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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
May 2, 2006 (afternoon sitting)
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): To the Minister of Transportation: Last week I asked you questions about the detours around Caledonia, provincial Highway 6, and you did not answer. You've had six days now to pull some information together. There have been reports of collisions on these back roads. Minister, will you inform this House and the drivers in the Caledonia area what you're doing to facilitate the movement of vehicles, not only around the periphery of Caledonia but also within Caledonia?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar (Minister of Transportation): The minister of aboriginal affairs.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Under standing order 36(e), "A minister to whom an oral question is directed may refer the question to another minister who is responsible for the subject matter to which the question relates." There is no relationship, Mr. Speaker. This was all dealing with transportation issues, and the minister responsible should respond and comply with the standing orders.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): I would ask the Minister of Transportation if he could answer the question. No? Excuse me. I'll take it under advisement.
I have to ask the Premier, in this case, whose responsibility this particular issue would be. If it is the responsibility of the minister of aboriginal affairs, then he could answer it.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): Speaker, I think, in fairness, there is some overlap in connection with this matter, but if the question is related to Caledonia, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, has principal responsibility for that file.
The Deputy Speaker: Then to the minister of aboriginal affairs.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I say to the member that I understand, as we all do when we have responsibilities for our local constituencies, how disruptive this dispute obviously has been to your community and to people throughout your riding. Believe me, this government is working day and night to work at resolving this conflict. As you know, we have asked former Premier David Peterson to come in, and he is in meetings as we speak. He has been discussing all of this with all the principals in this dispute. I would assure the local member that the issue of the barricades on these road networks is his first job, his primary concern, and that is what he's working towards: resolving that for you.
Mr. Barrett: My supplementary is to the Minister of Transportation. There's a big problem with travellers and tourists from outside the area. As you can appreciate, they are having difficulties negotiating these roads across Haldimand county. I talked to representatives of the Port Dover Board of Trade and the Jarvis Board of Trade. Turkey Point tourism is impacted. Hagersville tourism is impacted. Minister of Transportation, what specific measures will you launch to help our area throughout both Haldimand and Norfolk to accommodate tourist traffic, cottagers and day trippers who go down to Lake Erie? This is your responsibility, Minister, and we ask for some leadership on this roads issue.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: First of all, I want to say to the member that this is a temporary situation.
Mr. Barrett: Wrong minister.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: If the member would listen to me, when it comes to the rerouting of traffic because of this type of temporary barricading, the OPP obviously outlined and delineated where these detours are to run. The member also knows that our government has given assistance to the municipality directly to help them with this and many of the other associated costs this dispute has caused them. I would say to the member, we are working with your community on this, on the issues of transportation, and the other disruptions that have been caused by this dispute.
Mr. Barrett: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would request a late show response from the Minister of Transportation on the roads issue.
The Deputy Speaker: You may file that at the appropriate time. New question.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): I want to announce that, pursuant to standing order 37(a), the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. This matter will be debated today at 6 p.m.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I'm pleased to present a petition. It reads as follows:
"We Demand Leadership in Land Dispute
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas the McGuinty government was notified of this land issue over two years ago; and
"Whereas the standoff has been ongoing since February 28, 2006; and
"Whereas there has been no leadership from senior levels of government;
"We, the undersigned, demand that the McGuinty Liberals start showing some real, consistent and timely leadership in dealing with the current standoff in Caledonia."
I'm pleased to submit this on their behalf through Kristy.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given today by the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or his parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.
I recognize the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): Indeed I am dissatisfied with this afternoon's response from the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. Part of my reason is that on two occasions I've asked the Minister of Transportation about roads issues, not only within and adjacent to Caledonia but also throughout the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, for a total of four questions now over the last week. On both occasions the Minister of Transportation bounced the question to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, although today the Speaker appeared to rule that he was to answer and then the Premier ruled that the Minister of Transportation didn't have to answer. Maybe some of that confusion will be clarified in the response this evening.
If the questions had been on the negotiations to remove the barricades, for example, I could understand how the two ministers would have an overlapping responsibility. Again, it would be appropriate for the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs to respond. That being said, my questions focused on transportation issues that fall within the purview of the ministry and the Minister of Transportation.
I'll repeat one of the questions in part. Argyle Street is blocked. Provincial Highway 6, the bypass, is blocked. I have requested what the Ministry of Transportation is doing to accommodate traffic, focusing primarily within the boundaries of my riding, Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.
I feel that question period is obviously a fundamental component of our democratic system. It allows MPPs like myself the opportunity to ask the executive branch questions, and it's reasonable to expect that we would get answers from what we would consider to be the most appropriate minister. Roads and transportation planning are issues of the ministry, of ministry staff and the minister. Again, Ministry of Transportation staff don't answer questions for the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
Whether this symbolizes a trend demonstrated by this government on not only this issue but other issues, we've watched with dismay as the present government has played the Ping-Pong game on the Caledonia land dispute. I guess it was two months ago that I was told to go to Ottawa on this issue. I've been told that with respect to issues agricultural. The Minister of Agriculture and Food on many occasions indicates, "Go to Ottawa." It doesn't matter what we ask the government; we get deflection, what I consider some finger pointing and the blame game. It's so odd to see this approach become inculcated within the executive council itself. I asked a question about roads to the Minister of Transportation. The question is bounced to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. I appreciate that the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs could respond if I had asked a question on that issue.
When my caucus colleague Mr. Runciman raised a point of order, the Premier indicated that on questions relating to Caledonia, the minister of aboriginal affairs is responsible. How far does this go? Do we see a title change: Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, Minister of Transportation, minister responsible for Caledonia? Do we include other towns? Do we work on the assumption that any question, regardless of content, that deals with Caledonia must be directed to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs? Who makes that decision? Is it you, Speaker? Is it the Premier who makes that decision, which, from what I can see, seems to have occurred this afternoon?
I'm getting so many e-mails with respect to traffic volumes, very significant problems that have to be addressed: load-bearing of bridges, narrow roads, safety, reported collisions, signage and routing.
The Acting Speaker: The minister responsible for aboriginal affairs has five minutes to reply.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): I'd like to answer the member as directly as I can, to tell him -- I think he knows this -- that the OPP have established the detour route around the blockade on Highway 6, and that in this case it would be the MTO contractors who are assisting the OPP with this redirection of traffic around the blockade.
The government has supplied two portable, changeable message signs in order to further notify the drivers of these detour routes. I'm sure the member is aware of this when we have detours such as this; I know I'm very familiar with them at home, when roads are washed out etc. Also the load restrictions the member speaks to for the two bridges are also then on these message signs, up to date, because of half-loads etc. The drivers are well-informed and directed by signage that the OPP, through MTO contractors, are providing. So that's the answer to his question.
Quite frankly, we refer to this as being a temporary situation. We are working very hard. As you know, David Peterson is now the Ontario lead, meeting with all the groups in the communities and working to resolve this. I feel there's a lot of good will there. We're going to get this resolved. But in the meantime, both the OPP and the MTO are taking care of the road traffic.
The Acting Speaker: There being no further matters to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 6:45 p.m.