Wednesday 3 June 1992

Role of the independent member

Tony Rizzo

Committee budget


*Chair / Président: Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

*Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot ND)

*Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

*Mills, Gordon (Durham East/-Est ND)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East/-Est L)

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

*Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville/S-D-G & Grenville-Est PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North/-Nord L) for Mr Morin

*Harnick, Charles (Willowdale PC) for Mrs Marland

*In attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas

Staff / Personnel: Yeager, Lewis, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1556 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): Seeing a quorum present, I call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order. The committee has two items of business before it this afternoon. First, dealing with the role of the independent member, and the second issue dealing with the 1992-93 committee budget.


The Chair: At this point, I would ask Tony Rizzo, MPP, to come forward. I understand that you have a presentation you wish to present to the committee on the role of the independent member.

Mr Tony Rizzo: Honourable colleagues, to paraphrase George Orwell in Animal Farm, all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

In my time as an independent, I have discovered that the parallel may be drawn between this notion and the Ontario Legislature. All members are equally elected, but recognized party members are more equal than others. In other words, those members who enjoy a recognized party status have more rights than those considered independent.

Independents are denied the full extent of rights and privileges that are granted to caucus members simply because they do not belong to a recognized party. This is a reality that independent members must continually confront, and to illustrate my point, let me read to you from a letter sent to me by Mr Forsyth of the Clerk's office in which he sets out those fundamental rights denied to members of provincial Parliament who do not have recognized party status.

"Members of the assembly who do not belong to a recognized party or are independents cannot:

1. Request the deferral at a division in the House.

2. Make a statement during members' statements.

3. Comment on a ministerial statement during statements by the ministry and responses, nor are they entitled to an advance copy of a ministerial statement before it is made in the House.

4. Ask a question during oral questions.

5. Receive, as of right, a compendium of background information or, if it is an amending bill, a consolidation of the act to be amended when a government bill is introduced.

6. Receive, as of right, background material when a minister presents a statutory report.

7. Select a matter for debate on an opposition day or participate in an opposition day debate.

8. Move a want of confidence motion or participate in deciding when the motion will be debated.

9. Participate in a debate on a motion for discussion of a sessional paper.

10. Serve on a standing or select committee."

Independent members of the House, whether or not they are affiliated with a particular party, are only capable of performing half their duties, a fraction of what they are obligated to do for their constituents, because they do not have enough members in the Legislature to constitute a recognized party.

We have forgotten the importance of the constituent in this Legislature. It is the constituents' right to have effective and total representation in their government, and it is through the elected member that these voices are heard. Therefore, to deny the independent member those rights, fundamental to his or her duty, is to silence the voices of his or her constituents. They are the ones who ultimately suffer from not having effective representation. Their voices are silent in the chamber. Their questions and concerns cannot adequately be brought to the attention of the government in Ontario. Is this full democracy? Mr Chairman, honourable colleagues, I do not believe it is.

This is not an issue restricted to my particular circumstance and something that will never happen again in the Ontario Parliament. With new parties entering the political arena and with the citizens' anger against traditional party politics, the prospect of more independents in the House is real and probably not too distant.

I am not here today to advocate a greater freedom away from party rules for caucus MPPs. Party discipline is necessary to both government and opposition in order to give coherence to the work being done in the House, and it is unthinkable to have a Parliament made up of members who act individually, following their personal feelings. To govern in this fashion would be impossible.

But committed as I am to the value of party discipline, I do not believe it is fair that standing orders should be used to uphold party discipline. Why does an MPP have to be a member of a recognized party to be able to fulfil his or her duties? A line must be drawn between the rules of the House, which should place all members on equal grounds, and party discipline, which should be distinct from parliamentary rules. If we do not acknowledge this problem, we will continue to send a very sad message to the people of Ontario, a message that says: "Dear fellow Ontarians, this Parliament is not your House where your representatives work for you, but our House, the House for the political parties. We make the rules in our image and likeness, and the MPP who does not belong to us shall not have the right to represent you although she or he has been elected by you, the sovereign people of Ontario." Is this the message we want to send to our constituents?

I am here today, Mr Chairman, honourable colleagues, to propose a number of changes to the existing standing orders of this House in order to eliminate any inequalities between independent and caucus members. Furthermore, I want to propose a lowering of the number of members required for a party to be recognized as such.

First, let me expand very briefly upon this latter proposal. My colleagues will excuse me, but let us suppose for one moment that in the next election the Green party or the Reform party may win a number of the seats currently held by our three parties in this province. We all know this could very well happen and that it is possible, within this scenario, that there will be in the next Parliament one or more parties with not enough members to constitute a caucus. This would not be fair to the citizens who, after electing an MPP, later discover that their representatives cannot work as effectively on their behalf as those belonging to a recognized party.

In reality, the number of parties is increasing, and although the minimum number of MPPs to be recognized as a party in this House has been lowered from 20 to 12, I strongly recommend that it be reduced further down to eight. This number is large enough to ensure that only parties with an established constituency are recognized, while at the same time it is small enough to guarantee due recognition to new parties entering the political arena.

As far as the status of independent members is concerned, I propose that the standing orders should be amended in order to eliminate any inequality between independent and caucus members. It would be up to the Clerk's office to find the best way to realize this objective. As I said in my letter to Mr Duignan requesting this presentation, the Clerk's office should be called before this committee to discuss these proposed changes in depth. A number of issues will be raised by these changes, such as the allocation of time for question period, but none of these issues are, in my opinion, extremely difficult to solve. An example: In terms of the allocation of time, every party has a certain time allocated in proportion to the number of its members. Therefore, it would not be too difficult to do the same for independents: so much time allocated to the government, the opposition and the independent members, proportionate to their representation in the House.

I know that all these obstacles can be overcome if there is a real effort made towards this objective, that is, to have a Parliament where no one member is more equal than another. If it were not for my own predicament, I probably would have never realized how unjust the present situation is. The respect that Parliament asks for itself from the citizens of Ontario must be reciprocated with a greater form of respect paid by Parliament and its members to its electors, the sovereign people of Ontario. With the standing orders at present, it is apparent that more respect is paid to the political interests of the parties than to the will of the constituents themselves. This situation only serves to silence the voices of thousands of citizens who choose to come out and exercise their right to vote. Moreover, if they choose to vote for someone who is not a member of a recognized party, it is their right to do so. If we do not make the necessary changes, Ontarians' rights will remain curtailed. The people of Ontario have the right to be effectively represented. If they choose to be represented by someone who does not belong to a recognized party, there is no reason to deny them a full and equal voice.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Rizzo. The floor is now open for questions. I have so far a short list. The first member is Mr Owens.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Mr Rizzo, I want to thank you for coming before the committee, understanding that your situation is fairly unique, as you pointed out. You may be aware that there is a process being undertaken now by the three parties with respect to parliamentary reform. I certainly hope you'll be involved in that issue and that we'll consult with you.

Just a quick question on how you do your job: This is a fairly lengthy list of prohibitions, so how do you get the message of your constituents out to ministers, to your colleagues, to ensure that your riding is represented effectively?

Mr Rizzo: This is one of the major problems. What I have been doing is getting a little bit of cooperation by all departments, all the ministers and their representatives. So through my constituents' assistance, I've been communicating with them. They've been very understanding. Even at the bureaucratic level, I've got a lot of help. But as you know, I have no facilities in terms of caucus administration, so I have to do everything by myself and my staff. It has been a very, very hard time for us. It has been a good chance for us to learn maybe more than some of you guys had the opportunity to do because of the more freedom I had at my disposition. It has been a very trying time, but the place where people want to be represented is the House. If my voice cannot be heard in the House and if the questions are not going to be asked in the House through me, then I think their rights have been curtailed.


Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): Mr Rizzo, I also appreciate some of the dilemmas that you're going through. You have outlined all of the things you cannot do, but of course you can do all of those things with unanimous consent of the Legislature. Consent can do anything.

I realize the dilemma that faces you when if indeed you're on your feet, you're recognized by the Speaker and it seems like a cap in hand situation and I don't think that that is right, and that's exactly what you're talking about. So you're not quite denied all of those things, but certainly as you mentioned in your opening preamble, some members are more equal than others, and you happen to be somewhat less equal than the rest of us. I appreciate that. Certainly we have meetings with the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker and it's a situation that we're aware of all the time when you're in the Legislature. If indeed you are on your feet, unanimous consent has to be obtained in most areas that you touched on.

I think we have to recognize two situations here: an independent member may well be elected as an independent member, and an independent member may wind up being independent after the election when something occurs. Pursuant to that, I think we have to make up our minds. If indeed we're going to accept an independent member as he or she is, regardless of how or she got there, then we have to change the rules. If we're not, I think we have to look towards saying, "A certain member was elected with party affiliation and something occurred; therefore this member is now independent." I think it would be incumbent at that point to say that the seat be declared vacant and a by-election called. I don't think I would be prepared to recommend that. So an independent member, whether he or she be elected as independent or wind up as independent through some other situation, I think it has to be accepted that an independent is an independent. Private members' hour is a misnomer, because it is private members with party affiliations' hour. I certainly would be prepared to change that and have the names of independents in the draw.

We realize you have been very quiet because of the situation. You could have also been very vociferous and upset. The workings of the House whereby any time I am in the chair or whomever is in the chair asks for unanimous consent -- if the member for Oakwood says no, one "nay" is all that's needed to negate a unanimous consent. I realize that in other legislatures and in this building it has caused chaos. Certainly we don't want that here. I think it's an excellent idea, Mr Chair, that you've allowed the member for Oakwood to express his frustrations and that we can, to some degree, correct.

The area of concern I see is that going from having very little to say to trying to monopolize the Legislature as an independent is not we're looking for either. I know many European countries have probably a lot more political parties than they want in order to operate efficiently. I would be one that would not like to see a recognized party go below the actual number of 12. I think 10% of the entire number of seats is a good guideline. You've suggested eight, which is somewhere below 10%. I have some degree of reservation and reserve about that. I would like to see the recognized party remain at approximately 10% of the total number of seats in the Legislature. Those are my personal comments.

But we certainly have to change the rules to recognize an independent when time allocation occurs, for example. It's generally geared to an opposition day or some like situation whereby at the end of the day, come 6 of the clock, the debate is over. There's no room for an independent there, even with unanimous consent. Then I guess the time that the independents would be speaking would be taking time away from all three parties. We have to work out a mechanism in that instance.

I am certainly in full agreement with an independent pursuing questions in the Legislature. I realize that when we exclude the cabinet we have about 100 members in this Legislature, so that would mean that somewhere between the 80th and 100th question would be an independent's turn. I have no problem with that, other than it would put more pressure on the table officers to keep track if indeed there were a number of independents. With only one, which is the situation here, it would be more easily accommodated. But with a number of independents it would be a little more difficult and would certainly require more, I think, attentiveness. You may even need a table officer absolutely responsible for taking off who has questions and when.

I certainly know that we need to face a change. The Parliament of Canada has special rules to accommodate independents, and I think we need to look at that. Certainly private members' hour, to start with, is a misnomer, and I would certainly be quite prepared to recommend and move in this committee that independent members be included in --

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): A point of information, Mr Chair: I just want to check on something, Mr Villeneuve. It's my understanding that all members' names, save and except those who are members of the executive council, are put into the ballot for selection. I just want to make that clear. Is that correct?

Mr Villeneuve: Yes, everyone except the Premier and the executive council, approximately 100.

Mr McClelland: I'm missing something then in your argument. It seems to me that what you're suggesting, Mr Villeneuve, is that private members don't include independent members.

Mr Villeneuve: It doesn't. Mr Rizzo's name is not in the draw.

Mr McClelland: That is the point I wanted to clarify. My understanding was, all members except for the Premier and the executive council.

Mr Villeneuve: Recognized parties only.

Mr McClelland: Okay. Thank you.

Mr Villeneuve: In conclusion, and I certainly don't want to monopolize here, we must address changes. Changes must be made. The people of Oakwood must be represented, not only by you, sir, in your constituency office and in your Queen's Park office but in the Legislature.

I had a debate as to whether we should recognize an elected independent or an independent through some other way than election, and I've come to the conclusion that I do not believe it's the Legislature's business as to how you or someone else becomes an independent. You are an independent; you sit as such. You have to be recognized as such.

Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): First of all, I would say to Mr Rizzo that you have a unique experience, I think, perhaps among the legislators who currently constitute this House in the fact that you have sat as an independent.

Whatever the personal circumstances, I would make the observation that you've carried out, with a considerable degree of dignity, what I perceive to be a very tough and I would consider even a lonely situation to be in. I certainly have admired the manner in which you have continued to work to represent your constituents as effectively as you could, given your circumstances.

In other jurisdictions and, I believe, in this House, as has already been pointed out by my colleague from the Conservative Party, with all-party agreement accommodations could be made and could have been made. I'm wondering, Tony, if during your experience you actually made contact, let's say, with all three House leaders with regard to the possibility of placing questions or making a statement. Could you respond to that?

Mr Rizzo: Yes. I've been in touch with the Speaker of the House. He suggested that if I really wanted to ask a question at any time, even if the standing orders wouldn't allow me to do that, he would take it on his own to allow me to ask the question, but I didn't want to put him in the embarrassing position of maybe having to decide something that would be accepted by all the members.


Mr Villeneuve: Even with the unanimous consent?

Mr Rizzo: That's right, because, as explained before by Mr Villeneuve, you need to have unanimous consent for him to do that. He offered, but I said, "Fine; if I decide to do that, I'm going to ask you in advance," but I never did.

Mr Farnan: I'm not sure if there's anyone in this room -- perhaps Mr Conway might have some experience that he could draw on -- but my sense is that there would be some sensitivity among members in all parties to allowing an independent an appropriate opportunity for an occasional question, an occasional statement, given the fact that the member would actually seek the agreement or the consensus of the three caucuses.

I think in other jurisdictions -- and I'd be looking for guidance on this -- there is some demonstrated flexibility and adaptability to accommodate a member who's an independent. I suspect that this House would not be less generous. I'm just wondering if we tested that flexibility. Maybe we didn't. That's the question I'm asking.

Mr Rizzo: No, we didn't test it.

Mr Farnan: Okay.

Mr Villeneuve: I think the words you used were "less generous." I would like to use the words "less democratic." I don't think we're less democratic. Generosity only goes beyond an individual's ability to agree or disagree. We're talking politics here. Democracy is what we're talking about. The people of Oakwood are less equal than the people in 129 other ridings, and that's not right.

Mr Farnan: Yes. I accept your clarification as a good point. What I'm trying to get a handle on is that, given Tony's unique position and his desire to be a voice for his constituents, I just wanted to explore if he had tested to the limit the possibilities within this House. I take it that perhaps you haven't, Tony.

That aside, the arguments that you make in your presentation I think are fundamental questions. I think the all-party committee on parliamentary reform is undertaking a significant challenge in reviewing standing orders and reviewing the procedures of the House. I like Mr Owens's suggestion that that committee should have the opportunity to speak with you, because I think you do give a unique perspective. Indeed, in that review, the whole area of the rights of independents might be reflected upon by that all-party committee on parliamentary reform.

I would move that Tony's paper and presentation to this committee and whatever debate takes place here today be forwarded to the all-party committee to reflect on as it undertakes bringing forward suggestions in the area of parliamentary reform.

Mr Charles Harnick (Willowdale): This may be a difficult question to answer. What has been the feedback that you've received from your constituents about the predicament that you're in?

Mr Rizzo: The question they ask me all the time -- and I still do some canvassing and I've been in touch continuously with them through my constituency office and by meeting with them almost on a weekly basis -- "We see you in the House when you stand up to vote in favour of something or against something else, and you never say anything. You never speak, you never ask questions. How come you're not doing it? What is stopping you from doing that?"

My answer has been the same all the time. In my position, according to the standing orders, I'm not allowed to ask any questions. I wasn't even aware of the fact that we needed the unanimous consent. With the unanimous consent, maybe I would have been able to do that. I wasn't even aware of that. But this has been the concern of the people I represent.

Of course, other questions follow: "What happened? Are we going to be represented by somebody sitting in the House without having a voice in the actual House? What is going to happen to you?" What I've been telling them is that I'm going to study the situation, I'm going to propose some changes to the standing order that, if approved by the House, would put me on the same footing with all the other members, and then I would be able to do my full job as their legitimate representative.

The Chair: I understand there's a Mr David Pond here from legislative research services who, I understand, is an expert in this field. So if members have a particular question, maybe David could answer it.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I just want to thank the member for Oakwood. I read his paper and I thought it was quite interesting. I think he raises some very good points. I appreciated what the member for S-D-G & East Grenville said because I should know some of the orders better than I do.

It is, however, inconceivable to me that you would not get up from time to time and seek to ask a question. There are days when I can't imagine anything more interesting than being an independent member. We've had some extremely effective, very high profile people serve as independent members of this Legislature, as was the case in the Parliament of Canada. In fact, I think we had a case -- and I'd have to check. I think a former Premier once sat as an independent for a short period of time after he'd been Premier, if I'm not mistaken.

So you have not had the instinct, you haven't felt the urge to just get up and ask a question and defy the rest of us to shout you down?

Mr Rizzo: Of course I have the urge to stand up and ask a question in spite of what would have happened.

Mr Conway: I think you should do it.

Mr Rizzo: But I have too much respect, respect that the House and all the members deserve, to force myself in speaking without following the rules of the House.

Mr Conway: But, you see, it seems to me that it's not -- I appreciate your deference, but I don't think it has anything to do with that so much as you've got a mandate from the people of Oakwood to be here. Charlie down here is a lawyer, but I'm not so sure -- there's a history to these rules too. Have you had a chance to read the Camp commission?

Mr Rizzo: No.

Mr Conway: You might be interested to go back and look at the Camp commission, which was set up here in the early 1970s and which has provided the framework in which the place has operated for as long as I've been here. In the very early part of the Davis government, he asked Dalton Camp, who'd been of course a prominent member of the Conservative Party, Doug Fisher, the former NDP MP for Thunder Bay and Farquhar Oliver, a long-time member who was himself, I'm sure, at one point an independent. He went through quite a political metamorphosis. But he'd been here for 42 years and for a good bit of that, a Liberal cabinet minister and Liberal leader. Those three people were mandated by the then government to look at the way the place operated, everything from the standing orders to the financing and support of caucuses and individual members. Out of that came many of the structures and procedures that we now have.

Interestingly, it is only in the last 25 -- I'm trying to remember when we last had an independent. We had quite a fellow from Port Arthur, a Liberal who was elected as a Liberal in 1967, and he went through a kind of metamorphosis and became an independent, I think, about 1969. His name escapes me, but I'll think of it.

Mr Villeneuve: Were you here with Dr Shulman?

Mr Conway: He was an independent in everything but name. We had some of that. There were a number of very colourful, independent-minded members, but they did belong to caucuses. But the fellow from Port Arthur sat for a while as an independent. Marvin Shore, on his travels, I think might have for a very brief time, although I don't think he did. I think he made the direct switch.

Historically, over the decades, this has been a place like a lot of the provincial legislatures where there are a goodly number of independents. Two of the most effective and interesting members the place ever had were Joe Salsberg and McLeod. They were communists, I think. They ran by a different styling, but enormously effective members of the Legislature, and they were famous for their independent positions and what have you.


Now, what has happened, the rules were altered in the early 1970s to accord with the new reality, and the new reality was what I would describe as the homogeneity of party politics. Gone were the days. Some people like Morty Shulman, Eddy Sargent, Paul Yakabuski on occasion were very independent-minded people but they were still accommodated within the provincial parties. But from about 1970 onwards, there was very little experience with independent members.

That having been said, there is sometimes a very peculiar kind of view around this place. I remember after the 1985 election, it came as a huge surprise to a lot of members of the Legislature and reporters that governments are chosen by Parliament. Frank Miller won the election in the sense that he had more seats though fewer votes than the David Peterson Liberals, but in our system it's Parliament which gets to decide the government.

Parties have given us the politics of the foregone conclusion, but we have to be reminded from time to time that the standing orders notwithstanding, there are some other realities. Charlie is a lawyer, I'm not. I would be very interested with the charter now. I was very interested in what Smirle Forsyth told you. I am not a lawyer and I may be made to look foolish, but when I look at Smirle's list I would be interested in hiring a good lawyer and going before a court and saying, "Can a Parliament, duly constituted, deny me, a duly elected member of that Parliament, these rights and privileges which obtain to all other members?" That would be a very interesting case.

Mr Harnick: It's interesting in that you're looking at individual rights in the charter. But advancing a case, I suspect, as a member of a Legislature is not advancing a case in terms of an individual's rights per se, and that I think would be a very interesting, probably a fascinating, case if you had jurisdiction.

Mr Conway: The point I guess I want is that our rules, not our rules but sort of the informing logic of the system we've got springs from the Camp commission. It's now almost 20 years old.

You make the point, I think rightly so, in the presentation that we are look at splintering. This is a growth of new parties both provincially and nationally. If we get many more situations where we have five people in the race and people are getting elected with 30% of the vote, that's going to beg a few questions about the "first past the post" system, which has assumed generally speaking two, maybe three, people in the race. When we start to get into a system of five parties, we're going to reform not just the standing orders but the rules around election financing, and there's a lot of pressure and talk about that at the present time.

I have a couple of questions as well as observations. It's not clear to me how you would at one and the same time have party discipline, which I think to some extent you probably have to have, and give an individual independent member equal or full sway because it will be very quickly evident to a number of people, for example, sitting on the opposition or the government back benches that the independent member has relative to them a much enhanced opportunity within the parliamentary scheme of things. That is a real difficulty, and I'm not so sure that there's an easy solution to that. But I think that you make a very good case here for looking at the rules.

I can't believe that we've got rules, but I guess we have, where an independent member does not get a chance to get in the private member's public business draw. That is very suspect. It seems to me that there should be some provisions around the budget speech and the throne speech that recognize the right of an independent member. You may not want to actually put that in the rules at present, but it seems to me there has to be an agreement or an understanding that you're going to have an opportunity to speak to the major debates which would be throne and budget.

It seems to me as well that you've got every right to stand up and ask questions. In my view, that's not something you want to -- you can only leave that in the Speaker's discretion, but if I were in your position I would be up on my feet tomorrow with a question and I would almost hope that some group of party loyalists wouldn't let me ask the question because you're going to win that argument in the more important court of public opinion.

But in terms of a way in which to regulate that, it seems to me the best way to do that is simply to leave it in the Speaker's discretion with a broadly based understanding among all members, and particularly among the House leaders, that an independent member, and it's very easy in this case because there's only one, is going to get an opportunity to ask three, four or five questions per session or whatever. You might say three or four, I don't know. But I tell you, I mean, it's not for me to give you advice, but if I were in your position it would be tomorrow. I think it's a very important point.

I must say that I really appreciate the brief for the list of things it tells us that you can't -- I know the point I was going to make. When I was first elected, and for the first few years, there was an amazing lottery around here where what happened was when oral questions were called, and in the old days of course you had to submit the questions in writing and all the rest of it but you don't do that any more, but all members stood up. Everybody stood up. The Speaker had no -- I don't know what he's got now. Noble, did you people get -- I think John Fraser -- in the Parliament of Canada the Speaker gets some indication of what the list is. Does our Speaker get any indication?

Mr Villeneuve: No, our Speaker may well have a list for the parties that would want their members recognized, but by and large he has no indication. In the Mother of Parliaments in England they still have a two-week waiting period with a written question and then they're allowed a supplementary. We're way beyond that and certainly I wouldn't want to go back to that.

Mr Conway: The point I guess I wanted to make was that we imposed a discipline that I think in the main has been very good, that each of the parties now works out its own list. But it was a very interesting place. It was a terrible job for the Speaker and it led to all kinds of internecine quarrelling like Villeneuve and Harnick and four or five others. Six, eight, 10 Liberals all stood up together and left it to the Speaker to make the judgement. Now we've gone passed that and I think it is on balance a good thing.

I would certainly think it is absolutely your right to ask a question. It is absolutely your right to participate in the private members' ballot. It is absolutely your right to participate in all the rest of the activity, though I am not so sure that can be easily organized in all particulars. I think the matter should be pursued and again, like a lot of things, I think it's best done by some good judgement exercised by the individual independent member and by the Speaker, and hopefully with the party House leaders showing some sensitivity.

Mr McClelland: It's always hard or difficult, if not impossible, to follow the member for Renfrew North. He said so much and he covered such a great deal of thoughtful consideration for what you bring before us, Mr Rizzo.


There are a couple of things that he said I wanted to touch on. In fact, there is basically one issue I wanted to raise that Mr Conway raised. I say this, by the way, Mr Chairman, as much as we have a motion on the floor for this to go to the commission, or to the committee studying parliamentary reform.

I think there are some inherent difficulties in movement towards recognizing independents, if you will, as in the same status as recognized parties. There are a number of things that happen, and I say it simply as this and leave it almost as a rhetorical question. At the conclusion of your submission you indicate that as citizens come out to vote they can choose to vote for someone who is not a member of a recognized party and it is their right to do so. Mr Conway made the point well that indeed people vote for individual men and women who put their names forward as candidates, in some instances perhaps speculating, but never knowing where they're going to land in terms of government, opposition or third party.

The reality, having said that, is that they take a chance. The hard reality is that those of us in opposition do not have the same efficacy in terms of fulfilling our function as do those in government, in some instances. One would argue that it gives us a bit more latitude in some cases, and one would argue it gives us less access in others. So there's a tradeoff, perhaps. But after all is said and done, the voters make their choice collectively and the chips fall where they may in terms of where we sit.

As Mr Conway has said, some in opposition may end up on the front benches in very effective and leadership positions in opposition. Others of us may end up on the back benches. So be it. That happens. I guess it's a matter of degree. Ultimately that's what you're talking about in terms of an independent is a matter of degree, because certainly that happens. It happens within the government; it happens within cabinet; it happens within the back benches of government, and so you go through the progression. I don't say that in a pejorative sense, to any of those who don't sit in cabinet or who sit on back benches or the third party or my colleagues and myself in the official opposition.

Having said all that, I think what we have to do is really consider that the reality of party politics, as Mr Conway has indicated, are there. I think there would be tremendous difficulty in trying to embody in our rules that sense of absolute equality, because that just ain't so, as they say; it's just not the reality. All of us recognize that. I think what we can do is move towards an accommodation, as has been well said by Mr Villeneuve and Mr Conway. In that regard I certainly share their sentiments. Again, thank you for bringing this to the committee.

I too would just, I suppose, somewhat subsequent to that say I would also have great difficulty in moving to the recognition of a party with a number that was relatively small. I don't know where that relativity, the appropriate threshold, is. I think the 10% is something to be considered. As Mr Villeneuve indicated, currently we are at more or less 10% of sitting members. That may not be the right number. It may indeed be worthy of reconsideration. I'm sure it will be by members of the committee.

Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): Mr Rizzo, it's nice to see your brief. It certainly was very enlightening for me. I wasn't aware that the powers of a member could be usurped in the way they were by merely being an independent. Certainly I know there are many factors beyond those that are evident in your brief that would suggest that your demeanour in the Legislature is very polite and very honourable indeed. I think it's very nice that you bring this information forward. I support your intentions. I think your intentions are well-directed and well meant. I think it's a good brief that you've brought forward.

I certainly don't have the experience Mr Conway has and I expect that I never will, quite frankly, in this venue, whether that be because of the fact that I don't want to continue or others would choose that I don't, but certainly he has offered you some advice that I think is interesting. That's not to suggest that your character change in any dramatic way over the next short while, but certainly there are ways that you can work the rules or use the rules of the House to achieve at least to achieve the one thing that you want, and that is, involvement in the process, the thing that isn't allowed with the present rules. I think that certainly is something that can be done.

One thing I know is that when I was elected and I came to this place, I kind of groomed myself, as well as one can, to be the very best opposition member a person could be, and unfortunately I never had that opportunity, so I find myself in a position that I couldn't have imagined, and so maybe I'm not as as effective representative as a government member as I may have been in opposition. However, I'm here as a member of the government and that's the way it'll be for a few more years.

One thing that I certainly know was evident when I came here, or very soon after, was how the House commands itself and the demeanour of the members. Just generally, there was a sense within myself that the House wasn't the sort of place I had anticipated. I think the members displayed characteristics that I wouldn't suggest would characterize an honourable member, but nevertheless, you most certainly have been most honourable and I think that's something that should be stated. Whether that's because of your inability to be involved in the process or your choice, I'm not sure.

I think there's a perception in the province of Ontario that, first of all, the way the members act in the House should be changed, and I think there's also a perception, probably in Ontario and probably in Canada and maybe around the world in countries where democracies like ours exist, that their representatives aren't representing them in the way they can or should.

I know that presently, certainly in my riding, I'm hearing from constituents who think we should be more independent and should be able to vote according to the wishes of our constituents. Now, as we all know, we are whipped. Whether we be from the Progressive Conservative Party, the Liberal Party or the NDP, we are whipped by our whips and we vote according to how they want us to and we represent certain policies of our respective parties.

Right now, certainly in my constituency, I know there are those who would say that I should be more independent. In that respect I think I envy you somewhat, because you do have that opportunity to vote representing absolutely the wishes of your constituents, as you would believe their wishes to be. So in that way I am somewhat envious.

I'm not going to go on at length. I just want to again thank you very much for bringing this brief forward. It has been very enlightening and I hope, when this brief and the concerns are sent on as a motion or on to another committee to resolve, that there is recognition of the needs of the independents. Certainly as our political climate, the political scene, changes in this province, I expect that we'll see more and more independents or representatives from other parties being involved in the Legislature of Ontario. I think these rules have to be changed to reflect the reality in which we're dealing.

The Chair: As usual, the last word to Mr Mills.

Mr Mills: I have a couple of comments that I would like to make. I would like to compliment you for being here. I have had some encouraging words to you over the months that we've been here together. I'd like to echo what my colleague and friend Sean Conway said. If I were sitting here as an independent, it would take a pack of wild horses to hold me down, because everybody in Durham East would know Gord Mills is in the Legislature and I would say --


Mr Johnson: They already do, Gord.

Mr Mills: No, but they haven't seen nothing. If I was to sit here as an independent, believe me --

Mr McClelland: That can be arranged.

Mr Harnick: Do it, do it.

Mr Mills: I'm quite a very free-spirited person, and I'm telling you that your control and the way you've conducted yourself, is not something that would come very easily to me.

That poses a couple of questions that I would like to ask. Are your constituents -- you come forward after such a long time -- fed up with what's going on? My second question, Tony, is that I really thought that there was going to be a period of time and then you were going to be back into the thing there, and I was just wondering, have the people you represent become so frustrated with your performance that it's resulted in your putting through this type of legislation because you're fed up with it? Is that the bottom line?

Mr Rizzo: Really what's happened is what I answered before to Mr Conway's question: People don't understand why. They elected Tony Rizzo and on the ballot there's no NDP or Liberals or Conservatives: "You are there. We elected you to represent us, and we don't care which party you belong to, which caucus you join or you don't join. You are sitting there now. You should be allowed to do your job and to represent us." My answer is always the same. "The standing orders do not allow me to do that."

Again they were replying to me, "So what are you going to do about it?" I was answering again, "I'm doing whatever I'm allowed to do." There are a few things I am allowed to do, and I am serving them in my area and through whatever casework I can do and many other things. But as far as representing them in the House is concerned, I was going to prepare this presentation. I hoped I could do it before today, but it wasn't the procedure to do it any earlier, and hopefully the rules are going to be changed and I will be able to do the job I was elected to do.

Mr Mills: I think you should be encouraged to speak out, personally, and ask a question, get unanimous consent and assert yourself. I know I would.

The Chair: Thank you. There's a motion on the floor from Mr Farnan.

Mr Farnan: Does the clerk have that motion?

Clerk of the Committee (Mr Douglas Arnott): Mr Farnan moves that the submission of Mr Rizzo and the transcript of the committee's debates today be forwarded to the all-party ad hoc committee as it reflects on the issues of parliamentary reform.

Mr McClelland: I'd just add by way of amendment that the committee be encouraged to invite Mr Rizzo to present to that committee.

Mr Farnan: I would consider that a friendly amendment. I think I mentioned that in my statement, and if it can be incorporated in the motion, I'd be happy with that.

Mr McClelland: I say that, if I might, by way of explanation, Mr Chairman, that I think it's been useful having Tony here today, and it's been useful to all of us and helped us each understand, perhaps, a little bit better. I think it would serve the ad hoc committee well to have Tony to be there to respond and to participate.

The Chair: I appreciate your comments. Any further debate on the motion as amended? Seeing none, all those in favour of the motion as amended?

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Rizzo, for an excellent presentation, and we look forward to some action being taken on your suggestions and presentation.

Mr Rizzo: Thank you, Mr Chairman.


The Chair: The next item of business before the committee is the 1992-93 committee budget. Has every member got a copy of the budget? Any questions on the budget?

Mr Mills: Since I am new on this committee, I'd like some interpretation of NCSL conference. What does that entail?

The Chair: The NCSL stands for the National Conference of State Legislatures, to which this committee sends a delegation pretty well every year. The only year we didn't do it was the year the election fell on, which was 1990. This year the conference is in Cincinnati.

Mr Mills: I can see by the expenses it's not in Europe.

The Chair: That's quite correct.

Mr McClelland: I just might add that there was one year, I understand 1985, when the only person going, for a variety of reasons, was Noble Villeneuve. During Noble's flight, quite literally while he was in the air at 30,000-feet-plus, there was a writ issued for a 1985 election. So he arrived, checked into his hotel, didn't even unpack his bags, and turned around and came back. I just add that further to your comment that the 1990 election precluded attendance; in 1985, although we officially had somebody there, it was in name only, given the circumstances.

The Chair: It's generally a well worthwhile conference for members. Roughly about 7,000 or 8,000 legislators from right across North America and some from Europe attend this particular conference. I know from my experience last year that I learned quite a deal in exchange with legislators from around the world.

Mr McClelland: With specific reference to the budget and the issue Gord raises, the NCSL conference, in terms of per diems I think the budget anticipates that one member from each caucus, the Chair, plus staff would attend the conference as functioning on their committee, on the basis of per diem for committee; they would be there working officially in terms of a per diem. But the budget also allows for transportation and accommodation for the members without a per diem in the anticipation that additional members would be able to attend -- and I use this very loosely -- on their own time. Understand the context in which I am saying that; I think we are all working.

That's the way I read the budget, because the per diem is not built in for all members, but travel and accommodation is built in for all members of the committee, so I understand that to be the case. I don't have any great difficulty with that. I think that reflects the committee's intention, if I'm correct -- I might need some help on that; I see you're reviewing that -- that each of the parties should have representation at that conference and, second, if others want to come along, that their expenses would be picked up but not necessarily per diems. I wonder if I could have some clarification on that or maybe that's just a typo or whatever.

The second question that flows from that -- I'll get them both on the table if I could -- is some indication as to what might happen as far as the possibility of attendance at the conference. I say this simply in terms of planning. There are many of us who are looking right now at the prospect -- let's be candid about this -- I understand House leaders are talking about going into mid-July. There are other things that people want to do. Some of us may want to take some time with our families or other personal activities for a bit of a summer vacation or whatever. I know there are some caucus members who want to attend French-language training programs and so forth, and they are trying to arrange that. It seems to me that to leave it too late precludes some of the other things, particularly, by way of example, French-language training programs. The registration deadline for some of those is mid-month.

Having said that, I'm wondering if we could get some indication; if it would be possible to go to the government House leader and/or the government whip and report back to us as soon as possible about the prospect of a delegation of this committee going and/or what other latitude is available for attendance at the conference.

Maybe the clerk would confirm that the dates this year are July 25 to August 2; I don't know if that's correct. It is July 25 to August 2, thank you. So those two, or one if the numbers are reflective of the intent I indicated -- no, they're not, I'm hearing. Second, can we get some indication of when.

The Chair: To clarify the situation about the NCSL conference, I will undertake to ask the government House leader the questions raised by Mr McClelland today and report back to this committee next week. Mr Mills.

Mr Mills: What are the dates of the Cincinnati thing?

Mr McClelland: July 25 to August 2. The Chair: Any further questions on the budget? Under "travel and accommodations" there is a typo; it should read "seven days by four members" and "seven days by one staff."

Interjection: That's for travel and accommodation.

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Owens: I was going to ask about that. You have seven days times 12 members. That's the change?

The Chair: It should be seven days by four members and seven days by one staff, and the figures will be reduced accordingly.

Mr Owens: In terms of the registration for this conference, when do we have to let them know who and how many will be coming?

The Chair: I will ask the clerk to clarify that.

Clerk of the Committee: It should be done as soon as possible. A higher registration fee after June 19 applies, and the next Board of Internal Economy meeting I understand is on June 16, so we would certainly advise as soon as possible.

The Chair: Bring your concerns to the government House leader and report back to this committee next week.

Mr McClelland: You have three days' cushion there. It's pretty tight.

The Chair: Any further comments on the budget? All those in favour of the budget as amended? Great, unanimous.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Any further business before the committee? Hearing none, the committee stands adjourned till next Wednesday at 3:30.

The committee adjourned at 1701.