The House met at 1330.
EDUCATION OF HEARING-IMPAIRED
Mr R. F. Johnston: The deaf in Ontario have been waiting for some time for an indication from this government about whether or not it is going to act and bring forward Bill 112, which I introduced as a private member’s initiative to make American sign language the language of instruction in school systems.
To this end, they decided they would make some protest at a recent event this week around access awareness week and got some strange phone calls from senior bureaucrats advising them not to do so, that this fact might impinge on a government announcement coming through this Wednesday by the Minister of Education. I wonder if that is in fact the role we should be putting our senior bureaucrats to, to be telling groups that have been advocating for some time for major changes that they should not exercise their democratic rights because they would not want this to upstage a minister who may be coming forward.
Today I get a confirmation in writing, as of 8 June, from David McKee, the director of special ed., that in fact the minister will be making a statement on 13 June. It seems to me that it is his right to do so; it is also the right of the government to inform these people that this is going to happen. But to say to them that they should no longer put on pressure is an inappropriate action.
I say this in conjunction with the fact that now one of the major proponents for education for the hearing-impaired has proposed some amendments to my piece of legislation which I think all of us could readily accept in the principle of our discussion that we had that day, which I am willing to present to this House or to give to the government to provide to this House if it wants this legislation to come forward. But to interfere with the democratic process in this seems to be inappropriate.
Mr Cousens: This is Bike-to-Work Week in the city of Toronto. I would like to congratulate the Toronto City Cycling Committee for all the work it is doing to promote cycling as an alternative form of transportation in the city. Cycling reduces air pollution and helps relieve the congestion on city streets because of gridlock.
It is encouraging to see the enthusiasm of Toronto cyclists; they want to do their part in keeping our environment clean. I was saddened, however, to hear of a serious cycling accident this morning. If we are going to promote this kind of alternative transportation on our streets, we must make it safe for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians.
The provincial government has an important role to play. In its driver education courses it should include training on sharing the road with cyclists, with other drivers and with public transit vehicles. Likewise, cyclists who use their bikes for commercial purposes or to commute to work should undergo training and be licensed.
Bike paths on busy city streets should be a key component of road improvements funded by the province. The House has before it a private member’s bill from the member for London North that was passed by this House to make helmets mandatory for cyclists. The Liberals should pass this bill immediately.
The province must work in tandem with municipalities to encourage cycling. This is the only way to ensure the roads are safe for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
Mr Reycraft: I want to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate Reeve John Groenewegen and the members of township council in Caradoc in my riding of Middlesex. I believe councillors there have made an extremely wise decision in moving to replace all yield signs in the township with stop signs.
Yield signs do very little to enhance the safety of our rural roads. In fact, they can do a great deal to undermine it because yield signs create a false sense of security. At times, drivers may think a yield sign to be unnecessary and they ignore it, or they may move so far into the intersection without stopping that they create a very real hazard while trying to see if there is traffic coming. At the same time, drivers on the crossroad proceed, assuming they have the right of way and also assuming traffic coming in the other direction is required to stop. The result can be deadly.
But with a stop sign, there is a definite advantage. One slows down and actually stops, looks both ways and then proceeds. It sounds simple. It is simple. It is also effective and safe.
For Caradoc township, the cost of replacing its yield signs with stop signs is minimal compared to the safety that is being added. We cannot legislate common sense, but we can certainly promote it.
From the very age our children begin to walk, we tell them to stop and look both ways before crossing the street. It is a principle we should not abandon as drivers.
I ask all members of the assembly to join me in congratulating Caradoc township for sending its yield signs the way of the horse and buggy.
Mr Farnan: Clean, safe water is vital to human existence and Ontario’s future. However, this Liberal government has not provided any significant leadership in protecting and maintaining the quality of our drinking water.
It is common knowledge that the province has been in a state of rapid growth for some time, but it seems that when it comes to water, the Premier has abandoned ship as well as his responsibility to the residents of Ontario.
The water and sewer infrastructure of this province need immediate attention if we are to maintain any reasonable level of water quality.
For the record, Waterloo region, of which my riding is a part, is the largest community in Canada that depends on ground water to provide its safe drinking water. The regional government has recently been in the spotlight for the manner in which it has been dealing with our water crisis, but I have to say that our local representatives have taken far more decisive steps in dealing with the issues of contamination, resource development and planning for the future than this government.
At a recent public meeting on water, one thing was abundantly clear: There needs to be long-term planning of water supply and infrastructure maintenance and development for all of southwestern Ontario. When will the Premier stop talking about projections and studies and start providing some planning guidelines and directions to the municipalities of this province?
NIPISSING AREA TEACHERS
Mr Jackson: I rise today on behalf of my caucus and my leader, the member for Nipissing. The Department of National Defence has announced the transfer of its school responsibilities at CFB North Bay effective 30 June 1990. Currently, there is an impasse involving the Ontario Teachers Federation, the Department of National Defence, the Nipissing Board of Education and the Nipissing District Roman Catholic Separate School Board over the transfer and the security of the Department of National Defence teachers in Nipissing.
When responsibility for the schools at CFB Ottawa and CFB Kingston was transferred to the coterminous boards last year, the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education were actively involved in assisting the Department of National Defence boards and the school boards involved in arriving at an agreeable disposition of students and staff.
Only one year later, the ministry is strangely absent from the North Bay negotiations and discussions. We urge the Minister of Education to reconsider his decision to withdraw and hide from the Nipissing situation and to immediately address the concerns by bringing all parties together to resolve this matter under the Ministry of Education’s direction.
Mr Keyes: I am happy to report that the story which unfolded in the media and in this House last week concerning the dismissal of an employee at the Holiday Inn in Kingston had a happy ending. The members will recall that Che Zong, a student employed by Holiday Inn as part of the immigration assistance program for the summer, had requested a day off from work to attend a memorial demonstration of the Tiananmen Square massacre, of which she herself was a survivor. Having her request denied on the basis of her lack of seniority, she took time off to attend and, upon her return to work, was informed she was no longer employed by Holiday Inn.
I am pleased to say that, after a meeting of Holiday Inn executives on Friday 8 June, Che Zong accepted an offer to return to work on condition that Mr Weary, who had resigned as a result of the public outcry, would also be reinstated. In response, Mr Weary withdrew his resignation, which withdrawal was accepted by the company. We should all remember the fitting end to this event.
PROTECTION FOR WORKERS AND TENANTS
Mr D. S. Cooke: Last Thursday afternoon, while the first ministers of the nation were discussing the constitutional future of Canada, people in my home community were rallying in protest at the lack of action by this government to protect their jobs.
Over 2,000 people got together to protest plant closures and the fact that the Liberal government has still not lived up to its commitments and promises to bring in a thorough package of plant closure legislation which would guarantee public justification for plant closures, universal severance pay and adequate notice so that workers in our community and across Ontario would be properly protected.
Also, on that same day, in the evening there was another demonstration in Windsor, where nearly 500 tenants showed up to demonstrate and protest against the lack of protection for ordinary people in the private sector in apartment buildings in Ontario and the fact that landlords are given everything under the rent review legislation and that tenants are not protected with any adequate and thorough protection by the Liberal rent review legislation.
Very clearly, the message coming out of the Windsor community last Thursday was that they were asking themselves whose side the Liberal Party was on. They have discovered very clearly that they are on the side of developers, landlords and large corporations and that workers, if they want protection for their jobs, cannot rely on the Liberals, and that tenants, if they want protection to keep their rents affordable, cannot look to the Liberals for support either.
JUMP ROPE FOR HEART
Mr Sterling: Today I would like to draw my fellow members’ attention to Stittsville Public School, an elementary school in the riding of Carleton, which participated in the Jump Rope for Heart fund-raising event for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I am sure all members of the Ontario Legislature will join me in congratulating Stittsville Public School on its great success.
Stittsville Public School students from grades 3, 4 and 5 raised $19,364.66 through the pledges they collected by jumping rope. It is the largest amount of money raised by an individual school this year to date. Over the last five years, Stittsville Public School has raised $57,000 for the project. This school is number 1 in Canada.
Jump Rope for Heart is a national program that has been in effect for almost 10 years. There are 1,200 schools in Ontario which participate, and last year they raised $3.2 million, over half of the nation’s total.
I would like to thank all the students who participated in Jump Rope for Heart, with a special mention to faculty member Gerald Hancock, who organized the event on behalf of the school. This ingenious event has proved that learning can be fun, healthy and educational. It is my hope that this type of participation will increase awareness of living healthier and happier lives. My congratulations to Stittsville Public School.
DENTAL HYGIENIST PROGRAM
Mr Campbell: Early this year Cambrian College announced it was suspending its English-language dental hygiene program for one year. As the member for Sudbury, I, along with many in our community, was concerned about the negative impact the cancellation of this program would have on northern Ontario. We met several times to discuss ways of resolving this critical situation.
Thus it was with great pleasure that I was able to announce last week, on behalf of the Minister of Northern Development, a $150,000 provincial grant to Cambrian for the purchase of eight dental chairs and equipment. The commitment of this government will assist Cambrian to increase the number of places from 17 to 25 and will ensure the viability of the program.
The college also plans to continue its French-language dental hygiene program. In addition, the Sudbury and District Dental Society has made a commitment to donate funds to cover the costs of supervising the clinical sessions.
This announcement is the culmination of many months of negotiations by Cambrian College, the dental society, the ministries of Colleges and Universities. Northern Development and Mines. I wish to commend all participants for their co-operative effort.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Mr Speaker, seeing that we have a number of historic statements coming today, there is another moment of history that has taken place. Suzanne Schwenger, who is a parliamentary intern to the member for Kingston and The Islands and myself, is the first intern in our history to have a child while serving as an intern. On Sunday morning, Charlotte was born, eight pounds, four ounces -- a whole new standard for productivity among interns.
The Speaker: Thank you for that point of information.
The Speaker: I would like to inform members that we have a special guest in the Speaker’s gallery, a neighbour from the state of Michigan, the Governor of that state, Governor James Blanchard. Please join me in welcoming him.
Hon Mr Peterson: May I join in welcoming Governor Blanchard and Mrs Blanchard to the Legislature today. Many of us know of the very strong relationship between Ontario and Michigan. Indeed, it is larger than the relationships between most countries in this world. We are very proud to have him sitting with us today.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent so that we may have statements from all three parties with regard to the constitutional accord.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
CONSTITUTIONAL ACCORD / ACCORD CONSTITUTIONNEL
Hon Mr Peterson: It gives me great pleasure to provide the members of this Legislature with details of an agreement signed by Canada’s first ministers on Saturday 9 June 1990. All 11 first ministers signed an agreement which will permit the ratification of the Meech Lake accord along with a companion resolution containing improvements to the original accord.
There are three parts to the agreement signed by the first ministers. In the first part, the premiers of New Brunswick, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador undertake to submit the constitutional amendment 1987 for appropriate legislative or public consideration and to use every possible effort to achieve a decision prior to 23 June 1990. The second part of the agreement sets out a companion resolution containing additions that will build on the accord.
The add-ons and the companion resolution reflect many of the concerns which were noted during the select committee hearings in the province of Ontario. There was extensive discussion of the concerns that had been raised regarding the impact of the “distinct society” clause on the Charter of Rights. The Prime Minister commissioned a legal opinion from a number of Canada’s most distinguished constitutional authorities confirming that the “distinct society” clause does not infringe on or deny the Charter of Rights. It was agreed that the legal opinion be attached to the final conference communiqué.
In addition, a number of changes were agreed to.
It was agreed that sexual equality rights should be protected by adding section 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to section 16 of the accord.
The accord will also be amended to permit the territories to submit lists of names for appointment to the Senate and the Supreme Court of Canada.
A permanent process for discussion of aboriginal constitutional issues will be entrenched in the Constitution to resolve the outstanding issue of aboriginal self-government.
Finally, minority language rights will be added to the agenda of future constitutional conferences.
The third part of the agreement sets out an agenda for a second round of constitutional discussions. This future agenda is a direct response to the concerns that have emerged during the public hearings regarding the Meech Lake accord which have occurred over the past three years. All governments have agreed to draft a clause providing a more complete recognition of the Canadian reality -- the so-called Canada clause -- such as our multicultural heritage, the role of aboriginal peoples and our commitment to the equality of all Canadians.
There has been an agreement on the process leading to Senate reform and on the principles that will guide that process. A national commission with equal representation from all provinces and the federal government will be established immediately to report on Senate reform to the first ministers’ conference to be held later this year.
It has been agreed that the objectives which should guide the commission are (1) that the Senate should be elected, (2) that it should provide more equitable representation of the less populous provinces and territories and (3) that it should have effective powers to ensure that the interests of the residents of the less populous provinces and territories figure more prominently in national decision-making.
It has also been agreed that the goal of Senate reform should be to strengthen the capacity of the national government to govern on behalf of all citizens.
Further, the agreement provides that the principle of the responsibility of the government to the House of Commons shall be preserved.
We expect to achieve meaningful Senate reform over the next five years. In the event that reform has not been achieved over that time frame, the governments of Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have agreed that, in the interest of fairness, there will be a redistribution of Senate seats in favour of the western provinces and Newfoundland.
Finally, all governments agreed that reforming the process of constitutional change is a very high priority. We must ensure in the future that there is full partnership with the public in pursuing constitutional change.
Today I am pleased to table the agreement including the motion for constitutional resolution containing the improvements to Meech Lake which I have outlined. Later today the Legislature will be asked to refer this package to the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs to begin immediate public hearings.
The agreement that I have just outlined represents a major step forward in building a stronger, more united Canada. The goal is, I believe, supported by most Ontarians, and all Ontarians will benefit by its achievement. Ontarians want a strong Ontario in a strong and united Canada.
The passage of the Meech Lake accord will secure the signature of the province of Quebec on Canada’s Constitution. The absence of that signature has served as a missing link in the evolution of our process of nation-building. Quebec can now be a full partner at the constitutional table and share in the process of shaping a stronger Canada.
The time has also come to build national institutions that reflect the aspirations of all Canadians. The agreement reached this weekend will also provide us with a constructive framework for addressing a number of other issues of national concern, such as sexual equality, minority language rights and aboriginal self-government.
All members of this House can take great pride in the agreement that was achieved over the weekend. Ontario has been a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of the passage of the Meech Lake accord, a goal which we have pursued together with a united, non-partisan voice. In this regard, I would like to thank the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the Conservative Party for attending the conference and offering their advice.
I also want to thank the members of the Ontario delegation, led by our esteemed Attorney General. We went to Ottawa with a very strong team of public servants, ministerial and Premier’s staff and external advisers, including Robert Prichard, the dean of the University of Toronto law school and president-designate of the University of Toronto; Jim MacPherson, dean of the Osgoode Hall law school; Professor Peter Hogg of Osgoode Hall law school, one of Canada’s leading constitutional experts; Professor Kathy Swinton of the University of Toronto law school; Professors Ron Watts and Richard Simeon of Queen’s University; Professor Jamie Cameron of Osgoode Hall law school, and Professor Peter Russel of the University of Toronto.
If I may add, personally, I am also very grateful for the strong support that the people of Ontario have shown over the last week. At the same time as we celebrate our achievement, we must also remember that we confront a number of practical realities. The first is the fact that we must devise a better process for constitutional reform. In the past few years, we have been dealing with a process that was imposed upon us by the 1982 Constitution. We have learned a great deal from this process, and we are committed to developing a more open, participatory process for the future. We must create a process that allows for much broader and more involved public consultation and sharing.
There is a second area of concern that we must address as well. Over the past couple of years we have learned a number of things about ourselves as Canadians, not all of them terribly flattering. We have discovered that we have an enormous potential for self-injury; sometimes we as Canadians only see the dark side of the moon. We must not allow this self-discovery to lead to self-destruction. I hope this is the beginning of a process of national healing.
A constitution cannot in and of itself promote healing. Constitutions can only provide a framework for understanding and accommodation; people must fill in the goodwill. The Meech Lake accord is not a magic instrument. Colons, commas and subjunctive clauses cannot eliminate intolerance, prejudice and mistrust; only Canadians can do that. Only Canadians can recreate a spirit of understanding and respect for diversity and trust among all people. We must now focus our energies on achieving that end. We must reach out and build new relationships and new bridges of understanding among all Canadians.
Canada will only be as strong as the ties that bind its people together; and I know that all my colleagues in this House will act in the way to strengthen those bonds.
M. B. Rae : Ceci est un événement important dans la vie du pays, du Canada. C’est avec plaisir que je participe à cette discussion et que nous allons participer, comme parti, aux discussions qui viendront dans les jours à venir et, naturellement, dans les semaines et les mois à venir.
We are in the middle of an extraordinary debate and discussion in our country. I do not think any of us realized, when the Premier first came back from the discussions that he had at Meech Lake, that this accord would arouse the kind of debate and discussion among the people of Canada that it has aroused, and I must say I include myself in that group. Subject to the criticism and friendly, constructive advice from some of my colleagues, always I felt that it was so important for us as Canadians to say yes to Quebec, that it was important for us to simply get on, frankly, with as much speed as possible, with what had appeared to be an agreement that had wide consensus in the country and that we should simply proceed.
I must say the events over the last three years have opened my eyes to the sense of frustration that is felt by many Canadians in the fact that the Constitution, which after all took 115 years to become a truly Canadian document, took 115 years to patriate and make it our own. There is now, I believe, a profound sense among Canadians that the Constitution belongs to them. It does not belong to the premiers. It does not belong to the Prime Minister. It belongs to all the people of Canada. I think that is what has made this last week an event of such bittersweet proportions, because I believe that most of us in the country -- even those who are very profoundly opposed to the accord for whatever reason -- I think all Canadians who saw the events unfold and the roller-coaster every night on television, and then saw the speeches and the signing on Saturday evening felt a sense of relief, relief because we share a patriotism across this country which is very profound and which as Canadians, because we are not the kind of people who often show our emotion on our sleeves, we sometimes take for granted. Yet we have seen over the last few weeks particularly that Canada is not something we can take for granted. It is something we must strive to make our own and rebuild and refashion every day.
I say bittersweet because, although there was a sense of relief, I believe -- and I had cause to say this during the week when perhaps the advice which was offered was not always welcome -- that there was a growing frustration among Canadians about the process, a sense that they were being kept out, a sense that decisions were being made about their future in which they had not been consulted, in which there was no real participation by them and indeed no way in which they could effectively participate.
So I think that at the end of the day none of us who was not in that room knew at any given moment exactly what would be in the document. I do not say this to be critical of the Attorney General, because he was very frank in his briefings of me on two occasions when he set out what he thought were the elements that were going to be involved. I can say to him that at the end of the day there were slight variations and differences in what appeared to be the final package from what even appeared to be the case as of Friday evening.
I say this because I think it was clear, from the process of information gathering one had to engage in if you were not at the table, that it was almost impossible to find out exactly what was being discussed, how it was being discussed and what was being conceded in order to gain the goal of the approval of the accord with the willing acceptance of all the premiers there.
Having said that one was not in the room, we do know that the Premier of the province -- because I heard him describe it this morning on television -- did make a very substantial concession with respect to the Senate which appeared to, and by all accounts did, have an effect on keeping Mr Wells in the room at a critical moment when he seemed to be ready to leave it and at least got us to the stage of having a tentative signing, if I can put it this way, to the agreement by Premier Wells.
It literally is impossible for anyone who was not in that room to make a judgement as to whether that concession was necessary or whether it was the right or wrong thing to do. I can tell you I was not at any of the discussions which took place in the Ontario delegation which led to that decision. My advice was not sought, nor I think was the advice of the leader of the Conservative Party. I do not say that with any sense of surprise. I only say it to note that it was a personal decision, as I see it, made by the Premier in response to what he saw as a negotiating need in order to get an agreement.
Surely that shows all of us what is wrong with this entire process. We can all make jokes about the Senate with respect to who is likely not to be appointed in four or five years if we are down to 18 as opposed to 24. I suppose there will be a number of fund-raisers for the old-line parties who will feel disappointed that their chances of getting into the Senate have now been reduced by 25%. But there is an issue that is more important than this. Let’s follow this one through, Mr Speaker. I want to just take you through this line of argument.
We are being presented this afternoon with a resolution which incorporates essentially the concession made by the Premier in a very short space of time on a Friday afternoon. We are also told that the commission will be set up and that for the next five years that commission will be discussing Senate reform and will propose Senate reform along the lines set out in the agreement with respect to its being elected, equitable and effective.
Whatever proposals come from that national commission will have to be approved by all the provinces, with each one of the provinces having a veto. We also know that under the terms of the Meech Lake accord, in future -- as of 24 June, if the Meech Lake accord is passed -- in the existing Senate as it is now constituted it is the provinces that will provide the names which will form the Senate. We know that Alberta, as recently as a while ago, held an election for Mr Waters, who was elected to the Senate and is still waiting to be named there by the Prime Minister of Canada. I would suggest that it is going to be very difficult for the province of Alberta or indeed some other provinces to name a senator on a basis that is other than an elected basis.
What you have is the possibility, first of all, of it being very difficult to get an agreement among all the provinces with respect to the Senate that is being discussed by the national commission. We then have an evolution of our existing Senate, based on lists that are provided by various provinces, with at least some of those provinces deciding that, in order to make the membership of the Senate more legitimate in their jurisdictions, those senators will all be elected.
Those who say that the Premier’s concession is of no real significance because it is only talking about what may or may not happen in five years in a patronage-ridden body have missed the point of changing opinion in Canada with respect to the existence and the legitimacy of the Senate. It is quite possible that by 1995 we will have an elected Senate whose powers will be those powers set out in the Constitution as of today, because you cannot change them without unanimous consent of all the provinces, and a Senate in which the principle of equality between the regions has already been conceded by the Premier of the province and the makeup of the Senate has been determined in a very short space of time, in a very short concessionary way by the Premier.
We are in this party, and indeed I think the members of all parties, now being asked to pass in as short a space of time as possible -- and indeed in my conversations with the Premier he indicated that he would like to see this passed, although I notice he did not say it in his statement, but he did indicate to me that he would like to see this resolution passed before 23 June. I want to say to the members of this House, I understand the implications full well of our slowing down the process in terms of what is also going on in Manitoba and Newfoundland. I hope the members of this House know me and our party well enough to know that we are not going to play games with this process and we understand the implications of what we are being asked to do.
But I want to say to all the members of the House, this is not the way to make the Constitution of this country. Members should not go out for four days or five days of public hearings on the basis of an agreement which is already set in stone and pretend that they are consulting with the people. Maybe it is a way of having a dialogue, maybe it is a way and a necessary way of showing that the government is at least willing to listen, but members should not pretend that this is a process of genuine consultation.
We have heard from the Premier before and we have heard from other governments before that they regard this as an inadequate process and that they will not make us go through it again. But we are being asked in the space of nine or 10 days to pass a resolution that has implications for the balance between the regions of this country, and we are being asked to do so because of a necessary concession, or a concession that was felt to be necessary by the Premier at that time in a closed, private bargaining session that took place on the evening of a Friday in the sixth day of a long, gruelling, private bargaining session.
Let us not pretend that this is the way a 125-year-old mature democracy should be changing its fundamental law, its foundation law, its framework law with respect to its Constitution. I am not saying for a moment that this party is going to start throwing roadblocks in the way. But I want to make it very clear that this process is not going to work to bring the people of Canada together, a process by which we are told that things have to be done in four days or seven days or nine days, a process in which we are told that this is what has to be done because one or three or five or seven or 11 people say, “This is the way it must be.”
This cannot be the way to build Canada. It may have effected some kind of reconciliation among 10 or 11 premiers. Do not confuse that for a moment with the kind of work and process that is necessary to reconcile all Canadians to building a Constitution.
We face now, I believe, a crisis of legitimacy with respect to constitutional reform. I put it that strongly because I believe it to be true. We cannot kid ourselves that by having hearings for four or five days we are truly involving the people of this country in reforming their Constitution. So while I regard the Meech Lake accord and the companion resolutions, for the most part, as areas that have been discussed and have been discussed broadly by the members of this House, I say to the Premier that with respect to the Senate there have been no such discussions. None. There has been no such debate. None. Let us not pretend that there has been and let us not pretend that the people of this province have indeed reached certain conclusions with respect to the implications of Senate reform.
I want to conclude by saying that I think the people of this country deserve a better process. I think the people of Canada deserve a process that will allow change at the same time as it respects the rights of people to participate and the rights of people to listen and to be heard, and which respects openness.
It was Woodrow Wilson who towards the end of the First World War, issued a famous declaration with respect to what post-First-World-War Europe should look like. One of the things he railed against was the world of secret diplomacy, whereby agreements were arrived at secretly that bound their governments when no one knew how they had been reached or how they had been arrived at. He referred to the importance of having open treaties, openly arrived at.
That was an important statement of the way in which countries should treat one another with respect to their treaties. I say we should ask nothing less of our governments in this country, that we have open agreements, openly arrived at, that the people of Canada can legitimately call their own.
Mr Harris: I want to start by going back a long way to when Sir John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, George Brown and others inspired Canada into existence. It required endless hard work, proselytizing, negotiation, concessions and above all working almost town to town to build trust and to build understanding. It was hard work. It was hard work then and it is hard work now. It has never been easy. It is not easy now and it is not going to be easy in the next 10 years.
I want to join today with the Premier and with the Leader of the Opposition in making a few comments on this most frantic and historic past seven days, seven days during which many felt, rightly or wrongly, that the fate of Canada came very close to the edge. I report to the House in all honesty that I shared some of those concerns: seven days during which the process was severely criticized, seven days during which our premiers debated, fought, cried, negotiated, tackled, shouted, but finally came out to report.
I would like to make some comments on those seven days. I would like to make some comments as a Canadian first, then I would like to make some comments as a parliamentarian and a democrat second and then I would like to make some comments as an Ontarian third.
As a Canadian, I am relieved. I hope in a few weeks I will be more relieved. The sense of relief I felt on Saturday in Ottawa has obviously been tempered somewhat by events, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador and, perhaps to a lesser extent, in Manitoba. Certainly as a parliamentarian and a democrat I would agree with the leader of the New Democratic Party that I am sorely disappointed and frustrated by the process, and as an Ontarian I have some concerns.
Let me first, as a Canadian, say that I voted for the Meech Lake accord in this Legislature almost two years ago. Like every member of this Legislature, I thought long and hard about the Meech Lake accord and about how best to welcome Quebec back into the constitutional family with dignity, with a feeling of trust that would allow this country and its provinces to move forward constructively. How could we best do that while maintaining all that we all hold very dear as a nation? I made those reflections and made that determination and, uncomfortable with the process as I was then and as I am now, I supported the accord.
I was proud to be one of our party’s representatives on the select committee on constitutional reform. I was pleased to listen to the concerns of many Canadians, primarily from Ontario but some from across the country, who came before our committee some two and a half years ago to express their concerns about Meech Lake and about all that it implied. As a representative on that committee I co-authored, along with my House leader, the member for Parry Sound, a minority opinion on how to address some of those very legitimate concerns that we heard then, which of course became even more legitimate and more widespread as they were not addressed and as time went by over the past couple of years.
We were told by all the first ministers two years ago that Meech Lake was a seamless web, that it could not be changed and that in fact we should not be talking in any meaningful way about the concerns we heard as a committee. I worked with my colleague the member for Parry Sound when that viewpoint was expressed to us. It was accepted by the majority of the committee and we drafted a minority opinion. We stated that “it is our belief that the Legislature should adopt specific companion resolutions which at least remove some of the legal concerns. Our companion resolutions call upon the government of Ontario to take specific action to achieve specific goals.”
The minority report went on to state:
“We recognize the importance of Quebec returning to the constitutional fold. The accord will allow that province to finally become a signatory to the Canadian Constitution. It has provided a truly significant moment in our national history and one which we truly welcome.
“However, having addressed the constitutional concerns of Quebec, we believe it is now incumbent upon the government of Ontario and the first ministers to actively address the concerns of many members of our society which were so eloquently voiced before this committee. While a constitution will always be open to judicial interpretation, all the people of Ontario and Canada deserve to have a constitution in which they believe they are included as full and equal partners.”
I wrote those words two years ago as part of the select committee on constitutional reform and I still hold true to those words. I believe in my heart that if the Premier and the other first ministers -- I think the Premier and we in Ontario could have taken the lead role much sooner than at the 11th and a half hour. We could have taken it two years ago. Had we done that, we might have avoided some of the pressure-cooker, last-minute decisions that all the premiers and our Premier had to make. We might not have had nearly as difficult a seven days as we had.
Canada is so young in dealing with our Constitution here in this country. In 1981-82 our Constitution came home under a process that was begun by Pierre Trudeau. It was a process and a document that he believed strongly in, but he left it uncompleted, so Mr Mulroney and the first ministers from that time forward were left with this challenge of an uncompleted Constitution, a very imperfect process and a challenge as to what to do about it.
Everybody has been critical of the process after these past seven days. My own view is that some of that process was inevitable, because we were dealing with the first ministers and a deal that at least 10 of the first ministers had made and one had not, and that was not acceptable to Canadians, it was not acceptable to Quebec and it was not acceptable to me. As young as we are in this country at reforming our Constitution, I find it a shame that we got started on this track, obviously totally the wrong direction.
I wish that before these past seven days the first ministers of the country and the first minister of Ontario would have got a sense from the people of this province, from those hearings we held, that it is unacceptable. They will not look kindly on first ministers who go through it again in that way. We did not begin striking the committee, as was unanimously agreed by all members of this House two years ago, that that committee should be struck right away, that that committee should begin discussing those concerns right away, should be opening dialogue with the other legislatures and with the House of Commons, putting forward these issues that ultimately became the issues that had to be decided in the seven-day pressure cooker.
There is much that could have been done in two years under a different process and under far less pressure. I think there would have been a greater understanding in the regions of this country -- in English Canada of French Canada and in French Canada of English Canada -- had we accepted those recommendations that my House leader and I put forward a couple of years ago. So we ended up in this pressure cooker, horse-trading our Constitution, which is surely on reflection absolutely the worst way for any country anywhere in the world to be dealing with items of significance and of such importance to all provinces and to this country. I object strenuously to that.
It was in that context that new suggestions, new ideas came forward. Surely distinct society stands on its own and should be debated and accepted on its own. Surely Senate reform stands on its own and should be debated and accepted on its own. In discussing each of the very important issues -- minority rights, sex equality rights, the concerns of women, the concerns of natives, of multiculturalism -- surely they all stand on their own. To end up in a process where 11 people horse-trade them all is what got us into the mess in the first place. I am not sure we are out of the mess.
I plead passionately that while we were not listened to two years ago, we accept at face value the words of all the first ministers on Saturday night that this process cannot, must not ever be repeated again and that we must quickly get into a more productive, direct process to deal with it more openly, more honestly and to reflect not just 11 persons’ views. I say that figuratively. Of course it was more than that, but it was a long way from 26 million Canadians’ views on our Constitution.
The first ministers spent seven days behind closed doors discussing some of the points we raised in our minority report, and as I said, as a Canadian I have that sense of relief that there were 11 signatures on Saturday night.
I also want to thank the Premier for inviting me to be part of the Ontario delegation. Having been in attendance at that historic signing ceremony on Saturday night, I hope and pray that two or two and a half weeks from now it will be as historic as I thought it was going to be at that time.
I have stated as a parliamentarian and as a democrat my great discomfort with the process. I believe the Constitution must be a document shared in and believed in by all Canadians. Saturday night, after the signing and the speeches, the Premier and I chatted briefly. We talked about the suggestion that we should have public hearings here in Ontario as soon as possible. I respect the view of the Leader of the Opposition that those hearings will not be the hearings that I had hoped for, that they will not be nearly as meaningful because the decision has been made.
There have been some decisions made by premiers -- some put forward by our Premier -- that will not have been discussed by the people of Ontario, by this Legislature or indeed by the cabinet, I would suggest, unless there is a lot greater cabinet secrecy than I have sensed in the 10 years that I have been here, and I doubt there is.
Mr Harris: It is worse, as the Premier has said.
I am pleased that the Premier has adopted the suggestion. We will have those hearings and our caucus will do everything it can to facilitate a meaningful and timely process that, as a Canadian, I believe we must do.
I have spoken as a Canadian, I have spoken as a parliamentarian and finally I want to speak as an Ontarian. I have said, as a fierce Canadian who loves the country, I am somewhat relieved and hope I will be more relieved. As a democrat, I do not like the process and, as an Ontarian, I have some concerns.
I was not in the negotiating room and I do not know what deals were struck. I know most of the deals that were struck did not fly and only the ones that stuck, I guess, are the ones that we know about now. I do not know how the discussions evolved. However, I do know that at one point the Premier of Ontario offered a quarter of our Senate seats to help get a deal.
I have been asked by many people in the media and by a number of Ontarians what I think about this, as they should ask me. I do not know all the details: I do not know what the long-term impact on the province will be. I want us to review it very seriously and I hope the Premier will share with us any of the expert opinion he has as to the significance of that.
How does that affect us in the next stages of negotiations throughout the five years? I do not want to suggest and be at all misleading that if there is true Senate reform, the deal means nothing; if there is not in five years, the deal means something. What I am most concerned about is what it means in the five years of negotiating.
The Premier would know, as an individual, that if all provinces gave up virtually all their Senate seats, I would not suggest this country would in any way come to an end. I have said that on occasion in the past. When I was in Ottawa, I was privy to some of the federal officials as well when they were looking for this great kicker to make sure we negotiated fairly in central Canada for the Senate. I said my first kicker would be to kick it all out, but I understand that was not seriously on the table.
I do not know all the details but I want us to review it. I hope in the hearings we can get some expert opinion not only on that but on the areas of concern that were addressed. Many of the areas of concern, by this companion resolution, were the ones we asked two years ago to be addressed by a companion resolution.
The Premier would know that the distinct society was the one that goes to the heart and soul of Quebec coming into the constitutional fold. We felt that could have been dealt with two years ago and we had Morris Manning draft us a reference. We were willing to accept all constitutional expertise on the reference that would have --
Hon Mr Scott: Have you paid Manning for that?
Mr Harris: The Attorney General interrupts me. Mr Manning in the spirit of his love and concern for this country did it for free.
Mr Eves: Unlike the Attorney General.
Mr Harris: Unlike the Attorney General, I am told, when he was in private practice.
Hon Mr Scott: I never did anything for the Conservatives when I was in private practice.
Mr Harris: The Attorney General says he did not do anything for the Conservatives. Mr Manning did it for the country.
Surely two years of hearing from the people themselves, the Supreme Court, what they thought of the distinct society and how it impacted on the charter, is far more meaningful and productive than what we ultimately agreed to, which was the opinion of some lawyers like the Attorney General. As good as the Attorney General may be, he is not the one who will be making those determinations and those decisions. So I hope we can hear from the public, even though it is not in as meaningful a way as it could have been for the past two years.
In conclusion, I want to thank the Premier for inviting me to Ottawa. He and I share a love for the country, and I respect that. I admire that in parliamentarians. I suggest the leader of the New Democratic Party shares that love for the country as passionately as does the Premier and as do I.
We will watch the situation in Newfoundland very closely. We will pray that we will continue as a nation, from sea to sea, and after 23 June, there will be a much-needed healing process.
To this chamber, to the Premier and to my 129 colleagues, I pledge my support and my caucus’s support. We were able to have one brief meeting today. We will have an extensive one tomorrow. I know that I have their confidence in pledging our support to Canada and to the healing process that must flow, whatever happens on 23 June.
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the Premier if he can tell us what commitments, either informal or other, he has made with respect to the date by which this Legislature must pass the resolution which is being put before us today.
Hon Mr Peterson: We did discuss that matter. There is nothing on paper, as my honourable friend knows. A number of us discussed that matter and I said that I would try to introduce this in the House as quickly as possible and try to do it by 23 June. Some of the other ones will make the same attempt, but obviously we are not in the position to do that without the help of the members opposite. If there is an agreement in the House that this is the appropriate course of action, that is what I would ideally like. But if it does not happen, then, as I said, it is not the end of the world.
Mr B. Rae: Let me pursue the point. The Premier will understand that the resolution that is being put before us contains a three-page schedule. He will also understand that some of the schedule, some of what is being proposed are things that we have considered as a House and that the select committee has considered for a long time. I have no objection to those being dealt with expeditiously. Indeed, we have discussed that this morning and we are prepared to move very quickly on that.
Is the Premier prepared at least to agree to the simple fact that there has been no discussion in this House with respect to Senate reform for, as far as I am concerned, several years? Would the Premier not agree with that?
Hon Mr Peterson: Indeed, I do agree with that. Mindful of that situation and mindful of the pressures, as my honourable friend is and was, we created the select committee on Senate reform some time ago. It has already started its discussions in anticipation of knowing that we wanted to broaden out the process and discuss these matter ahead of time and knowing that the process, as it was, was flawed.
My honourable friend is quite right. I cannot bind him to do this by 23 June. There are lots of ways he could prevent that from happening, and I am quite mindful of that. There is nothing to prevent anybody from doing anything. My honourable friend is quite right. There are a number of things we have discussed in this House and there probably will be general agreement on those, but I recognize that this one may be a little more controversial.
Mr B. Rae: I must say to the Premier that I really do regret the tone of that answer. I will tell the Premier why. I have asked him, in a very straightforward way, the nature of the commitment he has made with respect to the date prior to 23 June. It is not a question of any one of us wanting to hold anything up or anything of that kind whatsoever. He knows that. He knows what we have been through as a province over the past three years. He knows the discussions that have taken place in this province.
I am just wondering, and I am wondering genuinely in a sense of wanting to get the answer out on the table, whether the Premier has made any commitments or feels compromised or bound by any commitments with respect to the process in Manitoba or Newfoundland or anywhere else in regard to the proposal on the Senate.
I am asking that in a straightforward way. If the answer is yes, we will have to deal with that. We are not going to be obstructionist in this matter at all. To be honest with the Premier and to be direct with him, we have not been obstructionist at all on this matter with respect to the Constitution, which I am sure he would agree with. I am asking him with regard to the Senate whether any embarrassment would be caused to the province by our saying we would like to have the opportunity to consider perhaps a little longer than simply four or five days the question of Senate reform.
Hon Mr Peterson: The answer is no, and I thought I laid out that commitment in response to the member’s first question. I said that in a perfect world I would like to do that, but he is under no obligation to do that. I would prefer it. I think it is a sign of faith to some of the other provinces. I think they understand the legislative process, as do we. I can understand my honourable friend’s question.
Really, the whole reason for this discussion with respect to Senate reform, as the member knows, was because it was on the agenda of Mr Wells, Mr Filmon and others, who had their own difficult political situations. I say as candidly as I can to my honourable friend, other leaders said that they would try to deal with this as quickly as possible, and it would be a good sign of faith from this province that we are committed to the processes we undertook, but it would not be the end of the world if it did not happen. I repeat, if at all possible, I would appreciate very much the co-operation of my friends opposite to do this.
Mr B. Rae: If that is the Premier’s attitude, I wonder whether he can tell us why it is that there was absolutely no discussion or consultation with regard to the decision of the Premier to give up the six Senate seats before he made that decision in the conference.
Hon Mr Peterson: It was on Friday last, a very, very critical time in the discussions. As the member knows, that agenda had been pushed very strongly by Mr Wells and Mr Filmon. The member will be aware as well that going into the conference, those were the two biggest sticky points. In a sense, many of the issues had been narrowed down to those two things, and those were the major topics of discussions over the week.
It is an idea, as I said, that developed on Friday, and its author was Jim MacPherson, the dean of Osgoode law school, to try to be helpful, to salvage what we thought was an extremely difficult situation. I discussed it in great depth with my colleagues, with the experts who were there, and they gave me the benefit of their advice. There was no prior consultation with any other government, but we were looking at ways to save a very, very difficult situation.
I say as honestly as I can to my friend opposite, it is a judgement I had to make, as the member has to make judgements that are extremely difficult some days, as we all do. There are pros and there are cons, and I have to be a big enough person to take whatever criticism I get for personally taking that judgement. The Attorney General assisted me, as did all our experts, and a judgement was made.
I think, as the member heard my colleagues say in conclusion -- not me but the other first ministers -- had it not been done, the whole thing probably would have collapsed. That is why I did what I did, and I have to take the responsibility for doing that.
Mr B. Rae: Would the Premier then not agree that, given that this idea came up in the course, as I understand it -- because I was not at any of these discussions, as the Premier will know -- given that this proposal came, in a sense, very quickly, was submitted by the Premier very quickly in what he in all accounts describes as a crisis situation, in which Mr Wells was heading towards the door and it looked as if the discussions were all over -- and talk about his wanting our co-operation -- I wonder, in terms of the problems or the credibility of the whole process, would the Premier not agree that it now makes sense to have a genuine consultation with the people of the province and an explanation as to its implications, rather than something which takes place over a four- or five-day period? We are told we have to have this before 23 June. Would it not make sense to really consult widely with the people on it?
Hon Mr Peterson: I do not think I said we had to have it by 23 June. I told the member my preference as candidly as I could. If that is possible, I would prefer that because I think it is a sign of good faith from Ontario to its colleagues and responds to the cry of many of the regions for a greater say at the centre in decision-making.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Why not seven? Why not eight? Why six? Why not five? I don’t understand.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend the member for Scarborough West is making some noise. He says: “Why not seven? Why not eight? Why six? Why not five?” All combinations of that were assessed, from our point of view. He is quite free to disagree with our assessment on that if he so chooses.
But I said to my honourable friend, if possible, I would like to proceed with that. If we cannot see our way to getting unanimous consent to do that, then I certainly understand the strictures on the legislative process. It is not my intention to try to force anybody to do anything. I am explaining to the member as best as I can, and we did along the way, the dilemmas, the difficulties, the decisions that had to be made. If the member can live with it, I would obviously be grateful.
Mr B. Rae: Could I ask the Premier, would he consider separating out part 1 and part 2 of the schedule? Would he consider the possibility at least, which is a reasonable suggestion, that the House deal quickly and expeditiously, indeed immediately, with those matters which have been fully discussed in the House, but that we table the matter of the Senate, that it be submitted to and discussed by the House, but at least recognize that it is going to take the Legislature of Ontario and the people of the province more than six days to accept a possible 25% reduction in our Senate representation in five years? Is it not reasonable to give us a little bit of time as a province to consider whether this has any implications or not? What is unreasonable about that?
Hon Mr Peterson: I will certainly take the honourable leader’s advice under advisement. It may be possible, it may not be possible or it may be impractical. As I said, the essential point to know here, I think, is this possibly may kick in five years from now, failing other achievements or advances with respect to Senate reform. It was, shall we say, the hand of good faith of Ontario going forward to Mr Wells and to the western provinces as well who, during the discussions, were far less aggressive than Mr Wells on this particular point, but that was the atmosphere in which we were dealing.
There may be possibilities of severing that off. On the other hand, I think we would have to reflect on whether it would be a sign of lack of faith and complicate the discussions in other provinces. I cannot speak for that right now. My honourable friend knows the difficulties in Manitoba as well as anyone in this House. He was dealing with that and providing a very constructive role. It is not our intention, as I said, to try to do anything peremptorily, or any other type. I think we could start the discussion. We will take the member’s idea under advisement. It may be possible, but the Attorney General tells me, at the face of it, it might be an extremely difficult thing to do.
Mrs Cunningham: Two weeks ago the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing met with the London North Community Association and advised that the city of London consider introducing a new rooming house bylaw based on the Guelph model. The Guelph bylaw classifies homes with more than three tenants as lodging houses rather than private homes. The commercial designation would assist the city in enforcing its property standards bylaw. Would the minister state for the record that this is his position on the exclusionary bylaw?
Hon Mr Sweeney: No, it was not intended to be that at all. As a matter of fact, I made very clear when I met with the delegation from London that the exclusionary bylaw stood alone, that there were a number of things that they and their municipal council could do. They could have a bylaw for rooming houses, they could enforce their bylaws for parking and for noise and for building maintenance, but the exclusionary bylaw was one that was put into the Legislature of the province because of the requirements of the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and had to stand alone.
Mrs Cunningham: I am certainly pleased that the minister has made the statement that he would support a bylaw for rooming houses; I am sure he said that. Unfortunately, now we are getting some mixed signals from his ministry, and we are looking for clarification today.
Sue Corke, a member of his ministry’s housing advocacy task force, was recently quoted in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record as stating that the Ministry of Housing is considering assisting the Guelph access to permanent housing committee in an appeal of the new Guelph bylaw before the Ontario Municipal Board, the one that the minister suggested would be a good model. In order to clarify the situation for all municipalities that are facing this tremendous challenge across the province, will he or will he not be proceeding with that appeal?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I recently wrote to the Guelph city council and complimented it on the fact that it has a boarding house bylaw. As a matter of fact, we have advised a number of municipalities across the province, not just Guelph and not just London, that it would be appropriate for them to move ahead in this way. However, there is a sense within my ministry that the Guelph bylaw is unduly restrictive in two areas. We have suggested to Guelph that we would much prefer if it would sit down with the ministry, moderate those two areas where we feel they are unduly restrictive, and that would resolve the problem.
In the meantime, we got a request from the access to permanent housing committee in Guelph, which, as the member knows, is a creature of the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Community and Social Services. We felt obligated to act on their behalf to recognize the concern that they had and indicated that if we could not resolve the issue through negotiation and dialogue, we would be prepared to support going before the municipal board and to get it to deal with those discriminatory parts.
Mrs Cunningham: I am not certain what those two parts would be, but would it be appropriate for the minister to assure the people of London that his Ministry of Housing would assist them in the drafting and implementation of a new bylaw based on that Guelph model? I am asking him today if that is the kind of support the ministry will give to any municipality across the province of Ontario that is looking at this rooming house bylaw to support the concerns that the minister knows and citizens across Ontario know are real problems in their community.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I thank my honourable colleague for making that observation, because I thought I had left that message very clear when I was in London. In fact, I even allocated right at that meeting a staff of my ministry who would be prepared to work with not just the municipal council of London but also the ratepayers’ group that had expressed some genuine and very credible concerns. Therefore, the answer was clearly yes then, and the answer is clearly yes today.
If I can go back to what I just said with respect to Guelph, we are quite prepared to use the good offices of our ministry staff to help it make those changes, and hopefully for other communities that have the same problem, we are quite prepared to assist them. We want them to have the bylaw, but we want them to have a good bylaw and we do not want it to be, as the access committee in Guelph has said, even more discriminatory than what is there now. We want to avoid the potential negative impacts and enhance the potential positive impacts, and my staff is quite prepared to assist in that.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Premier. This government is again the target of some very serious allegations about the conduct of its members. I am sure the members opposite will appreciate why, given the record of cabinet resignations for reasons of conflict of interest and bad judgement which they set over the last five years, unfortunately, we assign some degree of credibility to Ms Starr’s charge that a major, senior member of the Peterson cabinet coached her on ways of manipulating the Election Finances Act.
I remember last June when the Premier assured this House of his personal assurance that those whose performance had been found wanting will be discovered and those who have erred will be punished, and we all appreciate some of the steps he has taken. I know that he will be anxious to affirm his confidence in his personal word and would ask him what steps his government is taking to investigate this charge and to identify Ms Starr’s coach.
Hon Mr Peterson: It is in the hands of the courts and will be dealt with appropriately there, and I have great confidence in the courts.
Mrs Cunningham: I would think that the Premier would be very concerned about those kinds of remarks. I would also think that he and every member of this House will recall that about this time last year -- and that is why I am raising it; it has been over a year -- he was telling us how important it was to have all the facts, how the so-called Starr scandal happened was beyond him and that, to the best of the Premier’s knowledge, no one knew where the cheques came from. Ms Starr’s comments suggested that it happened because very senior members of the Liberal Party and government were involved in making it happen and further suggest that if the Premier did not know, then someone in his cabinet knew where those cheques were coming from. We are all facing it again.
So my question is: Would the Premier not agree that this latest allegation simply confirms that a full public inquiry into this mess is still needed and that he and his colleagues have a responsibility to ensure that one is held, particularly since it is now alleged that a member of the cabinet may be involved?
Hon Mr Peterson: We have gone through this on many occasions. I know my honourable friend knows that legal judgement from the Supreme Court of Canada, and it is in the courts and I am sure that all the facts will come out.
The Speaker: Final supplementary?
Mrs Cunningham: I do have a final supplementary. I hate to keep pushing this, but we on this side have always found that the government’s interpretation of the Supreme Court decision -- question 2 -- on the Houlden inquiry to be too convenient by half. That certainly is the feeling of many members of the public and it is certainly the feeling of this side of the House.
That court’s decision precluded inquiry into specific individuals subject to criminal prosecution. There must be some way, and I think we are somewhat amazed that the Attorney General, given his own personal esteem and his ability to get so many things done, it is just amazing that he cannot write terms of reference for an inquiry which would not violate the Constitution.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mrs Cunningham: We are amazed that he cannot find time to write terms of reference for an inquiry which would not violate the Constitution.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mrs Cunningham: Therefore, to the Premier: Does he not have this kind of confidence and does he not think it is necessary, and what will we have to do to get a public hearing so that this matter can be cleared up?
Hon Mr Peterson: I know where my honourable friend has been for the last little while, but I think it is all there. The processes are unfolding and all the facts will be there for my honourable friend to make her own judgements about.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Pouliot: To the Minister of Health: The minister will be aware of the acute lack of mental health care professionals to service northern Ontario. At present, if you take the area from Sudbury west to the Manitoba border, you have a total of some six psychiatrists to address the needs of 250,000 people. In contrast, the minister will also be aware that in the city of Ottawa, with a population of approximately 500,000, the number of psychiatrists rises to 200.
What specific plans does the minister have? What will she say to assure the House of her immediate plans to address the discrepancy, and more important, to address the acute shortage of psychiatrists to service the good people of Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I have answered this question in the House on a number of occasions. I have said to the member opposite that northern Ontario poses very special challenges in the delivery of health services because of the fact that it is so vast and sparsely populated. I can tell him that human resource planning across the province of Ontario is a priority. The Premier’s Council on Health Strategy is addressing it in a comprehensive way. We have established the Northern Health Human Resources Committee in the north, and I have met with it. I will say to him that we have a number of programs, the underserviced area program, northern residency programs and so forth, which I believe will go a long way to addressing the challenges we face.
Mr Pouliot: With respect and as a person, and it will be our secret between you and me, I really like what you are saying, but for the last five years we have been holding hands. It is time to come across.
I have a suggestion for you, Mr Speaker, by way of a question: I cannot remedy the problem; Elinor and I will do it together. Will the minister --
The Speaker: Perhaps the member might like to rephrase.
Mr Pouliot: Indeed thank you for your leadership, Mr Speaker. Under your tutelage I will indeed -- and thank you again -- reconsider.
The opposition is offering the simple remedy to address the acute shortage. Now that I have the minister’s attention, will she not fund a program to attract foreign doctors so that, at least on a short-term basis, people will be given the same treatment that people in southern Ontario take for granted?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, we have a program for graduates of foreign medical schools in this province which I believe offers opportunities for those people who have been trained outside of Ontario and outside of Canada. I believe that program is appropriate.
Overall, physician supply in the province of Ontario is adequate. There are, I admit quite openly, areas where we have difficulty attracting, particularly in northern and rural communities.
I would say to him, however, I believe there is the opportunity for young Ontarians to have the chance to become doctors and nurses and other personnel in our schools here and that I would support, first, the kind of northern residency program which we have just announced for northern Ontario to give young Ontarians that opportunity to learn to love the north as part of their medical training and experience.
As far as the specific issue that he addresses is concerned, I will tell him that the 10 Ontario psychiatric hospitals are developing the kind of network and working together to ensure that in the short term, while these medium- and longer-term initiatives come into force, we will have the opportunity to support the different regions that are experiencing temporary difficulties.
TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION SAFETY
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. The minister will be aware that the coroner’s inquest is now over for the Toronto Transit Commission accident that resulted in the death of John James Morrison. The coroner’s inquest has come forward with a series of recommendations dealing with improving safety measures on the Toronto Transit Commission. Many of these measures are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent further deaths and near-tragic incidents, as heard by the jury. Will the minister advise this House what assistance his ministry will provide to the TTC in order to implement these recommendations?
Hon Mr Wrye: I have not had a chance to go over with my officials the recommendations of the coroner’s jury in depth, but from what I have been told and the press reports that I have read, I am very pleased to see that the commission is moving expeditiously and in a very positive light to try to deal with these very, very important issues. I note particularly that some of the work was under way even while the inquest was proceeding and that the general manager of the TTC indicated following the report of the coroner’s jury that additional work would go forward as quickly as possible.
We met with the TTC leadership on some other matters last week and discussed this in passing, because the coroner’s jury had not yet reported, but I expect my officials will work very closely and certainly will work co-operatively, as we always do, with the TTC in making these very important changes.
Mr Cousens: I appreciate that the minister would be interested and I really hope that he personally will have a look at the recommendations and have a good understanding of just what has happened, because the testimony that came out of the hearings and the statistics that have emerged are really quite horrifying. According to some of the statistics, on average, one person is injured in the subway train doors every four days. I myself have heard of other instances where accidents or near accidents have happened.
I think really what I want to have the minister commit to today as much as anything is that he will do everything possible from within his ministry to ensure that the TTC carries out the recommendations, thereby ensuring that we can do everything possible to prevent any more unnecessary deaths.
Hon Mr Wrye: Certainly one of the areas that the coroner’s jury discussed in its recommendations was the area of the present two-whistle system and moving to a different kind of audible system. It is my understanding that the commission has already begun its review and expects to move forward to a different kind of system. We certainly stand ready to co-operate at all stages in ensuring that we not only have, as I have said to my good friend numerous times in the House, the finest public transit system in terms of the distances to be travelled and having up-to-date and modern equipment, but also, as I know he desires and as all of us desire in the House, the safest system. That is our goal and that is what we will be working co-operatively with the TTC on in the months ahead to ensure that goal is met.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Labour and it concerns the issue of plant closings and the kinds of consultation that occur between the government and the private sector prior to a corporate decision to close down operations in Ontario. The Legislature is familiar with the notice requirements and the labour adjustments which occur after closure, but my concern is with the prior consultation. Could the minister describe what he and his ministry do to attempt to avert a plant closure and whether the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology is in any way involved in the consultation process undertaken by the Ministry of Labour?
Hon Mr Phillips: As the member would appreciate, the Ministry of Labour primarily is involved in assisting the workers who are affected by closures. Having said that, of course the best thing is to have an economic climate in the province that avoids closures, and where we have a possible closure, to involve particularly the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology to see if there are not some alternatives to that. Certainly on a regular basis the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology is involved, using the funds from the Ontario Development Corp, the Eastern Ontario Development Corp or the Northern Ontario Development Corp.
Having said all that, it tends to be on a somewhat informal basis. In many cases it does happen, and in some cases the closure is averted. Again, the Ministry of Labour’s role tends to be most heavily involved in helping the workers who are affected by it, but in most cases the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology is apprised of the situation. Where they can be of help, they are of help, and they have a series of funds that are available for such cases.
Mr M. C. Ray: What I would like to know is whether or not we can expect any formal statutory consultation process to be established, and further, whether or not the Premier’s Council on the economy is in fact looking at legislative amendments that could be brought forward with respect to the whole issue of plant closure and worker protection.
Hon Mr Phillips: Again, I remind ourselves that our Premier had a vision several years ago and saw the need for ensuring that we consider these challenges and established the Premier’s Council. We had one report that advised the government to invest in helping to develop industries that were adding value to products. We invested about $1 billion in that.
The second part of that is the human side of it, because I think most members are aware the Premier’s Council is preparing its second major report to deal with the human side of it. It is the expectation that over the next few weeks, I believe, the Premier’s Council is nearing completion on that second major report. Again, I think the Premier should be commended for anticipating the challenges brought on, among other things, by free trade, setting the Premier’s Council up, and now we will have a report very shortly outlining some of the things that the government can do to assist workers during this transition period.
The first part of the question was, are we considering a more formal mechanism, and yes, we are. As I said in my earlier answer, we have an informal mechanism that tends to work, but there may be an opportunity for a more formal structure that we are considering.
GARSON MANOR NURSING HOME
Miss Martel: I have a question for the Minister of Health regarding Garson Manor, which is a private nursing home in my riding. Late Friday afternoon, staff of the manor went to cash their paycheques and discovered that they could not, as the manor had gone into receivership. At an emergency meeting which was held with the staff on Saturday morning, the administrator made several allegations: First of all, that the owner, Carl Bennett, had recently received some $55,000 from the Ministry of Health to meet his payroll needs and that now both he and the money have disappeared; second, that Mr Bennett has a number of outstanding bills with food distributors, in particular in the Sudbury area, and many of these are now over five months overdue; third, that as administrator he did not know what would happen to either the staff or to the residents at the manor.
I would like to ask the minister what she is doing to assure the community and the residents that the manor is going to continue to operate and to assure the staff that the terms of the collective agreement will be honoured.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I will say to the member opposite that I am not familiar with the issue that she raises and that I will be pleased to look into it.
Miss Martel: While she looks into that, may the minister keep this in mind. First, this is not the first time the manor has been in trouble. In fact, in the last 8 to 10 years, there has been a resale and sale on at least three different occasions. With the last two employers in particular, there have been constant problems with, first, receipt of cheques on time and, second, receipt of proper amounts due to staff. There have been major concerns raised by the union regarding the poor physical condition of the manor and there have been no improvements each time that a new owner took over.
I would like to ask the minister what guarantees she will provide on behalf of the residents, guardians and staff that in fact this manor will not again fall into the hands of some fly-by-night operator who does not care about staff and does not care about patients and should not be operating a nursing home in Ontario.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would appreciate it if the member opposite would provide me with whatever information she has and I undertake to look into this matter.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Agriculture and Food:
By now, I am sure the minister has had time to examine this proposal made by the national Grains and Oilseeds Safety Net Committee. A committee in which the government as well as producers participated, it recommended that gross revenue insurance and net income stabilization be in place by 1991-92. Does the government of Ontario intend to participate, and when will the minister announce that participation if it does?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am in constant contact, as the member knows, with my fellow ministers across the country. I am very excited by many of the ideas that have been brought forward here by the safety net task force. Yes, the government of Ontario and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food are quite prepared to enter into discussions to make sure that we get good grain stabilization programs nationally for the farmers of Ontario.
Mr Villeneuve: Farmers have noticed that this government and this minister are quite prepared to announce short-term, ad hoc announcements close to election time, but really there is no long-term planning so that farmers can make those long-term decisions which they have to make. Farmers need more time, not just a little amount of money for an upcoming election.
The minister does not have to wait until he drafts his final report and whatever. When does he intend to announce that he will be participating and that we as a province will be participating in the recommendations of the ad hoc committee?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to say to the honourable member that I agree with him about the ad hoc programs. I would rather not have to bring in ad hoc programs. He is right; it is because the federal government, in the last six years, has not got its act together that we have had to bring in short-term programs. That includes Mr Mazankowski. I appreciate his short-term program, but the member is right: The root of the problem is that we need long-term, national farm income stabilization programs across this country. I am quite prepared and committed to making sure that we get these programs off the ground and that Ontario is going to be there with the other provinces in entering these discussions with the federal government.
RETAIL SALES TAX
Mr Fleet: My question is of the Treasurer and it is based on a personal experience which many of my constituents also face. This is my daughter’s first pair of walking shoes at nine months of age. She will outgrow them in three months. They are sturdy and hard-soled Canadian-made shoes, but they are not fancy ones. I was shocked that these shoes, including provincial sales tax, cost $43.19. Certainly many of my constituents cannot cope with such prices. Although shoes are available for under $30, this typical advertising brochure for shoes demonstrates that reasonable-quality shoes for children of all ages routinely run from $40 to $60 or more.
Many years ago, for administrative simplicity, Ontario replaced sales tax exemption for children’s footwear with an across-the-board exemption on all shoes costing less than $30. My question for the Treasurer is, since the purpose of this exemption is no longer being met, is it not time to help Ontario families and either return to the original exemption or raise the current exemption?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Knowing my honourable friend’s enthusiasm, he may be buying quite a lot of those in the future.
I want to respond as carefully as I can because it just seems like last year when those shoes were $5 a pair. I guess times change.
I would like to point out to the honourable member, however, that the $30 exemption has not changed, as he pointed out, and instead of that, we have implemented a tax reduction program for people on low incomes. This year we added an extra $200 reduction from actual tax payable for people on relatively low incomes. I know the honourable member, being a member of this House, is not in that low-income category, so the advantage is not as apparent to him as it otherwise would be.
This additional commitment of about $30 million, as I recall, is $200 per child for low-income families.
It could well be that we should raise the exemption the honourable member is referring to, in addition, and I will certainly give that the careful consideration it merits.
Mr Fleet: The federal goods and services tax is particularly harsh for families. If a parent can manage to find a shoe priced at $29.99, he not only pays the 7% sales tax beginning in the new year, but because the GST raises the cost of shoes, he is unable to claim the under-$30 exemption and therefore also has to pay provincial sales tax. The GST will penalize all children’s clothing from head to toe. It is 7% directly out of the pockets of every single family for every single item.
Last week the federal government announced changes in the administration of the GST to help businesses. Is there any indication that the tax-happy Mulroney government will change the GST to help families?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I certainly am not in the situation where I am defending the federal government on this new tax and I do not intend to do so. I know of no direct assistance to families other than the quarterly payments that will be given to low-income families, which according to the Minister of Finance will make people who are earning $30,000 a year or less really exempt from the net effect.
I am interested to know that the honourable member is able to find, when pressed to it, shoes that are under $30 which will be over $30 when you add 7% to them. We will look into that aspect too.
REGULATION OF ZOOS
Mr Philip: I have a question of the Solicitor General. The minister will be aware that in 1988 my private member’s bill passed. This bill regulated private zoos. During that debate, the Minister of Natural Resources washed his hands of it and said that the Solicitor General would be bringing in legislation to regulate zoos in this province.
We have now seen the tragedy of a young man losing his arm at the zoo in Gananoque. Now that two years have passed, where is the legislation that will protect the public from this kind of tragedy?
Hon Mr Offer: I think the honourable member will recognize that there was a bill proposed, as he has alluded to, dealing with the licensing scheme for zoos and other animal exhibits. He will also be aware that his bill excluded circuses and pet stores. When this bill came up in second reading, I think the member will be well aware that though we certainly agreed with the direction of the bill, there were some concerns raised dealing with the necessity to deal with the whole question of animal welfare on a holistic basis as opposed to a fragmented basis. We have, as a result, created an interministerial committee which looks at a wide variety of issues dealing with the whole question of animal welfare. It does not exclude any one particular aspect.
We believe that is the best way to approach this very important issue. We believe this is the way in which the issue can be addressed in a comprehensive fashion. Currently, that particular committee has not only addressed those particular issues but has received consultation from outside, receiving the opinions and concerns --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Philip: The Liberal members on the committee blocked any kind of hearings on that bill. The Solicitor General will be aware of that. I am sure the Solicitor General will agree that for at least two years he has been receiving presentations from zoologists, humane societies, veterinarians and members of the public stating that it was just a matter of time before we would have a tragic accident in the private zoos in this province. We have now had this tragic accident. A young man has lost his arm, and I ask the Solicitor General how much longer we are going to wait until he brings in legislation to ensure the public is protected and that we have zoos that are operated in a humane and safe way in this province.
Hon Mr Offer: I think, in dealing with this particular issue, we have acknowledged that there are issues that must be addressed. We have gone further. We have stated that in order to address these issues, it can only be done in a comprehensive fashion dealing with a wide range of animal welfare issues. We should not, in any consultative effort which we have undertaken, exclude any one particular issue. We have looked at all of the issues. That interministerial committee has dealt with a wide variety of issues and has asked for and received a great deal of outside consultation to deal with what we believe is a matter which must be dealt with. That committee is on the basis of reporting in the very near future. I am looking forward to receiving the report to deal with the issues on the basis of a consultative, comprehensive approach to animal welfare.
Mr Philip: Irresponsible. How many tragedies does he want before he acts?
The Speaker: Order. The member had a question and a supplementary. Now I will recognize the member for Mississauga South.
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet. The minister knows an appeal is before the cabinet of the joint board’s decision against a landfill site which is being proposed by the North Simcoe Waste Management Association. The joint board turned down the application, based on methodology, and to quote briefly from the decision, “The proponent’s environmental assessment lacks the basic combination of reasonableness, consistency and a systematic approach.”
Sound methodology, including planning and the consideration and evaluation of alternatives, is integral to the Environmental Assessment Act. Can the minister assure this House that, when reviewing the joint board’s decision, cabinet will uphold the intent and requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act?
Hon Mr Elston: I am not sure in which capacity the question is addressed to me. I am the Chairman of Management Board, I am the chairman of cabinet, and I can tell the honourable member that when cabinet reviews material coming before it, it of course holds in place the intent of the legislation. But if the member wishes more specifics with respect to the Environmental Assessment Act or whatever, I can ask that the Minister of the Environment reply directly to her. Other than confirming that we are a law-abiding cabinet and will take into consideration the terms that are required by an appeal before us, I cannot give her any further information.
Mrs Marland: I am not suggesting that the cabinet is not law-abiding; I am just saying that its respect for the environmental assessment process begs a lot of questions in this province today. We can look at Project X last year that was going to throw out the environmental assessment process in favour of the development industry. We have lots of examples, unfortunately.
The minister’s government exempts the landfill sites from the full environmental assessment now in the greater Toronto area. This is why the question is so significant and this is why I am asking him, and I will ask him again, if he will guarantee that his cabinet colleagues will uphold the methodology requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act when they deal with the appeal for the North Simcoe Waste Management Association.
Hon Mr Elston: I am not prepared to release the decision of the cabinet before a decision has been rendered. I think that is really what the member is asking me for, and I am not in a position to be able to do that.
I would just like to advise the honourable member, however, that from time to time, people do things differently. Her party, when it was in power, used to exempt everything. In fact, it would not even implement the Environmental Assessment Act. They would not even move forward, as I recall, to actually give the Environmental Assessment Act any teeth. They would not actually stand up and deal with the issues in a very sensitive fashion. We are left with a whole series of environmental problems.
As I recall, there was one minister of the crown, the Minister of Transportation, and his deputy, who were prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act because he refused to take it into account.
I can tell the House that we in the Liberal Party have gone forward with environmental assessment and the Environmental Protection Act protections in a way which has moved us into the forefront, not just by the legislation we have but by a practical demonstration of consideration for environmental concerns. We will continue in that tradition.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. Recently the Harvey Woods plant in Woodstock closed. This plant was part of the Tag Apparel Group Inc, which has been placed in receivership. The plant employed about 600 workers, a great percentage of whom are women, loyal and hard-working people. Can the minister tell us what the government is doing to assist women who lose their jobs as a result of bankruptcy?
Hon Mrs Wilson: I have great sympathy for the workers who have lost their jobs as a result of this plant closure, and this government is committed to minimizing the effects on workers who lose their jobs as a result of plant closures.
In this case, the Ministry of Labour’s employment adjustment branch is there and working with the workers. Job adjustment committees have been formed and all employees are eligible to receive a full week of job search counselling.
My ministry is funding the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union to research the experience of older workers who have been laid off in the garment industry. We intend to use the data from this research to develop future policies. The importance of balanced economic development cannot be emphasized enough. Balanced economic growth ensures that there are quality jobs within a community for people to move to once there is a plant closure.
Finally, women in this province are benefiting from this government’s sound management of our economy and our social programs.
Mr Tatham: Some of the women who lost their jobs as a result of the Harvey Woods closure are immigrant and visible-minority women. Can the minister also tell this House what the government of Ontario is doing to enhance the participation of immigrant and visible-minority women in our economy?
Hon Mrs Wilson: If we are to remain competitive in this global economy, we are going to have to use all our human resources effectively. In this regard, my ministry, the Ontario women’s directorate, has targeted as a priority the needs of immigrant and visible-minority women in the province.
For example, my ministry is sponsoring a pilot labour adjustment program for immigrant women. The aim of the project is to develop a comprehensive labour adjustment package for women who are facing a plant closure or downsizing. My ministry is working with the Ministry of Labour and also with the Ministry of Skills Development in this project. In addition, my ministry has a community grants program. Each year we will send out some $160,000 for projects for immigrant and visible-minority women.
These examples, I believe, show very strongly our government’s commitment to meeting the needs of immigrant and visible-minority women in our workforce.
FUNDING OF AIDS DRUG
Mr Reville: My question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister knows, AZT, the primary treatment for AIDS, is a drug which is in the final stage of approval as a regular prescription drug. When that approval is given, the cost of such drugs will fall on the users of those drugs. The cost is substantial, up to about $5,000 per year. That is why the various AIDS committees around the province are calling on the government to commit itself to funding AZT regardless of whether people who use it are eligible for the drug benefit plan or not. Could the minister commit her government to doing that?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The ministry wants to ensure access to effective, high-quality care for all patients with AIDS and HIV infection. We have been seeking expert guidance from the Ontario Advisory Committee on AIDS. The medical subcommittee is reviewing advice and literature, as well as the federal guidelines in the context of all available literature, as well as in consultation with HIV primary care physicians. As he knows, at the present time these matters are all under review. Patients receive AZT through the network of outpatient clinics in the province.
Mr Reville: I am sure the minister will agree that persons living with AIDS and HIV are already terribly anxious. They are particularly anxious because many of them do not know how on earth they will be able to afford the $400 a month it costs to have this drug available. While we do not at all deny the value of seeking expert advice, the fact remains that unless this drug is provided, many of the people who use it will be forced to go on welfare or they will not be able to have it. I think it should be an easy political decision for the minister to make to commit her government now to making sure that no one goes without this drug because he cannot afford it.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that I am particularly proud of the record of the Ontario Ministry of Health and the leadership role that we have played in developing a program for both AIDS and HIV that is a model in this country. It has involved both professionals as well as community-based groups and public education, and appropriate access, I believe, to drugs such as AZT and aerosolized pentamidine in a way that I think reflects our commitment to ensuring that people have access to effective and high-quality care.
I take very seriously the issue he raises and I want him to know that the AIDS co-ordinator in the ministry is keeping in touch with the actions of the federal government, as well as ensuring that we gather all of the best available information that is possible. AZT is highly toxic and we want to make sure that we seek advice from experts. I am looking forward to the time when in fact there is a breakthrough in research so that those with HIV infection will perhaps have a better and brighter future than the one that exists today.
ABANDONED RAIL LINES
Mr Pollock: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. About two years ago an interministry committee was appointed to study abandoned railroads in the province. The Ministry of Transportation was supposed to be the lead ministry. I understand that particular report was supposed to be released in June. Can the minister tell me if that report is going to be released before too long?
Hon Mr Wrye: I would have to check for the honourable member as to the exact release date. We have done a great deal of work, working with our colleagues in a number of other ministries within government, on the issue of abandoned railways. It is an issue that is extremely troubling to the honourable member and to a number of the members of his caucus, I am sure, as both of the railway companies seek to walk away from commitments they have had through the years. We have to try to address that problem in a useful way. I cannot give the honourable member an exact date for the release of that report, but it should be shortly.
Mr Pollock: Actually, it is not totally troubling to me. I actually want one particular railroad taken over by the province and run as a recreation trail. The people have been waiting, as I mentioned, for approximately two years and I just wondered when that report was really going to be released and basically what it was really going to say.
Hon Mr Wrye: I would look forward to discussing privately with the honourable member the railway line in question that presumably runs through the great riding of Hastings-Peterborough. I look forward to that discussion. I must say it is of some regret, in some of these cases, that such lines are being abandoned. As the honourable member knows, quite often the province has been taking a role in front of the commission in opposition to proposals to abandon rail lines, and we intend to continue to do so where we think the best interests of the province are at stake.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Labour. The minister will be aware that last Thursday afternoon in Windsor there were 2,000 people demonstrating against his government because of the lack of proper plant closure legislation. I would like to ask the minister a very simple question. The frustration and anger at this demonstration was very clear. As the minister will know, in my community there have been over a dozen plant closures in the last few months.
Does the minister not realize that if he does not bring in up-to-date, modern plant closure legislation that provides for public justification, adequate notice and a more comprehensive form of severance pay, that if this kind of legislation is not brought in, communities like Windsor will revolt and there will be the breaking of laws by the occupation of plants and other activities so that workers can at least protect themselves if he is not prepared to protect them?
Hon Mr Phillips: I dealt partially with the same subject earlier today in question period. Again I go back to the full appreciation that for laid-off workers, the fact that we have seen jobs created in the province -- I think 720,000 jobs in the past five years -- and the fact that we have seen the unemployment rate drop significantly in the past five years, I realize is not of importance to an individual who is laid off. We have been fortunate in the province to have a strong economy.
For those particular workers, I would provide the assurance that we have the best severance program of any province in this country. We have the longest notice of any province in this country. We ensure that where there is a layoff we are notified and that we set up an industrial restructuring group where both labour and management want it. We work with the employees to help in that situation.
As I said earlier, we are looking at other things we might do, but I would not want any member of the House to not recognize that we have, as I say, the best severance package in Canada. We have good notice provisions. We ensure that we set up a joint committee made up of the workers and the employer to work as closely as we can with the affected parties. Having said all that, as I said earlier today, we are looking at things that we can do to also improve that.
Mr Scott moved that the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs be authorized to consider the 1990 constitutional agreement signed at Ottawa on 9 June 1990 (sessional paper number 400) and to report to the House no later than Wednesday, 20 June 1990; and that for the purpose of this motion, the committee be authorized to meet concurrently with the House and during any adjournment of the House, subject to the agreement of the House leader and the chief whip of each recognized party.
Hon Mr Scott: It has been an honour to move the reference of the agreement made by the 11 first ministers of the Canadian Confederation at Ottawa last Saturday into committee for consideration by the committee and by this House. Honourable members are aware that the issue that will be considered by the committee and ultimately by the House raises fundamental and very important questions about the nature of our federation.
The concerns that were expressed in statements today naturally focus on the agreement and its history and take two forms. There is concern about process and there is concern and has been concern about substance. I would propose, with your permission, Mr Speaker, to address each of these subjects in turn.
First, the process: I do not think there can be anybody in the country who would not be distressed by observing the process and the pressures of time under which it was in one sense conducted. On the other hand, it bears saying that in some respects those pressures are a function of the 1982 Constitution itself.
Honourable members will recall that before 1982 there was no way at all to amend the British North America Act within Canada. The practice before 1982 had been to amend it by the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada, with or without the approval of others, and submitting a resolution to the British House of Commons and the House of Lords for enactment. Members will know that all amendments to the British North America Act from Confederation in 1867 until 1982 took that form. There was no other form.
Indeed, honourable members will recall that in the great debates and conferences that were associated with the repatriation effort in the early l980s and the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when Mr Trudeau, after consulting with his provincial colleagues, contemplated that there would be resistance to his proposals he simply indicated, as in law he was or thought he was perfectly entitled to do, that if they would not agree with him he would go to the House of Commons in London to see that his charter was enacted. He was challenged on that. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that he could do that, but only if there was some general concurrence among the provinces as to the proposal that was being made.
Therefore it was critical in 1982 to build into the Constitution, which we were repatriating, an amendment formula. That was done after considerable consideration. The amending formula of the Constitution of 1982 essentially establishes who will enact amendments. The enacting authority for amendments is of course the people of Canada, not by referendum but the people of Canada as represented by the legislatures of the provinces and the House of Commons and Senate of the Parliament of Canada. So the Constitution provides that the enacting authority is not some constitutional convention or some referendum, but is precisely the resolutions of the legislatures and the Parliament.
The Constitution of Canada also provides the method by which enactment will take place in terms of numbers. It provides unanimity with respect to legislative enactment in some respects, and provides that certain other amendments may be undertaken upon the resolution of seven of the provinces representing 50% of the population.
The formula that was evident last week, which required unanimity, was not a formula that the first ministers took on themselves or that was imposed by the Prime Minister; it was a formula dictated by the Constitution of Canada, 1982.
As well, the time frame within which the issue is said to be required to be decided -- that is, by 23 June -- is not a time frame that has been fixed by first ministers or by the whim of any politicians or statesmen in the country; it is a time frame fixed precisely by the Constitution of Canada.
I say to honourable members that it is fair comment to say that this process can be better, but one must recognize that the bare bones of the process are dictated not by first ministers or indeed by members of this Legislature but by the terms of the Constitution themselves. If any amendments were undertaken that did not comply with those guidelines, that act would itself be unconstitutional.
Thus when I hear some of my friends say, “Well, we shouldn’t rush. June 23 is too soon. We should let it go six months or six weeks,” I want them to understand that the Constitution does not permit that to happen. Much as one would like to do it, it would itself require a constitutional amendment for that to take place.
That having been said, there is plenty of room for consideration about whether a new constitutional method should be devised, or whether within the existing framework there are not modifications we can make. I have heard a lot of people say that we must never do this again and that we must make changes about the way we do it. With that I entirely agree. I have heard many fewer people describe precisely, except in the most generalized terms -- more listening -- what those changes might be.
I was fascinated to hear the Leader of the Opposition, whose views on this matter I take very seriously, assert that a significant part of the negotiation process between the governments that will lead to enactment in the Legislature should take place in public. I was fascinated to hear that, not only because he made a convincing case but because last night on television -- the only entertainment I felt capable myself of participating in yesterday -- his former leader, Ed Broadbent, made exactly the opposite case with equal conviction, that if people thought this kind of exercise under our Constitution could be undertaken in public, they did not know anything about meaningful negotiations.
For the moment, I opt not for one proposition or the other. I stand somewhere between the Leader of the Opposition --
Mr Breaugh: One leg on both sides; yes, we know.
Hon Mr Scott: I am glad to have the Leader of the Opposition on the left of me and Ed Broadbent on the right of me.
I simply give that example to say that when we talk about process, we must talk about specifics.
I saw, as perhaps honourable members did, and this is on the subject of process again, a fascinating television account on the CBC in which the CBC brought eight or nine Canadians from places as far apart as Newfoundland and British Columbia together to discuss in straightforward terms issues of constitutionalism, as it struck then. The CBC filmed the enterprise over a weekend at a resort not far from the residence of the honourable member for Oshawa, and then put it on television. Of course it was fascinating. You saw these eight people coming into the lodge, introducing themselves to each other. One was from Newfoundland, another from Quebec, one from the Yukon, one in fact from Oshawa -- not perhaps in every respect typical of that community, but none the less a Canadian representative of certain views.
You saw them at their first meal, when they discussed where they came from and what their general views were. Then you saw them begin to talk about the issues of what it meant to be a Canadian and how we should organize our national affairs. By Saturday at noon one of them proposed: “It’s the politicians who have got us into this trouble. If we ordinary Canadians sat down to talk about the problems of duality, of multiculturalism, of equality in our community, we could make a solution. Why? Because we are reasonable people and the politicians are not.” So one of them got out a pencil and a piece of paper, “Let’s list the things that we think are important in the way we govern ourselves.” They did their best, because they were intelligent, well-intended Canadians.
The following clip is the next day. They are arguing bitterly. They are at each other’s throats. They cannot agree. The representative from Ontario cannot accept the views of the young woman who came from Montreal. The chap from Newfoundland rejected the ideas of the woman who came from the Yukon. They had to pronounce failure. In the last scene, on Sunday night they are leaving the lodge and they have become great friends -- and they did become great friends, as far as one can tell -- but they cannot agree on how or on what principles our country is to be governed and, as they part, they burst into tears at that reality.
The process about which we are all concerned is established by the Constitution and is in many respects unsatisfactory in principle and in its application. This is the first time we have ever attempted to apply that process, and as the Premier said today, we have learned much about the strengths and weaknesses of that process. As I hope that example makes plain in another context, we have also learned much about ourselves as Canadians as we tried to work that process. So I know that honourable members will be particularly pleased with the part of the accord that recommends that serious consideration be given to modifying, either within the existing framework or otherwise, a new process for Canadians.
Let me turn to substance. As honourable members know, the problem that we have been confronting for the last five years really arises because, in 1982, the government of Quebec was not prepared to accept the recommendations or the adjustments in constitutional terms that had been substantially agreed to by the government of Canada and the other provincial governments. The government of Quebec at the time, under Premier René Lévesque, had advanced and stood by some 20-odd proposals which, as far as the government of Quebec was concerned, were the sine qua non before it would sign and support repatriation and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The governments of the day, and I say this carefully, I think were wise to reject that ultimatum, but it created a major obstacle because, while in a technical sense Quebec remained bound by the terms of the Constitution, it had, as it was entitled to do, wholly opted out of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and had not made the moral commitment to our new Confederation of 1982, upon which our ability to live together effectively in this country was going to be almost totally dependent.
It was apparent -- it must have been apparent the day Mr Trudeau put down his pen -- that within a year or two steps would have to be taken to accommodate the legitimate needs of Quebec, in so far as they could be properly accommodated, and to bring Quebec within the constitutional family of Canada.
This was important for a second reason. It was apparent that until that was done, the governments of Quebec would not participate in further constitutional amendments. I remember the aboriginal round which took place in 1986-87. It failed for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons high on the list that led to its failure, in my opinion, was the absence of Quebec from that constitutional negotiating round.
But an important thing happened with the election of the Liberal Party in the province of Quebec in December 1985, because that party had campaigned and had won the election on a program of constitutionalism that rejected the demands that the Péquistes and René Lévesque had presented. It was within six months of their election at a conference, sponsored, interestingly enough, by Queen’s University at Mont-Gabriel, Quebec, that the Attorney General of the Quebec, M. Rémillard, in a speech advanced the five points which Quebec sought to accommodate in order to participate in the Canadian Constitutional family.
Canadians were startled at the Rémillard speech because, while it had been predicted in policy papers of the party, it was the first public representation in a formal way that the new government of Quebec was prepared to deal reasonably and in modest proportion with its own constitutional needs and the constitutional needs of the country.
Canada had said no to Quebec in 1982, and for reasons I understand. At Mont-Gabriel, the new government of Quebec said yes to Canada for the first time. Following that announcement, the government of Quebec and its representatives travelled across Canada to Ottawa and the provincial capitals to determine the extent to which there could be an accommodation around their five points.
In August 1986, at Edmonton, the first ministers of Canada, having reviewed the five points and the extent to which there was provincial and federal support for an accommodation around those five points, declared that they would initiate a constitutional round called the Quebec round, which would be designed to repair the omission of Quebec in 1982 around those five points. All the first ministers of Canada at that time unanimously directed that other important issues should be put for a time to one side so that this historic omission could be corrected.
Following the Edmonton declaration in August 1986, which was public, there were negotiations, there were debates, there was a series of articles in the press -- none of this was going on in secret -- about the five Quebec proposals. In April 1987, at Meech Lake, the first ministers unanimously established an agreement in principle which set out what was later to become known as the Meech Lake accord. That agreement was released to the public, greeted with very considerable approval at the time, was circulated widely and was the subject of editorial and news comment.
In June 1987, the Meech Lake agreement in principle was reduced to a detailed accord, which is called by the name of the agreement in principle, the Meech Lake accord. The Meech Lake accord again unanimously represented the views of the government of Canada and all ten provinces at that time.
In November 1987, a select committee of this Legislature, after hearings and after the consideration of a wide variety of points of view, approved the Meech Lake accord, or the Langevin accord, and set out its views about the agenda that should be adopted following the approval of Meech Lake. I have no hesitation in telling the honourable members that the work of the Ontario select committee was widely noticed across Canada, and in other legislatures became a kind of focus for the work of review that they were at the same time undertaking. It was not long before the government of Canada and seven legislatures had approved the Meech Lake accord, moving towards the deadline, which in effect, is constitutionally imposed, of 23 June in this year.
In the meantime, of course, three governments that had not participated in the negotiations which their predecessors had participated in were elected in Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Each of those governments expressed reservations, either about parts of the accord that their predecessor government had approved or about the agenda that should be adopted by the governments following the enactment of the accord or about the extent to which that subsequent agenda should be made contemporaneous with the accord itself.
The honourable members will know that for three years we have had in this country, on television, on radio, at public meetings and in schools, the most protracted and elaborate discussion of a constitutional accord that has probably ever taken place in the country. As we approached the deadline, constitutionally imposed, to approve the Meech Lake accord, a conference was called -- a dinner actually -- by the Prime Minister.
There was very great fear that the three governments which had not yet ratified the accord through legislative action might be unwilling to do so. That, as honourable members will know, set up the agenda for the meeting that took place last week. The government of Ontario, reflecting, I think, the attitude of this Legislature and the bipartisan nature of the process in which we have here been engaged, took the view that while there were a series of important and modest corrections that could be made to the Meech Lake test, our primary obligation must be, if it could be, to legislatively enact the constitutional amendment that was entitled the Meech Lake accord and, to whatever extent was necessary or appropriate, to establish the post-Meech Lake constitutional amendment.
That was the exercise in which we were involved last week. I am happy to say, though options are not entirely foreclosed, that a favourable result was achieved. The parties to the agreement agreed to introduce the Meech Lake accord for enactment in those three legislatures which had not yet enacted it. Each of the signing parties, in addition, agreed to enact certain amendments of an important but relatively minor nature, and each of the signing parties agreed either to constitutionalize or, in political terms, to commit themselves to an agenda for the future which involved Senate reform, an examination of a Canada clause, entitlement to an aboriginal constitutional round and a series of other constitutional initiatives.
For those who were honoured to participate in the work of the governments last week, it was a tiring but rewarding, and I believe, historically important experience. We led, on behalf of the government and this Legislature, a team of very distinguished public servants and a team of representatives of the community and of the constitutional law community that was probably more sophisticated than any that had ever previously been established for such a purpose. It was a great honour and a useful experience to have both the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party participate with us, as members of our delegation, in that process.
The setting for the conference at the beginning of the week was simply this. Seven provincial governments and seven provincial legislatures had already legislatively enacted the Meech Lake accord. The government of Canada had done so. Unanimity was required and three governments and three legislatures had not enacted it. I think it is a fair comment to say that probably by Tuesday it was apparent that the government and Legislature of New Brunswick -- in New Brunswick, they are virtually the same this year -- were able to act and indicated publicly that they were prepared to do so.
So by Tuesday we had about nine governments and legislatures on side, and two, Manitoba and Newfoundland, which were not prepared to support. As honourable members well know, each of them had raised objections about the accord, about the succeeding agenda following the accord, or both. Honourable members will also be aware that the conference was confronted by a unique phenomenon in Manitoba where the first minister was not able to speak for a majority in the Legislature, as most first ministers usually are. That reality imposed a dynamic on the conference that was unusual and difficult for that first minister and for his colleagues.
The conference was long. It was conducted in circumstances of very great pressure and difficulty because of the 23 June deadline, which, I have already noted, is in function imposed by the Constitution. But it was productive, and honourable members will have before them in the committee the agreement itself, which will show the amendments that are proposed to the accord and the agenda for constitutional discussion that we are bound to undertake, following the Meech Lake accord.
As a participant in that exercise, I hear the concerns of those who say that it took too long and was conducted in circumstances of very great pressure. I am sympathetic to that. I add only that among those out there who complain the most about its length are one or two who caused its length to be what it was. I do not say that critically of any government, because governments have the authority to run the process as they think best.
But as I say, by Tuesday there were nine governments in support. By Friday there were 10 governments in support when Mr Filmon said he believed an acceptable accommodation had been made. By Saturday night I believe there were at least 11 governments in support of the proposition to introduce the Constitution in their respective legislatures.
I hope the members of the committee will move to consider the agreement quickly. I assure them and this Legislature that the Ministry of the Attorney General will be delighted to provide whatever assistance is necessary to the Chairman or members of the committee to expedite their work.
We have come, after some eight years which commenced in 1982, to the culmination of a very great work: the inclusion in our constitutional family of a province, and one of the original cultural groupings in this country is found in that province, which has perforce been excluded by the action of the government of Quebec in 1982.
A new government exists in Quebec. A new time exists in Quebec. Quebec has, since 1982, on at least three occasions said yes to the rest of Canada: “Yes, we are ready to undertake this experience with you. Yes, we are ready to do it if these modest accommodations can be made. Yes, we believe that with these accommodations a new start can be made.” I know, because this matter has been debated on a bipartisan basis before, that this Legislature is prepared to say yes to Quebec. I believe, hope and pray to whatever gods there may be that other legislatures in this country will have the determination and will to say yes in the same way. Before I sit down, I just add one important note, or I believe it to be important. Canadians will not want to regard this as the end of a voyage, though naturally, looking at the history, one thinks of oneself as having reached some kind of culminating stage. It is in one sense the end of an era which is represented by bringing Quebec within our constitutional family, but it is the beginning of a new era, a new era in which Quebec and the other provinces will have more constitutional change, as the agenda for the future makes plain, will have more adjustments to make about how they live with one another and will have more challenges to confront. I hope no honourable members find that depressing. If they do, they would be wise to look at the history of this part of the non-American North American continent since the American Revolution. Since that period of time, groups of people living in what is now Canada have from time to time been obliged to make a wide variety of political and constitutional adjustments about how they would live one with each other. Indeed, the British North America Act, which was hotly debated in 1863, was seen as that kind of adjustment, and there will be more.
So on this day when I hope we will send this agreement to committee for approval, I join with all honourable members here in saying to our compatriots in the province of Quebec, “Thanks to your efforts, Quebeckers, in 1985 and 1987, we are now able to say yes to you as you said, then, yes to us.” We do it not as a symbol that the end of a hegira has occurred, but that we have provided an opportunity for all Canadians in Quebec and elsewhere to begin a new and important voyage into our national future.
Mr Breaugh: We want to lend our support to the resolution.
I think all of us who are practising politicians spent at least part of last week watching the proceedings in Ottawa. It was kind of like turning on Hockey Night in Canada and before the game starts, somebody announces, “Sorry, there will be no game tonight, we’re going to give you three hours of Don Cherry’s opinions.”
There was something missing. The nation was ready to observe a process. However right or wrong one feels about these things, one had to admit that they set the stage rather grandly, that the chairs were arrayed, the flags were out, the television cameras were there, the commentators were present -- and the players were missing. They were elsewhere. Somehow many, I think, like me, felt cheated by this process, that we had a right in a democracy to see the process unfold in a better way than was presented to us.
There are good reasons and bad reasons for doing things in this way. All of us who have ever negotiated anything, whether that is a union contract or negotiating on behalf of a municipality or negotiating an agreement among political parties here at Queen’s Park, we all understand that there are times in the process of negotiations when you are not well served by being in the public eye, that there will always be an occasion when you need to kind of step back from the glare of television cameras and careful examination and freely exchange your points of view.
But that is not much in the way of a major defence for what transpired last week, and for those who say, “Well, we were bound by something like a Constitution to do it that way,” I would beg to differ. I would agree that a certain amount of private negotiation is always necessary, but you cannot conduct the business of a democracy in private. It is unfortunate, but it is a lesson that every politician must learn, that your chances of success diminish greatly by the amount of privacy that you use in getting to that process.
Those of us who have served at a municipal level know this: When you are proposing to build a road through some part of your community, you may not want to have a public hearing on it. It may be one of the most unpleasant experiences you ever go through. But if your case is good, you have to take it to the people and tell them why you are doing that and you have to do that in public. If you are going to expend large amounts of money to build a new arena, you have to explain how you made your decision, in a public way. The only chance you have of gaining acceptance from your community is to allow it the opportunity to see what you are doing, to be participants in that.
For those who are calling now for a change in the process, that is a basic, that is a fundamental thing. It is not that you have public hearings because you like to take abuse from people whose views are different from yours. It is because you understand that in the long run, without that public access point, you stand no chance at all of succeeding in your arguments.
That is a lesson that needs to be learned in this country. What struck me as odd last week as I watched the proceedings was that it was as if 11 of the most important politicians in Canada have not learned that basic credo of democracy: You cannot do it all behind closed doors.
In Ontario, in Manitoba, in New Brunswick, and lately in the federal government, they understood that. In each of those places they did the public part of the process that is necessary, they went out and they listened to their population, they assessed what the priorities were, they picked what they thought were the most important things that needed to be acted on and put them in a public report and tabled those documents.
If what happened in Ottawa last week was the natural culmination of those processes coming together, then that would be roughly what the Ontario committee suggested as a reasonable way to proceed and people in this country would understand what the 11 first ministers were trying to do.
But unfortunately for the old Meech Lake accord, what has transpired is that the 11 leaders struck an agreement and then they let everybody else, most of whom, I am sure, have never read the agreement, explain what it was all about to the people in this country. You cannot win that way. You cannot get the population to understand what you are even trying to do that way, and it runs directly against the democratic process that we are supposed to be about.
I think when the Ontario committee went through this process, we got some sense of the anger and frustration that is out there. I do not suggest for a moment that we were able even to address all of the concerns, but at the end of the day people had an opportunity to present their point of view to a committee of this Legislature and at the end of the day the committee had argued out what it thought was a consensus position. It did not accept everybody’s point of view. It got as much as it could and it did so in public and it tabled a public document for discussion.
One of the things that I regret from last week’s experience was simply this: We did that more than two years ago, and at that time we suggested that we had not found all of these solutions either, but here was our first run at finding solutions and here are some things that this Legislature can do -- and we did them -- and we suggested that they be forwarded to every Legislature in the country and that they do the same thing. If last week had been a culmination of a series of hearings across the country for the last two or three years, those proceedings in Ottawa would have been viewed quite differently than they were.
I listened to the Attorney General today talk about the CBC and The Journal’s attempt to kind of pull together people from across this country. I watched the same program. I came to somewhat different conclusions. I saw ordinary Canadians from different parts of this country talking to one another, and they did not come up with easy answers, because there are none, but they did come up with some level of understanding of what this nation is all about.
That is the first thing that is apparent when you talk to Canadians: They do not know their own country; they often do not even know their own community. I saw the young gentleman from Oshawa who was on the program. He was really quite unaware of things that were happening in his own city, so it is a bit of a reach to expect him to understand what is going on in Quebec or British Columbia or in the Yukon. But at the end of the process, he had some sense of how other people in this same country see it a little differently than he does.
There are some who feel that there is no sense of bigotry in this country. What a silly notion, that this nation could be so pure that we would not have any bigotry or any racism or any hatred among us. What a silly, naïve concept that is. Of course it is here. We can pretend not to see it; we can pretend that we do not have to do anything about it; but to be so stupid as to think it is not here is really quite bizarre.
Of course it is here, and of course there are many things that we have to do now that we really wish we did not have to. It would have been nice, for example, if in Metropolitan Toronto 10 years ago, when everything was nice and calm, we had started to talk about race relations and the role of the police in a community that is changing and prepared for that. But we did not, so now we will try to do it after the fact.
I listened with great interest last week to a lot of people talk about a crisis in the country. For some, that is a very real crisis. For some, there was the spectre of a breakup of a nation right before your very eyes, and many of the people I talk to are confused about that. They do not see a crisis where they live. They have a crisis in their life about losing their job or a daughter or a son with a problem or something that has really gone wrong in the neighbourhood, but they do not spend a lot of their time thinking about the nation. Those who do seem to be grabbing on the idea that there is something of a crisis proportion at work here and if you do not somehow agree with this accord, this subsequent agreement, the nation breaks up. That is a terribly threatening position to be put in.
I watched somebody whom I would not vote for but whom I respect a lot, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it seems to me he got himself painted into the worst possible corner that any politician ever could. He took away his opportunity to voice dissent on an agreement by accepting the notion that anybody who dared to not sign that agreement was somehow unpatriotic.
That cannot be, can it? Is it so wrong in this country that you must accept the prevailing wisdom, that you cannot say, “No, I don’t agree with that,” or you become a traitor of some sort? Is that what this nation is about? Boy, I hope not. As one who has been a dissident for a long time in a lot of different places, it had better not be.
Hon Mr Scott: We’re going to deal with you, but not that way.
Mr Breaugh: Well, I reserve the right to say I do not agree with things from time to time, and as all of us who are practising politicians understand, I would not be a New Democrat if most of the time I did not agree with the New Democratic Party. I would probably have to join the Attorney General, and that would be a terrible thing for me to do.
A lot of us in Canada now have to deal with something that we do not want to deal with, and that is called the Senate. Most of us have not spent a lot of time thinking about the Senate. Some of us, for example, members of our constitutional committee, have been to Ottawa. It is an interesting place to visit.
You ask different senators, “What is the Senate?” and you get completely different answers: “It’s a place to think about stuff.” “It’s a place to study things.” Some say it is a full legislative chamber. So I think at the end of my interviews with the senators, I would have to say, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
Some have grabbed the idea that now maybe democracy should break out in the Senate of Canada; they should be elected. Then the next logical question is, “If they’re all going to be elected, what are they going to do?” Do we really want two chambers at the end of the hall, both elected, both with full powers, to have noon-hour meetings? Right now when there is an impasse between the Senate and the House of Commons, they send one another little notes -- it is kind of at that level -- or they go and have a discussion. So there is not a great problem now, but it could be in the near future that we are all collectively, as a nation, going to have think about what the Senate is going to do.
Fine, they should all be elected, great stuff; fine, they should all be equal; fine, they should all be effective; but what are we going to do with the House of Commons then? One of these two bodies may become redundant, and I do not think the House of Commons has in mind that it should fold up shop and go away.
Let me get on to some things that I think are beginning to grind at the country. I am not one who advocates that there is a crisis afoot here; I really do not. In the Canadian Tire store things are fine. The whole Midtown Mall is operating as it always should. People are playing softball; they are having a good time; they are not worried about the country breaking up. I have to say to them that there are some problems that we are going to have to think about, but they are not of crisis proportion yet. They could get that way.
If we do not find some way to deal with the treatment of aboriginal peoples in this country fairly and thoroughly, finally, we really ought to give up in disgrace. We have been at that for more than a century. We have not yet come to grips with that. That is a must.
If we have begun to stir up among the women in this country some great feeling that they are equal to all the men in this country, then you cannot come back at them with some agreement which seems to threaten that. So that must be rectified.
If you are going to talk about a multicultural nation, you are going to have to address that. In the discussions last week they talked about -- I believe the new technical parlance for it is a Canada clause. What is Canada? That seems to be a problem. We have not quite sorted that out. Some seem to be in favour of multiculturalism; some seem not to be. Some seem not to have accepted yet that there is a French fact in this country, that there always has been, that we have had arguments and wars and elections and referendums and everything else you can think of to sort that out and there still remains a French fact in Canada, as there always has been.
Is it too much to ask everybody, not to love that, not to embrace that as a great, wonderful thing, but to simply respect that? Because that is what I sense is missing in this nation at the moment, and part of it goes from the top of the country to the bottom of the country, to the very foundations of this country of ours. People are losing respect for one another, respect for their political process, and most of all, respect for those people they actually voted for. We cannot survive if we lose that one.
I think part of the problem is the way the original Meech Lake accord was presented to the nation. If you go home tonight and you say to your eldest son, “This is your round; you get the car tonight,” I know what my daughter would say to me:
“What do you mean he gets the car tonight? Why don’t I get the car tonight?” You go through all of that kind of internal argument in a family whenever you say to one person in the family, “Well, this is your round and everybody else will have to wait their turn to get their round.” The Meech Lake accord was presented broadly in the nation as being Quebec’s round. My own colleagues used that terminology.
All of that is true, and all of it should be, but certainly somebody should have thought of how that will be received by the nation. I think it was put forward in too simplistic terminology. The country quite rightly said, “Well, what are they getting?” When you read the Meech Lake accord and you find out that Quebec does not get any special powers in the Meech Lake accord, then people ask the logical question, “Well, if they don’t get any special powers, how come it is called the Quebec round?” We, as politicians in this nation, did not do a very good job of explaining what was actually in that first accord.
I do not think the nation has come to grips with language rights at all. I think in the Ontario experience of providing rights for our francophone minority we have struggled with how you present that to the population as a whole and, by and large, we have stepped back and let those who are opposed to that notion hold forth with their views. We need to find a balance in all of that.
What I think is missing in all of this goes back to the original thought of the process that is involved. Those of us who hold public office in some forum -- whether that is in a little, rural municipality or whether that is in the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa -- ought to understand the basics of how the democratic process works. It does not work at all when the public cannot see what the politicians are doing, even if you are doing noble deeds, even if you are working long hours, even if you are really giving it your best shot. The public in this nation has a right to see what your best shot is. If you do not do all of that with some large measure of respect for people who are of opposing views, the worst part is that you generate a lack of respect for yourself.
This place that I love, this old, haunted joint full of thousands of ghosts who have schemed and thought about what is the best thing for Ontario and made great speeches about all of that, does not work at all when you lose respect on both sides of the House. A government -- and I have seen lots of them in here now -- that loses respect for the opposition soon finds that gets it on a slide in a hurry. Once the government loses any respect for the opposition parties, the opposition parties say:
“What are we, stupid? We’re not going to stand around and respect those guys. They just called us a lot of names.” So they give it back, and soon you find that the whole place degenerates. It does not work any more.
A parliamentary democracy is based on a funny premise: that we are all honourable members. Whether that is true or not, if you want the process to work, you had better work on that assumption. You had better give them the benefit of a doubt. You had better make sure that they can say no to your fine idea. The challenge for you is to defuse their argument, to refute the argument that they are putting forth without casting any disrespect on them, because at the end of the day, there is another day. You might have dumped all over somebody the day before, but he will be around to get you the next day.
Part of what I saw as a major flaw in what went on last week was simply that the process was a wrong one. One can defend it. One can say that it is part of the Constitution. One can say a whole lot of things. What I am trying to put to members is a simple message: It is not just a wrong process; it is one which is destined for failure.
Part of what I saw from my experience in political life -- and I saw it in our own legislative committee when we looked at the Constitution -- is that the way the parliamentary process works is that somebody plays the government, and it takes the initiative and it turns to its friends the lawyers and says, “Draft us a bill that says we want to do this.” It is as clear as that. Someone takes the initiative and says, “This is what we want to do,” and then turns to the staff, one set of lawyers, and says, “Tell me how we word that.” Then we come in here and we have an argument about that. That process works. It is a flawed one, it is an awkward one, but it has been around for a few thousand years. It works.
It does not work when there is nobody taking the initiative, when there are 11 equals sitting around armed with lawyers and consultants and spin doctors and all of that stuff. That produces some kind of -- I do not quite know what to call it, but it is not a process of government. It is a process of argument that runs in circles. You cannot guess who will argue what before the Supreme Court of Canada 20 years from now. You can try to do that and you can theorize about that, but it is not a very useful exercise. Some of what I saw going on last week was just exactly that.
It comes down to very basic things which I hope will happen here when we refer this motion out. We do not have a big problem here. We have to refer this motion to a committee and have a set of hearings and listen to the arguments and report back. We do not have to ratify the Meech Lake accord and do this. We do not have to have referenda on all of this. We simply have to use a process that most of us are comfortable with.
That is why I could not believe it at the 11th hour of the seventh day when I saw the 11 first ministers sitting around saying, “Well, there’s something wrong with the process, but we really don’t know how to fix it.” They do not know how to strike committees? They do not know how to hold public hearings? They do not know how to put together reports that are tabled and discussed in legislative chambers? Sure they do. They chose not to, and I regret that.
People say, “We were locked into this format from 1981.” Maybe they were and maybe they were not. It was possible for Ontario to hold public hearings on the Meech Lake accord. It was possible for Ontario to put forward resolutions on the accord, to table a report and to have a debate in this legislative chamber. Why was it not possible for every other legislative chamber to do that? Simply because they chose not to. Why was the basis of this latest round of discussions not coming from those legislative reports? Simply because people chose not to do that.
I caution people in this country who value this nation: We had better start hearing from them. We had better start hearing from ordinary Canadians, like those who appeared on The Journal who think this country is something special. For me and, I suspect, most of the members in this chamber, we are all immigrants. We just came here at different times and from different nations in the world. We have all enjoyed immensely the opportunity that is here. This is not a nation that is without fault, but it is a nation that has opportunities that few people ever have. It is worth preserving.
Whether one agrees with the idea of Canada as a multicultural mosaic or not, surely that is something that is worth a try. Surely that is something that is worth giving our best shot. Is it so hard to generate respect for one another? If that is an impossible task, we are in deep trouble.
I support the resolution. I went through, as many members on the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly and others, I am sure, the Meech Lake accord and listened to arguments on all sides. In the end, the judgement here was similar to that in other legislative chambers. There were things wrong with that accord but there were ways to improve it, and we made our suggestions as to how that might be done. If it is left just to sit there until the next crisis is generated, we have done us all a great disservice.
One could not watch the proceedings last week and not feel that this Prime Minister was determined to do something that the previous Prime Minister could not do and that he was driven with all the skills and power of the federal government to do something that was better than what Pierre Elliott Trudeau had done. I do not begrudge him that for a moment. I do not begrudge him any instance of the power and influence that he had.
I had some great sympathy for people like Clyde Wells, who I am not sure operate in that same milieu in Ottawa that I saw going on there. One of the saddest moments that I recall was on the Saturday evening when the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador was being taken from the conference centre to his hotel. I watched the video of that several times because he said a few things on the way out. I do not know whether everybody heard what he said, but I know everybody saw the Premier of one of our provinces -- and it had everything about it that you see on a cop show. It looked as if he was being hustled off to jail.
I watched various first ministers come out after their daily rounds of negotiations to what we would call outside the doors of this chamber a scrum, and I could not help but think: “These people have something to say. I want to hear them. I do not want to hear people yelling obscenities because there is a national TV crew there. I want to hear what this Premier has to say.”
I thought: “That is not the way to go about this. That is not the way to have a reasoned and rational argument. This is some kind of media circus.” I felt sorry for those who were paid to stand in front of that building all day long for seven days and report that nothing was happening yet. It must have been the toughest job in the country.
Like most of us, I hope, in this chamber and most of the people I represent, I think that this nation is kind of a special place. It is not without fault. It has a lot of things that are wrong with it, but it also has a lot of things that are right about it. It is a nation that is worth saving. But as we go through this process, surely we must find ways so that those who want to disagree with us can do so freely and we can respect their opinions, because I am concerned that it will do us no good to pass this resolution this afternoon to ratify any changes that were made in the Meech Lake accord if the population as a whole does not understand what we are doing. We may have won the argument and lost the war. I am concerned that that may be what happens.
I hope that the committee attempts to accommodate virtually everyone who wants to appear in front of it. I know that will be difficult. I know it will not be an easy job at the best of times. But I have some hope that in this legislative chamber we at least give the public an opportunity to voice its opinions on the Meech Lake accord, we at least give it an opportunity to see what our resolutions on the matter are, we at least give it an opportunity to listen to our suggestions about the process.
That is something I am familiar with. I understand all of that, and so should every elected politician, man or woman, anywhere in this country. That process is called democracy. That process works. It is kind of awkward from time to time; it puts you in places where you would really rather not be. But in the long run, that is what will carry the day. I hope that is what this resolution will do for the Ontario Legislature once again.
I do not think there is a crisis in this country. I think there is a crisis in some people’s minds about what is going on. I hope people recognize that there are many different parts of this country and many things worth preserving about it. It is my country. It is something I care about. It is something I feel very strongly about.
I wish sometimes that I could go to an event where everybody at the hockey game actually knew the words to O Canada, but I have not been to one yet. I watched a television clip yesterday of people who were in front of the Legislature on the weekend supporting Canada with the Canadian flag, with the Quebec flag, with an Ontario flag. They wanted to sing the national anthem and they had to have copies of the national anthem in front of them before they could sing it in English or in French.
I do not believe in jingoism, I do not believe a whole lot in symbols, but it does strike me that in every part of this country it would not hurt anybody just to feel a little bit proud that we are Canadian, that we are distinctive. I sense every once in a while that the great Canadian modesty is leaving us, and I really do not mind that. I think people should be proud of their country. I think they should recognize that there is a price for having a country like Canada, and the price is you have to give some respect to other people, people who you do not like, people who you do not understand, people whose language you do not speak; and they do not ask for much more than that, just simple respect.
I hope we can get there. I think we can get there. I believe the democratic process is strong enough to carry the day. I hope that is what our legislative committee in Ontario does. I do not believe for a moment that what was proposed in Ottawa last week is going to be an easy thing to accomplish. I think it is possible to have all of those words agreed to -- that is not the problem. The problem is, will the people of this country understand any of those words and care enough to respect them?
Mr Eves: It is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate on behalf of our party in the Ontario Legislature. I might say at the outset, as our leader said earlier this afternoon, that our party, of course -- and I presume all three parties -- will be supporting the resolution that the Attorney General has put forward here this afternoon.
I would like to comment, I suppose, as we go through this, and I would prefer to take the Premier’s statement of this afternoon and go through the three phases that he outlines following the agreement that was reached late last Saturday evening, after some seven days of debate by the 11 first ministers of the country of Canada.
First of all, I think I would also like to say a few words about the statement made by the leader of the official opposition here this afternoon, in that he has some concern about trying to deal with this whole agenda of issues between now and 20 June. I certainly do appreciate the very real concern he has about that. A week is certainly not enough time for any committee to hold public hearings and delve into the important matters that we are going to have to deal with within the next eight or nine days.
I suppose, though, we here in Ontario are a little bit at an advantage or privilege because of the fact that we have had a select committee on constitutional reform that has dealt with some of these issues at some length going back to 1987. Of course, as all members are aware, we submitted our report in, I think, a very non-partisan way in June 1988, some two years ago.
Going over the Premier’s statement of this afternoon, he chose to break down the conclusions or the result of the meetings in Ottawa last week into three parts. I will deal with them each part at a time.
“In the first part,” he says very succinctly, “the premiers of New Brunswick, Manitoba and Newfoundland undertake to submit the constitutional amendment 1987” otherwise known as the Meech Lake accord, “for appropriate legislative or public consideration and to use every possible effort to achieve decision prior to 23 June 1990,” which we know is the date the 11 first ministers agreed upon going back to 1987.
I do want to say that I appreciate, I think, the difficult position that the Premier of Newfoundland finds himself in today and the decision that he made earlier today, and that is to put this question, which was not his preference, I might add, to a free vote in the Legislature of Newfoundland.
We have heard all kinds of individuals speak over the last seven or eight days about putting Canada first. It must be very difficult indeed for the Premier of Newfoundland, who holds some very sincere convictions about the Constitution of Canada and what he thinks it should say, to have agreed to the agreement that was reached this past weekend, because I know, and he has stated, that he has some personal reservations about some components of that agreement. And not only that: He has made a commitment virtually that he would put this matter by way of referendum to the people of Newfoundland, but he is willing to put the interests of Canada before his own personal beliefs and he is willing to put the country of Canada before what he considers to be the appropriate process for the people of his province.
I think that says a lot about the spirit of co-operation that was reached among the 11 first ministers in Ottawa last week. I do not appreciate some comments that have been made by individuals that perhaps the Premier of Newfoundland is to be blamed for any lack of agreement on what the final wording of the constitutional amendment will be. I think he and the Premier of Manitoba in particular have gone that extra mile in the spirit of co-operation to put Canada and Canadians first. Also, the Premier of New Brunswick, whom we must not forget, of course initiated for the first time in a very real sense -- at least among the 11 first ministers, although there were those of us who suggested this solution some two years ago -- the idea of a companion resolution which might be acceptable to all 11 first ministers in this country of Canada.
Before we get on to the issue of the second part as outlined by the Premier, the companion resolution, I would like to say a few words, however, about the “distinct society” clause because I think it is probably at the root of all disagreement that there has been, if any, among the 11 first ministers with respect to constitutional change.
There seems to be an agreement in principle among all 11 first ministers that the “distinct society” clause does not derogate or take away from any individual Canadian’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Everybody will say that verbally, yet when it was suggested by three premiers that it be reduced to writing, there was some great apprehension about changing one word, one comma, one phrase in the Meech Lake accord.
I do not know for the life of me what that reservation could possibly be, but I have to accept as fact that it was not possible, that the 11 first ministers could not agree to change the legal wording of the Meech Lake accord with respect to the “distinct society” clause.
I go back to the constitutional reform committee hearings this Legislature held in 1987 and 1988, which I sat in on with my colleague the member for Nipissing for many, many weeks, in fact months. We had many people appear before that committee who had the same doubts about the “distinct society clause” as Premier Wells has, as Premier Filmon had and as Premier McKenna had.
One of those individuals who appeared before the committee was a quite renowned barrister and solicitor in Canada by the name of Morris Manning, who offered to the committee his services for no charge. He felt the country was important enough and the Constitution of the country was important enough that this thing should be done properly.
He drafted a court reference in which he asked the province of Ontario to refer it to the Supreme Court. I must say that Mr Manning is certainly not a Progressive Conservative. He did this in a very non-partisan way because he was putting Canada first. For whatever reason the majority of members on that committee chose not to adopt Mr Manning’s suggestion of a court reference, despite the fact that he tailored the court reference almost identically in wording to the separate school funding reference which this very government in Ontario submitted to the Supreme Court for interpretation after it had decided to proceed by order in council with respect to separate school funding. He drafted it in accordance with a similar reference, the partition reference, about the Constitution Act of 1982.
I thought that his suggestion with respect to a court reference and his draughtsmanship of the same made abundant sense. Perhaps if we had agreed to do that in 1988 a lot of the discussion which took place in the last week and the last few weeks would have been totally unnecessary because the Supreme Court would have already given its interpretation and its decision with respect to how, if in any way at all, an individual Canadian’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be affected by what we know as the Meech Lake accord. Be that as it may, the province of Ontario chose not to take the lead in 1988 on that particular issue and we found ourselves in the position we were in last week.
I would now like to go to the second part, as the Premier describes it, of the process, or the agreement that was reached over the past week, the issue of a companion resolution containing additions that will build upon the accord. There are those of us in this Legislature, particularly with respect to our minority opinion that we wrote, which I referred to, who believed that companion resolution was the way to approach this problem from the very outset, going back to 1987. This is not a partisan statement on my part. Among those who suggested a companion resolution who appeared before the committee was Donald Johnston, the former federal Liberal cabinet minister. This was not approached in a partisan way at all, but as a very practical, commonsense approach to a very difficult problem, to try to address the very real concerns that many Canadians had with respect to the initial draft of the Meech Lake accord.
As everybody has said, it is not a perfect document. I do not think there is such a thing as a perfect document, but if we all agree in principle what we mean, surely we can agree to somehow reduce that to language which comes as close as possible to saying what we want to say and to protecting individual Canadians’ rights in the future.
With respect to the “distinct society” clause, the Premier makes reference on page 2 of his statement to the legal opinion that is attached as an addendum to the companion resolution agreement which was agreed to last weekend. It is attached as an addendum but the agreement itself, I might point out, does not comment on the “distinct society” clause. I want to point out, being a lawyer myself, that the legal opinion is just that: It is an opinion. It has no basis of concrete effect whatsoever. It happens to be the opinion of six noted constitutional experts, yes, in the country of Canada. I dare say there are six just as noted constitutional experts in Canada who would disagree with the legal opinion that is attached to the companion resolution agreement that was reached by the 11 first ministers last Saturday evening.
That is why my colleague the member for Nipissing and I pressed so hard in 1988 for a Supreme Court reference on this matter. That would be a definitive statement of law by the highest court in this land, not a legal opinion from six lawyers. We can go across the street and get a different legal opinion from six other constitutional experts. I do not think that legal opinion, quite frankly, does anything with respect to the interpretation of the “distinct society” clause in the long run for the Constitution of our country.
Having said that, I would like to go on to the other changes that I think were addressed in a very positive manner by the 11 first ministers who met over this past week. Sexual equality rights are an issue that was brought to our select committee here in Ontario over the course of many months of public hearings. I am glad to see that the 11 first ministers have at least agreed now to put this in a companion resolution so that these sexual equality rights will be protected by adding section 28 of the Charter of Rights to section 16 of the accord.
Despite the fact that I know there are many legal authorities in the country who feel that this is not necessary, the concern that was shown at our committee hearings here in the province, and obviously conveyed to the other 10 first ministers of Canada as well, was impressive enough that all 11 of them have now agreed to include this in a companion resolution. I think that was an oversight in the original accord, or at least a matter that needed more clarification. I am happy to see that all 11 first ministers have agreed to include that in their companion resolution.
I think the amendment to permit territories to submit names for appointment to the Senate of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada is an improvement whose time is long overdue. I know there were many concerned people who travelled many distances from the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to appear before the Ontario Legislature’s committee on Senate reform to indicate that somehow they felt they were made to be second-class citizens if they did not have the same rights and privileges as any other Canadian, regardless of where he or she lives in this great country of Canada. Surely if you happen to be a Canadian who lives in the Northwest Territories or the Yukon, you have just as much right to be appointed to the Senate or the Supreme Court of Canada as any other Canadian living in any other part of Canada. For the life of me, I do not know why the 11 first ministers could not see that in 1987, but I am glad they have seen the light in 1990, some three years later.
I am also very pleased to see that the process for discussion of aboriginal constitutional issues will be entrenched in the Constitution, so that hopefully we can finally take the last steps down the road to the long-outstanding issue of aboriginal self-government in this country. This is an issue where I am proud to say, as a former minister, albeit for a relatively brief period of time, with respect to native affairs, it is an issue, in a very non-partisan way, where every successive government in Ontario has taken a lead in Canada with respect to aboriginal rights and self-government. Ontario has led the way in this area and I have no doubt that it will continue to lead the way.
Now we have a mechanism that is going to be addressed by this companion resolution and hopefully addressed in the Constitution of Canada itself, where this long-outstanding issue to give equity and a sense of fairness to our aboriginal people can finally be addressed and addressed in a mechanism which will be included in the Constitution of Canada.
Minority language rights will be added to the agenda of future constitutional conferences. I am glad to see in the companion resolution, which was attached to the Attorney General’s resolution here this afternoon, that this issue is going to be addressed by the 11 first ministers as well. Hopefully it as well can be made part of the Constitution of Canada. I think that is a very important recognition we have to make.
There are a couple of issues that I would like to touch upon, which I think could have been addressed very directly with respect to a companion resolution, and perhaps a little bit more succinctly or definitely than the 11 first ministers have chosen over the last week.
Going back to our own select committee here in the province of Ontario, which had hearings for many months, one additional clause that my colleague the member for Nipissing and myself suggested should be added by way of a companion resolution to the Constitution Act was the recognition that aboriginal peoples constitute a distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Canada. The 11 first ministers still have not gone that far.
Also, with respect to the multicultural nature of this great country that we call Canada, the recognition of the multicultural nature of Canadian society, and in particular respect for the many origins, creeds and cultures as well as the differing regional identities that help shape Canadian society, was another suggestion that our minority report made to the select committee on constitutional reform of the Legislature of Ontario, which for whatever reason was rejected by the majority of members of that committee.
Those were not words that the member for Nipissing and I dreamed up out of our heads. Those were words that were suggested to us by the many, many delegations and individuals who appeared in a very concerned and forthright manner before the committee of the Ontario Legislature. They are ones that we think make abundant sense and they are ones that we think, or at least we hope, all 11 first ministers will now address in a very forthright and concrete manner and adopt into the Constitution of this great country called Canada.
I want now to go for a few minutes to the third part of the agreement as outlined by the Premier in his statement this afternoon. The third part of the agreement, as the Premier states, sets out an agenda for the second round of constitutional discussions. All governments have agreed to draught a clause providing for a more complete recognition of the Canadian reality, such as our multicultural heritage, the role of aboriginal people and our commitment to the equality of all Canadians.
Oddly enough, as I have pointed out, those are the very matters that I have just been talking about for the last several minutes. Those are the very matters that our minority report suggested this legislative body adopt in 1988 and the very matters that the majority of this Legislature voted against when it refused to accept our minority report in 1988. Now here we are, some two years later almost to the day, standing here in June 1990, and all of a sudden all 11 first ministers think that these are good ideas, that we should be proceeding in these three areas. I am glad we are finally all of one single mind and single purpose --
Mr Kerrio: Oh, oh.
Mr Eves: -- some two years later, I say to my friend the member for Niagara Falls.
Now that there has finally been an agreement on the process leading to Senate reform, this is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks, other than the interpretation of the “distinct society” clause, in this whole issue of amending Canada’s Constitution. I have had the privilege, as I have said, of sitting in a very non-partisan way on the select committee, not only when we dealt with the Meech Lake accord, but more recently in the last several months with respect to Senate reform.
We have gone to Ottawa. We have had individuals appear before our committee here in Toronto when we have held public hearings. I understand that we undoubtedly now will be holding a lot more. I do not think that many of us really appreciated how disfranchised Canadians in other parts of Canada, such as Atlantic Canada or western Canada, felt until we had the opportunity to hear from them in a very direct sense about their concerns, about how they feel that they are left out of a lot of the most important decisions that are made in this country and how they feel that this country is basically controlled by the two power bases, the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec, otherwise referred to as central Canada.
I do not think Senate reform is a magical solution to the west’s problems. I do not think it is a magical overnight solution to Atlantic Canada’s problems. But I think that if it does nothing more than make them feel that they are equal, wanted partners in Canadian Confederation, that they have an opportunity to voice their opinions about issues that are very important to them and may not be in the best interests of central Canada, then we will have gone a long way towards tinder-standing our fellow Canadians and towards addressing that very basic perception, at least their perception, of an inequity that has existed since 1867 in this country.
I see that the Premier refers in his statement to the agreement upon a national commission with equal representation from all the provinces and the federal government that will report back to a first ministers’ conference by the end of the year on the progress that is made with respect to Senate reform. They have agreed that the objectives that should guide that commission are the very ones that western and Atlantic Canada have been asking for, that the Senate should be elected, that it should provide more equitable representation for the less populous provinces and territories and that it should have effective powers. I might note that their agreement is more equitable, as opposed to absolutely equal, which of course is what the western provinces and the Atlantic provinces by and large want out of the Senate.
I think the Canadian people would agree with all those principles. I think that the Senate today, as it exists, is sometimes unduly or harshly criticized, perhaps somewhat unfairly, but I understand that sentiment because these people are not elected representatives. They are appointed and there has always been that public perception that they do not in effect represent any particular body of Canadians or region of Canada, because they have not been elected for that purpose.
I think that in electing senators, the perception alone that this would convey to Canadians all across this great country is indeed a very worth while pursuit. As I said, having had the opportunity to sit on our committee here in the province of Ontario and listen to the concerns of people from all over Canada, I began to appreciate those concerns, appreciate where they are coming from and appreciate the fact that they have not necessarily been treated in their minds as equal partners in this Canadian Confederation for in excess of the last 100 years.
I want to deal just for a few minutes with the Premier’s gesture. I believe it is indeed a great gesture of goodwill on behalf of the province of Ontario, coming to the point that if Senate reform cannot be agreed upon by the year 1995, the very worst that can happen to those western and Atlantic provinces is that a more populous province such as ours will give up six or one quarter of our Senate seats -- indeed our colleagues in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will be asked to give up some of their representation in the Senate -- so that other parts of Canada, namely, western Canada in this instance, can feel that it is a more wanted partner in Canadian Confederation.
I must say that I hope it does not come to that proposal being implemented in 1995 because I think, and I am sure the Premier and the 11 first ministers agree, that a far more effective way of dealing with Senate reform is to address those three principles that have been enunciated by the 11 first ministers; that is, providing us with an elected, more equitable and effective Senate. I think that is the best way to allay the fears of western Canadians and to allay the fears, to perhaps a lesser extent but to some extent none the less, of Atlantic Canada, and those in the territories of course.
The final point that is made by the Premier with respect to the agreement made over the past week, that all governments have agreed that we have to reform the process of constitutional change, is a high priority. There has to be a full partnership with the Canadian public with respect to how we arrive at constitutional change in this country in the future.
It was stated here earlier this afternoon by the Premier and by both opposition leaders that surely there has to be a better way to deal with reforming something as basic as the Constitution of our country than the way we have proceeded since 1982. I think that the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and my own leader very appropriately and rightly stated that this is a process we are relatively new at in Canada, which was started of course in 1982 by the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and continued on in 1987.
We saw the same process basically being used again last week in Ottawa, where 11 individuals, albeit 11 first ministers, gathered with their advisers and their teams of experts and tried to hammer out an agreement behind closed doors, and only after they reached an agreement did they inform the Canadian public what was discussed, what went on and what agreement they in fact have.
I think that our process in the future has to be far more open and frank discussion of these very basic issues and principles. These are not partisan political issues we are talking about here. We are talking about the Constitution of the country we are in. Everybody who sat on our select committee on constitutional reform here in the Ontario Legislature in 1987-88 -- if you check back, Mr Speaker, to the recommendations made by that committee, the committee as a whole and this Legislature as a whole adopted the recommendation that we and other jurisdictions across this country should have a permanent Constitution committee that deals with these issues on an ongoing basis so that we have some continuity and some open and frank discussion going on with interested people in Canadian society, or in this case Ontario society. I could not agree more with the comment made by the three leaders here earlier today that we have to have a more open and democratic process with respect to constitutional reform.
I want to deal finally with the three concerns outlined by the Premier this afternoon. I have just dealt with the first one, in effect, which was the process of constitutional reform. I think that we probably could have done a lot better job, quite frankly, if we had adopted that principle that we said we adopted in this Legislature when we adopted the committee’s report in June 1988.
If we had really followed up on what we passed in June 1988, perhaps we would not have been, in the 11th and a half hour in Ottawa, at the last minute, in a pressure cooker trying to agree to something. If everybody had adopted that philosophy in June 1988, we could have used these last two years a lot more constructively towards working to an open, amicable and fair solution for all Canadians with respect to the Constitution of this country.
The second area of concern that I think we must address, which the Premier rightly approaches, is that sometimes as Canadians we have a great inferiority complex. We tend to look at the dark side of things only, as opposed to looking at the brighter side of the picture. I do not know how we got this in our national psyche, but somehow I think we have to get rid of it. Hopefully, we have taken the first step down that road.
I think that Canada is absolutely, unequivocally, the greatest nation in the world. I do not know why we have to be so introspective at times and so critical of ourselves as a country. This is the greatest country in the world, and I think that we should all start treating it as such. We have to address that second concern the Premier so rightly outlined in this Legislature earlier this afternoon and begin a process of national healing so that we can take the step towards providing a framework of understanding and accommodation for Canadians from all parts of Canada. We must have some goodwill among Canadians all across this country.
I believe the last issue that the Premier addressed in his remarks this afternoon was recreating a spirit of understanding, a respect for diversity and trust among all Canadians. I think everybody agrees with that, from every province, from every part, from every territory, from every section of this great country that we call Canada. We have learned a lot over the last 9 or 10 days with respect to respecting and having tolerance for the points of view of other individuals and other regions of Canada. If everybody approaches our task on that basis and in that light, we indeed will make Canada a much greater place to live for many generations of future Canadians.
I would like to conclude my remarks here this afternoon by just reading the conclusion of the minority section of the report, which is not political at all and outlines a basic premise to which we should all be directing ourselves in the future:
“We recognize the importance of Quebec returning to the constitutional fold. The accord will allow that province to finally become a signatory to the Canadian Constitution. It has provided a truly significant moment in our national history and one which we truly welcome.
“However, having addressed the constitutional concerns of Quebec, we believe it is now incumbent upon the government of Ontario and the first ministers to actively address the concerns of many members of our society which were so eloquently voiced before this committee. While a Constitution will always be open to judicial interpretation, all the people of Ontario and Canada deserve to have a Constitution in which they believe they are included as full and equal partners.”
Having said that, I would just like to reassure this House that the members of our party on this side of the House will be supporting the Attorney General’s resolution. We will be working in a non-partisan sense, as we have throughout the existence of the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs since 1987, towards addressing these concerns in a very positive, forthright manner, so that we can make people from every region of this great country called Canada truly a part of our country and a part of our Constitution, which serves all Canadians.
Mr Allen: It gives me great pleasure and indeed a sense of considerable honour to be able to rise and to support the Attorney General’s reference of the schedule of constitutional amendments to a committee of this House for hearings and then for subsequent decision roughly nine days from now.
I do not want in the first instance to get into the process considerations and discussion that have preoccupied most of the commentary this afternoon, at least not in my first remarks. It has been with a great sense of relief across this country and across this province -- perhaps slightly premature, but none the less a great sense of relief -- that we now appear to have before us a document, an agreement of first ministers of this country, that will make it possible to put what has become known as the Meech Lake accord into the past and finally to be able to see once more on an ongoing basis at the table of federal-provincial discussions, at the table of constitutional discussion and debate, the presence of the province of Quebec as an honoured and distinguished member of the Canadian family.
I say it may be premature because none of us does yet know what any of the legislatures will do with the proposals that came out of the Ottawa discussions. None of us knows in particular what will happen in the province of Manitoba or in the province of Newfoundland, though we are relatively assured as to what will happen in the province of New Brunswick.
It may well be that those agreements, those resolutions, will have a straight passage in those places and we may well then say: “Alleluia, this is in the past and Canada is whole once more. Canada has said yes to Quebec and Quebec has said yes to Canada, and we may march ahead into our common future.”
I want to remind those of us who may think that this will be the end of the road, the end of debate, the end of discussion, the end of controversy, that that will not be the case. In reminding people of that, I want to tell them that this is the seventh time in our history that we have addressed the question of the fundamental relationships of French and English in Canada.
We did it first in 1763 at the end of a worldwide war which was known in its time as a world war. We did it again in 1774, when the issue of the place of the French population and the newly arrived English population in what was to become Canada was adjusted and normalized and when the agreement of 1763 was in effect formalized, so that the presence and recognition of the French language, of the religion of the French in Canada, of the laws, the civil law which was inherited from France among the French, would all be guaranteed and respected. That was an even more tolerant and gracious act of relationship than existed in Great Britain at that very time with respect, for example, to the Catholic population in Great Britain.
It was on such an astonishing and tolerant grant of recognition of a people that this country was launched, only to go through a succession of additional constitutional adjustments. It was decided that it would be better that there be two assemblies and two constitutional entities, so in 1791 the Constitution Act divided into the provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada, which became Quebec and Ontario. For a generation or so that was the way it was.
Then in order to regularize the relationships once more on another basis and to bring those parties into a closer relationship one with another for a whole number of reasons, in 1840 the Act of Union brought them together into the union of the Canadas. In the context of that, open-minded politicians from both sides of that division of Upper Canada and Lower Canada agreed that their legislatures would be bilingual, that they would function on a double majority basis and that there would be equal respect across that boundary.
But that did not work entirely to everybody’s satisfaction, so in 1867 we struck another arrangement that would include all of the British North American colonies, which became the Confederation that was to last and still lasts on the basis of the British North America Act of 1867. Again, it was recognized that the French language, the Quebec Civil Code and the culture of the French-Canadian community in our country would continue as part of a respected and honoured and constitutional segment of this great country.
Then when it came to the post-Second World War years and we began looking at a number of the new relationships around the new powers of provinces that were expanding so greatly in education, social services, pensions and you name it, and Quebec wanted to have certain recognition of its special roles with regard to determining some of those matters, like the Canada pension plan, on its own terms, we went through a whole pattern again of discussion on the bilingual, bicultural nature of Canada.
We came to a new set of relationships around the proposition that official bilingualism in Canada should prevail and that the federal government should be the scene in which French and English should meet on equal terms in ways which had not been the case previously, and on that basis we proceeded.
There was a lot of other stuff in the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which addressed the question of the duality of Canada as distinct from the bilingual nature of Canada, because of course the French existed outside Quebec and the English existed inside Quebec. The federal government largely put much of that dualism to one side and thought it would solve the problem with a national bilingual regime which hypothetically would make it possible for the French to feel at home everywhere in Canada and for English-speaking Canadians to feel at home everywhere in Canada, and therefore there would be no reason for any further recognition of the status of Quebec as the principal homeland of the French-speaking people in Canada.
But the moment you begin to ask yourself the question, “How was the bilingual regime supposed to be sustained if it could not be sustained by the presence of a strong and vibrant province of Quebec able to maintain a foyer principal or a homeland of the French language in Canada?” you begin to realize that something more than official bilingualism, in which individuals were encouraged to speak French and the government would provide services in French, was necessary. So it was not surprising that within the space of 15 or 20 years we were into a further debate on these matters.
But the first point I want to make is to suggest that the debate that we have just come through is not in many respects unlike other debates that we have been through and that we may expect to be through others in the future. I suggest to members that there is nothing wrong with that, because let us look at all of our social relationships, all of the groups that we belong to, all of the social entities that we participate in.
Let us look at families. Families exist as an ongoing dialogue and they work out their relationships on the basis of decisions. They have big crises from time to time and then they get over them, hopefully; maybe they do not, but hopefully they go on, often strengthened by the crises they go through.
For us to recognize that that is the reality of life is surely important for us in the political process as well. It is healthy for us as English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians to recognize that that dialogue and debate simply says that we are not unlimited in the powers that we have as individuals or as groups anywhere, any time, and that our ability to bump up against each other, and to sometimes bump up against each other in some pretty vigorous ways, is only to be expected.
When my colleagues talk about the problem of process in relationship to all that, however, what they are saying is that this process must not be confined to the formal entities known as governments. When it comes to constitution-making and indeed, in our country, in the wake of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which so expanded the sense that our citizens had of their right to equal presence in their society -- equal recognition as individuals, regardless of background, equal recognition for special groups they might belong to, whether it was multicultural groups, whether it was aboriginal groups, whether it was French- or English-speaking, whether it was women or men, or indeed, in terms of the charter, because it recognized them also, whether you were part of a denominational school system or not -- all of those recognitions in the charter seem to imply that there should, when it came to a discussion of the fundamental law of the nation, be recognition also in that process for those same groups so that their advice might be heard, and more than heard, be considered to be substantial and even at times decisive to the direction the Constitution would take.
Unfortunately, the very Constitution Act that established the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and those expectations was precisely the same Constitution Act, in 1982, which established a process of executive federalism, which has been much commented on and much maligned, so that the real decisions that were being made with respect to the Constitution were ones at the elevated level of first ministers and their advisers and only secondarily was there a suggestion that here and there there might be public hearings, consultation and so on as it was felt to be useful. The very fact that most of the governments across this country that engaged in the Meech Lake debate, and even in the aboriginal round that went before it, did not consider it essential in either of those rounds that there be public hearings indicates the fundamental contradiction that existed within the 1982 act between the charter on the one hand and the processes of constitutional reform that were assumed to be the appropriate ones.
One would have to say that what happened in 1987 with the Meech Lake accord was in fact better than what happened in 1982 around the Constitution Act. The processes around the Constitution Act were in fact somewhat improved over the previous amendment process, because we all must remember that a short eight years ago, if we wanted an amendment to our Constitution, we had to do two things: Get unanimity between the provinces and the federal government and then take that unanimity to Westminster in Great Britain to have it ratified, because the only way Great Britain would accept an amendment that came from Canada was if the Canadians were agreed upon it. Without that unanimity, there would have been no constitutional amendment, as, for example, there was on unemployment insurance and some other matters in intervening years.
Let’s recognize that we are new in this process of constitutional change; let’s recognize that the processes that we have had at least are marginally better than they were prior to 1982; and let’s recognize that there is still a fundamental gulf and contradiction between the assumptions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 and the constitutional amendment process that was put in place in 1982.
I would suggest that with all the commentary that has been made on process, we should recognize that the select committee on constitutional reform which considered the Meech Lake accord in this House made some very strong recommendations with respect to process. They said it must never happen this way again. Second, they recognized that did not mean you put to one side the fact that there are first ministers and governments which make up the constituent parts of this country.
We cannot have a constitutional decision in this country unless it is finally the responsibility of elected governments -- 11 of them, and maybe more if we have new provinces coming out of the territories -- and that therefore what is called executive federalism is going to be an ongoing feature of this whole process.
But equally fundamental must be a formal process of consultation both of the public and the elected legislatures so that, as we recommended in the Constitution committee, there would be standing committees on the Constitution in every Legislature and there would be an equivalent committee at the federal level. One can imagine various ways by which they might work together to form either a national constitutional conference of some kind or to summon and sponsor a larger constituent assembly of some fashion which would consider major amendments to the Constitution. Then the results of that would be fed back to first ministers, who would then formulate those findings in terms of an agreement, an accord of some kind, which might then be returned to the legislatures for a final lookover and then go back to the first ministers for a final agreement and then to the legislatures for final approval.
There can be a very good and logical structure for Constitution-building in this country, added on to what is now called executive federalism, without breaching the appropriate place and role of elected governments and elected premiers and prime ministers in this country, but one which respects the public. It is that that I hope the constitutional reviews that are being talked about under part 3 of section 4 of the first ministers’ agreement -- it is in that direction that we all must hope this country will move.
I want to say with respect to the content of the premiers’ agreement that was fashioned in that crucible in Ottawa this last week, first of all, that much of it has already been dealt with by this Legislature. This Legislature, for instance, in terms of what has been called the Canada clause, has already passed a companion resolution which asks the other legislatures of this country, including the House of Commons, to develop a resolution around fundamental characteristics of Canada. This House passed formally, coincidentally with its passage of the Meech Lake accord, a resolution which said that this Legislature wished to see recognized as fundamental characteristics of Canada the presence of aboriginal peoples and their rights that they are owed; second, the multicultural nature of this country and the respect that is owed to persons who constitute specific cultural backgrounds and ethnic groups in this country; and third, a specific recognition of all the rights that attach to being a Canadian.
By that we meant to refer to the fundamental issue of gender equality, which is established in section 28 of the charter, and second, all other rights that exist in our Constitution, which are many. We wanted to say that this is a country that respects those rights. It does not just leave them off in a corner somewhere, written on documents and unattended to, but states that this country fundamentally is committed to the whole paraphernalia of right that inhabits the Constitution of Canada. As I suggest, fundamental to that had to be, because you could not read that clause without understanding that it referred to it, the matter of gender equality that was outlined so forcefully in section 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
So we had already done in this Legislature what other legislatures like Manitoba were referring to as the Canada clause.
Second, we had recommended as well that in the creation of new provinces there should be no discrimination against existing northern territorial peoples, either in the Northwest Territories or in the Yukon. We could see the problem of discrimination that was implied there.
We also recognized and recommended with respect to the question of language issues and official linguistic minorities that this province, as a dominantly English-speaking province, should none the less continue to promote the rights of French-speaking persons to services in French of all kinds that are sponsored by the provincial government.
We went on to recommend, as the first ministers have just done, that the territories, like aboriginal peoples, should be involved in all constitutional discussions that pertain to them.
This Legislature has already recommended that and supported that.
We also passed as a formal companion resolution, alongside the “fundamental characteristics” resolution, a companion resolution to the Meech Lake accord that said the discussion and negotiation of aboriginal self-government in Canada should be undertaken as a formal part of the announced agenda of first ministers’ conferences and that that issue should at the very least be attended to once every five years until it is solved. Now the first ministers have said once every three years, and that is even better, but again, the important thing to recognize is that this Legislature has already passed a companion resolution which addresses that issue and which says that the Northwest Territories and the Yukon must also be involved in that process because it touches them, given the large numbers of aboriginal peoples in that part of Canada. A good deal of what is referred to as agenda for future constitutional discussions and amendments has already been dealt with by this Legislature.
So we come to the issue that became the make-or-break issue in the debate in Ottawa. That was the question of Senate reform and how we would deal with that.
It is my own view, but I think it certainly is in harmony with the spirit and the intent of what was happening in Ottawa to find a way of resolving the impasse over the Meech Lake accord by 23 June. It was certainly part of the intent of the Senate discussion there that there be certain kinds of assurances and a degree of certainty given to the dissident provinces of Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland that certain minimal things would happen with respect to the Senate, that it would, at least in terms of reform, proceed in future in any reform package as an elected Senate, that it would be equably representative of the regions and provinces and that it would be effective, the last term not being spelled out at all, nor was equability spelled out at all, but certainly the principle of elected was front and foremost.
As an assurance that something of that order would happen, those provinces were told that within five years, if nothing had happened, they would at least be granted a distribution of seats, six from Ontario and two each from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the provinces of Newfoundland and the western provinces, which have felt their representation in the Senate was not appropriate to their place in the Canadian Confederation.
It would be my assumption, notwithstanding the fact that there are major problems about what one means by some of those terms of “effectiveness” and “equability” with regard to the Senate, that the minimum we have been committed to, as signatories to the Meech Lake accord and as provinces that have supported it in the past, is to get that bit of business over with by 23 June. Otherwise, if we are expecting Manitoba to have the process done by the 23rd, if we are expecting New Brunswick to have the process done by the 23rd and if we are expecting Newfoundland to have the process done by the 23rd in order to honour that date, and they are going to do that on the assumption that the other provinces have in fact accepted this proposition around the Senate, then surely we have to deal with it before the 23rd.
While I recognize that some of us, and indeed some of us in this party, are proposing that there might be some way of dividing, partitioning that section of the agreement off for later consideration, I do not myself see exactly how that is within the spirit of what was done in Ottawa last week.
I can agree and I understand that the province of Quebec will not be ratifying this business about the Senate or the rest of this package until after the 23rd. It has said time and time again that it will not do that. It has, in effect, honour-bound itself with the opposition in the National Assembly that it would not make any of those agreements and formally ratify them until Meech Lake was accepted and after the 23rd in a second round. Those are the terms in which they understand their duty and obligation.
But I would not expect the fact that they are functioning and proceeding on that basis to be a model that somehow legitimates Ontario to hold up its assent to each of these elements, much as I agree with the concerns that my leader expressed this morning, much as I agree with the observations that many have made, that moving into the whole question of Senate reform is a much more complicated and, in some respects, dangerous operation than most of us out there think. Our party has had a fairly straightforward approach to this in the past. We have tended to say, “Let’s just get rid of the Senate, forget about it.” But I quite frankly do not see that this is an option out there in terms of the state of public expectation or public reflection or public debate around the Senate.
I think we do have to be aware of the fact that you do not change one element of a federal system without affecting all the others; that, for example, even first ministers may not recognize that if you are going to have senators who formally represent provinces and who may be elected on a provincewise basis, they are going to go to Ottawa and they are going to compete for power with the very premiers of the provinces that they come from. What does that do to the status of first ministers’ conferences? Has Mr Getty thought about that? Has Mr Filmon thought about that? Has Mr Vander Zalm thought about that?
There are serious issues about the relative power of an elected Senate and an elected House of Commons. Even if you try to curtail it in terms of effectiveness or in terms of equality, the very fact that it is elected means that it is legitimate. If it is legitimated by the people, then is there any limit to the power it can access? There are major problems in the Senate debate that have not been confronted by this country. We have to be very careful that we do not, as we go into this debate, think that this is going to be an easy debate.
At the same time, we all must recognize that the Senate, as an increasingly important institution in this country -- and inevitably it will be, if these resolutions pass -- will be an important forum for parts of this country that have felt marginalized, that have felt away from the power centres of this nation, which resided principally in this province, secondarily in Quebec, the two of us together as central Canada. If in one way there is one reason why it is possible for us to give up six seats in Ontario, it is because we know we have such an overwhelming power as an economy in the economic equation of the nation, geographically in terms of the scale of our geography, resourcewise in terms of the strength of our resources, numberwise in terms of the number of our representatives who will be in every other representative part of the federal system, the House of Commons in particular. So we can afford that.
But let us not fool ourselves if we think, as we begin to tamper with the Senate, that we are not going to have to watch very carefully all the other points around the circle of Canadian federalism lest we distort the whole pattern and undermine the capacity of this nation to function appropriately. There are many people who will say: “Well, they’ve got an elected Senate in the United States, so why shouldn’t we have one? And all the states are equal.” But then we should stop and think of it -- there are over 50 states. When they balance out against each other, the balance is nothing like the imbalance between Ontario and Prince Edward Island. The population balance between Ontario and Prince Edward Island is 85 to 1. Would we then be able, in Canadian terms, to have a Senate which had equal provincial representation to the extent that one person in Ontario only had then one eighty-fifth of the power reflected in the Senate? Those are important equations of federalism, and we have to pay attention to them.
While I agree that we must move on the Senate portion of this package, with the certainty and assurance that those other provinces are now looking at the Meech Lake accord directly, and two of them for the first time as legislatures, we must at the same time realize that we will have to undertake a very serious and substantial debate around the Senate in order to get the best for our country out of that.
Finally, in effect, I come back to where I began. This party has always, throughout the Meech Lake debate and in preceding debates around the relationships of French-speaking and English-speaking persons in Canada, accepted the proposition that there is in Quebec a distinct society in terms of culture, in terms of language, in terms of law and even in some respects in terms of religion. It, like the rest of the country, is becoming increasingly multicultural. There are many groups from various French domains around the world that exist in Quebec and give it a multicultural cast. The same is true of the rest of the country.
But we function on essentially a different language base, a different culture base, a different legal base. Our party has accepted that. We have even as a party recognized that if the province of Quebec and the people who reside there were ever at any time to be convinced as a whole that there was a better future somewhere else, one would have to recognize a right of self-determination. We have always argued against that. We have always argued that it would be a major tragedy for that ever to happen; that for the French and English to continue in the kind of relationship that we have had -- dialogue, creative conflict even, but none the less together -- is by far the best solution politically for all of us in the northern half of the North American continent and, as far as any of us can tell, always will be; and that it has to be a relationship of respect, it has to be a relationship of accommodation.
There is no question that today the province of Quebec houses a much more dynamic economy, much more completely controlled by its own dominant cultural group, French-speaking persons. Just as one symbol of that, there are more masters of business administration enrolled in the graduate schools of commerce and business in Quebec than there are in all of the rest of Canada put together. There is a new and potent Quebec, self-confident and outward-looking, and we would expect to have to make some kind of accommodation for that in our national life.
With that said, I want finally to say that we all recognize that what in some respects was a disastrous process may perhaps, and hopefully will, issue in national good; that the kind of heated crucible in which the final steps were taken last week in Ottawa will not be repeated as the denouement of yet another constitutional debate some years down the road. All that notwithstanding, it is important for us in Ontario now to move firmly and openly through the time that is left at our disposal to hearings available to our public so that we may hear at the final stages of this debate what its best advice is and then come back to this Legislature in just over a week’s time to make a final determination of this matter.
Again, it has been a pleasure for me to engage in this debate and to contribute what I can to its resolution, and I look forward personally, as a member of the Constitution committee, to our hearings during the next week.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1757.