Monday 22 June 1998
Prevention of Unionization Act (Ontario Works), 1998, Bill 22, Mrs Ecker,
Loi de 1998 visant à empêcher la syndicalisation (programme Ontario au travail),
projet de loi 22, Mme Ecker
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Mr Peter Paulekatt
Mr Ian Thompson
Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Ms Leah Casselman
Coalition for a Public Inquiry into the Death of Dudley George
Father Barry McGrory
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Chair / Président
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia PC)
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South / -Sud L)
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold ND)
Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge PC)
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming L)
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte PC)
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough PC)
Mr Bob Wood (London South / -Sud PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie PC)
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York PC)
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich L)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel
Avrum Fenson, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1600 in room 228.
PREVENTION OF UNIONIZATION ACT (ONTARIO WORKS), 1998 LOI DE 1998 VISANT À EMPÊCHER LA SYNDICALISATION (PROGRAMME ONTARIO AU TRAVAIL)
Consideration of Bill 22, An Act to Prevent Unionization with respect to Community Participation under the Ontario Works Act, 1997 / Projet de loi 22, Loi visant à empêcher la syndicalisation en ce qui concerne la participation communautaire visée par la Loi de 1997 sur le programme Ontario au travail.
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
The Chair (Mr Jerry J. Ouellette): I call the standing committee on administration of justice to order. We're here to listen to presentations on Bill 22.
We call our first presenters, the Canadian Union of Public Employees. If you could come forward and identify yourselves for Hansard, we would appreciate it. Just so you know, there's a total of 30 minutes in presentation time. At the conclusion of your presentation, any time remaining is divided equally between the three caucuses. You may begin.
Mr Peter Paulekatt: My name is Peter Paulekatt. I'm the chairperson of the social services coordinating committee for CUPE Ontario. With me is Ian Thompson. He's the national representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
I'd like to say that we're pleased to have the opportunity to do a presentation to the committee today on the Prevention of Unionization Act.
A little bit about the social services coordinating committee as a jurisdiction: We represent workers who work with the vulnerable in our society. Our committee represents workers who work in workplaces such as children's aid societies, associations for community living, child care centres, municipal social service programs and a whole variety of community social service agencies which provide support for the disadvantaged in our society. Our committee represents nearly 14,000 of those workers in Ontario.
We have to begin by saying that, in our view, this act is a fraud and these hearings are, by implication, fraudulent in nature. The act purports to correct a situation that was created during the course of the passage of Bill 142, the Ontario Works Act. In that act, there were sections which attempted to limit the rights of workfare participants to what most of us would deem to be normal protections in the workplace. However, during the course of debate, some of the government backbenchers, in an act that can only be described as one of the greatest acts of Gandhian passive resistance in recent memory, declined to vote in support of that particular section of the act. That exempted workfare participants from normal legislative protections under the Labour Relations Act and related legislation. Clearly, the odiousness of the bill offended even them. Why, then, the reintroduction of the section that exempted workfare participants from the right to join unions, we ask?
It must be noted that at this time not one workfare participant has been unionized. Perhaps it is the absence of unionized workfare participants that is causing the government concern; the bill is simply an attempt to flag the availability and desirability of unionization and, in due time, they will withdraw the bill, smile gleefully, announce that it was just a joke to get people's attention and a little bit of media for themselves and move on to some more creative social policy legislation.
On a more serious note, it may simply be to mask the fact that the community placement portion of Ontario Works, workfare, has been a complete failure and the government has a need to blame someone else for the failure of one of the cornerstones of the Common Sense Lie. To date, there have been fewer than 1,000 community placements. In some communities, Ontario Works participants are being asked to self-declare voluntary placements which will then count as the fulfilment of their Ontario Works obligations. This obviously shows the lack of a need for a mandatory and punitive program of workfare and paints a dramatically different picture from the Premier's picture of beer-swilling, cigarette-smoking pregnant moms.
We recognize that most welfare recipients want meaningful work that leads to long-term career employment opportunities. Workfare simply is not a means to achieve that. The minister, in her comments to this committee, said, and I quote: "People on welfare want to work. They want to become self-sufficient. Until recently, the welfare system did not provide them with the kinds of practical assistance to achieve the objective." We agree with this statement. Where our view differs from the minister's is that the failure of the system to provide practical assistance for welfare recipients to obtain employment has more to do with the lack of supports provided for in the program than the rules of the program. Rather than correcting the resource problem or the employment situation, the minister seems to think that some impractical edict in the tradition of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" will solve the problem.
Why, then, these hearings? I understand that they are scheduled for some eight days, which by our recollection is a more substantive amount of hearing time than accorded to any other piece of recent government legislation. In fact, other significant attacks on the rights of unionized workers were not afforded any public consultation at all. Why eight days for a bill of such a few short pages?
Again we can only speculate. It would appear, however, that the government intends to use this opportunity to attempt to demonize unions, CUPE in particular. This is obvious in the minister's address to this committee where she cites our opposition to the program no less than three separate times.
It is also clear from her remarks that she has no substantive objection to workfare participants being unionized, except the continued active opposition of unions to the program and the need of her government to silence opposition to the program. It would appear that the government needs to stifle opposition and pound anyone who stands in opposition to its policies into the ground.
Workfare has failed because of a widespread opposition in local communities and because of a large coalition of union, community agencies and welfare recipients who have banded together and convinced the community to reject this program.
Third, apparently and sadly, we must suggest that one of the reasons for these hearings is to prevent a public inquiry into the shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park and the government's involvement in this situation.
Clearly, then, this is an action in an attempt to pervert the democratic process to prevent a public examination of their actions in that situation. One can only wonder what they are hiding so desperately that they would give people like us a platform on which to speak for half an hour when their tradition has been to go to extraordinary lengths to keep us silenced.
I would like to speak substantively on the content of the bill itself. The bill is repugnant in its total application and should be withdrawn in its totality. It flies directly in the face of rights of freedom of association and rights of equal treatment under the law that most of us take for granted. It demonizes and stigmatizes the poor in completely unnecessary ways.
Second, it and the government misunderstand in a very fundamental way one of the principal benefits of unionization, that is, the right to have a say in the workplace about the way it is operated, the way you are treated and the conditions under which you work. Unions provide that fundamental benefit and a protection for the people who exercise those rights. That group of people has brought into the workplace improved health and safety, equal treatment for women and men, and some measure of equality for people of colour, first nations peoples and gay and lesbian workers. Those same unions have brought reduced hours of work, sick pay and better vacation provisions.
Workplace democracy is a right that is protected and nourished by unions. Why would this government want to deny it to some of the poorest and most downtrodden of our citizens? Again I must ask, is this a way to stifle opposition to the program and to silence potential advocates for workfare participants?
The government may say that they have adequate protections built into the Ontario Works program guidelines. We know from our observations in the community that this is not true.
Despite having guidelines which suggest that workfare participants not do work that had previously been done as paid employment within the past two years, we know from some of the few examples of workfare placements that in fact they have not followed their own guidelines. In Cornwall, for example, we have had workfare placements replace student jobs at a local marina, replace workers who had worked for a local recycling company and replace a receptionist at a local social service agency.
It has been difficult to monitor workfare placements because of the virtual total secrecy surrounding the placements and the government's propensity to mislead the public by only releasing aggregate data of the total Ontario Works recipients. One of the encouraging things has been that the program has been greeted with such repugnance by the community that in several areas large numbers of social and community agencies have passed resolutions at their board level indicating that they will not accept any workfare placements.
We want to turn now to the recipients themselves. The government has chosen to expand the workfare component of Ontario Works to include some of the most vulnerable people in the program, specifically single parents. While all the clients of the program are vulnerable, this group has a particular vulnerability because of their need to support their children. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the exploitation of unscrupulous employers who now hold the lives of their children, as well as their lives, in the palms of their hands. It is true that there exist some appeal mechanisms and some protections, but these are clearly inadequate and not sufficiently calming to ease the minds of potential victims. Case workers responsible for monitoring these cases are badly overworked and carry extraordinary workloads. We notice that the appeal process is in flux, with changes to the Social Assistance Review Board. We do have great concern about the vulnerability of these people.
We in CUPE have been conducting a series of public hearings around the province, entitled Making Children a Priority. During the course of these hearings we have heard from many of the potential single-parent victims of the workfare program. This dialogue has reinforced for us the risk that these parents are at under the new Ontario Works program.
I would like to share with you a few anecdotes from the forums that may bring this message home to you. We heard from a single-parent father how, at the end of each month, he has to choose whether to buy food or to do laundry for himself and his daughter. He also told us how when he chooses the prime imperative -- buying food -- he has had the children's aid society called because his daughter is wearing dirty clothes. Putting aside for a moment all of the horrendous implications of the program's inadequacy for this family, do you really think this man will be in a position to complain about a dangerous or exploitive employer and risk being cut off of assistance for himself and his daughter while he fights through the process?
We heard from a food bank in Thunder Bay that is feeding 220 children four meals a month to allow their parents to stretch their inadequate incomes to simply feed their children. Realize also that this is only one of a number of food banks in Thunder Bay and that the total population of Thunder Bay is only about 120,000 people. Do you honestly believe these parents will risk the health and wellbeing of their children to complain about an employer who sexually harasses them or an employer who ignores basic health and safety rules?
We heard from a soup kitchen in Sault Ste Marie that is feeding 200 children daily; again, the population of Sault Ste Marie is only about 80,000 people. We also heard of drugstores in that community that have put signs above their displays of baby formula saying, "Theft is a crime and you will be prosecuted." Does the government realize the stress and anxiety caused by the inadequacy of their income supplement program? Does it realize the additional stress caused by forcing welfare recipients into dead-end, make-work projects such as this? Do they care?
The minister has often been heard to say that since her party came into power the welfare rolls have dropped by over 100,000 people, but can she tell us where those people have gone, or is it safe for us to conclude that the stories about abject poverty and the immense desperation we have heard during the course of our forums in Windsor, Kingston, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Hamilton represent the truth about the decline?
The minister mentioned in her remarks to this committee that the problem with previous programs of social assistance was that they were "excessively generous." We say, shame on her. Her approach seems to force people to the edge of desperation, force them to live on the streets, force them and their children to go hungry, and when they complain, to attack them with legislation that takes away basic and fundamental rights. Her government has gone even further to capitalize on the worst stereotypes for shallow political gains.
Unionization, or the potential for unionization, would be an effective monitor on the behaviour of employers who accept workfare placements. It would guarantee workfare participants access to trained and effective advocates. It would ensure that they had a say in their workplaces about issues like sexual harassment, health and safety, and other essential conditions of the workplace. It would ensure that they have a small modicum of protection. It is perhaps because of this government's fear of effective opposition that they need this bill. They need to silence the opposition so they can continue to run roughshod over the rights of the poor of this province.
A bill -- this bill -- which takes away even that small potential for protection is odious in conception and repugnant in its design and should be rejected in its totality by this Legislature and by this committee. In a democratic society, all attacks on democracy, democratic rights and institutions should be resisted with great vigour.
We do feel, however, that there are alternatives. We are in favour of policies that encourage the creation of decently paid and relatively secure jobs. We are in favour of voluntary, publicly delivered educational and training programs to assist people to get these jobs. There were waiting lists under previous government programs that assisted people to find employment. We see the provision of a high-quality, publicly regulated child care system as a condition to helping people join the workforce.
CUPE, the Ontario Social Safety Network and other groups have recommended that any programs must be governed by certain principles, including the following: People must not be forced to take part in such programs; training should be paid and work expenses should be recovered, including clothing and transportation costs; good child care must be provided; any training must be useful; mentoring and training that can lead to genuine employment should be part of any program; programs must not eliminate jobs or potential jobs; people working in programs must be paid a fair living wage; participants should be covered by labour legislation, including employment standards, health and safety, workers' compensation and human rights laws; people who lose their benefits must be able to appeal to an independent tribunal; programs should not be started unless resources are available to do them properly.
If there are any questions, Ian Thompson will be pleased to field them.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. That affords us approximately four minutes per caucus. We begin with the official opposition.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Thanks for your presentation today. I'm curious to know where you were able to come up with the figure on page 3: "To date there have been fewer than 1,000 community placements." How were you able to obtain that information?
Mr Ian Thompson: In CUPE we represent almost all of the municipal delivery sites provincially and we've been running an informal survey of our membership for about the past six to eight months, to monitor. We can't swear that it is absolutely accurate, but we're quite confident that the people who are on the ground delivering the program know exactly what's happening, and that's the information they're giving back to us.
Mrs Pupatello: Would that include those from local areas who are placed in what some are calling, "Well, it's not really workfare, but it's as close to workfare as we're prepared to get and we're placing them there," in communities that are running programs like that? Is that included in the 1,000?
Mr Thompson: That figure includes people who are forced into a community placement, as opposed to people who are registered or people who have substituted voluntary self-directed placements for their obligations under workfare.
Mrs Pupatello: So that does include their self-directed voluntary placements?
Mr Thompson: Yes.
Mrs Pupatello: I just wanted your comment on the purpose of this bill coming to this committee. You had a very interesting take on what happened at committee last November when the government members neglected to vote on a certain subsection, namely number 73, which is now number 73 in this Bill 22. We submit that using the same government figure of $100,000 per hour for debate in the House, the government's wasted about seven hours or $700,000, not including committee time and all of the travel time etc. We're looking at closer to $1 million in costs because of a nap, essentially, at committee last November.
I'm looking for your opinion. We in opposition have often been accused of wasting the money and time of taxpayers. I find it incredible that the government members have not stepped forward and said, "Yes, this was our fault. We fell asleep. We didn't pass the subsection," and have turned instead to make this another union-bashing bill to take around Ontario.
Mr Thompson: I think it's interesting. Somewhat tongue in cheek, obviously, we've taken a lighter approach to Mr Wood's behaviour. To be fair to him, we weren't in the House and didn't see whether he was sleeping or not. Maybe he just enjoyed the opportunity to resist a bad piece of legislation. Maybe that's too optimistic. Clearly, the cost of hearings like this, when there is no intention to make any serious change in the act -- to schedule, as I understand, eight days is a horrendous cost to the taxpayer. It seems, given the title of the act, particularly directed at stigmatizing unions. The Prevention of Unionization Act is an astounding title for an act. You don't even see acts like that in Third World countries that have repressive governments that make concerted attacks on unions.
The other thing -- and I think it's very real -- is that I understand that had these committee hearings not taken place, a standing order of the House would have required this committee to hear testimony about Dudley George. That family deserves a hearing, and to pervert that by some legislative gamesmanship, which is what's happened, is really shocking and quite disgusting.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): You should also know that a similar standing order 124 request was put to the standing committee on social development, which heard Bill 142, before which this bill would be more appropriately put because this is an amendment to Bill 142. That required the Chair to call a subcommittee meeting. Of course, members of the subcommittee are members of their respective caucuses. We're all paid to do our job here and we do them, one would like to think, as best we can in our own respective ways, but to subvert a consideration of that standing order 124 request, the Conservative member of the subcommittee simply refused to attend or have an alternate appointed.
His laziness, his slothfulness, his indifference regarding parliamentary tradition, his disdain for the George family, his eagerness to suck up to the Premier and cover the Premier's ass on the issue of the Dudley George shooting -- and obviously following marching orders, that Tory member of the standing committee on social development simply refused to show up or appoint an alternate, which you can do and which we've all done from time to time in the normal course. By doing that, he knew that the subcommittee then couldn't consider the request. That person is the most despicable form of so-called parliamentarian that could ever exist. To abdicate his responsibilities to subvert an individual member's right, as was our right under standing order 124 -- I suppose you want to know who that member of that subcommittee was.
Mr Thompson: That would be very interesting to know.
Mr Kormos: I'm told it was Jack Carroll.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thanks for an excellent presentation. Obviously, you've taken a lot of time to look at what's going on in this bill.
I don't know what Mr Boushy's laughing about over there.
Mr Christopherson: Maybe that's it.
It was an excellent presentation. I particularly like the idea that you've analysed why they are doing this. I think too that we should look at why they didn't play games with the name of this bill. In the past, when they were doing something awful to people, they've always called it something else. When they've attacked unions in the past they'd say they were improving labour relations for workers. They had no compunction about that sort of misleading titling. This time they come right out and say, An Act to Prevent Unionization with respect to Community Participation. You've got to wonder if what's really going on here, and another reason there's eight days, is that they like this messaging. They want to get it out there that they're going after welfare people.
Remember what the ads were like in the last election when they came out and made them a target, scapegoating that group? I wonder if they're not just delighted that all of this is happening because again they're planning to scapegoat people on social assistance in the next election. It's the only thing I can think of.
In that regard, I hope you'll allow me this. I'd like to ask the parliamentary assistant whether it's the position of the government that, having passed this bill, no one on workfare would be able to join a union, period, under the Constitution.
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): The bill clearly outlines that the prohibition about joining a union only relates to their activities regarding Ontario Works. If they are members of a union for some other reason, that's not an issue.
Mr Christopherson: No, I understand that. But the bill basically exempts workfare participants from anything under the LRA. I'm asking you, in light of that, is it the government's position -- I'm asking for the government's position, not yours personally -- that in defending in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, if it ever came to that, is the government contending that no one has the right to join a union, period, under the Constitution if they participate in workfare?
Mr Carroll: As you ask the question to me, I would say no.
Mr Christopherson: No what? No, they're not prevented from joining a union under the Constitution?
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Christopherson. We need to move on to the government members.
Mr Christopherson: Chair, if that's true, then this is all just feeding into hate literature. All you're doing is promoting hate.
The Chair: Order, please. Thank you, Mr Christopherson. We move to the government members.
Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): Thank you. I find the presentation interesting. I came this morning from York region and at another function I was approached by a Mr Dick Illingworth, who is a journalist. Certainly not known to be a proponent of our government, he approached me and said that he had just finished doing an interview for Shaw Cable on the workfare program in York region. Following his interview of workers and the social services director there, he was able to report that as a result of the workfare program in York region, which really has only been functioning for a matter now of about five months officially, I believe, more than 1,000 people had been moved through that program and had found jobs. These are 1,000 people who were welfare recipients who today have jobs as a result of that.
I find it interesting when I read your submission that it's full of claims of the disastrous results of this program. I have a question for you. On page 6 at the top, the very first line says, "During the course of these hearings we have heard from many of the potential single-parent victims of the workfare program." I'm sure you inserted the word "potential" there for some reason. Could it be that you were not able to say that you have heard from many single-parent victims of the workfare program because there are none, so you had to use the word "potential" because in fact there are many single-parent success stories under the workfare program across the province? Why did you have to insert the word "potential"?
Mr Thompson: We put the word "potential" in because the program to date in the communities we were -- and we had more than 120 presentations from community groups during the course of those hearings -- hadn't fully managed to -- well, people were registered for community placements and that's where I think the figures that you're providing us from York region are probably misleading.
Mr Klees: In other words, you have no victims to point to under the workfare program, because the fact of the matter is that across this province there are individuals who have come forward to us who are not potential people who have found work but actual people who have found work. That is the fact.
Mr Thompson: We used the word "potential" because the program has not been able to find sufficient community placements to place those people in, and the number of actual community placements I believe is accurately reflected by the material that we've got back from our locals and the people who are delivering the service. That would fall far short of the 1,000 that you cite in York region.
Mr Klees: Is it not true that one of the reasons there are more places in the community to put people into community placement opportunities is because of the threats, the kind which you refer to in your submission today, that you and your organization and others like you are out there actually intimidating employers, intimidating not-for-profit agencies, suggesting that they would be forcing people to do things that they're not? Isn't that the case?
Mr Thompson: I think what's happened is that we've been able to convince large segments of the community to reject workfare and --
Mr Klees: Let me tell you something, sir: In the opinion of this government --
Mr Kormos: I want to hear the rest of his answer.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Klees: -- you're precisely right.
Mr Kormos: I want to hear his answer.
Mr Klees: I didn't interrupt, Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: I want to hear his answer.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Klees: I didn't interrupt, Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: You were interrupting this gentleman.
Mr Klees: No, I got the answer I wanted. The answer I got was that he and his group are in fact intimidating people not to participate in the program. I think that's disgusting. I think it's unconscionable.
The Chair: Mr Klees, thank you.
Mr Klees: It's against the people of this province this program is intended to serve.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Klees.
The Chair: Order, please. If we can have one speaker, we can try to maintain order.
Your time has expired, Mr Klees.
Mr Klees: It expired because of Mr Kormos, Chair.
The Chair: Actually, no it had not.
Mrs Pupatello: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I think you can probably agree that the committee members ought not to be badgering people who take the time to come and speak to us.
Mr Klees: Oh, stuff it.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Kormos: Chair, on the same point of order.
Mrs Pupatello: No, Chair, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the behaviour of any committee member of any party who engages in this kind of badgering and then tells another committee member to stuff it. It's on the record now. I just want your opinion. Are you going to give any kind of ruling in terms of behaviour of committee members?
Mr Klees: Let's have one on Mrs Pupatello's performance in this committee as well while you're at it, Chair.
The Chair: Order, please, Mr Klees. Okay, we will hear all discussion on this --
Mr Klees: I'd like a commentary on Ms Pupatello's performance.
The Chair: One moment, please. I'd like to thank the members for presenting here. We will continue this discussion after I have thanked these people. Thank you very much for coming forward to make your presentation today. We very much appreciate hearing that.
Now, to continue, Mr Klees has the floor and then I will approach Mr Kormos.
Mr Klees: Chair, I'm absolutely happy for you to make a ruling on the very issue that Ms Pupatello brought forward. What I would like, though, in the context of that is that I would like you as Chair to review Hansard and to review the conduct of Ms Pupatello over the course of the last two years --
Mrs Pupatello: You've never heard language from me like yours.
Mr Klees: -- her language, her conduct, her disposition towards people who have come forward to make their presentation to this and other committees. I would like to know --
The Chair: Order, Ms Pupatello, please.
Mr Klees, what's happening here is that I am hearing discussion the same point of order as Mr Kormos had, before we had another interjection.
Mr Klees: Chair, I will abide by whatever your ruling is, and if your ruling is requiring me to withdraw that comment, I'm happy to do that. At the same time, I would ask you to review the conduct of Ms Pupatello, which on many occasions has been affront to the work that this committee and other committees have tried to do. It's been an affront to presenters, and I would ask that you make that presentation at the same time.
The Chair: Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: I don't know what "badgering a witness" means, with all due respect, because the only place I've ever heard that word is on American television shows. I've been in many courtrooms in Canada in a variety of roles; I've never heard it in Canadian courtrooms. I have no qualms about anybody aggressively pursuing a participant. That isn't my quarrel -- again, within common sense.
Mr Thompson is quite capable; I would have given Mr Klees 10 more minutes with him. However, to not let the respondent to a question answer -- you see, in my respectful submission that's what you can't do. You can't stop the respondent midway through their answer saying, "That's as much as I wanted to hear." If you ask the question, you get the answer at your own peril.
That's why, quite frankly, I express concern about Mr Klees. Mr Thompson was carrying through with his answer and Mr Klees clearly had heard enough. It doesn't work that way. You put your two bucks down, you get what you pay for. It's not a money-back return here. That's my position, Chair. I don't know what the heck badgering is. As I say, I've only heard that on TV. But aggressive questioning, I have no qualms about. I think it's appropriate. Mr Thompson can take it. I would have given Mr Klees 15 more minutes with him.
The Chair: First of all, any further discussion on that?
Mr Klees: Yes, Chair. I'd like to just add to that. Mr Kormos is welcome to ask his questions in any way that he chooses and I reserve the right to do so as well. If I, in my opinion, have had the answer, which I did in that particular case -- and Hansard will show that the answer that was received here was specifically to my question. I wasn't interested in hearing anything beyond that and I wanted to get on to my supplementary question.
Mr Kormos: It doesn't work that way in a courtroom, only Hitler's courtroom.
Mr Klees: You're entitled to conduct your questions any way you choose --
The Chair: We've heard enough discussion.
Mr Klees: -- and I will do mine.
The Chair: Mr Klees and Mr Kormos, please. Both of you gentlemen have had an opportunity to speak. Now it's my turn, as the Chair.
First of all, there have been two issues brought forward, the first being conduct. There have been a number of times prior to Mr Klees making the statement he did that I did allow -- as such, I will let that statement stand. However, in the future, if I have the indulgence of the committee, I will call all such incidents to order. Okay? Is that understood? That means all parties, because it was not a government member who made the prior comments. I did ask the clerk about the parliamentary acceptability of that and he said there was none, that he did not have a list in front of him that he could comment at that time. However, in the future I will call all of those to order.
Second, the other is the answer on the badgering. As Mr Kormos stated, the position of badgering and what exactly is badgering, to be honest, I was dealing with a number of other issues at the time, nor was I focused on the specifics of your conversation. However, listening to the individuals, the presentations on the issue, I will allow it to continue in the fashion that took place here. However, aggressive questioning that goes beyond the purview of the committee or the bill I will not allow.
Mr Klees: Sure, that's reasonable and fair.
ONTARIO PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION
The Chair: We will now call the next presenter. Thank you for coming forward. I believe you are representatives of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, if you could identify yourselves for Hansard. You have 30 minutes. There is a total of 30 minutes presentation time. At the end of your presentation, any time you have remaining is divided equally between the three caucuses. You may begin, please.
Ms Leah Casselman: Ding, round two. Good afternoon. My name is Leah Casselman and I am president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. With me is Megan Park, a campaign officer with our union.
Thank you for the opportunity to make remarks on Bill 22. This is one of the few chances that we've had in this session to participate in a public review of government legislation. As an aside, it is deeply regrettable that the only reason that we have this opportunity is because of the government's cynical manipulation of legislative process.
Once again, the government has twisted the rules to suit its purposes. Bill 22, An Act to Prevent Unionization with respect to Community Participation under the Ontario Works Act -- and I agree, this is an amazing digression from the procedure; this actually tells the truth. Usually most of their bills are titled to do the opposite to what they want. This should be before the standing committee on social development, one would think, since it's related to the social services field. Instead, we are before you today, and this is because the government wanted to prevent members of this committee from invoking standing order 124 to investigate the government's role in the 1995 murder of Dudley George. The government's coverup of that terrible tragedy continues and we will not be a part of it.
Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Chair.
Ms Casselman: On the matter before us today --
The Chair: One moment, please, Ms Casselman. This will not be deducted from your time.
Mr Klees: Mr Chairman, I would like you to rule on a matter that I think is very important to this committee if we're to get our work done over the next number of sittings, and that is that submissions that are being made are to be focused on the bill that is before us. For members of this committee to hear submissions relating to other matters, whether it be the Dudley George file or any other file, is not appropriate. It's a misuse of this committee's time. I am not interested in hearing what the thoughts might be of a presenter as to why --
Mr Christopherson: Yes, that's true.
Mr Klees: The fact of the matter is that I'm here --
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Klees: We have an order before us --
Mr Christopherson: Bring muzzles.
The Chair: Order, please. Mr Christopherson, you will have your turn. Continue, Mr Klees.
Mr Klees: We have an order before us. This committee has a responsibility to hear submissions on this particular bill, and I would ask you to keep presenters focused on the issue before us.
The Chair: Thank you. Mr Christopherson had a point on the same order and then Ms Pupatello.
Mr Christopherson: Chair, I would just reaffirm that I did see you signal to the presenter that their time has stopped and that this interjection is not taking away --
The Chair: Yes.
Mr Christopherson: I appreciate that, Chair, so I'll respond this way. I think a lot of people are going to make that reference, because quite frankly there's an awful lot of us who oppose this bill, both elected members and the public, who believe that this is part of the motivation. I think it's perfectly in order, Chair, for anyone making a submission to comment on why they think the government is doing what it's doing. I can assure you that we would be very appalled at the very least should you rule that people don't have the right to say why they think the government of the day is doing what it's doing.
The Chair: Ms Pupatello, on the same point of order.
Mrs Pupatello: I guess I need comment from you that in fact most of us agree that this bill does not belong at the justice committee because it's not a justice item. It doesn't deal with the Solicitor General, Attorney General, any of those.
The Chair: You're asking me, and that isn't a decision for the Chair to make.
Mrs Pupatello: I recognize that, but given that it's been given to this committee inappropriately to begin with, it would make our whole discussion of a social development item at this committee completely out of order. So given that it's been sent to the wrong committee to begin with and that government members have refused to address why that's been the case, that as critic for social services I'm sitting in the justice committee, then I think it's completely appropriate that every group that comes to present to us makes comment on the fact they, who are following a social service item, are wondering why they're sitting at the justice committee. I think it's entirely appropriate that they should address it in their presentation.
Mr Kormos: With respect, Chair, and having listened to Mr Klees, Mr Christopherson and Mrs Pupatello, I understand that the Chair is compelled to and will impose the rules of the House (1) on the general proceedings of the committee and (2) in terms of the standards expected of respective members. In other words, I understand that if I were to call the Premier a liar, you would rule me out of order and ask me to withdraw that.
Mr Christopherson: Even though it's true.
Mr Kormos: I understand that if I were to use unparliamentary language with respect to --
The Chair: I would ask Mr Christopherson to withdraw that, please.
Mr Christopherson: Withdraw my comment about the Premier being accused of being a liar as true?
The Chair: Please.
Mr Christopherson: I withdraw it.
Mr Kormos: I think the Chair understands what I'm saying.
The Chair: Yes.
Mr Kormos: I agree that rule applies to those of us who are elected members. However, I don't want to suggest what any -- quite frankly, we have the written submission of OPSEU. That same standard doesn't apply to witnesses. Those rules are imposed upon us because we're members of the Legislative Assembly. A witness can come in here and say whatever he or she wants. Quite frankly, they don't enjoy -- well, no, I'm not sure they don't; they may not enjoy the immunity of a member. They may not. They're here in committee. I'm not going to make a decision on that. That's up to smart lawyers and high-priced legal help to determine should the time come. I'm just using that as an illustration.
I would respectfully submit that the Chair wouldn't have the power to compel a witness, a participant, to conduct himself or herself with the same onerous standard -- can you believe that we would call them "onerous standards" being applied to members of the Legislature? -- and that includes the scope of the comments. Clearly, if a witness were in the wrong room, at the wrong place -- in other words, if this witness were here making reference to some other bill entirely, the Chair might feel compelled to remind the witness that this is the justice committee, which normally hears matters, as Ms Pupatello said, associated with Sol Gen and Attorney General, and say -- look at that, I'll be damned, a quorum call -- to the witness, "No, the committee you're appearing in front of is next door."
However, you've already heard about the extraordinary amount of time that's been given this very brief bill: eight days of hearings. That wasn't done by agreement of House leaders, that was done by order of the government, by edict, because it was in the time allocation motion. There was no agreement on that whatsoever. In fact, both opposition parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, voted against that time allocation motion, which is what determined the eight days.
You've already heard that the eight days are in excess of the days allotted even to Bill 142. You've already heard that the reason for this bill, at least on one part, was because the Tories screwed up big time because one of their narcoleptic members, it simply went over his head --
The Chair: I'm sure, Mr Kormos --
Mr Kormos: Yes, it went over his head, when section 73 was voted down.
The Chair: You'll have another opportunity, I'm sure. The point of order: We're getting to it?
Mr Kormos: Yes, sir. Consideration about why this bill is here in this committee for this period of time is entirely relevant. Ms Casselman and OPSEU or any other person is entitled to draw inferences about why we're here doing what we're doing. That narrows the argument. First of all, she has the right to say anything she wants. She can stand up here and, short of hollering fire in a crowded theatre, she can say anything she damned well pleases, because she's a resident of this province and she has rights, and if we start denying those rights to her, then we start denying them to everybody.
Second, in this context, consideration of the inference, the inevitable inference, the irresistible conclusion to be drawn about why this is before this committee for this period of time is I think entirely appropriate.
Those are my submissions, with all due respect to the Chair.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Kormos. I've heard enough to make a decision on this. I have already ruled in a previous bill on this particular incident.
First of all, the Chair has no ability to determine what bills come before it nor is it my ability to determine whether eight days or any period of time is more than sufficient or sufficient at all. My function is to deal with and to make sure procedural orders are followed through.
Second, I have reviewed the presentation and I assume that the presenters will continue to follow the presentation. It does deal with Bill 22, so they will be allowed to continue dealing in the fashion they have.
My function is to make sure, as the motion is read, that we do deal with Bill 22 and, in the event that we are leading far astray from those lines, I will bring those individuals back to Bill 22.
You may proceed, Ms Casselman.
Ms Casselman: On the matter before us today, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union joins the Ontario Federation of Labour and community groups in condemning Bill 22. The proposed legislation denies welfare recipients the right to join a union, strike and bargain collectively. Bill 22 places the Harris government in direct violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international covenants which Canada has signed. The working people of this province are appalled by the Ontario Conservative government's blatant disregard for human rights yet again.
The title of our submission is, "What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all." Some of you may recognize this as a quotation from a great Canadian. The speaker was the Reverend J.S. Woodsworth, a champion of the underdog, a supporter of organized labour and the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the NDP. He said this back in the 1930s. I am growing ever more convinced that the Harris government wishes to take us back to those terrible times, and I'm going to repeat those wise words: "What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all."
They express a sentiment that lies at the very heart of what my union stands for. We believe in the collective good. When we sit down to negotiate a contract, we know that it's not just about us. We know that it's also about improving the services our members provide in the community. We work for the collective good when we support charities. Every year, OPSEU members in every corner of the province give generously to the United Way. Making our communities better places for all who live in them is important to us. We don't think it's right for some to have so much while others have barely enough to scrape by. We believe that people are created equal. We believe that all people should have access to the same opportunities and to the same services, and we believe that all should be treated the same under the law.
It is these democratic principles that we're talking about here today and it is these democratic principles that separate the working people of this province from the Harris government. Every time labour and community groups -- these people over here -- have come together for the Days of Action, we have been in effect telling the government: "We don't forget what democracy is all about, even if you do. You close hospitals and schools. You starve the child protection system of funding and place our vulnerable children at risk. You subject our troubled youth to military exercises instead of treatment programs that work. You weaken health and safety laws. You reduce employment standards to a bare minimum. You take away successor rights from members of the Ontario public service. You give bad bosses free rein to intimidate employees who are exercising their democratic right to join a union. Last but not least" -- and this is not a comprehensive list of bad things this government has done; that would take me all day to go through, and I've already eaten up a number of my minutes here -- "you victimize welfare recipients by forcing them to take unpaid work and then denying them their fundamental right to join a union."
It's pretty clear that this government doesn't believe in democracy. Bill 22, with its gross denial of the freedom of association for workfare workers, is just one example of the government's disregard for all things democratic. You will note that I use the term "workfare workers." They are not "community participants," as the government prefers to call them, with its flair for Orwellian language. Welfare recipients are doing forced, unpaid work. They are workers and should be recognized as such.
You have heard from the Ontario Federation of Labour that Bill 22 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the following areas: section 1, guarantee of rights and freedoms; section 2(d), freedom of association; section 7, life, liberty and security of person; and section 15, equality rights.
The bill also violates international agreements signed by Canada, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, sections 6 and 7, and the International Covenant on the Elimination of Race Discrimination, section 5.
Finally, Bill 22 puts the Harris government in blatant violation of several human rights covenants of the International Labour Organization, including number 29, the forced labour convention; number 87, the freedom of association and protection of the right to organize convention; and number 98, the right to organize and collective bargaining convention.
For those of you who don't know, the International Labour Organization is an agency of the United Nations. I'm sure members of this committee find it as ironic as I do when I mention the fact that Canada was a founding member of the ILO in 1919.
The National Union of Public and General Employees, of which OPSEU is an affiliate, pledged at its recent convention to submit an official complaint with the International Labour Organization. The basis for the complaint is that fact that Bill 22 denies individual Canadians their fundamental right to freedom of association.
Most ridiculous of all, the Harris government is trying to claim that the free and democratic right to join a union is somehow standing in the way of workfare being a success. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real reason workfare isn't a success in Ontario is that it's bad public policy. I pointed that fact out at great length in our submission last September to the standing committee on social development when it held public hearings on Bill 142, the law that created Ontario Works. I pointed out then, as I will do again, that the Harris government's so-called reforms to social assistance are a disaster. OPSEU represents 1,900 income maintenance officers, support staff and service specialists who work on the front lines of Ontario's social assistance system. Our members tell us that downloading welfare to the municipalities and making them pay for a large chunk of it is inefficient and will create inequities across the system.
Workfare figures prominently in this new and misguided era of downloaded social assistance. It's bad public policy, and that's why the Harris government hasn't been able to convince many social agencies or municipalities to participate in the exploitation of welfare recipients. Somehow I don't think Bill 22, with its denial of fundamental human rights and freedoms, is going to convince them any more.
People are learning the truth about workfare. They know that in other jurisdictions it rarely leads to people returning to the workforce in a decent-paying, full-time job. More than 200,000 people have passed through New York City's workfare program. According to the April 12 edition of the New York Times, a recent survey found that less than one third had gone on to full- or part-time jobs.
What workfare does well is to replace public service jobs with slave labour. I'm sure the Harris government has taken full and approving note of this. New York City has slashed the jobs of 22,000 employees -- taxpayers -- and at any one time, 34,000 welfare recipients, some of them former city staff, by the way, are doing that work. As well, 1,000 hospital workers in New York City were laid off in May, and they will be replaced by 950 workfare workers. OPSEU will not allow Ontario to copy this injustice. We will not allow our public services to be undermined.
A number of our employers in the broader public sector have approached us, asking for our agreement to bring in workfare. As well, the government, as an employer, has indicated its interest in using workfare in line ministries. In each and every case, our answer has been no. We will not participate in the further victimization of the poor. We will not allow the services our members provide to be further weakened.
Government funding cuts and layoffs have taken their toll. The government has slashed the jobs of more than 14,000 OPSEU members. Staffing shortages and reductions in service have been the predictable results. Creating a cheap pool of forced labour to deal with these cuts is not the answer. If there is meaningful work to be done, a position should be created with a full salary and benefits package, and it should be part of our bargaining unit. It's that simple.
Much of our work is dangerous. Since December three OPSEU members have been killed on the job, and that's with a union to protect them and ensure that all necessary health and safety precautions are taken. We are concerned that unorganized workers are extremely vulnerable to being forced to do work for which they are ill prepared and ill trained. This has been the case in New York City. We don't want it repeated here.
No government sanction can stop working people from joining together, as they have always done, to improve their situation. Bill 22 makes it illegal for workers to exercise their fundamental right to join a union, but working people have faced this kind of unjust law in the past. They have fought back by organizing themselves and getting the support of fairminded citizens in the process. I am confident that the same will happen again.
I return to the title of our submission: "What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all." OPSEU members want good jobs with fair wages and working conditions, not only for themselves but for all the people who live in this province. Only then will our communities prosper.
OPSEU members want quality public services which are delivered in a fair and consistent manner across this province and are accessible to all. Only then will our communities prosper.
Finally, OPSEU wants all members of our society, regardless of their gender, race, religion or income status, to have the same rights and freedoms under the law. Only then will our communities prosper.
I ask this committee to join OPSEU in making that desire a reality and, in so doing, amend Bill 22 to restore all the rights this proposed legislation will deny to some citizens of Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have approximately five minutes per caucus, beginning with the third party.
Mr Kormos: Thank you kindly. You make the statement "creating a cheap pool of forced labour" towards the end of your submission. Reflect on the fact that we've got a federal government that in the fall of last year, when unemployment stood a chance of dropping below 9%, responded quickly by raising interest rates for fear that it would drop. That seems to me a federal government that wants to maintain a policy of high unemployment. We haven't heard a word of protest from this government. We've got a government here in Ontario, the Tories, committed to letting the minimum wage drop by virtue of freezing it until the cost of living and inflation reduce it. And we've got Bill 7, which permits scabs.
Do you think there's any relationship between high-unemployment policies, Bill 7, which permits scabs, and forcing down the minimum wage? Am I just grasping at straws if I think that somehow these things are related to each other?
Ms Casselman: Ontario used to pride itself in pretty much being the leader of the pack when it came to progressive social policy and even economic development. I shudder to think that Alberta has now passed us, with their increase in their minimum-wage law. I guess they've gone through what Ontario pretends it's going to go through now, and they realize that if you're going to have people participating in their communities they need to have jobs and that our whole economy is based on taxes. The economy would be much stronger if everyone was paying their fair share, and I think perhaps some people are starting to realize that.
The combination of the three points you made clearly doesn't bode well for people who can't afford to buy the Mercedes with their 30% tax cut. Until folks rise up -- and I think this is a good catalyst to getting the ordinary citizens to rise up and talk to their politicians squarely in the face about what kind of community and what kind of country they want -- I don't know that we're going to see any change. But when we have a government that boldly introduces legislation like this, it certainly bodes well for people rising up.
Mr Kormos: You know Ms Ecker.
Ms Casselman: Never met the woman.
Mr Kormos: Well, you've read about her. She was here making opening statements, and it was really an incredible experience. She talked about labour leaders attempting to sabotage welfare reform, harassing community agencies, attempting to unionize welfare recipients, yet at the same time is adamant that her so-called workfare is only going to exist where it exists now. There are really very few people on workfare. She uses this global number, which her -- what do you call him? -- parliamentary assistant -- more colloquial phrases came to mind -- repeats about hundreds of thousands of people being on workfare. But really, what she's talking about is literally a handful of people in these so-called community placements. Workfare includes having to do job searches. Everybody on welfare has had to do that. Then when we asked her about upgrading, retraining, I said, "How the hell do you do that when they just gutted adult ed?" Down where I come from, shit, there's no adult ed left. It's gone. People can't go to high school to get their diplomas. But anyway, that's not the point.
She tries to create the picture that these are people who go and be, let's say, candy-stripers in the local hospital or work with the local cancer society collecting money. I don't know a whole lot about the Ontario Labour Relations Act -- Mr Christopherson does and you do -- but I thought, heck, these aren't people who under the Labour Relations Act can collectively bargain anyway. These are volunteers. So I thought maybe the real thrust of this was the expansion of her so-called workfare into the private sector, where you're displacing jobs at the McDonald's or the Burger King or at the Wal-Mart. The local welfare office can say, "We've got 50 for you," because that's what happened in the States. They laid off thousands of New York City workers and they filled them with workfare. Your comments about slave labour are dead-on. My suspicion was that this is really all about extending workfare into the private sector. Do you have any views on that?
Ms Casselman: What the government would like us to forget is that once you've gutted the public service -- they think people are going to be there with their hands out to take any body they can to fill the spots, but with public services, particularly social services, there is a real need for people who understand the work. You can't just bring in someone off the street to look after kids who are developmentally challenged.
We've seen in the States, and it's now creeping into Canada, infections in hospitals. They're wondering how they ended up there. It's because of the squalid conditions in hospitals in the US where they've laid off all the cleaners. They bring in people who don't know how to clean or aren't given the equipment to clean or the training on how to use the proper cleaning methods.
Health care costs are escalating as a result of all those things. They think that as long as this government can give the doctors $2 billion, the health care system is going to be fine. What they don't realize is that when you lay off the cleaners and bring in someone who doesn't know how to clean or isn't given the proper equipment, you're going to double your health care costs.
The Chair: We now move to the government members.
Mr Carroll: I don't know that it's necessary, but I did want to correct the record from the first witness. Mr Kormos talked about me obstructing another committee in its endeavours to deal with an issue. I'd like to set the record straight that I did not obstruct any committee. Mr Kormos knows that that particular committee he referred to met today, because he was at the meeting, to talk about issues.
Mr Kormos: It was the Chair and the clerk who told me that you refused to come to these subcommittee meetings and as such the subcommittee couldn't hear the consideration of standing order 124. Why do you lie to cover your pathetic ass?
The Vice-Chair (Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins): Mr Kormos, please.
Ms Casselman: I think you should have a full public inquiry into the Dudley George shooting. I agree completely with you, Mr Carroll.
Mr Carroll: I wonder if you could help me with a couple of issues. Would you argue, in the same way that you make this argument, that co-op students should join unions?
Ms Casselman: Yes, of course. We have students who work for the government in the summertime and they're unionized.
Mr Carroll: No, co-op students. Part of their education is --
Ms Casselman: Yes.
Mr Carroll: So you would argue that they should also be allowed to join a union?
Ms Casselman: Yes. Your government is driven by the whole idea that this is really good because it's work, it's experience, right? Let them experience the whole thing. Let them experience what health and safety laws are. Let them experience what minimum wages are. Let them experience what an employer-employee relationship is. Yes, co-op students should be unionized. Of course they should.
Mr Carroll: Have you taken that cause up with anybody?
Ms Casselman: You know, I talked to my step-nephew who is a co-op student and asked him if he would organize his area when he was co-op.
Mr Carroll: Great, wonderful. Can you answer another question for me? You say here, "This proposed legislation denies welfare recipients the right to strike." Could you explain for me a situation where you believe a welfare recipient should have the right to strike? Can you paint me a picture of that?
Ms Casselman: Yes. You stick them in some kind of situation where you've got them --
Mr Carroll: You're saying welfare recipients here, that they have the right to strike.
Ms Casselman: Yes, welfare recipients who are in a workfare program --
Mr Carroll: You're not saying that in here, though. You're saying welfare recipients have the right to strike.
Mr Kormos: Will you let her answer?
Ms Casselman: Follow the bouncing ball here: Welfare recipients who are in a workfare program --
Mr Carroll: Well, you left that part out. I see. Okay.
Ms Casselman: Let me try this again: Welfare recipients who are in a workfare program --
Mr Carroll: Can I write that in?
Ms Casselman: -- you stick them in some situation, they're dealing with chemicals, they've got no protection, they're getting infected, they have absolutely no way to breathe -- mind you, your environmental laws just went for a dumper too, so there are probably even scarier things out there. Yes, they should be able to down their tools and walk out and say: "Give me the proper training. Give me the proper equipment. Clean that place up before you put any human being back in there." All other workers have the right to do that. Why would you exploit them?
Mr Carroll: But you know they have protection. Would you agree with me, Ms Casselman, that non-unionized workers have those rights under the protection of workplace safety? Welfare recipients who are working in a workfare place, you know they have those rights.
Ms Casselman: Okay, so who's going to be the worker rep? Are you going to certify one of them? Are you going to send them for training? Are you?
Mr Carroll: You know they have those --
Ms Casselman: If there are more then 20 of them, are they going to have their own committee?
Mr Carroll: Only unions can protect people. Is that what you'd have us believe?
Ms Casselman: Okay, the government's going to pay to certify a welfare recipient on workfare as a certified union rep on health and safety issues. That's great. Can we get that as an amendment to the legislation?
Mr Carroll: You know they're protected. You're saying that those of us who don't belong to unions are not protected in the workplace. I take exception to that, because I believe we are protected in the workplace by the laws that are there.
One more question. You state in here, "Our members tell us that downloading welfare to the municipalities and making them pay for a large chunk of it is inefficient and will create inequities." I'm sure you are aware that the municipalities shared the administration of welfare with the province before.
Ms Casselman: Yes, 80-20.
Mr Carroll: So what downloading are you talking about here? Is it not still 80-20? What downloading are you referring to here, Ms Casselman?
Ms Casselman: I'm referring to all of the work being transferred to the municipal level for the delivery of welfare service.
Mr Carroll: But don't they always do that, 80-20?
Ms Casselman: It's the only province in the country which has moved it down instead of up to provincial control.
Mr Carroll: But was that not the situation back in --
Ms Casselman: The 1930s? Yes, it probably was back in the 1930s. You're absolutely right.
Mr Carroll: No, in 1995. When the NDP was in power was that not the situation, that it was shared 80-20 with the municipalities and the provinces?
Ms Casselman: Since Christ was a cowboy it's been that way. Back when there was a real Tory government, under Bill Davis, it was that way.
Mr Carroll: Ms Casselman, why is it "downloading" now?
Ms Casselman: Because that's what your minister calls it, Leach.
Mr Carroll: Oh, no, no, that's what you call it.
Ms Casselman: It's downloading.
Mr Carroll: But didn't the NDP have the same situation in place, the 80-20 welfare split between the province and the municipalities?
Ms Casselman: Yes.
Mr Carroll: Isn't that the same situation today? Why is it then downloading?
Ms Casselman: Because all of the welfare delivery was split into two areas. There was some being delivered by the province, which we represent: single mothers, unemployables. That's all now being shifted on to the municipalities.
Mr Carroll: You're talking about the family benefits program.
Ms Casselman: That's correct.
Mr Carroll: You're referring to downloading welfare in here.
Ms Casselman: Yes, that's the generic.
Mr Carroll: So welfare hasn't been downloaded, has it?
Ms Casselman: That's the generic. They're all on welfare, whether it's family benefits or welfare. Expand your mind.
Mr Carroll: But welfare's already been there.
The Chair: We now move to the official opposition; Ms Pupatello.
Mr Kormos: Sandra, give Jack your time.
Mrs Pupatello: I can't. I would like to give Ms Casselman time to explain to the minister's parliamentary assistant why this is downloading, why it is that family benefits don't exist as they did before, why it is that the law, as it was changed -- which every expert disagreed with. David Crombie, the master appointed by this government, told you not to do it, but you did it anyway and thereby changed everything. People are either in Ontario Works or they're under the disability portion of Bill 142. That's all that exists any more. You changed that. I find it interesting that the parliamentary assistant refers to all of these separate clauses, that his own bill, which he followed, changed.
I would like to give you more time, Leah, because I know he was quite interruptive and didn't allow you to have your point clarified, so you're welcome to do that.
Ms Casselman: Maybe I'm a little ignorant here. This isn't the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services, is it?
Mr Kormos: I'm afraid so. That's as good as it gets.
Mrs Pupatello: There are two.
Ms Casselman: Let me try to explain this to you.
Mr Carroll: I wish you would.
Ms Casselman: Welfare was delivered at two levels. There were single mothers, provincially delivered, family benefits, and then there was municipal delivery of welfare services. You've now shifted all of that to the municipal level. That's called downloading, from one government up here to one government down here. The federal government does it and now you're doing it. That's what you've done. You've downloaded all of that on to the municipalities. Now you're imposing legislation that will cut all the -- well, most of the social programs have been cut, quite frankly, or are being cut because there are budget crunches, because nobody wants to raise taxes in this day and age because they don't understand the importance of public services.
We're going to end up with a whole bunch of folks -- you're trying to squeeze those public organizations, and I would agree probably private corporations now as well, into hiring subworkers, that they don't have to worry about, that they don't have any protections for; they just come in and they plug them in wherever they want. We refer to them as subworkers. They have no rights, no protections, which your bill clearly identifies -- which is rather surprising -- in the title. That's what downloading is.
Mrs Pupatello: Representing OPSEU workers, the people who have been under OPSEU have watched for some time all the government motions to supposedly create efficiencies in government. I'd like your comment on the efficiency of expending over $700,000 on this particular bill. It essentially began as four sentences in a paragraph, section 73 of Bill 142, which members of the government committee failed to pass at committee last November because one individual was sleeping, another was doing correspondence and another was out of the room. In essence, the opposition members of that committee were able to defeat a particular clause, namely section 73.
Now we have Bill 22. That four-sentence paragraph has become a bill in its entirety, receiving eight days of hearings, sent to an inappropriate committee, and with seven hours of debate minimum, which the government costs out at $100,000 an hour, so well in excess of $700,000. This, from the government that purports to be bringing efficiency to the Ontario government.
Ms Casselman: I would think that they would probably see this as a bonus. Because they were asleep at the switch before, they've now been able to figure out through their polling that -- they think people still want to bash welfare recipients, so they're trying to give this bill a whole, huge profile: bash unions, bash labour, bash welfare recipients to see if that has any resonance for the next election. Actually, they've taken the lemons and made what they consider lemonade.
Mrs Pupatello: We dub this the sleeping beauty bill. Do you think that's appropriate?
Ms Casselman: I don't know; that was kind of a fun movie. Depends on who gets the apple.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We very much appreciate the time you've taken to come forward today.
Ms Casselman: I enjoyed it; it was better than question period.
COALITION FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE DEATH OF DUDLEY GEORGE
The Chair: We call our last presenter or presenters, the Coalition for a Public Inquiry into the Death of Dudley George. In case you were not here earlier, you have a total of 30 minutes. At the conclusion of your presentation, the time remaining is divided equally between the three caucuses. If you could identify yourself for Hansard, you may begin.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Chair: I've just been advised that the government has just tabled with the Clerk of the House a time allocation motion with respect to Bill 25, an act to reduce red tape, sending it to the standing committee on administration of justice so as to further delay our request under standing order 124 for a hearing into Dudley George. It is the most repugnant and apparent and transparent abuse of parliamentary power.
The Chair: Mr Kormos, that's not a point of order. I understand the message you're trying to get across.
Mr Kormos: This confirms that the Premier's office and any of those hacks speaking for it are intent on covering up the murder of Dudley George.
The Chair: Mr Kormos, please.
Sir, you may begin.
Father Barry McGrory: Citizens have the right to bring their concerns forward on any matter to their representatives, but it is a privilege to be able to address members of the Legislative Assembly about such an urgent matter as how we treat our neighbours who are materially poor, and I thank you for this time.
I am Barry McGrory, a spokesperson from the Coalition for an Inquiry into the Death of Dudley George, formed last December on the anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You will recall that Ann Pohl of the coalition addressed you on June 8 and explained the broad base we represent, including Dudley's family, aboriginal organizations, faith groups, unions, anti-racism groups and others.
I am also involved with the Aboriginal Rights Coalition and for some years have worked on aboriginal issues in Canada. I am a Catholic priest of the archdiocese of Ottawa, currently living in Toronto. I have lived in this province all my life, except for two years' graduate studies in Rome and three years as a teacher and chaplain in Quebec at Bishop's University and Champlain College.
The present government has been slyly creative about the naming of its bills, usually trying, in the best Orwellian fashion, to euphemistically put as positive a light as possible on the matter. But in this case, it blatantly speaks of unionization as though it were a disease calling for eradication. That sounds foreign to me. The UN Charter of Rights, as mentioned, protects the right of workers to organize into unions, in article 23, section 4. It did that 50 years ago. Pope Leo XIII affirmed the same principle 108 years ago.
My information is that less than 200 persons in Toronto are involved in workfare. Participants have to sign an agreement to provide 70 hours of service per month to an approved community organization and an equal time for the search for employment. If they fail to comply, all benefits are immediately cut off. A volunteer could not strike, according to the present regulations, nor would there would be much incentive for an employer to enter into collective bargaining with persons who are only permitted to do non-essential, non-remunerative work and who effectively cannot strike. And what union would be interested in organizing so few volunteers, with such weak bargaining power and financial resources? Moreover, the bill seems to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights.
It seems to me that this bill is not necessary, will have no practical effect, and is probably ultra vires. I see it as an unjustifiable use of taxpayers' resources.
But it's not a frivolous bill. Its real purpose is to continue the war against the poor begun in this government's election campaign in 1995 and continued relentlessly ever since: from the 22% cut in welfare benefits, involving 500,000 children, with some allowances for eye glasses, dental care, and prescription drugs cut; to the more recent withdrawal of the pregnancy allowance for expectant mothers, a sudden withdrawal forced on the municipalities to their complete surprise, with neither previous study nor consultation and with the crudest of justifications by our Premier himself.
The word "motherhood" has a meaning in the English language now. It refers to all matters that are so untouchably sacred that it is trite to mention them. Their inviolability is just taken for granted. We dismiss a shallow political speech as motherhood -- a nice word. Yet this government has violated what a few years ago was considered inviolable. "Motherhood and childhood," says article 23 of the UN charter again, "are entitled to special care and assistance." In my own city, Toronto, that allowance was more than restored under public health regulations for pre- and postnatal mothers' diets, so crucial to the normal development of the child. but other municipalities have so far not dared imitate that initiative.
Note that single mothers, once their last child is in school -- for the lucky ones, that means four-year-old kindergarten, if only for half days -- are required to comply with the regulation to accept training or workfare, plus job searching. But since there is no suitable day care available for them, this regulation is unenforced and unenforceable.
Some of these measures may save money to justify tax cuts for the wealthy, but in the long run they come at huge health, legal, and social costs, not to speak of the costs of underdeveloped human potential. This government does not engage in the direct killing of the weak, thank God -- women, children, the sick and aged -- as in Kosovo or Uganda, but its measures, so neatly packaged, will result in death just as final, nevertheless.
All this micromanagement is done by a government which professes to be against government regulation of its citizens. But that applies only to the wealthy and powerful. For those who have nothing, even that must be carefully scrutinized or it too will be taken from them.
As a taxpayer, I too get indignant at the thought of welfare fraud or people being given unjustifiable benefits which I know can corrupt their dignity and initiative. But the people of Ontario want to live in a place where all of us can live with dignity, and we are willing to pay for it. We believe with article 25 of the UN charter that every Ontario citizen has a right to a life with dignity. We will not stand for sectors of the population being discriminated against for political gain. In this bill, this government has once again fomented class division previously unheard of in this province, seeking to exploit it for political gain. I don't care what their polls and focus groups say. It is wrong, it is wasteful and in the end will not be tolerated by the Ontario I've grown up in.
But we do want our tax dollars spent wisely and responsibly, and we see nothing wrong in making sure that those who receive such benefits account for their actions, just as we think this government must account for its actions. Today is the Feast of St Thomas More, Sir Thomas More, a parliamentarian who was canonized by my church in 1935, just as Fascism was unleashing its horrors in Europe. "I am the King's friend, but God's first," he said, before his beheading at the age of 57 for refusing to accept the Act of Succession. The gospel for this morning's mass says this:
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."
This government has made the supreme effort to make welfare recipients accountable for every last penny, while they steadfastly refuse to account for the killing of one and the wounding of three under the most odious circumstances.
Three squads of armed and heavily protected Ontario Provincial Police on the night of September 6, 1995, marched on about 30 unarmed men, women and children who were peacefully protesting the use of their land in a provincial park already closed for the season. Only last week the government of Canada finally proposed to return the adjacent 900-hectare army camp, and the probable title to it was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw decision of last fall. Dudley was the first to die under such circumstances in Canada in this century.
The Chair: Sir, without seeing a presentation, it is my role to ensure that we remain dealing with Bill 22. So I will have to be calling you back to make sure that it refers to Bill 22.
Father McGrory: I'm just refreshing the committee as to why I would like --
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Chair: Mr McGrory tabled his request with the clerk to appear here under the name Coalition for a Public Inquiry into the Death of Dudley George. He made no secret about where he's from or his participation and membership in that coalition. He's not coming here under some subterfuge. The clerk clearly accepted that, and this agenda has been available since last week.
Quite frankly, in the absence of any objection, it seems strange -- and I respect what the Chair is trying to do -- that the Chair unilaterally would try to raise some objection now. The Chair has already heard and accepted, in the instance of Ms Casselman and OPSEU, the relationship between this committee hearing and the Dudley George death, the shooting of Dudley George and the failure of this government to permit an inquiry based on what happened in Ipperwash two years ago. The Chair has already ruled that to be acceptable. It seems strange that one set of rules applies to Ms Casselman and another set of rules applies to Mr McGrory, especially when he was so straightforward about whom he's here on behalf of. He's here on behalf of the Coalition for a Public Inquiry into the Death of Dudley George.
The Chair: Mr Kormos, I don't believe that you would have me exclude any presenter simply based on the name. Otherwise, we would have to investigate each presenter. Just before I continue, sir, I have stopped your time, so you have your full 30 minutes. We don't do research to determine the actual function of that organization or group. My function is to ensure that we deal with Bill 22 as we continue. As I stated, as I mentioned here before I started, since I don't have a copy of the presentation, I would just ask you to continue, as long as we refer this to Bill 22.
Father McGrory: The purpose of bringing this up is that on the one hand the poor people must account for every penny, so I believe our government has to account for its actions. Such a confrontational police action as I described was unprecedented in this province, and there are many indications that a decision of that importance had to be taken at the highest level, in fact only in the Premier's office.
Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Chair: With all respect, and I'm sure the presenter also respects the role that this committee has to play in this place, particularly given his background, I'm sure he understands that there are rules by which we must conduct business. With the previous speaker, I asked you to make a ruling here in terms of this committee hearing matters specifically related to the bill before us. I accepted your ruling -- you were very clear -- that presenters would be asked to keep their comments to the bill before us. This may be cute in terms of how this is being positioned to divert the subject matter, but I don't think it's respecting of the Chair or the ruling you've made, and I ask you to conduct yourself accordingly, as the Chair, to keep proceedings focused on this bill.
Mrs Pupatello: Just on this, because I recognize that you ruled for today, but if there's a chance that tomorrow before we begin at 3:30 you or the clerk's office could check the precedent at committee. As I recall, with Bill 142, which Bill 22 is an amendment of, those presenters presented to us within a prescribed period of time and we did not subject them to scrutiny line by line on what they were telling us. In fact, many of the presenters went on about links to other pieces of legislation, and that was never denied them. If there is a precedent at committee that we are now going to subject a line-by-line scrutiny, that every single paragraph is subject specifically to the law we're discussing, I'd like to see that there is precedent that a Chair at committee would do that, such as your ruling today, because I don't think there is precedent at committee for that.
Mr Kormos: With respect, and I wasn't going to comment on this point of order, because I am confident the Chair has a handle on the issue in view of how the Chair let Ms Casselman speak about Ipperwash and the fact that the only reason we're having Bill 22 in front of this committee for eight days is to defer the hearing into the shooting of Dudley George, but let me put this to you. I've been here a couple of years longer than you. I've been in all sorts of committees. We get all sorts of people. From time to time, we'll get the proverbial person who wants to come to the committee, especially the justice committee, to complain about the radio waves emanating from his or her television set that are poisoning his or her food, insisting that the RCMP are part of the conspiracy to poison him. I need not say any more, okay?
The fact is that freedom of speech doesn't stop and end with what you find rational or what you agree with or what you find embarrassing or not embarrassing. You know what the courts have said. You know the famous statement by an American Supreme Court justice that freedom of speech means virtually everything but for calling "Fire" in a crowded theatre. We haven't heard that yet and we can't start creating grey areas. It's this man's 30 minutes. He can use all of it, part of it. He can stand here and recite, if he were inclined to, some sort of Dada, beat, gibberish poetry. The fact is that that's his prerogative.
Mrs Pupatello: It's the same sort of thing as filibustering.
Mr Kormos: No. With filibustering, it all depends who's doing the filibuster. Mike Harris was crappy at filibustering.
But I'm saying we've got to be very careful when we start interfering with what a witness can or can't say. I think that's very dangerous turf.
The Chair: I'll comment again on the title of the organization represented by the presenter. I was approached and questioned about this outside of the committee and I clearly stated to them at that time that if the individual had come forward and just given their name, we would not know the function or the organization they represented. My job is to follow the motion that has been presented to me, which is to follow the guidelines of Bill 22. I have asked the presenter to relate it to Bill 22 and he has assured me that he will relate this to Bill 22. In the event that I find that he does not, then I will ask him to deal with Bill 22 again.
You may continue.
Father McGrory: Dudley was warned by the police that he would be the first to go. Evidence will show that he was shot once in the foot and, as he bent over, again in the side, and then that he was not only refused medical help from the attending ambulance personnel, but those who tried to get him to help miles away were hindered by the police. Local people claim they have filmed and other evidence of heavy alcohol consumption by the Ontario Provincial Police around and perhaps even during the event. Souvenirs with racist tones were produced by the OPP for their participants.
This "extra-legal execution," as Amnesty International has described it, this atrocity, has all the marks of a "Somalia killing" --
The Chair: You are going to relate it to Bill 22?
Father McGrory: -- with reference to the Canadian army's atrocities in that country. Yet this government has refused an inquiry, or even to promise one, and has used every subterfuge possible -- and my very presence here today is an example of that -- to prevent the light of day being focused on its actions.
When a mother and child were killed by police in Alberta last winter, an official public inquiry headed by an aboriginal judge was appointed within a week. The excuse that the matter is before the courts is specious, as there are ample precedents where inquiries have proceeded even while criminal charges were proceeding before the courts. The coalition has sought in vain for the legal basis for the refusal of an inquiry from the Premier's and the Attorney General's offices, and we will probably have to resort to the Office of the Ombudsman for information to which the citizens of Ontario have a right.
No, this government has one standard for itself -- and I get back to the poor here -- and another standard for the poor and defenceless. One has to give an account; the others don't. I believe it was Hannah Arendt, the German-American philosopher, whose studies of the Shoah, the Holocaust, are so valuable, who described Fascism as the absence of the feminine. Whenever any human component gets unbalanced, the price we pay is enormous because we are such powerful beings. Masculine traits are beautiful and admirable when balanced by feminine traits, but otherwise they can be utterly destructive. So it is that this government always attacks the weak: not only mothers and children and defenceless aboriginals, but pay equity for women workers and care for the old, the sick, the deaf, prisoners, public transportation users, the poor and even Mother Earth herself. There is a manifestly clear record of this persecution. For me it's all the more detestable as it is done so joyously and righteously, this persecution of the most vulnerable and the most helpless among us.
When I gave you that picture of those 30 men, women and children, I had a hard time not weeping. I saw 30 armed men march on them with guns drawn, military-style automatic weapons, and they shot them. And you will not let us have an inquiry about it.
There are few labels more offensive to my mind than Hannah Arendt's definition of Fascism, but there it is, her definition, the absence of the feminine and the Tory record. I see a correlation and I fear for our future.
That is the end of my remarks.
The Chair: That allows us approximately seven and a half minutes per caucus. We can begin with the government.
Mr Carroll: Thanks very much, Father. It's nice to have a priest come to our committee. I'd like to phrase my questions to you as a practising Catholic. I serve my church, not in the same capacity as you serve it, but I do serve my church, and I'm very proud of that.
You talk about the right to life with dignity. I subscribe to that. You don't talk about where self-responsibility comes into the issue, which concerns me a little bit. You escaped talking about that when you talked about the right to life with dignity.
I would like to ask you to comment directly, if you would, on June 1995, when the previous government handed over to this government a province of Ontario where one out of every eight people in arguably the richest part of this great world of ours was trapped in a welfare system. I would like you to comment for me, if you would, how you believe that represented the right to live in dignity as exercised by the previous government.
Father McGrory: No one could or would. I myself have applauded any efforts, in this speech, to make people on welfare accountable. That was not my point. I think people who are on welfare should be accountable and they should be responsible. Doing otherwise only harms them. I have no doubt about that. All I said was this -- and of course the effects in the early 1990s were worldwide, a profound recession or depression, as most honest people will say -- what I'm saying is if they have to be accountable, so do you. That's my point. How come there are two standards?
You heard what Jesus said about the speck, and I mean speck, in the poor person's eye. If he's got over $500 in the bank, a single man can't get welfare. That's a speck. But this big, incredibly ugly, evil happening -- sacred silence, and not even a promise one day to have an inquiry. There is a steadfast refusal to say, "Yes, once it's all through the courts, we promise a full and complete inquiry of this terrible mess." All we get is, "No, no, no." I don't think Thomas More, whose feast day is today, would be very proud of you as keeping up Catholic ethics, to be very honest with you, if you bring up Catholicism.
Mr Carroll: I'd like to go back to another issue then, Father, where you commented on today's gospel. You commented on, "Do not judge, lest ye be judged." Tell me how, in this exchange with us today, you are not every bit as guilty of the judgement issue as anybody sitting at this table.
Father McGrory: I'll face my Maker. I want to be judged and I expect to be accountable for everything I've done, and I won't shirk it. I can't shirk it; I don't expect to shirk it. I never have and I don't expect I will. I'm asking you to be as accountable as you make others accountable. I expect to be accountable, Mr Carroll.
Mr Carroll: To what extent do you believe we're not accountable?
Father McGrory: Why won't you give us a chance to show your accountability?
Mr Carroll: We're talking about Bill 22 here.
Father McGrory: No, I'm talking about the other matter.
Mr Carroll: Well, I'm talking about Bill 22. To what extent would you say that in asking people who are trapped in a welfare system to assist themselves to a better way of life by participating in a workfare arrangement we are not being accountable in that process?
Father McGrory: I never said anything negative about workfare. I never said a single negative word about workfare.
Mr Carroll: You think they should be allowed to join a union.
Father McGrory: I said I think it's a foolish consideration. I don't think unions are interested; I don't they will be interested. I can't see the purpose of it. That's what I said.
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I just wondered, because you had made some reference to the issue of welfare at the beginning of your remarks, if you would agree that a job is the best form of welfare.
Father McGrory: Yes.
Mrs Munro: Do you think government policy can have or does have an effect, whether beneficial or otherwise, on the creation of jobs?
Father McGrory: By all means, yes.
Mrs Munro: That would lead me to wonder how you would react, then, to the announcements that were made last week regarding the investments in Toronto and Whitby on the jobs to be created in those areas.
Father McGrory: What was that announcement? I missed it.
Mrs Munro: Two that would together create thousands of jobs in the greater Toronto area.
Father McGrory: Anybody would applaud the obtaining of more jobs. My objection to the workfare thing was that it came in in such an odious way that all the good volunteer organizations refused to cooperate with it. They were afraid to. That was the atmosphere that this government brought forward. The second thing is forcing single mothers into it: 70 hours a month in volunteering and 70 hours a week in job-sharing and trying at the same time to raise children, a four-year-old who's in kindergarten, seems absurd. It is absurd. It can't be done. Then at the other end of the line the 65-year-olds are being forced -- they're going to go out and they're going to learn some new employment by volunteering. They're going to become volunteers. It's absurd.
There are fine points in it but workfare itself possibly, conceivably, could help someone. Lots of people are getting jobs through volunteer work. I grant you that.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms Munro. Actually, I'm going to have to correct myself. I believe I said seven and a half minutes each, but it's actually five and a half minutes, which is the time I allowed the government.
We move to the official opposition.
Mrs Pupatello: I want to speak about government accountability. I think you raise a fair question. The government has been very public about forcing welfare recipients to be accountable in terms of their not abusing the system etc. It seems that if you're prepared to set that standard for individuals who are on assistance, then the government itself should be subject to the same standard of not being wasteful, not being inefficient, in fact introducing programs that must be accountable to the taxpayer.
We found it interesting when we travelled with 142, of which this new bill is simply a subsection -- the government members fell asleep and didn't pass that subsection. It was then recreated into an entirely new bill, still the same section 73, using the same number. That's how identical it is to the paragraph they missed the first time around.
This government has not been made accountable for their inefficiency of introducing Ontario Works after three years of government. Whether you agree with workfare or not, being at minimum 75% through their mandate of their first term, they have yet to introduce a welfare program that works and they have spent an absolute fortune doing so. The government, I believe, needs to be accountable for wasted millions.
When we were travelling with the last bill, we were in London one day, the day the government launched a government advertising campaign that you and I and every other taxpayer paid for, announcing that welfare recipients would now participate in Ontario Works. It was quite interesting because there was no benefit to the ad. Those who receive welfare are in constant contact with the people who send them the cheques. There was no need for them to hear on the radio ad that this was going to happen to them.
It was clearly the use of government dollars strictly for the purpose of exercising political propaganda -- workfare as the issue -- to further enhance their image with their public in linking Tories to workfare. It had nothing to do with the efficiency of the program and nothing to do with welfare recipients and what their next step would be to participate in the program. There was no benefit other than political propaganda, so they have not been accountable for that kind of wasteful spending.
They've wasted money on advertising. They've wasted money forcing municipalities to be involved in things that they themselves know do not work. The minister, after the bill was introduced, after a slew of regulations came into effect in this year, took a trip to Wisconsin to find out how to make workfare work. What is the public accountability of a minister of the crown who determines to fly to a new jurisdiction to figure out how workfare can work after the bill came into the House, after debate, after public hearings, after regulations came into effect? Then the minister decides to fly to another jurisdiction to try to figure out how it works?
After that little jaunt the minister determines they're going to reintroduce the section they slept through the first time around, make it another anti-union bill and give it far more in public hearings than the entire Bill 142 had in the first place. Added to that, they send it to the justice committee, where it clearly does not belong, because this is a social issue dealing with the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Not one government member is accountable for the fact it's been sent to the wrong committee.
So you come in in support. With the name of the group you're with, it's obvious to me that you insist that the government be accountable for what they are doing and that when they choose to ask you questions, instead they take that time to give you answers, because the government should be accountable for what they do. In this case, it's wastefulness and expensive taxpayers' money without a program that works.
Unfortunately, the few people who are in it are not seeing the kind of effects they thought they were going to. We brought a man named Hugh Pescha into this House. He was begging to participate in Ontario Works because when this government was elected, he thought that as a 50-year-old who was downsized from a large company, Ontario Works meant he was going to have a job, and today Hugh Pescha still does not have a job. I'm very glad you came today.
Mr Kormos: Thank you kindly, sir. I should mention to you -- these people have heard me say this. This is not unique to where I come from. I'm from down in Welland, down in Niagara region. I was born in Crowland, which was annexed in the late 1950s. In the 1930s the Crowland relief workers went on strike because they figured that as long as they were going to be forced to work for relief, they had a right to negotiate the amount of money they received, and they went on strike. They organized. The government of the day sent down the OPP and forced them to dig sewers by hand at gunpoint.
I've talked to a whole lot of those people and their children. I've seen the photographs. I've heard that story passed on from generation to generation. When I was campaigning in 1995 -- I was in extended care, the old folks -- the Tory candidate wanted to talk about workfare. I said, "Let's talk about it." These folks knew exactly what it meant. They nodded their heads; they remembered.
But something further: You might have heard me raise the fact that the government this afternoon -- just an hour ago, if not shorter -- filed another notice of motion, a time allocation motion restricting debate on Bill 25, a so-called red tape bill, referring it to this committee for clause-by-clause consideration, notwithstanding that it has no relevance to this committee whatsoever.
You'll recall that we brought an application under standing order 124 for a 12-hour inquiry into the shooting of Dudley George and, more specifically, the involvement of the Premier's office and/or the Premier into the slaughter of Dudley George. The government's response was to send Bill 15 by way of time allocation to this committee, a finance bill that had no place here. Then when it appeared that there were going to be two weeks left -- because, you see, what had happened is the government member of the standing committee was Mr Martiniuk. He tried to raise a whole bunch of technical arguments about how we couldn't get the bill referred here by the subcommittee in time. Arguments were made back and forth and Mr Martiniuk didn't win that argument. He fled out of this room like a bat out of proverbial Hades and within an hour another time allocation motion was tabled in the House, sending Bill 22 before this committee.
I was just at the committee on resources development, over in room 151 this afternoon. You can check the record, Chair, if you doubt me. I was there at 3:30. I was substituted for Marion Boyd. I wanted to find out what happened, because when our standing order 124 application got kiboshed here because of Bill 15 and then 22 being referred here, and now Bill 25, we brought the standing order applications in each and every other committee that had any relevance whatsoever. Marion Boyd did it for resources development.
I wanted to find out what happened to the standing order application in resources development. I spoke with the clerk and with the Chair of that committee and with the Liberal members who were present and was assured that the Chair, Ms Castrilli, had done her job by calling the subcommittee meeting, because the subcommittee has to consider it and then report back to committee, but the member of that subcommittee refused to attend on two occasions. He neither attended nor did he send an alternate, which is entirely acceptable. He simply refused to let a subcommittee meeting be, effectively killing the request for a hearing into the George slaughter by that committee pursuant to our standing order 124.
I'm told by the clerk of that committee, who is a civil servant, and by Ms Castrilli, who's the Chair of that committee and is as honourable as certainly this Chair and any number of others, that that member of the subcommittee who refused to attend and who similarly refused to appoint an alternate so that the subcommittee could consider it and refer back so there'd be a half-cheeked chance -- I thought I'd clean that one up, recognizing your profession -- of the committee pursuing it -- the member who refused to show up was Jack Carroll, who's the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services. He has denied it once already in this committee. I've responded to him by suggesting to him very clearly that he was not telling the truth.
What's tragic about this, in my view, because now we have this time allocation motion again today, I've got to tell you, Chair, is that all this does is raise more and more concern about what the truth really is around the slaughter of Dudley George at Ipperwash, when this government is doing everything it can, and subjecting its own members to such opprobrium, in their effort to quash even this modest 12-hour hearing.
You've got your own skins to save as well, if I may put it that way. At some point you should be joining the struggle to have the truth come out. If the truth ends up being benign, God bless, but if it's anything other than that, why is so much energy being used to suppress a member's right under standing order 124? Standing order 124 gives you such limited power. It's only 12 hours.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Kormos.
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Chair.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate your coming forward.
To inform Mr Kormos, I have done as you have asked. I have checked the record and it was not resources development, it was social development you were at.
Thank you very much. This ends --
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Chair: Can I correct the record? Social development: I was in room 151.
The Chair: This committee sits recessed.
Father McGrory: Thank you for listening to me. I appreciate all of your work done here in the Legislature. I just say, I'm the King's friend, but God's first.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Chair.
The Chair: I've already closed.
Mr Kormos: How can you close it without a motion for adjournment?
The Chair: You're correct.
Mr Kormos: May I correct the record, please? I intended to say "social development" rather than "resources development," which was the meeting in room 151 today. A slip of the tongue. I hope the record will reflect that.
Mrs Pupatello: A question for the Chair: Would I be able to hear back, before tomorrow's meeting, regarding the precedents about content of presenters at committee, whether in the past they have always had to pertain specifically to the bill at hand at that committee, if there's a precedent for the ruling you made today?
The Chair: We can have legislative research look into that.
Thank you. Recessed until 1530 tomorrow.
The committee adjourned at 1753.