LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 10 May 2023 Mercredi 10 mai 2023
Report continued from volume A.
Private Members’ Public Business
Strengthening Members’ Integrity Act, 2023 / Loi de 2023 visant à renforcer l’intégrité des députés
Ms. Stiles moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 100, An Act to amend the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 with respect to fees, gifts and personal benefits / Projet de loi 100, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1994 sur l’intégrité des députés en ce qui concerne les honoraires, les dons et les avantages personnels.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for their presentation.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I’m very pleased to stand as the leader of Ontario’s official opposition and the MPP for Davenport to debate this bill, Bill 100, Strengthening Members’ Integrity Act, 2023. It is an honour to speak this evening about how we can work together to ensure elected officials in Ontario act with the utmost accountability and transparency. It might not be flashy; it might not be showy, but it is important. Ontarians must be able to trust that when one’s elected officials take office, they will act and carry out our duties with integrity. If we do not take action to improve accountability and transparency in provincial politics, beginning with my bill as a strong first step, we risk further erosion of our democracy. We’ll see voter turnout drop even lower, and the ability of government to improve the lives of Ontarians is going to be significantly weakened.
I’d like to begin with a review of some events that outline the need for this legislation. Speaker, I’m sad to say that summer and fall of 2022 saw a series of revelations about interactions with the Premier himself that raised serious questions about the line between transparent public lobbying and backroom influence. In August, a stag-and-doe fundraiser was held for one of the Premier’s daughters. According to news sources, invitations to the event included a request for $1,000 donations along with other donation requests. Invitations were reportedly sent by people connected to and who previously worked for the Premier. Invitations were sent to “multiple sources with associations to the ... Conservative cause in Ontario,” including “large and small lobbying and government relation firms” and “developers from the greater Toronto area.”
There have been alarming statements made about how people were invited to this event. Some invitees say they felt “browbeaten” into buying tickets to the stag-and-doe, and that “it felt dirty” and that it felt like a “‘pay for play’ event.”
Stag-and-does are an Ontario tradition, and many of us attend weddings regularly. But I’d like to remind this House that we serve the public. We swore an oath as public servants to faithfully discharge our duties, so we must be held to a higher standard than the rest of Ontarians. And especially, as one of the most powerful office-holders in the province, the Premier must be held to a higher standard than any other father of the bride.
The Premier has so far refused to disclose how much money was raised at the stag-and-doe or how much money was donated by developers. He has also refused to answer whether anyone in his office or any other government staff had a role in preparing the invitation list for the stag-and-doe.
In September 2022, we also saw equally concerning circumstances surrounding another one of the Premier’s family functions. Guests at the Premier’s family wedding included developers and others lobbying the government, many of whom sat with or near the Premier.
Speaker, there really isn’t enough time for me to detail every concerning guest, their problematic ties to this government and how they benefited from this government’s decisions after the wedding took place, but I want to share some highlights.
Exhibit A: The Premier sat beside a developer and major Conservative donor and fundraiser who was also top donor to the Premier’s 2018 leadership campaign. This developer has benefited from at least four ministerial zoning orders. They also own several properties along the proposed Highway 413 route, which this government has fast-tracked through legislation.
Exhibit B: The Premier sat with a developer who was a former vice-chair of the Conservative Party’s fundraising arm. That developer was appointed to the LCBO board in 2019, benefited from a ministerial zoning order in 2020 and was appointed chair of Ontario Place in 2022.
Exhibit C: Another wedding guest attendee was a developer who has benefited from at least nine ministerial zoning orders granted by this government.
Exhibit D: A 4th vice-president and former manager of stakeholder relations and development for the Conservative Party was also in attendance.
Speaker, the list goes on and on, but I want to move on to what has happened since the wedding.
That developer who sat beside the Premier? They have since been appointed to a three-year term on the York Regional Police Services Board.
The developer that has already benefited from nine ministerial zoning orders from this government? They own 102 acres that were removed from the greenbelt following the Ford family wedding.
The 4th vice-president of the Conservative Party? Their lobbying firm represents not one but two clients that own massive tracts of land that have been removed from the greenbelt since the wedding.
Ontarians are extremely concerned about these events. We know that changes made to the greenbelt plan must be approved by cabinet, and it is really hard to believe that the Premier had no participation in those changes.
This is why, earlier this year, I wrote to the Integrity Commissioner and I asked him to investigate whether these events constituted a violation of the Members’ Integrity Act. While the Integrity Commissioner’s investigation is ongoing, in March he released an interim report. In that report, the commissioner highlighted that the Members’ Integrity Act does not clearly state whether or not it applies to appearances of conflict. In fact, the commissioner has previously requested that the Legislature review the Members’ Integrity Act and clarify whether it should apply to appearances of conflict.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Thank you. Now, he’s still reviewing the case, but I guess he’s busy with other investigations surrounding this government.
The commissioner’s report prompted the Ontario NDP to take a very careful look at the Members’ Integrity Act and the changes he was talking about. We wanted to respond to the concerns raised by the Integrity Commissioner and find a way to give this commissioner another tool, and if we don’t close this loophole, we’re going to go back to cash-for-access politics—it’s happening right now—and we’re going to shut out everyday Ontarians from hereon in. So why not act now to create greater accountability and greater oversight?
This takes me to my bill. At present, the gifts rule in the Ontario Members’ Integrity Act only applies where there is a proven connection between the gift and the member of provincial Parliament’s duties of office. That’s a high threshold to meet and, frankly, one that is kind of mystifying to many Ontarians because under the federal Conflict of Interest Act, federal members of Parliament cannot accept gifts that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the public office holder in the exercise of their official work.
And, Speaker, Ontario ministers’ staff, public servants working in ministries, public servants working in most public bodies are more restricted from receiving gifts than members of provincial Parliament. It’s true. They are not allowed to accept a gift if a reasonable person might conclude that the gift could influence the performance of the public servant’s duties. I want to mention as well that for most corporate boards this is also a requirement.
The Ontario NDP believes that everyone deserves a government they can trust. We believe that members of provincial Parliament should be held, at the very least, to the same standards expected of our public servants and our federal counterparts. The change I’m proposing will do exactly that, and I hope we can all come together as a Legislature and vote in favour of my amendment.
And let’s be clear: This amendment isn’t designed to bar members from having friends or staff members from ever receiving a gift again. Section 6 already includes numerous situations in which a member can receive a gift, including as a result of a custom or a social obligation. This amendment’s not going to change that. This is a simple and measured amendment to the Members’ Integrity Act. Reasonableness is a standard that is well entrenched and well understood in common law, and as I just mentioned, Speaker, there is plenty of precedent for this amendment.
So, Speaker, let’s review this: There was a wedding and a stag-and-doe. Some guests paid for access to these events, and those very same guests then benefited from decisions made by this government in the months after. If that’s not appearance of conflict, then I don’t know what is. And I want to tell you, Speaker, I am certain this would not fly federally.
So all we’re asking is to ensure that this government is accountable, to be held to the same standards as our federal counterparts. Let’s create clarity. Let’s not be afraid to do better. Let’s make sure that all of those kids out there who look up to us in public office and want us to know that they are watching us—let’s make sure they know that it doesn’t matter who they are or who they’re friends with, we are here to serve the public.
Speaker, the official opposition is concerned that we are returning, as I said earlier, to a cash-for-access government. It’s plain and simple. We want to ensure that no matter what party forms government, elected officials act with integrity, with accountability and with transparency. All we have to look at is this cascading series of questions about this government—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt your flow. You have to withdraw.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Withdraw.
All we have to do, Speaker, is look at a cascading series of questions that we have about this government’s dealings with the Ontario Science Centre or Ontario Place or the greenbelt—over and over, questions arise.
Bill 100 is a small, easy step we can take now to give the Integrity Commissioner another tool to do their job. It’s a tool that is already available to the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I encourage my colleagues across the aisle to vote with us in favour of this bill so we can work together to strengthen the Members’ Integrity Act and create more accountability and transparency in our government.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Mr. Brian Saunderson: It’s my pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Simcoe–Grey to address Bill 100, an act to amend the Members’ Integrity Act of 1994.
I’m going to be very clear from the outset: I’m not here to address innuendo and allegations that are unproven. A complaint has been made to the Integrity Commissioner, and that’s exactly how the process should work. What we’re here to discuss tonight is the relevance of this change that is being made to the gifts provision, not the conflict-of-interest provisions, and that’s a key distinction, and you will see that the “reasonably” language is already included in the conflict-of-interest provisions.
So, Madam Speaker, I am here to address the amendment that is being proposed; the insertion of 11 words into the gifts provision which I think, in my submission, will not solve the issue that they pretend to be claiming and, in fact, will dilute the provision and result in untoward events.
Speaker, I want to be very clear that on this side of the floor, this is a government that’s committed to transparent and accountable government; a government that is committed to having a complete and comprehensive integrity regime so that Ontarians across this great province can be confident that their members of provincial Parliament conduct themselves with integrity and are accountable while serving in office.
Speaker, as I said during my inaugural statement, process matters, and ensuring that there is a strong ethical framework in place to govern the conduct of members of this Legislature is essential, and there is such a code now. This is an ongoing commitment, and there is no finish line, so I welcome the opportunity to debate this important issue today.
The Members’ Integrity Act was passed in 1994, and the legislative history indicates that it has been amended on 10 separate occasions between 1999 and 2021. And that is a good thing, because as I said, ensuring transparency and accountability in government is an ongoing discussion.
The specific amendment that is in Bill 100 would amend section 6(1), entitled “Gifts,” of the Members’ Integrity Act to add the phrase, “that might reasonably be seen to have been given in connection.” Those 11 words, as innocuous as our opposition would like us to believe, will actually dilute the provision on gifts, because what I understood and heard from the member opposite is she’s talking about conflicts of interest, which is a separate provision. It’s section 2 of the act.
So the proposed amendment would now read, “A member of the assembly shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that might reasonably be seen to have been given in connection, directly or indirectly, with the performance of the member’s duties of office.”
For clarity, section 6(1) reads as follows in its current form: “A member of the assembly shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties of office.” “Indirectly” and “directly” absolutely capture the concerns of the members opposite.
Speaker, when considering the proposed amendment, we must consider first the intent or the rationale for the wording change, and secondly, whether the proposed change accomplishes that goal. We really have to look at why we’re making the change and whether the harm we are trying to address will actually be addressed by the proposed amendment. In my submission, the proposed amendment to section 6(1) misses on both fronts. I do not believe the proposed change is necessary or that it in any way addresses the concerns of the opposition, based on the comments of the Leader of the Opposition today. I think, as I’ve indicated before, that this change is misdirected and will in fact dilute the effect of section 6(1) and muddy the clarity of the section by conflating two separate issues: first, the gift, and second, conflict of interest.
The intent of section 6(1) is to prohibit MPPs from accepting gifts or personal benefits that may arise in connection, directly or indirectly, with the performance of their duties as MPPs. Section 6(1) sets out an absolute prohibition, subject to the specific exemptions set out in section 6(2) and the disclosure requirements set out in section 6(3).
It is a threshold issue. The acceptance of a gift or personal benefit is either inappropriate or it is not. This is determined based on the value of the gift, a decision to be made and enforced by the Integrity Commissioner, who is an officer of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 23 of the Members’ Integrity Act. This is a very defined and narrow decision which does not require or involve consideration of any external factors. It is a threshold issue. The member either complied with or breached the prohibition. How the circumstances surrounding the gift are perceived or viewed by the public, or any consideration of reasonableness, is irrelevant and immaterial.
The proposed wording change as set out in Bill 100 would require the Integrity Commissioner to use the lens of reasonableness when considering and applying section 6(1). This is misguided and, in my submission, detracts from and weakens the prohibition as set out in the current wording.
Speaker, when we consider the Members’ Integrity Act, and in particular the provisions applying to all members of the assembly, as set out in sections 2 through 9, we see a number of different provisions and restrictions in addition to the prohibition on gifts, as set out in 6(1). For example, section 2 deals with conflicts of interest and reads as follows: “A member of the assembly shall not make a decision or participate in making a decision in the execution of his or her office if the member knows or reasonably should know that in the making of the decision there is an opportunity to further the member’s private interest or improperly to further another person’s private interest.”
That’s very clear. The inclusion of the wording “if the member knows or reasonably should know” is important in this context and is both relevant and material. On the surface, the wording, which is very similar to that proposed in Bill 100, is different, because it talks about specific contexts and the member’s knowledge.
So why is the wording appropriate in this provision, when I say it’s not appropriate in the gifts provision in section 6(1)? The answer to that is important, and it highlights the key distinctions between the two provisions. A conflict of interest is a different issue and requires a different type of examination. It requires an evaluation to determine whether an infraction has or has not occurred. Unlike section 6(1), it is not a threshold issue; it requires an objective evaluation that considers the circumstances around the member’s decision, and that requires the inclusion of the phrase “the member knows or reasonably should know.”
The first part of the phrasing, “the member knows,” focuses on the state of mind of the member. What did the member know when they participated in the decision? This is referred to as a subjective test, because it requires the decider, or the trier of fact, to look through the lens of the member, which is why it is referred to as a subjective test. The inclusion of the words “or reasonably should know” broadens that focus to take a broader look at the situation and consider whether the member’s decision can be viewed as reasonable. Put another way, it considers the member’s decision through the perspective of a reasonable person. That is the reasonable test that my friend referred to, which forms part of the negligence law in Ontario and is a critical piece of this conflict of interest provision.
It allows the Integrity Commissioner to consider the member’s decision from both a subjective lens, which deals with what the member knew, and the objective lens, which deals with what the member ought reasonably to have known as judged by the reasonable person. The subjective/objective approach is not relevant, and it is not needed in the context of a gift. Not only is it not relevant or necessary, in my opinion, it weakens the application of 6(1) by importing another consideration to the prohibition, which is a threshold consideration. By broadening it to allow the Integrity Commissioner to look at what a reasonable person might think of a gift, it could lead to an instance where the Integrity Commissioner might find that the acceptance of a gift might be viewed as reasonable despite the fact that it exceeds $200 and is not covered by an exemption set out in subsection 6(2).
Speaker, I want to go on record again as indicating that this government takes accountability and transparency very seriously. I can say that in my role as a municipal councillor in Collingwood, we had a judicial inquiry, and Justice Marrocco, the Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court, viewed two transactions that took place in my municipality. He found those transactions were marred by a conflict of interest, and he used the reasonable test. In this context, we’re talking about gifts, and that’s a threshold. The gift is either over $200 and covered by an exemption, or it is not. That’s all you need to consider: Does it exceed the value, and is it not covered by an exemption? And if it isn’t, then it is an offence, an infraction. Importing reasonableness into this is out of context, it’s immaterial, it’s irrelevant and it can lead to confusion and decisions that are not in the best interests of our residents.
Taxpayers of Ontario need to know that their government and their MPPs are working in line with our ethical responsibilities, and I say that the current Members’ Integrity Act, 1994, and specifically subsection 6(1), which deals with gifts, complies with that. It’s enforced.
There is a complaint before the Integrity Commissioner, and that’s all that we need to discuss for the purpose of this today.
On this side of the floor, we believe integrity is important, we believe it is protected and we stand behind the current act. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Catherine Fife: It is so interesting to join this debate. The Integrity Commissioner of the province of Ontario has asked us to review this practice. We have brought a piece of legislation to the floor of the Ontario Legislature in good trust, in the good interest of the people of this province, and we’ve already heard that this government is not interested in integrity, in addressing conflict of interest. This is a bill that should have as much support from the government as the opposition benches. This should not be a partisan issue. I don’t think any member of this House would stand up and argue that public trust in us as legislators, as elected representatives, is not important. That is astounding to hear from the people on the other side, of the government benches.
I also don’t think that any member of this House can stand up and argue against the fact that public trust in Ontario has eroded since this government was elected. We have multiple Financial Accountability Officer reports that show that money is not going where it should and that there is a growing concern about that underspending along—it’s interesting that the member refused to address this, but this $4-billion unallocated contingency fund—in a democracy, legislators should have oversight over public dollars. The citizens and taxpayers deserve this transparency.
But if we all agree that public trust is important and we all know that public trust has eroded under this government, then we should all be able to agree to take action to fix this.
What we have here before us is a simple bill. It’s actually a very straightforward, honest, no-red-tape kind of bill for this kind of government which starts to rebuild public trust, and that is so needed right now in this province. All it does is make clear that we as leaders, as legislators, have a responsibility and an obligation to avoid both conflicts of interest and also the appearance of conflicts of interest. Because when people think there is a bypass on accountability, there usually is. It shouldn’t be a huge ask to ensure that transparency in government, in fact, for all of us—this is not something that is an extension of our democracy. This is actually something that our democracy demands.
This also isn’t a new idea, as our leader has said. The federal government requires members of its Legislature to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest and so do other provincial Legislatures. It is time for Ontario to come online. Nearly every industry we regulate requires similar of those in positions of trust—with the exception of the gambling sector in Ontario, but we’ll park that for right now. Who here can say to the people of Ontario, “It’s okay. It’s okay for a member of Ontario’s Legislature to appear to have a conflict of interest”? It’s not okay. Can we agree that it’s not okay? No one should believe that it’s okay.
To be clear for my government colleagues who have shown up for this debate tonight, all that’s being asked is that we pass a simple bill that codifies that simple position. That is it. It is a very simple bill asking to restore trust in this Legislature and that it’s not okay for any member of this House to appear to have a conflict of interest and that we have an obligation and a responsibility to avoid putting ourselves in that position.
Frankly, everyone in this House and the government would benefit from this legislation, because when people think there is a bypass on accountability, as I mentioned, there is. We need restored trust in this Legislature like never before in the history of this province. And that’s why I hope and I believe that support for this bill should be unanimous and that every vote against it be a clear call pronouncing that the member who said no one believes that whatever benefit they get from their perceived conflicts of interest is more important to them than the trust that the people of this province.
What I want to say to you is that if this government says it has integrity, instead, it signals the absence of it. And you have an opportunity in this House to signal to the people of this province that trust matters, that integrity matters and that in this province of Ontario, you’re willing to address it on health care, on the economy, on the environment, on housing, on Indigenous matters and Indigenous communities—and to this date, you have completely and utterly failed.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Schreiner: I rise to speak on Bill 100, a bill that makes a minor change that will add a little more teeth to the Members’ Integrity Act, providing the Integrity Commissioner with another tool to do his or her job to enforce integrity in this Legislature and to ensure public trust in government.
Bill 100 just makes a small change to subsection 6(1) of the Members’ Integrity Act, and it essentially says that a member “shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit”—and here’s the important change—“that might reasonably be seen to have been given in connection, directly or indirectly, with the performance of the member’s duties....” A small change that I hope all MPPs can support, because not only should we be ensuring that an MPP is not engaged in a conflict of interest, but also that there is not an appearance of a conflict of interest, which is so vital to maintaining trust and confidence in government. People deserve to know that their elected officials are working in the public interest, not to advance their own interest or the private interest of the well connected seeking to benefit from government decisions.
So I would encourage all my colleagues from all sides of the House to not only vote in favour of this bill but to also, this day, make a commitment to have an all-party process for reviewing the Members’ Integrity Act as a whole. Indeed, the Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Wake, has previously recommended changes to the act, actually explicitly regarding the need for clarity regarding addressing the appearance of a conflict of interest, which this bill begins the process of doing. I think it’s important to respond to the Integrity Commissioner and make a commitment that we as a Legislature will strengthen the integrity act and the power of the Integrity Commissioner at this important moment in time, not only to clear the air about greenbelt land deals that don’t pass the smell test but also to foster trust and confidence that government is acting in the public interest at a time when we’re seeing growing anti-democratic movements around the world and right here in North America.
As elected officials, all of us hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical behaviour. Integrity, the integrity of the work we do, is a foundational principle that must guide our work, and Ontarians deserve and should be able to trust their elected officials to make decisions that are clearly in the public interest.
Now, we may and we will and we often disagree on what that public interest is, so we have different political parties. That’s why we have rigorous debate here in the Legislature. As a matter of fact, healthy debate and healthy disagreement is vital to a healthy democracy. As a matter of fact, it’s foundational to a functioning democracy. That’s why we need to overhaul the Members’ Integrity Act to ensure that when we have that rigorous debate, when we do indeed have those differences, that the debate is centred on a debate around what’s best for the public interest, not the advance of the private interests of the well connected.
I think we need to, and I want to offer a few suggestions on how we can strengthen the Members’ Integrity Act in the remaining time that I have today, to maybe kick off this debate about an all-party review of the act. I think we need to allow investigations by the Integrity Commissioner that are based not only on complaints from members but from the public and from staff, who may have information that we as members don’t have. I think we should enable the Integrity Commissioner to also be allowed to publicly report on the outcomes of complaints when the Integrity Commissioner deems that to be appropriate. I think we should look at covering MPPs and all children and wider family members in the act, not just provisions regarding spouses and minor children, and I believe that the Members’ Integrity Act should be expanded to cover perceived conflicts, period, not only when it comes to gifts.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Sandy Shaw: I’m honoured to rise in this Legislature and speak to the Strengthening Members’ Integrity Act. I also want to say how enormously proud I am to serve in this caucus with all of you and to serve under this leader, who stands up every day for transparency and integrity for the people of the province of Ontario.
We became MPPs and are here because we earned the trust of our constituents, and we have to keep earning that trust every single day, with every single action and every decision that we make.
We’ve been debating all day today the restoration of Queen’s Park, which the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane eloquently called the cathedral of democracy, a building that has been described today as the embodiment of our collective values and our highest aspirations.
We need look no further than the Seven Grandfather Teachings carving. At the unveiling of this carving, the Speaker said, “Not only is it incredibly important to have an Indigenous perspective represented, but the Seven Grandfather Teachings are a universal set of guiding principles that we can all relate to, regardless of our background.”
That is what this bill is about: a universal set of guiding principles. This act would strengthen the provisions of the Members’ Integrity Act by prohibiting MPPs from accepting gifts or other benefits that might reasonably be seen to be connected to the performance of their duties.
I’m confident that the members on the government side will vote to support this reasonable change, because many of you, when you were in opposition, had strong words to say about the previous Liberal government and what you described as “cash for access” connected to awarding energy contracts. Quoting from Hansard, the now Minister of Labour said, “They got caught in a cash-for-access scheme where ... friends secured contracts....”
The MPP for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke said, “The appearance is still there, the possibility exists, that there may have been some connection between making those massive donations to the Liberal Party and happening to be the ones that received the contracts. You see, all of those developers that did receive contracts did make donations to the Liberal Party.”
We share your indignation with the actions of the Liberals—that’s why they’re where they are—but to be blunt, from the greenbelt to the deal at Ontario Place, your government is earning the very same reputation. It’s a reputation for what appears to be policy decisions that benefit a select number of insiders, friends or donors. This is a reputation that no government, no elected member, should want to be part of.
The way in which your government is destroying the greenbelt will be long remembered. We all know the story: First, the Premier was caught telling his donors, who are also developers, that he would open the greenbelt. Then he backtracked and made a campaign promise that he wouldn’t. Then, of course, he broke that promise that he made to the people of Ontario and opened up the greenbelt. These actions are under a cloud of suspicion. In fact, your government is under a cloud of suspicion. It remains a mystery as to who knew what and when, and why investors would purchase land before it was publicly known the land would be cleared for development.
In the public, these dealings are described as a thank-you gift to wealthy friends and donors of the Premier. None of this passes the sniff test—it kind of stinks—the test of reasonableness which any person might reasonably conclude when looking at the policy decisions of this government with regard to the greenbelt. The Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General are looking into the financial and environmental implications of these actions. The OPP’s anti-racket unit also looked into the matter. The anti-racket unit looked into this matter. This is a troubling pattern of behaviour, and it is defining your Conservative brand, unfortunately, just like the Airbus scandal defined the Mulroney Conservatives.
As elected leaders in Ontario, we should be holding ourselves to the highest standard. What we are proposing is a small measure. However, by supporting this bill, you will be sending a big message to the people of Ontario that your government is willing to restore trust in your government. We encourage you, please, to vote in favour.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Hon. Paul Calandra: Just really briefly: I know the parliamentary assistant did a wonderful job of explaining the high standards by which all of the people of the province of Ontario expect their members—and the standards, in fact, which we do.
I would just take some issue with the comments just made from the member opposite. There are a lot of issues—the member is right—but the ultimate trust of faith, I think, comes from the people of the province of Ontario, and that happens in a parliamentary democracy at the time of an election, Madam Speaker. I think in the last election the people of the province of Ontario really showed a huge sign of trust and faith in this government when they elected more Progressive Conservatives to sit on this side of the House, in a larger majority, while at the same time looking at the policies and the NDP as a whole and shrinking them even further than they were before, while at the same time looking at the other independents and showing that, really, they had no faith either in the Liberals or the Greens, shrinking that contingent as well.
Look, I believe what the people of the province of Ontario did when they sent a stronger Progressive Conservative majority with a larger majority than we have seen in over 42 years—I believe the people got it right, and I think you should do what the people say and continue to support the policies of this government, because we’re on the right track. You know it, the people of province of Ontario know it, and the electors knew it when they—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Thank you to the member.
Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to commend the leader of the official opposition, my party leader, on bringing this act forward.
What this amendment is about is what members do with the power they are given after the election. This isn’t about the election or any election. This is about what is perceived, what people do with the power they were given. And what this change makes is, it takes away not just the conflict of interest but the perception of conflict of interest, because perception—in the country, there’s a saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire.” What this is doing is it’s allowing the Integrity Commissioner to have the power to investigate the smoke, to see if there is a fire, because none of us want the fire. All of us want our democracy to operate transparently, because decisions are made with millions and trillions of dollars, and the government has the power to make them. We need to make sure they’re made accountably.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Order.
The member has two minutes to reply.
Ms. Marit Stiles: I want to start by saying I am so proud to work alongside the MPPs in the official opposition NDP caucus, people who believe deeply in integrity, in transparency, in good government, and they work so diligently for the people of this province every single day. Thank you.
I want to say also, Speaker, I am disappointed. I am disappointed to see the government members opposite creating excuses and, frankly, tying themselves in knots to find an excuse to not vote for this legislation. It is astonishing.
We made this so simple for a reason: because we want to do good things and we want to do well for the people of this province. One of the most powerful things that we can do as legislators is leave this place stronger than it was when we arrived. What better way, what better legacy, than to strengthen the integrity rules of this place to prevent anyone from having undue influence over the decisions that we make here.
We talk a lot about wanting to ensure that we have a strong and vibrant democracy. How out of touch that the government doesn’t see that people have lost confidence. They are losing confidence every day with these scandals. This is an opportunity to do something, to show that you want to do better.
Join us. Vote for this legislation. Do the right thing. Let’s leave this place better than where we found it.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.
MPP Stiles has moved second reading of Bill 100, An Act to amend the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 with respect to fees, gifts and personal benefits. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour of the motion, please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion, please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the nays have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
Second reading vote deferred.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): All matters—
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Order, House leader.
All matters related to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow, May 11, at 9 a.m.
The House adjourned at 1845.