus. We need no lecture from that failed lot, that rump left over from the Rae days that drove this House into the ground, this province into the ground. We support this particular bill and the rights of hunters and fishers in Ontario.

Mr Prue: I will try to confine my comments to the actual bill and the few small statements that my friend had to say about hunting. He did make a couple of very minute statements in his very eloquent 10-minute speech, the first that his thumb was bit by a muskie. I demand proof. I have been a fisherman all my life and I demand proof, other than that you put your thumb right in its mouth.

He did go on to talk about the importance of the economy and I think we all need to bear this very much in mind. The member for St Paul's talked about a $3.5-billion industry, and in fact it is. Many people's livelihoods depend on this. I think therefore what the bill is attempting to do is a good thing. What the bill has not done, though, is involve all of the people who need to say something about this. The member did touch very briefly on that. All of the people who are going to be involved in this need to be heard. The native people of Ontario need to be heard. They have been shut out of the process. The environmentalists who have much to say about the degradation need to be heard.

Mr Kormos: He is defending the Tories.

Mr Prue: I'm trying my best not to listen to them.

Mr Kormos: Why is Dwight Duncan defending the Tories?

Mr Prue: I don't know. I think that perhaps he wishes he was one.

In any event, those are the people who need to be heard, our native Canadians, those who are worried and can contribute to solving the problems of environmental degradation, as well as those who have expertise on fish habitats who are going to be invited. That is all we are asking the government. That is all, in my comment to the member for St Paul's, that needs to be done to make this bill good for everyone in Ontario.

Mr Bisson: I really want to know how the member got that thumb into the muskie's mouth. I want the member for St Paul's to either table his thumb in the Legislature, as he suggested, or give us some sort of graphical description.

Mr Kormos: It was his thumb, but it wasn't a muskie.

Mr Bisson: My friend says it was his thumb but it was no muskie.

Anyway, to the member for St Paul's, I do appreciate your taking the time to debate this bill. That is why we as New Democrats said, "Listen, we're not going to agree" -- your House leader, Mr Duncan, and Mr Bartolucci from Sudbury wanted to pass this thing with no debate. They were prepared last December to give this bill second and third reading, with no debate and no time whatsoever in committee. They didn't want to have hearings. They didn't want to have anything. They thought the bill was perfect and didn't have to be changed. I'm glad that the Liberal caucus is finally starting to change its mind somewhat. I detect a bit of a shift here. I listened intently to the Liberal House leader and to the member for St Paul's and others, and all of a sudden they're saying it's a good thing that we're having some time to debate this and that the bill should go to committee.

I say to the Liberals, about time. It's about time you followed our lead, because you were going in the wrong direction. We thought you guys had somehow once again snuck in with the Tories.

I would only say one other thing, and that is to the bill itself. Let's be quite clear here. This bill is purported to give anglers and hunters all kinds of rights. It is clear by all definitions of this bill that it does nothing of the sort. The bill basically says people have the right to hunt and fish, provided they follow the law. Last time I checked, that's what we have now. On the other hand, it says it's going to create a commission, where there was a committee to advise the minister.

So this bill doesn't give anything. All it is is an attempt on the part of the Tories to say, "We have whacked anglers and hunters for the last six years." Here's a big group hug by the Tory and Liberal caucuses to say "We love you" -- because the Liberals agree. This bill doesn't do what it purports to do in the title of the bill.

Mr Bryant: I really want to confine my comments to the member from Niagara Centre, because I don't think I can say anything more than the official opposition House leader has said with respect to the other comments.

What I would suggest to people who may be tuning in or reading the Hansard is that if they want to know what the facts and the truth are on this particular bill, they should cut and paste what we've just heard, in terms of the responses from the third party, and just delete it. Instead, let's focus on the reality.

Ontario Liberals support Bill 135. But with respect to the blank cheque bill introduced by this government, it is the most putrid perversion of parliamentary process possibly known in the province of Ontario. This is a blank cheque that Ontario Liberals are going to seek to cancel.

The member for Niagara Centre spoke about Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals' position in opposing the privatization of Hydro One. Let's be clear. The electricity transmission highway should remain public. That has been the position of the Ontario Liberals from day one. As with everything to do with electricity over the last few years, the debate has been about generation. To start talking about transmission in the midst of the generation debate, I have said before, would be like talking about hospital reform and deciding to privatize ambulances. One has got nothing to do with the other. So I say to all members of this Legislature --

Mr Kormos: Are you going to privatize generation?

Mr Bryant: My thoughts on the subject of electricity generation were provided in an all-too-short speech of yesterday. Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals will do everything in their power to fight the privatization of Hydro One.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I want to spend 10 minutes talking about what I think are some fairly serious issues with this bill.

It is a puzzling bill, because the government, in its news releases and propaganda, generally wants people to believe that a new right is being created here. Yet at the same time, in December, the Conservatives and the Liberals wanted this bill passed with absolutely no examination, no analysis, no discussion, no debate.

It seems to me that as a general principle, legislators should rarely, if ever, pass legislation without some examination, analysis or debate. You want to make sure that what you're passing will in fact make good law. But it is especially true, especially the case, that where the government purports or pretends to create new rights, you should examine them. You should want to know what the extent of the right is, who will have this right, what the content of the right is and what the limit of this right is. Yet it was the position of the Conservatives and Liberals that this legislation should be passed with no discussion, no analysis -- completely absurd.

They also said that if you didn't pass this legislation with no analysis, no discussion, no debate, somehow you were opposed to fishing and hunting. That's equally absurd, completely absurd.

What is even more puzzling about this legislation is that if you read section 1, it says, "A person has a right to hunt and fish in accordance with the law." Well, if I'm not mistaken, the state of the law now is that as long as I obey the law and I have a fishing licence, I'm entitled to fish. So I have a hard time figuring out how this language does something more or new. Remarkably, in all the discussion by the government, they haven't pointed out how that would be.

If I can give an analogy, as it stands now, as a citizen of Ontario I have the right to cross the street, provided I obey the Highway Traffic Act and I don't cause any traffic safety problems. So what difference would it make if someone brought forward a law called the Right to Cross the Street Act and said, "You have a right to cross the street, provided you obey the law"? I don't think it would make any difference at all, which leads us to believe that really there is no right here, no new right being created, no right being affirmed. This is just the government trying to spin some propaganda, trying to say to some anglers and hunters that the government wants them to believe they have a new right or the government wants them to believe that somehow there is a special right being created. But I don't think the language says that at all.

But let's just assume for a minute that the government is serious, that in fact they intend this legislation to create a new right, a right to hunt, a right to fish. It would seem to me that if that were the case, then the government would want to do things properly so that that right in fact does have some substance, so that right can be constitutionally defended, so that right would not conflict with perhaps other rights such that it might be rendered unconstitutional. Let me describe what I mean.

As a result of the Sparrow decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, we now know that aboriginal people have a constitutionally established right to hunt, fish and trap for food. So one would think that if the government wants to create this new right for anglers and hunters, it would want to ensure that this new right does not conflict with that constitutionally established right of aboriginal people to hunt, fish and trap for food. Otherwise, if there is a conflict, one of these rights could be rendered unconstitutional.

The Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court of Canada also says that in terms of the so-called priority of rights with respect to hunting, fishing and these finite resources, the first priority is conservation, then comes the aboriginal right to hunt, fish and trap, and then come the rights or the privileges of others. It says very clearly that if there's a conflict with that right, then the conflict has to be rendered unconstitutional.

So you would expect that if this is a new right being created, if this right really means something, the government would have followed some of the language in the Sparrow and Delgamuukw decisions, which state the kind of process a government would have to go through. One of the things they state is that there should be consultations with First Nations. Before you attempt to restrict or in some way conflict with that constitutionally established right of First Nations, you need to hold consultations with First Nations so you can in effect establish some constitutionality or some legality to the new right you want to set up.

But I talked with a number of First Nations. I asked, "Has the government come to you and sat down to consult with you about this so-called new right?" "No." I inquired of some friends of mine involved with the Metis hunting and fishing rights, "Has the government come and talked to you about a possible conflict of rights?" "No." I talked to some environmental groups and asked them, "Has the government talked to you about this so-called right, what the extent of it would be and how it would interlock with issues of conservation?" "No."

This is a rather incredible situation. On the one hand, the government says they're establishing a right to hunt and fish, yet on the other hand, all those discussions, consultations and processes the Supreme Court of Canada said you must engage in to facilitate this right the government hasn't done. It hasn't done any of it, which leads me to believe that you have a right, so-called, in name only, but a right that could immediately be attacked constitutionally and in effect rendered useless.

So what is to be done? If the government is serious about this, if this isn't just a propaganda job, if this isn't the government just trying to spin anglers and hunters and say to them, "You've got a new right," but in fact they have nothing at all, then we need to have some committee hearings. We need to have, for example, the minister come before the committee and say what the right is. Is it constitutionally protected or not? Who will have this right? How will this right be regulated? How will it be balanced with other rights? And what will be the consultation process with aboriginal people? That's the very least I think we have to have in terms of hearings so we can know what this new right is and if it really does exist and if it has any constitutional protection.

Part of what the government might want to consider at the committee stage would be an amendment, a non-derogation clause, which says something like, "This bill does not in any way derogate from, affect or otherwise conflict with an aboriginal right to hunt, trap and fish for food." If it doesn't put in that derogation clause, then I would suggest that there is a conflict and this so-called right that the government seeks to create could immediately be declared unconstitutional.

So I say to the government, if this isn't just a propaganda exercise, if this is really about creating a right, then I think you ought to engage in a process, you have to engage in a process, otherwise this will not stand up in court for one month, in which case there are going to be a whole of disappointed people around. So I say we need some --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?


Mr Bryant: I listened closely to the leader of the third party's speech. He raises some very important issues. However, I'm a little concerned that in fact we are not focusing on what is in fact before this Legislature. It is quite true that Delgamuukw, the Vanderpeet trilogy and the Sparrow decision, starting with Byrne, set forth the fiduciary obligation of the crown to aboriginal peoples. However, I know that Mr Hampton, the leader of the third party, would never suggest for a moment that there is some sort of hypothetical, looming phantom right, in the absence, under section 35, of an interference with aboriginal activity, whether it be hunting or fishing or with Delgamuukw, where it was dealing with aboriginal title. We have to establish one way or another that there is an interference.

If there was any suggestion that there would be any interference with aboriginal rights, either violating section 35 or otherwise, I would be extremely concerned. But look at this bill. You can't say that prima facie the bill will necessarily trigger the breach of the crown's obligation. In fact, that's not the case. If that happens, we will have a dialogue between the courts and the Legislature and, if need be, the amendments would be made, but it seems to turn the promise of aboriginal rights protections that was made by Chief Justice Dickson in Byrne and later in Sparrow -- and arguably not fulfilled, I should say, by later decisions -- on its head to suggest that in fact necessarily it hovers over this proceeding, and I don't think it applies in this case.

Mr Bisson: I just want to say I agree entirely with the comments that were made by my leader. The entire issue of what it means to --


Mr Bisson: This is not a joke. The Tories can joke about this all they want. First Nations people have an inherent right when it comes to hunting, fishing and trapping, and we need to make darned sure -- and that's why we want this bill to go to committee of the whole, to be able to ask those questions specifically of the ministry and to introduce an amendment that would basically say that you're not going to abrogate those rights or lessen those rights in any way. One of the things we're asking for is a non-derogation clause in the bill. I'm sure my leader will make more comments on that when he gets an opportunity to respond in a few minutes.

Mr Duncan: My colleague from St Paul's addressed the leader of the third party's concern with respect to constitutional rights, and I've just refreshed myself. This bill was introduced on November 19, 2001, and not once between November 19 and earlier this month did anybody in the third party suggest or otherwise imply that we ought to have committee hearings. That just never happened. I think what happened was, they've heard from their own constituents in their northern ridings with respect to the importance of a recognition of this nature and they got scared because they blocked it. That's understandable, and it's understandable that they would seek committee hearings. We all do that. What's particularly annoying is that this party has voted on 21 occasions not to sit in the House and debate legislation -- 21 times and counting. Just since September of last year they have voted against sitting. We don't like the way the House sits, sitting late and cramming things in, but we would never suggest for a moment that we should vote against any opportunity to sit and debate.

This bill is pretty straightforward. My colleague from St Paul's addressed the constitutional issue. We have talked to the First Nations people as well; in fact we wrote to them earlier. All we're saying is that given the nature of the bill, why didn't they raise this in November? Why didn't they raise it in December? Now they're up raising it. I think their motives are suspect. I think they realize now they ought not to have blocked it so hastily because there were discussions in the communities between the parties. There's not a letter, a request, a motion or anything to have had committee hearings until just the last week or so.

Mr Prue: Just a very brief response, but I would like to comment on the previous responder. I may be a rookie here but it always seemed to me that you didn't get to debate until second reading. Isn't that what we're doing here today? Isn't this the first chance to raise that? Isn't this the first chance for people to talk?

Anyway, to comment, and I was going to raise this issue myself if and when I finally got a chance to speak, but the whole issue of the First Nations is one that we should never forget, as a Legislature, as a people in this country. We have done enormous wrongs to the First Nations of this land. We have done enormous things to take away their livelihoods and their rights, and we must start to redress that. One of the ways we can redress that is to make sure that we do no more harm. If all that this debate is going to do is to ensure that no more harm is done to them by way of a clause in the legislation saying that they are exempt from this and that their treaty rights will be kept, then that would be good enough for me.

The Acting Speaker: Response?

Mr Hampton: Just to summarize once again, and I appreciate the comments of other members, it seems to me the government has to make either one choice or another. On the one hand it either has to say to people, "Look, this really doesn't create a new right. This is really a feel-good bill. It's not intended to create a right. It's really a public relations exercise," or it has to seriously engage in the kind of constitutional work that has been set out in a number of Supreme Court of Canada decisions which the Supreme Court of Canada says must be engaged in, especially if you are dealing with rights which potentially conflict with already-established constitutional rights.

It seems to me there is no in-between here. If this is not a new right, if this doesn't seek to create rights to hunt and fish, then I think the government's got to say, "It's really a public relations exercise. We feel bad about some of the relations this government's had with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and we wanted to do something to restore that relationship." It could do that, or, if it is really serious about creating new rights or affirming a new right, then the Supreme Court of Canada has set down the consultative process that must be engaged in in order for that right to have any constitutional validity, in order for that right to withstand constitutional challenge.

I suspect, as I said earlier, that this is just a feel-good public relations bill that will not establish any new rights, and the government should be honest enough to say that.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): It's really a pleasure to be able to speak to this bill. As everyone in the House would know and many who are watching TV tonight would know, I represent one of the largest agricultural ridings in Ontario and a riding that truly has a heritage that is tied to hunting and fishing. That's really what this bill is about.

We've now been debating this bill for two nights and I want to just draw the public's attention to the fact that this bill is really tiny. It takes into effect two short pages and I think we could have read this out in that time frame and discussed every line within this bill. So I thought I'd spend a few minutes doing that. But let me just say that it would sound, from the information we've heard tonight, that there have been no hearings or discussions with respect to this bill.

This bill, as Mr Duncan said, received first reading in the Legislature in November 2001. It was followed then by a 30-day public comment period when the proposed legislation was posted on the province's Environmental Bill of Rights registry.


During that comment period, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the support for this bill was unprecedented. In fact, they used the word "overwhelming," with 97% of the respondents indicating support. So from that standpoint it is somewhat surprising.

Over the last two nights as we've been discussing this in the House we've had many people in the lobby who have been here to support the bill. Once again tonight we have Ray Gosselin here from the Canadian Outdoor Heritage Alliance.


Hon Mrs Johns: We'll give him applause. He's here because he's concerned; his members want this bill to pass. From that perspective, we need to think carefully about what the constituents in the province of Ontario want and we should move forward with it.

As I said, the bill is pretty short and the preamble says, "Recreational hunting and fishing have played important roles in shaping Ontario's social, cultural and economic heritage. Recreational hunters and anglers have made important contributions to the understanding, conservation, restoration and management of Ontario's fish and wildlife resources. The best traditions of recreational hunting and fishing should be valued by future generations."

I have to say that I don't think anyone can disagree with that. I think that we have to say that there's no question, especially in ridings like mine, that hunting and fishing is part of the social fibre that we have in our community. It's part of the heritage that's passed down from mother to son to grandson or granddaughter, whatever, and it's a really important part about how rural Ontario has the great quality of life that makes many of us want to live in rural Ontario, stay in rural Ontario and raise our families in rural Ontario.

It is surprising to me, I have to say, that it's been the NDP that has been hesitant about passing this bill. As we all know, in December the Liberals raised the issue about unanimous consent for this, and for that I am grateful. I'll tell you why it's so surprising. The people in the NDP for all intents and purposes -- they have a few Torontonians in that caucus -- are from the north where hunting and fishing, like in rural Ontario, is a way of life. So from that standpoint I'm surprised that we're discussing this for the NDP.

As the bill goes on, it then talks about the right to hunt and fish. A person has the right to hunt and fish. What's important about this is it then says "in accordance with the law." So it's not saying you can break the law to hunt or fish. It's not saying that it takes away native rights. It's saying that you can hunt or fish in accordance with the law. So from that standpoint, that's important.

Then it talks about setting up a commission, and from that standpoint the role of the commission doesn't seem too onerous. The commission would build on the success of the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board and would provide advice to the minister on a variety of matters, including the promotion of public participation in fishing and wildlife conservation programs -- who can disagree with that? -- the promotion of tourism related to hunting, fishing and other fish and wildlife activities, and the promotion of new opportunities for hunting, fishing and other fish and wildlife activities. I'm surprised that this is causing such controversy; I have to say that I am surprised by that.

This commission has an advisory role and reports directly to the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister then submits an annual report so the people of Ontario know exactly what the commission has done during the year. It can report on the issues. It's tabled in the assembly so the NDP can have a look at it, the Conservatives can have a look at it, the Liberals can have a look at it. So I'm really surprised that this has become a lightning rod in this House.

I have to say that when I had the opportunity last week to meet with some stakeholders the minister brought in, I was so surprised by the support that happened in all of the hunting and fishing heritage organizations that are in the province of Ontario. It's a small sign. We believe that this is an integral part of rural life, it's an integral part of northern life, it's an integral part of the heritage that many of us aspire to have for our children and our grandchildren.

You would guess as you look at me that I may not be the big hunter or fisherman that others in this House are. But I have to say that there is nothing like spending a Saturday afternoon out in a little boat with two little kids you're very proud of and spending time talking, fishing, tangling lines, trying to get the worm on and off, trying to get the fish on and off. I have to say that that's what makes the quality of life in rural Ontario. That's what we're all so proud of. That's why we choose to have our children born, raised and hopefully retire in rural Ontario. That's the kind of life and the legacy I want to leave for my children. I'm proud of that and I'm happy to support this bill because I believe that we always need to give credence and to ensure that this way of life is protected.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Peters: It's great to hear the Minister of Ag and Food get up and speak this evening. I know it's not part of the debate this evening, but it would have been nice to have her explain what happened to RA, the rural affairs ministry, and what the new Ministry of Ag and Food is going to look like. I know the agricultural community in rural Ontario is anxiously awaiting the day when we come clean and we see what the new Ministry of Agriculture and Food looks like.

This is a piece of legislation that doesn't, as we know, have a lot of substance to it. It is a piece of legislation that is recognizing the right to hunt and fish. But I think we all, every one of us -- as in my comments earlier this evening -- need to recognize too the collective damage that we have done to the environment in this province and the corrective action we need to take to turn things around. What we need to do is ensure that as initiatives are taken in this province we support conservation activities that are going to help in the restocking of our streams and our lakes, measures that are going to turn around some of the pollutants that we've allowed to come from our municipalities, pollutants that we've allowed to come from failing septic systems in this province and pollutants that we've allowed to come from the agricultural community. We can't point the finger at any one person. We need to collectively accept the responsibility that we've done a lot of damage to the environment in this province and we've got to turn things around.

This is a piece of legislation that draws some awareness, but we need to take it beyond awareness. We need to take hard and concrete steps to help turn things around, to help start to improve the natural environment. This legislation doesn't do that. But I recognize that the minister recognizes the importance of passing this legislation.

Mr Kormos: I listened carefully to the Minister of Agriculture as she used up almost all of the 10 minutes allotted to her. This is incredible. For a bill that she insists is somewhat irrelevant, we've had two cabinet ministers tonight speak to it already. I've never seen --

Mr Bisson: Three.

Mr Kormos: Three cabinet ministers tonight. It is unprecedented to have this many cabinet ministers wanting to participate in a debate around a bill of which they say, "Oh, just pass the son of a gun and get it done and over with." No, Minister. Clearly, you feel obliged to participate in the debate, which is why you stood up. I'm glad we gave you that chance. That's what this Parliament is all about: people standing up and speaking on behalf of their constituents with respect to the legislation before them. Goodness, Minister, you finally got it.

The Liberals wanted this to pass without any debate. Now we discover that their own members were being stifled because today we see Liberals standing up participating in the debate -- finally. We see Mr Peters from Elgin-Middlesex not only acknowledging how important it is to speak to this bill in this House, but similarly that it's important that this bill go out to committee. That's what this Parliament is about.

I don't know who you thought you were hoodwinking when you told anglers and hunters that you, the government, could somehow break the rules and not expect parliamentarians to fulfill their responsibilities by passing this like that. I sure as heck hope you didn't -- you know what I mean -- the m-word them, because whoever told anglers and hunters that this government -- the government didn't call the bill. The government had no interest in seeing this bill passed before Christmas. You never called it. You're the guys in control. You abandoned anglers and hunters.


Mr Chudleigh: It's difficult, of course, to follow the antics of the member opposite. Hunting muskrat on the Welland marsh wouldn't ever be in your experience, I suppose.

Talking about consultation on legislation, I think our government --

Mr Kormos: What are you suggesting?

Mr Chudleigh: Haven't you ever been out on the Welland marsh hunting muskrats?


Mr Chudleigh: You haven't lived.


Mr Chudleigh: You have to be very careful how you dress them.

On the consultation this government has taken when compared to the consultation that the NDP government had from 1990 to 1995, I'm very comfortable with the record of this government compared to the rather despicable record that you had when it came to consulting with the public of Ontario and going against the wishes of the vast majority of people in this province.

When the member from Huron was talking about this act and this bill --

Mr Kormos: The Minister of Agriculture.

Mr Chudleigh: -- the Minister of Agriculture, when she was talking about drifting down a river with her two boys, whom I've met, it drew up those same kinds of memories that you had when you were a very young person, whether you were a boy or a girl, fishing with your parents and having those conversations that you just may not have the opportunity to have under other circumstances with people. That kind of heritage is something that this province should enshrine and should have available to the future children of Ontario for ever and ever. That's why I'd be very proud to support this bill.

Mr Bisson: I'm delighted that the government has taken the time, three cabinet ministers now, to debate this bill, to tell us what they think and how important they think this bill is to the constituents they represent. I just want to point out that it's the very reason why we as New Democrats last Christmas said no to the Liberal motion to use unanimous consent to have no debate on this bill. It's too important to hunters and others to basically have no debate on it and to allow this bill to go forward in the way that it was proposed by the Tories.

I say to the government, I'm heartened by finally seeing the government debating this bill, finally seeing the Liberals getting into the debate on the bill and saying we need to have some time at committee, because indeed we do need some amendments to this bill. As I had said in my initial comments on this bill, the government purports by way of the title of the bill that they're giving anglers and hunters some kind of rights. Now --

Mr Kormos: Just like the Victims' Bill of Rights.

Mr Bisson: It's like the Victims' Bill of Rights. It basically is like an emperor with no clothes, because when you read the bill it says in subsection 1(1) that you have the right to hunt and fish provided you follow the law. When you ask the experts what that means, they say, "It doesn't mean anything."

Then they have a second section of the bill that says that where you used to have a committee to advise the minister you now have a commission, and it's the minister who decides what the commission does or doesn't do. So when I ask the ministry, "Does that change anything?" they say, "No, it doesn't do anything. It's the same as the status quo."

What we've got here is an attempt on the part of the government to say, "Anglers and hunters, we love you. We want to, as a Tory caucus, embrace you. We want to give you a nice, tight hug and say we love you because we understand as Tories we've been bad to anglers and hunters," that you've whacked them on the head every chance you've had. You're the guys who cancelled the spring bear hunt, you're the guys who introduced slot sizes, you're the guys who used special-purpose funds out of the account to pay for the Lands for Life process, and I don't have enough seconds left on the clock to say all the other negative things you've done.

So, yes, I will propose amendments --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Hon Mrs Johns: I'd like to thank my colleagues from Elgin-Middlesex-London, Niagara Centre, Halton and Timmins-James Bay for their comments.

I think this bill is important. It enshrines in legislation the view that hunting and fishing are an important part of our heritage in rural Ontario. It enshrines the fact that the government and everyone in this Legislature think hunting and fishing are important. And I think there is a reason we would want to say that.

I have to say to the member from Timmins-James Bay that I give anglers and hunters just a little more credit than he does. I don't think they're going to love us today because of one bill. They have asked us, as they have asked you and the Liberals, to move forward and pass this bill. They've asked you to do that -- you know they've asked you to do that -- and yet you choose not to do that. I don't think, because you stand here and hold this up for days on end, that the Conservatives are going to look terrible. I think it's a challenge that we ask you: anglers and hunters have the ability to make decisions about the things we do, and I suggest to you that we all need to show that we have a commitment to this very important lifestyle.


Hon Mrs Johns: I understand that you have a lot to say, and I can't wait to hear from the member for Niagara Centre, but it is my 22 seconds left. Let me just say that in this Legislature we have a lot of things we bring from our own communities. We have a lot of things that we're very proud of and that we represent here in the Legislature floor because our constituents are very involved in them for some reason. Hunting and fishing are two of those things in my riding, and that's why I speak so positively about them.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I want to speak briefly tonight in support of Bill 135 and make a couple of observations.


Mr Conway: I'm glad I have incited an apparent paroxysm of enthusiasm in the member from Scarborough.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Finance): Not a lot excites her. It's a good thing.

Mr Conway: The Minister of Finance says that not a lot excites her, and this is a good thing. I'm not going there, Janet.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I wouldn't either.

Mr Conway: I've been listening to this debate, and this is now day two or day three on this. I would say to the government: is our order paper so burdensome that we can afford to give this amount of legislative time to this? I mean, who could be opposed to this?


Mr Conway: I have been listening to the debate.

But I want to say, quite seriously, that one would have to be extragalactic to think that recreational hunting and fishing are somehow not part of our patrimony and our future in Ontario. The people who send me here would expect that I would stand in my place, as would any member of the Legislature for the Ottawa Valley -- they would say, "Tell those people in Toronto that of course hunting and fishing are important values today, tomorrow and certainly yesterday."

Just look at this coat of arms above our illustrious Speaker. Think about your history here in old Upper Canada. Where did the great wealth of Ontario originate? I live across from the Hudson's Bay Company store on Bloor Street. What was the bedrock on which that great fortune was made?

But it is more that just a bromide, my friends. Let me just make two observations. Hunting and fishing issues remind me of how fundamentally important is the regional divide in the Ontario and the Canadian political culture.


Mr Conway: The member from Scarborough intones that I am wrong. I presume she wants to get into this debate; she seems to be seized of a veritable verbiage tonight. So get into the debate, madam. You shouldn't be sitting there spitting and muttering into your book; you should engage in the debate in the way you know how.

I want to make the point that as more and more people in this province live south of Highway 7, and more and more --


Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): Jesus.

Mr Conway: Now she's swearing at me.

The fact of the matter is that more and more people in Ontario are living in the greater Toronto area. I just cite the latest Statistics Canada data. In the last five years, the population in the province grew by 6.1%. I think the GTA was growing by around 10%. My area declined by 1% and northern Ontario by much more than that. Most of the hunting and fishing in Ontario occurs outside of Metropolitan Toronto, metropolitan Hamilton, metropolitan Ottawa.


Mr Conway: What am I going to do with this? I'm not going to try to compete.

The Acting Speaker: We'll stop the clock. We really do have to be a little bit quieter. Mr Conway has the floor.

The member can continue.

Mr Conway: I'm going to get momentarily to a point that is very difficult. I was speaking to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We all want to be positive, and we should about this. But I've got a story to tell that is perhaps just a reminder of an aspect of this that's going to be difficult. Most of the hunting and fishing, as I say, goes on well north of here. In my area, which is in the Algonquin Park perimeter, there's a lot of hunting and fishing. Certainly when you get into Mr Hampton's territory up near the Manitoba border, fishing particularly and hunting certainly goes on to an even greater degree. It's a big part of that regional economy, as it is in mine and Mr Hodgson's.

I'm under no illusion, just watching the public debate in my part of the province, and perhaps the Minister of Agriculture sees some of this as well, that the hunting and fishing issues are certainly starting to cause some friction. As the province becomes more urban and more suburban, I fully expect the tensions on this divide to increase. I don't think we need to be unduly concerned about that, but we can certainly expect more of it.

I'll tell a little story. Friends of mine run a newspaper in my area. For years, during hunting season they used to prominently display the prize catches on the front page of their paper. They've been encouraged to stop that practice in recent years just as a small reminder that there is a growing other side to this debate -- not one that I happen to share.

I was listening to somebody the other day on the CBC. It was somebody from Britain who's coming to Canada to argue the case that angling was a cruelty to fish that should be ended by humane governments. I found it an exotic point of view and not one that I share, but it was a very interesting and lively argument, and I suspect that there are people in my constituency who would perhaps share that view. I would expect they very much are in the minority.

The point I want to get to in the very limited time I have tonight is that in my part of eastern Ontario, we have a land claim. The Algonquins of Golden Lake have a very substantial land claim currently before the governments of Ontario and Canada. As part of that land claim discussion and for the reasons that Mr Bryant and the leader of the New Democratic Party were referring to earlier, we acknowledge an aboriginal right to hunt and fish. At the present time, the Ministry of Natural Resources is telling us in my part of eastern Ontario that while we have a surfeit of deer in southeastern Ontario, there is apparently a sharp decline in the moose population in and around Algonquin Park. The decline in that moose population is apparently going to occasion a significant reduction in the number of moose tags that will be available this fall in the hunting season.

As a local community and as a provincial government, with the active involvement and participation of the aboriginal community, we are going to have to manage that hunt around the moose population in my part of the province with a view to an apparent decline and what are clearly different entitlements.

Let me say in the absence of the Minister of Natural Resources that the ministry is certainly very actively involved in this. This is not easy public administration or easy politics. I simply stand in my place today and say, yes, I support Bill 135, yes, I recognize that hunting and fishing are and must continue to be important recreational pursuits and commercial pursuits, not only in my part of the province but across the province generally. But make no mistake about it, increasingly we as a Legislature and you as government are going to have to manage delicate and difficult issues at the interface of the aboriginal and non-aboriginal hunt, particularly when issues of declining populations are involved, as appears to be the case in and around Algonquin Park.

I want to say to my constituents, particularly those who have an interest in and an expectation of participating in the moose hunt, let us both, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, understand that there are important issues of conservation, heritage and, yes, an aboriginal right to hunt and fish that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled is qualitatively different than the non-aboriginal right to hunt and fish. I say to my community, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, let us go forward, particularly in the coming months, with a view to that Algonquin and Algonquin-related moose hunt and apply the very best of our good sense and our good judgment and negotiate within the jurisprudence and the public administration that we all know well a fair and defensible policy and result.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Ms Martel: I will respond to the member with respect to the moose tag lottery, but before I do that, I find it really hard to take the government seriously when they say they are supportive of hunting and fishing rights and they can't understand why we can't deal with this bill without further delay, because if you look at the government record with respect to this bill, it is a sad record indeed.

This Legislature last year resumed sitting on September 24 and the Conservatives did not introduce Bill 135 until November 19 for first reading, and then they never again brought it forward for either second reading or debate or for a vote. In fact, on December 12, two days before the Legislature was supposed to close, the Conservatives told us that they wanted this bill and about 12 others completed without any debate on second or third reading and without any amendments. We found that, frankly, very hard to believe because, as I said, the government did nothing with respect to this bill after it was introduced on November 19, even though this Legislature sat each afternoon on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights beginning in October.

We also knew that if it was a priority for the government, they could call it for second reading debate on December 12, because we sat from 1:30 until midnight, and they could have called it again on December 13, when we sat until 10:30, but they waited until 10 o'clock on the night of December 13, when we recessed, to actually have something done with it. If it was such a priority, if you were so committed, where were you in terms of bringing forward this bill?

I say to the government as well, people in northern Ontario who hunt and fish aren't interested in being part of a snow job. They don't want a public relations exercise; they want a bill that will deal with legitimate MNR issues, like the moose tag lottery, like your proclamation of slot size without any consultation, and like --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions or comments?


Ms Mushinski: Based upon the rant I just heard from the member for Nickel Belt, I wasn't sure if she was in favour of this bill or not. She seems to harp on why we shouldn't pass this rather than why we should. That's why I was really quite delighted to hear the very eloquent arguments from the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, who is very supportive of this bill.

I guess the element that appears to be missing from much of the debate tonight is that, even though there seems to be this emerging argument that there is a strong difference between rural and urban Ontario in terms of support for this bill, I can tell you that many of the hunters and anglers who promote and support this bill actually live in my riding. Some of my very closest friends strongly believe that hunting and fishing is very much an integral part of our heritage and have asked me personally to please speak in defence of a very strong Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act. I believe the act that is being discussed this evening should have all-party support because it truly does reflect the support of all of our constituents. It is a bill that clearly recognizes recreational hunting and fishing as a part of our --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions, comments?

Mr Peters: It's a pleasure to get up and speak. I think more of us should listen to what Mr Conway says because there is no doubt that he is the most eloquent speaker in this Legislature but also somebody who brings a lot of common sense. I use "common sense" certainly not in the vein that the governing party uses the word but as to what we should do in an approach to dealing with issues, a common sense approach of dealing with issues, not only protecting the heritage but being conscious of the conservation of the issue, of bringing forward policies that are fair and defensible, of dealing with the balance between the aboriginal and the non-aboriginal community -- good sense and good judgment. He brings to this debate a great deal of thoughtfulness that doesn't always come forth in this Legislature.

I think what we need to do, and what I would really urge the government to do -- I don't know why they don't listen to Conway more often -- is listen to what he is saying because he does bring that common sense to this Legislature that is lacking. He brings something to the debate. He doesn't stand up and read the Tory script that's handed to the members that they stand up and read. He doesn't do that. He's trying to advance and do something that's in the best interests of this province.

This legislation is a step forward because it does recognize the right to hunt and fish.

Mr Marchese: I did want to get on the record tonight on this issue. I've got a different angle and nothing whatsoever to do with anglers. I've got to tell you I'm a downtown boy. I grew up in Toronto. I really don't like fishing and those little worms. The only wildlife I know are mice and rats in downtown Toronto. That's as far as I go with wildlife.

But I want to respond to my friend from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke because the question he asked when he began his remarks was, "Who would be opposed to this?" The better question would be, "Why is it before us?" Because if it doesn't confer any new rights for anglers and/or hunters, why it is in front of this Legislature? What does it mean to anyone? Because unless you are speaking about what is new and/or different for hunters and/or fishermen or -women, I don't know why the bill is before us. "Who would be opposed to it?" is his question; mine is, "Why is it before us?" Because it raises questions and doubts, at least in some people's minds, particularly in the aboriginal communities, who say, based on legal opinion, that it may impose on them certain doubts, worries about their rights -- and it's for that reason that they seek derogation kind of amendments, so as to be protected from any possible harm that such a bill would do. Why is it before us, except to raise doubts in the minds at least of aboriginal people, and others, of what little I know, that then we have to worry about as a Legislature and as members?

So I say to you, my friend, and to the Conservatives, it should not be in front of this Legislature. We shouldn't be debating it in the first place.

The Acting Speaker: Response.

Mr Conway: Let me just conclude by making the observation again that a very large percentage of the people I represent would expect me to stand in my place and support this bill, which I do, because any sensible representative of the Legislature from my part of eastern Ontario would have to observe that hunting and fishing are important, have been important and will continue to be important to the recreational and economic well-being of our communities, not just in my part of eastern Ontario but in most of the rest of the province as well.

I want to further advise the Legislature that we have to be very cognizant that, particularly when we face, as we do in the Algonquin Park area this season, an apparent reduction in a moose population, which reduction is going to have an effect, apparently, on the hunting that will be available, particularly to the non-aboriginal community, we are going to have find sensible and prudent ways to manage the hunt that are fair to both parties, to both aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

I'm under no illusions that this is necessarily going to be easy. I can remember 25 years ago when we didn't have the discussions around land claims and we had some issues with the deer population and some of the constraints that had to be imposed on hunters because of declining deer populations, and we had some of the fieriest meetings I can ever remember. Well, this fall we are going to face some reductions, apparently, in the moose hunt, and there are already indications that there's some real concern in my communities.

I say finally to all parties, to the government of Ontario, to my hunters and to the aboriginal communities in eastern Ontario, let us go forward with good sense and good judgment in the interests of conservation and manage these issues in the very best way we can.

The Acting Speaker: It being 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 2128.