LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OFÂ ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÃE LÃGISLATIVE DEÂ L'ONTARIO
Monday 14 May 2007 Lundi 14 mai 2007
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 103, An Act to establish an Independent Police Review Director and create a new public complaints process by amending the Police Services Act, when Bill 103 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That there shall be no deferral of any vote allowed pursuant to standing order 28(h); and
That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 10 minutes.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: With respect to the matter of quorum, I note that the government is only just barely maintaining quorum and simply wanted to let them know that if I were to leave and one or two others were to leave, they'd be at risk of losing the evening for failure to keep quorum. I'm just trying to be helpful.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Michael Prue): It may be helpful but it is not a point of order, as quorum, I believe, is present.
Mr. Bradley has moved Bill 103 -- I was going to try to ad lib it, but since it's right here in front of me: Mr. Bradley has moved that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 103, An Act to establish an Independent Police Review Director and create a new public complaints process by amending the Police Services Act, when Bill 103 is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That there shall be no deferral of any vote allowed pursuant to standing order 28(h); and
That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 10 minutes.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I appreciate the House leader of the third party's assisting us to know that quorum is something that must be maintained. Of course, we agree with that entirely. I wanted to say, first of all, that this is a strange position. I never thought I'd be in this position, and that is for this reason: Here we have a bill that I know all three parties agree with and are voting in favour of. We have had first reading, significant debate in second reading, committee, we've had two full days of third reading, and we are unable to come to an agreement to finish this bill. I've been compelled, as a result, to assist the House in scheduling the bill. It is strange indeed. But I suspect that at this time of year -- we get into the spring and the weather is nice and there's an event coming up in the fall that might influence somehow whether you can get legislation through the House. So I try to be helpful to the opposition from time to time by trying to set some dates for votes so we can have all members here at that time for the vote. When we set it right in the motion, it allows everybody to know where everyone should be at a particular point in time to vote on a bill.
So I'm actually doing a favour to the opposition by bringing in a time allocation motion on this legislation. I'm not one who's a fan of time allocation motions, but I knew -- and they warned me, "they" being this nebulous "they" out there. John Diefenbaker always used to talk about "they." Even my friend Norm Sterling, the member for NepeanâÂ"Carleton or Carleton-something -- he has always had "Carleton" there -- a good friend of mine, when he was House leader, warned me about that. He would say in exasperation in a House leaders' meeting, "Listen, all three parties agree to this, we've had all this debate and nobody wants to tell me when the debate is actually going to conclude." He used to help out by bringing in a motion which would make things more certain as to the length and the width of the debate and so on.
One thing I can say about our time allocation motions that come earlier in this stage is that we have always provided for committee time. I look to my staff who are all-wise, and they tell me that we have always allowed committee time. As a result, we can plan our committees. We've allowed at least three second reading debate days. We often get into third reading and debate. When I was first elected here, I can remember that there was no third reading debate. Essentially, it went through on a nod. I don't expect that's going to be this all the time. When the former member for Sudbury East was here, he used to understand that third reading was almost a nod. I know that he would convey to the member for Nickel Belt the traditions we had in those days, when third reading was somewhat of a formality, particularly when everyone agreed with the bill.
I want to note what some people have had to say about it -- just some of the endorsements to show that this bill has a good consensus. The mayor of the city of Toronto, David Miller, says, "I believe Torontonians have great faith in their police services, but this should ensure that their faith grows stronger. Where there are problems, people will have a real right to deal with them and have them addressed." That was "Civilian Agency to Probe Police Conduct" and was quoted from the Toronto Star, April 20, 2006.
The Globe and Mail noted that the legislation "sends a strong message that police complaints will be taken seriously." That was April 20, 2006.
Patrick LeSage, former chief justice, said he was "pleased the government was implementing an independent complaints system, as recommended in his report."
"Policing is an awfully tough job; nevertheless, it is part of the governmental process which should be subject to civilian oversight," said the Toronto Star in the story "Civilian Agency to Probe Police Conduct."
The leader of the official opposition had this to say. John Tory, Leader of the Opposition, said that it's "appropriate" that citizens have the right to make complaints to a civilian body. "Civilian Agency to Probe Police Conduct" is the name of that story.
In another editorial from the Toronto Star: "By putting the process back into civilian hands, Attorney General Michael Bryant is helping to bring justice to those victimized by rogue officers. But he is also assisting Ontario's police forces by making it easier for people to come forward to identify 'bad apples' in the department."
As my friend from Orillia has said on many occasions, overwhelmingly in this province the experience is that we have excellent members of our police services, who conduct themselves in the most appropriate fashion, who do serve and protect people. They themselves are perturbed when they find the very rare individual who does not comply with that standard of conduct. Certainly, as I say, whenever I've spoken to police officers, they've said that if there were someone who was truly in violation of the laws of the province or abusing the job, they would not be pleased with that at all because it reflects on all members of a police service. I'm delighted that overwhelmingly our police officers in this province conduct themselves appropriately and would not be subjected to anything untoward with this particular initiative.
AndrÃÂ© Marin, the very busy Ontario Ombudsman, had the following to say: "I would like to say at the outset that the government of Ontario deserves credit for introducing Bill 103, which reforms the public complaints process and establishes the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a new police oversight agency with wide-ranging powers to oversee and investigate police complaints."
There are others here. Let's look at the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. They say, "'Both citizens and police require a police complaints system that they can have confidence in,' said Chief Terry McLaren, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. 'We believe this legislation will help strike the right balance between the needs of the public and the police in terms of dealing with complaints.'"
The Police Association of Ontario says the following: "As an organization committed to excellence in policing, we believe that Bill 103 strikes the right balance between protecting the rights of police officers and maintaining public confidence in the civilian oversight system." Bob Baltin, president of the Police Association of Ontario, said that.
Community Education and Access to Police Complaints Demonstration Project: There were people who talked about Bill 103 and what it would do.
So what we have is something fairly unusual, and that's a pretty good consensus from all of those who would be affected by the legislation. Does it go as far as some would like? Probably not. Does it go too far for the likes of others? Perhaps. But it strikes a very good balance.
We've had good speeches, I think from members of all three political parties in this House, who have talked about the intricacies of the bill, the provisions of the bill, have made their case known, were good in committee at asking the appropriate questions, and if it had to be dealt with in clause-by-clause, had to ask the right questions to make the right points.
Now that we have had two full days of third reading, the bill having completed approval in principle, and committee and first reading and a lot of discussion taking place in and outside this House, the member for Orillia is, I know, dying to see some finality to this. He'll have an opportunity this evening to utilize his time, though he may wish to speak to the motion. I suspect he's going to talk about the bill as well and give us some of his very excellent insights. He's a very perceptive individual and has insights into the provisions of this bill, I think, in his heart of hearts, because I know him well. I've been to his riding. It's a beautiful riding, I must say, one of the nicest parts of North America that you will find. I think you will find that, in his heart of hearts, he believes it's time for this debate to come to a conclusion and for a vote to take place, and I know he will be enthusiastically voting for it.
I suspect that my friends in the New Democratic Party likewise will be very pleased by that. There may even be some members of the House who are aware that the puck drops at 7 o'clock in Ottawa, and they may well from time to time slip out for only half a minute to get a report on the game.
That's my presentation this evening. I think it will be a friendly debate tonight. I want to thank the opposition for the role they have played in helping to pass this bill and to improve the bill in the manner that they feel is appropriate.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Simcoe North.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Thank you so much. Apparently I have 48 minutes ahead of me. I'm here to speak on Bill 103, An Act to establish an Independent Police Review Director and create a new public complaints process by amending the Police Services Act.
First I think I should mention two things. One is to the government House leader, a good friend of mine, who keeps referring to me as the member from Orillia, but I am the member from Simcoe North. I'm very proud of that beautiful riding, and Orillia is of course the only city I have in Simcoe North, but I have six townships, two towns and two First Nations as well -- all beautiful.
I know tonight we're speaking on a time allocation motion, and I believe that the House leader for the Liberals had it right when he said that, overall, we all support this legislation. I will say up front that we made a number of amendments to the bill that the government didn't consider, and those were amendments that were put forth by the Police Association of Ontario. But overall, I don't think anybody is against a police review director, or whatever it may be, as long as we look after our police officers and we put some kind of a fair process in place.
I will say up front that this really wasn't a burning issue. As the critic for community safety and correctional services, I can tell you that there were very few comments that came in prior to the introduction of this bill that would have indicated that the police complaints system we actually had in place was any kind of a problem. But there was enough, I guess, concern that the government wanted to bring some kind of a bill in, and so we have Bill 103 and here we are tonight talking about it.
Again, we're talking about a time allocation bill. I know the government House leader certainly didn't want to bring in a time allocation bill, because I think if we went back about four years ago right now and you looked in Hansard, I think you'd see a completely different set of comments referring to time allocation. I'm not gullible enough to think that for one second the government wants out of this House.
Interjection: Fall fairs.
Mr. Dunlop: Yes. There's something important coming up in the fall, besides the fall fairs, something probably -- to most people in the province, the fall fairs are probably more important than the election. But the reality is, we do have an election this fall, and I don't think the government for one second wants to be here much longer than maybe a week or two after constituency week, which, I believe, the last time I heard, was next week. We'll all be back in our ridings next week, working hard and serving our constituents.
I guess the question is, why time allocation? Because I know that a time allocation motion really directs the government to vote at a certain time and to get everything all cleaned up. In a lot of cases, a lot of our members did want to speak. They're not here tonight because they're up in Ottawa. As you know, we have a number of -- and there's not only the hockey game but, as the Minister of Health Promotion mentioned today, we've got quite a few members in the Ottawa area tonight. Our party is having a fundraiser in Ottawa tonight. I noticed there were a lot of Ottawa questions today in the House. That seems to be odd, that you would be asking Ottawa questions on a day when our leader was in Ottawa. But the reality is that that's the game that's played. Everyone is out raising money these days and trying to do the best they can. I know that our leader is up with a number of our members.
We do have members here, by the way. I'm here tonight speaking for a while, but I can tell you that our other members will be in in a few minutes and will be voting on the time allocation motion, I believe, at 9:20.
But I guess a couple of things I wanted to say were, why would the government want out of the House? Why the time allocation? I think there's a list of things we can go on -- I think, first of all, there are a lot of my constituents who are certainly asking questions around Lottogate, the OLG. The government members will certainly say that that's a done deal and there are no problems there, but there are still the questions that were asked in the House and the refusal of the minister to respond to those.
Then we go into the whole issue that we've heard recently over the last two or three weeks, that, of course, being the slush fund issue or the slush fund scandal. We can call it Adscam 2 -- whatever it may be. But there's no question that we've raised taxes -- in this particular term of government, we've raised taxes about $23 billion a year. If there is excess money left over at the end of the year, that money should not be left in any kind of a fund that would indicate that there was any kind of political partisanship involved with that particular fund. I know that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has gone through a number of questions over the last two or three weeks, and now I understand that the Premier has indicated that it will go to the Auditor General for a report, a report that I understand is coming back in July. But I think what we have to be concerned about is the fact that when we have something like the slush fund or Adscam 2, whatever it may be, people who have a hard time paying their taxes, citizens who are not high wage earners and do everything they can to raise their families, pay their mortgages and pay for an automobile -- I think that the one thing those folks are asking us to do is to spend their money in a very careful and transparent manner. When we have something like what we've witnessed over the last few days, where obviously funds have been directed towards areas that may show partisanship, that simply is not right. It's not what the citizens who pay for our salaries -- they expect more from their government. For that reason alone, the government would want to be out of this House, because that, of course, has been a very hot issue.
One of the things around Adscam is that it's growing. I can tell you that back in the riding, when you're out at events on the weekends now -- particularly on the weekends -- people are asking you: "What's this slush fund all about? How do we tap into it?" I had a letter just a week ago from the United Senior Citizens of Ontario -- I brought a letter forward that they had sent to me. They were concerned because they represent over 300,000 citizens who are seniors that belong to the United Senior Citizens of Ontario. They obviously wanted to know what was happening with their money and if, in fact, there was any opportunity for them to tap into those funds, any kind of a program that they might have tapped into to receive funds. Groups like the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, under the leadership of president Marie Smith, are representing seniors on issues particularly around abuse. I've talked to Mrs. Smith on a few occasions. She travels around the province talking to seniors' organizations on the topic of elder abuse, which is something that's very important to the seniors in the province of Ontario.
There's another reason, I think, that the government would want out of the House and why they would be bringing time allocation motions forward, and that, of course, is that they have to review their broken promises. We've seen about 60 broken promises from this government that we're aware of, including the whole issue around the coal-fired plants. This is 2007; this is the year when we were supposed to eliminate all coal-fired generation. As you know, the only plant that has been closed has been the Lakeview generating plant. When Elizabeth Witmer, the member from Waterloo, was the Minister of Energy, it's the plant that she decided to close. She put the wheels in motion to close that plant. Of course, now we really haven't gone a long way beyond that, other than to say that the government is saying today that they are going to continue down that path. The coal-fired plants will all close. If you go back to the last election, at that time Premier Eves campaigned on the fact that we would be able to close those plants by 2015. That probably always was the more realistic date for the coal-fired plant closures. Today, we've had broken promise after broken promise around the closure of those plants.
Another reason for time allocation -- and those figures came out today -- is the whole issue around the loss of manufacturing jobs in the province of Ontario. I got a call from the media just prior to coming here tonight. The riding of Simcoe North, particularly in the Midland-Penetanguishene area, is heavily reliant on manufacturers that produce car parts for the automotive industry. We're scared right now. We've seen these thousands of jobs being lost -- 13,000 jobs alone in the month of April, manufacturing jobs, a lot to do with the automotive sector. It has to be kind of embarrassing for the Minister of Economic Development to face this, when she comes from Windsor, to find out that these kinds of jobs are leaving our province. They're closing plants. If you're the minister in that particular area, it has to be a huge issue.
I can tell you that many people across our province are concerned about what is happening to the province of Ontario, why we're not seeing those kinds of incentives that we might have seen go to, for example, people who are involved with the slush fund or the Adscam -- why some of that money couldn't have been directed towards the automotive sector or the manufacturers of the province of Ontario so that we can maintain those jobs that are being lost. When you start losing 13,000 jobs in one month, that's on the scale of a downturn in the economy bad enough that we could almost call it a mini-recession, or even a full-fledged recession, for that matter. When we start losing those kinds of jobs, that has a major impact on the revenues that flow to the Minister of Finance and to the government so they can actually go out and operate this province. You've got to remember that now we need $91 billion a year to operate Ontario because the government has increased taxes by about $23 billion since they came into power.
I want to talk a little bit about the whole area of police complaints and around policing in general in the province of Ontario. You know, Bill 103 is, as I mentioned a little earlier, a bill that creates a new public complaints process by amending the Police Services Act. But I can tell you, as we go through this legislation -- I said earlier that I thought we would have seen more people come forward with actual complaints, complaints about the police. We have roughly 30,000 police officers in the province -- sorry, people belonging to the Police Association of Ontario. Many of those are civilians. But I'm guessing that about 25,000 or 26,000 police officers actually work in the province of Ontario. Today in the House, when Minister Kwinter, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, was here, he indicated that this was Police Week. Many of us will be making deputations or will be taking part in functions involving Police Week. I would have thought that on legislation like this, as the critic for community safety and correctional services, I would have had a lot more complaints coming from the general public about policing. The reality is, I've had virtually no complaints about our police in this province. There may be bad apples out there; who knows? There may well be. But generally speaking, the public has not come forward with those complaints. They've certainly not come to our office. As MPPs, we get many areas that the public complains about, usually around bureaucratic issues with different levels of government or different ministries. But certainly I can tell you, and I would be completely upfront about this, I've had virtually no concerns around policing complaints in Ontario.
I'd like to talk about a few different topics here, one being the Police Association of Ontario under the leadership of executive director Bruce Miller and Robert Baltin, who is the president of the PAO. I've worked extremely closely with these gentlemen, not only since I've been in opposition but since I've been in government as well. I can tell you that we've been very pleased with our relationship with the PAO. Obviously, on bills like Bill 103 or the bill on the grow-ops or any of the pieces of legislation, you want to get their opinions, you want to bounce that off their members, and you want to be able to take it back to your caucus to get their concerns as well. When you talk about the Police Association of Ontario, I think you're talking about a first-class organization that has done good work and represented all police services in the province in a very professional manner. I think they've done a wonderful job of lobbying the government, no matter who's in power, on all the different issues that face our police officers on a day-to-day basis.
The minister mentioned earlier about the police memorial, and he mentioned about the three officers who were inducted this year, or whose names were placed on the wall of honour, as well as three officers who died in the line of duty many decades ago. I know that in all of those cases, the Police Association of Ontario did research and helped with the memorial wall and worked with the government and with the opposition to make sure that that particular ceremony was a ceremony of remembrance and that people were treated in a very professional and courteous manner.
I also wanted to talk a little today about the 1,000 officers program. As you know, the previous government under Premier Harris and Premier Eves added another 1,000 police officers to the streets of our province, and both the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party campaigned on another 1,000 police officers in the 2003-07 term, the 38th Parliament of the province of Ontario. Today, when I was doing my response to Police Week and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services' remarks, I know I indicated about our part as the official opposition in trying to in a way support the government, but in another way push the government to add those 1,000 police officers to the streets of our province. I take a lot of satisfaction, as critic for community safety, working with my good friend Mr. Runciman, the member from LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville and our critic in justice, and our leader, John Tory, as the leader of the official opposition, in moving forward those 1,000 police officers. For the first 18 months or so of this government's mandate, we didn't really hear a lot about the 1,000 police officers, and we would go on talk shows and put out press releases and try to push the government in any way we could so that they would move forward quickly with that.
I think what was a sad day was the day when the government had failed to react to John Tory's Time for Action report, which was a report on guns-and-gangs violence. In that report, Mr. Tory indicated that his number one recommendation would be to have all the 1,000 police officers on the streets of Ontario by the end of 2006. As you'll recall, that was put out on December 11, 2005, and a terrible tragedy took place down on Yonge Street on Boxing Day. I don't think a lot of people will ever forget that. That was the death of that beautiful young lady, Jane Creba, who was brutally shot down on Boxing Day in 2005. Very, very shortly after that, the government did react to that and promised that they would put most of the police officers on the streets by the end of 2006. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I've been to a number of the OPP graduations, and it is heartening to see that those officers are slowly making their way onto the streets of the province, graduates of the Ontario Police College. They are great young people who are wanting to become police officers, and they are slowly working their way into positions across Ontario.
So, as I said, I will give the government credit on one hand for bringing in the program and for proceeding with it. But our party honestly takes a lot of credit, because we believe that we put a lot of pressure on the government through press releases and through editorials and through working with our stakeholders, including the OPPA, the OACP, the PAO and the police services boards. So we take a lot of credit in that. In the end, it's kind of like Bill 103 or like the traffic safety bill, the street racing bill today. It's an opportunity where we may be in opposition or we may be opponents of each other, but in the end the people who win are the citizens of Ontario in the fact that they have got more police officers. So we should have, in the end, a safer and more secure province for our young people to grow up in.
One area we did not talk a lot about is an area of policing that does not receive a lot of support, and that's our police services boards. We've had the opportunity. My leader spoke last week about the rule of law. He was at the conference up in Owen Sound and the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards -- I think our leader, John Tory, made a good impression on the folks in that organization. The reality is that these are the people who are appointed by government but are elected by -- that are appointed by municipal councils. Many of them have a huge challenge ahead of them. In the end, a lot of folks who sit on the police services boards are people who are tied to law and order. In my community there are a couple of police services board and they work closely with the councils, but they also voice their concerns and get action accomplished by participating on those boards and working with the general public to make our towns and communities safer for the citizens of Ontario and for their communities in particular.
I want to talk a little bit about the Ontario Provincial Police, the province's largest police force and a police service that has served our province extremely well. I believe that in 2009 the OPP will be 100 years old; that's 100 years old for the Ontario Provincial Police. Currently the OPP is under the leadership of Commissioner Julian Fantino. I have to tell you that I am a fan of Julian Fantino. I believe he has accomplished a lot in his career as a police chief, in many jurisdictions, as an officer, and now as the commissioner of the OPP. He has sort of returned the OPP to a more friendly police officer type of organization.
I was here on police memorial day at Queen's Park. I was curious. I had met Mr. Fantino at the tribute downstairs, on level one, when the Premier and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services presented tribute plaques to the families of officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty. I met Mr. Fantino down there. When we went over to the memorial wall for the celebration after, at 11 o'clock, when we actually placed the names of six officers on the memorial wall, I didn't know where Mr. Fantino had gone, but he was in the parade. I think it was the largest turnout of OPP officers that I've ever seen at a function here on the memorial day. The commissioner marched with his troops, his officers, and many commissioned officers were with him. I think it was a day of honour for the Ontario Provincial Police. Also on that day they had a number of bikes from the Golden Helmets. They had officers from right across the province. On a day-to-day basis I hear officers talk about Commissioner Fantino. It's actually almost unbelievable, the kind of respect they have for him.
As we celebrate Police Week and talk about Bill 103 and the whole fact that we have this police complaints bill before us during Police Week, it's interesting to note that we have people like Chief Fantino, who have so much respect. This is a guy who probably could have retired many years ago, but his love of policing, his love of helping young officers and keeping our community safe is very, very important not only to himself, but to the citizens of Ontario. I applaud him for his efforts.
I've got to tell you, one of the first things the commissioner wanted to bring forward just a few months ago was the return to the black-and-white cruisers. I've got to tell you, I looked at that program and I thought, "What's the real advantage here?" There's no question it costs more to paint the vehicles in the beginning. Second, I understand that the reason they went to the white vehicles in the beginning was the fact that they could trade them in for other services and get a higher value for those cruisers if they were plain white and they just had to remove the decals. But, as I see them on the road, I've got to tell you, I think we in politics -- just because someone comes out with an idea, you can't just say, "That's right" or, "That's wrong," because if you listen to those particular views, sometimes it will change your mind. I've talked to a number of police officers, and they've been from a number of areas across the province. They convinced me that the black-and-whites are the way to go. It may be a little more expensive, but with Commissioner Fantino's plan to be far more aggressive with aggressive drivers, I think we need that identification out there. I think what helped today was that the bill we all agreed on this afternoon, the street racing bill, where there were a number of amendments made and we were one big happy family around that particular piece of legislation -- the same thing has occurred there, and that's the fact that slowly we're going to bring in blue lights on our police services vehicles over the next few years. I'm told that this is a public safety issue. It will be safer for the officers, and it will mean the roads and highways will be safer as well.
If you listened to our member Mr. Klees today, he talked about some of the people who have died due to road rage, aggressive drivers or street racing. One life lost is one too many. I think we have to move forward, and we have to put in place what is best for police services and what the police services agree is best for us as citizens of the province.
When you're dealing with police officers, you deal with some amazing people and some amazingly dedicated people over the course of time. One of the areas that I'm always pleased to be participating in is, each year, because I think the OPP general headquarters is in my riding, I'm invited to a huge dinner; it's the commissioner's mess dinner. Each year it's held at Base Borden. In fact, it would be in the member for SimcoeÃ¢Â"Grey's riding. I get invited each year. It's a black-tie affair, and it's an event I appreciate being invited to because I see the kind of loyalty, the kind of dedication and the kind of commitment that police officers provide to the province of Ontario. For example, each year the person who is the honorary guest who hands out the plaques and the scrolls to all of the new commissioned officers is none other than Lincoln Alexander, former Lieutenant Governor, former MP, just a great, great citizen of our province. Although Lincoln Alexander is getting older, each year he plays an important role --
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): He lives in my riding. He's a constituent of mine.
Mr. Dunlop: Yes. Do you know what? If there's anybody in this province who has the respect of everybody in the province, it would be the Honourable Lincoln Alexander. He comes to these OPP dinners, and he always has some humour to add. He's a wonderful speaker, and he captures the heart of everybody there. Right off the bat, when you have these dinners and Lincoln Alexander is the guest of honour, and he's handing out these scrolls to the commissioned officers, it's already a winner.
Usually I sit with the honorary commissioner, General Richard Rohmer. Richard Rohmer, of course, is a hero in our country. He's very oriented and very supportive of community safety, law and order and everything that's right about Canada. I usually sit at that mess dinner with him. I want to pay tribute tonight; when I am talking about this particular bill, I want to say what a great job he has done.
I know Richard Rohmer was one of the honorary guests at the tribute downstairs on the first Sunday in May. He accompanied the Premier and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. He was actually one of the key organizers of that event and the police memorial wall, as well as the veterans' wall outside. As we look at the age of some of these guys, they're well past their 80th year, yet they're still dedicated to law and order, they're still dedicated to policing in our province, and they're still dedicated to the citizens of the province of Ontario and making Ontario a better place to live.
What I was getting to was, when I work my way through these comments, I'm wondering where all these police complaints are. I'm not getting them. I take my job as critic very, very seriously, and very few people come forward. But again, I want to go back to that mess dinner for a second and talk about some of the commissioners we see, like Thomas O'Grady and Gwen Boniface, former commissioners, and Mr. Eric Silk. These are all people long before my time, but I can tell you that these folks are all out there. They're still as proud as ever today that they were commissioners or they were commissioned officers. When you go to these dinners and you see the number of retired commissioned officers with a group like the OPP -- and they bring in other police services as well to their events -- you understand just what an honourable position the whole organization is and why a complaint can almost be dealt with internally, because I don't think people like Julian Fantino, Gwen Boniface or Tom O'Grady accept for one second anything but perfection from their top officers. That has a way of working its way down through the whole system, and that's why, as the OPP approaches 100 years in service to the province of Ontario, it's so important that we understand why people who have served in these positions have done so in a professional, honourable way, committed to the province of Ontario: because it's their own name that's on the line.
I go back to even today. I mentioned very briefly in my comments with respect to the announcement of Police Week by the minister this afternoon that in our own ridings I would really encourage people -- I don't know how many people are taking in policing events this coming week over the next few days, but if you haven't been supportive of policing or if you haven't been involved in a lot of events, one thing you'll find for sure is that you will be welcomed to be part of that. Again, I go back to the fact that I'm very, very honoured to be the MPP for a riding that is the home of the OPP general headquarters. I can tell you, over the next couple of weeks, it's absolutely incredible how many policing events are taking place.
I mentioned earlier today in the House that we have an officer who works on community projects in Orillia; his name is Gerry Dwyer. I have to tell you, he's a friend of mine. I didn't know Gerry before he got his job and before I got my job. But I can tell you that with these types of people like Constable Gerry, the dedication they have to the community is absolutely incredible. They are always looking out for the young people, the old people, and everyone in between. Whether it's elder abuse seminars, whether it's projects with the DARE program, whether it's the RIDE program, you'll see these people day in and day out working on behalf of their constituents.
As I mentioned earlier today, and it's kind of a joke -- not a joke, but kind of humorous -- around Orillia right now, Constable Gerry has arranged to have the Stanley Cup come to Orillia this Saturday. It's going to be at the detachment at, I believe, 10 o'clock in the morning. He has called and asked me if I would bring my kids and my grandchildren out to view the Stanley Cup. I'll do my very, very best. Then he's moving the Stanley Cup up to the Orillia Square Mall, where people will be able to view the cup. As I mentioned earlier today, the humour around this is that Gerry is taking credit for bringing the Stanley Cup to Orillia, and he teases about the fact that Toronto has been trying to win the Stanley Cup for the last 40 years and they haven't been very successful, but Constable Gerry has been able to bring the Stanley Cup home on his first try to bring it there.
I shouldn't talk about the Stanley Cup, because I know we're talking about an Ottawa game tonight. I gotta tell you, I'm an Ottawa fan, I'm a Toronto fan, I'm a Montreal fan -- I'm a Canadian fan, eh? So I cheer for the Canadian teams. They're great clubs. I love them all and I'm so proud to be a Canadian around hockey. I just wish we had the Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets back. That was just a disaster when we lost those clubs in Canada.
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): And the Phoenix Coyotes are doing how well?
Mr. Dunlop: The Phoenix Coyotes will never be the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Rockies will never be the Quebec Nordiques, in my opinion, but it's so interesting to watch this and to listen to the comments of folks.
But I've got to tell you, I had an opportunity a couple of years ago -- I have to mention this and put it on the record. I was golfing in a tournament with the administrator of the Mnjikaning First Nation, a gentleman by the name of Dan Shilling. We were golfing on this one particular hole and we came around on our golf carts, and there, on the 13th hole on Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club, was the Stanley Cup all set up. It was amazing to watch all these men, basically a bunch of guys, and everybody wanted their picture taken with the Stanley Cup, eh? It was unbelievable because, you know, you become a little kid again. All you can think of is the days of Dickie Duff and Ralph Backstrom and Jean Beliveau -- all the guys we grew up with who were our heroes.
Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): That's way before our time.
Mr. Dunlop: Yeah. Here was the Stanley Cup out there, the cup that Jean Beliveau and Guy LaFleur had hoisted over their heads. It was there on the Hawk Ridge golf course. I can understand why they tour that Stanley Cup over to Afghanistan, why they tour it around the world, because as Canadians, there are very, very few things more important than the Stanley Cup.
The members have just indicated that the score is still 0-0 at the end of the first period, Ottawa and Buffalo.
Mr. Speaker, I know I got off base a little bit with the Stanley Cup story. What I'm trying to say -- I'm trying to compliment the police services in our province. As I said earlier, as critic for community safety, I have had virtually no complaints about policing. I think overall they do an absolutely phenomenal job representing our communities right across our country. Whether it's in the far north or the southern part of our province or whatever, I think they do an unbelievable job and I, for one, appreciate it.
It's not like every country in the world. There are many countries in the world where policing is corrupt and I understand why we need this legislation. I understand that we have to make sure that there is a safety net in place for the general public. I just hope we don't build this into something where it becomes a huge bureaucracy, the police complaints division of our province. At one point in the LeSage report they talked about regional centres or regional offices set up to look after police complaints, and I can't agree with that. I think that if you have a responsible police services board, a responsible chief of police, the system has a way of maintaining itself in a very professional manner that commits itself to community safety and to good policing right across our province.
I've only got a few minutes left and I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the smaller police services. I talked earlier about the OPP and having the general headquarters in my riding but I wanted to mention that I have just a couple of smaller police services as well, one being the Mnjikaning Police Services at Rama. They do all the public safety and policing at the casino, along with the OPP, who have officers in the casino itself at Casino Rama. I want to mention something about the Beausoleil First Nation Police Service, which I get to see each and every year on Aboriginal Day, which is June 21.
I would hope that everyone, even if you don't have a First Nations in your riding, if you have an opportunity to get out and take part in a powwow, take part in some of the Aboriginal Day festivities, it's well worth it. It will be something that I think would be very special to you. The problem I've got is, because I have one that's out on an island, Christian Island -- that's Beausoleil First Nation -- it's about a four-hour round trip to get out there, take part in the festivities and get back. Then I have to go to the Metis First Nation, which is the Georgian Bay Metis Council, and then over to the Mnjikaning First Nation. It's difficult to get all the Aboriginal Day events in in a day.
But one of the things that I think is clear is that all the governments have done a fairly respectable job of bringing First Nation policing to the forefront. In a lot of cases I thank the OPP because they've shown the leadership in that particular area and have drawn First Nation policing to the top of the line. Whenever I go to graduation ceremonies now, whether in the auxiliary program or whether it's in the recruitment program for the OPP, I generally always find that there's a number of First Nation police officers who are graduating. I want to say, very briefly, I was able to go to the last recruitment. It was about three weeks ago up in Orillia at Otis Park. The OPP graduated around 100 officers into the Ontario Provincial Police, and I believe there were three First Nation police service officers recruited and graduated that day as well, who went back to their First Nations to act as officers in those particular areas. That's something that's nice to see, and it's important that we recognize the importance of those, particularly at a time when we have Caledonia on our plate.
The whole situation around Caledonia has been very difficult for police services, and it's been very difficult for the OPP because they're there to keep peace, they're there to keep law and order. They're trying their very best to do what is right. However, if you talk to officers at Caledonia, they'll tell you, and I've said a number of times in this House, they feel like the meat in a sandwich. The pressure is on them from every angle and they really haven't seen the leadership from upper levels of government. As a result, the whole issue around Caledonia has been very expensive to the OPP budget. Although we haven't lost any lives, it has cost the taxpayers in the province of Ontario -- I'm guessing now, but it has to be very close to $100 million in taxpayer cost to run the OPP program there. I know you have to have officers there, but when you have to have 124 officers there day in and day out, seven days a week, it adds up to be a lot of money. The fact is, it takes those resources away from other detachments that the OPP has across the province, and that could be highway patrol or the different specialized programs that the Ontario Provincial Police run.
As we wind down here, I want to say that although the government didn't accept our amendments that the Police Association of Ontario had put forward on Bill 103, I do know that our caucus will still support the legislation. We think there are some improvements that could be made to it, but we may have to make those improvements after we get back in government.
As we speak tonight on this time allocation motion, I wanted to make those comments on the record why we in our caucus support the police services in our province. We think they do a wonderful job day in and day out. We probably have as good policing in Ontario as any jurisdiction anywhere in the world. There are programs that are run by our police services that are second to none. As we move forward as a society and as a province, we have to know that we always have the security of excellent police services right here in our province.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I'm prepared to sit down in seven seconds. Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment on Bill 103. Our suggestion will be that we will be supporting this bill.
Ms. Horwath: It is my pleasure to make a few remarks this evening on what we know is before us as a time allocation motion brought forward by the government House leader.
I have to say, for those people who weren't here when he brought the motion forward, it was kind of comical almost. He was kind of abashedly bringing forward the motion, reading it and then spending quite some time talking about, even though he doesn't really support or believe in time allocation motions, why it was he thought that this one was going to be okay and this one he could support. He spent some time talking about the fact that he was doing the House a favour, doing the Legislature a favour in fact, by bringing forward this particular time allocation motion. In fact, I think he said something like he's assisting the House in scheduling this bill and getting it through, because of course in his opinion everybody supports this bill, so why not just have it go through without any debate, without any real time and attention put to the details? But of course everyone knows that's what opposition is here for: to look at the details, review the fine print and make sure that when the government is bringing issues forward, the rhetoric they couch their issues or their bills in actually matches up with what the fine letter of the law is when it comes to the actual legislation that is before us.
So notwithstanding the favour that the government House leader has done in this particular motion, I have to say it was pretty comical, because even though he protested vociferously about how time allocation motions are not something that he regularly supports, we do in fact have before us a time allocation motion. I think somebody named Shakespeare said something about protesting too much. I was thinking about that when the government House leader was talking about how it is that he really doesn't believe in time allocation motions, but in this particular case a time allocation motion is something that of course everybody should understand why, even though on principle it's not something that is thought well of, in this particular instance it's okay. I have to say that my friend the member for Nickel Belt spent some time over the last little while looking at exactly how much debate and scrutiny Bill 103 -- the bill that is before us in terms of time allocation -- how much time has actually been spent on this particular bill. I know that she'll be speaking to that herself, and so I'm not going to scoop her research on that issue.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that when I first arrived here -- in fact, looking at the calendar today, I think it's three years ago yesterday that I was elected in the by-election in Hamilton East, and it was about two weeks after that I actually was sworn in. I recall, because it was about the same time of the year, that at that time there was a different House leader and there was nasty stuff happening, like midnight sittings. I thought I had ruined my life for sure: "What is this midnight sittings stuff? I didn't know that was a part of the deal." Obviously, we now have a much more effective House leader who can get things done by making sure he's doing the House a favour in that he's an operative in terms of bringing forward bills in a timely fashion and not forcing us into midnight sittings. I have to say that I do appreciate the skill of the current House leader in making sure that midnight sittings haven't yet occurred at the end of the session here.
Ms. Horwath: Yes, it's got something to do with our House leader and how co-operative he is on all matters, I'm sure. He's quite an effective House leader in that regard.
Nonetheless, the bottom line is that one of the first things I did learn when I arrived here was this whole bogeyman, if you want to call it that, of time allocation. In my first debate, I was so uptight because I really didn't know so much about the legislation that was to be debated, but my colleagues were saying, "Don't worry. It's a time allocation motion. You don't even have to speak to the bill. You just speak to shutting down debate and lack of democracy and lack of transparency, and the government's lack of willingness to hear from all sides of the Legislature in terms of trying to improve the bill, and the arrogance of governments that just ram through legislation with time allocation motions. That's kind of all you need to concentrate on." You don't really even need to focus so much on the bill itself, but rather the criticism focuses on the shutting down of democracy or the reduction of scrutiny that occurs when the time allocation motions are brought forward, and that's of course what we're doing tonight.
Having said that, there has been some debate in the House already in second reading and there has been some time in committee on this bill -- the government House leader did allude to that as well when he read his motion and spoke to it about an hour and a half ago. But the bottom line is that there are some issues that I think need to be reinforced around some of the criticisms of Bill 103. I have to say that the number of speakers who came to the committee was significant. There were a number of presentations at committee; a number of stakeholders, as we call them, who came to committee to talk about this bill. But from my perspective, when you look at the most significant outstanding issue that remains in regard to this bill, it's the issue around oversight.
Bill 103, which I guess I should explain a little further, since I'm not going to be talking so much about time allocation but more to the bill particularly, is a bill that pretty much establishes a new system of police complaints in the province of Ontario. Police complaints are a pretty sensitive issue, and everybody knows it. They're sensitive to community members. It's a sensitive issue to police themselves. It's a sensitive issue to police administration. It's a sensitive issue for police unions. It's a sensitive issue. It's one that has significant difficulties associated with it from all perspectives: from the perspective, perhaps, of a community person who is trying to make a complaint all the way to the other end, to the situation of the current body or the body that will be replaced now, which I think is called OCCOPS, and is going to be kind of scrapped and replaced by this Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which is what Bill 103 puts in place.
Interestingly enough, there were a number of presenters at committee who made some comments. I know the previous speaker, my friend from Simcoe North riding -- not Orillia, but Simcoe North riding; Orillia is the city, and he has many towns and townships as well -- did speak a little, particularly around the police association and their concerns with this bill. But one of the people who had some significant criticisms of Bill 103 was the Ombudsman of Ontario.
It's kind of funny, because when the government House leader was introducing his time allocation motion, I recall that some of the government members were heckling: "How about the Ombudsman? The Ombudsman is very busy right now with all kinds of other jobs." Of course the sticking point in Bill 103, the new system for a complaints process for people to make complaints about the police, is the fact that there is no oversight by the Ombudsman. Heckling that the Ombudsman is really busy -- people on this side of the House, the opposition, are saying, "The Ombudsman is not busy enough." We have lists and lists of things that we think the Ombudsman should be looking into, the very least of which is one that just came up today in the committee I was in, and that was around Bill 165, which is the independent child advocate and the fact that an independent child advocate for the province of Ontario is extremely important and needs to happen, but that needs to happen in tandem with oversight by the Ombudsman of children's aid societies and child welfare overall, because the advocate can only go so far in regard to systemic reviews and particularly in regard to investigations, but the Ombudsman has the force, the power, the resources, the skills, the history and the basic infrastructure to do really effective reviews of various government services, various agencies, various systems the public of Ontario is receiving services from when it comes to government.
Having said that, Mr. Marin was one of the people who actually made a presentation to the standing committee in their review of Bill 103. When it went to the standing committee, Mr. Marin was there and made some really salient points about Bill 103 and why he felt the bill had a poison pill in it. I think those are the words the Speaker himself has used when he's not the Acting Speaker but is sitting here in the New Democratic Party caucus. I think he has often used that term in reference to omnibus bills. He says, "It's an omnibus bill and we may support many things in it, but it's got a poison pill." In this bill, the poison pill is section 97, if I'm not mistaken. Section 97 specifically says that the Ombudsman does not have the right to investigate or review matters that are subject to complaints with police services. That is extremely problematic.
I'm going to talk in a little more detail about what Mr. Marin had to say specifically about why he thought his role would be important in terms of police oversight. But I've got to tell you that it's not a new theme for New Democrats to raise the issue of Ombudsman oversight in areas of this province that are currently exempt from that sober second look or that unbiased review process. As I said, just this morning I was talking about Bill 165 and the child advocate, which is going to third reading on Thursday -- I'm looking forward to that third reading debate. But a piece that's missing from the child advocate, and from children's welfare issues generally in Ontario, is this third-party eye, if you want to call it that, this unbiased, separate, independent overview that can happen with the Ombudsman.
Members might recall that there are currently three outstanding private member's bills that are waiting for second reading debate. Bill 88 is on independent oversight of children's aid societies by the Ombudsman -- it's a bill I personally brought forward a couple of years ago. Around the same time, my colleague the member from TrinityÃ¢Â"Spadina brought in a bill calling for independent oversight of schools boards by the Ombudsman's office. Then I also brought a bill in terms of Ombudsman oversight of hospitals and long-term-care facilities
When you think about things like the education of our children, the welfare of the children of this province, the access that members of our communities and residents of this province have to some of the important services, like health care and long-term care, and imagine that there is no independent, unbiased, separate, totally unconnected place to go if there's a problem or an issue that a consumer of services or a resident might have regarding those systems, there's no place to go, is simply unacceptable. In fact, it is the case that in the province of Ontario we're at the end of the pack when it comes to Ombudsman oversight or any kind of systemic oversight structure for a number of areas. Child welfare is one; health care is another.
It's simply unacceptable, particularly when you think of the fact that the services that are provided in those sectors are so fundamental, so important, so key to the ongoing livelihood and well-being of people in the province of Ontario, and to imagine that there is no way that people can get a review of their concerns, an investigation into their complaints or even get an acknowledgement that there might be something wrong and a little bit of follow-up to either say to them, "No, the issue you're bringing forward is not really what you're thinking it is, and so it's not really a valid complaint," or, which often happens is the other case where the Ombudsman and the work the Ombudsman's office does come quite clearly on the side of the person making the complaint and saying, "Yes. Not only do you have a valid complaint, and so not only do we need to get redress for your particular issue, but the whole system is set up so that you ended up with that problem and many other people are ending up with the same problem. So the system needs to be overhauled" to make it more responsive and more accountable, and make it actually do what it's supposed to in terms of the mandate provided through the province.
One of the examples is the FRO. That has come up so many times, and I've got to tell you that the Ombudsman has done stellar work for my own constituents in Hamilton East around systemic problems with the FRO. They come up over and over again, and the extent to which these problems exist and are not resolved is absolutely frightening. So the Ombudsman has a key role to play when it comes to some of the systems that are extremely well funded, extremely important and fundamental in terms of the life and quality of life we expect in the Ontario.
That's why we have government. We have government to provide services to meet different needs of different members of different communities and different constituents and residents of Ontario. Whether it's health care, justice, child welfare, economic justice, whatever, the bottom line is that the systems we have in place, the programs the government provides, are by their nature very important to the various groups who take advantage of them or use them at various points in their lives.
So why wouldn't we have independent oversight of these systems? Why wouldn't we have somebody there whom we as the public can rely on? These are our services. Our government provides them, and we've empowered our government with the obligation to provide those services in an organized, public fashion. So of course there needs to be somebody there to oversee the way these services are provided, to make sure they're provided appropriately and properly, with accountability and an efficacy that makes sense, and that's appropriate and accessible to all the residents of this province.
It's interesting that when the Ombudsman raised the issue about this bill particularly, what he said about Bill 103 was this: "Independent civilian oversight of the police enriches democracy by enhancing accountability." He is basically lauding the government for bringing forward Bill 103. He says it's a good thing; it's a good start. "It also encourages our constabulary to constantly strive for best practices. The new government body, however, is just that: a government body. No matter how independent or arm's length of the rest of the government it may be, it reports back through a boss which is part of the executive branch of government."
Then he talks about the fact that there's a great value in independent officers of the Legislature, which we have, of course. We know the Auditor General, who has just been tasked with the job of looking into the slush fund, the Collegate affairs of the last couple of weeks, whereby the Auditor General has been asked to review the extent to which the Liberal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was inappropriately handing out dollars, without any proper process, to groups, many of which -- not all, but many of which -- have not-so-innocent connections, if you will, to the Liberal Party of Ontario. The Auditor General is an independent officer of the Legislature, so it's his job, without bias and without any preconceived allegiances, to investigate that particular issue.
We also have the Ombudsman. Whereas the Auditor General does the value-for-dollar type of analysis, which he's going to be doing with the slush fund, with the Collegate issue, so, then, the Ombudsman also has a role. His role is more of a systemic review about the way the programs operate, the extent to which they're accessible to all of the people of Ontario, the way the programs are meted out in a fair and appropriate way, and the way they're meeting the stated mandate the government had when those programs were put in place. That's the job the Ombudsman does.
The Ombudsman says that we're very fortunate to have a number of independent officers of the Legislature who undertake that kind of review. Of course, his office is one of those. But he also says, "The office of the Ombudsman won't be there for anyone who might want to complain about the workings of this powerful new government body," the one established in Bill 103. He says that as parliamentarians, this is something that should be disturbing us. He says that we should be asking ourselves what causes the government to create an exception to the rule. That's the poison pill that my friend from BeachesÃ¢Â"East York often talks about that's buried in some of these bills. In this one, the poison pill is the fact that the Ombudsman is exempt. "What is the overriding and overarching principle that would support parking the province's main accountability vehicle at the door when we are talking about a new police review body? I can think of no such principle," he says.
He goes on and on in his remarks to talk about why he thinks it's so important that this new complaints body does come under the oversight of the Ombudsman. In fact, he raised this when this bill first came forward and he raised it again when it came to committee earlier in January this year. The principle is, you have a system -- this is the justice system, right? This is the police; this is police complaints. He says, basically, who will guard the guards? I know that's an issue that has come up. You have the guards who are guarding the criminals or who are guarding the freedoms and the laws of our land, but there needs to be someone guarding the guards. I know the government members have said from time to time that it's not appropriate, that it's just another level of bureaucracy. It's not a level of bureaucracy, I would submit. It's a level of insurance, if you will; it's a level of higher authority that gives people the real sense of things being done properly and the real sense that, if things aren't done properly, there's someone there who you can turn to for the checks and balances that are necessary to make the system work.
I have a few other things I want to remark on, and then I'm going to cede the floor, because I know my friend the member from Nickel Belt has some remarks to make as well.
The Ombudsman goes on in his remarks to talk about the extent to which government members have said, "Well, you know, police complaints issues have been percolating around since 1990. Ombudsman oversight has never been an issue, so why bring it in now? There's no point." With the history of police complaints in the province of Ontario, they've said, "Do you know what? It doesn't matter; it's not important to have the Ombudsman oversight happening in this particular area."
What the Ombudsman very accurately outlines is the history of police complaints generally and how they came from the largest police force in the province of Ontario, which of course is the Toronto police force, and how it was a municipal complaints process that then kind of morphed into the provincial police process. It was just a kind of oversight of process, because it went from municipal, where there is no ombudsman, to provincial and morphed on to different iterations from there. But the bottom line is, because of a history that didn't have Ombudsman oversight, that's not a good enough excuse to not have Ombudsman oversight when you have the chance, when you're rewriting the whole issue of police complaints.
I'm going to sit very shortly, but I do want to say that from my perspective, it's important that we acknowledge that mistakes happen, that issues occur, that people need a good, positive process to turn to when it comes to police complaints. In fact, police and police administration all would be well served by a solid complaints process, one that everybody feels is appropriate and is meeting all of the needs of the various stakeholders in these very sensitive issues, and I know because I'm going through some really major issues in my own community, in the Hamilton area, policing issues that have really rocked the community. Again, it's not for me to judge whether the police acted appropriately or they did not, whether there are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved or there are not. But I can tell you that with an ironclad, really appropriate police complaints process, we're all players, if you will. Our having a hearing, being heard and being brought into the resolution of these complaints in an equitable way, I think, is extremely important.
Notwithstanding that, I think the cream of the crop or the top of the process, the height of accountability, has to be with Ombudsman oversight at the end of the day, because it takes the resolution out of the system and puts it into a non-biased place where we know that our Ombudsman, particularly in the province of Ontario, has done some great work, whether that's great work with special-needs kids and parents who have had to give up custody of their own children just so that they could get the services that the government was prepared to provide but only if you were getting it through the CAS -- you couldn't get it directly. You could no longer get a special-needs agreement with the service providers or with the agencies in your community; you had to get it through the children's aid society. The only way the children's aid society can arrange for your child to have the services that they need is if you actually give up custody of your child to the children's aid society and then they get the service. That's unacceptable, and we know that the Ombudsman did some great work around it. I think the report that he brought forward in regard to special-needs children was called Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
We know that the Ombudsman has done a number of great investigations and has brought a number of really important issues to light. It's not a matter of criticizing the government of the day; it's a matter of reviewing the systems of the day to make sure that they work for the people of Ontario, and no government should be afraid of that.
Mr. David Zimmer (Willowdale): I think when we're discussing this bill, it's important to keep in mind what the government was trying to do. What the government was trying to do was to get the right balance, and that's the right balance between citizens who may find themselves in conflict with or critical of a police activity, and the police officers themselves, who are charged with the responsibility for safeguarding everyone in our society.
So how do we get the right balance between providing an effective mechanism to put forward a complaint and to investigate the complaint -- how do we find the right balance between protecting the rights of the complainant and protecting the rights of the police officers?
It's refreshing to note that we did get the right balance, and as evidence of that, what I want to do is quote from some reaction to the bill, from both the citizens who are in the civil rights community here in Ontario, and the police officers. First of all, I'll start off with a quote from Alan Borovoy. Alan Borovoy is a very distinguished civil libertarian; he heads the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and he said the following: "Bill 103 makes a number of welcome moves ... and to this extent, the Canadian Civil Liberties commends the initiative."
Laurie Letheren, at ARCH, the disability law centre: "ARCH is encouraged by the government's initiative to reform the current police complaints process."
Royland Moriah, of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, says: "In principle, we do support the amendments that are proposed in Bill 103. We are pleased that Bill 103 moves towards a more independent police complaints system by the creation of an independent oversight body to administer the system."
Those are a couple of comments from people who are on the civil rights, civil libertarian side of this equation.
I balance that against a quote from the Police Association of Ontario: "As an organization committed to excellence in policing, we believe that Bill 103 strikes the right balance between protecting the rights of police officers and maintaining public confidence in the civilian oversight system," said Bob Baltin, president of the Police Association of Ontario.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police: "Both citizens and police require a police complaint system that they can have confidence in," said Chief Terry McLaren, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. "We believe this legislation will strike the right balance between the needs of the public and the police in terms of dealing with complaints."
And then balanced against that, I want to offer a few more quotes from those people who are noted for their commitment to civil rights. Roberto Jovel, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants: "We welcome the bill's general thrust towards an independent mechanism for police review that is grounded on civilian oversight."
And from the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, Bryan Eyolfson: "There are many aspects of Bill 103 that propose a significant improvement over the current police complaints system ... the appointment of an independent police review director and the establishment of his or her office, including the creation of regional offices...."
A further quote from those on the civil rights side of the issue, from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations: "We commend the government for appointing Mr. LeSage to study this important issue, and for making his recommendations a reality through Bill 103," said Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. "Proper review and complaint mechanisms are essential to ensure accountability, trust and respect between the police and the public. We believe Bill 103 goes a long way towards providing such mechanisms."
Finally, a quote from the Community Education and Access to Police Complaints Demonstration Project: "Community-based groups and organizations have long advocated for an independent police review system that is firmly grounded in civilian oversight," said Kevin Lee, executive director of the Community Education and Access to Police Complaints Demonstration Project. This project is a partnership of about 40 community organizations based out of the Scadding Court Community Centre here in Toronto. He goes on to say, "While there is always more work to do, we believe that Bill 103, which is built on civilian review, is a major step forward.
"For this legislation to be truly accessible to all Ontarians, it is paramount for the community-based sector to collaborate with the office of the IPRD; this collaboration will ensure accessibility, accountability and transparency for all community members." This is the important part of the quote: "To this end, we are pleased that the bill provides for broad-based advisory committees to be set up. We look forward to working with the government to implement a strong, independent, police review system."
There we have the point that I'm trying to make. We seem to have struck the right balance here. I have offered a number of comments from policing agencies. I have offered a number of comments from agencies and organizations that work with and are focused on having members of the public bring forward their complaints, particularly, I might say, those members of the public from a minority background or a disability background or a poverty background. And what do those series of quotes that I've just put into Hansard have in common? They agree that this legislation strikes the right balance in protecting the right of a complainant to fairly bring forward a complaint, have it investigated and dealt with properly, while at the same time ensuring that the police officers and the police agencies who are the subject of the complaint receive fair, balanced treatment. This legislation strikes the right balance.
Ms. Martel: The reality is that we're talking about a time allocation motion here this evening. That's what the government has tabled: a time allocation to cut off debate on third reading.
I've got enormous respect for the government House leader. I've been here a long time; he's been here longer than me. Nobody read back to him tonight some of the comments he used to make about time allocation, but I've got to tell you, Mr. Bradley could summon up a lot of outrage at a moment's notice, very quickly, around time allocation when the need arose. I wish I had a few of his comments right now, but let me just tell you, as one who saw the current government House leader in action during the Conservative years, when time allocation was moved he certainly had a lot to say, and not just on time allocation motions that were moved after second reading and dealt with committee stage and clause-by-clause and debate on third reading. Oh, no no no: The current government House leader had a lot to say as well when the government used it on third reading. "Interesting" is I guess the best way to describe the comments made tonight by the current government House leader as he tried to justify why it was okay in his view to move this time allocation motion tonight: because it's only on third reading, isn't it, so it's really not shutting down debate, really not bringing the jackboots to the matter, although he used to use that kind of word quite frequently too in years past. So that kind of justification around why it's okay was interesting. The government House leader can certainly say that he's only trying to do this to manage the House. I would remind everybody that the government, with its majority, runs the House and sets the agenda, so it's a little bit interesting or funny or strange to hear him use that justification as well.
The reality is that we're dealing with a bill on which the debate is going to be shut off. There's going to be a vote on this; there's not going to be much more to say when that party ends. What's interesting is that really people should be asking themselves why that's happening. If Bill 103 was such a priority for this government, why are we, at the 11th hour, when all three parties essentially agree with this bill, dealing with a time allocation motion on third reading that's now being forced down our throats by the government? What we should really be asking is why it took the government so long to get such a priority piece of legislation in this assembly in the first place. If you go back and take a bit of a look at the history of this bill, it really makes you wonder why we're here at the 11th hour and why the government is in such a rush.
Patrick LeSage brought down his report on changes to the complaint process on April 22, 2005, a little over two years ago. He was here in the media studio. It was a press conference that was well attended. My colleague Mr. Kormos, who is our justice critic, was there. He reported back to us that His Honour at that time brought forward a report that was very comprehensive, very thorough, very well prepared, very well done, that set out a blueprint for the government. They couldn't have asked for it to have been done any better in terms of the work he did to put it all on the plate before them.
That was April 22, 2005. Do you know that it took the government until April 19, 2006, three days short of a full year later, to finally take that work that was done, in place, and turn it into a bill that would finally come before this Legislature? A whole year, less three days. This is a priority? It's hard to imagine under that circumstance. It's hard to imagine that it took so long, because the work was essentially done for the bureaucracy. The recommendations about change, the sections that had to be changed, those things that had to be done, were all laid out in the report by His Honour. Why it took the government a whole year less three days to finally take that wonderful report and actually craft a piece of legislation is beyond me. What took so long and what was the problem? It couldn't have been much of a priority if it took that long to actually move from the report to the legislative wording and to bring the bill in.
But it didn't stop there. The bill was introduced on April 19, 2006, for first reading. When is it finally called for some debate? Bear in mind this is supposed to be a big priority for the government, right? Well, guess what? The bill wasn't called for second reading until October 16, 2006. So last year after the bill is introduced, the whole spring session goes by and the Attorney General can't even get this bill forward for second reading. We lose a whole number of other months -- at least six -- before the bill finally sees the light of day again in this place. It sees the light of day again on October 16, 2006, when we have debate on second reading on October 16, on October 18 and October 23. Now we're at least 18 months from the time that the recommendations for change were first made by His Honour here at Queen's Park. So the bill goes to committee for some public hearings on the 30th and the 31st. Clause-by-clause I think occurred on February 1. Finally it's reported back to the House when the Legislature resumes on March 19. But it's not called for debate right away. It's reported back, but it's not called for third reading debate until April 3. Then a whole other month goes by -- five weeks, actually -- before the government decides that this bill is worthy of some further debate. So another day of debate on third reading is finally scheduled for May 10 and then May 14.
That is the history of this bill in terms of its timing, a bill that was oh so important to the government to get forward, to get moving on, to get before this Legislature: a full year before the legislation is even developed from the report that the government requested His Honour provide to them -- a full year -- and then a full other six months before we even get from that first reading introduction stage to actually have some debate, not until October 2006. And then, when it does get reported back finally, in 2007, after it has gone through some very limited committee processes and limited clause-by-clause, we see it again very briefly on April 3 and then not again until May 10.
Frankly, this is not a bill that the government has been all over and on top of and anxious to move forward. It's certainly hard to put this bill in the category of a priority, because just by the legislative calendar alone and how it has moved forward in the process, it hasn't been a priority. So it's strange to be here tonight dealing with a sudden rush on the part of the government to get this done when, really, for two solid years there hasn't been much of any kind of rush at all to work on the very important recommendations that were put forward by His Honour to ensure that we would have a new proper complaints procedure system in the province.
Not much is left, because of course the debate will end and there will be a vote and that will be the end of that. But it is a bit strange, passing strange, that there seems to be so much urgency this evening that would necessitate the government moving a time allocation on third reading for a bill that hasn't been a priority at all, regrettably.
Let me deal a little with the section around the Ombudsman, because the bill is very clear. This is of course a flaw that concerns us a great deal in the New Democratic Party. The bill is very clear that under section 97, the Ombudsman Act does not apply to anything done under this part. It's not even as if there's an omission and that there might have been some possibility that maybe there was just a lack of thinking around having oversight. It's very clear that the drafters thought about that and decided there would be a prohibitive clause inserted into the legislation to make absolutely sure that the Ombudsman wasn't going to have any oversight. This begs the question, why is this government so afraid of AndrÃÂ© Marin? What is it about this Ombudsman that the government is so concerned about that they would, in the legislation before us tonight, Bill 103, specifically prohibit oversight by his office with respect to this new complaints procedure?
I heard members earlier say, "He's busy enough." No, he isn't busy enough. Let me tell you, we'd be very happy to see him investigating a number of things, because in his very short time as Ombudsman, he has certainly looked under all the cracks, wiped the cobwebs away, shuffled and shaken up the place in a manner that we haven't seen in quite some while. Despite the very good work that was done by other Ombudsmen, I think Mr. Marin has been right on it right from the get-go, anxious to investigate complaints that have been brought before him, anxious to make recommendations, anxious to make change.
Maybe that's what the government is afraid of. Maybe that's what worries the government. When he does make reports, nine times out of 10 those reports made on issues he has investigated are not so very complimentary to the government or the government's actions. In fact, in terms of Mr. Marin's investigations, his track record has been to be very critical of the government, to be very critical of the bureaucracy, to be very critical of stonewalling within the government against people who are looking for, oh, cancer treatment coverage, for example, like Mrs. Aucoin, or to get screening for newborns, or to get services for children with special needs without having to give your child up to the children's aid society, which was another major investigation he did. His reports have been very critical. Maybe that's what the government is trying to avoid or is worried about: that if under Bill 103 Mr. Marin's oversight is extended to police complaints, if there is a complaint that goes forward by a member of the public or by a member of a police force about systemic problems in the investigation process, systemic problems in the complaints process, maybe at the end of that process the government won't look so good, so the best way to ensure that doesn't happen is to have a restrictive provision in the legislation itself which forbids him to even get involved.
The problem is that it's not just Bill 103 where the government has very clearly shut down Mr. Marin from making investigations into other very important sectors of the Ontario economy. I want to give you two examples, because they are two I have dealt with in the recent past with respect to health legislation. Everybody knows, it goes without saying, that the budget of the Ministry of Health is far and away the largest in the province of Ontario. You want to ensure accountability with respect to that, and that's why you have an Auditor General who has the ability to do value-for-money audits. But from my perspective, because so much money is involved in the health care budget, surely any transparent government would also want to have in place oversight by the Ombudsman to look at systemic problems in the health care system, especially when from time to time facilities and institutions don't seem to be very interested in responding to complaints brought forward whether by patients in hospitals, by residents in long-term care, by clients who use home care, and the list goes on and on. In the last number of months there have been two health bills I have been dealing with where I felt very strongly, and so did others who came before the committee, that the Ombudsman should have his oversight extended to cover the health care matters we were dealing with.
The first has to do with Bill 140, a bill respecting long-term-care homes, which is finally going to see the light of day again tomorrow afternoon. I'll have the pleasure of continuing my remarks on that debate tomorrow afternoon.
But I can tell you, during the course of dealing with Bill 140, and our committee did do that during January, when we had some public hearings and then clause-by-clause for two days at the end of January, it was very clear from people who came forward, including consumers of health care services, residents councils, family councils, front-line staff, seniors organizations, that there was a very, very serious concern about the lack of independent oversight in the long-term-care sector now, both in terms of long-term-care homes and in terms of home care, and that what people felt needed to be done was to have independent oversight -- not the long arm of government continuing to allegedly investigate complaints when that arm really wasn't, but to have a body, an office, an organization that has the expertise, that has the track record, that has the staff and that has the mandate to thoroughly investigate complaints, individual and systemic, about the delivery of care and, secondly, that has the authority to act on those and force government change.
I just want to give you some flavour of that, as it was related to us as we dealt with Bill 140.
Here's a letter from as long ago as August 18, 2005. It was written by the Seniors Advisory Committee on Long-Term Care, a committee established by the Minister of Health and the minister responsible for seniors to provide advice and input to the government about seniors matters. They wrote to Ministers Smitherman and Bradley on August 18, 2005, and said:
"At its March 22, 2005, meeting," -- so over two years ago -- "a motion was passed by we, the members of the Seniors Advisory Committee on Long-Term Care, in support of the government appointing a seniors' ombudsman for long-term-care home residents and people receiving home care services. Some members also supported expanding the mandate of the seniors' ombudsman to include all provincially funded programs servicing seniors.
"Representing more than one million seniors, the members of [our committee] support having a seniors' ombudsman to advocate for long-term-care home residents and to resolve consumer complaints about home care provided within Ontario communities. We feel that the current system, which relies solely on government staff, is simply not responsive enough to ensure that seniors' rights are protected in an objective and fair fashion. We recommend that the ombudsman be independent of any ministerial control or influence and would have the power to investigate concerns and, within reasonable constraints, direct the government to take remedial action when all other avenues have been exhausted."
This letter comes from an advisory committee of seniors organizations across Ontario that was established by the Minister of Health and the minister for seniors. This was the recommendation of the committee to them.
A number of the seniors' organizations that are part of this advisory committee came before the long-term-care committee and reinforced that very notion, that independence was required to deal with complaints in the long-term-care sector.
That was reinforced at the committee, for example, by the Royal Canadian Legion, the Ontario Command. They came to the committee and spoke, and they also sent letters. This one is written to Premier McGuinty, February 17, 2006: "Our experience as advocates for veterans has led us to conclude that some cases are never resolved through existing channels, and although we support resolutions of problems at the lowest level possible, some residents and families never receive resolution to valid complaints. Families are often handicapped in pursuing their complaint about the care of a loved one by a lack of access or the cost to access relevant files that would enable them to validate their concerns. At the end of the day, there is no one with the investigative reach of the Ombudsman when all other efforts to resolve the problem have failed."
I could read some more into the record. I'm going to do that tomorrow, when I talk about this failure in Bill 140. But can I tell you that as a result of hearing what so many groups, organizations and individuals had to say when they came to the committee, during the clause-by-clause, I, on behalf of my colleagues in the NDP, moved the following motion under section 35.1 of the bill: "The Ombudsman may exercise any functions with respect to the long-term-care home sector in Ontario that he or she may exercise with respect to any matter to which the Ombudsman Act applies." I tried very desperately to have the oversight of the current Ombudsman office extended into the long-term-care sector, as per the many, many recommendations we received by presenters before the committee. Regrettably, the government members voted that down.
It begs the question, what is the government afraid of in having the Ombudsman in Ontario investigate individual and systemic complaints that come from long-term-care homes or those who receive home care services? What is the government so afraid of that they would very specifically vote against an amendment that would allow that oversight to occur?
Just last week, the government did it again. Last week we were dealing with clause-by-clause of Bill 171, which is an omnibus bill that has many schedules and many new provisions. Again, during the course of the debate and the review, it became clear that we should have Ombudsman oversight of public hospitals. Indeed, the Public Hospitals Act has been opened up under Bill 171, so it was appropriate and clearly in order for me to move a motion asking for oversight of the current Ombudsman for the hospital sector.
I just want to read into the record some of the comments that were made in an interview that Mr. Marin had with the Toronto Star just before we started clause-by-clause. We started clause-by-clause on Monday, May 7; this was written Sunday, May 6, by Rob Cribb and Tanya Talaga. Let me read some of this into the record:
"Ontario is the only Canadian province where hospitals aren't subject to the scrutiny of an ombudsman -- an 'extremely alarming' oversight that compromises public safety, according to Ontario Ombudsman AndrÃÂ© Marin.
"'Ontario is the poor cousin in Canada,' Marin said in an interview with the Star. 'Right now, we have zero oversight of hospitals. The fact that there is no oversight in an area that takes huge amounts of public funds is shocking to me....'
"Giving the Ombudsman's office power to act as independent investigators is all about accountability. If an institution is getting public funds to perform a public duty, they should be subjected to checks and balances, he said." Besides hospitals, Marin believes he should have "oversight powers in long-term-care facilities, nursing homes and child protection services." My colleague Ms. Horwath has already referenced the child protection services.
"'I [would] go in, take a complaint, apply reasonable common sense, use the resources of my offices and make recommendations,' he said. 'The government talks a storm about oversights, supports, checks and balances and so on. But, considering Ontario, especially Toronto, is the economic heart of the country, this is a thriving province, we pride ourselves on setting standards.... We do very poorly in independent oversight....'
"Marin said he's made repeated requests to Premier Dalton McGuinty and the province's top bureaucrats for the right to investigate public complaints, decisions and quality of care issues in hospitals -- powers enjoyed by ombudsmen in the nine other provinces....
"Marin asked: 'Why would a government not want to bring scrutiny in an area costing the provincial purse tens of billions of dollars? The short answer is if you can do your work without someone looking over your shoulder, why would you want to have someone look over your shoulder? They are doing it without oversight because they can. It is as simple as that.'"
He is absolutely right, which is why I moved an amendment to Bill 171 last week in committee, requesting that Ombudsman oversight be extended to hospitals. Again, the government members en masse voted that down.
This is an ongoing problem which now appears in Bill 103, again the government very specifically referencing in Bill 103 that the Ombudsman would not have oversight. It begs the question, if the process is so good, if the new process is going to work so well, what's the problem? What's the fear? Why won't we put in place independent oversight so that members of the public and members of the police force can have a final place to go with respect to systemic complaints? I don't understand the rationale for not wanting to do that.
Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti (Scarborough Southwest): I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on this bill. I had the opportunity to chair the clause-by-clause section when we were at committee. There was quite a lot of discussion on this by all three parties. In the end, I think we struck a pretty good balance, a fair balance and a balance that recognizes the concerns of the police as well as the concerns of the public.
The act itself, An Act to establish an Independent Police Review Director and create a new public complaints process, is something that I think is important for the province of Ontario. The general gist of this bill is that it seeks to provide a police review system that has the confidence and respect of both the public and the police.
We had many good deputations. We heard from members of the police and members of the public. There seemed to be general agreement on the general principles behind the drafting of this bill and why we need it. I think other speakers in tonight's debate have already made clear what the thinking behind this bill is. Simply put, if a person, a member of the general public, is unhappy with the conduct of a policeman or a policewoman, they can go to the independent director, who would have the power to investigate the complaint. If somebody, for example, felt they'd been mistreated by a police officer and didn't feel comfortable going to the police station in their community, they could go to this independent director. The independent director would review the matter and determine whether to investigate further or to refer it to the police chief in that local area or whether to stop it and not go further with the complaint if it was a frivolous complaint. It works both ways. It doesn't mean that every single complaint that somebody has would go through this process. For example, if someone gets a parking ticket and is unhappy, they can't just walk into the police station and say, "I want to see the independent director and complain about this parking ticket." It has to do with the conduct and the work done by police services and the way they work with our communities here in Ontario.
I think this bill in front of us today really gives the public an opportunity to go directly to this independent individual who would be set up -- the director -- or, on the other hand, go to a police station and complain as well directly to the police station.
I wanted to address one quick issue in this bill, and that is why the Ombudsman was not given jurisdiction. We know the Ombudsman well here in Ontario. The Ombudsman and the Ombudsman's office has done excellent work here in Ontario, without a doubt. But in this case, I think that giving the Ombudsman jurisdiction would be providing oversight on an overseer, because the director who would be in charge of this act and executing the sections of the act would then have the opportunity to deal with complaints and to do them without someone overseeing them. If someone is not happy with the work of the independent director, they still have the option of going to court and applying for judicial review. It doesn't block someone -- if they're unhappy with the work done by the independent director -- from going there. Ultimately, we've decided, the government has decided, that we want this person who is being placed in this high and responsible position to be able to carry out their work and do it effectively with some independence and not have to look behind their back to see if an Ombudsman is watching what they're doing.
We have been able to put in former Chief Justice LeSage's recommendations where legislative change is necessary. I think that's a good thing. This first went to Chief Justice LeSage's hands, and he came back with recommendations. We've implemented them into this bill. When it went to committee, we did put some of the amendments through; as Chair, I noticed that. I think we've come up with a very good bill. In short, it's supportable. I'm happy that we're able to vote on this bill here today, and I wholeheartedly support it.
The Acting Speaker: Is there any further debate? Seeing none, Mr. Bradley has moved government motion number 363. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. There will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 2050 to 2100.
Hon. Steve Peters (Minister of Labour): Members, please take your seats.
The Acting Speaker: Members please take their seats -- and my thanks to the assistant deputy speaker over there.
The government House leader has moved government motion number 363. All those in favour will please stand and be recorded by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Van Bommel, Maria
The Acting Speaker: Those opposed will please stand and be recorded.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
The Deputy Clerk (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 30; the nays are 9.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Orders of the day.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I move adjournment of the House.
Mr. Kormos: Liberals don't want to work; Liberals just don't want to work.
The Acting Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Bradley has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
I think the ayes have it. Carried.
This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 2103.