38th Parliament, 2nd Session

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO

Wednesday 2 May 2007 Mercredi 2 mai 2007

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ELECTION STATUTE LAW
AMENDMENT ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES ÉLECTIONS


   

The House met at 1845.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ELECTION STATUTE LAW
AMENDMENT ACT, 2007 /
LOI DE 2007 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES ÉLECTIONS

Resuming the debate adjourned on May 1, 2007, on the motion for second reading of Bill 218, An Act to amend the Election Act and the Election Finances Act and make related amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 218, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale et la Loi sur le financement des élections et apportant des modifications connexes à d'autres lois.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Further debate? The member for Thunder Bayâ€"Superior Northâ€"Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan.

Mr. Bill Mauro (Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan): Speaker, thank you very much. I was in the supper room when you were opening the bottle of red wine andâ€"

The Deputy Speaker: That's out of order.

Mr. Mauro: The only thing that was out of order is that you split the cork when you opened the bottle. That's what was out of order.

I'm pleased to rise and speak to this bill today. I'll be sharing my time with the member from Londonâ€"Fanshawe.

It was a very enjoyable supper hour, actually, Mr. Speaker. We all enjoyed it. And if my speech is a little slower, it will be because Iâ€"

Interjection.

Mr. Mauro: Yeah, very tacky. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Halton, come to order.

Mr. Mauro: We're pleased to rise to speak on Bill 218, modernizing Ontario's elections, certainly a piece of legislation that has received a lot of broad-based support across the province. Many different groups have expressed their interest, not just since we formed government, but I think this is something whose time has come. People have been looking for something like this for quite some time. We're very pleased as a government that we have brought this forward; we're very pleased that the citizens' assembly that we have formed has done its work, that the minister has engaged that group in a broad-based process. We're very happy that this work has brought forward an opportunity for people to move forward with some potential electoral reform as we move into the 2007 October election.

I know that one of the reasons people in Ontarioâ€"and in a lot of other provinces, I think, and perhaps other countries as wellâ€"have thought it was necessary to bring forward electoral reform is that we have seen increasingly lower voter turnouts at all levels of government: municipal, provincial, federal. And provincially not just in the province of Ontario; I think in most provinces. While some countries have shown increasing voter participation, Ontario's numbers have not been great, have been stagnating, in fact sometimes declining. Some people view voter turnout as one of the main reasons for requiring some sort of electoral reform to try to engage the electorate in a broader way to hopefully see those numbers increase so there will be more people engaged. Some have even talked about penalizing people if they're not interested in voting, if they don't come and vote.

I've always found that piece of it at odds with my way of thinking. I'm not interested in penalizing people if they don't vote. I don't want to put a monetary penalty on people to force them to vote. If people are not engaged currently in the voting process, I don't think we need to force them to do that. I don't want to see that happen. We want to engage people. We want them to be educated. We want them to be part of the process. And if they are then willing and able to go forward and vote, I think under those circumstances it's much better to have them participating that way than by forcing them through a monetary penalty to do that. I think it's Australia or New Zealand, or both, who have placed a monetary penalty on the electorate for those who do not vote. I don't know the history of Australia and New Zealand and why they have chosen to go down that path, but clearly it's not something that I favour.

1850

In terms of why we've come to this point, though, I must say, as a first-time member, that I think one of the reasons, perhaps, that participation in provincial elections, federal elections, municipal elections is declining or stagnating is less about people's busy lives but has more to do with the way that people in these chambers treat each other. That happens just to be my personal opinion. There are lots of reasons as to why we think people are voting in smaller numbers than they used to five years ago, 10 years ago, 25 years ago. We all know the old jokes. If you run polling numbers on lawyers and doctors and politicians on how we all stack up in terms of respect in the eyes of the public, I have one little personal theory that it has to do more with the way we treat each other in this institution than perhaps any of those other things.

I understand that as elections get closer, the tone of the place changes. I understand that the stakes are high. And I suppose what goes on should not necessarily surprise any of us. But I can tell you that as somebody who's been here for three and a half years now during my first term, I am no longer surprised by the goings-on in this Legislature, but nevertheless on more than a regular occasion am disappointed by the goings-on in here. I think that when we expect members of the public to stay engaged in a political process, to respect the process, to feel that their vote matters and that their issues are well represented in the Legislature, if they see the members of the assembly not respecting each other, I'm not sure how it would make sense that we would expect them to respect the process and then be fully engaged. I just don't see it happening.

I think what's gone on here for the last four or five weeks is perhaps the best example of why people in all of our ridings in the province sometimes might get turned off. Opposition parties obviously feel like they're getting some traction out of their line of questioning for the last five or six weeks. I'm not sure that's the case. Call it what you want; everybody's looking for election issues as we get nearer to the election. They feel like what they're doing has some merit. I think both ministers who have been the subject of most of the questioning for the last four or five weeks have stood up and answered the questions as best as they can. I think they've done a very good job of showing the position of our party on these issues. And I can tell you very frankly, on the way that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has answered, we know that it is consistent with past practices. And yet those who stand up and ask those questions ask them as if this has never happened before. The minister clearly has not done anything untoward, and yet we see this questioning going on as members of the opposition try to find traction on an issue as we launch into an election.

I can tell you that, like most members in this placeâ€"we all do our work back in our constituencies. We all are at community events on a regular basis. We're all in the coffee shops. We all get the phone calls and the e-mails. This issue is not resonating in my community. I've talked to members of the opposition parties, actually, off the record who tell me that it's not necessarily resonating to any great degree in theirs. But I only use it as an example of where I think we have gone off track somewhere along the line in this Legislature and perhaps in others, and not only municipally. I had an experience of being a member of Thunder Bay city council for six years. My first three years I now refer to as the honeymoon, and the second three years as the trial by fire, where we had two very different groups of councillors. The first groupâ€"although I didn't know how good I had itâ€"got along well. There was pretty much a collegial and a team atmosphere as we moved forward in trying to advance the needs of the people we represented. The second group was very different. I don't criticize them, but I can just say that that group was very different, and the work that was able to get done during that time was minimal. We did not advance the needs of the community very well in those three years. The point I'm making, I guess, is that it's not only at the provincial level where we see these things occurring. It can be just as challenging sometimes to move issues forward at the municipal level.

Certainly what this place does for you as a first-time member is to show you how political people can be and how political even the most simple of issues can be made to be when people are looking to gain traction on issues. I'm not necessarily sure that it's a good thing. I'm not necessarily sure that we are fooling anybody. I often wonder, as I sit around this place, how it would be if the cameras were not here. I had the experience during my time on city council in Thunder Bay where halfway through my six years we brought in the cameras and televised 100% of the meetings instead of 50% of the meetings. Almost overnight you saw the attitudes and the habits of some of the members switch almost like a light switch. Things changed dramatically. I'm not suggesting for a second that we should remove the cameras from this Legislature; clearly that is not going to happen. Clearly it's not something I would advocate for; they're here. But I think we all wonder openly and loudly as to the effect of television on the goings-on in this Legislature and how that medium is sometimes used, and probably more rightly and accurately to say abused, by people as we try and sometimes get what I think is the incorrect messaging out to the people who send us here.

Election reform is deemed to be necessary by a lot of people in this province. I wonder how we've arrived here. I'm not sure we have arrived here for the reasons that people think we have. I think, quite frankly, that to a large degree we have arrived here requiring electoral reform because people in these Legislative Assemblies sometimes don't treat each other with the respect that we should and it has led to, I think, a reduction of respect in the eyes of the electorate. Probably we may be more responsible for turning them off the electoral process than anything else.

Thank you, Speaker. I now pass my time over to the other member.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Londonâ€"Fanshawe.

Mr. Khalil Ramal (Londonâ€"Fanshawe): First, I want to thank my colleague from Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan for sharing the time with me, giving me the time to speak about a very important subject and a very important issue.

My colleague spoke in detail about the importance of participating in elections and also about the time and how we can modernize the election system which we have in the province of Ontario. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the turnout at voting time is very low year after year in the many different levels of government, whether municipal or provincial or federal. That's why we have to be creative in order to create a way, a mechanism, to engage people more in the elections.

I go very often to citizenship court when they give citizenship cards to new Canadians. Most of the time, I participate and I listen to the judge when he talks about Canada or the pillars of being Canadian. It's very important. He mentions that we have three pillars: The first one is to be loyal to the land; the second one is to observe the laws of the land; and the third one is your duties and obligations. It's your duty as a citizen to vote and to participate in the community and civic life and be a full Canadian, give back to the community that accepted you as a citizen of this land. The judge often reminds people about the importance of elections and the importance of people participating in choosing the municipal, provincial and federal governments. I think it's our responsibility as citizens to be able to select the government that's going to represent us in the future; that's going to represent us at city hall, provincially or federally.

All the studies around the subject show that our numbers are very low year after year. There are so many different issues, so many different reasons, but the most important thing is that people think the system we have doesn't reflect and satisfy their needs and doesn't give them the chance to participate.

I've been in many different countries, and I studied different electoral systems and many different democratic systems in many different nations. We are privileged in this province and in this country to have a democratic system that allows people to vote and participate in choosing their representative at any level, something many different nations don't have. So many different citizens around the globe don't have that chance to stand up and vote for the people they want. They have a dictatorship government. The army government forces their will on them, doesn't allow them to vote or choose their representative and appoints whoever they want without any democracy, without any procedures.

We have in this nation that chance, as citizens, every four years or whatever time, to go to vote and select the people we want. So the most important thing is how we can get all the people engaged in the system and give them some kind ofâ€"attract them to come and cast their vote when the election happens. This is very important because, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the turnout, especially among youth, is very low. Among some people, the newcomers, it's very low because very often they think this government or this system doesn't represent their views. So I think that changing the system might help many people to participate and vote to select a government. So the citizens' assembly, which is chosen by the minister or the ministry in order to participate across the province of Ontario, brings together many different levels of aging and students and citizens to give us an idea. I think the committee travelled to many different countries to study the electoral system in many different nations. They came up with enough, I guess, advice to help us construct a bill; it might help us to create new directions and attract more people to participate in elections.

1900

My colleague was saying a few minutes ago that in many different nations, in order to increase participation in elections, they charge some kind of levy or penalize people who don't participate in elections. Very often we hear people on the street saying: "I don't like this government. I don't like this member. I don't like this. I don't like that." We discovered that, most of the time, those people who are complaining don't participate in elections. They don't vote. If you don't vote, I guess you have no right to criticize.

If you have some kind of complaint or criticism, I think you should, when the election comes, cast your vote to support the person who's going to support your view, give you full representation. This is what we need in this province. We need a system that would, hopefully, engage all citizens, from different levels of aging, to participate in elections, create some kind of attraction for those people to come and vote.

As my colleague mentionedâ€"Dave Levac, the whip of our partyâ€"in Australia they have a fee of $75 if you don't participate in elections. One day I was knocking on doors and talking to people who said, "We are disgusted, because so many people complain but don't vote. Why doesn't the government bring a fee?" I'm giving you an idea, not part of this bill, but some people are saying: "Maybe a fee, if you penalize people if they don't vote and exercise their right; they should pay some kind of fee. You, as a citizen, have an obligation to go and cast your vote and choose the government or choose the person who will represent you in any level of government. So why are you dropping your right?"

This is very important for all of us. That's why most of the time we elect the government and the citizens in a different way. So, different directionsâ€"how we can have engagement from both sides, representatives whom we elect and send to the municipal, provincial or federal level, who engage all the time with their constituents and reflect their needs, their views and ideologies. It's very important to have a way to have a prosperous province in order to have some kind of citizenship loyalty to the land, create that feeling among the population. That person represents you at Queen's Park or municipally or federally, represents your views. If he does not, when the election comes, you go and change him. Vote against him. Change to a person you think will represent your views. That's why it's important to create some kind of engagement mechanism to help the people who make the rules and laws be able to be reflections of the citizens of the province.

I want to congratulate the minister and the minister's staff, who have been working hard to bring forward such an important bill to engage the citizens of the province of Ontario and give us enough ideas, give us enough directions, because very often we haven't got enough ideas about what's going on on the street or what's happening there. Total engagement, daily engagement, from the citizens of the province of Ontario, whether from the north, from the east, from the west, from the cities, from the rural areas, from the farming communitiesâ€"we have to have reflections of those people in this place. This will only happen by creating a system, a democratic system, engaging all the people to participate and send their representatives to this place so that when we have bills or rules or a budget, when we have any issue concerning the province of Ontario, we have people from every corner of the province to represent their views and be advocates on behalf of them. I'd like to be able to represent the whole province of Ontario, but I don't have enough knowledge about the north, as my friend the minister of northern Ontario does, Minister Bartolucci, who is from the north, represents the area of the north. He'll bring a different perspective to the table than I will. My friend the member from Ancasterâ€"Dundasâ€"Flamboroughâ€"Aldershot, most of his community is a rural community, so he has the ability to bring more and different views thanâ€"

Interjection.

Mr. Ramal: I'm sorry?

Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): If you don't know enough about the north, go to the north.

Mr. Ramal: That's why this is called the House of the people: to represent all the people from the whole province. That's why we have 103 seats. Those seats represent many different parts of the province, and everyone has different issues, a different view, different perspectives concerning the way they want the province to be run or the direction of the province. That's why we have an election every four years. But this time is unique because the citizens of Ontario are going to vote with a different mandate: to choose an electoral system to reflect their views. If they're happy with it, they can maintain it. I believe in the democratic process. If the majority of the people want the same system to remain, that's fine; if people want to change it, we'll change it according to their will, because they voted democratically to change it. So this is very important to democracy. This is what we enjoy in this province; this is what we enjoy in this country. As I mentioned, not many people around the globe have the ability and the chance to participate in elections and to choose their government, their Prime Minister or their leader.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak in support of this bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh (Halton): The member for Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan may have put his finger on the issue when he talked about the issue of respect and the lack of regard that perhaps members of this House feel for each other. I would extend that a little further and suggest that the government has a disastrous lack of respect for the taxpayers of Ontario. When you can take $32 million of taxpayers' money in this provinceâ€"that's a significant amount of money; the Minister of Finance refers to it as "a pittance," but it's a significant amount of moneyâ€"and shovel it out the door with no process, no forms, no follow-up, no respect at all for taxpayers' money, I would suggest that respect may very well be the issue, but it's the respect that this government has for the taxpayers of Ontario.

The similarities are startling between this issue and the Adscam that the Liberals in Ottawa suffered a number of years ago: $300 million, 10% of which you're talking about here. That caused a huge upheaval down there. People have gone to jail. You can run and hide on this issue, but eventually, sometime, the Auditor General of Ontario is going to look at this issue. He is going to review it. He may not review it before the next election. You've got a majority and you can probably block our efforts in that area, but he's going to review it at some point in time. If that money can't be accounted for, there are people who perhaps are sitting in this Houseâ€"perhaps they're not; perhaps they were the receivers of the moneyâ€"who are going to be called to account for that money. Our system provides for that. You should understand that. All of you should understand that very clearly. This is going to come to a conclusion sometime, and somebody is going to be held responsible.

1910

Mr. Kormos: I'm just concerned about the incredible hostility that's coming from government backbenchers. There's heckling, interruptions, interjections, and language, quite frankly, that doesn't lend itself to civil discourse.

I'm eager, of course, once the 10 minutes of questions and comments are spoken to, to hear the speaker from the Conservative caucus address this bill, because I suspect that the speech from that member will leave people's ears ringing in this chamber and indeed beyond. I suspect that the government will get dinged more than once during the course of the comments that are going to come in short order from the spokesperson for the official opposition.

The New Democratic Party critic for democratic reform, of course, our member for Beachesâ€"East York, Mr. Prue, has an incredible amount to say about this bill.

But really, when it comes down to it, when you're talking about democratic reform, shouldn't we be talking about the government's failure to call on the Auditor General to shed some light on the millions and millions of dollars that were shovelled by the government to groups, regrettably bad as well as goodâ€"many valid groups. But the problem is that there was no application process, there was no accountability. And now we've got a government that stonewalls, that wants to bury the issue under bafflegab. Not only are opposition members frustrated, angry, concerned; the people out there are too. Quite frankly, Ontarians want to see the Auditor General called in to take a look at what happened. If the government has nothing to be afraid of, get the Auditor General in here.

Hon. Caroline Di Cocco (Minister of Culture): It's a pleasure to respond to the comments from the members for Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan and Londonâ€"Fanshawe.

The whole intent of this bill is about modernizing Ontario's elections. It's going to do a number of things. One, it's going to make it easier to vote. Therefore, we're going to extend polling hours by adding an additional hour at the end of polling day, increase the number of advance poll days from six to 13, and establish additional accessibility criteria for selecting polling locations. Now, that may not seem important to the opposition, but it is important, because it will encourage more people to get out and vote.

The next one to talk about is that the Chief Electoral Officer is going to be granted authority to undertake public education on this whole new system that the citizens' assembly has decided upon.

It's also about ensuring that when people go to vote, they are the people they say they are. So this legislation, if passed, is going to improve election integrity.

I know that there are unfortunate theatrics sometimes in the chamber, and that's been going on for as long as the Legislature has been here, and now that it is televised I think the theatrics tend to be heightened a little bit. I believe sometimes some members in particular enjoy the theatrics because they know that they're on television. But what's important at the end of the day is that good work is getting done and that we are modernizing Ontario's elections.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments? The member for Beachesâ€"East York.

Mr. Michael Prue (Beachesâ€"East York): Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I didn't know whether I would get this opportunity, but I thank my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party for not seizing this opportunity.

I listened to my two colleagues, the one from Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan and the one from Londonâ€"Fanshawe, and I was hoping to hear some pearls of wisdom, some real, solid debate on the content of the bill. Although they occupied the full 20 minutes, I didn't hear one single aspect of the bill discussed, neither enumeration nor anything to do with alternative voting methods, the rights of the CEOâ€"all of the things contained in the bill. We heard from them about how things took place in this House and how there was rancour sometimes and a little bit of bitterness. We heard from the other one a discussion which I'm sure would fit in any grade 9 civics class about the people's right to vote. But there was nothing in there that actually talked to contents of the bill.

There was one amazing discussion. The member from Londonâ€"Fanshawe talked about what he would maybe not hope to see in the bill but could be considered, and that is forcing people to vote and fining them if they don't. I only know of two countries on the face of this planet that do that. Both have pretty high voter turnout, as one might expect, but there is a fair amount of cynicism that goes along with it in both of those places, one being Australia and the other being Greece. I'm not reallyâ€"

Hon. Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for democratic renewal): Greece changed it just recently.

Mr. Prue: Greece changed it recently. So there it is, even then. There is one left. I have just heard that Greece changed it, but up until a few years ago, Greece had that too. I was in Greece once during an election and there were a lot of people, of course, celebrating and happy with the Greek elections, but there were a lot of people who didn't want to be bothered but were forced to do so anyway. I'm not sure that was the best thing for democracy.

So although I welcome their contribution, I have to tell you there wasn't much of a contribution made by these two members.

The Deputy Speaker: Response? The member for Londonâ€"Fanshawe.

Mr. Ramal: Thanks to all the members who commented on my speech: the members from Halton, Niagara Centre, Beachesâ€"East York and my colleague the Minister of Culture.

I know the member from Beachesâ€"East York wants to talk about different issues, but we want to talk about the importance of the bill, and I want to thank the minister for bringing it forward, because it's very important for engaging people and attracting people to vote.

It's our duty as citizens to participate in elections and select the people who are going to represent us at any level of government.

I want to tell the member from Beachesâ€"East York that what I was talking about is very important: the whole idea, the whole debate, about how we can encourage people to vote in big numbers. We want to see democracy taking place with the biggest percentage, not a small portion of people who come to select a certain government. That is the point of the bill, basically, as I mentioned: to encourage people to vote in any way.

When I threw out the idea about penalties, it was just an idea. It's not part of the bill. I was just giving an example, because many people are looking for greater participation, especially from our youngsters. Young people, for some reason, don't want to participate in elections.

It was funny, I was at one of the events one time, and a professor from Western Ontario was studying why people don't go to vote in big numbers. He said that maybe it's not a big issue. He was saying that we need another Woodstockâ€"the hippie movement, the happy movement, peace and love. He thought we needed something similar to engage people in government and selecting government.

That's why our government and our minister are looking for greater engagement in the democratic process.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr. Ramal: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I want to introduce the mayor of the town of Richmond Hill, Dave Barrow, his wife and the town's chief of police. They're sitting in the gallery.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr. Chudleigh: This bill, Bill 218â€"

Interjection.

Mr. Chudleigh: Oh, sorry. I'll ask for unanimous consent to stand down our lead. Our party critic, Mr. Sterling, isn't available this evening.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Chudleigh has asked for unanimous consent to stand down the lead. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Chudleigh: I appreciate the Liberal whip's straightening me out on that. Thank you.

Interjection.

Mr. Chudleigh: There's Christmas in the air.

This particular bill is an interesting one in that it comes at the last minute. The Chief Election Officer ruled on this and presented his report back in September of 2004. That's two and a half years ago, yet here it is slight weeks before the House adjourns and just a matter of months before the next election, and all of a sudden the government has found its religion.

This is a fairly complicated act. It changes 10 different acts, and combined with the changes to the party registration system, which were sneaked through in the budget through a time allocation motion, there's a significant change to it. It isn't just changing the dates of the opening and closing of polls, which is probably the one that most Ontarians will be aware of, but it just hasn't had the light of day shone on it that it should have had.

Speaking of the light of day, we would think that over the course of the supper hour, the dinner hour, the government would approach the opposition parties and ask if there wasn't some way we could discuss the issue of this slush fund that has been flushing the taxpayers' dollars out the door of the government and perhaps we could come to some conclusion as to how this could be handled and how the light of day could be shone on this particular issue, but that discussion hasn't taken place. The government is unwilling to speak about this or to find some solution to this, so I think the continuation of this debate is superfluous when the issue of the day is not even being discussed. So I would, with respect, move adjournment of debate.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Chudleigh has moved adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1920 to 1950.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Chudleigh has moved adjournment of the debate.

All those in favour, please stand.

All those opposed, please stand.

The Deputy Clerk (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 6; the nays are 30.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Mr. Chudleigh: It grieves me to report that there has been no progress made on enlightening the people of Ontario. I move adjournment of the House.

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

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1952 to 2022.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Chudleigh has moved adjournment of the House.

All those in favour, please stand.

All those opposed, please stand.

The Deputy Clerk: The ayes are 6; the nays are 24.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Further debate?

Mr. Prue: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Are there not questions and comments? He had such brilliant things to say.

The Deputy Speaker: That's a good question. On second thought, yes, we'll have questions and comments.

The member for Beachesâ€"East York.

Mr. Prue: It's a pleasure to rise and speak about the comments made by the member from Halton. I think never before have I heard such enlightened comments. I think never before have I heard him wax so eloquently for so few minutes and say so much.

The reality of what he had to say, though, has struck a nerve, and it really struck a nerve with me when I looked down at the tie that I'm wearing tonight, because I woke up this morning and was trying to decide on the most appropriate tie, and of course I looked down and I saw this tie of South Park, and I thought, you know, I'd like to go in and murder little Kenny or somethingâ€"

Interjections.

Mr. Prue: Oh, no, it's only fun. It's only fun, if you ever watch the TV show.

Interjection.

Mr. Prue: No, no, that's not the reason. It's just that I needed to wear a red tie to show with a blue suit.

But I had a tie in my hand that I should have worn. I have a tie, of course, of Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait. Suffering very badly from tinnitus, the poor man had cut off his ear. And with all of the bells that were ringing here tonight, I think that would have been far and away the most appropriate tie. Perhaps I'll get an opportunity to wear it tomorrow, although I don't imagine we will be suffering the same tinnitus in our earsâ€"although there is a possibility. I think it will be an appropriate tie for the weeks ahead here in the Legislature.

Having said that, the member did make some good points about the reason the bells were ringing: because he believesâ€"and I think most of the members of the opposition and, secretly, deep within their souls, probably even most of the members of the governmentâ€"that the Premier and his cabinet have not been forthcoming on a wide number of issues, most recently on the issues involving what has come to be known as the slush fund or Collegate. I commend the member for having the fortitude to take the action he has taken here tonight and for his brief and limited but good speech.

Mr. Kormos: I too have been here throughout the period of time when the member for Halton had the floor. I anticipated much of what was contained in his message to the government, and it was the desperation, fear, apprehension, but, more significantly, disappointment, anger and disgust with a government that has on its hands a scandalous scenario of millions of dollars being shovelled out the back door with no accountability whatsoever. The modest request by opposition members has been for the minister or the Premierâ€"through you, Speaker; I say this to you. The modest proposal has been for the Premier or this minister to call upon the Auditor General to examine the books.

If the government has clean hands, if the minister has clean hands, if the government has nothing to fear, if things are as the minister says, you'd think he'd want the Auditor General to confirm that not just to people in this chamber but to all of Ontario. One would have thought that if indeed there were clean hands here, it would have been the minister, at the first opportunity, who would have been calling for the Auditor General to examine the materials and report back to the people of Ontario. That clearly isn't what happened. Shame on the government.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Member for Halton, you have two minutes in response.

Mr. Chudleigh: I'd like to thank the member for Beachesâ€"East York for his kind comments about my non-speech, and also the member for Thorold. It's interesting. Machiavelli used to say, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." I think we say in today's jargon, "Politics makes strange bedfellows." I can remember sitting over there and railing against the NDP, as they railed against us. However, the NDP and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario stand united when we're protecting the taxpayers' dollars of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Further debate? The member for Beachesâ€"East York.

Mr. Prue: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): Nice blue suit.

Mr. Prue: Nice blue suit. There you go. Nice tie, eh? All right.

If I might, Mr. Speaker, just as a little aside, I think I shocked some of the members, but obviously you're not great fans of South Park, because if you were, you would know that in every episode, although Kenny was often killed, he always came back to life in the next one, like most cartoon characters. Anyway, just so that anyone doesn't go away and feel that anything untoward was happening in my head process as I chose ties in the morning.

Mr. Speaker, three and a half years ago, in the lead-up to the election, there was a party called the Liberals who had this wonderful idea that they were going to do great things when they were in government.

Applause.

Mr. Prue: I see I'm getting applause all over the place for this.

They had this book where they set out their 200-plus promises of the wonderful things they were going to do in their four years. Sadly, like most great plans that were made by that party, very few have come to bear. And this bill is no exception.

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I look at the great book, and at pages 11 and 12 there is a quote in there. It has to do with democratic renewal and democratic reform and what the Liberal Party was going to do in its four years. The quote that is found there says, "Limits on raising and spending money should not be limited to the brief few weeks of an election campaign. In modern politics, much of the 'campaign' spending occurs before the election is even called."

They've had an opportunity here. That's the quote; that's what they were going to do. They were going to set up citizens' juries. They were going to do all kinds of things in order to make the democratic process fairer. So, of course, we looked with great anticipation when the minister stood up the other day and announced that she was bringing down her bill. What a disappointment. What a disappointment that bill has been. Three and a half years have gone by. We had this laudatory goal that they were going to do so much. They were going to do it with the help of citizens' juries. They were going to do it in such an expeditious and wonderful fashion. And what we get here is a bill that does virtually nothing. Unfortunately, even when it does things, it does them in such a way as to actually make it worse out there than make it better. You know the old physicians' motto, "Above all else, do no harm"? I wish that applied to cabinet ministers and this government as well, when it comes to elections and the election processâ€"at least do no harm.

At the present time we have a system in Ontario which, although it is old and creaky, for the most part works. We have a systemâ€"I'm not talking here about proportional representation or first past the post. I'm talking about the ordinary system where citizens go out to voteâ€"the system works. You go down to the polling station, you take your identification or your vote-at card, you vote, the people know who you are, and the people in charge at the polling station generally know their jobs, they generally report to people who know their jobs, and things seem to go largely without a hitch in this province of Ontario.

But under this bill, as you see it set upâ€"and I haven't heard any Liberals talk about this yet; maybe I will laterâ€"it gives the opportunity for the CEO, the Chief Electoral Officer, during by-elections to experiment and to report back to the Speaker and, through the Speaker, I suppose to the government and to the House, on all new methods of voting. Although it does not set them out, some of the methods that we know exist across this country and around the world might have some very disastrous consequences if they're followed. But it gives carte blanche to the CEO to do whatever he or she wishes to do. It gives carte blanche to experiment with Internet voting, that people can vote online. There are some people who say that might be a good thing, but the checks and balances have not yet been discovered to make that system foolproof. It is very easy for hackers to hack into computers. It's very easy for them to hack in and find out personal information and to steal identities so that they can relieve people of some of their hard-earned cash, their savings, their bank accounts, their private materials, their credit cards. All of that is kind of commonplace.

Well, here it is, an opportunity for people to go online, and there are no safeguards set out in the legislation. It simply gives the Chief Electoral Officer carte blanche to experiment with Internet voting. I, for one, have some very real problems with that. I have spoken in this Legislature in the past about being the victim of identity theft. I was the victim, and it took many months for me to right all the wrongs. It didn't cost me any money, but I want to tell you, when they steal your credit cards and your information and they know where your bank accounts are and they change the mailings for all your important documents to someâ€"

Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): Go to your MPP. He'll help you.

Mr. Prue: I was an MPP when all this happened, and I'm going to get intoâ€"

Mr. Levac: There's a package here.

Mr. Prue: Okay. There's a package, my friend tells me, here.

But this is how easily it is done in those terms and I would suggest that if it can be done that easily, there is a very real reason that we require people to show up at the polls and to be identified so that these kinds of things don't happen. But here it is, contained within the body of the legislation, that the CEO can do that.

There's another thing that the CEO can experiment with, and that is mail-in ballots. Well, I have to tell you, if anyone has watched what happened in the city of Kawartha Lakes with mail-in ballots in the last municipal election, it would cause most people to runâ€"never mind walk awayâ€"so fast that you'd never go near that again. As many as 40% of the mail-in ballots in some parts of the Kawartha Lakes polling divisions were declared invalid when they were sent in; 40% were rejected. These are people who relied on a mail-in ballot, thinking they were doing their civic duty, filling them out to the best of their ability, only to have 40% of them rejected. As a result, there are ongoing court cases in that city, and I think that city will never again experiment with those mail-in ballots. This gives carte blanche for the CEO to go the same route.

We have the whole question about multiple days of voting that the CEO can experiment with. I'm not talking about advance polls; I'm saying they could even experiment and say that voting day is not open for one day from 9 till 9 but is open two or three or four days in a row from 9 to 9, or over weekends or whatever. That is a possibility that exists, and the legislation would allow the CEO to do it with no by-your-leave except to report within 21 days to the Speaker. What does the Speaker do with it? I don't know. Does the Speaker table it in front of this House? Does the Speaker seek the approval of the government? Does the Speaker seek changes to make this mandatory in general elections after it has been experimented with in one or two by-elections? I'm not sure. But all of that is contained within the body of this bill.

I don't know why the government wants to leave the experimentation in by-elections in the hands of one individual and give him virtually carte blanche to go Internet, mail-in ballots, multiple days of voting and maybe some other things I can't even think of or imagine, but it's all there.

The second thing I looked at in the bill was the identification restrictions. On the face of it, it's not a bad idea. On the face of it, people going in to vote would require two pieces of identification. If you were going in on a proxy voteâ€"and I know that many people have elderly relatives or elderly friends who are unable to get out of the house but want to exercise their franchise. It is quite common for people to have a proxy vote and to take it in and cast the ballot on election day for that friend or relative who is infirm. Right now, you go in, you get the signed statement, you take the signed statement to the polling division, you have it authorized, you get authority to vote on election day, a second ballot, and hopefully and trustfully those people will exercise what their infirm or bedridden friend or relative would want them to vote. But what is going to be required now is two pieces of identification from the voter and two pieces of identification which they will have to carry from the infirm relative. No longer will it be a signature that is necessary, that is witnessed. That won't do. In fact, the person will have to come to the voting booth with four pieces of identification.

I don't know what thought process was going on in the government's mind, because the pieces of identification have not been identified. Will a driver's licence be sufficient? Will you have to have a passport? Will it have to be a photo identification from the government? Is a credit card or a library card sufficient? Is a bill? I know sometimes they use a phone bill or a gas bill to show proof of residence. Will that be acceptable? It's not here. It's to be determined by the Chief Electoral Officer. Quite frankly, I don't know how many problems that is going to cause.

I do know that when this same issue was raised in the federal House, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the federal person in charge of elections, cautioned the committee looking at this in Parliament not to do it because in his estimation 1.1 million voters in Canada, if they followed similar rules, would find themselves disenfranchised. That's what's going to happen in Canada. We have approximately one third of the population, so one can only assume that about 400,000 people, if you follow through on your bill, will find themselves disenfranchised because they don't have two pieces of documentation or two pieces that the CEO will require on election day.

2040

The thing that perplexes me most in all of this is that the identification cards will not be required of those who show up with a vote-at cardâ€"you know those vote-at cards that, if you go to any apartment building where people have moved, you see in the garbage in huge numbers? So people can literally rummage through those garbage bins that are beside the post office boxes in apartment buildings, where I have seen as many as 20 and 30 on the day when they're delivered, and take those out and go to the polling station and they require no identification whatsoever under this bill.

I have no idea why the government thinks everyone has to have two pieces of identification, but none if they have a vote-at card. Of all the fraudulent votes of people who have been found to vote fraudulently, far and away the greatest number who are actually caught are those who show up with the vote-at card, and it is easy to get hold of many, many of those and it is easy to pass yourself off as a person no one knows. This is particularly true in transient communities, where there's a large turnover in apartment blocks, where there are new immigrants, where there are students and where the rent tends to be cheaper.

That is the reality. That's what John-Pierre Kingsley said in Ottawa: Not only are you going to disenfranchise the legitimate people, but you are going to make it even easier for those who fraudulently cast ballots.

I am at a complete loss to understand why this government has framed a bill in such a way, and I have to tell you, I don't think they've thought this through. I don't think those lofty goals and ambitions that they set out three and a half years ago have been anywhere near met. You are making and going to make it more difficult for legitimate voters to cast a ballot and disenfranchise as many as 400,000, if the federal officer is correct, and you are going to enfranchise people who are voting fraudulently, who take those cards and who will not require any identification whatsoever to prove who they are. There it is. There's the legislation. That's where it deals with identification.

I went on to read the bill some more, and I was perplexed again. There's the whole issue of enumeration. Now, we all know, as politicians, when we stop doing the enumeration, the voting lists stink. I don't know about in small towns, but I do know the experience in Torontoâ€"and I'm assured by my friend from Niagara Centre; I guess that's Wellandâ€"Thorold mostlyâ€"the voting lists stink. They are so badly out of date that by the time you get them and look at who's on the list, virtually they are useless. In the federal experience, up to 1.5 million people across Canada had to go in and register who they were before they could vote on election day. At least 1.5 million people were left off. Those are the ones who wanted to vote. We don't know which ones didn't want to vote because they didn't even bother to look, but there were probably several million Canadians who were disenfranchised and we haven't had a legitimate enumeration in far too many years.

The method we use doesn't work. If you file income tax, of course, you give permission to have your name added to the list. However, many things can go wrong. I look back to my own experience. I don't know whether it was because somebody was trying to perpetrate identity theft on me or whether it was for some other reason, but for four elections in a row I was not on the voters' list. Twice I was a candidate. Once I was an MPP seeking re-election, and I had to go down to register to be in that riding so that I could be a candidate.

I have lived in the same house for 25 years. I have never moved. When they finally did discover my name, I was located somewhere in the northwest end of the city, somewhere on Steeles Avenue near Dufferin. I have never lived there in my life, I would probably have a hard time finding it, and there I was. That's the kind of enumeration process on which this country and province relies.

Under the current legislation, we allow the Chief Electoral Officer to conduct an enumeration if he or she thinks it's a good idea. We allow that to happen. Under this brand new "vote for this Liberal" stuff, that's gone. If the Chief Electoral Officer thinks that we need a full enumeration, he or she cannot do it. The Chief Electoral Officer, under this legislation, is stripped of his or her authority to conduct a province-wide enumeration and now can only do what is described in the legislation as a targeted enumeration. The targeted enumeration will take place only following less costly procedures.

First of all, they have to go out and leaflet the area, saying, "Come in or phone us," or "We think there aren't many people who are right on this list," or "It's a new housing development," or do whatever they do.

They're going to do the less costly procedure, and then if they don't get a sufficient return on that, they will have an opportunity to do a full enumeration in particular polls and maybe even in a particular riding, but it will not be Ontario-wide. I ask you to read that, Madam Minister. You're shaking your head. I ask you to read it. There is no longer going to be authority to do an Ontario-wide enumeration. We haven't had one in this province since I can't even remember when. In every single election, it's the same thing: going around to places and begging people to come out and put their names on the list, and that is onerous to many of them. That is all the disincentive they need to vote. That is all of the worry: that they have to go down to the Chief Election Officer in the particular riding, swear out oaths, bring identification, line up, give the information, leave, wait two or three weeks, and get a card in the mail which says, "You're now on the list and you can vote," and that they have to do it early enough for even that to happen. Failing that, they have to do it on election day.

I would think that the greatest possible good this government could do would be to return to the time when we had enumerations.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley, again, in Ottawa, said that in the last federal election, somewhere around one million Canadians went to register that they were in fact electors so they could vote. I would have to assume that for Ontario it would be around 300,000 or 400,000 people, given the size of our population, and possibly it could be more, because we have a far greater proportion of recent immigrants and people who recently become Canadian citizens in Ontario than in other provinces.

The Chief Electoral Officer will be able to do a targeted registration wherever there is grounds to do so andâ€"

Mr. Kormos: Now we're at quorum risk.

Mr. Prue: Is there a quorum risk? Not yet, but you'll inform me if there is.

Mr. Kormos: If anybody leaves. But then, I suspect something's going to happen before that.

Mr. Prue: He or she can do a targeted registration where he or she believes there are a lot of young people, where he or she believes there are a lot of new Canadians, or where he or she believes there is a high mobility, but how would anyone know that other than the census track? Would that be confined to university towns, where you know that people go and stay for a couple of years and attend classes and leave? Would that be targeted for downtown areas of Toronto or Mississauga or London, where there were a lot of new immigrants, and would the places where immigrants live be targeted for enumerations or targeted registration? How do you target where young people are? I don't know. It seems to me that young people are pretty widely dispersed throughout this province and that no real place has more young people, really, than any other. The percentages are very small and are usually confined to housing and where the housing is available and cheap for families and where people grow up. They often move when they are young, and that becomes problematic.

Also contained within the body of the legislation is the provision for new registration agents versus enumerators; I'm not quite clear on how these are any different, but it seems to me that the whole role of enumerators has been taken away.

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There were a couple of good quotes that I would like to read into the record on this very point. Again, this would come from the 2003 study by McGill University's Jerome Black evaluating Canada's registration methods. He concluded that a "permanent list approach has contributed to diminishing voter turnout and has accentuated existing participation gaps across social groups." That's the end of the quote. In a nutshell, that means that by having the permanent list that we have enjoyed or not enjoyed in Ontario for so many years, we have effectively disenfranchised people. And according to that study, which is the best study of its kind, we have "contributed to diminishing voter turnout" and "existing participation gaps across social groups." So we are making it more difficult by not conducting an enumeration for people to vote, and we have found that, as a result, the turnout has declined.

The member from Thunder Bayâ€"Atikokan spoke earlier tonight. He talked about the way people treat each other in this House, and in fact that may be a turnoff to some voters. But I would hazard a guess that a far greater turnoff is to see yourself disenfranchised, not having the wherewithal or the ability to find two pieces of identification or the time to go down and make the necessary adjustments.

It was not a difficult task all those years ago when enumerators went from house to house and asked for the people who were over 21 years of age at that time, Canadian citizens who were eligible to vote and were not disenfranchised by some act of Parliament. I know I even did it in one election back in the early 1960s when I was a much younger person, going door to door. We were paid for doing it, although not handsomely, and the list was as fair and accurate as one could possibly imagine. I rue the day that someone thought they could save some money and do a list that has turned out to be so very wrong, and it has been so very wrong in places like apartment buildings, where people have high mobility, particularly in places where there are a lot of recent immigrants. And the government's answer to this has been far less than satisfactory.

There are just a couple of other things I want to talk about at this point. The third party advertisingâ€"and I find this to be kind of bizarre. This limits not the amounts of money that third party advertisers can pay, but it is extremely weak. The third party advertisers must report to the Chief Electoral Officer, and they must report everybody who gives them a contribution of more than $25 towards their third party advertising. But nowhere could I find in the body of this literature anything that limits the amount they can spend, save and except, I suppose, as much as a political party. So you have the possibility of a rich person in Ontario spending as much as an entire party. You have the opportunity here for well-heeled, well-oiled, well-machined groups, perhaps from Bay Street or from a union or from some other place, spending as much as a political party for third party advertising, and the only thing they would be required to do is inform anybody who gave them more than $25.

If someone who had a million dollars to burn wanted to come in and influence an election and put their own million dollars up, the only thing that would be reported is that Mr. X gave a million dollars for this third party advertising. It would be perfectly legal, and the government and the CEO would have virtually nothing to say about it. I find it extremely weak, and I also find it kind of offensive that the only real control is listing those people who give money above a paltry $25.

There are some other things I want to talk about, but in honour of Vincent Van Gogh and the ringing that I suddenly hear in my ears, and because this government up to today has been so recalcitrant in coming forward with informationâ€"ordinary, little informationâ€"that the opposition has asked for and because we truly believe the Auditor General has a place in looking after this Legislature and the people who are in it, I would move adjournment of the debate.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Prue has moved adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 2055 to 2125.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr. Prue has moved adjournment of the debate.

All those in favour, please stand.

All those opposed, please stand.

The Deputy Clerk: The ayes are 4; the nays are 23.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It being 9:30 of the clock, this House is adjourned until 10 of the clock Thursday morning, May 3.

The House adjourned at 2127.