37th Parliament, 3rd Session



Thursday 10 October 2002 Jeudi 10 octobre 2002



Thursday 10 October 2002 Jeudi 10 octobre 2002

The House met at 1845.



Resuming the debate adjourned on October 8, 2002, on the motion for second reading of Bill 149, An Act to extend the red light cameras pilot projects to November 20, 2004 or for an indefinite period / Projet de loi 149, Loi visant à proroger jusqu'au 20 novembre 2004 ou indéfiniment les projets pilotes ayant trait aux dispositifs photographiques reliés aux feux rouges.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe there's a quorum.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Would the Clerk please check for a quorum.

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

The Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Speaker: We are resuming the debate and I believe the member for Timmins-James Bay had the floor.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): As I was saying, and I guess it was Tuesday night we had this debate, the government has brought forward a bill to extend, past the two years they had originally given municipalities, the ability to extend red light cameras across Ontario.

Just to recap, the government two years ago said they were going to give municipalities the ability to install red light cameras on street corners as a deterrent to stop people from blowing red lights and going across stop signs, in an attempt to make our municipal roads safer. As I said in my speech initially, that is not a bad idea. It's a bill we support, but I thought it somewhat strange that the government had a renewed interest in the whole idea of camera technology because we know this is the same government that, back in the early 1990s when our government had installed photo radar in the province, was railing against it.

They were saying it was an invasion of privacy to use cameras to catch speeders and how bad an idea it was. They saw it strictly as a cash grab. I've read a number of quotes into the Hansard record from comments that a number of members of this assembly on the government side had made. People like Chris Stockwell, Mr Runciman and Mike Harris at the time in the early 1990s thought this was a terrible idea. We're glad the government's had this conversion of faith and all of a sudden has decided that, yes, you can utilize technologies to make our roads and highways safer and has decided to extend to municipalities the ability to extend the red light camera project beyond the initial two years they were given two years ago.

What this legislation does is to say that if any municipality in Ontario wants to continue to utilize red light cameras as a way of deterring people from blowing red lights, it can go ahead and do so. We're saying as an NDP caucus, and I think the Liberal caucus has said the same thing, we're in support of the use of that technology because we think that technology is a good one as a deterrent.

I said, and I want to repeat it tonight because it's important, that we need to make sure an amendment is put in place in this legislation that does the following thing: make sure that once the municipalities take the initiative of putting up red light cameras, either on stop signs or red lights, they post that the intersection you're driving up to is surveyed by a camera and that you could be caught by a red light camera, because it's our belief that what you're trying to do is deter people from blowing the stop sign or running the red light, that what you're trying to do is stop them from taking that action in the first place. If you don't have the signage up there, you have to come to the conclusion that it's not about stopping people, that it's a way of making money, a cash grab.


We're saying to the government that we don't believe this should be a cash grab. We believe this should be a deterrent. We support the idea, but we want an amendment to the legislation, defined by way of a regulation later, that municipalities have to post the corners at which the red light cameras are installed, so that drivers who are driving up to those corners know, and we deter them from blowing the red light or crossing the stop sign. It's kind of idiotic not to put the sign up and then say, "It's a deterrent. You may get caught because there may be a camera there." People are just going to go through it and cause the accident. We're saying let's deter the accident, let's deter the infraction of the Highway Traffic Act. Let's post it and then if somebody blows it, they have to pay the penalty.

The other thing we said, as far as amendments are concerned, was that this bill gives the Minister of Transportation the ability to decide to extend past the next two years, which would be November 2004, the ability of the municipality to continue its red light initiative. We believe, as social democrats, that this should be a decision that's made by municipalities. We believe municipalities should have the right to police the roads and to be able to do this on their own. They shouldn't have to have permission from the minister every time they want to do this. We believe that municipal governments are responsible, that they would use this initiative where necessary and that they wouldn't do it on a willy-nilly basis.

We're saying it's very important that we get another amendment in the legislation that basically says it is the ability of the municipality to do this and they don't need to have provincial permission to do it. The only condition is that if you do it, the regulation is set out about how it's set up. Again, signage is one of the issues we use.

The other thing I talked about was the need, aside from this legislation, for the government of Ontario to take more seriously an effort to try to deter and divert traffic that is now on our highways. As you drive around Toronto or northern Ontario, we all know that our highways are increasingly under more pressure of traffic. A reason for that is truck traffic and car traffic. One of the reasons we're having more and more traffic is not just that there are more people travelling; it's that we've moved away from using the infrastructure of rail.

I was making the argument the other night that I would call on the government to set up an all-party committee and give it a mandate over an intersession, let's say this winter, to go out and consult the people of Ontario and take a look, by talking to experts in the field, at how we would be able to develop an intermodal transport service when it comes to truck traffic, so that we can get a lot of the container trucks off our highways and put them on the rail beds, and utilize short-haul vehicles rather than having long-hauls on our stretches of highway, both the 400-series highways and highways like Highway 17 and Highway 11.

I explained the other night that we already have some of that infrastructure in place between Montreal and Windsor. There are some intermodal services there. But I believe, as a social democrat, that if we're finding it's OK, by way of the public purse, to pay for the construction of highways, which I support because they are provincial infrastructure, why should we not take the view that similar investment be done for our rail service as a way of developing our infrastructure?

In that way, we're able to make sure that on corridors like Highways 11, 17 and 401, where you already have rail service in place, you're able to deliver some dollars to develop the infrastructure so that you have some transfer points, so that if a load of lumber is coming out of Kapuskasing or Hearst or wherever it might be, you're able to do a short haul to the rail line. In many cases, the rail line goes right through the lumber mill. For example, in places like Hearst, Kapuskasing and Iroquois Falls, the line is right there at the plant. What you could do is load the lumber on to an intermodal type of flatbed, put it on a train, ship it out to wherever it's going, normally to the United States, or to Toronto, Montreal or wherever it might be, and then off-load it and do another short haul, to bring the traffic off. If we're able to assist in developing the infrastructure, that would keep the costs low enough to allow the rail service to compete in a way that's effective for the shippers and at the same time take some of that traffic off our highways.

We all know that by having heavy truck traffic on our highways, especially roads like Highway 11, we're really shortening the life of those roads by having a lot of truck traffic. I would argue we should be trying to move some of that truck traffic off our highways and putting it on intermodal service.

The other argument I made, and I think it's also what this parliamentary committee should look at, is that we look at how we are able to develop an urban transit system, so that we're able to have people get on trains from places like St Catharines to Toronto or Timmins to Toronto, rather than having people take their cars. Part of the difficulty is that it's often far more handy to get into your car to drive to a point than it is to take GO Transit or the Ontario Northland. The reason for that is that our scheduling and the service itself is not as strong as it needs to be to deflect people off the highway.

Today I went out to a meeting at the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. Just as a quick count, I looked on the QEW and the Gardiner, as I was going there in the back of the cab, at how many of these cars had only one single passenger, the driver; it was about 80% of the cars that I saw. That was at the commuting time of about 9 o'clock this morning.

Why are people driving? Why do we have so much traffic, especially in those areas? It's because it's not as functional for commuters to take GO Transit as it is to take the car, quite often, depending on where they live.

So I would argue that this parliamentary committee could take a look at the issue of developing a policy that not only tries to develop intermodal transport when it comes to shipping stuff off the highways by putting it on rail and doing short hauls, but also looks at passenger rail service as a way of doing interurban transit and longer-distance transit as far as places like North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury, Thunder Bay etc. It would be an opportunity to do that.

I think there are all kinds of examples in Europe and other places, even the United States, you can look at and that we would be able to draw on the experience of what they've done there to build a good system here in Ontario.

I say again, if we're prepared to spend billions, as we do every year, in developing our highway system, certainly we can put some money aside in order to develop a good rail system that allows people to transport themselves across this province in a way that often makes more sense than the highways.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): It's a pleasure to rise and speak and give a couple of minutes on Bill 149, the Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Extension Act. It's important to understand that in 1998 the Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Act permitted the use of photographic evidence in proceedings concerning drivers who failed to stop at a red light. It's important for government to play a role in assisting in the safety and health of its citizens.

I just find it a little bit odd that we're spending as much time as we are on Bill 149. It's another one-page act. This has happened before. I just wonder sometimes if the government appears to be running out of ideas of where it's heading in this province. As much as this has the potential, of course, of helping in safety aspects across this province, it's really to continue these cameras that were installed in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, Waterloo and Halton in the year 2000.

I would have hoped that the government would have done some significant work in other areas, such as looking at schools. I think there's an urgency in the Toronto area these days to look at putting in surveillance cameras at entrances of schools, as we've had so many incidents of intruders in the schools over the last number of months.

But again, this certainly is an act that everyone in this House supports. I would hope the government will show in the coming days that it has an agenda.

Mr Kormos: That was the completion of Mr Bisson's so-called leadoff, the mere hour that a critic is allotted to lead off debate on behalf of a caucus. He started it on Tuesday.

I want to tell you, here we are on Thursday evening -- Mr Bisson insisted on being here to complete that leadoff. I told him early this morning, "Gilles, your wife is waiting for you in Timmins. Your daughter is -- "

Mr Bisson: I wasn't at that meeting.


Mr Kormos: Come on, this is serious stuff. I pleaded with Mr Bisson, "Don't worry; the mere 10-minute balance of your leadoff is not crucial. Please, Gilles, get yourself back in your riding. It's a long wait at the airport." I pleaded with him, but Gilles Bisson insisted. As a member of this Legislature he has a responsibility as the critic to do his leadoffs and once he starts them he's going to finish them. Whether it's Thursday night or Friday morning or even Friday night, his personal considerations as to him wanting very much to be back home in the arms of his beautiful wife -- I know her well -- are secondary to his commitment to his caucus and to this Legislature. So I want to commend Mr Bisson for the great sacrifice he's made this evening. As I say, I want to assure his family that I did everything I could to persuade him to get back home. I was prepared to hold the fort here if need be. I don't mind staying here on a Thursday night. But no, the member for Timmins insisted and we were graced with his comments.

I am going to be speaking to the bill in a few minutes. Let's remember, this is the highway cameras that the Conservatives railed against. I'm going to share some of the concerns I have about the cameras as well, whether they apply to speeding on our 400-series highways or to red-light-running detection.

It's interesting that the government, instead of biting the bullet and simply making these things legal for municipalities to use, has a small piece of legislation here that simply extends the so-called experimental period.

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I watched my colleague Gilles Bisson on TV. As always, he is very erudite. As always, he spoke very well.

Particularly, I want to talk about the interurban transit which he relayed in his speech. The interurban transit, for those of us who live in Toronto or the GTA, is probably one of the most important facets of transportation and one that I don't think governments at any level, be they municipal, provincial or even federal, have spent enough time on.

Every day in this city, in the GTA, we suffer from gridlock. We suffer from people sitting in their cars, watching the motors go and cars not going anywhere. What is necessary in our city, what is necessary in the GTA, is getting some of those cars off the highway, and it's a very difficult proposition. People do love their automobiles, there is no question about it, but we need to find ways to get them into trains, into alternate transportation. We need to find ways of making it cheaper and better for people to get into those alternate forms of transportation and off the highways.

The highways will always be necessary, of course, for people in emergency situations. They will always be necessary for us to send trucks and produce along the many arteries of the GTA. But for a lot of commuters who go in regularly at a routine time in the morning and come home regularly at a routine time in the afternoon, there has to be a better way.

I thank my colleague from Timmins-James Bay, all those many miles north, for understanding and recognizing the needs of the people of the GTA, that there has to be a better way than simply building more highways and having gridlock along the 401.

The Speaker: Further questions and comments? Seeing none, the member for his summation.

Mr Bisson: Isn't this interesting? Are you doing questions and comments?


Mr Bisson: That's what I thought. She has not done it. I just think this is rather interesting. Do I detect that you guys all of a sudden are siding with the Tories again?

Ms Di Cocco: Oh, no.

Mr Bisson: Do you want to do questions and comments?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): She did questions and comments.

Mr Bisson: No, she didn't.

Ms Di Cocco: I did.

Interjection: And you missed it.

Mr Bisson: Then I apologize. I don't remember. I was here. I remember seeing Mr Kormos --

Ms Di Cocco: I got up. I really was up.

Mr Bisson: My apologies. I'm conspiratorial by nature at times and this must be it. Anyway, my apologies to the member from Sarnia-Lambton, because she did get up. I do remember now. I thought that was earlier this afternoon.

I want to thank the member from Niagara and the member from Beaches-East York for their comments.

Interjection: And the member from Sarnia.

Mr Bisson: Yes. I said the member from Sarnia twice now.

In the minute I've got left, I just want to say again, we are supportive of this legislation. We think it's something that municipalities should have the right to do. We don't believe, however, that the legislation should say, "The minister in two years has to re-sign for the municipality to go another two years." Wouldn't you believe that municipalities should have this as one of the things that they're able to do on their own? We should enable this legislation to give it to the municipalities as far as a right, that they can do it themselves as far as deciding if they want to be able to do this particular initiative.

Again I say -- important -- we want an amendment that says, "Wherever you install a red light camera, be it on a street corner with a stop sign or a red light, there needs to be an amendment to the legislation that says that it be properly posted." The whole idea is to deter. We want to deter people from crossing through red lights and stop signs, and the way to do that is in posting the signs so people know not to do it, that maybe they'll get caught. It's always the fear of getting caught that stops people from doing it. If you don't post it, then it's a cash grab.

Ms Di Cocco: I'd just like to let the member for Timmins-James Bay know now that I am standing and debating this bill. I know he apologized because he didn't see me at the beginning.

I want to continue this debate about Bill 149 because it is supposed to be about safety, and it's not really supposed to be about raising cash. I think the Canada Safety Council commented on that because they were concerned that it would be just a cash cow for municipalities and an excuse to make a lot of money as they take pictures of people going through red lights. If we think about it, there is some significant aspect to this about what the benefits have been. I don't think we've been able to quantify that, but it certainly is something that at least gives a sense of security to the public. If they think they're going to be caught, if there's a camera up there, they're going to be a little more careful. When they go through a stop sign or the lights, they'll be a little more cautious.

I believe it hasn't been quantified whether or not or how much this does reduce accidents. So I think the jury is still out on that, as to how much safer a stop light with cameras is compared to a stop light without a camera. I would hope that someone would be looking at this as we're moving forward to an indefinite period of time of keeping these cameras. It says it's supposed to improve safety, and again, I'd like to see it quantified.

One of the areas of safety about the use of cameras that I believe would at least significantly assist students, and I mentioned it in my questions and comments, is in schools, particularly in large schools where you have a tremendous amount of people traffic. We have had too many incidents whereby intruders have gone into schools. It surprises me that we have not moved in that direction or that the government is slow to act in that direction. I certainly would rather have been debating a bill that would include that type of equipment in entrances of schools, particularly in large areas. Safety in general, when it comes to schools, has a lot to do with the amount of traffic, the number of people who are utilizing the facilities. We know that larger schools are not necessarily better and they're not necessarily safer.

One of the things that astounds me is that, although there is all kinds of evidence that small schools are a healthier environment for students to work in and to learn in, we tend to be shutting down all our small schools, and we're on this path of consolidating schools and having larger and larger schools. I believe the safety of students is sometimes jeopardized because of the large numbers. As well, there are a lot fewer janitors in the schools. There are principals who are there only part time. I could go on and on. Unfortunately, the lack of people around to look after the needs of the students has decreased the safety in the schools.


Again, on this act, I was speaking about having empirical evidence or some kind of evidence to say that these cameras actually have qualified that they reduce the running of red lights. Apparently, the Canada Safety Council has said that these cameras do cut red light running up to 60%.

This report was released in May by the United States Department of Transportation, the federal highway administration, and it shows that the red light running violations dropped by as much as 60% at these intersections where cameras automatically enforce the law.

One thing that hasn't happened here is putting some type of sign before you get to the light so that drivers can see it ahead of time. Again, it gives them a warning that there's a light there, for two reasons. One, they can anticipate that there's a camera there. I believe it's also about the right to know that someone is monitoring you or that someone has a camera on you.

Continuing on with this report that suggested that these cameras cut red light running up to 60%, it said, "These results indicate once again that innovation and new technology such as cameras used to prevent red light running can help improve safety." This was President Clinton's and Vice-President Gore's highest transportation priority.

It's interesting. We say that it's about innovation and new technology and it assists us in reducing accidents etc. One of the concerns I have about cameras, of course, is that we are more and more monitored by cameras everywhere we go, which is fine except that if you don't know you are being monitored, I think it encroaches on people's privacy. I believe there are very few places now where there aren't cameras on you. I know in the Legislature here, and I don't know if anybody knows, all our hallways are monitored, which is a good thing because of the people who come and go, but it's kind of an eerie feeling knowing that everywhere you go, you're being watched. It's like having Big Brother there all the time. I believe that outside the building -- again, it's surprising. We had someone's car stolen just at the front of the Legislature, and yet there's a camera. But because sometimes they don't have enough personnel because budgets have been cut --


Ms Di Cocco: I had to throw that in there. But it is true. I guess the camera doesn't go around as much as it should, or it hasn't been monitored as long as it should.

Being monitored all the time, we have the ability now where basically even with our computers -- anything you send in a computer, theoretically, is certainly not private. We all know that. They tell me that anything you write by e-mail, you should consider being on the front page the next day; that's how you should format what you write or how you should consider the content of your e-mail.

I was speaking to the member for Mississauga South, and we were talking about the members here. This is a Thursday night -- I'm 300 kilometres from home, and many of you are quite a distance from home -- and what we have scheduled for us is a bill that's one page long. All our time is being taken -- I understand if there's an urgent matter that has to be debated, and we certainly want to be here to debate it, but one of the things I have a hard time with sometimes is these, I don't know if you want to call them games, but certainly this staying in the evening late at night, when in fact it's not as if you're debating a significant change in legislation or something that's controversial. What is even more astounding about it is we've got a bill that all of us agree on. This is not even a bill that --


Ms Di Cocco: Well, one of the things that I understand happens in these cases is that we don't have very many negotiating strategies when it comes to getting some of the major bills for public hearings. Therefore, when agreements are made and then those agreements are broken, the only thing we have is the ability to stand and speak --

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Agriculture and Food): About nothing.

Ms Di Cocco: Well, you scheduled it. The member says it's about nothing. The member says --


Ms Di Cocco: The member has stated that it is about nothing. I would suggest that the legislation before us --


Ms Di Cocco: -- no -- and the scheduling of this legislation for this night's sitting have not been my doing. I'm only doing what I am required to do as a member of the Legislature, and that is to debate, as it is my privilege. I believe it is my privilege to debate and to debate for the time that's required on legislation presented by the government.

By the way, I would suggest that it's too bad we don't have substantive legislation coming before this House.


Ms Di Cocco: I would suggest, first of all, that this is a one-page item on a bill and it deals with cameras that are going to be continued for Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, Waterloo and Halton. All I can say is that the bill in and of itself, the content, is very, very short, whereas I bet anything -- we have another act called Bill 179. I don't know when it's coming up. It's quite a size. I bet there's going to be closure on this and they're going to have time allocation put on this because, of course, we don't want to take an in-depth look at some substantive changes. I would say that when I looked at this, I saw that there were substantive changes. Some of them are to take out the sections that will take certain areas out of the purview of the privacy commissioner. There are a number of very important changes that are being made here.

This omnibus bill, by the way, is not even a bill that -- it's supposed to be about housekeeping, but there are some substantive changes being made within this omnibus bill --

Hon David Turnbull (Associate Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation): It's a small omnibus bill.

Mr Gerretsen: It's an ominous bill.


Ms Di Cocco: It is an ominous bill. And, of course, the members across the way, they make --

Mr Gerretsen: They're laughing at their own legislation.


Ms Di Cocco: They do. They actually are laughing at their own legislation, and it's unfortunate.

I would like to say that this bill, the red light cameras pilot projects, is supported by the Canadian Automobile Association, the Canada Safety Council and 84% of Ontarians -- which I think is the most important approval -- who support the use of these cameras.

There is just one contentious issue with respect to these cameras, and that is, there's a concern that they are being used or could be used as a cash grab by municipalities, because there are no warning signs being installed along with the cameras; at least no warning that there's going to be a camera, which would give you a bit of a warning before you get to your red lights or your signal lights.

The Canada Safety Council argued that the purpose of these cameras is to prevent collisions, not to generate revenue or simply punish offenders. "Research clearly showed" -- and these are their comments -- "that if people believe they will be caught, they are far less likely to offend." We know all about getting caught and the consequences of getting caught doing things you're not supposed to be doing. "Highly visible signs deter drivers from running the light by warning them that they are very likely to be caught."

One of the roles of private members on all sides of the House is to hold government accountable; that is, both government backbenchers as well as all of the opposition members. Why? Because decisions are made by a very small group of people in the executive council, and even smaller within that executive council. So it's always important that we are able to hold one another accountable for our actions, especially when it comes to the expenditure of public dollars. I believe our roles are greatly diminished when any one of us doesn't behave and does not act responsibly in how we conduct ourselves, whether or not it is discovered or whether or not it is raised in the Legislature.

I have to say, in the context of how we do business in this Legislature, it certainly does a disservice to all of us when the government puts down a one-page bill and does not have before us significant legislation that we should be debating. There are many issues in this province that require real intervention.

Today the member from Mississauga South, for the first time in this House, to her credit, stood up, trying to get an explanation about hydro bills. It is a significant hardship across this province that is being created. In my opinion, there has been mismanagement of how we have dealt with generation, if you want to call it, on many fronts. We are now seeing the fallout of this. This summer we have had significant shortages and we had to import a lot of electricity, and now we understand it's probably going to continue. Again, the cost of our electricity is not going to get any better.

Hon Mr Turnbull: What part of the bill are you referring to?

Ms Di Cocco: Significant bills. All I know is that we have here before us a one-page bill, Bill 149, the Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Extension Act, 2002. It is very difficult. I don't understand why we don't have a significant bill, but I'll tell you, I will take the opportunity, because it is my privilege as a member of this House, to debate the bills that are before us. We are given a time of what we are allowed to debate and I will use all my time to debate because I certainly believe that is part and parcel of my job. Unfortunately, it is the government's prerogative to set the agenda, and the agenda is on a one-page bill, so I will do my part and debate a one-page bill if I need to.

It is an important bill, only because it just allows these red lights. I don't know why it had to be in a bill, even. I don't know why it couldn't have been a regulation. They put everything else in regulation. Anyway, we're debating it and I certainly look forward to hearing the comments of the other members as we move forward in this debate.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Kormos: I want folks watching to know that this is live on Thursday night. It's the exception --


Mr Kormos: Well, it is; come on. It's an exceptional thing for a Parliament to sit on Thursday night. This government clearly wants to take head-on the issues of the day. So here we are on Thursday night. It's almost unprecedented in terms of the Parliament sitting, but the government wanted to sit Thursday night; we're sitting Thursday night. Yes, we're debating Bill 149 -- but one page, but three mere sections. And, by God, we'll debate it till the sun rises. Because, you see, in short order Michael Prue, our member from Beaches-East York, is going to be speaking to the bill, as a former mayor and now as an outstanding member of this assembly.

I want you to know this about Michael. He wasn't scheduled for House duty on Thursday night, and this bill isn't in his area of critic portfolio. Michael has been here since 7:30 or 8 o'clock this morning. He's been in the building all day, working, and I've been watching him throughout the course of the day, and here he is; he insisted on being part of this debate tonight. Didn't I plead with him, "No, Michael, get out of here. You've been here, you've done enough speech debate in the Legislature this week. You've been on your feet every day debating. Michael, no, go home, please. I'm worried about burnout"? But Michael Prue, no. He said, "Peter, if the Tories want to debate Thursday night, Michael Prue is going to be a participant in that debate." He's here tonight. He's here as long as he has to be, and he's here until this Tory agenda is defeated and sent packing where it belongs. Boy, when the going gets tough, Michael Prue is there, as tough and tougher than any of the going ever got.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): It's difficult to not respond to the member from Sarnia-Lambton, because in the whole bill discussion she realized that it's about furthering the option of red light cameras. But she actually flip-flopped during her debate by saying it was about safety and then it's not about safety. I'm somewhat disappointed. I'm waiting for her two-minute response to see if she can clearly tell the people listening whether she supports it or not. Does she support the whole issue of road safety or not?

Whether or not they agree with all the things we do, road safety is the first priority for our minister, Norm Sterling, as he's sitting here this evening.

I want to comment for a moment. The member for Niagara Centre is always entertaining, and never accurate. But the member from Beaches-East York -- he's been here since 7:30 this morning, apparently. I think he should file a grievance. Under the Employment Standards Act he's not supposed to work any more than 12 hours a day. He's passed that. I'll expect a grievance to be filed with Howard Hampton. True to his friends, like --

Mr Bisson: File a grievance with the shop steward.

Interjection: Kormos is the shop steward.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, actually, Peter Kormos is the shop steward.

To me, this bill is substantive, it is important, and this government represents the interest of road safety first. The former Minister of Transportation is here tonight as well, Mr Turnbull, and I know Minister Turnbull wants this to happen.

I want to thank once again the hard work of the volunteers of my riding of Durham. In my riding of Durham, there's a very exciting, very important program. It's called road safety. I think if people refer to my comments made the other day on this bill, they'll see I've listed each and every one of them.

When I first came in and looked at the order paper and it said Bill 149, I felt they were going to be talking about Bill 49. That's my bill that's coming up next week on the use of cell phones while driving automobiles. Bill 49, for those listening tonight, is also about road safety. Tune in next Thursday morning.


Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I'm very pleased to be able to stand and offer comments on behalf of my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton. There has been some discussion already in the responses about members who put in yeoman service in this Legislative Assembly. I can certainly say of my colleague for Sarnia-Lambton, I don't know any member who works harder than Caroline Di Cocco for the people that she represents.

Mr Gerretsen: I beg your pardon.

Mrs Dombrowsky: She is. She's a real trouper. We are here on a Thursday night before Thanksgiving and she very generously -- it's not usually the case in the assembly that on Thursdays we have out-of-town members in the House for debate. It just so happened that there was a need to have some of our caucus members present, and Ms Di Cocco has very generously offered her time when in fact she might be on her way home to get her Thanksgiving turkey. Perhaps more than Caroline would like to be doing that this evening.

I am pleased to stand and support her comments on behalf of the Liberal caucus. Bill 149 is a good bill. It is something that we intend to support. Also, the member for Sarnia-Lambton on more than one occasion in her comments talked about the privilege to be here and debate legislation that's going to impact the people of the province of Ontario. As the member for Durham indicated, it is an important bill because it will impact the safety of individuals who use very busy intersections in our city.

Before I leave, I commend the member for Sarnia-Lambton, who has given of her time generously this evening. I certainly wish that she, her family and all the members of this Assembly have a good Thanksgiving.

Mr Prue: I listened with some interest to the member for Sarnia-Lambton. Although I must say that the speech did not always stick to point, I admire her tenacity and her courage to the many taunts that came from opposite. She is absolutely right: as a member of this assembly, she has the right to speak to this issue or any issue that comes before the assembly. She has the right to represent the people of Sarnia-Lambton, and that cannot and should never be taken away. She stood her ground, as I said. She did it quite well and I commend her for that.

She also brought a broad-ranging debate about many government ills, but I think she also brought the debate home about sometimes what is not correct in this House. I sat this afternoon with my colleagues from the Conservative Party, from the Liberal Party, in the Legislative Assembly committee, and we talked about how sometimes what is actually being said in here is not necessarily on point. We were talking about ways in which to make it better. The member for Sarnia-Lambton was on that committee and she's absolutely right: there are many ways to make the debate better.

What she said in a nutshell was correct. She talked about Bill 149 and the fact that these red light cameras are going to save lives. In every place in the world where they have been utilized to date, it has been proven that they save lives. In every place in the world where they have been used, the accidents and the number of accidents at key intersections have been reduced.

There is no real time for study, and I hope to deal with this when I get a chance to debate. There is no real need to study this or to say, "We're having another two-year pilot," or "Leave it up to the Minister." The reality is that they work. This is not a cash grab; it is all about saving lives. If we are serious in this Legislature on speaking to the issue, we must speak to those people who will, between now and two years from now, actually lose their lives at one of these corners.

Ms Di Cocco: I appreciate the comments from the members for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, Niagara Centre, Beaches-East York, and also Durham. I have to say that one of the challenges always in this House is to speak to the topic in a way that is relevant to, if you want to call it, a constructive debate.

One of the things I find is that I'm certainly in support of this bill; my party is certainly in support of this bill. There's no doubt about it. But the point remains that it is -- again, we're here on a Thursday night, an unusual time for us to stay here. Normally the House does not sit on a Thursday evening. We are doing so to debate a one-page bill. I don't know if it's because of the importance of the bill that we're debating here on a Thursday night or it's because the government wants to make a point, a point that, well, we're going to sit here anyway, even though we don't have much on the agenda this term. I say that because I value two things: of course I value my privilege to be able to debate in this House, but I also value the time that I can spend with my family, particularly as it's coming close to Thanksgiving weekend. But nonetheless, we all have a job to do.

Again, I'm in support of Bill 149, and I certainly hope that everyone in this House has a happy Thanksgiving this weekend.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerretsen: I too would like to debate this bill, although it is a bill that we will be totally supporting. I think that the people who are listening and watching us out there, and I know we have a relatively devoted group of people, should know what this is really all about.

This is all about tactics and strategy, and they should know that the opposition parties, with the way the rules are currently written, have very little manoeuvrability. It's my understanding that deals were made whereby certain bills would go to committee for a certain period of time and then this bill would be given quick passage. It just didn't happen. At the last minute, the Attorney General decided, no, he was not going to send the public defenders bill to committee; he was going to ram it through without any public hearings. As a result, we are now debating this bill.

I'm sure that the people out there will have great difficulty connecting the two issues, but the two issues are connected, because when House leaders make deals about how the process in the House should proceed, how legislation should proceed, how bills should be discussed in committee and for what length of time public hearings should be held, it usually all is one package. That wasn't the package, and therefore we're debating this bill as the only way in which the opposition can make an effective point.

Having said that, the government is really here on this particular bill here tonight because of its own shortcomings that it allowed to come into the process back in 1998 when the original bill was passed. The original bill is now a part of the Highway Traffic Act, part XIV.2.

It's kind of interesting. When I got this one-page bill, and it talked about the Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Act, 1998, being repealed and substituted, I immediately went on e-Laws, which is available to everyone who's got the Internet out there, a very valuable service, and I looked under the term "Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Act," figuring that I'd find it there, because that's the act we're amending in this bill. I didn't find it. It was only after a long period of time and searching and doing all sorts of investigative work that I found out that it was actually part of the Highway Traffic Act.

You could say, "Well, what's the meaning of that?" I think the meaning of it is quite simple. I think the government, when it changes legislation and it makes reference to the old legislation in its new piece of legislation, and in order to allow not only the members here but the general public the right to know what's going on, it should be quite explicit as to what it's doing. In this particular case, I think it would have made a heck of a lot more sense if this act would have talked not about changing the Red Light Cameras Pilot Projects Act but the Highway Traffic Act, part XIV.2. It's a minor point, but I think it's a meaningful point for those people who are really interested in what's going on here and want to follow the debate and see what's happening.


You might say. "How did the government make a mistake," in my opinion, back in 1998? Well, it made a mistake because, for whatever reason, it created a sunset clause in the original piece of legislation back in 1998. I'll just read you the note to the act itself: "Part XIV.2 is repealed on November 20, 2002," and then it goes into a number of other references. I don't know why that was put in. I have no idea whether or not this is the way in which it was sold at the time to individuals or organizations that may have had honest misgivings about this legislation by basically saying, "We'll try a two-year trial period and then we'll deal with it again." But it could have just passed the act at that point in time, and if the trial didn't work or if the law didn't work out, it could have repealed the law.

So to a certain extent, we are here tonight because, in my opinion, the government was maybe not negligent but at least was somewhat hesitant about putting in this bill in the first place.

As has already been stated by speaker after speaker tonight and the other night when this bill was debated, generally speaking, there seems to be unanimous agreement that this is a good idea, that these red light cameras that allow pictures to be taken of cars that run red lights at some intersections in a number of different municipalities and as a result tickets can be issued from that, has been a tremendous success. I would suggest that it was a tremendous success before 1998 in those jurisdictions where it was already implemented as well, so there was really no trial period needed. But it has been a tremendous success.

It's my understanding that these cameras have been installed in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, Waterloo and Halton basically at intersections where there were some major problems and where indeed, if memory serves me correctly from the discussion that took place back then, people had been seriously injured or killed. So obviously, there was a great desire to do something about it. Although people may have opinions about whether or not photo radar should be used for different purposes such as speeding etc, I think there was general agreement that photo radar should be used at these intersections where tragedies had occurred.

So they were installed, and I guess it has worked. According to the latest survey, 84% of Ontarians support the use of these cameras at these intersections; it has been endorsed by the Canada Safety Council, the Canadian Automobile Association and a number of other automobile groups as well.

So it has worked, and we're now here to decide whether or not to give it a further extension. At least the government has done the right thing this time by saying, yes, it may be repealed by November 20, 2004 -- in other words, another two-year extension -- but it could also be done at a later date or presumably never. It has overcome the deficiency in the current act that was passed in 1998, which really brings us here today.

The other issue that this raises -- and as a former municipal politician, I know that it was always a source of great irritation to municipalities as to the type of activities that municipalities were involved in that had to be brought back to the Ministry of Transportation.

I can recall, and maybe it's still so, at one time just about every stop sign that a municipality wanted to erect anywhere had to be approved ultimately by the Ministry of Transportation. What you would get is a council deeply concerned about a situation, wanting to erect a stop sign at an intersection, and before it could actually do so, it usually took the Ministry of Transportation some period of time to approve it. I don't know what it was intended to do -- as if the municipal councillors, municipal staff and the people who were involved in local transportation issues didn't know what they were doing or weren't quite as smart as the people who worked for the province -- but the idea was that none of these signs or road regulations could be put into place without Ministry of Transportation approval.

I think, by and large, the new Municipal Act has at least dealt with some of those situations. Municipalities are now regarded as being something more than what they used to be for many, many years, and that was just as a creature of the province, which was always an interesting kind of terminology.

Quite frankly, taking the stop sign situation one step further, these red light cameras are really the same thing. The question could be asked, why are we here debating a bill like this? Not the merits of the bill, but surely to goodness municipalities and the municipal councils, which are the closest to the people, which deal with the people on a day-to-day basis, should be trusted, now that we're in the 21st century, to make these kinds of decisions without the province getting involved.

If a municipality feels that it wants to install these cameras, at a rather large expense, because of the safety issues the local councils are concerned about, that the local people are concerned about as expressed through their councils, why should we, at the provincial level, be involved with those decisions at all? I would have thought the new Municipal Act that was passed dealt with those issues, or should have dealt with those issues. It will be interesting to see what Mr Prue, the member for Beaches-East York as well as a former mayor, has to say about that.

These are great irritations to local councils. If you're really in favour of giving people who are just as validly elected as we are at this level the authority to deal with problems within their general sphere of jurisdiction, then surely the notion of what kind of stop signs there should be at street corners or whether or not an intersection is busy enough for the general public to benefit from the installation of these red light cameras, should be purely a local decision. If that's not the case, then I would invite the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who tried to move the process along -- I believe that. I think he's an honourable individual because, for the first time in many years, he tried to do something about the Municipal Act. I don't think it had been changed in a meaningful way in 40 or 50 years.

Maybe this is another area to look at. I honestly don't believe this kind of issue should fall within provincial jurisdictions. The people at the local level are in a better position to decide whether or not they need these kinds of cameras within their municipality.

That's what this debate is about. It's a bill everybody agrees to. We've heard shouts from the other side, "If you agree with it, why don't you let it pass?" In a total common sense world -- real common sense -- you would let it pass and we'd get on to the next thing. The problem is that the government calls all the shots, whether it's in committee or in the Legislature.

I would like to see -- and I would hope that the legislative committee looking into this will take this into account -- us develop a running two-week calendar, so that we know exactly what bills are being discussed on what days, so that the critics or the people who have an interest in those bills can be here on those days, so that the government ministers and the parliamentary assistants can be here, and we can have some meaningful discussions on those bills. I'm sure that people who watch this channel or the proceedings on a regular basis must be totally perplexed by how, at times, we can be talking about relatively minor things for a very long period of time -- sometimes for days on end -- yet sometimes major initiatives are basically rammed through by the House.

I know what the government will say: "Other governments did it too in the past." Quite frankly, I don't care whether other governments did it in the past. Two or three wrongs don't make a right. Just because things were done in a certain way 10, 20 or 30 years ago doesn't mean that we can't take a look at that now, as we're in the 21st century, and come up with a more meaningful process.

I'm absolutely convinced that the process we're going through right now in this Legislative Assembly, and with respect to all of the committees we have here, is an outdated concept and process, and we'd better start bringing our whole parliamentary process into the 21st century before the public completely loses respect for this institution and all those involved in one way or the other. All indications are that we're rapidly losing the respect of the general public, and it's shown in so many different ways. The number of people who come out and vote in elections at all levels is declining all the time. I think the reason for that is a lot of people basically see what we're doing here as totally irrelevant.


I can remember the first day I was here somebody said, "Just remember, whenever a government gets elected every four years, it's not a Parliament that gets elected, but basically a parliamentary dictatorship." I'm saying that in a very non-partisan sense. I don't care who forms the majority government; there's something dramatically wrong with that. I hope the legislative committee will come forward with some recommendations that will make the role of the individual members a lot more positive and stronger. I like this notion of co-sponsoring bills that members on both sides are interested in. Let's have true votes that aren't along a partisan line.

I know I've taken up a lot of time and I can be accused of stalling the process as well, but I just want to remind the honourable whip for the government party that if your Attorney General had agreed to a number of days of hearings on the public defenders bill -- which is a major change in the way legal services are utilized and given to the people of this province, particularly those people who can't afford to pay -- we probably wouldn't be here tonight. That's the real reason, and there's no reason why that shouldn't be said. You can't just say that it's all about this bill. Somehow a lot of these issues are all interconnected. The opposition only has certain ways in which to express, I guess, its frustration, more than anything else.

Finally, then -- and I am coming to an end very quickly -- let me just ask the government whip if he can maybe give me a reason as to why, in the bill that is being amended in this piece of legislation by extending the red light cameras for another two-year time period, the description as to where you actually find the bill does not match? It makes it more difficult for the general public to know what's going on. It may be a very minor matter, but I think it's absolutely imperative in our system that people who have a right to know what the rules of the game are, what the laws are, should be able to do so in a quick and efficient manner. If somebody can answer that question, I'd greatly appreciate it.

With that, I will finish my remarks. I would hope that the government would see the wisdom of its ways or change its position. When it deals with the other act, the public defender system it wants to initiate -- which I'm totally against. I think you should put a lot more money into legal aid. I gave some statistics here this morning indicating that whereas about six or seven years ago there were over 20,000 legal aid certificates issued for civil cases, right now that number is less that 3,000. I heard a debate earlier this afternoon about legal aid certificates in family court and family law. I can tell you, from a practical viewpoint, legal aid certificates aren't being given anymore for family cases. Major decisions are made there that affect the livelihoods of spouses and their children from upwards of 20 to 25 years where people don't have any legal representation. When you're talking about support payments for that period of time, I can tell you you're talking about hundreds and thousands of dollars. Whereas at one time, it used to be a right for an individual to get a legal aid certificate in situations like that if they didn't have the means to pay for a lawyer so they could get good quality representation, those rights are gone. I don't even want talk about the criminal law situation where the same thing applies. There are many, many kinds of criminal offences for which people simply can no longer get legal aid. I think it is a diminishing of the rights that we collectively have had in this province, for that kind of situation to occur.

Why I am bringing all this up in talking to Bill 149? Simply to indicate to the people of Ontario that it's important, it is absolutely imperative that when we change one of the fundamental systems of our legal representation, which is what we're doing in this province, we have lengthy public hearings on it. We may think we're smart, we make think the ministry people are smart, but there are a whole bunch of other people out there who may have an opinion about a piece of legislation as well, and we want to hear from those people. So we want to have hearings on that. You give us the hearings and we'll stop our debate on this bill that we all agree on. That's the connection between the two.

With that, Speaker, I will not be taking all my time, to show you that I am, hopefully, well intentioned in this as well. You know, before I sit down, I have to compliment the member for Mississauga South. I think that today she asked one of the best questions in the House that I've heard here in this entire session, when she wanted the Minister of Energy to explain why the hydro rates of -- I was going to say "her customers" -- the people she represented were going up by 50% to 100%, and what could be done about it. It was kind of interesting. She got exactly the same kind of answer that the members of the opposition normally get, which is a total non-answer. But I've got to admire her courage for bringing out that issue, because it's obviously something she is very concerned about.

So let's get on with it. Let's pass this bill, and let's also have at least 12 to 15 days of hearings on the public defender bill that's before us. Thank you very much.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Bisson: I would like to introduce a new member who has come across the floor to join our party, Mr O'Toole. We welcome him to our ranks. No, for both sides, we don't want to do that.

To the member for Kingston and the Islands, he made the point that a number of us have made, which is that it's unfortunate that we're here debating this bill at length because, quite frankly, all of us agree this is a bill that should go forward. We do believe there needs to be some amendments done in order to deal with some of the provisions of the bill, but the reason we're here is that we thought we had a deal, as this House goes along, on being able to go to committee on another bill, and for some reason the government has reneged. So we're here tonight. Such are the machinations of this House.

But I want to say to the member, I agree that there are a number of provisions in this bill, and one is that we should say to the municipalities, "This is a municipal responsibility." They should not have to come back to the province, to the Minister of Transportation, and say, "Please sign off every two years so we can continue to do this initiative in our community." Municipalities are responsible. Our mayors and councils out there are doing a good job. They are responsible to the people that elected them, and who better to decide if they like or dislike red light cameras than the local citizens by way of keeping their municipal councils accountable? That is the closest government to the people.

The other point I think you mentioned is the whole issue of signage. We need to make sure we put signage up properly so that people know those corners are being surveyed so people are not trying to rush across those lights in the way that they are.

I'm sure that everybody's going to stay tuned. Next week on Thursday we are going to be debating Mr O'Toole's Bill 49. This is a paid advertisement on behalf of the Tory party. This is a recording.

As I was saying, we support the bill. We want it to go to committee. There are a number of amendments to be made and hopefully the government will see fit to do that.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I don't understand. When the opposition parties agree with the legislation we're debating tonight, which is simply a one-page bill to extend an already existing pilot project on red light usage in certain municipalities, I don't understand why on earth they want it to go to committee. Everybody agrees.


Mrs Marland: No, I'm not. I'm just clarifying that if you're asking that this bill that is before us tonight go to committee, that, I say with respect to the NDP member who was speaking, is absolutely the best example of absurdity I've heard. A bill that we all agree on --


Mrs Marland: I understand that. A bill that we all agree on, and he's talking about sending it to committee.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to suggest that we have an agreement to count this as a sessional day and adjourn debate and the House.

The Speaker: The minister has asked for unanimous consent to adjourn the debate and for it to be a full sessional day. Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Mr Hodgson: Mr Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker: The minister has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

Opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. It is carried.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Tuesday.

The House adjourned at 2002.