The House met at 1330.
Mr Kormos: This is an imperial-sized piece of paper. This is a metric-sized piece of paper. This is the imperial and this is the metric. Imagine my surprise when I got a memo in the legislative office right here at Queen’s Park telling me that I had to switch from metric to imperial, switch from centimetres to inches.
Look, I confess that when the speedometer of my truck reads 120 I have to convert it to miles before I know that I am speeding, but some years ago, the government of the day here in Ontario decided to switch to metric paper. They were being trendy.
What happened was that the federal Liberal government told them it was the way to go, and go they did, costing taxpayers in Ontario hundreds of thousands, probably millions of dollars in the interim. “But only joking,” said the federal Liberals, because did the federal Liberals go metric? Oh, no. But did Ontario jump on the bandwagon? Oh, yes.
A pretty expensive joke on the taxpaying public, one that is not seen as particularly funny. It is this type of gross mismanagement and lack of planning that makes voters so cynical. It makes them mad as hell, rightly so. To switch from imperial to metric and now, a decade or so later, to be told to go back to imperial is just plain dumb.
Mr Jackson: I rise to acknowledge a truly landmark event which occurred yesterday in Ukraine. On 30 October 1989. the government of Ukraine in Kiyiw enacted legislation which formally made the Ukrainian language the official language of that country and its people.
This legislation marks the beginning of the end of cultural colonialism in Ukraine. Ukrainian will now serve as the main language of instruction in all schools and administrative institutions. Ukrainians will now no longer be afraid to use their own language publicly in their own country as they walk together along city streets or sit down casually in cafés. Ukrainian students will no longer feel obliged to speak in Russian in Ukrainian university halls and college residences. The work of Ukrainian poets and writers can now be made more widely available.
Yesterday’s announcement in Kiyiw is one which is being greeted by the Ukrainian people everywhere with disbelieving joyfulness and tears. On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and as someone with deep Ukrainian ancestral roots, I would like to congratulate the Ukrainian people who begin their first day as a culturally free nation.
I think it entirely appropriate that I should end by quoting the Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko, who, in a moment of prophetic vision wrote:
[Remarks in Ukrainian]
Mr Jackson: Translated, this means, “I am a nation that is rising, even though I was locked up in a tomb.”
ROBSON-LANG LEATHERS INC
Mr Owen: I recently questioned the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) in this House about the concerns expressed by former Robson-Lang workers and their families over the long-term health effects of exposure to chemicals used in the leather tanning process. These concerns focus on the possibility that some of these chemicals, such as chromium, are carcinogenic.
The minister indicated at that time that an investigation was being conducted and that its success would hinge on a thorough survey of former employees.
Because of the level of concern, a steering committee consisting of representatives of the union, the tannery association and the ministry will oversee the investigation. To assist in the search, the Ministry of Labour has established a hotline, (416) 965-6375, for former employees to contact. All information will be received strictly on a confidential basis. I urge all former employees and their families who are concerned to contact the Minister of Labour.
I expect that former workers of this Barrie tannery will participate in the ministry’s investigation for their own peace of mind. I am sure the investigators will have the complete co-operation of everyone concerned and thus will have the best possible information on which to base their conclusions.
There is also some concern that chemicals had been dumped untreated into a nearby creek and into Kempenfelt Bay. The Ministry of the Environment is investigating these allegations and anticipates the co-operation of former workers in its investigation. I hope that the peace of mind of the entire community will soon be restored.
Miss Martel: Last Wednesday evening, a small but very significant victory was achieved in the otherwise dismal forum of workers’ compensation battles. The Ontario Federation of Labour convinced the Minister of Labour (Mr Phillips) that a bipartite committee of labour and management was necessary to develop the regulations on Bill 162. Further, it was agreed that those onerous regulations proposed by the Workers’ Compensation Board in its discussion paper would not be implemented by January 1990, as the board had hoped.
I expected, even though I was not here, that the Minister of Labour would announce this momentous event on Thursday last. Again, yesterday, they were silent on this matter during ministerial statements. Therefore, I am pleased to congratulate the OFL on its success and to take some small credit in forcing the ministry to change the regulation-making process. This proves that the board cannot be trusted with the power it has. It also proves that the Liberal government was dead wrong, as we warned it, in giving the board more power under Bill 162.
With the victory on regulations, the next logical change should be with the WCB board of directors. At present, the minority labour representatives are constantly being outvoted by other board members. A change would reflect a serious government commitment to allow workplace parties to deal with these issues. It is high time to replace the present structure with a truly bipartite board to deal with compensation matters. I await an announcement on this matter in the very near future.
Mr Cousens: I would like to share with the House and the people of Ontario information about a conference that was held in my riding in the town of Markham on Saturday. It was a race relations conference, which was conducted by the town of Markham in co-operation with the Ontario government and other groups known as CREEM, which stands for the Committee on Race and Ethnocultural Equity of Markham.
The cream of our society was there on Saturday, with in excess of 200 people coming together to participate in a conference to learn more about how we can work together as a community to bring out the best of all the different groups and cultures. This was an excellent conference that enhanced harmonious race and ethnocultural relations in the town of Markham. It provided information on various services available on education, employment, health and social services, housing, recreation and the police. There was an opportunity for all of us to listen to one another and respond effectively to identify needs.
I would like to compliment our local town council and all those who participated for their efforts on CREEM. I think that we all have to continue to work very hard and diligently so that those people who make up our community have a sense of being part of it and are respected for who and what they are and so that we all continue to work effectively together.
Mr Eakins: I am pleased to join all members of this House in acknowledging the great achievement of Carol Risebrough, who won the annual prestigious national award from the Young Drivers of Canada-Goodyear literary contest. Carol, a resident of Mariposa township in Victoria county, is a grade 13 graduate of Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute and is now a first-year student at the University of Western Ontario majoring in music.
All entrants were required to write an original short story on the topic, How I Feel When My Friends Drive. Carol’s short story entitled Going It Alone addresses this common question on the minds of so many of our young people today. Carol’s contribution has won her full university tuition for three years and a one-time cash award of $500 for books. Her winning composition was selected among each qualifying grade 11, 12 or 13 entry from every public and private secondary school across Canada.
This is truly a celebration of the remarkable achievement by Carol Risebrough, the Young Drivers of Canada and the Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute in underscoring the importance of safe driving practices.
HAMILTON INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW
Mr Allen: Normally, I enjoy going to an auto show, even though the modern love affair with the car is a major problem of our time. I regret that this year I will not be attending the Hamilton International Auto Show beginning tomorrow night.
The managers of the show have chosen this year to showcase as their feature attraction what has to be ranked as one of the most offensive examples of ostentatious wealth and conspicuous consumption. Their showstopper is the world’s most expensive stretch limousine, covered with 23,000 gold-plated coins, sumptuously appointed and equipped, owned by a Toronto millionaire and produced in Toronto by North America’s largest manufacturer of these symbols of decadent wealth.
A Toronto millionaire owns the world’s most expensive stretch limo at a time when Toronto food bank clientele stands at 84,000 a month and climbing. What a comment on the meaning of becoming a world-class city.
Hamilton auto dealers choose this monstrosity as a symbol of their show at a time when food banks and hostels are growing in Hamilton, too, and the last food drive collected only a fraction of its target. What kind of symbol is that for the people of my city, who like to call themselves the ambitious city? Is this gilded stretch limo really the proper object of our ambition?
Perhaps next year the show will feature a small, efficient, environmentally friendly car, more in keeping with one of the major challenges of our time, and I will be happy to attend.
Mrs Cunningham: It is Hallowe’en, a time when the ghouls and goblins come out to play, the perfect day for a cabinet meeting. To help some get into the spirit of the day, I want to offer some suggestions on how they should dress for this evening’s festivities.
Given what the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has done to the taxpayer, it is only fitting that he should dress up as Vlad the lmpaler, and having bled everyone else dry, should spend the night trying to get blood from a stone. All taxpayers should wear a string of garlic when they see the Treasurer approaching their door.
The Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan) should dress up as a nurse. She could call herself Cherry Aimless. Since candy may be dandy but it is bad for our health, the minister would like to receive packs of cue cards instead. Those wishing to contribute may phone on the phantom hotline. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr Kwinter) could go out as the Invisible Man to lead the invisible fight against the free trade agreement.
For the Minister of Education (Mr Conway), may I suggest that he try to dress up as a portable and go stand in a schoolyard for a few years.
The Minister of Housing (Mr Sweeney) and the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) will spend the night as mythical creatures: a vacant affordable apartment and lower auto insurance premiums, respectively.
As for the Premier (Mr Peterson), he could, for obvious reasons, go out as either the Joker or perhaps Frankenstein. Perhaps we could put it to a vote later this afternoon.
It is, of course, no joke to see what the Premier and his cabinet sometimes have done while in office, and it will certainly be a treat to see the voters turn the trick on them in the next election.
Mr Tatham: High-technology business says, “The network is the factory.” The next generation of networks, the open generation, built on open systems interconnection, OSI, standards, will revolutionize the production of goods worldwide. These networks will lead to and from all factory floors around the world.
Why? Because that is where the big payoffs will be, the places where more human knowledge will be turned into more useful products than anywhere else. In short, factory floors are the places where the big wealth will be made.
But the factory floors will not be where they used to be. In fact, they will not even be what they used to be. Manufacturing automation protocol/technical and office protocol, MAP/ TOP, will change everything. From now on, economic value will be added in the MAP/TOP networks themselves, not on any traditional factory floors.
To get maximum effectiveness, the industry leaders will require that suppliers and customers adopt MAP/TOP technology, and to help everyone out, the leaders will make available full OSI network services at very low cost. Like the airline reservation systems of today, these new strategic networks will grow to become more important than the manufactured products.
The MAP/TOP/CIM-computer-integrated manufacturing -- bottom line: The industrial leaders around the world are in a competitive race and they know the first ones to secure the full advantages of the CIM -- across customers, the enterprise itself and suppliers -- will win. The winners will be the new industrial age.
The Speaker: I might just draw to the attention of the members standing order 22(a), having listened to members’ statements today, which states, “Every member desiring to speak must rise in his or her place and address the Speaker, in either English or French.”
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY
ONTARIO MOTOR VEHICLE ARBITRATION PLAN / PROGRAMME D’ARBITRAGE POUR LES VÉHICULES AUTOMOBILES DE L’ONTARIO
Hon Mr Sorbara: I am very pleased to announce that this government has endorsed significant improvements to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan, or OMVAP as it is commonly known, and to making this innovative program a permanent one.
OMVAP was officially launched in November 1986 and is a unique, co-operative, nonlegislated approach to resolving consumer car purchase complaints. It provides Ontario residents with qualified, independent arbitrators to settle consumer disputes concerning alleged manufacturing defects in vehicles and is an inexpensive and fast alternative to the courts. There is also no cost to the taxpayer.
Le Programme d’arbitrage pour les véhicules automobiles de l’Ontario a démarré officiellement en novembre 1986. Il constitue une démarche unique, fondée sur la coopération des parties sans recours à aucune mesure législative visant à donner suite aux plaintes des consommateurs lors de l’achat d’une automobile. Il fait bénéficier la population de l’Ontario de la compétence d’arbitres indépendants aptes à régler hors cour, d’une manière économique et rapide, les litiges des consommateurs au sujet de prétendus vices de fabrication sans grever le fardeau du contribuable.
The decision to proceed with this program follows a thorough review of the overall effectiveness of the experimental program by an independent evaluator. I should tell you, Mr Speaker, that the two-year review conducted by Dr Peter Mercer, the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Western Ontario, is an in-depth analysis not only of Ontario’s program but the various dispute resolution programs and so-called lemon laws in the rest of Canada and the United States.
Following the recommendations of the report, agreement has been reached to implement a number of important improvements to the program.
First, to ensure even more fairness in arbitration awards, a generous buyback formula has been developed.
In addition, reasonable, documented out-of-pocket expenses, up to a maximum of $350, will be eligible for reimbursement in an award made by OMVAP.
Third, plans are under way to enhance the training courses for OMVAP arbitrators, and regular refresher courses will be scheduled.
Greater emphasis will be placed on promoting consumer awareness by the OMVAP board and its member organizations. The promotion will be funded by the OMVAP program.
As of June 1989, 7,162 inquiries about the plan were lodged, with 886 cases settled and only 64 pending. In better than two thirds of the total cases, the consumer received either a cash or a repair award or settlement. The average amount of the buyback awards was approximately $12,000. The average turnaround time for registration of a complaint to the arbitration hearing date is down from 11 weeks to four weeks.
Due to the success of the program, the OMVAP board and my Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations have agreed that a move to legislate the program at this time could seriously weaken the commitment of the voluntary participants.
Considérant le succès du programme, le conseil du PAVAO et le ministre de la Consommation et du Commerce, que je dirige, sont d’avis que légiférer dans ce sens à l’heure actuelle pourrait sérieusement freiner l’élan de coopération des participants volontaires, qui sont la clef de voûte de ce programme et qui font sa réussite.
To ensure OMVAP continues to address the needs of consumers, another independent review will be conducted at the end of the next two-year period, with a full report to the board and to the government. OMVAP is in the process of negotiating long-term funding contracts with the participating car company associations, as well as putting in place a permanently funded administrative structure.
The success of OMVAP can be traced to the hard work of the people involved in it. I want to thank, personally and on behalf of the government, the chair of OMVAP, Dr Wes Rayner, who has worked tirelessly and on a voluntary basis to make OMVAP the best program of its kind in North America. Represented on the OMVAP board of directors are the Consumers’ Association of Canada, Ontario branch, the Canadian Automobile Association, the Better Business Bureau and the Arbitrators’ Institute of Canada, as well as the associations representing the 21 car companies voluntarily participating in the program.
ONTARIO MOTOR VEHICLE ARBITRATION PLAN
Mr Farnan: In response to the minister, I want to remind the minister that, as he is probably only too well aware, the two major purchases in any individual’s lifetime are probably the purchase of a home and the purchase of cars.
Knowing that these are basic purchases for the majority of consumers, one would imagine a government that was responsible and on the ball would have consumer protection that was airtight to protect individuals when it comes to the major purchases of their lifetime. It is fine to get up from time to time with announcements, and we in this party always commend the government for any little progress we make in protecting the consumer. However, it would be nice if this government was to radically address consumer protection in the two areas that are most significant to home owners and to car purchasers.
I think we can look at the Ontario New Home Warranty Program and we can see there are glaring loopholes within this. We can look at the purchase of cars and we can see that up to now, and indeed even with this legislation, it is basically toothless. When we use words like “fairness,” we can be fair and treat everybody very poorly. When we talk about being faster in response, we can give a quicker response, for example, with the auto insurance and give people less in their settlement.
This government can project an image or attempt to project an image of being concerned about the consumers of Ontario, but I put it to you, Mr Speaker -- and I do this with a great deal of confidence because it is based on input that I receive from people who are buying new homes and people who are buying cars -- people feel they are in a marketplace that is indeed making their position as consumers extraordinarily vulnerable.
I want to finish my remarks by saying this: Why is it that we have to inch our way toward consumer protection? I say to the minister: Why is it that he wants to produce consumer protection by some form of striptease; a little bit now, a little bit later, a little bit later on? If this is indeed something this government believes in, then there should be a radical movement to give consumers the kinds of protection they deserve, because indeed they are investing the money of their lifetime, they are investing their life’s work, in purchasing their cars and in purchasing their homes.
I want to suggest to the minister, because the minister is concerned and has experience with lobby groups, that maybe this government is responding in such a slow way and such a very inadequate way to consumers’ concerns because of the pressure that is put on it by its big business friends who are not prepared to have real consumer protection in the marketplace. It is one thing to want to give the appearance of being a progressive government, but if a government wants to be truly progressive, I would suggest to the minister that he can indeed do this by introducing strong consumer protection, radical consumer protection that puts the rights of the purchaser first and foremost.
Mr Runciman: We welcome the changes indicated in the minister’s announcement today. We believe this is not the end; as he has indicated, there is a further review two years hence. One of the concerns -- and I am not sure it would fall under the Ontario Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan -- was the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars by individuals who had Guardall warranties, as he will perhaps be familiar with. That was a loophole, a weakness, and perhaps OMVAP could consider providing that sort of protection in the future.
I found it interesting to note the minister making reference to the official launch in November 1986. Modest folks that they are in the Liberal government, I am sure the minister will feel free to stand up at some point today or perhaps in the near future and indicate that in 1986 this was in effect a relaunching, because as Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations I had the good fortune of officially announcing this program in June 1985. This government, or the former Liberal government, if you will, made it a policy for its first six months in office of relaunching and reannouncing programs and policies brought in by the previous Progressive Conservative government.
Another one I can mention was the legalization of brewpubs, which the member for Wilson Heights (Mr Kwinter) formally announced at some point in 1985, months after I had officially announced the legalization of brewpubs and more significant initiatives that were committed to and undertaken by the Progressive Conservative government. This Liberal government has tried to take credit for many of those.
We are pleased to see the congratulatory tone of this announcement today and the fact that the government is indeed saying this is an innovative program and all sorts of complimentary language is used. As I indicated, we welcome the announced changes and we are pleased to see that this Progressive Conservative initiative has met with resounding success and is serving the consumers of this province well.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr B. Rae: My question is to the Premier. His government will have received today a notice from Chief Gary Potts of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai band, which states as follows:
“By the natural authority vested in the Tema-Augama Anishnabai, you and your agents, workers and/or members are ordered to leave the townships of Shelburne, Delhi and Acadia immediately.
“Permission must be obtained from the Teme-Augama Anishnabai to enter the said townships in the future.”
This speaks to a major confrontation between the government and the band with respect to the future of construction of the road and of logging.
Can the Premier tell us what his response is to this notice of eviction from the band?
Hon Mr Peterson: I have not seen any notice of eviction, although I understand they sent that to the government, as well as to the Temagami Wilderness Society. I think my facts are correct in that regard.
Frankly, I do not know the legal ramifications of that. I do not know the basis in law for that eviction notice; I am not aware of any at the present time. Obviously I would take legal advice on that from the Attorney General (Mr Scott) when we have time to discuss it. I can tell my honourable friend I have no idea by what authority this eviction notice is sent.
Mr B. Rae: The Premier will understand that what lies at the basis of this -- if the Premier is not aware of it, I am sure he will become aware of it -- is a historic claim, a claim of ownership, a claim of stewardship, a claim of responsibility that stems from the fact that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai are, after all, among the first citizens of Canada and among the first citizens of this province. They feel they have never signed a treaty with the crown, they have never signed a treaty either before Confederation or after Confederation, and they are outraged that the government would be continuing to build a road directly across land which they feel is theirs.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: What does the Premier intend to do to avoid a confrontation which I believe will be of historic proportions unless the Premier is prepared to take some imaginative action?
Hon Mr Peterson: I am sure my honourable friend would say that the root principle operative here is respect for the law of this country. This matter has been litigated in the courts for the past 10 years or so. It has been subject to two judgements by the courts at this moment. Granted, there is an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, and I understand that. But as my honourable friend will know, they requested an injunction just last week.
We halted construction of the road to make sure that we complied with the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Everything that the government has done has complied exactly with the letter of the law; and surely my honourable friend, as a lawyer and as a member of this Legislature, will respect the fact that the respect for the rule of law has to be the paramount principle here. Obviously, the government will do so, and I expect the band would do so as well.
Mr B. Rae: If the Premier does not understand the sense of outrage and injustice that is brewing in this band -- as it is in countless other groups across this country who feel they have been left out of the legal structures -- that it has been left out with respect to its historic claim, and if he does not have the imagination to understand that, he is failing to appreciate what is in front of him and what is going to be staring him in the face in the weeks ahead unless he is prepared to take some imaginative action.
Why does the Premier not stop the construction of the road now and offer to negotiate directly with the band in question with respect to the future of the resources in the Temagami area?
Hon Mr Peterson: I say to my honourable friend, with the greatest respect, I think the principles from which he is enunciating this are not particularly sound. This government respects the law. An offer of a land claim has been made by the Attorney General to the band. There have been discussions. They turned that down. We are ready to return to the table any time they are to discuss the matter of a land claim.
I remind my honourable friend it is the first time in the history of this province that an offer of a land claim settlement has been made by the government. We approached that in good faith and intend to continue to leave the door open for any discussions they would like to have about this matter.
But my honourable friend cannot stand in this House and say, because of threats, that we should not respect the law. I would ask him, what is the logical extension of that? I understand, I think, the sensitivity of the band in this matter. We have tried to respect that, just as we try to respect all people’s sensitivities in this province with respect to a whole, broad range of issues, but ultimately the courts are supreme in this matter; and I think my honourable friend would want to stand up and assert that principle as I would and as the leader of the third party would as well. We will all respect that.
We will continue to have an open door, to be co-operative and to try to work this matter out, but I think my honourable friend would not want to do anything irresponsible to inflame the situation or hold out false hopes, or to take the proposition that any person in this province can take the law into his own hands.
SALES TAX REBATE
Mr B. Rae: While we are speaking of taking the law in one’s own hands, I would like to ask the Premier a question with respect to the matter of his government’s relationship to the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto section. I asked the Premier last week if he would tell me under what circumstances some $800,000 of an overpayment was made to the council. I understand that the government is trying to collect $350,000 under the Ministry of Citizenship; it is trying to collect $200,000 from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, which was confirmed by the minister; and apparently it is also trying to collect a $250,000 sales tax rebate which was apparently initially paid to the Tridel Corp.
Can the Premier tell us: Is this true? Is the government trying to collect the sales tax rebate and the other money that is involved?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Minister of Revenue (Mr Mancini) can give the member all the details of that.
Hon Mr Mancini: We want to make it very clear that the Ontario Ministry of Revenue is not trying to collect the $250.00 sales tax which was remitted to the National Council of Jewish Women.
I may add, to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, that the rebate was remitted in a very normal way. It was moneys that, in fact, because of the fact it is a charitable organization which was undertaking charitable works, were due to it. They made the application and the funds were remitted to them in the very normal course of events.
Mr B. Rae: If this is the normal course of events, then perhaps the Minister of Revenue can answer this question: What does he do when it is discovered that the money which has been remitted under the law for a given charitable purpose is not in fact used for charitable purposes but is used as a political slush fund? Does he have any audit which allows him to determine that $250,000 or a portion of that money has been wrongly used by the charity in question?
Hon Mr Mancini: Evidently the honourable member does not understand how or why a sales tax rebate is given. The honourable member should know that for this to occur, the organization in question must be federally chartered and it must have a worthy project. This project was for the disabled and for other people in our community who are disadvantaged, to provide a home for them with fully accessible features.
After their charter was granted by the government of Canada, they proposed this project for the disabled and others. After the building was completed, a field audit was made to ensure the building was in fact standing and to ensure that the receipts that were stated were in fact in the file, and they received this money. It is that simple.
Mr B. Rae: I am glad the minister clarified the record when he said that this was designed as a worthy project for the disabled and for others. We are only beginning to discover now exactly who all the others are, and many of them are sitting all around you, Mr Speaker.
What is the minister going to do now that it has been determined, and determined by the auditors responsible, that in fact portions of this money are not legitimate with respect to the expenditure? What is he going to do, as the Minister of Revenue, to ensure that the rebate is used for the purposes for which it was clearly intended? It was not intended as a slush fund, not intended for politicians, but intended to be used for the disabled.
Hon Mr Mancini: The honourable member does not want to realize that the sales tax rebate is in fact just that: a rebate on taxes paid which would have otherwise not have been paid because the organization is a charitable organization. It paid the taxes in advance; under the regulations, it is due those taxes back. Whatever the National Council of Jewish Women wishes to do with that sales tax rebate is its business. The sales tax rebate would --
Hon Mr Mancini: The honourable members just do not want to listen. They do not understand at all how the sales tax rebate system works. They do not want to realize that many charitable organizations across this province do good works and they are all entitled to the rebate on sales taxes paid. Those are the facts.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Premier, in his capacity as head of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy that has recommended to the minister against the construction of the 4,400 hospital beds that were promised back in 1986. I want to advise the Premier, and he probably is aware, that of the 4,400 beds some 3,000 of those beds were in the chronic care category. Of the 4,400 that were to be constructed and were promised by his government in 1986 and were to cost something in the order of $850 million, I would also like to remind the Premier that the reports at the time, in 1986, indicated that there was going to be a 50-per-cent-plus increase in the number of elderly persons between now and the year 2000.
Is the Premier indicating to this House that the construction of those 3,000 chronic care beds is no longer a necessity in the province of Ontario?
Hon Mr Peterson: Not at all, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Supplementary?
Mr Brandt: Is the Premier saying that his position is that the construction of those beds is still needed? I would like to remind him that day after day in addressing this question to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), she makes absolutely no commitment whatever following the announcement made by the previous minister, suggesting simply that there will be a shift to home care programs.
I would like to just suggest to the Premier that the home care portion of the Ministry of Health budget consists of about four per cent of all of the expenditures. There has not been an increase, if you will, in the commitment to home care programs such as the Victorian Order of Nurses or the Red Cross while at the selfsame time there has been no follow-through on the commitment his government made in 1986, and many hospitals are in limbo with respect to their building plans.
The Speaker: Question.
Mr Brandt: When does the Premier plan to follow through on his previous announcement?
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the Minister of Health has explained the situation on many occasions to my honourable friend. I am very happy to share that same response with him on this matter.
My honourable friend is aware of the report of the Premier’s health council with respect to capital expansion, and she is currently discussing the most appropriate kinds of services and capital that are necessary in the various areas. Those discussions are ongoing because we are determined to make sure that we have the best health care system possible, and that is not necessarily just related to the number of hospital beds. Obviously, that does not rule out hospital beds by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a combination of the appropriate number of hospital beds and the appropriate community-based services.
Mr Brandt: A recent survey of the Perley Hospital in Ottawa, which is one of our finest chronic care facilities, indicated that 96.5 per cent of the residents in that particular hospital could not move without a wheelchair; 94.5 per cent of the residents could not move at all without assistance; 92 per cent require assistance with feeding at all of their meals; 84 per cent are incontinent; 64.5 per cent are either confused or in a comatose state. Those kinds of statistics for Perley Hospital in Ottawa are very similar to the general population for chronic care patients.
I would suggest to the Premier that there is crying need in this province to get on with the construction of the 3,000 hospital beds that he promised in his overall projections in 1986 when he promised $850 million in capital and 4,400 total beds. He has left the hospitals --
The Speaker: Is that your question?
Mr Brandt: -- of this province in confusion with his lack of response to any kind of a commitment.
The Speaker: Thank you. Premier?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend is not happy, obviously, with the answers that the Minister of Health has given him or that I have given him and he can continue to ask the same question on a daily basis, but we are determined that we have a system that is responsive to all needs. Obviously, some people need institutional care. Other people do not, would rather be in their homes and rather be living independently. My honourable friend understands that it is a combination of those things that builds the best kind of health care system possible.
My honourable friend has a fixation on the number of beds; and that has nothing to do, necessarily, with the quality of health care, but it is a question of the quality of the programs and the responses to individual needs. That is where the minister is coming from. My honourable friend lives in the past. He is entitled to do that because at some times in his past he had some glories. He does not at the moment.
COMMERCIAL CONCENTRATION LEVY
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. People in the greater Toronto area are becoming increasingly incensed at what is going to happen to them because of Bill 46, which is the latest tax grab of this government, better known as the commercial concentration levy. It is a double form of taxation where the province is now taxing another level of government and it is going to cost Metro Toronto $10 million a year. This is the first time that the provincial government has directly levied a tax on the property of a lower tier of government. Will the minister tell this House how much this levy will cost the municipalities in the greater Toronto area? In other words, how much tax is he going to collect from all the municipalities, other than Metro, because of the commercial concentration?
Hon Mr Mancini: If memory serves me correctly, I believe the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) has said that he was targeting in the neighbourhood of $130 million from the commercial concentration tax, a tax which will be used to strengthen the infrastructure of the greater Toronto region.
Mr Cousens: The minister did not answer the question.
Last week the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) and I visited Peel council for the transportation discussions we are having, and they are furious at the fact that their level of government is going to be taxed by the government of Ontario on the provision of services to that municipality. One of the most outrageous aspects of this tax is that the minister will be taxing parking lots that are in some cases provincially owned. The Toronto Transit Commission is an example. Their parking lots will face an increase for each person who is using them of at least $1.25 for commuters in the greater Toronto area. How can the minister justify that this bill will be used to promote transportation initiatives in the greater Toronto area when he is actually discouraging commuters from using public transit?
Hon Mr Mancini: Just so the honourable member is aware of the work that is going on, improvements for highways 401, 407, 427, the Queen Elizabeth Way, Highways 400, 35 and 115 will directly benefit from the commercial concentration tax. All of this work is being done to ensure that the greater Toronto region can continue to grow and prosper.
Mr Cousens: I think the minister should pick up another piece of paper and read it, because it would be as meaningless as the one he just read. We are asking the minister to promote commuter services in the Toronto area, and yet he is taxing them. I would like to ask --
Mr Callahan: Cancel 407. Markham doesn’t need it.
The Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mr Cousens: The town of Whitby has proposed to offer free parking as a way of escaping this tax grab. Whitby will have to shell out $165,000 per year in tax for its municipal parking lots, and yet these parking lots generate $118,000 per year, some $47,000 less. The burden is falling more and more on the municipalities in the province of Ontario because the minister’s government is not playing the game. It is passing the buck down to the municipalities to make things happen.
Mr Cousens: Maybe the Minister of Revenue can hear this over the rabble. What will the Minister of Revenue do if all the municipalities in the greater Toronto area make their parking free, as Whitby might do? Is he prepared at long last to admit the absurdity of this bill?
Hon Mr Mancini: The piece of legislation, for which we have just finished second reading, Bill 46, is a piece of legislation which will help strengthen the transportation system of the greater Toronto region. The infrastructure in this region needs to be improved because of the fast pace of growth that we have experienced over the last eight or 10 years. We do not want to sit idly by while our infrastructure is not able to meet the needs and demands of this region. We intend to improve the infrastructure, and the commercial concentration levy will help us do that.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour, and I thought we might have had an announcement from him today. Can the Minister of Labour tell this House what role his ministry had, or if it had any role, in the major announcement made by Stelco this morning that will result in the closure of three Stelco plants -- Swansea, Burlington and Brantford -- employing some 600 workers, and the possible construction of a new plant in Brantford employing about 500 workers?
Hon Mr Phillips: Of course I had no role in that. The Stelco organization, as I understand it, is looking at the possibility of closing two plants and one distribution centre, and the possibility of opening a new plant that would combine those two operations. But I think it is just a possibility, and I am aware of it.
Mr Mackenzie: It sort of surprises me. Can the minister tell this House if he is aware of specific contractual demands made by Stelco to its workers as a condition for keeping their jobs or proceeding with this project, such as an early contract or wage freezes for a period of the contract, or other concessions in their contracts? Does he believe this is the way to deal with workers in the province of Ontario, with a fait accompli when they are going to make this kind of a move?
Hon Mr Phillips: I think actually the member opposite knows more about it than I do. I think what I understand from Stelco is that they are looking at the possibility of closing two plants and a distribution centre and opening a new plant that would combine those operations.
I think we have to be extremely cautious as we look at the future of our industrial structure that if, in fact, we are looking at substantial changes in our industrial infrastructure, we treat the workers fairly. I would hope that Stelco will continue its practice of treating the workers fairly in a circumstance like this.
I would hope that all parties would look at the possibility of opening a new plant which I understand may be state-of-the-art, a new plant that I understand may represent a substantial opportunity for jobs in the future; but I would count on Stelco and the union working cooperatively to see if that is a venture that the two of them can work out.
I do agree with the member opposite that it must be dealt with sensitively, and in terms of understanding the specifics of the issue. I have been informed that management and the union will be talking about that possibility. Beyond that, I have no further information until they make it a matter of public record, which I gather they are doing today if the member is correct.
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Premier. Yesterday the city of Toronto released a report saying that there must be a broad attack against pollution from cars in the city. There is a way that the Premier can help Toronto and other urban areas with high pollution levels from car exhaust and that is by legislating the use of alcohol fuels in our cars. He knows this would reduce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere and would reduce the greenhouse effect.
Will the Premier legislate a certain percentage of alcohol content in our fuels to reduce the pollution and smog in urban areas?
Hon Mr Peterson: Let me tell my honourable friend I am not familiar with this particular report from the Toronto city council, but obviously if they have a serious idea for us, we will take it under advisement and I will discuss it with my colleagues.
Mrs Marland: Unfortunately the Liberal government is actually moving backwards in the war against pollution from car exhaust.
Mr Ferraro: Let’s talk about Via.
Mrs Marland: Last February the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations passed an amendment --
The Speaker: Order. Supplementary.
Mrs Marland: You know, I would think that the government members would extend the courtesy to their own Premier so he could hear the question.
The Speaker: Order. Order. Order. I recognize the member to place a supplementary. Please place it.
Mrs Marland: Last February the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations passed an amendment to the regulations under the Gasoline Handling Act that limits the amount of alcohol content in gas to not more than 0.5 per cent. At the same time, other places were requiring a minimum oxygen content in gasoline of two per cent or more. The facts are in. In Denver last year, carbon monoxide emissions were reduced by 12 per cent because of the use of alcohol gasoline.
Will the Premier undertake to repeal regulation 67/89 and will he table another regulation that does set a minimum alcohol content in gasoline that will help clean the air in Ontario?
Hon Mr Peterson: I just wish my honourable friend would not be so harsh on my colleagues. They were extending me every courtesy by assisting me in not hearing the question.
To my honourable friend, let me say that I would remind her that it is our Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) who has shown the national leadership with the question of car emissions, who has finally persuaded all of his colleagues in the federal government to come out in favour of the California standards.
Again, this province is showing the leadership not only here but nationally and I think my honourable friend, because she is a charitable soul by disposition, would want to stand up and recognize that. I can tell my honourable friend that any other serious ideas that are coming forward we will seriously consider.
Mr Pouliot: Do we finally have a market for Ontario wine?
Some hon members: Oooh.
The Speaker: I know it is Hallowe’en; I heard a lot of oohing there.
Mr Cleary: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs. In response to a question in the House on 10 October, he spoke about the stereotypes of ageing that seniors find offensive. Considering that seniors are a very diverse group with varied needs, how is the minister’s office working to promote better awareness of the whole range of seniors’ experiences?
Hon Mr Morin: My ministry is actively involved in trying to make the public sensitive to seniors’ needs. We have an educational resource centre with a variety of workshops, for instance, helping advertising agencies to change the way they depict seniors in commercials.
We also train retail personnel to better serve seniors by making them experience the difficulties and the challenges the seniors have to face. We also have programs that are aimed at improving attitudes among school children, health care professionals and others. When I look around this House, I know that some day all of these services will be useful to all of us.
I just want to convey that there is a tremendous potential that exists among senior citizens and we have yet to learn to tap it.
Mr Cleary: These sound like very positive and encouraging initiatives but do we have any indication of how effective they really are?
Mr B. Rae: Does the same person write the question as writes the answer?
The Speaker: I might need the answer before any of you.
Hon Mr Morin: I find this a tremendous experience for me to deal with the opposition but I note that I have a very happy message to communicate.
I am very proud to say that the government of New Zealand has recently invited three members of my ministry staff to go and inform them and help them to establish a system similar to the one we have here in Ontario. This, to me, is quite flattering for our province.
I want to make sure, also, that our office is committed to changing the attitudes of the public, but this is not done overnight. There is an awful lot of work to be done and I expect that I will have the co-operation of all my fellow colleagues to communicate this important message.
DARLINGTON NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. The minister will be aware that Ontario Hydro has had at the Darlington site, over the course of the last month, three what Hydro would describe as incidents, what some would describe as serious accidents and what I would describe, at the very least, as serious mistakes that were avoidable.
Yesterday we had indications from an official of the Atomic Energy Control Board that Hydro may again be turned down for its licensing of the first reactor at Darlington. Has the minister sought a report from Hydro on precisely what is going on at that site and what the cause of these ongoing problems is?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Yes, I can assure the honourable member that Ontario Hydro, whenever there is an incident, whether it seems to be of significance or not, takes considerable pains to ensure that we are fully familiar with the incident and any implications.
I would also assure the honourable member that I have every confidence in the Atomic Energy Control Board in its monitoring and regulating role and that it will look at the application for licence in terms of its being fully satisfied that all safety requirements are met.
Mr Charlton: I must say that I am very disappointed in the minister’s response. Surely the minister understands what is going on at the Darlington site. For a year now, Hydro has been attempting desperately to get the tritium recovery plant in operation, unsuccessfully to date. They have also been having licensing difficulties in terms of the first reactor of the nuclear power station. Hydro is in a hurry-up mode and the pressure it is putting on staff is causing mistakes.
Will the minister tell Hydro to slow down, take a deep breath and get on with doing the job properly? The next incident may be the major accident that we will all regret.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I guess it is with some surprise, I would think, that Ontario Hydro would be accused of haste in bringing the Darlington project on stream. I think there has been considerable concern expressed about significant delays and the cost implication of those delays.
Quite clearly, one of the reasons why that project has taken a longer time to come into operation than might have been expected is a concern for the most up-to-date and complete safety requirements being met. That is the role of the AECB: to monitor and regulate. We are assured that there will be no licensing of the facility until they are fully satisfied about those safety requirements.
Mr Brandt: I have a question to the Premier. The Premier will be aware that back in 1985 there was in fact an approval given for the St Catharines General Hospital chronic care ward to have renovations undertaken on the 71 beds that are contained in that particular area of the hospital. I would like to impress very directly on the Premier the importance of this project in view of the fact that the condition of that particular ward in that hospital is absolutely deplorable and unacceptable.
The Premier has said that he wants to have the best health care possible for the residents of Ontario. What does his government plan to do about the renovation project that he promised for that hospital?
Hon Mr Peterson: I wish I could tell my honourable friend the status of that particular project. Frankly I do not know. I wish the member would ask the Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley), who takes that matter very, very seriously. That is his constituency and I can tell the member that he has been showing remarkable leadership on that issue. He has taken all those concerns to the Minister of Health (Mrs Caplan), and I think the member will see a successful resolution.
Mr Brandt: Let me just point out to the Premier that in addition to the headline which says, “Chronic Wards in Terrible Shape.” which I am sure the Minister of the Environment was aware of, these are some of the conditions I would like to share with the Premier.
There is one bathtub in that facility for every 35 patients. There should be one, according to ministry guidelines, for every 10. Sanitary facilities are far below what is acceptable. Ministry guidelines are one for four patients; there is one for every 23 patients there. In the winter, it is so cold that the nurses have to wear legwarmers. Snow is blowing in through the windows in the wintertime. In the summertime, it is far too hot because of a lack of ventilation. Some medical equipment cannot even be utilized for patients who require it because it blows fuses. We are talking about the basic dignity of patients in that facility.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Brandt: In the Premier’s Ontario, is he prepared to stand by and watch patients reside and be cared for in a facility in this kind of deplorable condition?
Hon Mr Peterson: I can tell my honourable friend I am not aware of that situation. The minister from that area tells me there is a meeting going on on 7 November with the ministry and the hospital, and I can tell my honourable friend that if there is a problem we can solve, we will attempt to do so.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Attorney General. There has been considerable concern in Barrie with the backlog in the provincial assignment courts. It has meant that they are concerned that many of the cases that are supposed to be dealt with cannot be dealt with in a time looked upon as reasonable by the judges. The present number of judges is finding it almost impossible to carry on. The last assignment court involved many hundreds of people in the halls, out in the parking lot, and it lasted from early morning until late at night.
In late August, the minister announced that Barrie would be granted an additional two judges and three crown attorneys to try to address this problem. I wonder if the minister could tell us where we are in the process of placing or appointing these particular judges and crown attorneys to assist the situation.
Hon Mr Scott: I would just like to thank the honourable member for the question.
As the honourable member knows, Barrie was one of the six districts in which a delay reduction committee was constituted over a year ago. These committees are an effort through cooperative management involving bench, crown attorneys, defence bar and administrators. It is hoped that delays can be reduced to a minimum.
Regrettably, for some local reasons, the Barrie committee has not been able to produce the effective results that have been achieved in Ottawa and some other areas. The Barrie committee did, however, submit to the government a plan for delay reduction in the late spring, I think in late June, and we responded to it, as the honourable member said, in August by indicating that two new judges would be appointed in Barrie and four new crown attorneys would be appointed to the staff there in order to help the delay reduction committee manage the issue in the community.
Mr Owen: There have been suggestions made that if and when the new judges are appointed, there are some judges who are presently there who would be retiring very shortly and the concern has been expressed that the new judges would simply be in place for the ones who are leaving. Does the minister have any idea of what the forecasts are for the future, what the needs or demands might be, whether these worries are well founded or not?
Hon Mr Scott: I should begin by saying that the two judges’ appointments have been announced, but the judicial advisory appointment committee has advertised the vacancies and it will be a number of months before they are in place, under the process that Professor Russell and his committee have established. There is also, consistent with the public service rules, a hiring process for crown attorneys which will be slightly shorter.
These extra resources are provided to a community because it has developed a plan, which indicates that it is prepared to work co-operatively. That is to say, judges, crown attorneys, administrators and local bar, perhaps with the police and legal aid as well, will work to resolve the problems.
I am not aware of the rumours that the honourable member refers to or the fears that he expresses. I can simply tell him that I know nothing of them and cannot believe that they represent the case.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Housing. The minister will be aware that tomorrow is the deadline for municipalities in the province to submit to him their plans to provide 25 per cent of their new housing units to be affordable to the people of this province.
CMHC is projecting that 80,000 housing units will be built in Ontario next year. At the same time, the minister only has or will have 11,000 units to be allocated under his nonprofit housing program next year. How is he going to ensure that municipalities are going to be able to meet this 25 per cent quota when he is only going to provide 11,000 nonprofit housing units next year?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The 25 per cent that the honourable member speaks about does not refer solely to nonprofit or co-op units which this ministry, either independently or in co-operation with the federal government, is making available. It speaks to all construction which is going to take place in Ontario. That is ownership homes and rental units.
One of the tasks that the municipalities have effective tomorrow -- at least some of them have effective tomorrow -- is to give us their plan as to how, in their municipalities, they are going to achieve that target. We have received several of those already, and I must share with my honourable friend that we are very encouraged by the proposals that are coming before us.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister knows that affordable home ownership is not an option in Metropolitan Toronto and a great number of other major municipalities across this province, so he is dreaming if he thinks that home ownership is going to be one of the avenues of providing affordable housing in this province.
Why will the minister not announce that there is going to be a “housing next” program to follow his 23,000-unit allocation of this year so that this 25 per cent can be achieved and people can live in dignity and in decent, affordable housing in this province? Does he not realize that is essential if this program is to work?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I have to disagree with the premise upon which my honourable colleague makes his observation. I am not convinced that in the majority of municipalities in this province the option of affordable ownership is not a realistic goal.
There is no doubt about it that in the Metro Toronto area it is much more difficult. However, I had the opportunity at noon today to meet with and to speak to the Toronto Home Builders Association. They told me in very clear language that if my ministry and other ministries of this government were able to assist them with respect to making land available, with respect to streamlining the approvals process, with respect to putting more provincial land on the market, then in fact even in this area it is possible to have affordable ownership as part of the component.
My honourable friend is completely correct that there are some groups that will continue to rely upon affordable rental as the most appropriate form of shelter for them. What we want is both options available. Wherever it makes most sense, wherever we can meet the need, we will try to adjust the balance between those two components.
Mr Pollock: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. Did he or any member of his staff lead the owner of the Marmora iron ore mine property to believe that the open pit mine would be a safe place to dump Metropolitan Toronto garbage?
Hon Mr Bradley: I did not discuss this with anybody. I presume that they would be talking about some long-term solution involving the greater Toronto area or something like that and certainly they would not be approaching me about that. They would have to have it appropriately assessed to determine that. I do not think anybody can determine that until such time as it has gone through a process.
There is an assessment of the site which carefully takes into consideration all of the scientific and technical data which are produced, which involves a hydrogeological study of the area, which involves the social implications. There are a variety of implications they look at.
Anybody can propose any site they wish, I suppose, anywhere in Ontario, but it has to be assessed appropriately and if it is not acceptable, it will not be accepted.
Mr Pollock: I would wonder why the owner has asked the local township to change its zoning bylaws to accept Metro’s garbage without getting some sort of indication from the Ministry of Environment. The minister did not answer whether any of his staff actually talked to the owner.
Hon Mr Bradley: I am not aware whether or not any staff have talked to an owner or a municipality but I can tell the member that almost on a daily basis municipalities are approaching Metropolitan Toronto, the GTA or the Ministry of the Environment to talk about the potential for sites for land filling purposes. What they all have to understand is that they have to go through the process. There has to be an environmental assessment. I think this is what the people in his area would want to know.
There would have to be an environmental assessment conducted of that site. They would have to look at all of the potential implications. I presume that it is a long-term solution they are looking for. If it is, as we have indicated, the long-term solutions that the GTA is looking to would go through the Environmental Assessment Act. But regardless of what particular act it goes through, any site must be environmentally acceptable before it is approved.
I know it takes a long time. I have heard the leader of the member’s party --
The Speaker: Order. I know it does take a long time.
PROTECTION OF ANIMALS
Mr D. R. Cooke: My question is for the Solicitor General. Puppy mills are large corporate establishments breeding many animals for sale without concern for the wellbeing, health or comfort of the animals and without concern for perpetrating genetic faults. Such slipshod breeding practices as overbreeding weaken the purebred status of some breeds and result in inferior animals. Dogs are emerging from these farms filthy, starving and, in some cases, disease-ridden and petrified.
I would like to know what the minister is planning on doing to monitor more effectively the activity of these businesses and to improve the circumstances of animals in these establishments.
Hon Mr Offer: First, let me acknowledge the great interest of the honourable member in this area and echo my commitment and sharing with him in our making certain that animals are properly protected from cruel treatment and abuse.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General is the lead ministry in an interministerial review which is designed to address a number of issues such as zoos, pet shops, animal displays, circuses, breeding and boarding. I think some of the concerns that the honourable member has raised today will surround the issues of breeding and boarding, which this interministerial committee is dealing with at this point in time.
I would like to indicate that I am advised that the committee is currently developing and evaluating options to address these issues which it has identified. I expect it to report to me in the very near while.
Mr D. R. Cooke: The present law inhibits humane societies from obtaining search warrants to raid some of these puppy mills. I am wondering if the plans that the committee is working on include plans to expand the role of the enforcement abilities of humane societies and humane society officers to prevent such abuse from continuing in the future.
Hon Mr Offer: Prior to the committee’s report to me it might be somewhat premature, but I think it is fair to say that certainly one of the issues which the committee will be grappling with is that which the member has addressed. That will be a proposal determining the development of standards which can then be used by local humane societies and others when they inspect such places of breeding and boarding. I am currently awaiting that report by the committee. It has an important role in meeting our commitment to ensuring that there is no abuse or cruel treatment of animals.
Mr Wildman: I have a question to the Attorney General. Recently the government announced an initiative to ensure that civil cases could be heard in French. In view of the fact that the Attorney General stated in a letter to me dated 5 May 1988 that he intended to appoint a bilingual judge for the district of Algoma to ensure that criminal cases could be heard in French, and despite staff statements in September 1988 that the ministry was in the final selection process but still no judge has been appointed more than a year later, how can the Attorney General assure this House that this new commitment to bilingual courts in the province is not just one more example of hollow rhetoric?
Hon Mr Scott: Though I have to disavow the last part of the question, I cannot give the honourable member the assurance he wants. The fact of the matter is that we believe that of the two judges in the district, one should have a bilingual capacity. That judge will serve outside the city of Sault Ste Marie for the most part. Applications simply have not produced a judge who has that capacity.
The honourable member will remember that an applicant has to be approved by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee and by the Ontario Judicial Council, which is composed of the five chief judges of the province, and although some names have gone forward, we have not been able to report as yet that a candidate is at hand who meets the requirements my honourable friend and I both desire to achieve.
Mr Wlldman: Since His Honour Judge Boyd retired in July 1988 after a long illness and that vacancy still has not been filled, there are only two judges, Judge Greco and Judge Cohen, and Judge Cohen is ill, to carry out the duties in the criminal courts. As a result, criminal prosecutions have been halted on occasion.
Because the clogged court system has caused unacceptable delays and accused persons have gone free without trial, can the Attorney General give us some indication when, instead of having one judge to do all the work in Algoma district and Sault Ste Marie, we will have the full complement of three judges to carry out the very important work of the criminal courts system in our area.
Hon Mr Scott: First of all, I am not aware of any cases where people have gone free without trial. If the honourable member would like to give me details of that, I would be delighted to examine it.
There is a vacancy in Sault Ste Marie, as the honourable member has indicated. I am anxious and I think it is generally speaking appropriate that in the criminal court it should be filled by someone who has a bilingual capacity. We have not had an applicant who has been able to pass through the various processes at the judicial council level. I am prepared to consider the appointment of a unilingual anglophone in the district, but I hope, and I think the honourable member would agree, that we would give the matter just one more try.
Mr McLean: I have a question of the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The chairman of Tourism Ontario has said that his cost sensitivity study will be one of the first to bear the brunt of an economic downturn that experts believe has already started and the tax bites contained in his government’s budget are expected to hasten this process. Can the minister of tourism explain the steps he plans to take to counteract the damaging effects his government’s budget will have on Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry?
Hon Mr Black: I can tell the member for Simcoe East that the concerns he raises about the downturn in economic conditions are valid ones. We are as concerned about them as he is. We are meeting with representatives of the tourism industry to discuss those and to look for possible ways we can attempt to alleviate the problem. I should tell him also that we are looking increasingly at new dimensions of marketing, trying to make our marketing programs more effective in partnership with the other tourism operators in Ontario.
Mr McLean: The minister said he is looking at it. I am curious to know if he will be co-operating with Tourism Ontario and receiving input from this organization to help him with some of the problems he has, because we are all aware of the increased taxes, the increased gasoline tax, all the increased taxes this government has put on. It is a concern to those people in the industry and I wonder how the minister is going to counteract these increases.
Hon Mr Black: We are looking at working co-operatively with the other players in the tourism industry, but I want to say to the member for Simcoe East that if he is genuinely concerned about the rising costs of tourism and if he wants to be part of the solution, I would urge him to correspond with his federal counterparts and talk to them about the impact of the goods and services tax. I want to tell him that my communications with the tourism people across this province would indicate that they are much more concerned about the impact of the GST than they are about any other single factor.
I want to urge him, if he is really interested in helping the tourist operators, to call his federal cousins, to get on the telephone or to lead a march, if he likes, against Ottawa to try to assist the tourism operators to deal with this problem that is on the horizon.
Mr Callahan: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and Communications. Some time ago, I raised in the House the issue of computer telephone calls, how they fail to disconnect when the recipient hangs up and the impact this could have on 911 calls or even calls by seniors or people wishing to use the telephone. Subsequent to that, I have discovered that when Bell Canada gives its computer information numbers, you cannot cut it off either and it is displayed twice, which again interferes with the opportunity for someone needing the telephone for an emergency use.
I ask the minister whether she is aware of that and whether she will look into that matter, as it could be of significant concern to people requiring the use of that telephone.
Hon Ms Hart: I would like to thank the member for Brampton South for getting rid of my anxiety, sitting on the edge of my seat and not being asked a question.
I can say to the member that as he will appreciate, the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is the regulator of Bell Canada and as such is the body that sets the rules about how the phone lines can be used, but that is not the end of the story. In my capacity as minister of communications, one of the tasks my ministry takes very seriously is the advocacy role we perform before the CRTC in just such matters as these.
I can say to the member that I was not aware, frankly, that Bell Canada, when it is giving a telephone number, ties up the line and it cannot be used for anything else. Certainly, I can assure the member that I will look into it. I share his concern that there would be times when it is necessary to use the line for a 911 call, for example, and I will be happy to get back to the member at the earliest opportunity.
Mr Callahan: Recognizing that it may be a matter that can only be dealt with by way of intervention at CRTC hearings, the minister obviously has meeting with her counterparts from the various provinces and also the federal government and it would be interesting to find out whether this is a problem that exists throughout Canada. Perhaps she would be good enough, at the first opportunity for a meeting with her federal and provincial counterparts, to raise that issue with them.
Hon Ms Hart: The member may know that the federal and provincial communications ministers are planning to meet in the very near future. This is the type of issue that will be on the agenda, although there are many others, of course. Apart from that, though, the province of Ontario through the Ministry of Culture and Communications files briefs before the CRTC on a regular basis and has counsel appear to speak to those briefs, to make sure that the interests of Ontario consumers are heard and understood by that body. It is my understanding that the CRTC has indicated that briefs from Ontario are well received and given weight.
CHOICE OF HEALTH CARE
Mrs Cunningham: I have a petition from the Association of Concerned Citizens for Preventive Medicine. There are 20 signatures from the London and Guelph regions. It is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The petition is from individuals who are concerned that this government will enact laws that will inhibit their rights and freedoms to individually choose the type and manner of their health care services.
I have added my signature to this petition.
Mr Henderson: “To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas it is my constitutional right to have available and to choose the health care system of my preference;
“And whereas naturopathy has had self-governing status in Ontario for more than 42 years;
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
It is signed by a number of my constituents and by me, and I have a second petition.
Mr Henderson: “To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly:
“Whereas we, the undersigned residents of Barclay Terrace, believe that all levels of authority responsible for the levying of taxes must that realize it is time to call a halt to these major and unreasonable tax increases, particularly as a large source of tax dollars is one and the same, namely, the ordinary taxpayer,
“We beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to urge that the government freeze the addition of staff and ensure that all vacancies are filled in order of strict priority and only if a defined and justified level of service be maintained. If an essential service or an enrichment of a particular service is required, then an offsetting reduction in personnel services and facilities must be found. Furthermore, capital expenditures must be reviewed and approved only if absolutely essential. No program should be commenced without the impact on future years requirements being properly assessed.”
This petition has been signed by nearly 500 of my constituents and by me.
SCHOOL OPENING AND CLOSING EXERCISES
Mr South: “To the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas the greatest majority of taxpayers in Ontario counties and municipalities have their roots as Christians;
“And whereas we believe the amendment to regulation 262 relating to the collective recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in opening or closing exercises in the public school deprives many Ontario citizens of an established freedom;
“And whereas the Parliament of Ontario has given the municipalities the right to decide on Sunday openings;
“We therefore pray that a new regulation would be passed that would give the freedom of choice to the individual Ontario county school boards to establish their own program, which would more accurately reflect the religious beliefs of a community and which would include the Lord’s Prayer or Christian prayers instead of multicultural prayers, thus recognizing our religious freedom denied by the compulsory use of multicultural prayers.”
This petition has been signed by 81 people in my constituency.
The Speaker: This might be the appropriate time to advise all members that we do have new standing orders on petitions. You may present a summary. It is not necessary to read the whole petition.
Mr Philip: Liberals always occupy the time of the House.
The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, I thank you for your advice.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
CITY OF ETOBICOKE ACT, 1989
Mr Henderson moved first reading of Bill Pr50, An Act respecting the City of Etobicoke.
Motion agreed to.
LAKE OF THE WOODS DISTRICT HOSPITAL ACT, 1989
Mr Miclash moved first reading of Bill Pr47, An Act respecting Lake of the Woods District Hospital.
Motion agreed to.
CITY OF OTTAWA ACT, 1989
Mr Chiarelli moved first reading of Bill Pr38, An Act to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the Ottawa Charitable Foundation.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of the whole
COURTS OF JUSTICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 (CONTINUED)
Consideration of Bill 2, an Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984.
The Chair: The member for Welland-Thorold (Mr Kormos) was the last one to speak and close shop on the committee work yesterday afternoon. Does the member wish to continue?
Mr Kormos: Perhaps I should very briefly remind the House, as indicated yesterday, that what we were talking about was the Young Offenders Act and how it is that the government thinks family court judges are better equipped to deal with the Young Offenders Act in that legislation as compared to judges with expertise in criminal litigation and in criminal sentencing, and also how it is that the member for Yorkview (Mr Polsinelli), parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General (Mr Scott), can dare to suggest that the only problem with YOA here in Ontario rears its head when we look at the legislation itself coming out of the federal government, when we know that some of the real problems here in the province are that the province has not adequately responded to the obligations imposed on it by the YOA to provide facilities and programs.
We know that all over Ontario judges’ hands are tied when it comes to sentencing young offenders because there simply are not open custody facilities available for young offenders. That means these kids are put back out on the street. It also is common knowledge that there is a real absence of programs and programming, again because of underfunding of the facilities and because of understaffing of those facilities. Young offender facilities are in no different position than adult correctional institutes were last week, the month before or the year before.
The other real question one has to ask, and I am hoping there is an answer, is why was there no consultation? When the Advocates’ Society, the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario, the Criminal Lawyers Association, district court judges and others asked for but a few more weeks to prepare their responses to the bills, and especially when a whole bunch of amendments were foisted on them at the last minute, why did the government not give them but a few more weeks so that they could prepare their responses to this legislation and help the government along in its process?
Why did the government shrug them off, dismiss them as a mere bunch of dummies? That is what the message was in committee: “You guys do not know what you are talking about. Go away. Go as far away as possible. Make sure we do not hear from you again. We are not interested in what you people have to say.” To the Advocates’ Society, the Canadian Bar Association, district court judges, the Criminal Lawyers Association: “Go away. We do not want to hear from you. You are a bunch of dummies. We do not care what you have to say.”
That is what was said to them. I know it is an unpleasant sort of prospect, but that is what was said. I am hoping somebody today will answer those questions for me because they certainly caused me a whole lot of real concern.
Mr Sterling: For those people who may be watching the debate, I would like to explain that the amendment that is before the committee of the whole House here in the Legislature is an amendment I read into the record yesterday. It is a motion to put into Bill 2, which changes our court system here in Ontario, essentially what we have in place in this province, and that in the city of Hamilton.
Because of our constitutional structure, the federal government has powers over some matters which are normally considered family court matters. They have the powers over divorce. They have the powers to appoint superior court judges who deal with many of the property matters that are dealt with in a divorce court or family court setting.
Some 10 years ago, the former government set up a pilot project in the city of Hamilton in conjunction with the then federal government, where the judges were appointed not only by the provincial government to hear matters under the jurisdiction as given by the Constitution to the provincial Legislature, but the judges were also appointed by the federal government to deal with matters which fall under the federal jurisdiction of our Constitution.
The specific matters which they were asked to deal with were listed and outlined in a number of pieces of legislation, some 10 in number, which I read to the Legislature yesterday. Incidentally, I should have added one more piece of legislation: if there was some indication by the parliamentary assistant that he was going to have a change of heart and accept this amendment, I would add that particular act as well. I believe it is the Partition Act, as I was informed by Mr Perkins of the Ministry of the Attorney General, to make the amendment in line with what is happening in the city of Hamilton.
Basically, the position of the Canadian Bar Association and the other groups who deal on a day-to-day basis with family court is that discussion over some parts of the merger of our courts has not gone on long enough. In other words, there has not been enough input to take it to the second stage of court reform which the Attorney General announced around 1 May 1989.
There has been considerable and lengthy discussions about the Unified Family Court, and therefore it is the position of the Canadian Bar Association and it is the position of our party that there no longer has to be any further talk on this matter and that we are quite aware of the ramifications of lifting the Unified Family Court to the superior court level. That would put all of the family court judges, provincial judges as they are now known -- it would lift them into the position of being part of the general court or the superior court as is defined in Bill 2.
The Unified Family Court in Hamilton has been a success. For a person who is dealing with either a separation, custody, access to children or a divorce, it basically gives them one place to go to deal with all of those different kinds of problems.
Under our present laws, and for the rest of the province, depending on what you might want to accomplish in the way of litigation in a family court matter, you must choose between either the provincial level of courts or the federal level of courts and sometimes they get intermingled between the two.
It just makes absolute sense, because of the way our constitutional structure is set up in our country, to go to a Unified Family Court concept. I realize the sensitivities of moving to an amendment as I have proposed; that is, the sensitivity of the federal government in approving this next step forward in terms of dealing with a Unified Family Court, because the judges, as I mentioned before, not only have to be appointed in Ontario but they also have to be appointed at the federal level.
That is why, in introducing this amendment, I put a specific proclamation section to this amendment, in that the cabinet of Ontario would not proclaim this section until it had in fact negotiated with the federal government and dealt with the nitty-gritty parts of who is going to pay for what, who is going to pay for the judges who are appointed at both levels, etc.
The cabinet of Ontario would not have to proclaim this section tomorrow or the day after the bill had been passed by this Legislature for third and final reading and received royal assent. They would not have to proclaim it at that time; they would not have to proclaim it a month or even five years from that time if negotiations with the federal government did not lead to a fruitful conclusion. But the problem with the situation as it now stands is that we have talked about making the unification of the family court province-wide for some five or six years now. It is about time that we took another step in seeing that goal achieved.
I understand the reluctance of the member for Yorkview, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General, but I must say to him that what he is going to leave himself with is the obligation to come back to the Legislature with either other amendments to the Courts of Justice Act or a specific amendment to the Courts of Justice Act to do this in the future. I want to make the government’s job easier. I do not need any more consultation. Our party has made up its mind that in fact we should have Unified Family Court across this province. That may or may not be the position of some future -- I cannot bind my party to whatever happens in the future. I do think it is unfair to other --
Mr Polsinelli: You can only bind it for the opposition?
Mr Sterling: No. I can bind it for the present Parliament, when we have these 16 excellent colleagues of mine who see the position of the party in supporting unified court for all of Ontario as a logical step, as the bar has seen and as basically everybody has seen.
I do not think it is a giant step for the government to take at this time to pass this amendment. If they choose, as I mentioned yesterday, they can throw the blame on to the shoulders of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party for taking this step, if the federal Minister of Justice sees this as an intrusion into the policy-making area and it puts his nose out of joint that the province is taking a step ahead of where he might want to be at this time, or whether that has been negotiated in full.
I just believe that there is an inherent unfairness in this province in the judicial system as it now stands. I believe that the government can go ahead with some validity in establishing pilot projects to deal with changes in the justice system to see how they would work, but when a pilot project has been in place for, I believe, 10 years, there is a time when it becomes unfair to the rest of the areas of the province to allow only the city of Hamilton and that area to have a Unified Family Court. Without going ahead and accepting and pushing for a Unified Family Court for all of the province, I believe the government is denying the people of eastern and northern Ontario and the people from every other part of the province, save and except for Hamilton and area, an equal justice system, which they are entitled to.
Therefore, I urge the parliamentary assistant to reconsider his rejection of my amendment as placed before the House yesterday. As I added, I am quite willing to move an amendment to my amendment to include the Partition Act along with the 12 other statutes I mentioned yesterday, which would be covered jointly by both the provincial court judges and by the district court judges as they are now constituted in the Unified Family Court in Hamilton.
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) will know that there is no objection from this government in terms of having a Unified Family Court in Ontario. In fact, when the Attorney General made his announcement for court reform on 1 May of this year, he indicated a multiphased approach, a phase 1 and a phase 2. We are presently going through the phase 1 reforms, and that Unified Family Court which the member for Carleton feels so strongly about we hope will be an element of the phase 2 reforms.
The member for Carleton will know that if his amendment were to proceed, all the existing family court work that is presently done by the provincial court judges (family division) would then be transferred to the new General Division. In terms of the workload that would be transferred, we estimate it would be in the nature of 50 to 70 additional judge-years. That is a considerable amount of work that would be transferred.
In terms of the policy of doing it unilaterally, the member for Carleton knows that the administration of justice in this province is a joint responsibility between the federal government and the provincial government. We would not feel that it is appropriate -- as a matter of fact, we would feel that it is presumptuous on our part -- to change this legislation today without the concurrence of the federal government. That is, you do not pass legislation and then go to the federal government and seek its consent. It is a joint responsibility. We will be working jointly with them in order to introduce the reforms for phase 2.
Mr Sterling: The parliamentary assistant is telling me that the Attorney General was wrong on 1 May in announcing that we were going to have phase 2, a complete joining of the court system, without consultation or agreement from the federal government. He is telling me now that he cannot accept my amendment, which only takes one small step, whereas the Attorney General of this province, on or about 1 May of this year, stood in this Legislature as the maker of one court to hear all the matters that a private citizen might be involved with within the courts at one level, without agreement from the federal government, with very little consultation with the federal government. So I cannot accept the use of that argument by the parliamentary assistant in rebuffing this particular amendment.
Second, he talks about the very increased workload for the higher court. Of course, my amendment includes within it the elevation of family court judges, provincial jurisdiction, to the higher court immediately. Therefore, the argument that there will be 40,000 or 50,000 more cases is true, but there will no longer be 40,000 or 50,000 cases heard at the lower level. So all you are doing is transferring the cases from two jurisdictions into one jurisdiction, but you are transferring all of the administration, all the judges, to the higher jurisdiction, and therefore the same number of people will be dealing with the same number of matters. Therefore, there is no additional workload. The workload remains the same, the number of people remains the same and therefore you carry on.
I also would point out that the move is not unilateral in that the amendment specifically puts forward a tool or a mechanism whereby it does not have to be proclaimed by the Attorney General through the cabinet, the cabinet of Ontario, until it should so desire. And we would assume that they would only do that after proper negotiations with the federal government, to see that the shared jurisdiction is properly agreed to.
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Carleton indicates that it is part of his intention that if this amendment were to be carried, all the provincial court judges who do family work now would be immediately elevated to the Ontario Court (General Division). He knows quite well that that elevation requires an act to be performed by the federal government; those are federal appointees. Therefore, you are only reinforcing the fact that we require the concurrence of the federal government in order to do this.
I indicate that the Attorney General in his 1 May announcement made a statement with regard to phase 1 reforms and phase 2 reforms. They are government policy, they are the intention of this government to proceed in that direction. The phase 1 reforms we have before us today have been negotiated with the federal government in terms of where we need its consent, and its corresponding legislation will have to be passed. We are prepared to go forward with this today. Negotiations are continuing in terms of the phase 2 segment of the Attorney General’s proposal.
As I say again, we have a statement of the government policy that was announced by the Attorney General on 1 May, and we are proceeding as diligently as we can in order to effect that policy.
Mr Cousens: I would like to comment on a number of points. The first happens to be that the arguments being presented by the honourable member for Carleton have been presented before. It is not news to the member or to anyone else that he is bringing forward a number of recommendations that would in fact allow the Unified Family Court to be extended across the province.
I just have to say, having talked at some length with the member for Carleton on this, not only in caucus but earlier today, that he has canvassed a wide section of the people who are generally concerned and interested in the courts in Ontario, not that the parliamentary assistant is not and not that the Attorney General is not, although I would think that the Attorney General would be present in the House for these kinds of debates. He has never seen fit to be present for the passage of bills; he passes it on to very competent parliamentary assistants.
Mr Polsinelli: You redeemed yourself a little bit.
Mr Cousens: I am willing to say the member is competent, because I have seen him work in the Legislature and I know his commitment. But I also know that it is the Attorney General whose name the bill is attached to and who is the primary drafter of a lot of the initiatives of the Peterson government, and I am more than a little disappointed that he does not put his priorities in place to be here in the Legislature where he should be in order to carry forward the debate.
I emphasize the points that have been made by the member for Carleton. I think an awful lot of it has to do with the success that has come out of the Hamilton Unified Family Court. I would like to know whether the parliamentary assistant has commented on the satisfaction level of the government with that approach. I do not know for whom he is really speaking, since he is not the minister. To what extent is the government really committed to that? He says phase 2. If the government is satisfied that the experiment, which has been going now since 1976, well over 10 years, has been successful, why then does it not expand it? If they are happy with it and it is working, if it is a good model, why do they not accept the kind of guidance that my friend the member for Carleton has been giving them? The answers the member is giving back to the member for Carleton on his reasoned amendment just do not make sense.
I do not think the public really understands all that goes on in the court system. I am a layman, not a lawyer, and glad of it, and when people look to the Legislature --
An hon member: There are a lot of lawyers aboard.
Mr Cousens: The lawyers are out there and they are doing a job and we all have to use the lawyers. It is just constant. But the public at large does not really understand the legal system until individuals have ended up having to go to court or they are into a marriage breakdown or they are in front of one of these acts. What he is saying is that he does not agree with the logic that the member for Carleton has been presenting; that these 12 different acts all have something in common, they are really people acts, they are dealing with the need of people at different stages and when they need the courts, they end up having an experienced level in the court that is able to respond to them.
I look at these statutes that the member for Carleton has placed before us in an amendment: the Annulment of Marriages Act -- there is a specialty there that one does not just pick up overnight -- the Change of Name Act, the Child and Family Services Act, the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Divorce Act, the Education Act, the Family Law Act, the Marriage Act, Minors’ Protection Act, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, the Support and Custody Orders Enforcement Act and the Young Offenders Act; 12 acts with most of the provisions in all of these applying to this court.
Will the parliamentary assistant come back and review his logic and his thinking and not be as closed-minded as he has really presented himself? He has said on the one hand that the government needs to involve the federal government in coming forward with any changes.
Maybe part of the problem this province has had for some time is that it has a public statement and a public position and a private one. Why can there not be a better working together with the federal government on an awful lot of initiatives? If it did not just decide that it is going to railroad something through, push it through the Legislature without that dialogue that goes on with it, then we would not be having the kind of ruptured relationships that are so much a part of the way the David Peterson government operates.
I believe the government is in a position where it could be giving leadership on it not only for Ontario but for all of the country. I happen to believe that if it just sat down with our federal counterparts there would be an opportunity to develop a consensus in a number of these approaches.
It takes a certain amount of time to work out those relationships, to work out a strategy, to accept some kind of compromise on different issues, but then the government can come forward with broader legislation.
Now it says phase 1 and phase 2. I have some doubts as to when phase 2 would take place. We have had this act already operating somewhat successfully. I am sure the parliamentary assistant is going to say it has been successful -- I would be surprised if he does not -- but I am anxious to know what his feelings or the Attorney General’s feelings are, if he is supposed to speak for him as well.
Maybe he could comment on some of the points I am raising. I raise them without the great level of depth that the member for Carleton has been able to bring to these debates for our caucus on an ongoing basis, but as one who is concerned with how the legal system works, I am speaking on behalf of the layman with a great deal of confidence in the direction the member for Carleton is trying to give this Legislature.
Mr Polsinelli: If the member for Markham had been here yesterday afternoon when we were discussing this particular amendment, he would have heard me say that we clearly favour a Unified Family Court for the province of Ontario and that in fact it is government policy to work towards that goal. He would also have heard me say that these types of reforms, constitutionally. are not and cannot be handled unilaterally by the provincial government. In fact, they require corresponding legislation to be passed by the federal government, the third patty’s cousins in Ottawa.
In terms of accepting at this point an amendment that would create a Unified Family Court for all of Ontario, the workload that would be transferred from the existing provincial court (family division) judges to the new General Division would be in the nature of an additional 50 to 70 judges for the province of Ontario. The province does not appoint these judges. They are federal appointees.
The member for Markham would also have heard me say we feel it is presumptuous on our part to first pass legislation and then try to get the federal concurrence. Rather, it is our intention to work through this in a phased approach, this being phase 1; phase 2 being that portion that would unify all of the courts in Ontario, both the provincial courts, and that would unify all of the judges in Ontario so that all judges would have either some type of joint appointment, both provincial or federal, or be federal appointees in order that they could constitutionally handle all of the family court work.
Just in passing, I have been passed a note from a very competent Greg Perkins from our ministry who remembers that back in 1982 the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General, then the Honourable Roy McMurtry, was the member for Carleton, who at that time had the responsibility for carrying the bill that created the Unified Family Court in Hamilton, which I hasten to add is firmly entrenched as government policy.
Mr Sterling: I might add, in response to that, it is a piece of legislation which has stood the test of time; and one of the arguments that my friend the member for Welland-Thorold has put forward is that there is a real concern that this piece of legislation will not stand the test of time, as many of our Supreme Court judges have alleged in various writings to members of our committee.
May I say once again to the member about this argument that he is going to create work for 50 to 70 judges. He is not going to create one more case than is presently there for any more judges. All he is going to do is elevate 50 or 60 judges to another level. That will be done only with negotiation with our federal government and that is why the amendment has within it a section that it will kick in only after that negotiation has taken place.
We are only looking forward. We are a forward-looking party. We want to progress in our justice system. We do not want to wait for phase 2 to come in, which I predict will not come within the life of this Parliament or perhaps even the next Parliament. We want to get on with the parts that we have been discussing which have been tried and true with legislation that has stood the test of time, which was good legislation. for which the parliamentary assistant has given the former parliamentary assistant for Mr McMurtry credit. At the very completion, or hopefully the completion with regard to this amendment, I urge him to once again reconsider his position.
Mr Cousens: I would like to know if the Attorney General has had discussions with the federal government on this particular amendment and what discussions have taken place.
Mr Polslinelli: Our ministry has been in close consultation with the federal government in terms of the phase 1 reforms. That is the reason we can present Bills 2 and 3 before the House; and we hope to have expeditious passage so that we could have them implemented by 1 January of next year.
In terms of phase 2, we have had general discussions with the federal government and we hope to increase and intensify those once the phase I project is completed.
Mr Cousens: What was the feeling of the federal government on the whole Unified Family Court being extended across the province of Ontario?
Mr Polsinelli: I think it is perhaps not the appropriate forum to discuss the negotiations that have been undertaken by the Ministry of the Attorney General with the Minister of Justice in Ottawa. I say again that discussions have occurred with respect to what the decision is of the federal government in terms of phase 2. Perhaps the honourable member should contact his federal cousins there and see for himself. I do not want to discuss that negotiation process in public in the House.
Mr Cousens: The government is basically saying that the federal government is opposing it. That is the only conclusion I can draw from what the parliamentary assistant has said.
He has had a number of conversations; he is not indicating how many. Has he been involved in any of those conversations with the federal government regarding the Unified Family Court? If he has not been, who has been from the province? Has it been something the Attorney General raised at the attorneys general conference in June and is it something that is expanded beyond that?
I am just not satisfied that the government has really taken the commitment seriously of doing something about the Unified Family Court. What I am getting from the honourable parliamentary assistant is not much of an answer. He is really not coming clean and indicating what it is that this government has been doing in conversations.
It is a pile of innuendoes. If I were to draw a conclusion from all that he has not said, it is that the federal government really is blocking it.
Somehow I do not believe that. I am more inclined to believe that because he is so new to the job and he is reading the notes that are sent to him from staff, he really has not had a chance to be involved in these discussions. Parliamentary assistants are not normally so involved. It should be the Attorney General who is answering this question and we would listen to him with rapture on what he has tried to do and what has really gone on.
Maybe he wants to expand on his answer or he is just going to leave us in limbo again. He is going to use his magnificent, large majority to just hammer through, push through something that he has not been open with in this Legislature to say what he is doing now. I am not satisfied. I am not satisfied that the government has looked seriously at the amendments that my friend the member for Carleton has brought forward.
What can the parliamentary assistant do to change my mind?
Mr Polsinelli: I just did not realize the member for Markham had switched critic’s portfolio and become the critic for the Attorney General. I thought he was the critic for the Ministry of Housing. Has that changed? I am quite surprised.
Mr Cousens: I am the critic for the greater Toronto area and I cover a number of things. I look forward to parts of this bill that really impact what goes on.
Mr Polsinelli: I am sorry. He is now the critic for the greater Toronto area.
Mr Cousens: I am elected as the member for Markham for all the people of Ontario.
The Chair: One member at a time would be most interesting, please.
Mr Polsinelli: As the member for Markham quite rightly pointed out, it is not the role of the parliamentary assistant to have discussions with the federal government and I would indicate to him that the Attorney General of the province, the deputy and other officials of the ministry have had general, though private, discussions with their federal counterparts.
Mr Cousens: Does the parliamentary assistant have any idea when phase 2 will take place?
An hon member: I thought he asked that last time.
Mr Cousens: We keep asking; maybe they have changed their minds.
Mr Polsinelli: Phase 2 will take place as soon as the deliberations, the negotiations and the discussions with the federal government are completed. As I indicated earlier, the statement that was made by the Attorney General on 1 May of this year expounded what was and what is government policy in terms of court reform. We are dealing with those reforms in a phased approach. This is phase 1 that we are presently trying to get through this Legislature in order that we can have implementation by 1 January of next year. The process for phase 2 -- I would take it as commenced, and it will be intensified once the phase 1 reforms have been completed.
The Chair: Is it the pleasure of the committee that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The Chair: The member for Carleton has another proposed amendment.
Mr Kerrio: Nay.
Mr Polsinelli: No, we’re going to give him this one.
Mr Sterling: I think the member for Niagara Falls (Mr Kerrio) should listen to the amendment before he votes.
Mr Kerrio: I'm sorry. I used to do that with the N.D.P. I used to say I’m against it if it was proposed by the N.D.P.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 14(1) of the act as set out in section 2 of the bill be amended by adding at the end “and may reassign a judge from one region to another.”
Mr Sterling: This amendment is to give the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court, as we changed the name yesterday, the right and the flexibility to reassign a judge who is located in one region to another region in certain circumstances.
I will be amending another part of the bill in my next amendment, to subsection 14(5), to basically put the conditions under which the Chief Justice would make this reassignment, just to give more flexibility to the situation, particularly where the regions are large and there is an anomaly in the division line in the region, where perhaps a judge has a particular specialty and may have to be reassigned from one region of the province to the other.
I think it is also beneficial for judges of the General Division to have an understanding not only of the region of the province where they are normally sitting, but also of the other parts of the province. That would be best achieved by assigning them from time to time outside of the region where they are normally located.
Mr Polsinelli: We thought the assignment power was already in the bill. However, the bill’s wording has led to some question as to whether or not it, in fact, was there. Accordingly, we support the amendment that is submitted by the member for Carleton.
The Chair: Mr Sterling has moved that subsection 14(1) of the act as set out in section 2 of the bill be amended by adding at the end “and may reassign a judge from one region to another.”
Thank you for saying “dispense” when there was one word left. Thank you.
Mr Sterling: Sorry about that.
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that section 14 of the act as set out in section 2 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:
“(5) Subsections 1 and 3 do not prevent the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court, in consultation with the appropriate regional senior judges of the Ontario Court (General Division), from requiring a rotation of judges through two or more locations within or outside the regions to which they are assigned.”
Mr Sterling: Basically, the comments I have are similar to the comments I made dealing with the previous amendment which was accepted by the government.
Mr Polsinelli: We have no problem with what is contemplated, other than that the amendment requires the Chief Justice to consult with the regional justice. There may be a question there of whether or not it infringes on judicial independence. However, we feel generally that this amendment is unnecessary since the powers contemplated by the amendment are already covered in subsection 14(4) of the act, dealing with temporary assignment.
The Chair: All those in favour of Mr Sterling’s amendment will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that section 20 of the act as set out in section 2 of the bill be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(1a) At least two of the three judges sitting together shall be judges permanently assigned to a region other than the region in which they are sitting.”
Mr Sterling: Section 20 deals with an appeal or a proceeding before the Divisional Court, which normally deals with procedural matters. The intent of this amendment is to provide, on the panel of three judges who normally hear this kind of an application before the court, a court which is not coloured to a very large degree with a local flavour.
The problem is that as we have our courts divided up into eight different regions, there can appear to be on the decisions of an appeal mechanism a regionalization to the decisions made in that context. Therefore, if the original decision or the original hearing which the appeal sprung out of at a trial division was located in one region, we do not feel that judges from that region should be put in the position of having to defend judges from their region. We believe that it would be a greater mete of justice if in fact two of the three judges came from outside that region into that region.
The number of cases the Divisional Court, as I understand it, undertakes is not to be confused with the great number of trial cases which would be heard by the courts in our province. Therefore, we do not see this as a great problem to overcome in terms of moving two judges in for that kind of a hearing.
Mr Polsinelli: We feel the Chief Justice already has that power, if he chooses to exercise it, under subsection 14(4) of the act. Requiring him to do what this amendment suggests, in our opinion, would interfere with judicial independence. The assignment of work to judges and the making up of hearing panels are clearly reserved by law to the judiciary itself, as the member for Carleton would know, under section 93 of this act. Again, I say that imposing this type of a requirement on them would delve dangerously close to interfering with judicial independence.
Mr Sterling: I do not understand the argument about how the composition of the bench in legislation, which is in law, outlining the structure of the court, could in any way be deemed to be an intervention into the judicial system. Of course, it is an intervention in the judicial system. Every piece of legislation which we make in terms of dealing with the Courts of Justice Act is an intervention into the justice system. We tell them the rules under which they must run.
An intervention into the justice system is when the member for Yorkview, or myself, or any member of the Legislature, or a politician, the Attorney General or the Premier (Mr Peterson) or a member of the opposition goes to a judge and tries to get out of him a different process than is provided for in the written law or a different result in a hearing that is in front of the court. Then it is interference.
But it is not interference in the judicial system for us to say that two judges must come from there and one judge must come from there. There is no problem in terms of intervention with the judicial system because, if you carried that or extended that argument to the fullest, then all of the statutes which we have made in setting up the court structure, which have any restriction on what a judge does, would in fact be an intervention into the system by extension of the member’s argument.
So I do not buy that part. I just believe this amendment will lead to better decisions, and we are talking basically about decisions that are on appeal to three judges. What I would prefer to see, quite frankly, is that if there is an appeal in eastern Ontario, then in that region two judges could come from outside to deal with that appeal and one judge could be appointed within.
It does restrict the Chief Justice in who he appoints from that region for that appeal but it does not restrict him -- he has seven other regions to draw from -- in determining who those other two judges are going to be.
Mr Polsinelli: My comments were not that this is an interference in the judicial system but rather that this, we feel, is somewhat of an infringement on judicial independence. This amendment is not dealing with the structure of the court, but rather it is requiring the Chief Justice to assign some members of his court to do certain work and prohibiting him from assigning certain other members from his court to do that work. The assignment of work, as I understand it, is something that the judiciary guards very jealously. They feel it is an integral part of the whole process of judicial independence.
Mr Sterling: I guess my argument would be in reverse, in terms of saying that for judicial independence what I want is that the appeal be decided on the merits of the case and not on the basis of the personality of the judge who found at the lower level. I think that while we all would argue and support our judiciary on having in the past based their arguments on the merits of the case that was in front of them, there can be no decision made in life, not that I know of, that is not somewhat coloured by the characters who are the players in that decision.
Therefore, the idea of maintaining the independence of the appeal hearing by having three judges, two from outside and one from inside, is to say to the people who are appealing that it is not a homegrown decision; it is a decision which is based upon the merits of the case and that is guaranteed by the fact that two judges are from outside the region.
Mr Polsinelli: There is no doubt that what the member for Carleton indicates is a sensible policy. However, we feel that it is inappropriate for us to dictate that in legislation. There is no doubt that the Chief Justice, in assigning the work to the regional judges, will see the logic of the member’s policy and may even implement it. Again I say that we feel it is inappropriate to dictate that in legislation.
The Chair: All those in favour of Mr Sterling’s amendment will please “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
The Chair: The member for Carleton, is that your last motion on section 2?
Mr Sterling: Actually, I have an additional amendment which I will be giving to you shortly.
The Chair: To section 2?
Mr Sterling: Yes, to subsection 35(1).
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 22(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “the prescribed amount” in the fourth line and in the eighth and ninth lines and inserting in lieu thereof in each case “the greater of $3,000 or a prescribed amount.”
Before we start debating this point, you just mentioned that you have more amendments. Are these the only copies or does everybody else have copies?
Mr Sterling: I have a copy here for the parliamentary assistant and a couple for the table. Perhaps we could give the member for Welland-Thorold a copy as well.
The Chair: While we are on that topic, it would be a great courtesy if all members realized, if they want to bring amendments like that, that at least seven copies are required: one to the minister or parliamentary assistant, one for each of the opposition critics, and the table will need four copies, one for the assistant clerks, one for the chair, one for Hansard and one for the interpreters. So in the future, if all members would remember to bring at least seven copies, it would be most appreciated.
Mr Sterling: We are sounding like the government, Mr Chairman.
Mr Sterling: If my friend the member for Middlesex (Mr Reycraft) wishes to enter the debate, I would prefer if he would enter the debate on the merits of the issue rather than talk about seven copies.
This amendment deals with the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court. As you may or may not know, Mr Chairman, we have another glitch in our justice system in Ontario. I talked earlier this afternoon of the city of Hamilton and environs having the privilege of having a Unified Family Court. That was set up as a pilot project over 10 years ago.
We also have another system which is not unified across this province. In the Metropolitan Toronto area, for the county of York, I believe, the maximum level of claim in the Small Claims Court is $3,000. In the rest of the province, the maximum claim is $1,000 only. Therefore, there are many people who would like not to have to go to the higher courts but have claims anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to deal with and would like to deal with those in the small claims courts across this province.
Under this present legislation, the complete amount of the jurisdiction is left “not to exceed the prescribed amount.” That means that the cabinet of the day has the right to either leave the limit as it is now, $3,000 in the county of York and $1,000 everywhere else, or they can raise it to $3,000 everywhere else in their own good time, or they can reduce the amount in any of the jurisdictions at their own discretion. This amendment puts in a base or a floor of $3,000 for the Small Claims Court across this province from one end to the other.
The confederation of independent business people, small business, the chamber of commerce, all of these small businesses would like the jurisdictional limits of our small claims courts raised to $5,000. This is only an intermediate step by putting a floor of $3,000 across this province.
We have waited too long for the government to react to the demands of society and to deal with the inflationary effects of the dollar over the last 10 or 15 years. I believe the last time the limit was set up for small claims courts across the province was some eight or nine years ago when it was raised to $1,000. Even on an inflationary basis, that probably now only deals with about half that amount. It may not be quite that dramatic.
Notwithstanding that, it is important to the small consumer, the small businessman, to be able to deal in the small claims court because the process is not as marred with technicalities, with legal expertise, with the necessity for long preparation, for the preliminaries that are necessary with regard to a trial at a higher level. In other words, it is cheaper justice in the Small Claims Court.
Therefore, I have moved this amendment and I am supported by the Canadian Bar Association, which represents lawyers who do not normally want to deal with these matters because they cannot explain to their clients why their fee is in excess of the amount they are in fact litigating over. So I would ask the Legislature and particularly the parliamentary assistant to accept this amendment as being reasonable and long overdue.
Mr Cousens: I want to just thank the member for Carleton, as a lawyer, for suddenly giving up his conflict-of-interest position. What we have really got here is for once we have a lawyer who is saying let’s help people without involving the lawyers. Quite candidly, I think it is the kind of position that this government will want to proceed with, inasmuch as when people are taking a claim through Small Claims Court, what amounts to $1,000 these days is really a very small amount. What it will now do is to take an increased load. It will allow the litigants to take their own cases before the courts themselves, without having that overhead that is generally involved by having a lawyer.
I think there is every sense to this. It puts the onus back on that individual to take his fight forward. They understand the court system, they do not have to share the cost with someone who is going to give legal counsel. Lawyers right now do not necessarily want to get into the business. As the member for Carleton has just said, very often the kind of money that they are taking someone to court for is really going to be absorbed in the legal costs.
It is just this kind of amendment that will begin to show that this government is taking into consideration the small person across the province of Ontario. I have in my hands a copy of a letter that was sent to the Attorney General on 4 October from the Canadian Bar Association and what it is really saying is that the monetary jurisdiction of the provincial court (civil division) should be $3,000 across the province. It goes on and it makes some other recommendations that I do not necessarily go for and in the wisdom of the member for Carleton we have decided to go with the $3,000 figure across the province.
In the letter from the bar association it says there is no good reason for the monetary jurisdiction of the provincial court (civil division) in Toronto to be different from that of other areas. And this is the view of our members throughout the province. Very often, when a member is from Toronto -- the parliamentary assistant is from Toronto, the Attorney General is from Toronto -- they do not have a sense of the rest of the province, they do not have a sense of northern Ontario, that area that is north of Steeles. They do not have a sense of those who are in the west or the east.
This is a huge province and it is not just Toronto. Costs are increasing all over the place and what we are saying to the people of all Ontario is, “Let’s treat you equitably and let’s understand that you have needs as well.” So I am accepting the fact that we in this province should not have two standards, one for Toronto and one for the rest of the province. Toronto is taxed in a number of different ways. There is now the commercial concentration levy, so Toronto is going to be given an extra punitive punch by the province of Ontario with this double taxation approach. We see all kinds of ways in which this province draws a circle around the greater Toronto area and then forgets about the rest of the province.
What we are talking about in this bill is the fact that the rest of the province should be given equal shrift. What they are saying -- I want to just put this into the record because I believe that when the Canadian Bar Association -- Ontario division, put this down they were not just writing another letter to fill space. They said, “Cases involving less than $3,000 are often most suitably dealt with by the litigants themselves and the provincial court (civil division) provides them with the environment in which they can do so.”
I have not personally taken a case to the civil court, I know a number of young people who are thinking of doing so within my own riding. I think it gives them a personal touch with the legal system. it gets them involved. I think that it is going to allow some people to clean up their act because they think, ‘Well, if it’s over $1,000, we don’t really have to worry about.” When you take that integrity that is going to be built into relationships with people once they know that someone will be able to take them to court for up to $3,000, I think is going to build a little bit more sacred trust in relationships between people with whom they are doing business.
I agree with the point that was made by the member for Carleton, that there has been almost universal support for the raising of the jurisdiction of this court. I would hope that the parliamentary assistant will take this as a very serious amendment and one that should not be just treated frivolously as so many of the other amendments have been.
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Carleton, as a lawyer, makes eminent sense and the member for Markham (Mr Cousens), as a nonlawyer, is also making some good sense.
There is no question that we feel that it is high time that the limit in the Small Claims Court was increased. We all recognize that the last time, I think, it was increased was by the former government in 1980 when it increased it outside of Metropolitan Toronto from $400 to $1,000 and in Metropolitan Toronto from whatever it was to $3,000.
But the member for Carleton will know that when the Attorney General made his announcement on 1 May, we committed ourselves to going not to $3,000 but to $5,000. We have committed ourselves to having one provincial limit and not discriminatory limits outside of Metro and inside Toronto but rather one limit throughout the province, and that is a limit of $5,000.
Mr Sterling: Point of order, Mr Chairman.
The First Deputy Chair: We have a quasi point of order.
Mr Sterling: I would be quite willing to accept an amendment to amend $3,000 to $5,000 if the parliamentary assistant wants to do that.
The First Deputy Chair: Here is the deal. You can refuse.
Mr Polsinelli: It is a great deal. It is pretty tough to pass up, but the difference between the way the member for Carleton would like to do it and the way that we would like to do it is that we would like to bring into force all at once for $5,000. We would also like to have a Small Claims Court system established that will be able to handle the extra increased workload.
So what we are doing now is, as soon as the bill gets passed, we will be increasing the staffing in the small claims courts outside of Metropolitan Toronto, recruiting and training deputy judges so they will be able to handle the increased workload. I have been given all assurances and I am convinced, and I guess I make the commitment, that in 1990 the $5,000 limit will be proclaimed and we will have a $5,000 limit throughout the province of Ontario.
Mr Sterling: As I indicated in my quasi point of order, which I learned from the chairman incidentally, I am quite willing to put within the section -- I mean the parliamentary assistant knows well that they need not proclaim this section along with the other sections of the bill, but what we want is some kind of guarantee that in fact this is going to happen. Therefore, I would like to withdraw my original amendment and substitute therefor another amendment.
I move that subsection 22(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “the prescribed amount” in the fourth line and in the eighth and ninth lines and inserting in lieu thereof in each case “the greater of $5,000 or the prescribed amount.”
Mr Cousens: I second that.
The First Deputy Chair: Well now, just hold on for a moment. All that he is proposing is he now wants to put forward in a more formal way what he somewhat facetiously attempted to put forward in a quasi formal way, that is to say, he would like to change the dollar amount from $3,000 to $5,000. The table has not received this in writing. I think if the member would ask for unanimous consent, then we would consider the question. If he would care to do so, we will proceed.
Mr Sterling: I am asking for unanimous consent.
The First Deputy Chair: He is asking for unanimous consent. Does the member have unanimous consent to proceed?
The First Deputy Chair: Hearing no objections, proceed.
Mr Cousens: I think the deputy chairman should not use the word “facetiously” so frivolously.
The First Deputy Chair: I think the member for Markham should keep his company quiet.
Mr Sterling: Might I add that if this amendment is passed by the Legislature, I will then submit an amendment that will kick into effect subsection 22(1) of the act on 1 January 1990 when the parliamentary assistant has said it is going to go to $5,000. Therefore, there should be no objection by the parliamentary assistant to going to $5,000 on 1 January 1990. If he cannot meet that date, I am quite willing to accept from him an alternative date as long as there is some time definite when in fact this is going to go to $5,000.
Mr Polsinelli: What the member for Carleton is proposing is something that has been done in the past and can be done again. I think our intentions are the same. Our intentions are to bring the monetary limit jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court to $5,000. The member for Carleton would like an assurance that we will do what we say we are going to do. I say look at our record, trust us.
The danger with putting in a section in the bill and not proclaiming it is that we may have the profession relying on that section and not knowing that it is not proclaimed. We may do a disservice to the public who may read the bill and see that section that has not been proclaimed and may rely on it.
So what I would suggest is that we wait until 1990 when the regulation is passed moving the monetary limit to $5,000; that we wait until we have enough time to recruit the individuals and the facilities that are required for the Small Claims Court systems outside of Metropolitan Toronto to handle the increased workload, and I assure the honourable member that that date will come in 1990. I cannot promise that it will be 1 January 1990, but as soon as we have the small claims courts outside of Metropolitan Toronto brought up to par then we will have the regulation passed increasing the monetary limit to $5,000. The member talked in his earlier comments about the inflationary impact on the monetary limit. I guess he can see that one of the reasons that we want to deal with the monetary limit by regulation rather than by legislation is that, as inflation impacts on that limit, by regulation the cabinet could increase that limit as it feels appropriate.
Mr Sterling: The reason for putting the amendment forward is because this government has promised for some period of time to increase the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, but the record, as the parliamentary assistant has shown, is sad. The record is that they stall. The record is that they do not make decisions.
Therefore, I am saying to the Legislature of Ontario, we have to put a base on this. We have to ask them for a time limit as to when in fact they can get this done by. I am not denying the parliamentary assistant the right to prescribe by regulation in the future an increase above $5,000. All I am asking him is to do what he says he is going to do but put in writing.
Further, the parliamentary assistant talks about the bar, the lawyers, and the people knowing what in fact is going to happen. There is no better way to tell the people what is going to happen than by including it in the legislation here today. If we put it in the act and we say 1 July 1990 is going to be the day, then the bar will know, the lawyers will know, instead of the Attorney General marching in here on 15 May or whenever it is and saying, “1 July is the date, guys, that it is going to happen.” If we let the people know in advance and we write it down and embody it in the legislation, then it will be promulgated as soon as this bill receives royal assent.
So the argument really is in reverse of what the parliamentary assistant is saying. There is no better way to let the people know than by putting it down in hard, cold legislation. This amendment does not prevent him from increasing the limits in the future above $5,000 across this province. He has promised for a long period of time to raise these. He has not met those promises before. The business community wants this. Consumers want this. Let’s accept this amendment. Let’s be big-hearted for a change and really take forward. Come on. The amendments he is giving are word changes. This is an amendment which has some impact across the province.
Mr Polsinelli: It boils down to this. What the member for Carleton would want is what the government said it is going to do. The member for Carleton is proposing a mechanism that is different from the mechanism being chosen by the government. Accordingly, we will not be supporting his amendment.
The First Deputy Chair: I think the House is ready for this question.
Mr Cousens: I think it should just be noted that the parliamentary assistant says one thing and then, when it comes time to put it into action, as has been requested by the member for Carleton, it just is not capable of being done. Would the parliamentary assistant give us some indication as to when we would -- he is going to vote it down and that is his prerogative. He has the power to do it.
When does he expect to make this announcement? Is there going to be something big in the throne speech next year, when the David Peterson government announces, “We are suddenly making the $5,000 limit available for the Small Claims Court”? Is that how he is going to do it? Great, big, heroic words. When is he going to do it? Can he tell us just what date it is?
One more thing, since he has so much that has to be done to hire extra staff, how many extra people and how much extra work have to be done to set up the small claims courts across the province, as this $5,000 limit would bring about?
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Markham would like to know when we are going to make this announcement. The announcement was made on 1 May 1989 in a written statement from the Attorney General of this province and it will be implemented, in terms of the monetary increase of the Small Claims Court to $5,000, some time in 1990.
Mr Cousens: We got a written statement from the Minister of Transportation (Mr Wrye) not too long ago that there would be a second train on the Markham-Stouffville run --
The First Deputy Chair: Excuse me.
Mr Cousens: Oh, come on. That is a valid point, unless you have a point of order.
The First Deputy Chair: The member for Markham will take his seat. Thank you. Is there further debate on the amendment that is before the House? If not, is the House ready for the question?
Mr Cousens: I have a question.
The First Deputy Chair: The member for Markham is testing me sorely this afternoon.
Mr Cousens: I am prepared to test you further, Mr Chairman, because I am making a point that the parliamentary assistant has just said that because he has announced it and it has been in writing, it is going to happen. I can draw other parallels where this government has made announcements that there would be certain services rendered within a certain time frame and they were not done and will not be done. So you come along and you have my parliamentary friend the member for Carleton putting forward a reasoned amendment, and I just do not have the sense of confidence that you have. Thank you.
The First Deputy Chair: You will not be thanking me much more. Are you ready for the question?
Mr Sterling moves that subsection 22(1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by striking out “the prescribed amount” in the fourth line and in the eighth and ninth lines and inserting in lieu thereof in each case, “the greater of $5,000 or the prescribed amount.”
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
The First Deputy Chair: The member for Carleton has a further amendment.
Mr Cousens: Can I ask a question, Mr Chairman, about the deputy judge appointment under section 23? Are there any changes going to be made in the deputy judge appointment process under the new bill 2? If so, what are they and are there any changes in qualifications?
The First Deputy Chair: Are you on section 2?
Mr Cousens: Section 23 of the act is what I am referring to, just pursuant to the previous section we have just been debating.
The First Deputy Chair: Does the parliamentary assistant have a reply?
Mr Polsinelli: I am advised that is one of those items that will have to be considered next year.
Mr Cousens: Could the parliamentary assistant tell me what that means? I do not understand the answer.
Mr Polsinelli: My understanding is that we are going to have to be working with the regional committees in terms of the qualifications required for the deputy judges and the training required for the deputy judges.
Mr Cousens: Could the honourable parliamentary assistant tell me, for the edification of this House, what are the qualifications for a deputy judge right now and what are the directions he is seeing being taken under the changes that are being proposed?
Mr Polsinelli: The qualifications today are that the deputy judge be a member of the bar and that it is the local district judge, I believe with the concurrence of the Attorney General, who makes the appointment.
Mr Cousens: Are there any other changes being considered to this? I mean, because it is being brought in here, it would seem to me there is going to be some change made. I just did not know what is involved with this deputy judge appointment process. For instance, if there are changes, what discussions are going on at that level?
Mr Polsinelli: We are going to have, we believe, a better training and a better selection process. The discussions have not started yet because the committees are not there yet.
Mr Cousens: Could I ask if the parliamentary assistant could explain then how many deputy judges would be appointed under the act as it is being proposed, especially when we get into the extension of the services under this part of the act?
Mr Polsinelli: My understanding is that it could be in the hundreds and that some of them may only sit one day a month.
Mr Cousens: How many are appointed right now and what would be the salary that would be made to the deputy judges that come through it? I would just like to have a feeling for it. What do they get per day? If the parliamentary assistant is saying that they sit on a per diem basis, what is it that they get?
Mr Polsinelli: Mr Chair, can I ask what amendment this is referring to, please?
The First Deputy Chair: Yes. I am going to --
Mr Cousens: It is not an amendment. I wanted clarification.
The First Deputy Chair: Excuse me. I am going to ask the member for Markham to explain to the Chair precisely what is under way here. I was under the impression that we were dealing with a bill. The member for Carleton has given us an indication of several amendments, and I think he is anxious to proceed with them. Could you tell us what you are doing?
Mr Cousens: Mr Chair, we are in committee of the whole, as you know, and you are the First Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House. We are looking at Bill 2, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, 1984. I am dealing with section 2 of the bill, under section 23. I am concerned about the role that is played within this part of the bill as it relates to deputy judges, the appointment process, what they get, what is being done on it. It is a very important role that is taken within that part of the bill, and I am just very interested in having an explanation by the enlightened parliamentary assistant on it. I have no particular amendments to raise on it, but if there is any time that we are going to raise it on some of these things, now is the time to do it in committee of the whole House, unless you are making a new regulation in the House as Deputy Chair, saying that we can only deal with amendments. We can also discuss certain parts of the bill. I have seen you do that when you were a backbencher.
The First Deputy Chair: You have seen me do a number of things when I was a minority member. I do not have a problem with your asking questions, but I am sensing that the House would like to proceed with the bill, and I am simply asking you to give us the grounds that you are questioning under.
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Markham will know that this bill has gone through the committee and that the members of the committee held public hearings on the particular bill. I believe we also had briefing sessions from the Ministry of the Attorney General in terms of what the bill said and what it did.
But knowing of the deep interest that the member for Markham has in deputy judges, perhaps I can undertake to send him some information from the Ministry of the Attorney General in terms of the role of deputy judges, the numbers that we have in the province of Ontario and the projected additional workload that would be required in terms of new appointments to the deputy judge position once this bill is enacted.
Mr Cousens: In the spirit of what we are really trying to do, that will be very helpful to me. Quite candidly, I have had a great deal of trouble with the reluctance on the part of the Attorney General’s ministry to do anything with this section of the courts for such a long period of time. They were saying, as the parliamentary assistant has said again today, there are extra costs that are incurred by the province by the expansion of this service, in taking it from 1,000 to 3,000 or 5,000 across the province.
In the spirit of the goodwill that we have, I look forward to receiving that from the parliamentary assistant before we sit again.
The First Deputy Chair: Anybody else have any questions of anybody and anything? Perhaps we could proceed now -- the member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Kormos: I have to at this point -- holy cow, I have been listening to this and this is exactly what we have been talking about for a long time. This very section, section 31, was one of the new amendments to the bill that the government rammed through in committee. That is what the two arrows in the bill indicate.
The parliamentary assistant talks about public hearings. Well, that was exactly what the problem was. Everybody who appeared before those hearings said, “For goodness’ sake, give us another month to get in touch with our membership so that we can properly consult with them and provide input into the legislation.” He says public hearings. Well, once again, it was public hearings: “Okay. Here we are. You’ve got five minutes.” Proverbially five minutes. “Now, take off. You’re finished. We’re not interested in hearing any more from you.”
Mr Ballinger: That’s a bunch of bunk.
Mr Kormos: Bunk? Bunk, my foot. Quite frankly, the member for Durham-York once again has no idea what he is talking about. One, he was not there, and if and when he were there, he would not understand legislation like this. He does not know crap from Shinola in the total scheme of things when it comes to Bill 2 and Bill 3.
If he had, he would understand that it was important for people such as the Canadian Bar Association, the Advocates’ Society, the Criminal Lawyers Association, the Ontario District Court Judges Association, the Supreme Court judges of Ontario, and last but not least, His Lordship Chief Justice Dixon of the Supreme Court of Canada saying: “Slow down. This bill is really flawed. You should take a second look at it and maybe you should listen to some of those smart people, some of those members of the bar in Ontario and those members of the bench who wanted to help the government along.”
But no, the government in its arrogance wanted to ram it through and made quite clear that it was not going to permit a deferral of the issue for merely one month, four weeks, so that these prestigious groups could look at the bill and consult their memberships.
Specifically, these people pointed out that sections such as section 31, which were the new amendments to the bill, were the ones that were prepared only days before they were permitted to be here before the committee, amendments that were prepared merely days before. That is exactly the point. For the parliamentary assistant to talk about public hearings is really a farce. It is farcical. Public hearings, my foot. It was the farthest thing from it. It was a joke. It was a charade.
The Second Deputy Chair: Any other comments, as I peruse the chamber. Mr Sterling has a further amendment? Did I miss something back there?
Mr Sterling: I have another amendment but it is --
The Second Deputy Chair: Mr Cousens, what are you talking to?
Mr Cousens: Just on this general section, are there going to be new sets of guidelines for the selection of deputy judges? Can you say that there? I know that as we move farther into the bill, into section 31 of the act, it protects anyone who had been appointed previously. Therefore, are there going to be new criteria used in that selection process?
Mr Polsinelli: I have already undertaken to provide the member for Markham with information from our ministry in terms of the position of deputy judges. However, in terms of any qualifications or standards or the like, the member for Markham will know that we are going to be consulting with the regional committees in terms of developing those criteria. The member for Markham should also know that it is the regional judges who will be making the appointments of deputy judges, so the deputy judges will have to comply at least with the criteria that each regional judge will be looking for in a potential applicant.
Mr Cousens: The next section I would like to look at is section 32 of the act, if there is no one who has other amendments or comments prior to that.
The Second Deputy Chair: Seeing no amendments, comments, section 32.
Mr Cousens: I would like to get some clarification from the parliamentary assistant on subsection 32 (1), “There shall be a clerk and one or more bailiffs for each division of the Small Claims Court who shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.” What is the process of the selection of those names before they go to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and how are the names prepared? What kind of dialogue is taken within the political party the member represents, the Liberals in Ontario, or any other process to select those people for this important appointment?
Mr Polsinelli: Section 32 of the act is almost a direct derivative of the old act. The process has not changed. If the member would like an education in the law, perhaps he can speak to the member for Carleton.
Mr Cousens: The parliamentary assistant can keep his sarcasm. I happen to believe there has to be some kind of public accountability in the appointment process, so I ask the parliamentary assistant if he would be so kind as to tell the House what are the criteria used in the selection of bailiffs.
The Second Deputy Chair: Before you respond, maybe it would be nice if the chair could first recognize the honourable member and then you can continue to speak.
Mr Polsinelli: I understand that the qualifications and criteria have not changed.
Mr Cousens: In that case, maybe the honour-able parliamentary assistant could tell us what the criteria are for a bailiff.
Mr Polsinelli: Mr Chair, I am having some difficulty understanding the process. I understood that once we went into committee of the whole, the chair then asked for any sections that were to be reserved for comments, questions or amendments. The only sections that I understood were reserved were the sections that were pointed out by the member for Carleton. Could I have a ruling on that, please?
The Second Deputy Chair: My understanding is that we are progressing with section 2 of the bill and the various subsections. I am trying to make our way to Mr Sterling’s proposed amendments, and Mr Cousens indicated some inquiries prior to that amendment. We are just working our way through the bill; that is all we are doing. Mr Cousens, let us try to get on an even --
Mr Sterling: Mr Chairman, as we go through a bill, any member of this Legislature has the right to ask questions about any section of the bill as we go through it. We have not been carrying the sections as we have gone and perhaps that is an error in terms of the chair when you were not sitting there. Normally, as you go through, you carry the sections as you go, the amendments are voted down or up or whatever it is, and you carry each and every section as you go through.
The member for Markham and any member of this Legislature has every right to deal with every section and ask as many questions as he wants. Then he might, as a result of the questions, want to propose an amendment. Who knows?
The Second Deputy Chair: If I might say to the parliamentary assistant, that is what I was attempting to clarify for you. That is correct. I am trying to make my way through the various subsections. I want to say to the honourable member that he is also correct in terms of the passage of the various sections, but of course, looking at this bill, if you look at it in that term, the very section is section 2, which we are trying to do as opposed to the various subsections of section 2. Do we have a point of order from the parliamentary assistant?
Mr Polsinelli: No, it is not a point of order. It is basically a continuation of the same discussion. I have no objection to responding as best I can, with the staff, to the questions that are posed to us, but if those questions are dealing with sections that have been unaltered, unchanged, from the existing Courts of Justice Act and what the member is trying to do is get a detailed explanation of how the act works, perhaps he should have attended the committee where we had staff from the Ministry of the Attorney General who are intimately familiar with every facet of this act, and he would have had every question answered.
If he is dealing with sections of this act which have been amended or with new policies, I will be pleased to provide him with whatever information I can.
Mr Cousens: Let me just say --
The Second Deputy Chair: Order, please, I say to the honourable member --
Mr Cousens: -- to the honourable, benevolent Second Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House --
The Second Deputy Chair: -- for whom I have nothing but the highest respect.
Mr Campbell: He is trying politely to tell the member to sit down.
The Second Deputy Chair: That is correct. I am trying politely to ask you to sit down. Thank you.
I want to say to the parliamentary assistant that in my learned opinion in terms of this process, as frustrating as it probably appears from time to time, the honourable member does have the opportunity of questioning each section whether it is a new amendment or just the old act. Actually, I have forgotten what section we are talking about. Let’s get back on track a little bit.
Mr Cousens: We are talking about section 32. I would like to go on record -- maybe the parliamentary assistant, with his generous spirit saying, “Go back to the committee” -- that I am of the understanding that the committee was shut down by the Liberal majority and did not allow the continuation of debate and discussion in that committee. How can that member, in this House, other than with the self-righteousness that comes from someone who has the power to do what he wants to do, then say that we do not have the right to debate and discuss it in the Legislature of Ontario, because they did shut down the committee?
The Second Deputy Chair: Let me say to the honourable member that this of course has everything to do with section 32.
Mr Cousens: That is what I am leading up to, Mr Chairman.
The Second Deputy Chair: I see.
Mr Cousens: I asked him for the criteria for the appointment of bailiffs. I asked for some insight into what he is doing. With the expansion of the Small Claims Court of Ontario, we are going to have far more appointments of bailiffs and clerks within the Small Claims Court. That is what the member has indicated, great numbers of them. I would like to have some sense of knowing that they are going to be clean appointments, that it is not just going to be the Liberal Party of Ontario appointing its friends and that there is going to be an open, public process when these people are being appointed.
Mr Epp: What do you think this is, the Tory government?
Mr Cousens: If the honourable member wants to participate in this, I would be glad to hear from him, but that is the kind of thing I am leading to on it and it has to do with the kind of secret agenda that goes on behind certain bills that are there.
This is my chance to ask that question. I would like the parliamentary assistant to set the record clear and explain to the people of Ontario that there will be a process in which bailiffs and clerks who are appointed in the expanded Small Claims Court system are going to be clean and we are not going to have some of the worries that I may have right now, unfounded though they might be from his perspective.
Mr Polsinelli: Perhaps the member for Markham can indicate some group that requested to appear before the committee and was refused. I am not aware of any. I do not recall the Liberal majority on the committee passing a time allocation motion. I remember that there was full debate on this and that anyone who wanted to speak on it was able to speak on it.
In terms of answering his question about bailiffs, my understanding is that they will be appointed only on merit; that is, the ability to do the job of a bailiff, and that ability will be assessed by the courts administration division of the Ministry of the Attorney General and recommended by its administrator, and taken by the Attorney General to the cabinet on the basis of the recommendation.
The Second Deputy Chair: In an attempt to have proper rotation, I had missed the honourable member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Kormos: Twice.
Mr Haggerty: Move up to the front row. We will let you sit there.
Mr Kormos: In due course.
It is remarkable. Somebody talked about the right of a member to ask questions like this. Really, is it not the obligation of a member to raise these issues, to ask the parliamentary assistant or the Attorney General, whoever may happen to be here, what particular sections or subsections mean? Surely we do not take this apart piecemeal and deal with each particular section in isolation. The relevance of a particular amendment may depend on the meaning, at least the purport, of the drafters, of the authors, of the people who present this kind of legislation.
The parliamentary assistant, with his most recent comment about not imposing closure the committee is really -- oh, my goodness, he is testing anybody’s Diogenic limits because I have the transcript right here of the committee hearings. I read the letter from Earl Levy, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, who was not permitted to make submissions to the standing committee on administration of justice, was denied access to the justice committee.
The other day when those people were here from the Soviet Union and the Speaker stood up and chuckled about how we cannot challenge the Speaker any more, I certainly wanted to point out to our guests from the Soviet Union that they know all about that.
Miss Nicholas: Mr Chairman, on a point of order: While the honourable member’s comments are most interesting, I fail to see what they have to do with the section we are discussing.
The Second Deputy Chair: I acknowledge the honourable member’s point of order. Actually, I think it is a pretty accurate point of order, so I would ask the honourable member to include his remarks to the section to which we are speaking, which was section 32.
Have you got another one?
Mr Pouliot: Mr Chairman, with respect, I do have a point of order on the same subject matter. As a layperson from northwestern Ontario, I have over the past five years become accustomed to a battle, at a rather questionable intellectual level, but nevertheless a battle of lawyers. They seem to wish to outdo one another in lining up and yet lose relevancy in their prelude. But I was refreshed this afternoon, and I try to be unbiased, to have the member for Welland-Thorold stick meticulously and almost religiously to the subject matter being addressed, but to be under a state of siege on a constant basis by virtue, by reason of your kindness and tolerance, when members of the majority party of the Legislature make it their obligation and their duty, to obvious embarrassment, to interrupt the member.
I am here in a learning process. I am here to learn and try to contribute in a very humble but very sincere capacity. I for one have a great deal of difficulty remaining patient while my distinguished colleague is proposing amendments that would work, that are simple and that try to accelerate and expedite the process.
The Second Deputy Chair: Speaking to the point of order --
Mr Sterling: Mr Chairman, on a point of order --
The Second Deputy Chair: I did not even speak.
Mr Sterling: I think the process whereby this bill got to the Legislature at this stage is extremely important, for people to understand what has gone on. The member for Welland-Thorold is pointing that out in response to the parliamentary assistant raising the issue. He raised the issue because he was not there. He was not the parliamentary assistant when this bill passed.
Therefore, the member for Welland-Thorold is trying to enlighten the parliamentary assistant as to why there is so much concern in the legal community, with our justices, with the Supreme Court justices of Canada concerned about various issues in this bill and why they have not been brought to the fore. That is why I think it is very relevant to the debate for the member for Welland-Thorold to bring this to the attention of the parliamentary assistant, because he is not aware of what happened.
The Second Deputy Chair: Order, please. I would say of the honourable member, for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect, that there are ways of trying to get one’s point across, if from time to time one would at least speak to the section. I was trying to indicate to the honourable member for Welland-Thorold that in accordance with what the honourable member for Scarborough Centre (Miss Nicholas) had indicated, I thought he was a trifle off the mark in terms of discussion of section 32, and as enlightening as the process was in the past, for all to have heard explained now, it is inappropriate. I would ask the honourable member to restrain his remarks to section 32 as best as he can.
Mr Kormos: Mr Chairman, I will. But I do want to give the parliamentary assistant an opportunity to retract what he said earlier before people out there watching and listening to this reach the conclusion that he does not know what he is talking about, because he talks about an open process in committee that just was not there. It was not there. The reason I want to give him the opportunity is that now he should have a chance to do that before people think ill of him.
Earl Levy, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, wrote this letter to the committee:
“I regret that the time frame for any response by the Criminal Lawyers Association, as set out in your letter of June 23” -- That is the kind of time frame we are talking about. They are called upon less than one month after a letter is sent to them on 23 June, in the middle of summer when people are rightly taking their vacations and that sort of thing – “as set out in your letter of June 23 is impractical. This matter would have to be discussed before our governing body, a number of whom are not available during the summer period. Even if available, I doubt very much that we can meet your time requirements.”
Earl Levy is not alone in that. He was not the only person, and if he was, we perhaps would have -- Peter Jarvis, Harvey Bliss along with Earl Levy, leading members of the --
The Second Deputy Chair: I think my patience has been tried as best as possible. I think the honourable member in the most adept way he can has certainly got his point across. On the other hand, he has not been speaking to the section. He is leading up to it. We are waiting for the leading up to it.
Miss Nicholas: What section are we talking about?
The Second Deputy Chair: Section 32 is the last --
Mr Kormos: She has not even been listening. She does not know.
The Second Deputy Chair: Section 32, I say to the member.
Mr Kormos: I know what section we were talking about, Mr Chairman.
The Second Deputy Chair: You did not even mention it.
Mr Kormos: What we are addressing is the whole issue of the need to discuss these things on a section-by-section basis. The fact is that people across Ontario were denied an opportunity to review these during the course of committee. Hopefully, that is why we have committee of the whole right here and now. It is not only a right of members to question the parliamentary assistant about what we have been told by some very learned people and groups of people in our province and our country -- it is going to be bad news; no two ways about it. The Chief Justice of Canada has as much as said so. A whole bunch of other people here in Ontario, district court judges, Supreme Court judges, leading members of the bar have said so, and they were not given a chance to comment on it. The government should be expecting this section-by-section, subsection-by-subsection, phrase-by-phrase, clause-by-clause questioning of the parliamentary assistant about the legislation.
Miss Nicholas: On a point of order, Mr Chairman.
The Second Deputy Chair: We have another point of order from the honourable member for Scarborough Centre.
Miss Nicholas: Actually, it is the same point of order. I still failed to find out what section it is that the member is addressing. We would be more than pleased to listen to his comments about a section, but I think you have already made a ruling and the ruling was that we stick to the sections and perhaps not to the process.
The Second Deputy Chair: I acknowledge the honourable member’s point of order and actually agree with her. I say to the honourable member for Welland-Thorold that you are rambling an awful lot and I would ask if you would just centre back in on the section that we were supposed to be examining, which is section 32 of the Courts of Justice Amendment Act.
Mr Kormos: Me ramble, Mr Chairman? In any event, of course we are talking about section 32. What we are talking about are the sections -- and I do not know why that member for Scarborough Centre –
Miss Nicholas: Scarborough Centre.
Mr Kormos: I know the member is from Scarborough Centre. If she had been following, she would have known we were at section 32.
In any event, indeed we are talking about section 32. We are talking about those sections that concern themselves with small claims courts. We are talking about the failure of this legislation, be it in section 31 or section 32, to bring speedy redress to thousands of litigants in Ontario who need access to places like small claims courts. Indeed, we are talking about Niagara Peninsula jurisdictions, in Niagara south and Niagara north, that are being serviced as well as they can be by very limited staff.
We are talking about what this legislation does not do in any way, shape or form. Part of the rationale for the legislation, including sections 31 and 32, is that somehow there is the impression -- people are trying real hard to create this impression; the smoke and the mirrors are just waving in the wind -- people are trying to create the impression that this is going to make access to courtrooms easier for people. It does not change the fundamental problems. It does not change the problems of numbers of judges, be it in district court or High Court or at provincial court level. It does not change the numbers of courtrooms available.
Those are some of the real problems that are reflected in the inaccessibility to courts and the lengthy and expensive and painful waiting lists for litigants, be it at the Small Claims Court level, civil division, or at the district court or Supreme Court levels.
There is nothing about the -- well, not even magical words in here, the secularization of a bench. There is nothing about that that is going to increase the number of judges. There is nothing about section 32 that is going to increase the number of staff available to process the claims of -- well, Small Claims Court, provincial court (civil division) or provincial court (criminal division) litigants.
That is what people are complaining about in communities from one end of the province to the other. They want to have their day in court. They want to use the courts to seek redress, but the backlogs, the unavailability of judges at all levels, the unavailability of courtroom space at all levels is what is interfering with that, impairing that. There is nothing magical about sections 31 and 32. They are not going to solve the problem. It is juggling facts -- really, it is juggling facts when you look at sections 31 and 32 -- and does not provide any resolution whatsoever.
You see, the government talks about its pilot projects. It gave people in the city of Toronto an opportunity to have access to Small Claims Court with a jurisdiction in excess of the rest of the province. The government could have very easily and speedily generated small claims courts, provincial court (civil division) across Ontario with the same limits on jurisdiction, the same $3,000 limit on jurisdiction -- or more, as it probably should be.
The government talks about the need to retain the power to regulate that. Once again, we are not talking about complex or unwieldy legislation. We are talking about legislation that could be presented and passed in such short order; that is to say, legislation increasing the jurisdiction, or, more important and more fundamental right now, legislation ensuring that people across Ontario have the same access to a Small Claims Court system as is available to Torontonians.
So this misses the mark. It does not even hit the target. Section 32 of this bill is a crock. This does not fly. It does not even come close to flying.
The Second Deputy Chair: Are there any further comments or concerns about section 32? Moving along with great rapidity, are there any concerns with any section prior to the member for Carleton’s proposed amendment? Do you have any questions, or are you going to propose your amendment to section 35?
Mr Sterling: Mr Chairman, I apologize to other members. The amendment is actually section 36. Through a typing error, section 35 was put in there.
The Second Deputy Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 36 (1) of the act, as set out in section 2 of the bill, be amended by adding at the end “and may reassign a judge from one region to another.”
Mr Sterling: This is going along with the other amendment which I placed to make it clear within the act that the Chief Justice of the Ontario court has the right to reassign judges from one region to the other. It is really a clarity of the legislation.
Mr Polsinelli: I agree with the member for Carleton. This is complementary to the other amendment that we accepted, and we will also be accepting this one.
The Second Deputy Chair: The honourable member has proposed an amendment to section 36. I can only presume there were no concerns about section 35. I want to make sure all members have the opportunity for full discussion.
The member has proposed an amendment that subsection 36(1) of the said as set out in section 2 of the bill be amended by adding at the end “and may reassign a judge from one region to another.”
Motion agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
The Second Deputy Chair: I notice the honourable member for Carleton has proposed further amendments. Is section 92 your next proposed section? Would it be appropriate to inquire if any members have any concerns about any of the sections prior to 92? There appears none, so if we might with great rapidity find section 92.
Mr Sterling: If you would allow me a little latitude here, the amendment which I have put forward is quite long in words. It does three things. Basically, it changes the name of the committee which is going to be set up in Ontario and in each region from a management committee to an advisory committee, so there is a change in the name of the committee. That was thought to be very important by the bar and by people who are involved with the justice system, because the word “management” connotes the ability of people who are not on the bench to control what the bench is going to do that day or in the future. That is the first point.
The second point in this amendment, which I will read perhaps after comments by the parliamentary assistant, the second area of concern is the makeup of these committees. As presently outlined in subsection 92 (1) of the bill -- and I will talk about the regional committees later; this is the overall province-wide committee -- the committee is made up of 16 people. Only four of those people are judges. There is a concern by the bar, the Advocates’ Society, the Canadian Bar Association, that the judges should have at least as many members on that committee as other people, be they laypeople or whatever.
Under the present bill, there are four judges; four representatives of the Attorney General’s department; there are two barristers from the Law Society of Upper Canada and two barristers and solicitors appointed by the presidents of the county and district law associations; four other people would presumably be lay people who would be on that committee, administrators perhaps, or some other people.
So you have 16 -- four judges. My amendment on this section, and my subsequent amendment dealing with the eight different regions, deal with the same issue. I even off the number of judges with the other appointees, because I would like to see the judges have control of that committee, so we would be certain that people other than judges would not be in a position to control what the courts are doing in our province. In the words of the parliamentary assistant, it is trying to retain the independence of the judiciary as to what happens in the courts across the province of Ontario.
The other and more minor amendment deals with the barristers and solicitors who are appointed. For, I believe, political reasons, the Attorney General has split up the appointments with regard to the barristers and solicitors. He has divided the appointments between the Law Society of Upper Canada and the county and district law associations.
I believe that by splitting up those appointments we are not doing the law society or the barristers and solicitors any favours. The Law Society of Upper Canada represents all lawyers across Ontario, both those in these associations and outside these associations. My amendment deals with that particular problem, as well.
The amendment deals with basically three things: the name of the committee, the makeup of the committee in numbers, and, third, in a more minor way, the makeup of how the barristers and solicitors are chosen.
I would invite the parliamentary assistant to comment. If the amendment were put and defeated, then I would perhaps propose other amendments which would deal individually with those three thrusts.
Mr Polsinelli: Perhaps we can deal individually with the three points that have been raised by the member for Carleton, the first one being the name of the committee. We could support an amendment changing the name to a management advisory committee. I do not think we have any great problem with that.
In terms of the makeup of the committee, however, one of the cornerstones of Bill 2 is that we take a co-operative approach to the management of the courts with a basis that there are four equal and independent partners, one of the partners being obviously the bench, the judiciary, another being the bar, the third being the Ministry of the Attorney General, in which the crown attorney’s office would fall, and the fourth partner being the public. As I say, it is a cornerstone of the bill that they are four equal and independent partners.
What the member’s amendment would do is change the structure of the committee so that we no longer would have four equal partners; we would have a majority of the judicial branch representing the majority in the committee and having control. That would cut away at the cornerstone of the bill. For that reason, we cannot support that aspect of it. To reinforce the concept of the four equal partners, we also have a rotating chair. That is why we have the section of the bill that requires the chair to rotate on an annual basis.
I have been handed a note here from our capable staff. In terms of the split, I was not quite sure why there was a split on the appointments of the bar, between the law society and the county and district courts. The county and district courts are locally focused groups which are the acknowledged group representing local concerns of the bar outside of Toronto. I guess that is the rationale as to why you would have the county and district presidents. The Law Society of Upper Canada is more centrally focused in Toronto or has the more global provincial perspective and is not as locally centred and not so concerned with local issues.
As Mr Perkins from the ministry points out, this is the rationale as to why the Attorney General ended up having that split in terms of the representation from the bar. Now that I read it, it seems to make a lot of sense in that the member wants to have representation from the areas outside of Metropolitan Toronto and he also wants to have the Metro perspective on this management committee.
If the amendment were placed, we could not support it. However, if he were to place an amendment to change the name of the committee to a management advisory committee, we would be prepared to support that amendment.
Mr Sterling: Under subsection 3 of this section it says, “The function of the committee is to consider and recommend to the appropriate authority policies and procedures...to promote the better administration of justice and the effective use of resources, including judicial and other personnel in the public interest.”
What happens if there is a dispute between the judiciary, the four members of this committee and the 12 others, as to what is going to happen in the courts? If the other 12 override the wishes of the judicial members on that committee, judges, does he not think he is interfering in the judicial system? I do not understand his rationale on that.
Mr Polsinelli: The committee is an advisory committee, so that if the majority of the committee recommends to the judiciary something the judges do not agree with, they are an independent element of the whole system and they have the right to say no. If the judiciary members do not agree with the recommendation from the management committee, they could quite simply say no.
Mr Sterling: I am a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and I am also a member of the Carleton County Law Association, which they still call themselves even though it is the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. I do not understand why it is necessary for the Attorney General to drive a wedge between the presidents of the county and district law associations and the Law Society of Upper Canada. I do not believe this overall committee -- which is made up, I hope, of very high calibre people -- will carry with it the kind of prejudice which is insinuated in the legislation as proposed.
I would trust that my brethren from Toronto, in terms of how they run the courts, would be fair in terms of advising the judges as to how the judiciary should be dealt with. The parliamentary assistant can be certain that each of the regional advisory committees, as I hope they are called, would in essence fight back with regard to this general committee if, in fact, it stepped out of line to a large degree.
I think it is unnecessary to distinguish between two and two being chosen by the law society and the presidents of the county and district law association, and the parliamentary assistant is inviting discontent between those two groups. I as a member of the bar from eastern Ontario do not feel threatened that the law society should pick those four representatives. We have benchers on the law society, people who are, in effect, on the executive of the Law Society of Upper Canada, who come from outside of the city of Toronto, Metropolitan Toronto, the county of York, and I have no reason to believe that I would not be dealt with fairly in terms of choosing these people. I do not understand the reasoning here.
The other point I would like to ask about is, is the name the Ontario Courts Advisory Committee acceptable to the parliamentary assistant or is the word “management” necessary in his view?
Mr Polsinelli: We do not feel that in fact this legislation or this committee will drive a wedge between the law society and the county and district presidents. What we are trying to do is to ensure that what we would have on this committee is an assurance of representation from outside of Metropolitan Toronto. We think the requirement that the county and district presidents appoint two members of the committee provides us with a greater degree of having that assurance.
The county and district presidents could always agree with the Law Society of Upper Canada as to who the four appointees are, in which case our exercise is futile.
In terms of the name of the committee, the Attorney General feels that if the name is changed, the committee should be called a management advisory committee.
Mr Sterling: I am going to put the total amendment in place, because I have gone to the trouble of having it drafted by legislative counsel and I think it should be there for the record.
The First Deputy Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsections 92(1) and 92(2) of the act as set out in section 3 of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
“ (1) There shall be a committee, known as the Ontario Courts Advisory Committee, composed of,
“(a) the Chief Justice of Ontario, the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court and the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court (Provincial Division);
“(b) four judges appointed by the Chief Justice of Ontario and four judges appointed by the Chief Judge of the Ontario Court;
“(c) the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General responsible for courts administration and the Assistant Deputy Attorney General responsible for criminal law;
“(d) four barristers and solicitors appointed by the benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada;
“(e) not more than four other persons, appointed by the Attorney General with the concurrence of,
“(i) all of the judges mentioned in clause (a), and
“ (ii) all of the barristers and solicitors appointed under clause (c).
“(2) The Chief Justice of Ontario or a judge designated by the Chief Justice of Ontario shall preside over meetings of the committee.
“(2a) Each of the members of the Ontario Courts Advisory Committee appointed under clause (1 )(d) and (e) shall hold office for a period of three years and the members are not eligible for reappointment.
“(2b) Despite subsection (2a), the first persons appointed under clause (1 )(d) and (e) shall be appointed for five-year unrenewable terms and the second persons appointed under those clauses shall be appointed for four-year unrenewable terms.”
Mr Sterling: In addition to the points I raised, and I will not repeat those points, this amendment includes the provision that the Chief Justice of Ontario or a judge shall preside or chair this management advisory committee or advisory committee, as we will name it in a subsequent amendment.
It also provides that there be a rotation of the people appointed to this committee. The structure has been drawn up by legislative counsel, Ms Baldwin, to allow that the first appointees go on a staggered basis so that there is experience over the period of time.
In that the parliamentary assistant has not commented with regard to those specific amendments, I would invite his comment with regard to the chairmanship and the rotation of members.
Mr Polsinelli: The term “membership” is probably something that is desirable for the most part, but we feel that a rigid, three-year nonrenewable term can end up being impractical, especially in some of the smaller regions; the one that I have in my notes here is the northwest region. We felt it would be better to leave the term and renewability up to the appointing bodies.
In terms of the rotating chair, I think the rotating chair reinforces perhaps one of the cornerstones of the bill, that the management of the court system should be a co-operative management system with four equal partners, and if you have one of the partners having the chair, you are cutting away at the whole cornerstone, the whole concept of the four equal partners. We maintain that we should have a rotating chair. We cannot support that amendment.
Mr Sterling: The parliamentary assistant is perhaps confusing this amendment with one which I will propose later dealing with the regional advisory committees. This amendment deals with the overall Ontario committee.
I find his argument with regard to the lack of appointees available somewhat lacking. Therefore, perhaps he would accept that amendment with regard to the overall appointment of the Ontario advisory committee, but he may not accept the amendment with regard to the regional advisory committees.
I also point out to the parliamentary assistant, notwithstanding there may be some desire to reappoint people in smaller areas on the regional committees, there is a need, I believe, in clear, unequivocal terms, to tell people when their appointment time is up and when in fact it is done. There has been a practice, unfortunately, within this present government to be very unkind to some of its appointees in not notifying them in advance whether they were going to be reappointed or not reappointed. Therefore, it is our position that it would be better to spell it out in legislation and that, therefore, it would not be necessary for anybody to say, “You are no longer appointed.” The appointments tend to carry on and on and on.
I believe that if the government is going to formulate the committee as the member had put forward, it would be necessary to breathe new life into the committee and this would be assured by accepting at least that part of the amendment.
Mr Polsinelli: I have no disagreement with the logic that is used by the member; it is eminently logical. The fact of having new blood, new vigour, in committees is something that each committee should search for itself. It is something that perhaps we can consider for a future amendment. I would think, though, that at this point what we would like to do is see the system put into place and the recommendation that has been made by the member for Carleton in terms of the term “membership” is a good one and is something that should be considered seriously by the ministry in terms of future proposals for this bill.
The Chair: Is it the pleasure of the committee that the motion carry?
All those in favour of Mr Sterling’s amendment will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
Mr Sterling: I move that subsection 92(1) of the act as set out in section 3 of the bill be amended by striking out “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.”
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 92b(1) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.”
Mr Sterling: I would have preferred an amendment that would have excluded the word “management,” but accept the fact that the parliamentary assistant is willing to accept that this committee will be called a management advisory committee; the concern of the bar being that it is an advisory nature and does not have a binding effect on our judges as to how the courts will, in essence, be run in the final decision.
Mr Polsinelli: We are prepared to accept that amendment. It has been pointed out that we presently have an Ontario courts advisory council, which consists entirely of judges, and we do not want the committee under section 92 to have too similar a name, so the Ontario courts management advisory committee is distinctively different enough to the Ontario courts advisory council.
Mr Sterling: The first good piece of logic that has been used all afternoon by the parliamentary assistant.
The Chair: Things are looking up.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Sterling: The parliamentary assistant has in front of him amendments which would deal with subsections 92b(1) and 92b(2) of the act. They are dealing with basically the same issues on a regional basis. Under this bill, there are a number of court management committees in each of the eight regions. We have just dealt with the overall Ontario one, and subsections 92b(1) and 92b(2) of this act deal with the regions. Before I put forward this particular amendment, I would just invite the comments of the parliamentary assistant. They deal with, in essence, the same issues in terms of the structure of the committee and the chairmanship of the committee.
Mr Polsinelli: My comments are quite similar to the comments that were made in terms of the previous amendment, with the addition that the requirement to consider geographic diversity and field of practice for bar members generally is desirable, but again we feel that it is unduly rigid to write it into the legislation and may be completely impractical in the smaller regions of the province.
Mr Sterling: I am not going to introduce the amendment which I originally had slated dealing with the structure of those committees as it is not going to be accepted, obviously, by the parliamentary assistant, and thereby the government side which has the majority of the votes in the Legislature this afternoon.
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that subsection 92b(1) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.”
Mr Sterling: Which is slightly different from the written copy you have received.
The Chair: It reads as set out in section 3 of the act and not the bill. It should be section 3 of the bill; correct?
Mr Sterling: Section 3 of the bill.
The Chair: So let me read this and you two can follow me.
Mr Sterling moves that subsection 92b(1) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out the word “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.” Correct? Would the member for Carleton have a further statement?
Mr Sterling: The intent of this amendment is the same as the other, in dealing with the overall Ontario management advisory committee. Under 92b(1) the committee is called a regional courts management committee, as Bill 2 now stands. This amendment would in effect change those words to “regional courts management advisory committee,” therefor ensuring that it is clear in the legislation that the judges ultimately have the final say in how their courtrooms are run.
As I mentioned before I would have preferred that the structure of the committee, which is comprised of eight people in each region, two judges and six others, would have equally been distributed between judges and other people. However, that is not acceptable to the government and the addition of the word “advisory” will make it clear, I hope to all concerned, that the judges do have the final say.
Mr Polsinelli: My comments are the same as in terms of the previous amendment that was placed along these lines. We will be supporting this.
The Chair: Are we ready to vote on that one? I will have some explanation for you afterwards. Maybe I should tell you now, because what I have here are two proposed amendments, one to 92(1) of the act and one to 92b(1) of the act. What we carried a little while ago was 92b(1), which is what was sent over.
Mr Polsinelli: Was that not to 92(1)?
The Chair: Section 92b(1), believe it or not.
Mr Polsinelli: The copy that I have is 92(1). So it could be that --
The Chair: That is why I said three heads are always better than two and when I re-read it, why you should follow with me to make sure that what you have was the same as me, which obviously now it was not.
M. Sterling : Ce n’est pas important, Monsieur le Président.
I want to amend both and they have both been accepted, so we have now amended, according to you, Mr Chairman, 92b(1)?
The Chair: That is what we did the first time around. That is what I read.
Mr Sterling: Then this is an amendment to section 92(1).
The Chair: Right, but it is not what I just read, because I have not read 92(1) yet, in theory and in reality.
Mr Sterling: Then I guess you should read it.
The Chair: That is right, and adopt it. Actually, what I will do to make sure for the sake of the record, to make sure that everybody goes home very happy tonight, I shall read them both again and we shall adopt them both. I will read both, just for the record, so that whether you sleep in Toronto or Carleton tonight you will be very happy.
Mr Sterling moves that subsection 92 (1) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out the word “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.”
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: The second one.
Mr Sterling moves that subsection 92b(1) of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by striking out the word “management” in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof “management advisory.”
Motion agreed to.
The Chair: Nothing like doing things right.
Mr Sterling: I am glad somebody is in charge here, Mr Chairman
The Chair: Mr Sterling moves that section 93 of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(3) In assigning cases to individual judges, the judge who has authority to supervise and direct judicial duties may assign particular judges to cases in particular specialized areas of law.”
Would the member for Carleton have an opening statement, please?
Mr Sterling: This subsection is deemed needed in order to make certain that there are certain specialties which are areas of laws which are not normally encountered by the bench and, therefore, this gives the opportunity to move those judges into areas when the specialized law or knowledge of that law is required. It is basically giving, I guess, more discretion to the supervising judge.
Mr Polsinelli: We have no qualms with the logic. However, we feel that the power is already there in terms of specialized assignments, that the judiciary does do that now and that it is not necessary to amend the bill to give him that additional power. In any event, it is again one of those items where we would hate to put into legislation a particular clause that would tell the judiciary how to assign their cases. While it is permissive and while they do have that power, telling them that they may do that again touches on that aspect of judicial independence and we would rather stay away from it.
But the point is that we think it is a good power that the judges have in determining which of their peers hear the particular cases and they already have that power and authority, and they will have that under the legislation.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate the amendment that is made and I appreciate the parliamentary assistant’s response to that. However, I am interested in understanding whether indeed that was understood by many people, including some judges, district court judges, about the impact or at least the government’s intent in presenting this legislation. This is how it was expressed and that is to say that some judges were concerned that there would be an effort to eliminate any concepts of specialization, particularly by those judges whom we understand now as being district or High Court judges. I appreciate many High Court judges, indeed all High Court judges have jurisdiction through civil and criminal matters. All district court judges have that same jurisdiction. However, the reality of it is, especially it appears among district court judges, that in many jurisdictions there tends to be a specialization developed.
Now if only through the introductory notes that accompanied this legislation either proceeded the legislation back on 1 May or accompanied it when it was first presented, the impression was gotten by some of these people that the purpose of it, among other things, was to get judges rotating.
As I say, that is one of the reasons why I find subsection 3 a useful amendment. I wonder if the parliamentary assistant can comment on that and perhaps he can indicate whether there is a prevailing philosophy in the ministry, and that is to say, is the ministry interested in seeing judges specialize, seeing judges develop criminal expertise as compared to civil litigation expertise, or with this proposed integration of the two levels of bench is the ministry interested in seeing really a homogenized bench, one in which judges do a little bit of everything, perhaps becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none?
Mr Polsinelli: The Attorney General in the 1 May announcement spoke in favour of functional specialization. However, that is one of the matters for the judges to work out by themselves and I am sure that they will do that.
In terms of accomplishing what this motion intends to accomplish, the sections of the bill which allow for temporary placement by the chief judge of one judge from one region to another, and even the motion that we accepted from the member for Carleton in terms of the rotation of the judges, I think, will accomplish having the judges in the appropriate region to hear cases in which they may have a particular specialization.
Mr Kormos: Additionally, places in the province like Brampton, for instance, have notorious backlogs in provincial courts and indeed in district courts. Certainly, in terms of criminal prosecution and in all likelihood in view of the fact that district judges are doing civil litigation as well, there are similar types of backlogs in civil litigation.
These are parts of the province where there is a focus because of the press, because of the numbers of people living in a densely occupied area like Brampton. How do we control this phenomenon? That is to say, judges from apparently less-dense parts of the province are brought into Brampton to help deal with the Brampton backlog. Now however difficult that might be, you still have to deal with the problem of facilities, physical space for these judges to hold their courts in. You remove a judge out of a jurisdiction that appears to not have, indeed does not have, the backlog that Brampton has: you move him or her down to Brampton to help deal with that notorious backlog, the one that is the thorn in the side of the administration, leaving a jurisdiction without a judge or less one judge, that particular judge who was moved away.
In view of the fact that there is nothing in this legislation that talks about or nothing in the proposal of the government to accompany this legislation that talks about increasing the complement of judges at all levels -- and again, this is where the province’s hands are tied in terms of the appointment of judges other than provincial judges -- in view of the fact that there is not any complementary function that is taking place here to increase the number of judges and increase the number of actual court spaces, section 93 then really becomes academic. How are we going to avoid once again merely borrowing from Philip to pay Paul?
Mr Polsinelli: As opposed to borrowing from Peter to pay Paul?
Mr Kormos: Quite right.
Mr Polsinelli: It is up to the Chief Justice to assign. If we look at section 93, the responsibilities: “The powers and duties of a judge who has authority to supervise and direct the sitting and the assignment of judicial duties of his or her court include the following:...Assigning cases to individual judges.”
I think that is what we are talking about here, assigning cases to judges who have a certain specialization. They have the authority to do that now. If there is a judge in a region who has a particular specialization and he is needed in region C, the Chief Justice can move him on a temporary assignment from region A to region C.
If, as in the case that was pointed out by the member for Welland-Thorold, a number of judges are needed in a particular region because they have a particular backlog, then those judges can, at the discretion of the Chief Justice, be moved from other regions to assist in alleviating that backlog.
In terms of the number of judicial appointments that are made, that is perhaps out of my competence to answer. Let me put it to the honourable member that way.
Mr Kormos: It requires expanding on that just a little bit because that is exactly the point. Surely the PA appreciates that what is going to happen in an effort -- oh, just mere Band-Aid treatment -- to cover up the problem is going to be to move judges into places like Brampton to put out fires, using judges as firemen, and what that does is takes a judge away from a jurisdiction. Is he suggesting that there are judges in the province sitting idle now? Of course not. I do not think there is a judge anywhere in the province of Ontario who has not got a significant workload. Indeed, they are the first people to say that they have a significant workload.
So where are these judges going to come from who are being transferred about, short of leaving a jurisdiction without a judge and generating a problem in that jurisdiction to try to solve the problem in another jurisdiction? Really, the fundamental issue is that a number of judges and a number of courtrooms and court facilities are available, and why is that not being addressed as a solution to the problems that are very real for people across Ontario, rather than this stuff which just ends up being mere fluff without any substance when you look at the reality of the situation?
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Welland-Thorold knows full well that the number of judges that we have in the province of Ontario is related to two factors. One is the workload that is available for them to do and the other is the federal willingness to appoint judges to the now-existing district courts and Supreme Court. He raised certain issues that merit consideration and merit discussion. I am just having a little bit of trouble relating them back to this particular amendment that has been put forward by the member for Carleton.
The First Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate on the matter? Are you ready for the question?
Mr Sterling moves that section 93 of the act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be amended by adding thereto the following subsection:
“(3) In assigning cases to individual judges, the judge who has authority to supervise and direct judicial duties may assign particular judges to cases in particular specialized areas of the law.”
All those in favour of the motion?
Mr Polsinelli: Carried.
The First Deputy Chair: Carried?
Mr Polsinelli: Oh, no.
The First Deputy Chair: Let me try it again. Is the motion carried? No. All those in favour?
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Is the chair not functus once it had called for a vote? Functus. I know that the parliamentary assistant is familiar with -- what more appropriate language to use in the context of discussing this section? But is the chair not functus once it calls the vote and there is a vote? Is it not a matter of, “Try again next time, but too late for now”? I do not know. It is just a point of order.
The First Deputy Chair: No, this chair is funky, not functus. We will call them the way they want to vote on them.
Mr Polsinelli: Mr Chair, there is a problem, you see. We are being too generous in terms of the number of amendments that we are accepting from the member for Carleton. I was looking at his next amendment which we are going to be accepting, so there was a momentary lapse there.
The First Deputy Chair: Fine, we will try it again.
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the nays have it.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: How come last time there was a vote, all the government backbenchers did not say “nay”? I was sure they were here voting on this bill, having read it, being familiar with it, making up their own minds. This leaves the impression now that they are just following, waiting for instructions from the parliamentary assistant. Holy cow, that does not look --
Mr Kormos: That does not look very democratic. What that looks like is the gaggle of trained seals who look for the master’s voice. It is like that old RCA Victor Victrola thing, the little dog waiting in front of the microphone, saying “His Master’s Voice,” so I will bob my head up and down, or this way, depending on which way I am told to. I am disappointed, Mr Chairman.
The First Deputy Chair: I myself am shocked. There does not appear to be --
The First Deputy Chair: I do not mean to interrupt any of the members here, but I would like to proceed with the bill, if I could.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
The First Deputy Chair: There appear not to be any amendments to sections 4 through 8.
Section 4 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Mr Sterling: I move that subsection 1OOb(1) of the act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(1) Every judge of the Ontario Court (General Division) and the Unified Family Court may be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ or as (Mr or Mme) Justice (naming the judge).”
The First Deputy Chair: Okay. I think we can proceed. I have a slight variation from what the member actually read in the printed copy that is before me.
Mr Sterling: There was an error on my part in drafting the original. I did not want to repeal subsection 1OOb(2) and it was pointed out to me by the parliamentary assistant, after yesterday’s proceedings, that I might not have intended to do that. I believe that just repealing subsection 100b(1) was the intent of my amendment.
The First Deputy Chair: Okay, just so that the members are clear.
Mr Sterling moves that subsection 100b(1) of the act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
“(1) Every judge of the Ontario Court (General Division) and the Unified Family Court may be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ or as (Mr or Mine) Justice (naming the judge).”
Any comments on the amendment?
Mr Polsinelli: We concur with that amendment.
Motion agreed to.
The First Deputy Chair: The next indication of an amendment that I have is to section 32. Is it the pleasure of the House that section 9, as amended, carry?
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 10 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.
The First Deputy Chair: The amendment that we have from Mr Sterling is now on section 32a of the bill. Proceed.
Mr Sterling: I have two amendments: one on section 32a of the bill and one on section 32b of the bill. The amendment to section 32a of the bill, since I was not favoured with the amendment that I proposed earlier, does not have any relevance and, therefore, I will not be placing it.
Section 32b is an amendment I wish to put forward.
The First Deputy Chair: To be clear, you are removing your amendment on section 32a.
Mr Sterling: Yes.
The First Deputy Chair: We can proceed then to the amendment that you have proposed on section 32b.
Mr Sterling moves that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
“32b.(1) Despite this act, the Small Claims Court shall be continued as it was constituted immediately before section 2 of this act is proclaimed and shall have all of the powers and duties that were assigned to it at that time.
“(2) Despite this act, the rules committee of the provincial court (civil division) shall be continued as the rules committee of the Small Claims Court as it was constituted immediately before section 2 of this act is proclaimed and shall have all of the powers and duties that were assigned to it at that time.
“(3) The Small Claims Court,
“(a) has jurisdiction in any action for the payment of money where the amount claimed does not exceed the greater of $3,000 or the prescribed amount exclusive of interest and costs; and
“(b) has jurisdiction in any action for the recovery of possession of personal property where the value of the property does not exceed the greater of $3,000 or the prescribed amount.
“(4) Subsections (1), (2) and (3) are repealed 730 days after section 2 comes into force.”
Mr Sterling: This amendment deals to a very large degree with the constitutional issues that have been raised with regard to the bill. My friend the member for Welland-Thorold mentioned before that there was a significant problem with the constitutionality of this bill, or there were people who were alleging that there is a problem with the constitutionality of this bill. This amendment deals with the effects of this legislation.
As this legislation now is constituted, the provincial court (civil division), the Small Claims Court, immediately becomes a branch of the General Division or the Supreme Court of Ontario. Those judges have been appointed by the province and have not been appointed by the federal government. The intent of this bill is to elevate those judges to a higher position, to be part of what we now know as the Supreme Court or the district court.
It is unclear at this time what the constitutionality of this provision is. Does the provincial government have the right, by legislation, to elevate these judges to that position? There are many who would argue they do not have that right and therefore call into question at least this section of the bill.
There are other problems associated with the bill as it now stands. There has not been to my knowledge an assessment of the merger of these two Courts undertaken by the Attorney General. Also, there has not been an assessment of what impact this merger will have on the unrepresented litigant in a civil court case. I think the concern here is that we have a situation where we have an elevation of the small claims court effectively into the Supreme Court structure. We do not know how the litigant who comes to the Supreme Court and wants his case tried in the Small Claims Court is going to be dealt with and how the public is going to react to this.
I guess the more important argument or the more important concern is the one raised by the member for Welland-Thorold, and that is whether this section is constitutionally valid and whether it will affect other parts of the bill.
Subsection 4 essentially kicks this part of the bill into effect some two years after the bill comes into force, section 2 of the bill. What it does is give an opportunity to first of all study the impact of merging the small claims court into the higher court and give a two-year opportunity to look at the constitutionality of section 2 of this bill, which is the heart and soul of this legislation.
Mr Polsinelli: We appreciate that there was some concern with the constitutionality of that provision in the bill as initially drafted. However, when we went to the standing committee on administration of justice, there were two sections that were changed, section 21 and section 23, which effectively did not make the provincial judges who are now serving in the civil division, that is, the small claims court judges, members of the general division of the new court system.
Rather what it did is it allowed the small claims court judges to sit in that division in order to hear certain types of cases. I should point out that both the provincial and the federal constitutional advisers are satisfied that those two amendments eliminated any question of the constitutionality problem.
Mr Kormos: That is real easy for the parliamentary assistant to say. In response, I guess you could say, so what? once again. I do not understand. In a letter dated 28 September, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada raises some of his concerns about, among other things it would appear, the constitutionality of it. What the smart amendment of the member for Carleton does is protect those litigants, in this instance, small claims court, provincial court (civil division), from the cost and delay that would be inherent in a constitutional challenge imposed on them.
This is called erring on the side of caution. Really, the parliamentary assistant and his colleagues are the last people in the world to call themselves perfect. We know that and the people of Ontario know that. They have had advice from all sorts of people telling them that even though they say the problems have been solved, they have not been.
It is more than pompous; it is arrogant. It is careless, negligent and reckless for those guys to claim that with a few ticky-tacky little amendments they have solved the problem when people such as the Chief Justice of Canada, Mr Justice Dickson, say, “No, I still have some serious problems.”
For the member to show such incredible disdain for those litigants who are going to get caught up in that incredibly expensive process is shameful. It is really pathetic. I am starting to get more cynical and more suspicious as the months, days and hours go by. I am looking for the real motive here. I am looking for the real agenda. I am wondering why those guys are so anxious to ram this shabby, shoddy business through. I am not suggesting gross ulterior motives, but I am suggesting motivation that certainly has not been expressed either in committee or here. Otherwise, they would not be so interesting in speeding the process and ramming it through as they have.
The amendment proposed protects little people. It protects small claims court litigants, little people trying to collect small amounts of money. Maybe to some of the members opposite it is not a big deal, but where I come from, for little people trying to recover small amounts of money that is a big deal. This amendment is designed to protect them from the litigation, the constitutional challenges that are undoubted and which they have been warned about.
They cannot cry foul when that happens, because they have been warned and warned time and time again. They have been warned by people from the Conservative Party, by the member for Carleton. They have been warned by people from the New Democratic Party. They have been warned by district court judges. They have been warned by leading members of the bar here in Ontario. Now, as recently as 28 September, long after the little amendments of the parliamentary assistant, the Chief Justice of Canada still says, “We’ve got some concerns.”
Mr Polsinelli: The member for Welland-Thorold has on a number of occasions referred to a letter received from Chief Justice Dickson. Perhaps he would care to reread that this evening. I point out to the House those areas that deal with the constitutionality of the small claims court amendments. He may find that letter does not deal with this particular amendment. The constitutional question in terms of the small claims court amendments have been made. The amendments to the bill were made once we received the objections and initial queries. He should reread sections 21 and 23. Again, I give him the advice that our constitutional advisers and the federal constitutional advisers find that it is now in order.
Mr Kormos: Once again, that is easy for him to say. I would not expect him to say anything different. He is guy trying to peddle off some 1962 Chevy whose odometer has been turned over a couple of times. He is going to try to impress us with the Biblical tracts underneath the passenger side of the front seat.
What else is he supposed to say? He is trying to cover up and patch up some less than desirable works here. He is trying to sell a bill of goods. It is incredible. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr Sorbara) was talking about consumer protection earlier. Why do they not start with the Ministry of the Attorney General, because Lord knows, the odometer has been turned back.
In any event, all the amendment does is protect those people on that slight chance -- perhaps he is a holy man -- that the parliamentary assistant is wrong about the effect of those amendments. They do not solve the problem. He should know better than that.
The First Deputy Chair: Is the House ready for the question on this matter?
Mr Sterling: No, I would like to adjourn the debate.
On motion by Mr Polsinelli, the committee of the whole reported progress.
The House adjourned at 1800.