LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OFÂ ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÃE LÃGISLATIVE DEÂ L'ONTARIO
Tuesday 15 May 2007 Mardi 15 mai 2007
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I recognize the government House leader.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism, minister responsible for seniors, Government House Leader): Thank you very much, sir. I hear interjections in the background.
I move that, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 69, An Act to allow for information sharing about regulated organizations to improve efficiency in the administration and enforcement of regulatory legislation and to make consequential amendments to other acts, when Bill 69 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 ten minutes.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Bradley has moved government notice of motion number 372. I look to the government side to lead off. I recognize the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Hon. Christopher Bentley (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): I'm pleased to be able to lead off tonight's debate on the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2006. I think it's important at the outset to just speak about the purpose of this type of legislation. We pass numerous laws and regulations, not only in this House but within the ambit of government, for extremely important purposes. We pass them for health and safety. We pass them to ensure that our food is safe. We pass them to ensure that the workers who work in our workplaces are safe. We pass them for numerous reasons, and every ministry has had a hand in the laws and the regulations that are passed.
We want to ensure at the end of the day that the people of Ontario are protected as they should be and as they expect to be. We want to ensure that those who would be unscrupulous in any area are targeted by the regulations and have those regulations or laws enforced. But we do not want our legislative or regulatory scheme to get in the way of the good hard-working men and women or the business owners who are trying to build their businesses and, in the course of it, build the economy of their community or the province. We want to make sure, therefore, that our regulations are fair, enforced where they should be, to the extent that they ought to be, but do not impede businesses where they should not.
That is the purpose of this important bill, this important step, because at the moment, we have regulations by all different ministries and we have enforcement arms in different ministries, but the enforcement arms, as they have developed over the years, do not necessarily speak to each other. They don't work in concert with each other. They don't co-operate with each other, not because they don't want to but because, by statute, by rule, they're not allowed to. This type of non-communication or inability to communicate would astound most people outside the walls of this Legislature. So one of the purposes of this type of legislation is to ensure that ministries within the same government, often dealing with the same businesses, have the fundamental right to communicate with each other, to pass information to each other, to ensure that where health and safety issues are spotted, they are identified completely, and if they appear to contravene a regulation or a law, the regulation or law is fully enforced; to ensure that where a business is not complying with, for example, the Employment Standards Act, it has those rules enforced; but also to ensure that businesses do not see a steady stream of regulatory ministries coming to the doors, requiring the business to stop production or slow down production to answer essentially the same questions over and over.
It is not the creation of one ministry of enforcement. It is not the creation of more bureaucracy. It is, in fact, a reduction and the creation of less.
How are some of the ways that this might work? Let me give you an example from my previous time as the Minister of Labour. We had an issue with workers' compensation and some businesses having to pay more in terms of workers' compensation premiums because other businesses were not paying their share. We had a situation where we wanted to enforce workers' compensation, we wanted to enforce the health and safety rules to make it a healthier workplace, a safer workplace, to ensure that the workers and the businesses were paying the premiums that they should to protect the workers that needed to be protected. We launched into an enforcement regime, where appropriate; a regime that has had tremendous results, a regime that I might indicate has resulted in the reduction of injuries in workplaces by up to 20% in just over two yearsâÂ"an astounding decrease of injuries.
What we found when we started the process, though, is that the enforcement arm of the Ministry of Labour had difficulty relaying information to the Ministry of Finance with respect to unpaid premiums, not because they didn't want to, not because they shouldn't be able to, but because they legislatively couldn't. There was a long process we had to go through in order for that simple exchange of information to happen. Nothing revolutionary; just passing information. That's the type of barrier that people outside these walls would not expect would exist within the same government. That's the type of barrier that should not exist. That's the type of barrier that in fact makes it less effective, less efficient; does not properly safeguard health and safety; does not ensure that we enforce the rules and ensure that premiums that should be paid to, for example, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board are in fact paid; does not ensure the effective use of government resources.
It took us a long time to get over those hurdles. What this Regulatory Modernization Act will ensure is that we can overcome those hurdles in a much easier and more systematic fashion; again, without taking away the power or authority of individual line ministries; without creating an additional layer of bureaucracyÃ¢Â"in fact, reducing the red tape while at the same time ensuring that businesses which properly face regulatory regimes don't have to always answer the same questions from different ministries on different days.
Hon. Mr. Bentley: On different days; absolutely. For that reasonÃ¢Â"I just have about three more minutes' worth of fabulous material to share with peopleÃ¢Â"we've introduced this regulatory modernization bill. It's designed to achieve the purposes which I know members on all sides of the House have actually spoken to: improve health and safety, for example, and improve the enforcement of the appropriate rules and regulations while decreasing the type of bureaucratic maze and red tape that has so often affected businesses in this province.
I'm very pleased that my colleague has seen fit to introduce this legislation. I look forward to the discussion and the debate of the legislation. I look forward to hearing the comments on how it might actually make for a much better, much tighter regulatory scheme in the province of Ontario.
When businesses don't have to answer continuously the same questions to different ministries, they'll be able to get on with their job, which is creating wealth, employing people, assisting the economy in Ontario. When different ministries of government do not need to ensure that they're using resources unnecessarily, they'll be able to target those resources to the businesses that most need them.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate on the motion?
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville): I always like to outline to viewers when they're tuning in to the parliamentary channel on an evening like this and wonder what the devil these people are talking aboutÃ¢Â"what we're talking about this evening is effectively another closure initiative brought forward by the McGuinty Liberal government. What that means is they're closing off debate, they're limiting debate, they're limiting opportunities for those of us in this assembly who were elected by the people, the residents of our ridings, to ensure that their views and concerns were heard in this place. Those opportunities are severely limited.
I'm not suggesting that this tool, if you will, has not been utilized by other governments; it certainly was by the Progressive Conservative government and by the NDP government. But what I think strikes home with us, sitting on this side of the House, is the frequency with which this tool is now being used by the Liberal Party now in government. This is another indication with respect to the sincerity of commitments they made during the 2003 election when they had, on their high horse, talked about, "We're going to reform things in this place: democratic renewal etc."
Indeed what we have had is a worst-case scenario. If you have had the opportunity to sit on a committee, you've seen how the Liberal members, even though they may disagree with a particular bill or an initiative or elements of a piece of legislation, are there simply to do the bidding of the unelected officials in the Premier's office who dictate the position the party will take. These folks, who are supposedly elected to represent the concerns and views of people in this province, are there simply to do the bidding of some unelected guy in the corner office, working for the Premier or people who are operating consulting firms, doing significant business with the government, making money hand over fist and advising the people who run the province what the decisions should be. That's the shameful aspect of what's happening. The position taken by the Liberal Party when they were in opposition was that this was all going to change, that we weren't going to see these time allocation motions.
If you look at the order paper, what do we have now, nine bills on the order paper? At least seven of them are now time-allocated. Probably, before we finish the session, we're going to see all but one, which is the road safety bill, which was a negotiated agreement from our side with respect to accepting a few opposition amendmentsÃ¢Â"I don't think we're going to see time allocation on that, but virtually every other piece of legislation on the order paper. The government, the Liberal government, the McGuinty Liberal government is going to restrict and limit debate on those pieces of legislation.
We had one earlier today, Bill 140, long-term-care legislationÃ¢Â"very significant changes to long-term care in this provinceÃ¢Â"and debate has been cut off. What, two days? Two days of opportunity to talk about significant reforms to long-term care in Ontario and the failure, again, of the Liberal government to meet promises it made which convinced voters to put an X beside the Liberal candidate's name in the 2003 election. You can recite a long list here, and I'm not going to get into it, but we're talking about democratic renewal this evening, where they've broken those promises, and long-term care earlier today, in the afternoon debate, where again they've time-allocated the legislation and limited the opportunities.
I just want to say briefly about this legislation that debate is being limited on, Bill 69, that one of the elements of it has concerned us and concerned I think many people in the business community, although I am somewhat critical of organizations representing business, small business especially and medium-sized businesses in this province who in too many instances are sitting on the sidelines, not getting engaged and not representing their membership to the degree they should be in so many respects.
This is one of these instances where this legislation, according to our critic, Gerry Martiniuk, the member from Cambridge, is going to create something described as a super-inspector. I would think anyone in business should be concerned about the implications of these so-called super-inspectors. What it means, we're advised, is that someone who may be a labour inspector is going into a business for perfectly legitimate reasonsÃ¢Â"or maybe notÃ¢Â"sees something that he or she feels violates perhaps a health and safety regulation or a health regulation, which may be the district health unit or may be, in the view of the labour inspector, a violation of one of the environmental regulations and the significant red tape that's been brought in by this Liberal government. So what they can do is get involved in areas outside of their own jurisdictions and responsibilities.
What we're looking at is in effect, I think, significantly increased harassment of people in the business of doing business in this province. Is this the right time to be doing this? Obviously we want workplaces to comply with the rules that are in place, but quite often we see overly aggressive inspectors who in some instances are creating significant difficulties.
The business environment of this province right nowÃ¢Â"we heard a comment today, and I have yet to have it confirmed, but we know there are at least 130,000 manufacturing jobs lost. We heard 175 from the NDP leader today. Whether thatÃ¢Â"
Mr. Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): How many new jobs?
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): McJobs.
Mr. Runciman: Well, almost half the new jobs in Ontario are government jobs. They're civil service jobs and they brag about that when we're seeing a significant erosion, a hollowing out, of the manufacturing sector in this province while this government is in office. They can brag about creating 40,000 new government jobs? That's a shameful defence.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre, please come to order. The Minister of Agriculture and Food, please come to order.
Mr. Runciman: It's interesting to see the reaction of Liberal members when you start talking about some real problems confronting this province and the fact that they have not done a very good job. A very poor job, and we're seeing significant impact on communities right across this province, but especially small-town, rural, medium-sized communitiesÃ¢Â"Cornwall, for example, Chesterville, Belleville and Peterborough. We can recite a laundry list.
The Acting Speaker: I'll ask the member for Ottawa Centre to please come to order.
The member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr. Runciman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is the sort of intimidation effort we see consistently by the Liberal government, especially when they're dealing with women members of the opposition; whether it's the Liberal caucus or the NDP caucus, screaming and shouting down attempts to intimidate women members of the Legislature.
Mr. Runciman: Mr. Speaker, if there's something controversial, you can count on the Liberal members screaming them down, shouting them down.
Mr. Patten: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to know when the Legislature has provided funding for theatrical lessons for members.
The Acting Speaker: That's not a point of order. I'll return to the member for LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville.
Mr. Runciman: I certainly do not want to lecture the Chair, and I hope it's not interpreted that way, but I would encourage all members to considerÃ¢Â"and I want to follow this myselfÃ¢Â"that when anyone rises on a point of order in this place, they should cite the standing order. This is abused on a consistent basis in this place. It used to be the case that when you stood on a point of order, you would refer to the standing order that you were concerned about, and that has gone by the board. I just mention that as a personal concern of mine. We see this abused on a consistent basis, not just by the government members, but perhaps more so by government members, introducing Aunt Mary in the fifth row and that sort of thing. That never used to happen. When I was first elected here, that sort of thing never occurred. We've lost 20 or 30 minutes in this place in introducing everybody in the assembly. It's chaotic and I think it does a disservice to this place.
Anyway, I'm getting off message here. I'm going to sit down. I've more than used my time. This is just another effort. When you look at the slush fund scandal, the OLG scandal, this government wants out of here badly. They want to get everything out and done, by the board, simply because the people of Ontario are starting to have increasing awareness of just what kind of government, a bad government, is now sitting on the benches opposite.
Mr. Kormos: We're debating a time allocation motion this evening. That's a guillotine motion; it's a jackboots motion. It's a motion that's designed to shut down democracy, shut down debate, shut the doors on opposition members and the huge numbers of members of the Ontario public they speak for.
I'm pleased to be here tonight, along with my colleague Michael Prue from BeachesÃ¢Â"East York. I suspect that once Joe Tascona from BarrieÃ¢Â"SimcoeÃ¢Â"Bradford speaks, who of course is here in the trenches, we won't hear very much from the Liberals. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts right now that we're going to hear precious little, not but a peep, from the Liberals.
Mr. Kormos: What did they do last night? They boycotted their own motion. The Liberals boycotted their own motion. They did. I was here. Liberals move to sit evening sittings. Do they want to sit to 9:30? No. I sat here and had to argue with them to not shut this place down at 10 to 9, after the Liberals had moved to sit here till 9:30. And of course they used their majority to force their way on valiant opposition members. They did. Bully tactics, disdain for the opposition, disdain for the Parliament, and showing the people of Ontario but the back of their hand.
I find it repugnant that once again we're debating a time allocation motion.
Mr. Patten: So do I.
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Patten interjects that he finds it repugnant as well, and I understand. That's why he's leaving. He can't put up with the antics and the clowning of Liberal colleagues here. He's disgusted with their abuse of the standing orders. The member for Ottawa Centre just can't take it any more and he wants no part of it. He wants out.
Mr. Kormos: I think you've got a point of order over here.
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I bring to your attention standing orders 23(h) and 23(i) regarding the making of allegations against another member or the imputing of false or unavowed motives to another member.
The Acting Speaker: I don't agree that there's a point of order. I'll return to the member for Niagara Centre.
Mr. Kormos: Thank you kindly. I want to say to the member for Mississauga West: Did you get beaten up a lot in high school? Is this an act of revenge? Are you using the immunity of the House with the will to retaliate against anybody who ever roughed you up? It gets awful irritating. Do you know what I mean? It gets awful irritating.
Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (BarrieÃ¢Â"SimcoeÃ¢Â"Bradford): He's a rookie.
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Tascona interjects.
The Acting Speaker: I would remind the member for Niagara Centre that he should make his comments through the Chair and that he must make reference to other members by their riding name.
Mr. Kormos: What I was doing was pausing so that the hard-working folks from Hansard could get down the interjection. See, I have consideration for these people forced to work into the dark of the night. Some of these folks, travelling home long distances, by the time they leave here at 9:30 or a quarter to 10Ã¢Â"that's if the Liberals bother debating their own motionÃ¢Â"they're not home until 10:30, 11 o'clock at night. They don't make MPP salaries; far from it. These good workers from Hansard, they didn't vote themselves a 25% salary increase in December. They may well have wanted to. I can't think of a single worker in this province who wouldn't have loved to vote themselves a 25% salary increase and then have it sweetened up with a little 2% kiss, comeÃ¢Â"
Mr. Patten: What's your salary?
The Acting Speaker: I won't warn the member for Ottawa Centre again.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Patten, leave the chamber.
Mr. Patten: No.
The Acting Speaker: I name the member for Ottawa Centre. Mr. Patten, please leave the chamber.
Mr. Patten was escorted from the chamber.
The Acting Speaker: I return to the member from Niagara Centre.
Mr. Kormos: Thank you kindly, Speaker. This was a remarkable moment. I can'tÃ¢Â"
Mr. Kormos: Mr. Tascona interjects.
Mr. Tascona: He named me by my name.
Mr. Kormos: My apologies, the member for BarrieÃ¢Â"SimcoeÃ¢Â"Bradford. He doesn't happen to be in his seat.
In any event, here we are, speaking to a time allocation motion, a jackboots motion, the guillotining of debate.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is working well into the night as well. He's yet another staff person who's going to be headed home at 9:30, 10 o'clock at night. It will maybe take him an hour to get there if he's lucky. By the time he makes his lunch for tomorrow morning, gets the bread and the baloney out and whips up some sandwiches and brown-bags them, he won't be in bed before midnight, then up at 5 again in the morning to get back here to Queen's Park. I'm suspecting that the Liberals may not even debate their own motion here tonight.
Like everybody else, I was back home on the weekend. We were down there, a beautiful stretch of Highway 6. I was down in Welland, Thorold, Pelham and St. Catharines. Saturday morning we were down at the steps of St. Catharines' city hall. We kicked off the commencement of the Niagara Folk Arts Festival. Really, it's St. Catharines, but it calls itself the Niagara Folk Arts Festival. The member for St. Catharines, the Minister of Tourism, was there with me.
I had been down at the Welland market earlier that day. Before that, I'd been over at Merritt Island with the Victorian Order of Nurses, who were having their annual fundraising run/walk/cycle. You know the VON, the Victorian Order of Nurses, the ones who 50 years ago were visiting my mother when she had the kids that she had after me. Even though she had had more than a few of them before that, the VON was still there at the house taking care of mothers, no charge. It was called public health.
Do you remember what happened to the Victorian Order of Nurses? They got displaced. And then what did we have? We had a former member of this Legislature, a Liberal, appointed to review the process. And after all the whining and pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth by the Liberals when they were in opposition about the dismantlement of the VON and their role in the delivery of home care, what did the Liberals do? It was business as usual.
So I was down there at Merritt Island with those home care workers, the VON, and I did the kickoff of their little walk/cycle/run. I went over to the Welland market and then went up to the St. Catharines' market.
Now what did people tell me in the farmers' markets? What did people tell me? They told me the same things they told you. If you were out and about, and I suspect you were, on Saturday morning, in small and smaller town Ontario, what did people tell you? People told you they've had it up to here. Seniors, retirees, old folksÃ¢Â"our folks, our grandfolks, our great grandfolksÃ¢Â"told you that there was just an inherent injustice in already well-paid politicians back in December of last year, here at Queen's Park, right here in this chamber, voting themselves a 25%-plus salary increase while they were lucky to see 50 cents on their monthly cheque from the government.
These are folks who have worked hard all of their lives. These are folks who have struggled, who have sacrificed. These are people of whom I've had occasion to tell you, and I'm old enough to have watched it with my own eyes, because I'm not sure, if I hadn't watched it with my own eyes, I would have believed itÃ¢Â"and I suspect the member for BarrieÃ¢Â"SimcoeÃ¢Â"Bradford knows what I'm talking about. I know full well that my colleague from BeachesÃ¢Â"East York, Mr. Prue, knows full well what I'm talking about. We're old enough to have watched that postwar generation as they built houses, not by calling in a contractor and having a house built for them; no, they built it with their own hands. Do you remember that, Mr. Prue?
Mr. Michael Prue (BeachesÃ¢Â"East York): Absolutely.
Mr. Kormos: Do you remember that, Mr. Tascona?
Mr. Tascona: Definitely.
Mr. Kormos: I remember down on Cameron Avenue in the south end in CrowlandÃ¢Â"that's where the immigrants lived. My family lived there in those little bungalows. I remember my father building the house himself. I was only two and a half years old, and we lived just up the road. We lived in the basement of this house until we finished the upstairs; it wasn't uncommon at all. There were only three kids at the time, but we lived in the basementÃ¢Â"no bedrooms, just lines drawn on the cement floor.
The old man worked at Atlas Steels. The steel mill is not there anymore, is it? Gone. Atlas Specialty Steels: stainless steel manufacturers, stainless steel rods used in drillingÃ¢Â"drill rod. Do you know where mining companies in Canada, Canadian mining companies, have to buy from now? They've got to buy from Sweden, because Atlas Speciality Steels was the only company in North America that made it. You've got governments here at Queen's Park and in Ottawa that let Atlas Steels fold.
When I was a kid, it was like an army of men, dressed in their green dungarees. And it was men. There was the occasional woman. Back then, you see, a working man or working person could make enough so that both parents didn't have to go out and work. Not that their wives didn't work, by any stretch of the imagination, because while my father was out working at Atlas Steels, my mother was organizing the blocks or the brick to be laid that evening when my father got home, and she would help him lay brick. She was the one who took them off the skids and then laid them out along the walls, and that's with little babies. It was not unusual.
I remember in the mid-fifties, when Canada finally opened its door to that great wave of Italian immigration, the young Italian families that came right on Cameron Avenue. Again, they lived in old houses, but it didn't take long before they built new ones.
These are the retirees now, you see. It's these folks who worked hard like that who are approaching you and me in the market squares on Saturday mornings saying that it's just not right that the Liberals at Queen's Park vote themselves a 25% salary increase while they have to make do with a 25-cent or 50-cent or buck-a-week increase.
I've told you this before, and I said it to folks this past weekend: When I was a kid, people worried about not living long enough. They did. Now seniors are worrying about living too long because they're afraid that their resources will be depleted before they die. These are proud people who didn't expect to have to endure the status of pauper in their most senior years; proud people who are prepared to live in their own homes, but the governments here at Queen's Park and in Ottawa simply won't let them.
We've got a government here at Queen's Park that delists medical services. It's called the privatization of health care, isn't it? The government here at Queen's Park continues to underfund home care. So you've got seniors, especially seniors living aloneÃ¢Â"and you know that they tend to be women, because men die before women do; that's just the nature of the longevity rate of people in this country. So you've got elderly women living alone who have to wait for the home care person to come to get bathed. So they wait a day, they wait two days, they wait three days, they wait four days before they can get themselves even something as modest as a sponge bath. Think about it: not one day's wait; two, three, four days, maybe even more, to get a bath.
That's in your own home. That's when you're not a burden on anybody because you don't want to be. When you struggle to pay the ever-rising taxesÃ¢Â"because you've got a government here that has turned its head to the crisis around skyrocketing property taxes here in the province of Ontario. The problem about property tax increases is that they don't discriminate on the basis of how much people earnÃ¢Â"that retiree whose fixed income has been eroded by the passage of time, whose pension didn't have a cost of living index that allows it to increase and to respond to increased living costs.
Then we've got the crisisÃ¢Â"a crisis. For the life of meÃ¢Â"because I was down at the CAW hall on Steele Street on Friday morning. At 3:30 in the afternoonÃ¢Â"and Jim Bradley was there too, the Minister of Tourism, the member for St. Catharines; he was up there with me on the panel at 3:30 in the afternoon at the CAW 199 hall on Bunting Road. Packed halls in both instances.
The issue, the theme, was fighting for jobs, fighting for jobs worth fighting for. Between the manufacturing and the resource sector, now we're up to somewhere around 170,000, or maybe even more, jobs lost in the last three years. That's not a blip; that's a crisis with catastrophic consequences, because when you lose those manufacturing jobs, they don't come back. When you lose the high-wage economy, we're then caught in that downward spiral.
Globalization: How do you like it so far? People trusted Liberals. They trusted Liberals in 1993 when the federal Liberal leader, one Mr. ChrÃÂ©tien, promisedÃ¢Â""cross my heart and hope to die"Ã¢Â"to tear up the free trade deal. What did he do? He not only broke the promise; he brought in NAFTA. More jobs lost. Then we had Jean ChrÃÂ©tien out in British Columbia, looking, gazing over the Pacific Ocean and saying, "Our future is over there, way over there."
This new economy: I remember there was a member who used to sit right up about there, I can't remember which riding, when Jack HastingsÃ¢Â"remember him? He'd come in here and he knew about the new economy. He was lecturing us, hectoring us, about electronic trading. Remember that? I know the member from Mississauga would be interested in this, because this Jack Hastings was touting the electronic trading economy, the virtual retail store. Well, a lot of good that did a whole lot of senior citizens whose brokers invested them in the high-tech investments of that time, because they all took a beating. There's only so many Googles and there's no more value creation work left in this province and in this country, no more wealth creation, no more value-added manufacturing. That's a catastrophe.
As I told folks, you could hear Mr. Premier, Mr. McGuinty, wringing his hands, saying, "I feel your pain. I feel your pain. Oh, I feel your pain." And he did it again today. He said, "Here we are in this global environment." Then what the heck was he doing in India, selling off more call centre jobs from Ontario? For the life of me, I'm not familiar with any big orders being put in down at the Ford plant in St. Thomas where they build those Ford Crown Vics, the Mercury Marquis. I'm not aware of any orders there. I'm not aware of any orders up in Oshawa to buy the Chevy Impala that they build on the Oshawa line. Are you familiar with any orders for that, Mr. Tascona? I'm not familiar with any orders down at the Ford plant in Oakville on the QEW, any pickup trucks or Ford vans. I've got a feeling that the only thing we're going to be exporting to India is our call centre jobs. Oh, yes, and perhaps more than a few of our high-tech jobs. So they're going. We are in deep, deep trouble. My concern is that the Liberals, like Nero, simply fiddle. Oh, they've covered their own butts. That 25% salary increase will go quite a ways. But as for the rest of them, what was it that Ms. Antoinette told them? "Let them eat cake." So we've got a Premier in one of those big powdered wigs, three feet high, with bejewelled fingers, saying to the working folksÃ¢Â"well, the formerly working folksÃ¢Â"of Ontario, "Let them eat cake."
By the way, I'm not supporting this time allocation motion.
Mr. Mario G. Racco (Thornhill): I'm pleased to speak on third reading of Bill 69 that my colleague the Honourable Steve Peters, Minister of Labour, has introduced, better known as the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007. But before I speak on the merits of the bill, I wanted to clarify a few items, if I may.
The member from LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville spoke about time limitation, yet he spent most of his time talking about what his government did when they were in power. He also made a statement which is incorrect, and that is that he suggested this bill would create super-inspectors. If the member from LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville would have spoken with the member from Niagara Centre, he could have told him that in fact this issue was clarified when the people of Ontario had an opportunity to speak to us at committee. There is no such thing; there is no super-inspector. What we have are inspectors who are well qualified and well educated, and this government wants to keep them that way. There is no plan whatsoever for what people call super-inspectors.
Having said that, let me speak on the merits of this bill. This proposed legislation is a perfect example of how the McGuinty government is improving the way government works. This proposed legislation is also an excellent example of how the McGuinty government is on the side of small business and entrepreneurs. We have met with and listened to dozens of small business owners and associations in Ontario, and they have told us that for them to grow and prosper, we need to provide them with better tools to help them comply with Ontario's law.
As my colleague Minister Peters has said previously, there are 13 provincial ministries responsible for regulatory compliance activities, and some businesses are regulated by as many as seven or eight different ministries. The small business owners don't necessarily have an issue with regulations. They know regulation is absolutely important and necessary to ensure safe operations; for example, to ensure that the health and safety of their staff and the public is protected. But these businesses want us to know and understand the challenges they are faced with. They have told us that they provide some of the same types of information over and over again to various government officials, and they want us to put a stop to that. For example, some auto body repair shop owners may be required to complete around 70 different forms that pertain to their business. They have told us that they have difficulties in finding the right information on legislation that affects their businesses. They have told us that they are having trouble keeping up with all these questions, and they want to follow the rules and understand their regulatory obligations.
In addition, recently released reports on food safety and clean water have clearly pointed out the need for greater co-operation among government ministries and agencies. That is why we have begun an extensive modernization process which is designed to help small businesses in their efforts to comply with our laws.
Now, Bill 69 is a key part of that process. Among other things, Bill 69 is about more co-operation among ministries and agencies in order to help businesses meet their compliance requirements, and it is about easing burdens placed on companies and reducing duplication of ministry compliance activities. We are removing challenges to doing business. Why? It is because improved communication means less duplication, and less duplication means less headaches for businesses. This can only help contribute to a successful, vibrant economy.
The bottom line is, this bill makes sense. It makes sense for Ontario business and it makes sense for the Ontario public.
I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for listening to the reasons why Bill 69 has merit, and I certainly appreciate the support of everyone in the House. At the committee level we had strong support from the members, and I trust the same will happen tonight.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod (NepeanÃ¢Â"Carleton): It's a pleasure to join the debate tonight.
For the honourable House leader for the government, I just want to say one thing: Go, Sens, go. We've got one more game left, and I know my colleague from OttawaÃ¢Â"Vanier over thereÃ¢Â"well, actually, everybody in the Legislature is giving me the thumbs-up right now, because we know the Senators are going to sweep this: four games. Four games and the poor Sabres are going to be out.
In any event, I want to talk a little bit about time allocation. As you know, I'm a new member. I'm one of the youngest here. One of the things I find with the entire system, whether it's Liberal, Conservative, or New Democratic, that's disillusioning is the amount of time wasted in this chamber on things that are irrelevant to the public. I think it's disillusioning.
Ms. MacLeod: Thank you very much to the honourable member from St. Catharines. But there's one thing that we could be doing hereÃ¢Â"and I'm not going to speak to the bill, because I necessarily do not have to, based on the standing orders, and we talked a little bit about those. I actually think the standing orders need to be refined in this place, and we have to look at a model where we're using the time that's necessary to have public debate on issues that are actually relevant to the constituents who sent us here. Time and time again we find that we're talkingÃ¢Â"the member from LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville referred to the issue of standing up on a point of order to welcome people in the gallery. I've been here at times when it's been half an hour to an hour before question period even begins.
As a young member who has a young family, I would like to be using that time for debate on bills rather than sitting here in the evening, so I could be home with my child. That's not a partisan issue. That's just a real, family issue. This place needs to become more family-friendly. If we want to attract more women, which each political party has said they want to doÃ¢Â"and this is a national issue, it's not even just a provincial issueÃ¢Â"you have to make this place a little bit more attractive. We need a daycare, for example, on the premises to meet the unique needs of the members here, whether they're male or female, who have young families and are travelling five hours, in my case, or an hour in other cases. I think that we need to make this place more family-friendly, make it move more smoothly. We hear that consistently on all three sides of the Legislature. We need to work together to make the change that's positive for not only the way we work here, but for our constituents who are debating relevant issues.
Tonight we're debating, for 51 minutes per political party, time allocation, a motion we should just be voting on.
Ms. MacLeod: I'm not quite sure what the member opposite is saying, but if I'm going to be delegated an opportunity to speak, I'm going to speak about something that's relevant to me and to my generation and the people I represent.
I think they would much rather I be here tonight talking about some of the key issues that are important to them, which are health care and education. But, no, we're talking about a time allocation motion. I could actually stand here tonight, I'm sure, and fill up my time talking about what stakeholder said what about the legislation or maybe throw a few quotes back at government members who opposed time allocation when my party was in power and when I wasn't a member. But I don't think that's relevant.
What I think is relevant, and what I hope the members here will take away, particularly members who can influence change at the Board of Internal Economy, those being the government members, is to make some of the systemic changes that will make this place flow a little bit better. That means refining the standing orders so that we're debating things that are actually relevant in this chamber; so that question period actually starts at 2 o'clock, like it does in the federal Parliament and it goes for an hour so there is an ability for our constituents to tune in and it's a predictable time. It's consistentÃ¢Â"consistency. Each and every day they know they're going to be able to watch their members of provincial Parliament debate the issues of the day.
Furthermore, I think we have to look at making this place a little bit more family-friendly so that when the Minister of the Environment, the member for NepeanÃ¢Â"Carleton and the member from Stoney Creek decide that they want to take their kids for lunch in the parliamentary dining room or in the cafeteria, it's actually a welcoming place for us.
I just wanted to add that, again, it's a disillusioning thing to see time allocation. We should be devoting our time to debating the relevant issues of the day. With that, I think I'll conclude my remarks. I hope that we move speedily along and we debate issues that are of the utmost importance to the people we represent.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate.
Mr. Prue: Speaker, thank you for the opportunity of debating here tonight.
Yesterday, when I found out that I had House duty and that I had to come here tonight and what the bill was, Bill 69, I was somewhat puzzled, of course, because this is an ancient bill. We're up into the 100s and the 200s now, and I wondered, what kind of bill is this? So I asked the intern in my office to please try to find Bill 69 on the website. Try as hard as she might, and she is a brilliant woman, she could not find it on the website. Of course, I had to come here and dig underneath the desk in the old-fashioned way to find out exactly what Bill 69 was, because it has been around here for a long, long time. It was introduced on first reading on February 27, 2006, some 17 months ago, and had second readingÃ¢Â"this is the snail's pace at which this bill has movedÃ¢Â"on November 20, 2006. It went to committee, and it's back here. This bill is a long time in the making.
So I had to stop and think, "Why is the government invoking closure on a bill that has moved at a snail's pace since its introduction?" This is a bill that obviously did not capture the imagination of this government. They obviously did not really care, until a day or two ago, whether this bill ever saw the light of day, and all of a sudden it became so important that everything had to stop, closure had to be invoked, no one could speak to it. It was a matter of the utmost urgency that the bill pass, literally within days.
I've looked at this bill, and I've tried to contrast it with other bills that have had speedy passage through this House and other bills that are more like it, that have languished on the order paper, and tried to figure out what was so special that the government House leader and all the members opposite would invoke closure. What is it about this bill? What's contained in the body of this bill that makes you all want to see it passed in such an expeditious fashion so that ordinary members, people in the opposition, even yourselves, have limited or no opportunity to debate it?
I am remindedÃ¢Â"and my colleague from Niagara Centre spoke about this brieflyÃ¢Â"of the speed with which some bills go through this Legislature. The fastest bill I ever saw passed other than the firefighters, which I was proud to vote for a couple of days ago, was the one on our own wages. It took eight days. It was a contentious bill; there were people speaking against it. It passed in eight days because the government wanted the bill to pass. They wanted the bill to pass, and they pulled out all the parliamentary stops to make sure that it happened. Sure enough, eight days later, there was a billÃ¢Â"first, second and third reading. The Lieutenant Governor signed it into law, and everything was done before Christmas.
There's a bill that the government really wanted to pass, whatever their reason was. Contrast this with this bill, which has languished on the order paper for 18 months, suddenly to be the subject of closure.
I had to look at this. What made this so important? I went through the bill, as I said. We couldn't find anything, really; because it was so ancient, it was hard to find it. We could find a few references in Hansard when we went back to February 2006, when the bill was introduced. We found a few more references when it was debated at second reading in the House, but I don't think it got very far in the House, because I do note that the lead speaker for the New Democratic Party was the member for Niagara Centre. He was halfway through his lead speech when we stopped debating this bill. So I know that it had only one or two days, maximum, of people talking about what the contents were and perhaps, I guess, how important it was to pass it, and all of a sudden it was sent off to committee, where it languished for a while, and it has been resurrected here tonight.
So what is in this bill that makes it so important? I tried to read some of the sections. Section 10 was kind of fun. Section 10, just for the edification of those who are listening in the Legislature and watching on television, says that it's the collection of "Statistical information about an organization and the sector or industry in which the organization operates." It goes on to talk about licensing and permitting and how that can be denied if people don't give the information out. It talks about complaints filed in respect of an organization; information compiled in connection with an examination, a test or an audit; information related to an organization's compliance with the designated legislation; and information about convictions and penalties. That, I think, is the operative section. That's what the bill is all about. I don't know whether the earth would collapse, I don't know whether the business of Ontario or of Canada would suddenly stop if this bill was not passed, but obviously it means a great deal to the government since they've invoked closure and won't even allow debate on its contents.
I looked some more in total fascination at sections 16 and 17, which I found to be surprising, given that this is of such an urgent matter that we have to invoke closure. Section 16 says, "A person acting under this act is not a compellable witness in a civil proceeding before a court or tribunal respecting any information collected, used or disclosed...." So even if somebody under the authority of this act collects the information, they can't even give that information in court. I don't know. It's really important that we pass this. It's so important that the person who collects the information under this statute is not even a compellable witness.
I went on to look at section 17, which made it even worse: "A person acting under this act is not required to produce, in a civil proceeding before a court or tribunal, information collected, used or disclosed under this act." Here we give authority to a whole bunch of people to get information about organizations, about licences, about everything else, and they're not even compellable witnesses if somebody wants to find out what they found out. I don't know. I thought, "Well, this is pretty strange. Why would a government invoke closure about a law that virtually does nothing, a law that does not even compel a witness to tell what they know, but is so important to this government that it has to act on it with dispatch?"
I turned to part V, which is really the interesting part of this act. I don't know who writes this stuff. Perhaps some day I can meet some of the bureaucrats who write all this stuff. Perhaps it's hidden here in the consequential amendments what is causing this government such grief and is causing this government to act with such dispatch that they have to go against the fundamentals of this Legislature and of the Parliament of Canada and stop all debate and ram this through.
I looked at some of the things. The Athletics Control Act is mentioned here. I read this, and it doesn't mean anything to me. I looked in here at some of the other things: the Bailiffs Act; the Cemeteries Act (Revised); the Collection Agencies Act; the Consumer Reporting Act; the Environmental Protection Act; the Funeral Directors and Establishments Act. Just to give an exampleÃ¢Â"and I'm just going to pick one at random. This is the kind of stuff that's in here, and maybe there's some secret here that has seized this government. Let's just pick this one:
"Subsection 48(1) of the Funeral Directors and Establishments Act is amended by adding the following clause:
"(a.1) as authorized under the Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007...."
That's what's there, and that's what's through all of these consequential amendments. I have to wonder what is seizing this government to want to invoke closure.
I remember the heady debates of the past. I remember when the government House leader, when he sat on this side, was probably the leading authority and the leading protagonist speaking against the government of the day in the invoking of closure. I cannot try to emulate his speeches, because they were so well written and so passionate and so well intentioned in those days. Yet it is the same government House leader thatÃ¢Â"perhaps he can tell us at some point what is so special about this act that we have to go against a parliamentary tradition that is 750 years old in which Parliament speaks out the bill. What is so important that closure has to be invoked? Is there some national consequence here? Or is it the government's own agenda?
That's where I'd like to really conclude: It has to be in the government's own agenda. They must want out of this place so badly, they must want to be gone from this place in such a hurry that they are willing to invoke closure on a bill that is so inconsequential as the one we have before us. I do not know what goes on in the House leaders' meetings; I am not privy to them. But I would hazard a guess that this causes no great consternation to any member of this House, to any party in this House, and that in fact the reason this has been invoked is that the government simply does not want to be here. They do not want to be here for question periods, when they tend to be roughed up just a little, and they do not want to be here for the hurly-burly of the debate. In fact, I do not believe they want to be here at all. It is probably in their best interest to be out on the hustings, to be handing out cheques willy-nilly, here and there, to assorted and sundry agencies and groups that are more than happy and eager to take those cheques and to be photographed with politicians. I would suggest that that is where they would rather be.
Here we have a bill that, I'm sure, whether it passes or not, is going to make any great consequence to the people of Ontario, but it does, sadly, have a great consequence to this institution and to this Legislature. The more that governments invoke closureÃ¢Â"and it can be governments of any stripeÃ¢Â"the less and less relevant this Legislature becomes; the more they shut down debate and do not want to hear the ideas of the opposition, the more the decisions get made in the backrooms, whether it be the Premier's office or, increasingly rarely, around the cabinet table. That is what this has all come down to. It is a sad day to have closure invoked on such aÃ¢Â"I would categorize it as almost a pitiful and meaninglessÃ¢Â"bill, but the government has decided to do that for their own reasons.
Perhaps one day, in the fulsome measure of time, one of the members of cabinet can indicate to me why it was necessary to invoke closure on such a bill as thisÃ¢Â"which is obviously not that contentious, which obviously does not affect anything in any great way in this provinceÃ¢Â"maybe perhaps to tell me if I am wrong in the assumption that it is merely to try to get out of here with all dispatch.
Mr. Tascona: I want to speak briefly on this time allocation motion, which is shutting down debate here tonight with respect to Bill 69, which is intended to allow the Ministry of Labour to more effectively try to do its job.
What I want to say is that it's kind of ironic in terms of theirÃ¢Â"they put together this legislation and at the same time they're reducing money in the operation of the Ministry of Labour. They've shut down the office in Barrie of the Ministry of Labour, which is hard to believe, considering it's such a major growth centre in this province. They shut down the Ministry of Labour office in Barrie, effective last week. It's quite shocking that they would do that, because that means that everybody who has labour problems and whatever is going to have to go elsewhere, whether it's Newmarket, Mississauga or Toronto. Here we are debating a bill that's supposed to make the Ministry of Labour more efficient, and they are shutting down offices in major centres.
We've been dealing with a number of issues in this Legislature. My friend from LeedsÃ¢Â"Grenville talked about the Liberal slush fund. That has been taking up question period for the last month in trying to get some real answers to an issue that has permeated this government in terms of the way it does business in a way that isn't in the interests of taxpayers and accountability in terms of what we're trying to accomplish here for the public.
I want to say that here we are going into a long weekend. I'm anticipating, as most people are, gas prices being jacked upÃ¢Â"the way that it's going to impact the consumers. Certainly we need to take measures to make sure that the public is not continually jacked up with respect to prices coming in without notice and taking advantage of consumers. At least in my ridingÃ¢Â"I know other ridings, the member for WhitbyÃ¢Â"Ajax, Christine ElliottÃ¢Â"people commute; they have to come in here. The price of gasolineÃ¢Â"I pumped up today at around $1.09 in Barrie. The price back in January was 77 cents. Here we are facing a massive increase in gasoline prices and the government is doing nothing about it, allowing this to happen. As my friend from Niagara Centre talked earlier about the lost jobs in this economy, we're going to see even more lost jobs because of the reckless energy policies of this government.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (WhitbyÃ¢Â"Ajax): I appreciate the opportunity to make a few remarks with respect to the time allocation motion on Bill 69, the Regulatory Modernization Act. Just to add to some of the comments that have been made by the previous speakers, it is somewhat curious that this, being a bill that was introduced in February 2006, is now the subject of a time allocation motion. This, of course, is happening with increasing regularity in this Legislature as virtually every important bill that we have been faced with in the last few months has been time-allocated, commencing with the budget bill, the electoral reform bill, which in itself is almost incomprehensibleÃ¢Â"when you're dealing with democratic electoral reform, to time-allocate it is really beyond the paleÃ¢Â"the Endangered Species Act, and I understand that Bill 140, the long-term-care bill, is also going to be time-allocated, and now of course we have Bill 69, the Regulatory Modernization Act.
I'm all for efficiency, reducing waste and making sure that time is well spent here in this Legislature, but certainly not at the expense of careful, reasoned debate on a piece of legislation and also not for the expense of political optics so that this government can be seen to be doing something in advance of the election and to be able to escape the Legislature as soon as possible so as not to be faced with question period every day.
I would say that this particular act does deal with the amendment of approximately 20 other different acts. It makes changes across the board, but the basic scope of it of course is to allow for the exchange of information between different regulatory inspectors to make sure that if they detect an infraction in one area while they're inspecting something else, they will be able to make that connection and have that inspected by the other agencies.
It is valid in its purpose, but again, as the member from BeachesÃ¢Â"East York mentioned, it's kind of curious that this bill is being presented now on a time allocation basis. One certainly wonders what the purpose is behind this. I suspect it has a lot more to do with the election coming up in October than anything else.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to add a few comments.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Bradley has moved government notice of motion number 372. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
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. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1957 to 2007.
The Acting Speaker: All those in favour will please rise one at a time to be counted by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Chambers, Mary Anne V.
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Van Bommel, Maria
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time and be counted by the Clerk.
Runciman, Robert W.
Tascona, Joseph N.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 30; the nays are 8.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Orders of the day.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: As the opposition has on numerous occasions, I move none other thanÃ¢Â"
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I'm just waiting to hear some advice. I'm going to move adjournment of the House.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Bradley has moved adjournment of the House.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 2010.