Wednesday 27 May 1992

Conduct of members

Hon Marion Boyd, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues


*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:

*McLean, Allan K. (Simcoe East/-Est PC) for Mr Villeneuve

*Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L) for Mr Morin

*In attendance / présents

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North/-Nord L)

Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood Ind)

Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas

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

The committee met at 1543 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): I would like to call to order the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. Seeing a quorum present, there are two items of business before the committee this afternoon dealing with suggested changes to the standing orders.

The first witness appearing this afternoon is the Honourable Marion Boyd, minister responsible for women's issues. Welcome, Minister. Please make yourself at home, as we say around here. You're welcome to make whatever statement you want to make, and I'm sure the members of the committee have a number of questions they may wish to ask.

Hon Marion Boyd (Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): As a member of provincial Parliament, I'm concerned about the atmosphere of disrespect that prevails in the Ontario Legislature. As the minister responsible for women's issues, I'm especially concerned --

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): Minister, if I might: I'm just wondering, if the minister is reading from a prepared text, whether she has a copy for committee members.

Hon Mrs Boyd: The clerk was supposed to have handed them around.

Mr Sorbara: Sorry for the interruption.

Hon Mrs Boyd: As the minister responsible for women's issues I'm especially concerned about discriminatory language and behaviour that contributes to this atmosphere of disrespect. Standing order 23 states:

"In debate, a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if he or she:

"(k) Uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder."

In direct response, I suggest: (1) the qualifying phrase "of a nature likely to create disorder" is unnecessary, because any abusive or insulting language is reason enough for a member to be called to order, and (2) "abusive or insulting language" be amended and clarified to include any reference to gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation -- characteristics that should not be a basis on which to question a member's credibility.

I acknowledge that legislative procedures are by nature adversarial and sometimes hostile. Part of the process is to challenge members of opposing parties and often to question their credibility. Some grounds for these challenges are acceptable and some are not. It's perfectly acceptable to raise in the House the question of a member's record in the House, inconsistencies in his or her party's position, proven or perceived conflicts of interest and other matters of direct relevance to the member's statements and track record, but it is not acceptable to attack a member on grounds of her or his race, ethnic origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender -- characteristics that are beyond a member's control, that a member need not apologize or compensate for having and, when attacked, only serve to demean that member personally and the group generally. We are here to debate, not to demean.

Let me emphasize that such references don't have to be slurs, epithets or outright insults. Just yesterday one woman cabinet minister had to preface an answer with this: "I have a bit of a problem in that the member continues to refer to me as `Mr Minister' each time he asks me a question. I have to keep reminding him that the portfolio has changed and that it rests with me now." The opposition member made light of the situation by retorting, "I'd love, of course, to call the minister `lady,' but I'd be in big trouble with her own caucus."

We have to understand that when one member refers to another as "the lady from" rather than "the member from," or, in another recent case, when one member repeatedly calls the second "the honourable lady," he is doing more than violating protocol. He is separating her from the others who sit authoritatively in the House. Above all, he is trivializing her role and legitimacy as an elected representative, the role that allows her to be there in the first place.

The same goes for tone. Recently an opposition member questioned a young woman cabinet minister using an explicitly patronizing and coaxing tone usually reserved for small children. Rather than legitimately challenging the cabinet minister, his condescension trivialized her authority. It also suggested that he was less interested in getting an answer than in demeaning her.

Considerations of government, opposition and cabinet caucus status aside, a member is a member is a member. All are equal as representatives and all should be treated with respect.

Besides verbal attacks and manipulation of tone, other forms of behaviour clearly discriminate but are harder to quantify. This behaviour comprises a range of efforts to humiliate and intimidate members, usually women, as they fulfil their elected roles in the House. Non-verbal tactics include: significantly increasing volume -- that is, more heckling, coughing, hissing and so on, when a woman rises to speak, introducing a wall of sound before she's even started her words; blowing kisses across the floor of the House, and mocking the higher-pitched voices of female members.

Videotapes of House proceedings provide ample evidence of these tactics. As such, they are not the imaginings of overly sensitive women who can't take the heat of the legislative kitchen. The fact that the noise level suddenly and regularly rises when women stand, especially women cabinet ministers, means there is more than mere coincidence at work. These tactics are employed primarily against women in an attempt to intimidate us, diminish our authority and reinforce the idea that the House is not meant to be our home.

In June 1991 the federal House of Commons standing committee on health and welfare, social affairs, seniors and the status of women released a report entitled The War Against Women. Among its 25 recommendations were the following:

"That Parliament mandate the Women's Parliamentary Association (WPA) to study, and present a report...on existing systemic barriers to women's full participation within the House of Commons and its support services, and to make recommendations for the elimination of such systemic barriers;" and

"That the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women be invited to conduct gender sensitivity programs for the members of Parliament."


As minister responsible for women's issues I not only support those recommendations but suggest that similar steps be taken by our Ontario Legislative Assembly.

I also wish to address the issue of language. It's no small consideration that the word "Parliament" originally meant "talking shop." MPPs must understand that language not only reflects but also shapes thoughts, perceptions and attitudes.

The United Nations has documented that men own over 99% of the world's resources. Given the wealth of psychological and material resources at their behest, men are in a position to be heard. According to Dale Spender, author of Man Made Language, "It is one of the characteristics of patriarchy...that one-half of the population is able to insist that the other half sees things its way."

The use of non-sexist language is more than a gesture to accommodate feminists. It's a matter of communicating democratically, with accuracy and fairness. The same is true of language that is sensitive to racial, cultural and religious differences as well as differences in physical capabilities, age and sexual orientation.

I am not recommending that the Ontario Legislature set a new standard for society. I am recommending that it catch up to the standard that society is already setting.

Five years ago, for example, a staff person from the Ontario women's directorate was advocating inclusive language to a group of freelance writers and editors. Her suggestions met with indifference and resistance. This year, the same staff person was talking to a group of editors and medical writers, one of whom told her that clients are now insisting on inclusive language. Even when clients don't request sensitive language, the writers themselves do. They know the public is demanding more of communicators, and elected representatives should know that too.

Some argue that exclusionary language and behaviour are subtle things, because they require reading between the lines and rely on the perceptions of the excluded to be understood. In fact, the subtlety of exclusion exists only in the minds of those doing the excluding, intentionally or not. To those being excluded, the message "You don't belong" is loud and clear.

Of course, whether discrimination is intentional or unintentional is irrelevant. Monitoring discriminatory language and behaviour with the aim to reform is crucial to both maintaining and, I suggest, restoring the integrity and efficiency of a Parliament.

As a Parliament we're responsible for getting the people's business done. Imagine how much more business can be conducted when the Speaker doesn't have to rise every other minute to call a member to order, or when the rules about what constitutes discriminatory language are precise enough that the Speaker need not wrangle with the member about them. This is the value of my suggested amendment to standing order 23(k).

As a cabinet minister too, I'm accountable to the public. When I answer a question it should be heard. All too often the very person who asked the question on behalf of his or her constituents also participates in a group attempt to drown out the answer. What then is the use of question period?

These observations take us back to my original concern: general disrespect in the House. Not long ago I invited some women to watch me announce a strategy against family violence in the House. They came, they watched and, long before question period finished, they left.

In a letter, one of the women explained why they had departed early. They were so "disgusted" by the "shouting, finger-pointing and name-calling" in the Legislature that even viewing it from the visitors' gallery was too much. "It should be noted," wrote the woman, who is an expert on violence, "that verbal abuse is the same as physical abuse." Her impression of that day in the Legislature speaks volumes to the need for reform now.

I have available as well a number of quotations from all parties -- this is a problem that happens with all of us; this is something we all need to change our behaviour about -- that have been collected over a number of years that really show that this is a very endemic problem and that if we are considering reforming the rules of the House, we have a responsibility to reform them to prevent this kind of behaviour on all our parts.

The Chair: Thank you, Minister, for your presentation. I now open up the floor to questions.

Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): Minister, I think all members in all parties are sensitive and supportive of approaches that will improve the climate for debate in the House and I would like to commend the minister for bringing this issue to our attention. All members, regardless of gender, I believe, benefit from an orderly and civilized legislative forum.

In the brief, Minister, it stresses to some extent the effect of inappropriate behaviour on women legislators. I wouldn't like it to be lost in the shuffle that the reality is that inappropriate behaviours, while creating a poor image for politics and politicians, do have an effect, a detrimental nuisance effect and an intrusive effect, on all legislators regardless of gender. I would like you to comment on that.

Hon Mrs Boyd: I would certainly agree with you. I think the atmosphere we create for ourselves in the House is not respectful of the job all of us have to do. Part of our job obviously involves the fact that we do not always agree with one another on how to do things or even on what to do. When we start to use ad hominem comments, when we start to cast aspersions on people, particularly around gender, race, religion, those sorts of issues that are very meaningful to who we are as individuals, it really creates an atmosphere which is difficult for all of us to live in and to work in, particularly when we're responsible as a government, as a group of people who've been elected to represent all sorts of people who come from all those groups.

If we are making those kinds of comments and acting in that way and modelling that kind of behaviour, then whatever we do as legislators in terms of trying to establish an equitable framework in government is going to be looked at with great scepticism by the members of those groups, and that's very serious. It really affects the kind of credibility we have as legislators.

Mr Farnan: Just in terms of the balance of your presentation, I take it that in terms of the examples you are going to distribute to the committee, which you have already indicated will probably reflect inappropriate behaviours from members of all parties, I think perhaps what didn't come out in the presentation, and I would like your comment again, is that sometimes in responding to a question, the same problems of tone can be the cause for an unsettling behaviour among opposition members. Again, I'd like your comments.

Hon Mrs Boyd: I think that's true. I certainly think those answering questions are not immune from using sarcasm, from making remarks that are often seen by the opposition parties as demeaning their right to ask a question. I think that is something we all need to be aware of. I think this goes right across all parties and whatever our position may be.

We do have to be mindful of the way in which our tone, the manner with which we answer questions, may in fact make a member feel as though he or she does not have a right to ask that question. Of course, it is an inherent right of opposition parties to ask questions. I would agree with you very much that this is something we all need to be watching.

Mr Farnan: Would you agree that, in reviewing the standing orders, there is a need for this committee or the parliamentary reform committee to be conscious that there's a fine line between bringing in new wording and new standing orders? You mentioned sarcasm, for example. Sarcasm is a highly developed skill. Some of the most famous quotes in history and in the political process itself are very refined matters where individuals have cast a beautifully, well-honed, sarcastic remark.


Hon Mrs Boyd: I think you are right, although we might argue as to whether those are memorable or ironic or sarcastic. I think that's a bit of an issue.

I think, going back, there is more to it than just that. One of the things that gives rise to a lot of this is whether we're following our own rules in terms of the length of questions, and whether questions are questions or speeches, and that therefore the response answers the elements of the speech as opposed to answering the question. I think we get ourselves into a mode of argumentation that is not particularly fruitful to the kinds of questions members and also the general public may have.

I think it's both those things. Yes, I think we have to be careful not to limit the wit that may be there. I think we all recognize that this has always been part of the parliamentary tradition, but when it is hurtful to people, when it demeans them as individuals, when it calls attention to their inherent characteristics, we need to be very, very clear that it's inappropriate.

Mr Farnan: So if it's funny or irrelevant, it's okay.

Hon Mrs Boyd: As long as it's not personally hurtful.

Mr Farnan: Right.

Hon Mrs Boyd: It's the ad hominem sort of thing that really creates some difficulty.

Mr Farnan: Minister, there is a process under way, I believe, where all parties have put forward a representative to a parliamentary reform committee. My understanding is that the work of this committee is to look at ways of bringing the standing orders into line to meet the requirements and needs of the 1990s. I'm sure all caucuses will be giving some very serious reflection to that and I would recommend that your proposal be passed on to that committee. I would like to hear perhaps from the opposition members present if they would be comfortable with that approach and if you would be comfortable with that approach.

Hon Mrs Boyd: It's certainly fine with me.

The Chair: Are you making that a motion, Mr Farnan?

Mr Farnan: I really don't want to do that until I feel there's a comfort level among the opposition parties to that approach.

Mr Sorbara: I guess I could say to the minister first of all that this is a rather interesting submission. I would comment that the recommendations she is making are in some respects inoffensive. The first one sets out a suggestion which recommends removing of the phrase "of a nature likely to create disorder." I think that our Legislature is often characterized by some disorder. I'll comment on that in a moment or two. The second one suggests that abusive or insulting language be amended and clarified to include a reference to gender, etc.

The reason I say your submissions are interesting is because, having sat in the Legislature for seven years now, for the most part I am unimpressed with the quality of the debate or the conduct in the Legislature. But what I love about the place is its protection of the freedom to say whatever you want as an elected representative.

I think the balance of your submission doesn't support so much the recommendations you're making as it does represent a complaint that the place is of a demeanour generally that is offensive. I'm offended that you suggest it's particularly offensive to women, because I think that is not the case. I think it's offensive to anyone who would be anxious to have a much higher quality of debate.

But to me, the primary principle of a democratic system is the freedom of an elected representative to say even the most scandalous things in the assembly. I'm a little bit surprised that a minister responsible for women's issues would now want to be qualifying language and trying to legislate tone. The reason I say that is because, having been a politician for a number of years and a human being for 45 years and a women's minister for two years, one of the things I know for sure is that all of the great achievements of society in respect to equality for women have been based primarily on women speaking out in what was, at the first point of expression, considered to be scandalous language. Even women suggesting they had the right to vote was at one point considered by the majority of the population to be scandalous thinking.

Hon Mrs Boyd: The male population anyway.

Mr Sorbara: That's right. You make the point in your remarks here that the male population was and still is in control. Thankfully, we have completed a long history of debate on whether or not abortion should be a criminal offence in Canada. That was resolved successfully and miraculously in a tied vote in the Senate. But I remember when it was considered scandalous even to suggest, in a Legislature like our Legislature, 50 years ago that women had that inherent right. I think a member would have been called to order, advocating that women commit a criminal offence.

None of us likes the tone. I think it has much more to do with the subject matter coming out of the mouths of members. I recall many occasions when members, your own leader, our Premier, were standing in the Legislature making eloquent, passionate, articulate, reasoned, thoughtful and well-enunciated speeches on a wide variety of subjects. There would be a hush in the room. The electronic system wouldn't have been necessary because the silence and the attention to the words of the member for York South and many other members -- I'm not going to go into a long list, but I just think of those occasions. My own former leader has had those occasions as well.

I think the best way to deal with the problem you're referring to is for each of us in our caucuses to think a little bit about the extent to which we want to think more before we speak in the Legislature. But there are occasions -- and I think of one just today: the point of order raised by our house leader about the rather insulting comments of the government House leader concerning our frustration of the business of the House, not in a House leader's meeting but to some journalists in the Globe and Mail. It gives rise to a mild degree of disorder because it's so offensive to us. Maybe parliaments will raise the standard of their debate over a period of time, but I'm really surprised that you would think in terms of bringing in some sort of constraint in the rules. We have to think very carefully. Did you know, for example, that the Legislature is the one place where a statement which would otherwise be slanderous is permitted? Under the laws --

Hon Mrs Boyd: Mr Sorbara, I do know the rules.


Mr Sorbara: Well, if we permit that, then should we constrain someone who calls a woman a lady? Should we constrain that? My goodness, you can't say that. I fear this is arguing for a kind of political correctness and linguistic correctness that is maybe where we're going and is maybe the path down which we're travelling, but my goodness, to argue that we need a set of rule changes to insulate members from, admittedly, sometimes, the brutality of the Legislature, I think is to attack the foundations -- and I believe this strongly -- the foundation stone of democracy in a way that truly surprises me, particularly in that it's coming from someone who advocates so strongly on such important issues. If I might just finish, all of those issues have been based on the courageous ability to speak out in an unqualified way, and that right being protected by our democratic system.

It is, I agree with you, a brutal place. In 1986 I sat in the Legislature day after day while the opposition Tory party tried to make allegations that I was a corrupt individual. Other members of my caucus were the victims of the same brutal attacks, not based on sex, gender, ethnicity or anything else. It hurt so deeply. Let me just give you an example.

My former colleague the member for Oakwood was, I think, the victim of those sorts of attacks. I campaigned with her on the streets of Oakwood during the last campaign. I recall encountering, one early morning at a bus stop, someone coming up to her and saying: "I would never vote for you. You have disgraced the Jewish people." That was the result of an attack launched -- I have to put it on the record here -- by your party. I condemn the attack, but I do not want to qualify the right for anything at all to be said in the Legislature, in a democratic system.

I've had lots of people come to question period just like you did. I assign the ticket and get them to sit at that time in the east gallery, and they're all excited because it's the first time they've ever attended question period and about 20 minutes later they have slipped out. I don't invite them any more. I know they do watch; more and more people watch. The accountability for that happens in a democratic system, to be in the voting box when that member has to account for her or his activity, when that person goes back to the people to seek re-election or someone else goes to seek that nomination and to be re-elected.

None of us likes the kind of catcalling and insults that are often thrown across the table, but if there's anything at all that we should agree on in a non-partisan way as parliamentarians, we should agree not to constrain the right of free -- and that includes offensive speech in the Legislature.

A gazillion things happen in a democratic society that are offensive. I think probably you've been involved for much of your life in campaigning against pornography because it's offensive and because it's degrading. But the underlying interest of free speech says that in a democratic society we have to tolerate it, and our efforts to raise the standards and raise the level of humanity have to be done within a context. Any time you start to constrain that, and most particularly when you start to constrain that in a Parliament and in the Legislature of a Parliament, you are inherently and by implication advocating that the same constraint be available and be placed on any organization, and worse still, on any individual in society.

We just can't do that. If we start to do that, to think in those terms in protecting an individual, whether that individual be a woman or a member of a visible minority -- I find the expression "visible minority" offensive. Do I have the right, in the Legislature, to require that the Speaker call a member to order when he uses the phrase "visible minority"?

Hon Mrs Boyd: That's one of the issues we would like to determine.

Mr Sorbara: But I put it to you, who is ultimately to decide? Is it the government that shall decide whether we shall categorize people and exclude people on the basis of their colour? Is it appropriate to use the word "Negro," or is it only appropriate to use the word "black, and who should decide? In my view, particularly in a Parliament, that decision ought not to be made, and it certainly ought not to be vested in the ad hoc judgement of a Speaker. I reiterate: Sometimes it's an offensive place; sometimes it's a brutal place, and sometimes the conduct of members makes me, and I think every other member of this Legislature, want to simply say, "Mr Speaker, I resign my seat because I can't take it any more."

I say once again that I'm very surprised you would be advocating that somehow we put a political correctness or a civility that simply doesn't exist in legislatures, I don't think, anywhere in the world.

Hon Mrs Boyd: Mr Chair, I wonder if I may respond to that.

The Chair: You may respond, Minister.

Hon Mrs Boyd: First of all, I'm very glad you reminded me of the history of how any change has ever happened: because someone has had the courage to speak out and name something as not being appropriate, because that's exactly what I'm doing today. You said we have to have this kind of brutal atmosphere in our --

Mr Sorbara: I'm not saying we have to have it.

Hon Mrs Boyd: I want to finish, please.

The Chair: Order, please.

Hon Mrs Boyd: You say this is the way it is and the way it's always been, and you remind me of Mr Roblin in Manitoba whose speech against women's suffrage said exactly that: that these are brutal places and women are too delicate to be able to hear this kind of language. The issue is that we don't have to hear that kind of language. We can make an agreement among ourselves and change the way we behave. We can make that agreement as people who ought to respect one another. We do not have to behave in the way that people have behaved in the past.

We are changing that behaviour in many ways and in many other forms. Certainly if we can't change it ourselves and if we accept that kind of behaviour that uses slurs on people's race, gender and sexual orientation, which happens regularly every week in our Parliament, then we ought to be ashamed ourselves. We are here as legislators who are trying to change our society, and if we're saying we can't change ourselves and the way we react to one another in that place, then I really question whether our credibility is very good.

I believe we can. I believe we are decent human beings who can make agreements about behaving in ways which are respectful of one another as legislators and as equals. I do not think it is appropriate for us to say that because we fail sometimes in terms of using ad hominem arguments against one another that we should sit back, fold our hands and say: "It's a brutal place. What can we do?" That's nonsense.


Mr Sorbara: I simply respond to the minister by saying that I think she has misconstrued my comments in a serious, and if I might, somewhat offensive way. I did not say that is the way it has to be. I said and I reiterate, in a free and democratic society, the underlying right to free speech, even if it is offensive at times, is the most important foundation stone upon which our society is based.

With respect, I did not say it has to be that way because it's always been that way. I am simply saying that the strictures we place on ourselves must be based ultimately on the right of an elected representative to speak her or his mind freely and openly with the fewest possible restrictions that a legislative body can come up with. Constitutionally, that gives us the ability to do everything else. I reiterate the example of pornography, which I think the majority of society finds terribly offensive. Pick another example: If you canvass the people, I think the majority of them would be in favour of capital punishment. The pollsters suggest that is the case, but we set a different standard.

In a democracy you simply must protect, as the first and primary principle, the ability to speak out, because that is the basis upon which all of the other battles are won. In a democracy, obviously, that free speech must be available on the street to organizations, but the primary abode of that right and the place from which it all flows is the Legislature.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Are we looking at time limits or are we going to listen to this -- whatever one wants to call it -- for the rest of the afternoon?

The Chair: As you know, we started off this debate with no time restrictions on it. However, bear in mind, all members of this committee, that we do have another issue in front of us this afternoon and I know there's a number of members who also want to get in on this debate. Rather than go back to people who have spoken, I would give a chance to people who have not had anything to say yet. I think Mrs Sullivan was next on the issue, and then I will go across the floor.

Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): I think the minister has brought to the House in the guise of one issue a larger issue. I think what she is generally addressing is the decorum of the House, the evenhandedness of the Speaker's rulings, the sense of discipline that comes as a result of existing rules through the Speaker's rulings dealing with members of the House firmly and with dignity and all members of the House in that situation.

I find as a woman legislator that my experience has been that there is no other job probably in Canada and perhaps in North America that is as free of sexual bias in terms of the demands, the responsibilities, the approach that is expected and required of women who participate in the House. Their responsibilities as legislators, their duties to their communities, the demands that are made from constituents are equal on women, as they are on men, and the responsibilities that are expected are equivalent. I think that women in the House can be as aggressive in their participation and in their decisions to participate or not to participate in any particular activity that forms the ultimate totality of the responsibilities of a member.

I was quite interested at the beginning of the New Democratic Party term of office that there was some speculation, particularly from women legislators newly elected, that the House would become a kinder, gentler place because there were more women involved as legislators. To me, that was itself a sexist remark, because it seems to me the assumption that kindness and gentility is a function only of being a woman is something that should be put to rest. We want, and indeed we need, women to be aggressive in the pursuit of issues of justice, in pursuit of issues of equity, in pursuit of fairness and responsibility in terms of fiscal management of the economy. I found that assumption, as it was expressed, rather offensive as a woman.

As you know, I served here as a backbencher when the Liberal government was in office. I saw both women and men legislators being hounded and viciously criticized on a personal basis by the opposition, including members of your party and, if I may say, especially members of your party. I think what occurred at that time, and what is still occurring and would not be corrected by your proposals for amendment, is that those attacks were totally apart from the arguments being put forward at the time. The person was never separated from the debate. I think that is a shame and I think it's wrong. Unfortunately, it happened then and it continues to happen now.

I don't think your suggestions would solve that problem, because in fact your suggestions are exclusive rather than inclusive. If you're talking about changing the rules specifically in relationship to race, to gender, to age etc, you still don't catch the vicious personal attack. I was reminded, actually, in looking through your argumentation, about what is now considered wonderful wit of Winston Churchill. At the time, for example, when Lady Astor said to him, "You're drunk," and he said, "And, madam, you're ugly, but tomorrow I'll be sober," that was considered very witty. In fact, in the annals of parliamentary wit it's still referred to as something that is considered to be very funny. In my view, there is a little bit of a sexist nature to that, and in fact there is more than a sexist nature; there is a personal attack there that was inappropriate. On the other hand, the attack that was made by Lady Astor on Winston Churchill was equally personal. I think that under your rules, neither of those situations would have changed.

I look at some of the remarks we've heard recently in the House. I think you've raised the question of "Mr Minister." Frankly, in my view, that was an honest mistake. That was not intended, and I think it's unfair to the member who made that error to raise that as an issue. I don't see, frankly, the sexist attitudes in the House that you see. What concerns me more are comments made. I will use one made by a minister of the crown recently that I as an opposition member found deeply offensive, when a minister of the crown referred to those people on the other side of the House as "fascist bully-boys." I noted your response on that occasion because I know you were as offended by that --

Hon Mrs Boyd: That's right.

Mrs Sullivan: -- as everyone on our side of the House was, and many other people on your benches were. But it seems to me that that kind of remark could not have been brought to the attention of the Speaker, nor could the Speaker have ruled, under your exclusive categories. So to my mind, existing rules are in fact more inclusive, and the Speaker working with a firm hand and respecting the dignity of members can make the existing rules work to ensure that those issues which are offensive not only because of the race, religion, culture or age categories you have brought forward but because of other issues that are pertinent, leave the Speaker with a larger hand in dealing with them.


I think the recommendation of Mr Farnan that this be considered by the rules committee is definitely an appropriate one. I think people will want to consider in fact whether the Speaker's rulings should be narrowed, which I believe your suggestion does, or if it should be expanded to give the Speaker additional powers.

I am concerned, certainly, with some of the issues my colleague raised in relationship to the political correctness of language. We know how words and the use of words, particularly as women, have changed over recent years and how some people are offended by not having the "man" or "woman" attached to the word "chair." I always get a chuckle out of Rosie Abella, who talks about being called a chair now, in relationship to being a person, when what else would they call her; perhaps a table or something?

I think the sensitivity of women is one that has been adapted and understood broadly over the past 10 years, largely. Before that I don't think people understood how the use of language could be offensive and seen to be a putdown just in terms of the normal language. In English, the points have been made. The points in other languages and the sensitivities, the political correctness of the use of those words, is a substantially different issue. So in some ways what we're talking about is political correctness in the English language, which also worries me in terms of some of the discussion relating to sexist language in the House.

I don't find the Legislature a sexist place. I am more concerned about the viciousness of personal attacks that are separated from the debate and from the legitimate argument. Indeed, I've said this in this committee before and in other places: What concerns me far more is the lack of depth to the debate, for whatever reason that occurs, whether it's lack of research or lack of preparation or inadequate time. Those are matters that it seems to me, were the members to put more attention to them, the level of debate generally would be elevated.

Hon Mrs Boyd: I wouldn't disagree with either of your contentions that the level of debate is certainly not what I would like to see it be, nor do I think it's what those who voted us all into office expect it to be. The fact that we're talking about that openly here may remind us all to use whatever influence we have with our own parties to try and improve the level of debate, because frankly, I think our voters deserve better than they have been getting. I think the atmosphere we have contributed to, all of us -- and I certainly agree with you and I was very clear, we are talking about all parties here; we have all contributed to this atmosphere -- is really not becoming to us as elected people. We really need to be mindful of that.

I find it interesting that you both have used the language of "political correctness," because you know it pushes certain buttons with the press and trivializes and demeans what is being said --

Mrs Sullivan: No, I don't think so.

Hon Mrs Boyd: -- when people talk about what it feels like to have ad hominem comments directed at you around issues you cannot resolve.

I made it very clear that in terms of the cut and thrust of debate that involves someone's credibility as a minister, that involves either their track record as a minister, what they have actually done or not done, whether there's a conflict of interest, all of those things are fair game. That is part of what we're here to do. There are probably ways in which we need to do it to ensure we are talking about what people do rather than the innate person they are. I think that would benefit us all.

I would suggest that in fact I was not suggesting in my proposed recommendations that we narrow it. I think it is narrowed because it talks of an order to create disorder. Many people, when they are slammed with racist or sexist comments about themselves, certainly don't create disorder; they become silenced. That is the issue. When you talk about free speech, part of the issue of free speech is about not being silenced by being insulted because of who you are as an individual.

If this isn't the particular way, if this isn't broadening it, which was indeed the intention, then perhaps we need to find ways to broaden the authority of the Speaker to begin to help us prevent ourselves from digging ourselves deeper and deeper into what I think the voters are increasingly feeling is not a good atmosphere for us to be debating in, if we can call it debate.

The Chair: Thank you, Minister. There are a number of speakers still waiting to speak to this particular issue. We haven't heard from the third party yet. Mr McLean, do you wish to pose a question?

Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I'll be very brief. Sean has been around here longer than I, but I've been here some time. I have certainly seen the change that has taken place within the Legislature and I have never seen it change as much as it has in the last two years. When I look back some five years ago to the activity that took place in the opposition at that time, to me, that's where it started. It's unfortunate it has gotten to the stage it's at now. But you can't legislate discipline; discipline has to come from each caucus.

I'm not very happy and the people of this province are not very happy with what they're seeing in the Legislature. I feel bad for the students who come here and have to watch what goes on. I also have concerns with regard to the operation of question period. It went on for months and months before anybody would even call order. That wasn't what the Speaker wanted to do. I think it got out of control, and it hasn't changed. So to now come and think we're going to change it just overnight, that's not going to happen.

I think the legislative committee should be looking at some rule changes. I'm not sure we shouldn't be looking at periods and timing of questions and answers whereby people would get a fair share; you would know if you were going to be on or you weren't going to be on during question period. I think there has to be some fairness and balance in it.

The decorum in the Legislature is the greatest concern I have around here. I feel bad about it, and I hope the members will bring it to the attention of their caucuses, but you can't legislate discipline. I hope as time goes on it will change, but I have to say to you I feel I know where it started and how it has gone on.

Sometimes in the Legislature I even wonder if I'm being heard. I get the feeling sometimes that the government members really don't want me to ask questions because they don't think I should be asking them to be accountable. That's the feeling I get and I've had that brought to my attention by other people. So we're all in the same boat. If we're going to change it, it has to be changed by the committee, and I think there should be some changes in the rules with regard to how it operates.

The Chair: Minister, did you want to respond?

Hon Mrs Boyd: I agree with you. I think there are a number of ways in which we have to change it. I certainly agree with you that it goes across all parties and that there are a number of different things we all need to do. But we are here to talk about the rules of the Legislative Assembly, so this is one way in which I would suggest we can make some of those changes.

The Chair: Before we move on to the next speaker, I remind the members that Mr Farnan asked the opposition parties how to respond to his particular recommendation.

Mr Farnan: In terms of process, I think I picked up from Mr McLean -- perhaps you'll correct me, Al -- that he suggested this committee should deal with it.

Mr McLean: The Legislative Assembly committee?

Mr Farnan: Yes.

Mr McLean: I think that's their mandate.


Mr Farnan: That's right, and according to the standing orders that is precisely what would have to happen. I also heard in the discussion, I think from Mr Sorbara, that he would certainly like to see some discussion within caucuses. I think that statement was made. I believe this route would provide an opportunity for further discussion. I don't think this committee locks itself in in any way by referring to the parliamentary reform committee which is looking at the overall omnibus package of reform. They have to bring it back to this committee and we ultimately have to take responsibility. All I'm saying is that I've heard enough debate here this afternoon to say, yes, there are some concerns here and maybe there's room for some more discussion. At this stage, if it's appropriate, I will move a motion that the presentation of the minister and the minutes of this meeting be passed on to the parliamentary reform committee.

The Chair: A number of other people have indicated that they wish to speak to this particular issue. If it's the wish of the committee that we take the motion right now --

Mr Farnan: Well, it's certainly helpful.

Mr McLean: Let's hear the other speakers.


The Chair: We have Mr Owens, Mrs Mathyssen and Mr Conway left to speak. Mr Owens?

Mr Owens: I want to thank the other minister for coming today and raising what is clearly an issue of concern for myself and, I suggest, all members of this assembly.

The comments that came forward from Mr Sorbara -- and I think you very eloquently responded to those comments -- raise some questions I would like to ask you directly. In terms of going through this process, how do you educate male members as to the power relationship that exists between men and women, the inequity that exists and its application? How do you talk to people about the freedom of speech and why it's inappropriate to cloak inappropriate language in parliamentary immunity and some interestingly bizarre parliamentary traditions? How do you convince people that quantifying or limiting issues to terms of political correctness undermines and demeans the issue, and how does one get around that problem?

Hon Mrs Boyd: One of the things that is very real for people who feel they are being attacked on grounds of gender, race or physical ability is that we need to have enough confidence in ourselves and enough sense of support that we can name that as a violation of our privilege.

We have a colleague, Mr Malkowski, who has done that with us all on numerous occasions when we have unwittingly, I would say in every case, used language he feels is personally offensive to him as a person who has no hearing. When we use language -- for example, I can remember one incident in the House where a member of the opposition made a comment about something falling on deaf ears and our colleague the member for East York stood up and explained as a matter of privilege why that offended him and why he would like that language changed. The member, to his credit, immediately said: "Of course. I hadn't thought about it that way, but now you've brought to my attention that it would be offensive to you."

What I am saying is that we have to set for ourselves an atmosphere in which we can protect our privilege. My colleague Mrs Akande, who used to sit next to me, was called "Big Mama" on many, many occasions -- a racist, sexist comment -- but because of the way the situation was did not want to call attention to that situation because somehow it took away from her authority and the importance and seriousness of what she was trying to do as a minister.

I think we have to find ways to empower one another to begin to name the things that are offensive and begin to deal with them, not in a trivial way.

Mr Owens: That's right. Just in terms of the conduct of the House, I have in my hand a sheet of letters that were sent to the Premier, and copied to myself, after I had brought a group from Scarborough to be recognized in the House. I'd like to read a couple of selections from the letters:

"Dear Mr Rae:

"On Monday, April 27, our class from the LEAP program came down to Queen's Park. We were invited to hear Mr Steve Owens, MPP, speak to the House about our program. I as well as my classmates were annoyed, disheartened and thoroughly disgusted that grown men made such rude remarks."

Then towards the end the person says, "I hope that our new Canadians never get the chance to see such a disgusting display as we saw today!"

Second: "I was very disappointed they were not respectful to each other while discussing different issues. They set a bad example. I can't believe our politicians felt that these important issues weren't worthy of being taken seriously."

This is from a group of students, Minister, who are in a program that is available to help women over 40 who have been on social assistance for a year to re-enter the job market. I can assure you that they were appalled by the lack of decorum and the personal attacks, as Mrs Sullivan pointed out earlier.

I think that in terms of your brief, you're bringing it here only as a point of discussion and not a narrow ruling as to where you would want to see this issue go. I certainly support my colleague the member for Cambridge in terms of referring this issue to the reform committee for broader discussion.

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): Thank you, Minister, for bringing this item to our attention. I think it's very important. I would like to say that I don't think the foundations of democracy will be shaken if we give up slanderous and demeaning language.

Second, I think your point is well taken. I cannot see how speech can indeed be free if it degrades and therefore undermines the freedom of someone else who wishes to participate in a parliamentary situation such as we have the incredible privilege of doing.

I did want to ask you a question. On page 4 of your brief you mention the federal report, The War Against Women, and the 25 recommendations, specifically about a Women's Parliamentary Association study of systemic barriers, and second, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women conducting gender sensitivity programs. I wonder if you have pursued that and if there is a concrete proposal you have worked on to bring to this House.

Hon Mrs Boyd: This, of course, was in the House of Commons in Ottawa. My understanding is that the 25 recommendations were not accepted, although I understand the Women's Parliamentary Association is continuing its study. I don't believe the gender sensitivity suggestion was accepted.

We in the women's directorate would obviously be very pleased to participate, as we do in the general public and among many professions, in talking about the sensitivity around gender language, race language and so on, because that's an expertise we have built in that directorate since its inception in 1983. That has been a major thrust of their work, to try and build that sensitivity in the general community. I am quite sure the directorate would be more than happy to do the same thing for us, so there are vehicles for us.

When we think how our language has changed and how our own sensitivity has changed over the years, particularly towards those who are differently abled or towards those who are of different races and languages, things that were acceptable in many cases are no longer acceptable.

The answer to Mr Sorbara's suggestion about how you draw the line is that you listen to how people define themselves and what they find is empowering. For example, most women prefer to be called women. It ought to be enough that they prefer that. That is the way they feel equal to men, men and women, and that works well. He raised the question of what black people prefer to be called: Do they prefer to be called black? Is it appropriate to call them Negro?

I think we listen to the people themselves and their self-definition. We're not afraid to ask. Many aboriginal people are now saying they want to be called aboriginal rather than native or Indian, but some of our native groups prefer to be called Indians and call themselves Indians. We need to be sensitive to listening to how they prefer to be referred to. I don't think it's as complicated as that. I think if we are being empathetic and clear that the purpose of our language is to respect the privilege and the dignity of one another, we won't fall into those kinds of problems. It simply ought not to be a problem. If somehow we can make our rules reflect that desire to always reflect, in how we refer to one another, the dignity and respect to which we're all entitled, I don't think it's very complicated.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to thank the minister for coming in and inciting a debate that I think is probably timely. I appreciate the last exchange with the member for Middlesex because it reminds me, I think, that the common intention here will hopefully be good.

I've been around, as someone said earlier, longer than anyone. That's probably more a hindrance than anything else. I bear the lacerations of 10 years of parliamentary exchange with Dr Bette Stephenson. I remember well three years of being in a seat with Sheila Copps. I was even saying to my friend the member for Halton Centre that I sometimes experience the difficulty of trying to make myself overheard vis-à-vis the member for Oriole, and sometimes with the help even of the member for Halton Centre.

I have many sins of commission for which atonement is due, some of which I suspect are referred to in this document.

Hon Mrs Boyd: Only one, as I recall.

Mr Conway: That's correct. Let me go to page 3, because I looked at that and I thought --


Mr Conway: I don't consider that a laughing matter. I apologize, because tone is something that I have no idea how you regulate. I've got very good ears. I've probably got some of the best ears in this Legislature. There are days I want to get up and just repeat what I hear. I hear the most remarkable things from some of the most unexpected people. I could embarrass a lot of people with what I hear, but I choose not to do it. I was looking also at the reference here on page 2, and I thought it was a helpful point: "But it is not acceptable to attack a member on the grounds of her or his race, ethnic origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender -- characteristics that are beyond a member's control, that a member need not apologize..." etc.

I'm trying to think back over my 17 years. I can remember cases of a tripartisan nature where people have been stupid, insulting -- where they have, in the main, been called to order, as they ought to have been. I think if I had been in the chair I would probably have called a few more people to order and I would probably have thrown a few more people out.

One of the keys to this whole process is the speakership. There is a great treatise, I think, to be written on the failure of the Ontario speakership. In the main, it has not been a particularly heroic past for a whole series of reasons, one of which I think is just the physical layout of the room.

I've had some very good friends who've occupied the job, the chair. But it's only in the last two years that we were able to eliminate the appeal of the Speaker's ruling. I would never take a job where my word was not final. I spent a lot of time playing hockey and refereeing hockey. The condition of any refereeing job I would ever take is: Give me a rule book and give me authority to exercise this rule. If Mills is bad, he's going to be sent to the penalty box, and if he gets lippy, I'll throw him out. If I heard anybody say what you said was said to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick -- that is misconduct and that person is out. To me, that is in our rules. If it's not in their execution, then I'm all for improving on the execution.

Some really awful things were said publicly. I don't mean to be partisan. I won't mention any names, but boy, they were pretty terrible, and I remember the discipline being applied. Maybe the discipline wasn't firm enough, and I'm quite prepared to say that if someone gets up and says something about someone's native heritage, which was one of the cases I can remember, and someone else gets up and says what you allege was said to the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, I don't even want to debate the point. Either I want a total and abject apology or that person is out the door, and we think about terms and conditions for letting that person in. I'd like to be the Speaker for that day.

I remember the first question I was asked as a cabinet minister: "Well, do you, Mr Conway, as an apparently practising Roman Catholic, think you can effect the separate school legislation?" I thought it was a fair question, because I suspected it was a question that a lot of people would have had. I remember my NDP opponents in a few elections saying, "What this riding needs is a family man." I got the point, and people made the choice. I just really worry.

Again, let's go to page 3. "Recently an opposition member questioned a young...cabinet minister using an explicitly patronizing and coaxing tone usually reserved for small children." I can imagine somebody said, "Well, that was Conway in his cross-examination of Ms Martel."

Hon Mrs Boyd: No, actually it wasn't. That wasn't you.

Mr Conway: Oh, well, I'm flattered, because I'm sure there would be people who'd say -- because some people said it to me -- "Your tone was highly questionable."

I said, "Well, you know, my tone is one of absolute and abject incredulity when honourable members in Parliament tell me they're liars, particularly when they're people I know and have known a long time and have no other experience to indicate that they are liars." I have a problem, and I suspect my tone, as it is now -- I'm getting exercised -- but when people tell me they're going to start calibrating tone, I hope we all understand what we're buying into. I want no part of that, because it leads down a slippery slope that I just don't want to even anticipate.

If people are in this House in 1992 blowing kisses across the floor, I want to know who they are and I will pay for their gender sensitization. I haven't seen it, and I can understand and I'm very sensitive to the situation, but listen, anything is possible. If I told you some of what I've heard privately -- most members don't seem to understand the acoustics of that room, but they are very good.

Hon Mrs Boyd: Except to the Speaker's chair.

Mr Conway: That's probably true, but I'll tell you, words and sounds bounce off very interestingly, and as I say, I've heard and I've got some understanding for the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, because who wants to get up and repeat such obnoxious and totally inappropriate comments? But if it's going on to any extent, we clearly have to deal with it.

The Legislature of 1992 bears, in many ways, little resemblance to the Legislature I came to in 1975, for a couple of reasons. It's only television that's cleaned up the act to a greater extent, because now you can't stagger in drunk, as many prominent people did. You still can fall asleep, but you run a real risk. I gather in Ottawa they're going to start doing the wide shots, so if you fall asleep -- Morty Shulman took a famous picture of a couple of rather expansive government backbenchers snoozing away 20 years ago. Morty Shulman said some of the most interesting things about people. He'd fail a lot of this test. Boy, Morty would be in big trouble, but that was 20 years ago and I accept that we've got to change.

The point I want to make is that if some of this is going on, and I don't doubt that it is, it's got to stop. I have a problem as a 40-year-old single male with some of the nomenclature, because I don't know where to start any more. I've seen some good friends of mine get in terrible situations. Some 65-year-old person, born in Upper Canada in 1920, trying in 1986 to talk responsibly in Parliament, and you know, what's bred in the bone must out in the flesh. Some of the language of his formative age or her formative age, which was a generation or two before mine, slips out in the person and sounds very déclassé. I'll use one example, and he got into terrible trouble over it: Ken Keyes. It sounded unfortunate, but I don't think he meant what was construed. But I could see how you could take some offence.

I look at the nomenclature and I think, "I'm with Clyde Gilmour." Clyde was on the radio the other day going on about how he refuses at age 70, or whatever he is, to refer to friends as pieces of furniture, but he's in a minority. It changes. One thinks of some of the language of 1992. For example, if you were to talk to someone who'd been dozing off for 25 years and used the word "gay," the person wouldn't have any clue of what a generation had done to that word.


Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): He might have just thought they were happy people.

Mr Conway: Exactly, and one of the most interesting things about the English language is that it's dynamic and particularly evolutionary. I don't know; as I say, with certain groups of people now I mutter, because I don't know what the proper phraseology is. I do not want to give offence, and if I do, and I have, I very much appreciate people saying, "That is unacceptable, inappropriate, and I would prefer you not use that." That I think is perfectly fair. If women find "lady" offensive, then I want to know, and I've been told by my friends it is offensive. The correlative of that used to be "gentleman." I guess being sort of a fool sometimes, I might well have argued then we should strike that from the lexicon. I don't think men find "gentlemen" offensive, and therefore by the test I think we could probably agree to, it passes.

I guess the point I want to make is that we are as individuals and as parliamentarians now part of an institution that has virtually no respect left, and we've got to be concerned about that. The world has changed and what was acceptable 15 and 20 years ago is simply not acceptable in many cases today. As was the case in 1970, things that were tolerated in 1940 were in some cases dispensed with.

But if we can agree on the difficulty, and I think most of us can, we have to then contemplate the remedy. I want to be fairminded. I would be very interested in any reasonable efforts, and perhaps some unreasonable efforts, that might be undertaken to deal with this, but I don't want to end up with -- you know, the poor old Saskatchewan Legislature last week. They looked like a bunch of fools. I don't know what they were trying to do, but apparently, according to all the press reports, they were trying to constrain the humour of the place or something. I didn't see the debate, and all right, fair enough, but the point is that in the public debate they've lost the first round. They may win later rounds.

I'm just simply saying that if we're going to make some improvements here, and I'm quite prepared to recognize that they need to be made -- and I come back, if some of what you're telling me is happening, and I can appreciate what it must have been like when women first came to this place. In this Parliament we've probably got more women than we've had ever before. I might make light of people like Sheila Copps and Bette Stephenson, but what it must have been like for people like Bette and Margaret Campbell and Sheila Copps to have come into this place 20 years ago. No wonder they became a bit strident. I probably would have been much more so.

I just caution people that we are going to have to find ways and means of dealing with the problem that address the problem and don't aggravate the condition or in fact cause some kind of collateral difficulty to occur. If as a former hockey referee I'm being asked to think about some calibration of tone, don't ask me to start quantifying that. I don't know how I'm going to do that. I'm going to make some judgements.

One of the things I've always thought we ought to do in this Legislature is we ought to give the Speaker one of those little buttons -- I think he's got it -- and the Speaker should be empowered to say, "A question to the honourable member," and this comes after, I think, a discussion with House leaders and with everyone, so this place is going to be made more civilized and as civilized as any Parliament can be.

Remember that "Parliament" derives from the French "to speak, to debate," rather than "to fight." It's not shop talk; it's debating and talking as a substitute for fighting and killing. I think the distance between the two benches was originally the distance between two swords outstretched. We ought to remember that.

We also ought to understand that Parliament as we know it derives from a little island culture on the west coast of Europe 125 years ago, when a small group of landed gentlemen who read Trollope decided what the rules ought to be, and quite frankly a lot of that is not very relevant to our contemporary experience. But I've always thought that one of the improvements we ought to make is the situation where the Speaker simply has control of that button and if Conway is not paying attention, if he's not coming to order, rather than debating the point, just move on, move on to the member for Oakwood, and it's not debatable. We've never done that and I've always felt that would clean up a lot of the problems a lot faster than a lot of other things, particularly in places like question period. Most people I know want to get on. The shouting and screaming -- some of which I have done -- is not very edifying in many cases.

Again, from my old refereeing days, if I didn't establish some clear rules early on, then I would be tested the whole game through. If I was firm but fair early on and people knew the rules were going to be applied, then I had some chance of winning the day. It seems to me that the Speaker in this place over most of my time has reminded me more than anything else of one of those -- and I'm embarrassed to admit that I even know about this -- referees in the professional wrestling matches. While the bad person is gouging the good person's eyeball out in full view of the assembled crowd, the referee is sort of distracted by some inanity in the upper tier. When the referee turns to the locus of his or her responsibility, of course, he or she must apply the rules in some perfectly unfair fashion.

I just make that as one small recommendation. I'm an aggressive, sometimes loud-mouthed individual who would, some might think, find it difficult to play by those rules. I'm quite prepared to play by those rules and say to the Speaker: "You're going to have the authority. It's not going to be debatable."

One of the best speakers we had was Jack Stokes, but Jack, in my view, allowed too much debate. You don't debate with somebody whom you want to put in the penalty box. If you do that as a referee, you're just dead. "You've had your chance at a question, you've blown it, and I'm moving on to the member for Scarborough. Now tomorrow, if you want to come back in here, then fine. But that's the way it's going to be, and if you don't want to play by those rules, either change the rules or, more likely, get somebody else." It's those kinds of things I think we ought to do, and I don't hold that out as any major kind of reform.

One of the problems we've got in our place is that it's too small. If you turn the button off on me and I'm really angry -- and I do get angry; today, to get the lecture about the House business. I can see how this Parliament has a problem because there are so many new members, but this is a rolling docket. David Cooke, the guy who would not let Bob Nixon read a budget; my Liberal friends who, when I was away in southeast Asia in 1982, rang those bells for days: I think that borders on fascism. That is fascistic. That may be terrible, but I tell you, the business of Parliament is to debate, and when you deny me the right to stand up and read a budget or fight about something, then I think that's -- that may be too strong a word, but that's the word that comes up in my mind.


One of the great things about the New Democratic Party coming to office, it seems to me, is that we've now got the three major political parties all with an experience in government. I think that will be an enormously useful aspect to help improve the general situation.

I will conclude by saying I appreciate the concern the minister has. I am particularly concerned, because it has not been my experience that some of the things -- and I don't doubt that in the smoking room, and I didn't make a list coming in here, there have been some terrible things said. They just should not be tolerated. If they are being said in a way that is public in that place that can be -- I mean, our Hansard has changed too. We used to have some very heated debates around here about getting the blues and seeing what was in them. I was not very happy because I heard some things that were pretty distinct and they didn't show up. You couldn't prove the point and the rest of it. Some of what you're saying here, this business of -- are people really blowing kisses around?

Hon Mrs Boyd: Yes.

Mr Conway: If that's going on, that's got to stop. With regard to this business of volume and tone, I guess I'm very guilty. I do get exercised. I come from a part of Ontario with the old tradition of what the French call l'assemblée contradictoire. You stand up at a public meeting and you're there with your opponents. There might be 300 or 400 partisans. You've got to be heard and you might have to raise your voice. You probably do, and I do it too frequently.

But boy, I tell you, I sometimes look at this and say, "I'm just a poor fellow from eastern Ontario." From the way I look at this, perhaps some people in the back rows in this room are going to laugh, and they probably should laugh, because do you know what I'm going to say? I suppose there are days I could sit there and say, "God, poor old Villeneuve and myself and a few others, we're just a small rump from rural eastern Ontario and we haven't a hope against the mass legions from Metropolitan Toronto, greater London and greater Hamilton-Wentworth." I feel the deepest regional grievance. I could make that argument. I have sometimes done so, but I've got to watch how I play that card because it can be pretty precious after a while.

I just really caution people. So much of this is in the eye and the ear of the beholder. I mean, to have heard Bob Rae the other day on the question about the helicopter, I had some sense -- I don't know; I'd better not say too much. I closed my eyes and thought: "This is Bill Davis. This is Bill Davis at his absolute best when it comes to tone." The only thing he wasn't doing was wringing his hands. Bill Davis used to get up there, and it was breathtakingly effective.

Hon Mrs Boyd: Distracting too.

Mr Conway: "I'm hurt. I'm very hurt." Tone is very subjective.

I'm all for being part of a triparty effort to improve our sullied reputation. I agree entirely that we've got to be much more sensitive to many of the new realities. We have simply got to deal with these kinds of excesses that are occurring, such as the ones I've indicated. I'm totally with you on not just cleaning them up but disciplining people who do those kinds of things. But I heard one of my best friends in the government say something yesterday and I was sort of tempted to get up. I wouldn't do it. He used a phrase. We've got to grow into this.

Hon Mrs Boyd: It's been suggested to me that perhaps that's part of our problem, that we sit on our hands, that we don't get up and talk about privilege when we do hear something like that, even if the Speaker doesn't leap at it. Perhaps one of the things we could do for one another is to encourage one another to in fact begin to do that.

Mrs Sullivan: It creates disorder itself in the House.

The Chair: One speaker left, and then we will deal with the motion from Mr Farnan.

Mr Mills: I realize Mr Rizzo has been sitting here all afternoon and is anxious to get on with his bill, so I'll be as brief as possible. I'd just like to say that when you've got an accent like I have and you came to Canada in the 1950s, Madam Minister, I have a lot of empathy with that because there wasn't a day went by in my life that I wasn't insulted about where I come from, and in particular as a policeman probably more so, because I enforced the law and people thought there were better places for me to enforce the law; ie, back in the British Isles. So I have a lot of empathy with what you're saying.

Even in the election in 1990 I went from door to door and said: "I'm Gord Mills and I'm from the New Democrats. I'd like you to vote for me." Some of those people we all know in our ridings who have been around for many years sort of looked at me and said, "Well, how long have you been in Canada?" implying in a very subtle way, "Are you qualified to really seek an office in Ontario?"

That is what you're really talking about here. I would just like to say that I come from a generation -- I say things I shouldn't say. I would like to say that I've never said anything in the House, to my belief, that's personally abusive or insulting to anyone. I would think that is the way I operate, but nevertheless I am guilty, through my old-fashioned way. I saw Gary Malkowski going out of the House the other night and I shouted to him. He kept going and then I said out loud, "Well, of course he couldn't hear me; he's deaf and dumb," but I didn't mean that. This is the way we used to describe people.

I do a little television show. I had some mental health victims there and I was very cautious: What do I say? How do I refer to these people? When the riots happened in Toronto I wrote an article about racism in the newspaper, and I was guilty of racism myself. I referred to the people as "coloured people" and I thought that was all right, but apparently you say "people of colour" but you can't call them "coloured people." These sorts of things were done very innocently, and I have a problem with my generation because we were brought up using lots of different words.

As you said, Sean, we call gay people "happy people," and my wife went into the butcher shop or the grocery store today and shouted out, "Have we got a joint for the weekend?" This is the way English people are. I said to her, "Shush, you shouldn't say that sort of thing," and she said: "Well, why? What's wrong with that?" You can see where I'm coming from.

I think we can resolve this issue very easily. I would like to see some sort of regulation. I have been in that mother of parliaments and seen some of those terrible things that are said in there. I used to use that joke about Lady Astor because I thought it was very funny. It's not popular now; I don't do it.

I think myself that we can really address this in this Legislature. I shout and hoot and holler and do all kinds of things; I don't insult anybody. I think that when someone insults someone and says something abusive to the person's gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, age or anything like that, the Speaker should get up and throw that person out immediately. I think that person should not just automatically drift in the door the next day. He should be brought to some sort of order, "This behaviour is really unacceptable, and unless you give us some sort of recognition that you won't do it again we're going to keep you out for a week."

That sort of stigma would stick and then it wouldn't be funny to the press. It wouldn't be funny out there and somebody would say: "Listen, I'm going to think twice before I call someone Sambo, because I'm going to be thrown out. It's going to be public and the people outside are going to ask me, `Do you really think that was nice?" and then I have to apologize or do something to get back in again."

I think we can address it, and that's the way. I'm talking now from my own military experience, because I wouldn't tolerate insubordination from anyone. They're out the door, and this is how I think we should address this. I thank you for coming and listening to it, and I couldn't agree more that we've got to stop it.

The Chair: We're now going to deal with the motion from Mr Farnan.

Mr Farnan: Is it possible to make a remark?

The Chair: If it's very brief.

Mr Farnan: Very briefly, I simply want to state that I think as politicians we can sometimes be very hard on ourselves, and indeed where there is room for improvement, I think it's good to point that out. During the course of the debate this afternoon I heard some derogatory remarks made about the level of debate in this House. I would have to suggest -- and this is my belief and I think I want to put it in to counterbalance -- in the work that members do in preparing their presentations, I have always been impressed and sometimes inspired by the levels of debate in the House.

There is no question about it, there are some very routine and humdrum periods, but I certainly think it would be inappropriate to leave this. I think the demeanour in the House, the atmosphere in the House, the tone of the House can improve the quality of the debate, but I honestly believe that the members I know work so conscientiously to contribute, and indeed I think even the quality of the debate here this afternoon was thoughtful and sensitive.

The Chair: Mr Farnan moves that the submission of the minister and the transcript of today's committee proceedings be forwarded to the ad hoc committee on parliamentary reform for its review.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: I wish to thank the minister for her appearance here at the committee today and for her presentation.

Hon Mrs Boyd: Thank you, Mr Chair.

Mrs Sullivan: Mr Chairman, I'm wondering, given the nature of the presentation from Mr Rizzo and the hour, if it wouldn't be appropriate to put the next item on the agenda over to the next meeting?

The Chair: I was actually just going to touch on that myself. Considering that I think it's going to take a long time, as long as what we've discussed here today, I would recommend to the committee that we defer this item until our next meeting next week, with the approval from the committee.

Mr Farnan: Is Mr Rizzo in agreement?

The Chair: Mr Rizzo is in agreement.

The committee adjourned at 1723.