LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Sunday 13 June 2021 Dimanche 13 juin 2021
The House met at 1300.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Good afternoon. Let us pray.
Ms. Laura Mae Lindo: I have a petition entitled “Seniors’ Advocate....
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted what older adults, advocates, family members and front-line workers in this sector have been saying repeatedly—older adults’ care has been chronically understaffed and underfunded for decades;
“Whereas a generation of older adults were left exposed as the deadly virus spread through long-term-care and retirement homes, where they’ve been forced to live in appalling conditions with overstretched staff and without the level of care they should expect and deserve;
“Whereas there has been a failure to protect older adults and that has allowed pandemic-related infection rates to get out of control;
“Whereas the shameful neglect and abuses revealed by the Canadian military’s report only begin to show how the system has often been overlooked and ignored;
“Whereas Ontario needs provincial standards to ensure that all older adults across the province receive safe, equitable and high-quality care;
“Whereas older adults in Ontario would benefit from an independent officer of the Ontario Legislature with the power and responsibility to safeguard the welfare of seniors, caregivers and families, to ensure their voices are not only heard but acted upon;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to:
“Direct the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pass Bill 196 to appoint a seniors’ advocate for Ontario.”
I support this petition, will affix my signature to it and bring it to the Clerk.
Miss Monique Taylor: I have a petition that is titled “Stop Ford’s Power Grab.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas the Premier’s use of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause is a power grab, and a desperate attempt to muzzle families of long-term-care residents, parents of children with autism, teachers and school communities, working people, environmental advocates, and front-line health care workers; and
“Whereas the Premier’s priorities are all wrong—he should be focused on long-term care, our children’s schools and our struggling hospitals; and
“Whereas people have the right to criticize the Premier’s big cuts and bad choices;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the government’s attempt to muzzle and silence people.”
I couldn’t agree with this more, Mr. Speaker. I’m going to affix my name to it and send it to the Clerk’s table.
Ms. Laura Mae Lindo: I have a petition entitled “Support Our Students: Stop Cuts to OSAP.
“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“Whereas Ontario has the highest tuition rate in Canada, second-lowest per-student funding and highest student debt;
“Whereas Ontario students already have the highest student debt in Canada and are saddled with an average of $28,000 in debt;
“Whereas removing the interest-free six-month grace period means students will end up paying more, and are pressured to pay their loans even before finding a job or starting a career;
“Whereas the Premier only made things worse in Ontario’s 2019 budget by reducing the ratio of grants to loans, and cutting $700 million (about 30%) from the government’s overall funding for OSAP and student financial assistance; and
“Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on the employment income of many students and their parents, making it more difficult to afford tuition fees;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“Direct the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to:
“—reverse the recently announced OSAP cuts, protect the existing tuition grants, and reinstate the six-month interest-free grace period after graduation;
“—allocate new funding to provide direct, immediate funding to support full- and part-time students;
“—amend the rules to ensure all funds received from the” CERB “and Canada Emergency Response Benefit are exempt from calculations of other income on OSAP applications;
“—convert all future OSAP student loans to grants and eliminate interest on existing student debt.”
I fully support this petition, will affix my signature to it and send it to the Clerk.
Orders of the Day
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I move that, pursuant to standing order 50 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 307, An Act to amend the Election Finances Act;
That when the bill is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That the bill shall be ordered for third reading, which order may be called the same day; and
That when the order for third reading is called, one hour shall be allotted to debate with 25 minutes for members of the government party, 25 minutes for members of the official opposition, and 10 minutes for the independent members as a group; and
That at the end of this time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That no deferral of the second or third reading votes on the bill shall be permitted.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Ms. Khanjin has moved government notice of motion number 114. Further debate?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: It’s my pleasure to rise and bring the voice of my constituents in Windsor West, even though this government doesn’t want to hear it, clearly.
The Premier called us back for an emergency sitting so that he could push through Bill 307 and use the “notwithstanding” clause to silence critics of his government. It’s important to note that the court ruled against the Conservatives’ original attempt to silence Ontarians and, within hours of that ruling, the Conservatives called us back to the Legislature so they could rush through this legislation to do an end run around the court.
I think it’s also important to note that, during that court trial, the government side had acknowledged that the rules that were already in place were sufficient, and they couldn’t prove why they needed to change that and were unwilling to compromise, even though the courts were giving them an opportunity. Instead, what they did is they came hours later after that ruling and called an emergency debate—an emergency debate to quash the voices of the people in this province amidst a global pandemic, an economic crisis.
We see children and parents struggling with school closures and online learning because this government refused to invest in schools. They refused to listen to public health experts to ensure that students could be in classrooms safely. We’ve seen a sharp increase in opioid overdoses and people experiencing mental health struggles. There’s been a sharp rise in domestic abuse, yet this government prioritizes their re-election prospects and silencing their critics.
This is no more than a desperate attempt for the Premier and his government to maintain power. And now, we stand here debating a time allocation motion, which further limits speaking out.
What this does is, it says, “We don’t want to talk about the bill anymore. We want to move it through as quickly as possible,” further silencing the voices of the MPPs in this chamber and our constituents. What the government is afraid of is that the people they’ve disregarded and treated badly will raise their voices and share their stories.
During the midnight sitting, when MPPs were here starting at 12:01 Saturday morning and through the night, I watched as my colleague from Kiiwetinoong stood up and said, “Why did you not call us back to urgently address the fact that there are Indigenous children that do not have clean drinking water?”
It’s not a new problem, Speaker. It’s not a new problem. The member from Kiiwetinoong talked passionately about that. He talked about how children don’t have clean drinking water, that it’s making them sick. They’re getting rashes, they’re getting sores, and over time it’s killing them. And the Attorney General stood up and said, “Well, sometimes we have to stand on principle, and that’s why we’re here. We’re standing on principle to ensure”—basically what he said was, “to ensure that none of our critics can speak out against us.”
What a shameful statement it is when we are talking about people in this province—Indigenous children in this province—and the Attorney General thinks it’s more important to silence the people in the province than to ensure that every single child in this province has clean drinking water. Those are the priorities of this government. Those are the principles of this government: saving their own hide.
The Conservatives say that this will silence the voices of the elite. Well, Speaker, let me tell you who they think the elite are. They think it’s the parents of children with autism. They think it’s the 4,000 families who are grieving because they lost their loved one. Their loved ones died in long-term care as this government refused to act and protect them from COVID-19.
When long-term-care-home residents were sweltering in their rooms, the Premier stood up and said, “We’re going to take this year to fix that.” There was no emergency debate on that. There was no urgency from this government to address that. Here we are with several days well over 30 degrees and those seniors are still in those homes sweltering without air conditioning.
Long-term-care residents died from dehydration—simply couldn’t get a glass of water. So while the government side, like myself, have water, there were many of these seniors who didn’t have it. There are many Indigenous children who can’t drink it. But they didn’t call us back urgently to figure out how to solve that problem and to pass legislation to make sure that those private, for-profit long-term-care corporations had enough staff and enough resources to ensure that no senior ever dies again simply because they can’t get a drink of water.
They didn’t call us back urgently to address the 2,800 casino workers in Windsor and Sarnia—and thousands of others across the province—who have been out of work for 15 months and who are losing their homes. They didn’t call us back for that. In fact, Speaker, when those casino workers and the unions that represented them reached out, the government couldn’t even be bothered to respond. They’re not interested in talking about how those workers can go back to work safely.
They think that teachers and education workers and parents struggling with online learning are the elite, and the front-line workers like nurses, PSWs, those working in factories.
They could have urgently called us back to repeal Bill 124 because they’re repressing the wages of a largely women-dominated workforce, and they didn’t do that.
The government says that they’re doing this to quash the voices of big money. Well Speaker, what they’re doing is quashing the voices of working Ontarians. It’s ensuring that the people with deep pockets—the millionaires and the billionaires who agree with the Premier and the rest of the Conservative caucus—are the only voices heard.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: I always think it’s a privilege to stand in this House and speak on behalf of the people of my riding of Scarborough–Guildwood, and I’m pleased to stand to speak to the time allocation motion of the bill today.
Eight years ago, the people of my riding elected me as their representative, to be their voice, their strong voice, in this House. I’m very proud to say that they’ve done that in three consecutive elections. I am grateful that each and every time, I re-earn their trust.
As the Ontario Liberal Party critic for democratic renewal, this legislation is not something that I take lightly. This legislation does not protect elections nor does it defend democracy. This legislation is an attempt by the Ford government to explicitly silence those who would criticize the PC Party, the candidates and the Premier himself. Rather, it is an attempt to skew the election in their favour. It is indeed unconstitutional, as Justice Morgan has declared in his ruling on Bill 254.
To circumvent this ruling, Ford’s government has resorted to using the “notwithstanding” clause, specifically overriding section 2 of the charter containing such fundamental rights as freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of association and freedom of assembly; and sections 7 to 15 of the charter containing the right to life, liberty and security of the person, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, a number of other legal rights, and the right to equality. Dangerously, this act will also suspend the Ontario Human Rights Code. Speaker, it is these fundamental, enshrined rights that Premier Ford and his government are putting at risk, taking away from every single Ontarian for their own selfish, political and partisan motive. This is wrong.
Instead of looking after the elderly in long-term care by ensuring that they have life-saving air conditioning, making schools safer for students and teachers to learn, and protecting essential workers who are risking their lives each and every day in the face of a raging pandemic with a deadly variant circulating, here we are, on a Sunday, talking about the Premier’s political future.
We have a cherished democracy in Canada that entrusts governments to do things in the best interest of citizens. The creation of the “notwithstanding” clause in the charter was out of respect for this democracy. Just because the clause exists, it should not be used without merit. What Premier Ford is violating is all of our rights. This is not something Ontarians have asked for. Under the cover of COVID, it is not something many people are even knowing that is happening here today. Do not mistake their silence in this instance as agreement to its use. This rushed legislation, happening literally in the dark of night, is wrong. It is selfish and it is a gross abuse of power.
This legislation amounts to a punitive sanction of those who might say something in disagreement to the government. In fact, a robust democracy requires that. It requires freedom of the press. It requires an informed electorate. It requires dissent. It is good for our democracy. Voters need that engagement.
Speaker, finally, the courts have a role in our democracy. Their independence and their judgment is an important aspect of a liberal democracy. Clearly, with the rushed debate that we are in today, shutting down the discussion, not inviting criticism from our stakeholders, dispensing of human rights—for what? For the outcome that the government seeks.
We are 11 months away from the next election, and this legislation is weakening the voices of the people of this province. I will be voting no for this legislation, and I believe that the people of Ontario will remember this 11 months to come.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Doly Begum: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise once again in this House to represent the good people of Scarborough Southwest. Regardless of the time, day—Friday night, Sunday—I will be here regardless of what day it is and what time it is because I’m honoured and proud to represent the good people of my riding, and it’s important to make sure that their voices are heard. And if the government thinks that they’re going to deter me by calling a session at midnight or coming during the weekend, they’re really, really wrong.
There are a lot of things that I want to get across. Unfortunately, I’m limited in time, so I’m going to try my best to do that. It has been a difficult week for Ontarians. As a Muslim woman, it has been a difficult week for me and a lot of people in my riding. A Muslim Canadian family in London was murdered by a white supremacist because he hated Muslims—frankly, that’s what it was—and words are not enough to describe, to express the rage, the sadness and the trauma that the community is experiencing right now, witnessing the loss of the Afzaal and Salman family to rampant hate and Islamophobia, leaving a nine-year-old orphaned.
This is the state of anti-Muslim hate in our province, but this is not new. After all, it was in this Legislature that we stood a few months ago, begging the Premier, begging this government to not empower a bigot, a well-known Islamophobe, and license him to influence post-secondary education. And when I look at the fact that a 20-year-old individual decided to go out with so much hate, so much aggression, to kill, there is something wrong with our education system, something wrong with our society, and we need to really look at where we have gone wrong. Our education system is one we have to tackle. We have to make sure we do better. Licensing a bigot, an Islamophobe, is not the way to go.
There is compounded hatred that’s building up, and we have to do better to make sure we silence the people who are standing up for hate, who are Islamophobic, who are standing up for any racism or any discrimination, and we also have to do better to educate people. Mr. Speaker, a lot of Muslims in this province are not safe. We need real action, so I’m calling on the government to urgently fund the Anti-Racism Directorate. We need to not just actively condemn this Islamophobia and racism but also undo the anti-Muslim hate across this province.
Unfortunately, that’s not why we’re here today. The Premier has lost another court case and is now trying to push through a bill that violates the charter and muzzles free speech and expression. This government is so afraid of their critics—so afraid of teachers, families of children with autism, long-term-care advocates who might actually shine a light on the reality of what this government is doing—that they want to go ahead and actually undo a court order, invoking the “notwithstanding” clause, section 33. We have seen them do this in the past as well.
Over 130 constituents wrote to me just over the last two days. Across Scarborough Southwest, people are outraged. They have taken the time to write to my office about the concern but also the helplessness that they’re feeling. The fact that a government that’s talking about democracy is willing to stand up here and ram through legislation which undermines people’s and communities’ rights, the right to freedom of speech—I’m standing here today to highlight some of the concerns that I have.
Because I have a very limited amount of time, I’ll just quickly run through a few of the things that I’ve heard from my constituents. What my constituents are going through, Speaker—their exasperation is palpable. Their concerns—I’ve heard from parents. I’ve heard from teachers. Parents right now are at the end of their rope, with work, dealing with their kids who are students at home, trying to do online learning. Teachers are stretched thin. They’re having to learn new software overnight and then go through a curriculum the next day. Students are struggling beyond words, feeling completely failed. Youth going through mental health—young kids are now struggling with mental health.
Dozens of business owners, including taxi drivers, who I’ve talked about in this House—taxi drivers have not received any funding. If the Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction or the Minister of Labour would go through the emails my office has sent to the ministry, they would see the amount of taxi drivers, the amount of business owners who have still not received any support from this government. But we’re not here to debate that.
Speaker, throughout this pandemic, this government has abandoned families, students, teachers, children, business owners, essential workers, and the list goes on. But this bill today that we’re debating is to undermine democracy. Rather, they’re attempting to silence independent groups. Sometimes these groups will talk about different issues with the NDP or the Liberals or other parties, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stand here and oppose them or try to silence them, because that’s part of what democracy is all about.
Today, I’m calling on this government to truly uphold democracy. They have failed Ontarians. It’s time we debate the real issues that people are facing.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Roman Baber: I rise to oppose the time allocation motion on the bill to invoke the “notwithstanding” clause for the first time in Ontario’s history, and to oppose the closure of debate on the most consequential piece of legislation ever to be brought before Parliament. We must appreciate the seriousness of what the government is about to do. If there were any rational thought, any sense of decency, it would prevent the government from rushing to pass this law.
You see, our system of democracy vests remarkable power in the government, and with that power comes great responsibility. That’s what the “notwithstanding” clause is predicated on: an agreement on decency. It’s not a tool in a tool box. How dare they say that? It’s the opposite. The “notwithstanding” clause exists so it isn’t used. It’s a nuclear option meant to preserve Canada’s Confederation. It enabled passage of our charter, which the government wants to render meaningless. It’s called the nuclear option because invoking it in our system of laws is like exploding a nuclear bomb. What’s worse, what is most grotesque, is that exploding this bomb will benefit the government politically. That’s the biggest atrocity: They’re about to use a nuclear weapon in furtherance of political survival. Let’s stop and think before we close debate and explode it, because there’s no going back.
I’m going to make a few quick points. The debate is not about whether the election law is right or wrong; as misguided as it is, the government in charge has a majority in the House and they get to pass the laws. No, this is about a judge of the Superior Court saying that the law violates the Constitution, that the law is illegal. But instead of appealing or amending the legislation, they’re about to explode this nuclear bomb to supposedly protect us from the court. The debate is not about a third party, union or American-style spending. It’s about whether the government should give itself the right to be above the law. That’s what we’re debating here today.
Does anyone here think that it’s appropriate for the government to put itself above the law, particularly when it’s doing so for its benefit politically? Justice Morgan specifically questioned the government at paragraphs 73 and 74 of his decision: “There is no justification or explanation anywhere in the Attorney General’s record as to why the doubling of the pre-election regulated period was implemented.” And in paragraph 74: “This potential for partisan self-dealing poses a fundamental challenge to the democratic system.” That’s according to the court.
Justice Morgan raised the prospect of self-dealing. For this reason alone, putting oneself above the law, as provided by section 33, should not be happening. I didn’t agree with the use of the clause to cut the size of city council, but the difference there was, that was a government priority for this government. That was defensible. The government campaigned on smaller-sized government. That was its priority, and so it could go ahead and say, “This is our priority. We’ll cut the size of city council.” But there’s no priority here. The priority is winning elections.
The second point is that it isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, like the government would have you believe. They don’t need to use the clause in order to protect our elections. They have two great options: They can appeal, if they don’t like it, or they can amend. The government has an option to amend the existing legislation—a couple of tweaks will do it—and that’s in fact what the court proposed to the government. We can still protect our democracy, if that’s what this is about. They can pass two amendments and be in compliance with the court. They don’t need to use the “notwithstanding” clause to protect us from political speech; they can just tweak the legislation. Instead they tell the public in talking points—telling their own supporters—that it’s necessary in order to protect us. How weak and cynical. Instead of using the nuclear option, why not amend the legislation?
This brings me to my third point: Do not be fooled. This is not about union or super-PAC spending. They’re sophisticated parties, and they’ll find a way to spend. Speaker, this is about election spending for everyone else. It’s about protecting the new requirement for registration and compliance that this government has prescribed for low spenders. The new elections act says that if you spend more than $500 on posters saying that your MPP doesn’t return your phone calls, then you need to register with Elections Ontario, appoint a CFO and appoint an auditor. That $500 is not union or super-PAC spending. They’re trying to keep small, local advocates—the real grassroots—from participating in democracy.
Everyday people want to participate in the democratic process, but their law says that if you want to spend $500, you need to spend $40,000 on compliance fees and get lawyers and incur legal risks under elections law. That’s what this is about. That’s why they’re not amending the legislation: It’s to prevent small advocacy groups, who don’t have the money unions or super PACs have to spend on compliance for criticizing the government. And to do that, they want to dilute the charter.
This goes back to a decision by the Right Honourable Prime Minister Harper, in Harper v. Canada. Harper sought clarification, and the court came back and said that political speech is the most precious form of speech. So, of course, this government would attack it, because they don’t like speech. The Premier doesn’t understand speech, and because there is nothing conservative about this government—shame on them; shame on using that phrase. A conservative would defend speech, defend the charter, instead of insulting the court and telling us that it’s for our safety—which brings me to my last point: the precious charter.
The clause was a last-minute deal. When I look at the charter, I see the “notwithstanding” clause. When I look at our great Confederation, I see the “notwithstanding” clause, because that’s what enabled the Constitution to come into existence. Young students ask me all the time, “But, Mr. Baber, what happens if a government decides to invoke the ‘notwithstanding’ clause?” I say, “They’re not supposed to; that’s the genius of the system: political accountability and decency.”
Political accountability and decency are what was supposed to prevent the government from exploding their nuclear bomb. They also celebrate the principle by which we sit in this House. We are a parliamentary democracy, where Parliament is supreme, for better or for worse, unlike our friends to the south, where the Constitution is supreme. Part of that understanding is that if we get to usurp the rule of law, to supersede the rule of law, we will only do it in the clearest of cases. It only happened three times in Canadian history, on major issues. It never happened with the federal government, and it has never happened in this province before. Instead of using this on an issue of major importance, this government decides to dilute it on its self-serving election law.
Speaker, the timing couldn’t be worse. So many Canadians are scared for their rule of law. Emergency orders, lockdowns, two tiers of Canadians, arrests of protestors: Now is the time to signal the strength of the rule of law. What this motion and this bill do is undermine the rule of law, if anything, for the first time for 150 years in the history of this building. Please do not undermine our charter, our rule of law, our province and our country, and withdraw this bill.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Ian Arthur: It’s an honour today to rise and debate in the Legislature, although I find it hard to believe that we are debating the use of the “notwithstanding” clause for the second time in a single term of this government. The “notwithstanding” clause is a tool, but one of last resort, brought in to protect the future of a diverse set of provinces. In the most desperate of circumstances, it can be used to override the Constitution in order to protect the future of this country. What it is not is a get-out-of-jail-free card for a Premier who has trouble drafting legislation that stands up to the test of jurisprudence.
This bill represents no crisis. We are not in danger of losing a language. There is no stress on our federation that this bill is trying to mend. What this bill represents is a government who is so out of tune, so scared of the electorate, that they are overriding the constitutional right to freedom of expression to prevent citizen groups from criticizing them—freedom of expression, section 2 of the charter.
I mean, that’s not what the members opposite are saying, but they’re only telling half the story. They’re saying they want money out of politics, but really, what they want is other people’s money out of politics. There were limits on spending previous to this court decision. We didn’t have a major problem with too much money in politics, unlike our neighbours to the south. We had reasonable limits that balanced the danger of too much money with the right to freedom of expression on the part of the electorate.
The unconstitutional aspect of this bill was a change that the government could not even explain or justify themselves. It was arbitrary. I mean, they could have, but that would have meant owning up to the fact that they were trying to enact it to muzzle their opponents and to silence criticism.
This party is not interested in taking the money out of politics. They are the party of ever-increasing donation limits, as long as it’s to them. They are the party of $1,200-a-plate fundraiser dinners. No other party is trying to do those things. We bring them in at $27 donations from everyday Ontarians whom we fight for, instead of those who can afford to contribute $3,600 a year again and again to different parts.
There were so many off-ramps, Speaker, so many times this government could have taken a different approach which would have not landed us here. They could have negotiated with the educators in good faith instead of pushing them into a strike position and making a public enemy they now fear in the election. They could have put their money where their mouths are with front-line workers and not capped the wages of nurses at 1%, which is also unconstitutional, Speaker. They could have protected those in long-term care during the pandemic instead of now trying to silence the voices of those who lost loved ones. They could have supported the parents of children with autism. They could have not declared war on the environment and the groups that work to protect the natural beauty of this province. Lastly and most importantly, they could have appealed the court decision and followed the process that is intended to be put into place when a court rules against the government. They have not exhausted their right to appeal, Speaker.
But they didn’t do any of those things. Instead, they barrelled ahead with a “we know better” agenda that has hurt and alienated so many.
There are so many things we should be debating. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. We have just seen a terrorist attack against an Islamic family on our soil. We are trying to come to terms with the newest revelations about the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in this country. There are so many things, Speaker, that we should be spending our time on, and this is not one of them.
I am nearly out of time, so I want to touch on one more point, and that is the ego attached to this legislation—the ego to think that this government or any government of the day should use this legislative hammer, and would use it during a pandemic for something that has nothing to do with the pandemic; would use it to limit the voices of Canadians; would use it as a tool to try and affect elections so they can try and hold on to power; would think that they in their paltry first and, I will say, only term have the right to override the constitution of a country like Canada.
It was debated in the dark. This legislation is unforgivable. It is trying to exert supremacy over the judiciary. Speaker, if it wasn’t happening around me, I could scarcely believe it. We are about to set a precedent that we are going to regret forever.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Laura Mae Lindo: I rise today to debate the time allocation motion while Waterloo region COVID numbers are rising, not falling. We’re now deemed a hot spot. While I’m in this chamber thinking that I should actually be fighting for the people of Kitchener Centre to ensure that they have every single tool they need to thrive, instead here I am wondering why the government believes that they can use some kind of Jedi mind tricks to justify pretending that silencing critics is actually defending our democracy.
The people of Kitchener Centre have been writing to my office and they’ve asked that I get some of their thoughts on record, because there is nothing that justifies silencing criticism of decisions from their government.
The first email is signed by quite a few people who have asked to have their names on record:
“The courts have clearly said that sections of Bill 254 violate freedom of expression, guaranteed by the charter. Justice Morgan’s decision sent a strong message to the Ford government that rules that silence dissenting voices and give undue advantage to the government have no place in a democracy.
“By invoking this rarely used clause to bolster their position, it is clear the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario are gravely concerned that their critics’ voices will be heard, and that voters will be reminded of their repeated failures leading up to the June 2022 election.
“Premier Ford is right to be concerned about his political future. Any MPP who votes to override the constitutional rights of Ontarians does not deserve to sit in the Legislature.”
That has been signed by Christopher Saayman, Doug Coles, Glynn Manchester, Daniel Brennan, Christine Ball, Barbara Banks, Kevin Rempel, Joanne Neath, Terrance Gage, Stephen Belyea, Lorna Aberdein, Beatriz Maldonado, Linda Redmond, Anne Dunbar, Sher Byers, Eric Oliver, Donna Seidl, Kimiko Shibata, Jean McDermott, Jessica Romero, Erin McCarthy, Victoria Paulozza, Alison Kulchecki, John Scheffner, Stephanie Blackwell, Theron D’Amico, Andrea Kauppinen, Carolyn Hahn, Marj Korte, Debbie Bonde, Rita Palacios, Michael Faber, Amy Brohman, Lawrence Wayne, Michael Robbins and Henroy Bailey.
Leo Lalande wrote, “It must be made clear to” the Premier “that we will not tolerate attacks on our charter rights and freedoms and the use of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause to inappropriately force through such an abhorrent piece of legislation will lead to consequences during the next year’s election.” It seems that, perchance, this plan is backfiring.
Anita Weiler has written to my office as well. She has written, “Invoking the ‘notwithstanding’ clause is over the top even for you!” She’s referencing the Premier. “You can pass that legislation this weekend but I think it will have dire consequences for you and the Conservative Party at the next election.”
April Patterson, Stephen Belyea, Jim Fare, Humera Javed, Ash Hopkins and James Steele have also written: “Premier Ford is attacking our democracy to silence public debate, reduce public participation, and ultimately protect his party from potentially devastating criticisms ahead of an election. He has ignored the concerns of community members and organizations and, now that a court agrees with these concerns, he’s ignoring the law.
“No one is above the charter—not even the Premier.”
Jean Kuehl has also written to me. She has written, “I know, preaching to the choir, but that man has got to go. 1% wage freeze and now he wants to muzzle the opposition. We know what has happened in other parts of the world where this has taken place. Democracies are toppled one brick at a time.”
Gord Assman has written, “Of all the things Ford has done this is the most reprehensible. I don’t think anyone could imagine a Premier of a province going outside the Constitution of Canada to silence the collective voice of people who have been aggrieved.”
Elise Hunsberger has also written: “I am writing to express my alarm that the Premier is today invoking the ‘notwithstanding’ clause.
“I’m writing to respectfully insist that the Prime Minister”—this person has gone all out to make sure they are heard—“use the reserve and dissolution power he holds under the laws of Canada, to stop Ford’s gutting and abuse of the charter and invocation of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause for purposes it was never designed to serve.”
I have also heard from Sarah Walker Hill, who is a critical care RN at a hospital in my riding, somebody who we’ve called a hero in this chamber. They have said, “I have risked everything to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of Ontarians. At the same time, my colleagues and I have faced serious challenges, including government-imposed wage cuts, layoffs, chronic understaffing, lack of PPE and so many more life-and-death matters. I firmly believe it is wrong to unfairly limit our ability to speak about the issues.” They have asked that I make sure that this is on record.
Nobody in Kitchener Centre supports this. I do hope that the Premier listens, does the right thing and revokes this nonsense.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: On the way to work this morning, coming here to the Legislature—it’s a beautiful day; it’s quiet, birds are chirping—I couldn’t help thinking about the horrible act that happened in London with the Afzaal family: Talat, Salman, Madiha, Yumna and the survivor, Fayez. The family that was killed was put to rest yesterday.
When the government called this emergency special sitting, I immediately thought when he did that, that they were going to call us back to recognize and acknowledge what happened last weekend in London, where a Muslim family was out for a beautiful sunny day just like this, and four of them were run down and killed in an act of hate and terrorism, while a nine-year-old survivor, Fayez, is laying in the hospital, anguishing, sorrowfully mourning the beloved loss of his mother, his father, his grandmother and his sister. I think about him, and how he will grow up without his loved family, and how he is going to suffer lifelong trauma, and how he will never recover from that. I think about the Muslim community and how all of London has come together to show their support.
But, Speaker, what I want to know is why we can’t do more. Why aren’t we in this Legislature calling for what the NCCM has called for: a national summit to combat Islamophobia? Sadly, we’re not doing that. So I’m here, along with my MPPs from London, at Queen’s Park for the simple reason that the Ford government could not accept the Supreme Court decision that examined the election bill and ruled it unconstitutional.
The government has yet to answer why this legislation is worth invoking the “notwithstanding” clause to rush through the legislative process. What this means is that these amendments and what they propose to do are a landmark. It seeks to infringe on free speech, and yet it’s being pushed through so quickly, without consultation, without the ability for public comment and without the ability for us to properly consider and debate this.
This is the first time in the history of this province that the “notwithstanding” clause would be invoked. The last time the Premier threatened to use the “notwithstanding” clause was to meddle in the municipal election in Toronto. Now he is using it to meddle in the upcoming provincial election.
Clearly the Premier believes he is above democracy. But this democracy belongs to the people. It is our democracy. We are elected to be here to safeguard it. We are elected to represent our constituents, and quite frankly, this government is making fundamental changes to our democracy without consulting the very people who elected us to stand here.
Speaker, it has been said by the members on the opposite side, “The court’s decision earlier this week means a few wealthy elites, corporations and special interest groups operating through American-style super PACs would be allowed to interfere in and control our elections with unlimited money, with no rules, no disclosure, and with no accountability.” That’s what they’ve been saying.
But that’s not what the court’s decision said. The court clearly decided that to impose a 12-month restriction on spending prior to an election would infringe on the rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To be clear, Speaker, some of the examples of the groups the Premier wants to silence are not wealthy elites. They are the families who have lost loved ones in long-term care. They are the autism families who are asking for needs-based funding so their kids can get help. They are the local small businesses who are going bankrupt. They are the front-line workers. They are the school communities and their teachers who are begging for help. They are the health care workers. And they are not super elites. They are not seeking to establish American-style super PACs.
We should make it very clear to the Premier what it means. The basis of free speech is that if you don’t agree with someone, you can’t infringe upon their right to have free speech. To put this into context, this legislation is being rushed in the middle of a pandemic, days after that terrorist attack in our province and finding a mass, unmarked grave of 215 Indigenous children, while people are at their wits’ end living in a province with the longest lockdowns in North America. Why rush? What is the need to rush this through now? What is the reason to set a precedent and invoke the “notwithstanding” clause to do it?
The more constitutional and less political way of disagreeing with a court decision would be to seek a stay, file an appeal—which is what happened the last time the Premier threatened to invoke the “notwithstanding” clause—or even pass amendments. So I ask my colleagues—it’s not too late for this government to change their mind. They’ve done it before. Do the right thing. Stop the “notwithstanding” clause and propose amendments to get the changes that you want to legislation.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Mr. Joel Harden: Speaker, why are we here? Let me be succinct. I think we’re here because the Premier does not want normal working persons or organizations who do have the ability to raise enough money to put on television ads to put on television ads a year before an election. That’s why we’re here.
But why should we be here? Some of my colleagues have already said it. We should be here because there are thousands of families right now in the province of Ontario who are fearful for walking outside, for being conspicuously Muslim. That’s why we should be here. As my friend the MPP from Scarborough Southwest said so eloquently, there are people afraid to leave their homes right now. That’s an emergency. I have been to three vigils in our community in the last week, and everyone—the organizers of those mosques and those Muslim organizations approach me and say, “Joel, we have never questioned our safety and our children’s safety. We are tired of words. No more words. No more thoughts. No more prayers. We want action. What are you going to do to insist that the government of Ontario join the call for a national urgent summit on Islamophobia?”
Speaker, whatever my friends in government do with this bill today, I am urging them, through you, to join that call. No more thoughts and prayers. Action.
I am also urging my friends in government, Speaker, again through you, to cease their relationships with individuals like Charles McVety and Nick Kouvalis and Faith Goldy, who have contributed to this disgusting cesspool of Islamophobia that makes our neighbours afraid to walk outside with their families.
I am last going to end on this note. If my friends in government decide to make proper investments in the anti-racism secretariat, as the member from Kitchener Centre has said many times, they could fund the work of great people like Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey in Ottawa, whose church was defaced by anti-Black propaganda. The same hateful person defaced a synagogue and defaced a mosque. Over three years through a process of restorative justice, that church met with that hateful individual who now denounces Nazism, denounces hate. They took the resources of the church, the resources of the city, and they got through to a person’s heart that was consumed by hate before a lethal act happened. That’s what we need in the province of Ontario: less thoughts and prayers, less talk, less monkeying around with election rules. Stand up and act for our Muslim friends that want to be safe. Stop the rhetoric, stop the association with hate and do it right now.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Ms. Suze Morrison: First and foremost, I do want to recognize that it’s my wedding anniversary today. I want to recognize my husband, Trevor, who has very patiently accepted the fact that I’m missing our anniversary to be here today instead.
Speaker, this government has reconvened this House, holding bizarre midnight and Sunday sittings this weekend in a frantic attempt on the part of the Premier to muzzle the very people he is supposed to be serving in this province. It’s disgusting. This Premier is so narrowly focused on winning the next election that he does not seem to care what cost it will take to do that. He is willing to silence people by overriding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that he gets what he wants, like a child having a temper tantrum, after the courts told him he was misbehaving.
The people he is silencing are families of long-term-care residents, parents of children with autism, teachers and educators, working people, environmental advocates and front-line health care workers, who all have a right to free speech. These are the everyday people in Ontario who have been hurt by this government’s decision to put favours for their PC insiders and corporate friends ahead of actually helping people through a pandemic.
This is now the second time that this Premier has had to use the “notwithstanding” clause to get revenge on his enemies. The first time was to attack the city of Toronto. He denied the people of our city the right to fair representation when he cut city council in half in the middle of an election. This time, it’s about helping the Premier win his re-election, even if that means silencing the families of long-term-care victims and the autistic community and their families.
People in my riding are not fooled, Speaker. I’ve already heard from many of them, telling me they will not stand for a Premier who decides to override their rights to protect his own electoral success.
It’s clearer than ever that the Premier’s top priority is to protect the king. For months, we’ve watched as this Premier has spent more time focused on organizing $1,500-a-pop Zoom fundraisers than on governing. He couldn’t even be bothered to show up and answer questions from my colleague from Kiiwetinoong and I about how this government plans to help Indigenous communities find the children lost to residential schools. For weeks, he has dodged his responsibilities as people scrambled to get vaccines during the government’s dysfunctional vaccine rollout.
It is absolutely shameless, in light of the time that we’re in right now, as Canadians are in mourning from horrific tragedies in Kamloops and London and still battling a pandemic, that this government would try to quietly pass a bill to deny Ontarians their rights. This is an attack on the very foundation of democracy in this province. This Premier and every single one of the government MPPs sitting on the benches opposite should be ashamed of their actions, because this will be remembered as one of the greatest overreaches and power grabs of a government in the province’s political history.
We can have reasonable limits on activities like third-party advertising in this province that do not violate the Constitution, but we know that this Premier doesn’t want to be reasonable. He wants to completely muzzle anyone who would criticize him. My colleagues in the official opposition and I will do everything we can to oppose the PC government’s attacks on people’s rights and free speech and free expression.
We will continue to raise the voices of Ontarians in this House and call for the actions that they need to see from their government, like a safe school reopening plan that will ensure that our school boards have the tools to keep students and education workers safe. We need a local business and job support plan in place to help businesses and workers make it to their reopening day and to actually stay open. This government needs to fix their flawed grant programs today and ensure businesses are getting the support that they deserve.
Families who lost loved ones in long-term care deserve answers, especially in cases, as reported by the Canadian Armed Forces, where deaths were caused by starvation and dehydration. Ontarians need real action to ensure what happened in long-term-care homes during this pandemic never happens again.
Speaker, our community needs to see more than thoughts and prayers to address the growing white supremacy and hate in our cities. We need action. We need significant investments in the anti-racism strategy. That’s what Ontarians are calling for; that’s what they’re asking for and they will not be silenced just because the Premier doesn’t like what they have to say.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I don’t want to single anyone out, but I’ll remind all members that it’s inappropriate to make reference to the absence of any member, for obvious reasons.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: It is an honour to join the debate, as always, in this House, as a participant. As an elected official in our democracy, I cherish the opportunity. It is an honour, I’m sure, for each and every one of us.
When I think about the Charter of Rights, Speaker, I’m brought to the images and the feelings that we all get, that we’ve all experienced as elected members around Remembrance Day, when we stand with veterans in our communities to cherish the democracy that we all hold so near and dear; we thank those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the rights that we enjoy, those inalienable rights; and we profess to fully stand on guard for those rights. And here today, we see that those inalienable rights that we think protect us all can be circumvented by a Premier, who is desperate to maintain power, with the snap of a finger. That is what we’re talking about here today, Speaker.
I’ve been a member for nearly a decade. I’ve seen lots of bills come through this Legislature. I saw Bill 254, and I had the pleasure and the honour to speak as the lead for the official opposition on Bill 254, the bill which was rightfully struck down by the Ontario Superior Court as contravening the Charter of Rights.
I said at that moment that this was the most egregious bill at the most inappropriate time that I had ever seen in my life in this House as an elected official. And the courts agreed. The courts determined that it was not only a violation of the charter, but it is not in order of this House. You would think that a government that had any wherewithal could have seen—we actually warned them. Constitutional experts, lawyers, lay people, even, could see that this was a violation of the charter. We saw precedent in British Columbia, where even lower thresholds were thrown out.
Nevertheless, this government and this Premier, who is desperate for power, because his poll numbers are plummeting—he has lost his base, Speaker; we all know it. We see it in the numbers. We see it in our communities. In fact, the only people he has left, perhaps, are the Charles McVetys of the world, the charlatans who spread hate.
Hon. Doug Ford: You’re going down, buddy.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: I’m going down? Speaker, the Premier called me a temporary member last week. I will remind the Premier that we are all temporary members in this House. That’s democracy. And Speaker, I’ll remind the Premier that I’d rather be a temporary member in this democracy than a part-time Premier any day of the week. I will take no lessons from this Premier when he circumvents the charter, makes a brief appearance in this House once in a while. That does not do justice to our—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That is—
Ms. Goldie Ghamari: Where is your leader?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay. I’ll say to the member for Essex, you cannot make reference to the absence of any member. I’ll say the same to the member for Carleton. Let’s think about this for a minute. There are good reasons not to do it when there isn’t a pandemic; there are even better reasons that we understand that now.
The member for Essex has the floor.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you very much, Speaker.
I have been thinking about it, Speaker. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since we got the message that the Premier of this province was recalling this Legislature as an emergency session, not to speak about the tragedy, the victims that succumbed to a terrorist attack in London; not to speak about clean water in northern Indigenous remote communities; not to speak about the crisis in long-term care; not to speak about the crisis in affordable housing; not to protect seniors; not to bolster our education system, but to protect his own political fortunes.
They’ll claim that this is to get big money out of politics. Speaker, Bill 254 increased the donation limits to $3,300 per individual. It is a slap in the face to the working-class people of this province who are fighting and endeavouring every day to keep our economy going, despite the inaction by this government. They’ve seen it. Each and every one of our constituents has seen a government that is failing, that has failed them, that is desperate, and a Premier that is weak. And we see it. I’ve seen it before in my 10 years, Speaker. It’s the Venturi effect. You know the Venturi effect: Similar to water going down a hole, that’s what’s happening to this government. We see it, we know it and we have to call it out, because that’s democracy.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Miss Monique Taylor: It’s unfortunate that the government chooses not to speak to this bill. I don’t believe they put up many speakers through the actual reading of this bill either, which is their attack on our democratic process.
We have seen very clearly that this government will do whatever it takes to cling on to the power that this House holds. That is quite concerning to myself, to my colleagues, I believe to pretty much all members on this side of the bench, to the people in my community who have reached out to me and who have told me to please do everything I could to try to stop this government.
It’s unfortunate that we only have so many tools in the box. Most tools that we had to hold up legislation, this government has already taken those away, watering down the democratic process that we had here in the Legislature. Now they have pulled the heaviest arm that they have available to them, and that is by calling on the “notwithstanding” clause, overruling the Superior Court’s decision that their legislation was against our Charter of Rights. That is a very sad day for democracy in the province of Ontario. It’s terribly sad. What next is on the chopping block, for this government to be able to get what they want? Why is it that they come here and they choose not to serve the people of Ontario, but they choose to serve themselves?
We have lost over 4,000 seniors in long-term care. What did this government do when they talked about putting an iron ring around our seniors? They put an iron ring around the for-profit owners of long-term care. That was the government’s priority. We lost an entire family in London last week to Islamophobia. This government has done nothing, except gut the Anti-Racism Directorate that was put in place years ago.
These are this government’s priorities, completely shifted from what the people of this province have been asking us to do. They have asked us to protect them throughout this pandemic. They have asked us to protect their businesses that they have put their entire life savings into, and this government came out with a plan that served a minimal amount of small businesses. Then, instead of opening it up to broader businesses, so that more people could have that stability and that help, they gave the money right back to the same people again. They just doubled the plan, instead of broadening it to ensure that more businesses had the ability to access it, and any business that did access their small business plan is now under audit. They have to jump through a million hoops. This is not helping the people of the province.
People were elected to this House to come here and to serve our communities, to ensure that our communities had the best possible services and amenities available to them, and yet this government chooses to be self-serving and to pull a clause that has never been used in the history of this province. That is a shameful day.
As I’ve been sitting on this side listening to all the members, we’ve got members on the other side who are laughing. They think that we’re just out of our minds for even thinking that this is the wrong thing to do, and they shake their heads at us like they drank some kind of juice that they didn’t share with the rest of the province. It’s wrong, and each and every one of you on the other side knows it’s wrong, but you will have to get up there and vote. You have a right to vote, regardless of what your House leader tells you to do, regardless of what the Premier wants you to do. Because, at the end of the day, it’s their constituents who are going to hold them to account, and the government is going to say, “Well, thanks for coming out,” because you’re not going to have anything else left at the end of the day. You’ve got your name. The one thing you’ve got in this life, Mr. Speaker, is your name and your honour. When you get up there and you vote in favour of this bill, you have lost it all.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Further debate?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Again, it’s always a pleasure to rise in the House and speak on things that are very important not only to the people of the province of Ontario, but to ensuring that our democracy remains a vibrant democracy. As I said yesterday briefly, I would think that all members of this assembly would be seized with that same feeling of responsibility to ensure that our democracy remains a vibrant democracy that is fair, that we can all have pride in the types of things that we are doing and in the debate that we are having. It is interesting, though, to hear this debate today. It has been interesting to listen to the debate throughout the weekend.
Let me be clear on one thing, Mr. Speaker: I was asked a number of times on Thursday, in advance of this, what the government’s response to this would be. I feel that I was very, very, very clear with anybody who asked me that I intended to use all of the tools at my disposal and all of the resources at my disposal to ensure that this legislation passed as quickly as possible and, as I said, I would use all the tools at my disposal to ensure that would happen.
Now, Mr. Speaker, why? Why would a House leader for the government move in such a way? I think it was very clear in the words of the Attorney General why it was so important for to us move quickly.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Opposition, come to order.
Hon. Paul Calandra: It’s important for us to move quickly, of course, because there is no law regulating third-party spending in elections right now.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Hamilton Mountain will come to order. The member for Windsor West will come to order. The member for Essex will come to order.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: I think the NDP reaction highlights why it is that we have to move quickly. It is about order. It is about fairness in elections.
The opposition whip—forget the opposition whip for a second. The leader of the NDP, yesterday, I believe—not yesterday; perhaps Friday it was— was asked, “What are you going to do to stop this legislation? The House leader has already talked about how he was going to use all of the tools at his resources to move it quickly.” The opposition House leader went in front of the media and said, “Well, we are going to do everything at our disposal to delay and frustrate the government. But the government has taken away all of the tools for us to do that.”
Then, when asked to name one tool that the government has taken away under this administration to change that: nothing. She could not name one thing. Fluffed around a little bit, shifted through her notes a little bit; could not name one thing that this government had done to limit debate on important matters in this House—could not name one thing.
Now, the deputy whip for the opposition just said that—
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Same day debate.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Now we’re hearing them scream out, “You could debate on the same day.” Well, that’s actually not true, Mr. Speaker, is it? It’s not true. They said, “You’re taking away other mechanisms.” Not true; it’s still in there.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member for Essex says, “You prorogued the Legislature.” Well, this is the longest Legislature not to be prorogued, the second-longest in history. The only one that beats it is the first one. They don’t even know how the Legislature works. That’s why we’re at—what, Bill 307, colleagues? Because we sit here and we do our job.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I am going to ask the member for Scarborough–Guildwood to come to order.
If you ignore the Chair, the Chair will have no choice but to start warning, and you know the next consequence.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Again, it highlights that in the Legislative Assembly we have a Speaker to maintain order, good debate, positive debate. You keep hearing the opposition trying to frustrate that order and the Speaker coming forward to bring them back into the rules. Thankfully, we have rules in the Legislative Assembly that monitor how debate is done. But the opposition continues to ignore those rules and that’s why we are really here today, isn’t it, Mr. Speaker?
Let’s look at this bill. Not one member of the opposition in two days of debate has suggested how the bill could be changed to be made better—not one member. They’ve had all night, all weekend. This bill was introduced—
Mr. Taras Natyshak: This is the Legislature. This is not Yuk Yuks.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay, the member for Essex is warned.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: You see that, though, don’t you, colleagues? We see this all the time with the NDP, don’t we? And with the Liberals. We see it all the time. As soon as you say something that hits them to their core, they get frustrated and angry. They get embarrassed. That’s what happens with the NDP. That’s why they’ve become so irrelevant, such an irrelevant political force. They’re not the political force that they used to be, not at all. That’s why they’ve become so irrelevant to the people of the province of Ontario.
Again, asked to identify what the government has done to take away their right to challenge legislation, the Leader of the Opposition—nothing. Nothing. She couldn’t name one thing. The whip? Nothing.
It goes further, though. Yesterday, the deputy leader of the NDP does a news conference, highlights all the things: “There’s this, that and that, whatever.” One question the deputy leader gets—one question: “Having said all of that, what would you do differently? What is your suggestion with respect to what limits on third-party advertising should be in the province of Ontario?” What was the answer? No answer. Didn’t have an idea, not one suggestion as to what the limits would be.
Now, colleagues, despite the fact that the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader of the opposition have no ideas, I can tell you what they want. The opposition whip just screamed it out: “We gave you some suggestions.” Their suggestions, of course, were that at a maximum—a maximum—there should be a three-month period where they should be regulated—at a maximum. But what are they doing now? They have been fighting all weekend to remove even that three-month maximum and make it nothing—to make it nothing, Mr. Speaker. That’s what this is about. It’s about the opposition wanting no rules in place to govern how third parties interact with elections.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Point of order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Barrie–Innisfil has a point of order.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Sorry, Speaker. I meant to say this earlier. I know we’re in a much heated debate, but I just got a really great message that a really great Olympic athlete in our area—she runs all the time. She’s actually going to be qualifying for a marathon, so I wanted to wish her congratulations.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Okay. Technically not a point of order, but thank you for the information.
The government House leader still has the floor.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Congratulations. I thank my deputy House leader, who has really done a spectacular job for the people of her community. It has been remarkable what she has been able to accomplish.
But again, let me go back. The NDP position on this is that there should be a three-month maximum. A maximum three months, put on the record by the NDP, that in the lead-up to an election, with a fixed election date, in a parliamentary democracy—now, let’s be clear that fixed elections in parliamentary democracies are relatively new, not something that has been the case in our parliamentary democracy. That’s why all governments moved to put limits on it. But for the NDP, three months is enough, and then it should be the Wild West: no rules, no regulations.
You would think that even one member—we gave them the opportunity to allow as much debate as they needed overnight. Not one member of the opposition stood in their place to suggest, “Well, we think it should be three months. We think it should be six months, nine months. We think that these are the rules that should govern how third parties advertise in elections. This is what should happen.” Not one member of the NDP had the time to actually give advice. And then when asked specifically, the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader of the opposition could not in any way make a suggestion as to how it should be. So—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Scarborough Southwest will come to order. Government House leader has the floor.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member from Scarborough Southwest is suggesting that if we had given her a bit more time—I guess the 10 minutes that she had wasn’t enough. I guess the five hours of debate that we unilaterally ceded to the opposition overnight on Friday wasn’t enough—not putting up any speakers so that they could give suggestions. What happened? They didn’t have time to give a suggestion—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Toronto Centre will come to order. The member for Windsor West will come to order. The member for Kingston and the Islands will come to order. The member for Niagara Falls will come to order.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I know; you didn’t say a word. Government House leader has the floor.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Unhinged—unhinged, Speaker. You see what’s happening. They go to personal insults. The member for Toronto Centre screams out, “Oh, do you remember when he cried?” Yes, colleagues, listen, I had the good fortune of serving in Ottawa under one of those difficult circumstances, and yes, I became emotional. So to the member from Toronto Centre, if you think that you’re insulting me by saying that, you’re not. I am proud of the fact that I got to serve in our national Parliament. I am very proud of that fact.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Hamilton Mountain will come to order. The member for Scarborough–Guildwood will come to order.
I’ll remind all members to make their comments through the Chair. Government House leader has the floor.
Hon. Paul Calandra: But that’s today’s NDP, isn’t it? It’s all personal for them, right? It’s all personal. Get the nasty—that’s the NDP: the nasty. We see the member for Essex do it all the time. As soon as the mike is off, the camera is off, then that’s what the NDP fall into: nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty, anger and frustration, personal insults. That’s why the people of the province of Ontario—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Toronto Centre is warned.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, I won’t let nasty personal comments stop me from doing my job as a member of Parliament. No matter how often the NDP try to interrupt me, I’m not going to stop; I’m going to continue to talk about what’s important for the people of Markham–Stouffville, what’s important for the next generations of people who fill the seats in this House. If the NDP don’t think that is the fundamental and main responsibility of a government—to ensure that elections can be held properly and fairly in this province of Ontario so that the people who fill these seats in the future can have confidence that it has been done in a fair manner—I am uncertain as to what it is they are even doing here, because that should be our primary responsibility.
Again, let’s look at what the NDP wanted. They said virtually no rules. They have been fighting all weekend to eliminate rules with respect to third-party advertising. That’s their goal. Well, obviously, we disagree with that. Why do we disagree with that? The Attorney General was very clear on why we disagree with that. The Chief Electoral Officer was also very clear that there have to be rules that govern how elections are handled in the province of Ontario. It had gotten way out of control. The judge himself in his ruling said that such limits on third-party advertising are appropriate and needed in a parliamentary democracy, confirmed that such limits are, of course, constitutional and do not infringe on somebody’s rights of association. And that’s why we have legislation. That’s why we’re here on the weekend, because the judge’s decision voided all legislation. That’s why the NDP are fighting so hard to take away the rules, because, like the Liberals, it is challenging for them to sometimes win elections.
Now, in fairness, the NDP have only won one election in the province of Ontario. I guess the reason why the Leader of the Opposition couldn’t talk about the rules and mechanisms that were put in place to stop debate in this place was because they were actually invented by the last NDP government. So we have a time allocation motion today because the NDP government invented the time allocation motion.
In fact, under this government, the use of time allocation has plummeted. We have gotten to full debate on so many of the bills. Especially over the last couple of years in this place, we have had more time in this House than ever before. We have committees that are undersubscribed. Why are they undersubscribed? Because we’ve put more time into committees. This is an opposition, let’s not forget, that when it had the opportunity on one of the most fundamental things that we do in this place—the budget—did not even provide one single amendment. Imagine an opposition party that is so opposed to what we’re doing, that gets up in their places and hurls insults when the microphones are off about how bad we are—not usually when they get up, but when the mikes are off, they hurl insults. The most fundamental policy item outside of fair elections, a budget—the time when you’d think you would stack the decks and get your people who are opposed to us in front of a committee, put suggestions on the table in front of a committee—they all have their heads down now, Mr. Speaker, because they know they have been caught here, right?
How many amendments? I know the member for Ottawa West–Nepean, the Vice-Chair of that committee, if I’m not mistaken—I know in speaking with the member for Ottawa West–Nepean, who has been a soldier with respect to our budgeting and financing in the province of Ontario, even spending hours last summer on a committee to see how we get through the pandemic, hours upon hours—I don’t want to stray too much, but as you’ll recall, the NDP didn’t actually want to do that study. They wanted to get home and get back to boating and fishing—all wonderful things, by the way. As you know, the Minister of Natural Resource will allow free fishing on Father’s Day, as he did on Mother’s Day—very commendable.
But we thought it was important that, in the midst of a pandemic, people’s legislators work hard. That’s why the member of Ottawa West–Nepean joined a number of our colleagues—I know the Attorney General went on to these consultations. I went on to the consultations. Almost every member of our caucus went on because we knew how important it was.
But getting back to the budget, they have talked about, “Why aren’t we here debating health care? Why aren’t we here debating the environment?” Well, all of that policy work, the funding that is associated with that policy work—guess where you find it, Mr. Speaker? Colleagues, in a budget. In a budget: That’s where you would find it.
All their heads are down. It’s kind of quiet over there now, isn’t it, Mr. Speaker? You don’t have to get up and talk as much, do you?
But why? Because they didn’t have any amendments—nothing. Silence. Quiet. Nothing from the NDP. It’s amazing to me—
Mr. Ian Arthur: Point of order, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Kingston and the Islands has a point of order he wishes to raise.
Mr. Ian Arthur: It was a little quiet over here, Speaker. I believe we’re debating a time allocation motion and not the budget. Is that correct, Speaker?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): It is correct that we’re debating a time allocation motion. There has been considerable latitude allowed to add additional comments while members get back to the main point, on both sides of the House, during the course of the debate this afternoon. But I would remind all members—and thank you for the reminder—that we are debating a time allocation motion, and I would ask the government House leader to keep that in mind as he’s making his points. Thank you.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The reason why that’s so important, Speaker—and I appreciate that, and I appreciate the interruption; I know the NDP doesn’t want to talk about that. They’ll do anything to try and distract from the fact that they actually approve of what the government is doing. The reason I want to talk about that, Mr. Speaker, is because time allocation, of course, wasn’t used on the budget. That’s not something that we wanted to do.
So I think the finance committee—I know the member from Kingston is on that committee, Speaker. In fact, we had thought that, hey, maybe it would be important to have an opposition member Vice-Chair of that committee. Should we have an opposition Vice-Chair of that committee—because currently it’s the member for Ottawa West–Nepean. We thought the right thing to do was to ensure that our committees had a better cross-section of the Legislative Assembly, so we did put the member for Kingston and the Islands—we voted on him; he turned it down, suggesting that he can’t hold the government accountable if he’s in a position of responsibility. So he turned it down.
So I thought, Mr. Speaker—and the reason why I want to talk about this further is because time allocation has been often used on the budgeting process in the province of Ontario. It is very relevant, even if it hurts the opposition. I get it; it strikes them to the core. I would have thought that the member for Kingston and the Islands, who just stood up to try and silence me with respect to what happened at that committee, would have had a number of amendments. Maybe we weren’t spending enough in the areas that were of concern for him. He has brought forward a couple of private member’s bills on the environment.
The member for Ottawa West–Nepean can correct me if I’m wrong—he can stand on a point of order, if I’m wrong—but to the best of my belief, he didn’t provide an amendment with respect to the budgeting and the policy decisions of the Minister of the Environment. If I’m wrong, the member for Ottawa West–Nepean can stand—no, he’s not going to. The member for Kingston and the Islands could also stand if I’m wrong with respect to that. I would love to hear a point of order. I doubt it will come—
Ms. Doly Begum: Point of order, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Scarborough Southwest has a point of order.
Ms. Doly Begum: Thank you, Speaker. I apologize if this is not a point of order—this is my first term, so I’m still learning the rules—but if there is any time where the government has actually voted for one of our amendments, if the House leader could shine some light on that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That’s not a point of order. That would be, perhaps, a question if we were doing questions and answers. That’s not a point of order.
But I am going to remind the government House leader to bring his comments back to the time allocation motion. Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: This is an ironic interruption or intervention from the member opposite, who had her private member’s bill passed by the members of this House, one of the 17 private members’ bills that passed before this House adjourned a week or so ago. So, has the government listened? Yes, because you have actually benefited from that. So have a number of the members on your side, benefited from that—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I remind the government House leader to make his comments through the Chair.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member, Mr. Speaker, of course has benefited from that, and of course we have made amendments that the opposition have put down on the table on a number of occasions, but you can’t amend what you don’t get. On finance, we waited and waited and we got nothing.
But having said that, Mr. Speaker, let’s move on a little bit to the Liberals. Now, I want to say it’s surprising, but it’s not surprising that the NDP and the Liberals are kind of working together on this. For the Liberals, we know that any controls or any mechanisms to govern how elections are done are challenging for them, so let’s go back and take a look. I think you can’t talk about time allocation and you can’t talk about the importance of moving this forward unless you go back a little bit and talk about the Liberals.
After 42 years of effective, strong, Progressive Conservative government, the Liberals took office. I believe it was in 1985. Now, they didn’t win the election, of course, because—and again, you’ll see how it comes back. The Liberals didn’t win the election in 1985. They assumed office by entering into a coalition with the NDP. They didn’t win the election, so they entered into a coalition with the NDP, and that’s how they took power.
Fast-forward to 2003: The Liberals again took power by promising—I believe they made more promises than any political party in the history of the province of Ontario. I think it was over 220 promises that they had made in order to win that election in 2003. They then had a record for not living up to promises. I believe, of the 220 promises they made, about 200 of them were not met.
Fast-forward to 2007: The Liberals then secured power by probably one of the nastiest, most divisive elections in the history of this province. Given where we are today and the events of the last number of weeks, I will not talk about why, but I think most people can remember the disgraceful election of 2007 that the Liberals used to secure power, Mr. Speaker.
In 2011, again, the Liberals lost another election but were kept in power by the NDP.
In 2014, after a number of years with the NDP holding the balance of power—had nothing to say on anything; brought nothing forward; they accepted the stretch goals—2014 comes around, and the Liberals again secure power, at a time when the Chief Electoral Officer, outside pundits, everybody was talking about the extraordinary use of third parties and the role that it was playing in Ontario elections, which came to a head, really, a couple of years later. What was the essence of it? Honestly, Speaker, for the Liberals, it’s not about winning elections based on what you want to accomplish. It’s not about the honour of serving. It’s about winning power as opposed to winning elections, and then it’s about staying in power. That, for the Liberals, is at the heart of what they believe in. We saw the influence of third parties in that entire time period.
Now, Mr. Speaker, why time allocation? Because when a provincial government in a parliamentary democracy moves to fixed election dates, it is standard, you would think, that you would also then put in place measures to govern the spending that would go along in advance of an election date. That is what started under the federal government. It started in other provinces. The reality in the province of Ontario is that more money was being spent by third parties in the province of Ontario than in all other provinces and the federal elections combined—combined, Mr. Speaker.
Then the Liberals half-heartedly brought in—not until the fourth administration, colleagues. In the fourth administration, they brought in some half-hearted legislation that didn’t go far enough, that really didn’t meet the needs of what we were seeing in the province of Ontario, the influence that was happening in the province of Ontario. And like the NDP, the moment they see there are no rules in place, they do exactly what you would expect of the Liberal Party: They move to the lowest common denominator, because it’s about power. It’s not about governing, Mr. Speaker.
So we brought forward, the Attorney General brought forward legislation earlier in the spring, and we debated that legislation here in this chamber—extensive debate on it in this chamber, wonderful speeches all around—and it went to committee. It’s one of those committees, of course, where I believe it was undersubscribed because we made so much time available for people to comment at the committee stage. It was undersubscribed. We brought it back for third reading in this House and it passed.
Again, the amendment that the NDP brought forward at that time was to—basically, they argued, as I said, that there should be a maximum of three months where there should be controls, and then after that, it should be the Wild West. But we know the Chief Electoral Officer has not made that suggestion; in fact, just the opposite. We know that the courts are not suggesting that it should be that. The courts have said that it is our responsibility to do that.
Let’s briefly talk about—and we’re actually here, right?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Oh. But now, the House leader of the opposition is saying, “No, no. Now we want six months.” Now they want six months, Mr. Speaker. At committee, they wanted three months. Now it’s six months. A couple of minutes later, it might be three months, it might be two months. But they’ll figure it out.
Let’s talk about the member for York Centre. He just got up—passionate debate on why the “notwithstanding” clause is something that shouldn’t be used. The opposition were cheering him on, clapping the member for York Centre on. They thought he gave a great speech.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.
Hon. Paul Calandra: They thought he gave a great speech, Speaker—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Hamilton Mountain is warned.
The government House leader has the floor.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you, Speaker. They thought he gave a great speech. I disagree, obviously. It’s something that I disagree with.
What did the member for York Centre say on the first instance that we were considering using the “notwithstanding” clause? Was he consistent between that instance and this instance? I’ll read it into the record. The member for York Centre, Roman Baber—this is what he said. I quote—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): We are going to refer to the members by their riding names, not their personal names.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member for York Centre, Speaker—I apologize for that—said this: I support “the Premier in his decision to exercise Ontario’s constitutional right to invoke section 33 of the charter. The drafters of the charter purposely inserted section 33 to enable a provincial Legislature to override court decisions when the matter is of significance to a provincial government. The governance of the city of Toronto is one of our government’s top priorities. Use of section 33 will save the Better Local Government Act, which was passed in August by Ontario’s democratically elected Legislature. The bill will end gridlock and delay on city council, allowing us to build transit, fix housing and reduce crime. We believe that it is time to get Toronto back on track.”
That’s the member for York Centre, who just rose and was applauded by the opposition, who had a significant change of heart, apparently, from when he said that he supports the decision to exercise Ontario’s constitutional right to invoke section 33. So a bit of a change of heart from the member for York Centre.
Why time allocation on this? And I don’t want you to think I’m—I’m going to weave it back in, Mr. Speaker. Why, right now, are we talking time allocation? Well, we’re talking time allocation, as I said on Thursday and as has been very clearly and really wonderfully enunciated by the Attorney General, because of the importance of having—imagine this—rules and regulations for people on how they can influence elections in the province of Ontario.
I don’t understand how it is that the opposition could be against rules and regulations governing how third parties interact with the province of Ontario. They must have liked the way it was between 2003 and before any rules were brought in place. I think what we have done here, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, is the Attorney General has really struck an important balance at ensuring that third parties can have a role to play in the elections of the province of Ontario.
It is important for them to have a role to play in the province of Ontario, third parties. That’s why the Attorney General and this Legislature have landed on 12 months and the highest limits in the country—the highest limits in the country: higher than the federal government, higher than any other provincial government—the highest limits in the country, because what we’re doing here is protecting third parties’ rights to be involved in a provincial election. That’s what we’re doing here today. We are actually making it easier and better for third parties to participate in elections, but doing it in a way that is fair and consistent.
And why are we doing time allocation? Because we want to ensure that there are rules where none existed before. Why are the opposition against rules? I don’t know, Mr. Speaker, because they have not once stood in their place to explain why they are against rules, because they know they are offside with the people of the province of Ontario when it comes to that.
Mr. Wayne Gates: We’ll find out in a month.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member for Niagara Falls says we’ll find out in a month. No, we’ll find out on Monday, because I’m hoping that this Legislature will pass this legislation which puts in place the rules that they are opposed to, Speaker. I’m not willing to wait a month, like the member for Niagara Falls seems to be willing to do, to put in place rules that govern elections.
We have rules in place for what we can spend in elections in this place. We all have rules, financing issues that we all have to follow; rules with how much donations can be made; rules of what you can spend in an election. We all present our financial returns to Elections Ontario finances to ensure that it’s done properly. The reason we do that is so that we can have fair elections.
Now, is it true that we can spend more than the opposition? Well, clearly, we can. Clearly, we can, Speaker. There’s no point in me suggesting we can’t. Clearly, the people of Ontario have shown through fundraising that we are able to raise more funds from the people of the province of Ontario who support the decisions that we are making than the opposition parties combined. But we follow rules to ensure that elections are done fairly so that no one party can use that advantage to swamp out somebody else or another party’s ability to do it.
We’ve actually even returned the per-vote subsidy because we knew, and it’s quite obvious, that the opposition parties were having no ability to raise funds, partly because of COVID. This will, of course, fill that gap for them so that they can actually run a province-wide campaign. It fills that gap for them, the per-vote subsidy, bringing that back, so that a campaign can be fair.
So why, again, would you be against this? As I said, I was here all night Friday, Speaker. I was here all night Friday, and I listened—and I want to really congratulate and commend all of the members of the Conservative caucus, because they wanted to be up, they wanted to speak to this motion. There was so much that they had to say, but we came to the decision that we were going to allow the opposition to fill that time, because we were hoping to get to what it was that they were concerned about, Speaker.
So we sat, partially because the Attorney General had done such an amazing job in explaining why this was needed. Really, after the Attorney General spoke and laid out the consequences, laid out where we had come from, why it was that we were doing this, why we were moving as quickly as we possibly could to fill that gap, to act on the things that were in the ruling, I think that really encompassed a lot of what we wanted to say. But we made the decision that we were going to allow the opposition the opportunity to give us suggestions, give us alternatives, specifically tell us what in the bill they didn’t like that maybe they didn’t get out in committee. We knew, as a party—
Mr. Ian Arthur: The “notwithstanding” clause.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The member for Kingston, again, says “the ‘notwithstanding’ clause.” I never knew that the opposition was so against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I didn’t know that they were so against the Constitution of Canada until this very moment. To hear the members opposite talk the charter down, to talk the Constitution of this country down is shocking to me. It is absolutely shocking to me.
To suggest that the Constitution and the charter are unimportant documents in how a government should operate is stunning to me. It is one of the most disappointing things. It has energized me to make sure that we continue to uphold the principles of parliamentary democracy, to uphold the Constitution of this country, to defend and protect the Charter of Rights. In my office, of course, I have a copy of the Charter of Rights. I have a copy of the Bill of Rights. You will know that Prime Minister Diefenbaker started the protections of people in this country when he brought in the Bill of Rights, Mr. Speaker.
But I’ll go back to before the member for Kingston interrupted. So we waited. We waited all night. Were we going to hear anything? Speaker after speaker after speaker rose in their place. We didn’t hear a word from the Leader of the Opposition. We didn’t hear a word from the Liberal Party. As I said the other day, the reason we didn’t hear from the Liberal Party is because he was thrown out of office, but still, we didn’t hear a word from him. We didn’t hear a word from even one of the—I will take that back. One member of the NDP rose to make some suggestions. In a full night of speeches, one member rose—I believe it was the member for York South–Weston, if I’m not mistaken, who rose and spoke about the bill, spoke about certain things that he wanted, but the rest of them had nothing to offer. In today’s debate on time allocation? Nothing to offer.
The courts, again, have said that limits—and again, if I’m wrong, the Attorney General can interrupt me. The court decision said that limits are reasonable and important. The Chief Electoral Officer, prior to this, had said how important it was that we have limits in place, that we cannot continue to have a Wild West when it comes to third parties. The court confirmed that it is constitutionally okay and necessary in the functioning of a proper democracy to have these limits in place, which also then come with rules. Did we hear any of that from the opposition, to suggest changes? No.
So they ask, “Why time allocation?” Well, given the ability for the opposition to spend hours unilaterally debating something while members from this side sat and listened to their concerns and their comments, without putting up speakers, no matter how badly they wanted to go—we knew that this was a debate that had to come from the opposition first and foremost, after the Attorney General had laid out the government’s guiding principles of why it was so important. We also had had this in front of this Legislature in the spring, culminating in a final vote; I believe it was in August, Mr. Speaker.
So why the use of time allocation? Well, the use of time allocation, Mr. Speaker, will help us do what I said we wanted to do on Thursday, seizing on what the Attorney General had also said. The judge voided—I’m not sure if that’s the correct terminology—the decision, so there is no law in place right now. There is no law in place right now in the province of Ontario—
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Go back to the old one.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Well, there, the member for London–Fanshawe has gotten her voice, finally, because in five hours of debate, now we learn that the NDP have moved to that the old law is what they want in place. In committee, they fought for three months, Speaker. In this House, over five and a half hours of debate unilaterally ceded to the opposition, did they say “the old law”? Again, colleagues, if anyone can correct me, on both sides of the House, then they can.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Please make your comments through the Chair.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Through you, to all of my colleagues: If anybody can correct me on that, then by all means, please do. But now we’re hearing a new proposal by the NDP that it should be the old law, so they’ve now changed their mind from what they fought for at committee—three months, for no rules—to now being the old law, which of course doesn’t exist, Mr. Speaker.
We’re hearing members of the opposition suggest that the Canadian Constitution and the charter should be ignored; that section 33 is not a valid tool that should be used, that somehow the supremacy of Parliament isn’t something that should guide us in how we undertake our roles as parliamentarians; that somehow, fairness of elections and ensuring that we can all run elections in a fair fashion is not important, Mr. Speaker. Well, I say to you: It is. That is why we are here.
Now, when you think about why elections and why time allocation—why do we want to get this done as quickly as possible, Speaker? I would submit to you that it is important for us to look at some of the things that have been accomplished by governments when they are elected. If you look at, for instance, what this government has been able to accomplish, the opposition—and I think it’s relevant to debate, Speaker, and I’ll tell you why it’s relevant to debate, because the opposition today in debate on time allocation—I just want to assure you of the relevance. I’ve listened to a number of speakers talk about, “We should be talking about health care. We should be talking about long-term care. We should be talking about the environment.” A number of speakers have brought that into the debate today and the other night as well, Mr. Speaker. I believe it to be relevant to this. I think that given the fact that it has been brought up by many of the members opposite, it is something we should talk about.
Speaker, when you talk about health care, in the context of what the members opposite talked about, in 2018, even before the election, this was a party that was focused on health care. We had suggested that we had to end hallway health care once and for all. We didn’t really know the scope of what we were about to inherit when we came to office. We didn’t stop talking about health care. We haven’t put it on the back burner. In fact, from day 1, we moved quickly on health care.
One of the first things that we started to do, of course, was look at our health care system and how can it be transitioned. The Minister of Health, working with her colleagues, looking at all of the best advice that we have, started to move Ontario to a system of Ontario health teams. Now, colleagues, why did we do that? We did that because what we heard from people was that accessing their health care system in the province of Ontario, whether it was long-term care, whether it was home care, whether it was doctors connecting with each other, was incredibly difficult, but once you got into the system, then the quality of care was second to none. The quality of care that our doctors and nurses were giving us and our hospitals were giving us was second to none. So we started to move to Ontario health teams right from the beginning. The opposition was opposed to that.
We’ve spent three years talking about this and moving there even in the absence of the opposition’s support for those measures. It’s relevant, of course, because that’s what five hours of debate and this afternoon’s time allocation has been focused on.
The member for, I believe, maybe it’s Kitchener, or it might have even been Kingston and the Islands, talked about long-term care in the context of this time allocation motion today: “Why aren’t we talking about that?” Well, Speaker, of course, when we were elected, we knew that you can’t fix hallway health care and you can’t fix health care unless you put in place a plan to fix long-term care. That is obvious.
Now, that was obvious to us. It should have been obvious to the previous Liberal administration, who built, I think it was, about 600 beds in their time; of course, part of that time supported by the NDP colleagues. Just to backtrack a little bit, you’ll remember that between 2011 and 2014, the NDP had gained the balance power and never talked about long-term care, never talked about health care, never talked about transit and transportation, never talked about education. They rolled over and supported the Liberals in whatever they wanted to do.
We knew that we had to fix long-term care in the province of Ontario. That’s why we moved extremely quickly to build long-term-care beds. In my riding in July, a brand new long-term-care facility will open its doors, the Mon Sheong facility—a great facility. It’ll be one of the first of the new ones built. I’m extremely happy about that. But we’re on our way to building 30,000 new long-term-care spaces in the province of Ontario. We started that in 2018, during a pandemic and we will continue that after the pandemic, Speaker. We have not stopped talking about long-term care.
Hon. Monte McNaughton: We’re doing it.
Hon. Paul Calandra: Exactly. As the Minister of Labour says, we’re doing it. We’re fixing health care. We’re fixing long-term care. We aren’t stopping talking about it; we’re actually getting it done.
Members raised concerns in their speeches on Saturday morning with respect to we’re not talking about transportation and transit issues and the real issues with respect to housing that people are facing across the province of Ontario. We haven’t stopped talking about it; we’re actually fixing it.
Now, between 2011 and 2014 when, again, the NDP had the balance of power, supporting a Liberal government, to their credit, they did a few things on transit and transportation. I’m not going to say otherwise. But they didn’t make the difficult decisions with respect to improving transit and transportation networks that will keep our economy booming and keep our economy growing throughout the GTHA and across the province of Ontario. They didn’t make the difficult decisions. Of course, we didn’t stop talking about it. This motion hasn’t stopped us talking about it; we’re actually doing it. That’s why we are bringing in one of the largest investments in the history of this province for a new subway build ever.
And it’s not just subways throughout the GTHA. Finally, my community will have access to a subway up into Markham and into Richmond Hill. Finally, we will have access to that. We will have the relief line that has been so important to the people of Toronto. It’s not just a relief line, though; it’s an entirely new line going to new places, bringing subways all the way up to the Ontario Science Centre—a connected network, Mr. Speaker, that we have never had before.
Part of that decision—because many of the members talked about this on Saturday—is housing, what we call transit-oriented communities, and building housing around these transportation networks. Why would you build housing around transportation networks, colleagues? Because when you make it easier for people to get to their jobs, it makes it more affordable to live in a community—iIt makes it more affordable.
Now, you would have thought, after 15 years and four Liberal administrations and one Liberal-NDP administration, they would have figured it out, they would have done it and we wouldn’t have to be talking about it in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. It would have been done, you would have thought. You would have thought, in the context of the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign government, that there would have been the best health care system, that there would have been the best transit system, that there would have been the best long-term-care system. No, none of those issues were done.
Many of the members talked about the environment. I know it’s central to the member for Kingston and the Islands. Many of them talked about, “Why aren’t we talking about the environment?” Well, again, if you look at the Liberal record on the environment—what’s the Liberal record on the environment, Mr. Speaker? Again, we haven’t stopped talking about it. We started talking about it in 2018, we continue to talk about it, and we’ll continue after this time allocation debate. But because it has been raised in the context of the speeches Saturday and again today in time allocation debate, let’s look at what we’ve accomplished.
It was Premiers Harris and Eves who made the decision to close the coal-fired electricity generating plants in the province of Ontario. It was those two Premiers, Conservative Premiers, who made that decision. It was those Premiers who made the decision to fund and ensure that we could get Bruce Power back up and running, the nuclear power station back up and running, to ensure that it was providing cheap, reliable, safe energy to the people of the province of Ontario, and they have done a remarkable job.
The Liberals, of course, wanted to close Pickering, which is also providing clean, safe, reliable energy to the people of province of Ontario. Our members in the extended area, from Durham, of course the member for Scarborough–Rouge Park, the members for Whitby, Ajax, Pickering–Uxbridge—our members fought to ensure that that station and the thousands of jobs that came with it, the thousands of dollars in economic activity that go around it, but equally and more importantly, a station that could provide us with clean, reliable energy, continued to provide those resources, despite the fact that the opposition wanted to close that down.
It was a Conservative government that made progress on the environment in the province of Ontario. Liberals do what they do best: power, not progress. For them, it’s power, not progress; power, not governing. They dined off of it. The results are better for all the people of the province. And that’s fine, but it was a Conservative government that accomplished that task.
It was a Conservative government that brought in socialized health care. It was a Conservative government that gave the province of Ontario its first subways. It was a Conservative government that made the investments in nuclear technology that have made us one of the cleanest energy-producing regions in the entire world. It was a Conservative government that brought in all of the environmental protections that were sorely missing for a number of years. It was a Conservative government that gave us the college system in the province of Ontario. It was a Conservative government that put our universities on solid footing and allowed them to grow and expand, Mr. Speaker. That is the record of Conservative governments. That can only be done, I would submit, when the foundation of your parliamentary democracy is strong and when the rules that govern how you elect those of us who get the honour and the privilege of serving in this place are fair.
I’m not going to come up here in this place today—and I know the Attorney General would never bring forward a bill to suggest that we should take away, as the opposition is suggesting, the rules on how political parties spend during elections. We would fight that tooth and nail on this side of the House, despite the fact that the opposition seems to be suggesting that there should be no rules with respect to how that is done.
If you believe that rules making elections and candidates, and how they are done, should be fair, then you must naturally believe that the same applies to third parties that want to influence elections. If you believe that third parties have an important role to play in a democracy, which they do, then you have to believe that ensuring access, as this bill does, at the highest levels in the country—then you have to believe that it is important that we have these rules in place.
Let me just close with this. As I said on Thursday, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that this bill passes Monday. We cannot and will not allow a system where there are no accountability measures, there are no rules in place. It is too fundamental to our democracy to allow anything short of that.
I commend the Attorney General for moving so quickly on this, and I hope that the opposition Liberals and NDP will consider how important it is to have that.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the debate.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The government House leader has moved the adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
There will be a requirement for a division. I will ask the Clerks to please prepare the lobbies. The members will have 30 minutes to vote.
The division bells rang from 1503 to 1533.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The vote on the government House leader’s motion to adjourn the debate has taken place.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 77; the nays are 0.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The ayes being 77—
Hon. Paul Calandra: Other way around.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The nays being 77; the ayes being 0—
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The nays being 77 and the ayes being 0, I declare the motion lost.
Pursuant to standing order 50(b), I am now required to put the question.
Ms. Khanjin has moved government notice of motion number 114, relating to the allocation of time on Bill 307, An Act to amend the Election Finances Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
A recorded vote being required—
Interjection: Same vote.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Same vote?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Orders of the day? The government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: No further business.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): There being no further business at this time, this House stands adjourned until Monday, June 14, at 10:15 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1536.