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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
June 7, 2006
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): As someone who served as critic of the Ministry of the Solicitor General for many years and as minister for almost six, I've had the opportunity to work very closely with members of the OPP, from the commissioner level to the front line. I have enormous respect for the men and women of the OPP who serve us so well, and I'm truly distressed to witness the challenges currently confronting them at Caledonia and the fallout for their reputation and morale.
The OPP finds itself in a no-win situation. The residents of Caledonia and Haldimand are upset with them for what they see as their failure to enforce the rule of law and their humiliating retreat following a politically correct raid on the occupied property. The OPP's challenge, operating in a McGuinty Liberal environment, is that they cannot, in any way, shape or form, count on the support of this government. They're constantly looking over their shoulders.
This was driven home yesterday when the minister responsible for policing blamed OPP officers for driving into the occupied property Sunday night and implicitly endorsed the concept of a no-go zone for the OPP.
These are difficult times for an outstanding police service, and the responsibility for that lies squarely at the doorstep of the McGuinty Liberal government.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if it will qualify as entertainment or democracy in action, but I have a question for the Premier. Premier, two days ago, this House voted in favour of our motion on your handling of the Caledonia situation and called for a public inquiry to take place at the appropriate time so that we as decision-makers could gain a better understanding of what has gone wrong there and how we might prevent it from happening again in the future, as well as an examination of the land claims process and any helpful advice that independent investigator might offer as to how that could work better as well.
During the last election campaign, you made a lot of statements and several promises to voters about making this place work better and about respecting the Legislature and its members. Will you live up to your promises and make the commitment to hold, at the appropriate time, a public inquiry so that we can all know what has gone on at Caledonia, get some advice with respect to the land claims process and respect the will of the members of this House? Will you do that?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'm pleased to take the question. The leader of the official opposition will undoubtedly know that I had the opportunity to speak to this just yesterday when I described this ploy on the part of Conservatives as being nothing more than mischief-making.
In truth, what the opposition objects to, in terms of the approach we have brought, is that we have refused to direct police in any of their activities or any type of engagement with the First Nations. We will continue to bring forward the same kind of approach that we have brought to date. We will be thoughtful, we will be responsible, we will be patient, and we will persevere.
Mr. Tory: During the time of the election campaign and during the time before that, I suspect you would not have described, for example, any of your many calls for public inquiries of various kinds as being mischievous.
What we did in this case was simply take the responsibilities that we have as the official opposition in this Legislature and duly file a motion, which was then duly debated and voted upon in this House. The motion was voted on and passed. You can describe that as mischievous; I actually thought that was parliamentary democracy. The only mischievous thing -- and I would describe it, as well, as unfortunate -- is that only seven members of the Liberal Party were in the Legislature for the debate and for the vote. I think that lack of attendance by itself indicates the degree to which you don't take this issue seriously.
Will you not respect the Legislature and a vote of the Legislature and agree to ask an independent investigator, at the appropriate time, to look into what happened at Caledonia and how we can learn from it? Why won't you do that?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I'm going to recommend to the Leader of the Opposition that he take a look at today's Hamilton Spectator, in particular the editorial found on page A17. The title of the editorial is "Political Theatre of the Absurd." In describing the motion, the Hamilton Spectator describes it as "self-serving political opportunism in an extremely delicate situation." It goes on to say, "To suggest, as Tory has, that a public inquiry be launched before the standoff is resolved is simply silly." I completely agree.
Mr. Tory: And I would feel just the slightest bit sensitive about that if that in fact was what I had asked for, but if you go back and look at the press releases from when we asked for the inquiry in the first instance, they all clearly say, as I've repeated today, that you should commit to launching the inquiry at the appropriate time.
We've asked for it so that people down there will know -- from all corners, in all parts of that community, and indeed people across the province -- that at the appropriate time, you are willing, as you suggested so often in the past, and that you are willing out of respect for this Legislature, which had a debate and had a vote, to agree to an independent investigation of this matter so that we might learn from it and find ways we might improve the land claims process and our handling of these kinds of disputes.
My question is very simple. Rather than reading me that clipping which is based on a false premise as to when I asked for the inquiry, why will you not agree to that kind of independent inquiry? What is it you're afraid of? Is it that it's going to expose your own lack of leadership --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked. Premier?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, I think it's important for us to be very direct in terms of what it is we're talking about here. The leader of the official opposition is critical -- there's no hiding that -- of the approach we've brought to dealing with the affair at Caledonia. He's critical because what he wants us to do is to send in the police. We refuse to do that. At least Mr. Barrett has been very forthright in this regard. He has said, and I quote again, "It puts our OPP in a very bad situation. They're getting obviously no sense of direction or leadership from this government. There's got to be some kind of direction for the OPP." I couldn't more strongly disagree. I think Ontarians again have a good opportunity for a study in contrasts here. They would send in the police. They would have the police engage in some kind of action. We choose to negotiate. We choose to take the time to ensure we have a resolution which is peaceful.
The Speaker: New question. The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: My question again is for the Premier. And I should say that at no time ever have I said that you should send the police in or instruct the police to go in -- ever. What I have said --
The Speaker: Order. Minister of Agriculture, member for Halton, the Attorney General, come to order. The government House leader will come to order. Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: What I have said is that a very good start, if you want to talk about sending somebody in, would be to send yourself down there; for a single member of your government to go down there and listen to a single citizen who would tell you about what is going on with the fabric of that community.
Now, yesterday you referred to the Caledonia standoff as being one "without incident." I just want to clarify that you don't consider the following to be incidents: barricades and tire fires seen for miles; OPP officers wrestling with protesters; an electricity blackout involving more than 9,000 people and all kinds of businesses; numerous brawls; a security guard's car being burned to the ground; paved roads being dug up by heavy machinery; two OPP officers reportedly being held against their will for making a wrong turn. Why don't you take this opportunity to explain to the people of Ontario how you can describe this security crisis as being something that's happened without incident.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Let me remind the leader of the official opposition of what we've done in Caledonia so far by working with the community, with the Six Nations, with the federal government. First of all, we appointed David Peterson to work through some of the immediate issues. The members opposite will know that we've helped to negotiate the opening of the Argyle Street blockade. He will know that we've secured the federal participation with the appointment of Barbara McDougall as the federal representative and we've appointed Jane Stewart as our provincial representative, so that together we can work through the broader Haldimand tract land claims issue. We have helped calm tensions and build trust by placing a moratorium on the development of Douglas Creek Estates while discussions continue. And just recently, Minister Cordiano was in the community to help the local community with a $500,000 emergency assistance program for local businesses. We've been there, and we will stay there with the community to ensure that we can resolve this peacefully.
Mr. Tory: I have a slight advantage over the Premier in that I have been there and listened to what the people have to say down there. I've been there not once, not twice, but three times. Three times I've been there to listen to people, and I have listened to them describe, from the first time to the third time, how much the social fabric of this community has been torn; how much they regret what has happened by allowing this situation to escalate; how much has happened to tear asunder relationships that have developed over decades between people who live there from the First Nations part of the community and from other parts of the community.
I say to you again and I ask you one more time, instead of offering some real leadership and actually showing somebody's face down there to communicate with these people, to show some caring on the part of a single minister of the government, up to and including, I would suggest, yourself, you've chosen to downplay this, to describe this as without incident and so on.
Why won't you acknowledge the severity of this situation and agree at the appropriate time to an independent investigation of what happened here, and an independent investigation of how land claims get to this point so we can stop it from happening ever again? Why won't you do that?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The leader of the official opposition is intent on inflaming this situation. He uses different language, but the basis for his criticism of our government and the approach we brought to Caledonia is that he's saying over and over again between the lines that it's time for us to send in the police. He says we can't allow the situation to go on any longer and it's time for us to send in the police.
At least Mr. Barrett is very forthright in this regard. He has said specifically that we should be sending in the police. I understand that that's the approach they would take. We have a decidedly different approach. It takes time and perseverance. It takes our acting responsibly in a way that will cultivate a basic foundation of goodwill and trust. They want us to send in the police; we will not do that.
Mr. Tory: I think it is a complete disgrace and beneath the office that you hold as Premier of this province to suggest that by coming in here and doing the job the Leader of the Opposition is appointed to do, to ask questions about your handling of this affair and to ask you nothing more than something you asked many times of the governments you questioned, namely to appoint an independent investigator at the appropriate time to look into this -- for you to describe that as "inflaming this situation" I think is irresponsible in the extreme.
Mr. Tory: I would ask you --
The Speaker: I can wait. The Minister of Health Promotion, come to order. The member for Burlington will come to order. The Minister of Finance will come to order. The member for Halton will come to order.
I need to be able to hear the questions that are put by members in this place and to hear the responses. About 10 seconds.
Mr. Tory: I would urge the Premier to read the speech that I gave in the Legislature in respect of the motion that was debated on Monday, because I tried my best to be balanced and responsible about the need for an independent investigation to look into better ways to handle land claims and better ways to handle these kinds of situations. I simply ask you, why won't you agree to that kind of independent investigation? To ask for it is not to inflame the situation.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: If the leader of the official opposition, as he claims, has a sincere interest in helping us to diffuse existing circumstances, if he's interested in helping us to lower the temperature, if he's actually interested in helping us to deal with the situation as it obtains at the present, if he has a genuine interest in helping to us find a way out of this in a way that will ensure that nobody's safety is compromised, then I'm all ears. But I have yet to hear a single valuable, constructive proposal that would help us deal with this issue today.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Education, minister responsible for women's issues): I want to hear from the cowboy in your caucus.
The Speaker: Minister of Education.
The Speaker: Order. The Minister of Health will come to order.
This is the final warning to the Minister of Education.
The Speaker: I can wait.
New question. The leader of the third party.
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Premier, the leadership of First Nations across Ontario is so frustrated with your failure of leadership at Caledonia that the Ontario regional chief wrote to you recently and said, "This is a land rights issue and no forum exists in Ontario to resolve land rights issues in a timely manner." He then goes on to say, "Ontario can take a proactive role which can ultimately help." He then suggests how a land rights forum could function.
Premier, Regional Chief Toulouse is suggesting a positive initiative on how the Caledonia conflict could have been avoided and future land rights issues could be proactively addressed. Why has your government failed to heed the advice of Regional Chief Toulouse?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I was pleased to receive the constructive proposal from Chief Toulouse. It's part of an ongoing engagement we have with him and so many other leaders in our First Nations communities, but at present we find ourselves in circumstances which demand immediate action, so we have elicited the support of the federal government, and in particular Barbara McDougall, together with Jane Stewart, our provincial representative. We're sitting down and working through the larger, broader land claim issues. That group will meet again tomorrow.
I can say that Chief Toulouse has put forward a constructive proposal, and we look forward to considering that on a go-forward basis, but at the present time we are sitting down and working with the federal government and working our way through these very important issues.
Mr. Hampton: Premier, Regional Chief Toulouse doesn't see it that way. He says to you, "I must remind you that the issue at Caledonia began with a simple occupation of a parcel of land to prevent development." He says, "This is a situation which could be repeated over and over again due to continued encroachments on First Nations lands and the absence of a process to address First Nations land rights issues."
He then goes on to say that your own negotiators are confused. He says, "However, the mandates of the provincial negotiators remain unclear. Recently I became aware that an apparent agreement reached at the negotiating table was not honoured by provincial parties."
It doesn't sound, Premier, as if your government is heeding Regional Chief Toulouse's advice or that you're acting with honour and honesty at the table. What do you say to that?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, I appreciate Chief Toulouse's advice in this regard. We're getting advice from a host of people around the province, and there are a number of interpretations, of course, associated with the different actions carried out by different people. But I can tell you that we bring a tremendous amount of goodwill and commitment to resolving this matter in a peaceful way.
In addition to the major land claims table, Speaker, in addition to the $500,000 by way of emergency assistance for local business announced recently by Minister Cordiano, we've also provided $100,000 to set up an interim relief program for the developer and the builders involved on the site.
I can say that we're now fast-tracking discussions with the developers involved so that we can find some way to deal with the land. Again, it's a complicated matter. We'll bring everything that we possibly can to bear to deal with this in a positive, constructive way that culminates in a peaceful solution.
Mr. Hampton: Premier, you were the one who promised "a new era of good relations with Ontario First Nations." Regional Chief Toulouse is trying to provide some positive solutions and suggestions, but what he's seeing from your government is issue evasion and confusion.
Consider this: Your government knew for a year that there was a land rights issue here, but you did not engage in serious discussion. Then, after the protest begins, you start some discussion, but while discussion is happening, in go the OPP. Here, just the other day, the Leader of the Opposition put forward a proposal for an inquiry. Your own members don't oppose it, so it passes the Legislature, and now you say you oppose that. What we see is confusion.
Premier, Chief Toulouse wants to be proactive and provide solutions. He says if you don't do that, this can repeat itself. When are you going to take Chief Toulouse's advice and set up --
The Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I'll say for the third time, we welcome Chief Toulouse's positive, constructive advice and we look forward to finding a way to address that on a go-forward basis. But at the present time, we find ourselves caught up in a difficult situation. We have already established a table. I spoke with Prime Minister Harper on the weekend about that. We are both committed to doing everything we possibly can to work together to resolve this in a peaceful way. We're providing ongoing assistance to the community. We've done what we can to this point in time to bring down the barricades. I think that kind of issue is now going to be transferred to the main table.
We're going to work with the developer involved. We will continue to work with the community. We will do everything we possibly can to resolve this in a way that is based on, that is founded on, goodwill and trust and a determination to resolve this peacefully.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. The Premier asked a moment ago if there were a couple of constructive ideas for the things that might be done in respect of Caledonia. I'll start with a letter that your minister received on August 18, 2005, from Chief David General. It specifically suggested, "We also invite you and members of your staff to travel to our community to tour the area and meet with our community members to better understand the challenges we currently face." The letter was all about this Douglas estates land development. So that's one suggestion. Why don't you ask your minister to go down there -- or maybe yourself -- and actually have the meeting that Chief General asked about in August 2005? We might not be having this discussion if that had been done.
The second one is to follow along with what Regional Chief Angus Toulouse said that the leader of the New Democratic Party asked about. He said in the letter that we have to focus "on ways and means to address First Nations land rights issues in Ontario." Why isn't an independent investigation of the land claims process such as I have suggested in this House, which could look at other matters as well -- why doesn't that answer --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): Upon receipt of Chief David General's letter on August 5 of last year, I had several meetings with the chief and many of his council members. We had reconfirmed a structure called the exploration that we had been working on; in fact, we had expedited that exploration of the land claims and the accounting claims issues there.
If you speak to David General, he was very satisfied with the progress. What had happened was that some in the community -- you have to remember that this duly elected chief and council only have the support of about 10% to 12% of the population of the Six Nations -- didn't accept the progress that was being made, became impatient, and especially when they saw the model home being constructed, the Douglas Creek Estates home, they went out and acted out their frustration. We continue to work with all the leaders in the Six Nations because, as the Leader of the Opposition must know, there's more than one leadership there.
Mr. Tory: My question is to the Premier, but assuming I'll hear from the minister, we got the letter a year ago suggesting that there be an on-site visit, to come down and visit. We have the suggestion in the letter from Ontario Chief Toulouse that we have a process put in place to examine the land claims process.
I ask you, because maybe you'll have a different answer as to those two things being suggested, what is wrong with committing today to having an independent investigation at the appropriate time of these things -- an independent "examination" is a better word -- by someone of repute who can look at these things, both the land claims process as we suggested in our motion and the situation as it has now unfolded at Caledonia, at the appropriate time? Can you tell me why that's a bad idea, why the Premier rejects it? Well, I won't assume you reject it, because you're a reasonable man. Can you give me your answer as to why this is categorized as inflaming the situation and mischievous when in fact it is actually a constructive suggestion to allow us to get to the bottom of how we can make things better?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I've said to the Leader of the Opposition that we're spending all of our time trying to resolve this issue right now. That's what we're doing, day and night, and everybody in government is trying to do this.
I'd like to comment on Grand Chief Angus Toulouse's suggestion, because it is a good idea. While we sit here in government, that's not to say we always have the best possible solutions to everything. We know every day we can always do a better job and we're always interested in new ideas and constructive ideas. We look to your caucus for that, and to the leader of the third party to do that, and Chief Angus Toulouse, who I work with very well.
You have to appreciate, though, that this is the most unique accounting land claim situation in the whole country. It's not a straightforward claim like the others are, where we have straightforward procedures. In fact, we have about 65 of these ongoing in Ontario. Some are scheduled to be resolved in 2012, like the Algonquin one which involves the city of Ottawa. They're very complex. They're all scheduled. But this one's very different. It's an accounting claim based on a grant from a crown of 250 years ago.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question again is to the Premier. It was reported this week that two OPP officers involved in the Caledonia incident had their cruiser surrounded and were subsequently detained for a period of time after making, as your minister described it yesterday, a "wrong turn." Can you explain the concept of the OPP taking a "wrong turn" anywhere within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, within their mandate to carry out the law and protect all of Ontario and all Ontario citizens? I don't think it's a concept most people in Ontario are familiar with.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): The Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Hon. Monte Kwinter (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. The first thing I want to do is to commend the OPP for the incredible job they've done.
To answer your question directly, we're in a situation right now that is highly charged. You have raised the issue about the difficulties that are there. It is a very serious situation, and the slightest miscue can in fact set this thing really at a higher level than it is right now.
These two officers were brought into the area from another area. There was an understanding that nothing would be done to accelerate the tensions that were in that community, because a movement may be misinterpreted. They made a wrong turn. People on the other side, members of the First Nations, thought that somehow or other something was happening that wasn't, and that is what created this particular situation.
Mr. Tory: It's what we're here to do, which is to ask questions, because when you talk about that and say there's some sort of an understanding, then when it comes to the understanding the people of Ontario would have, I believe -- that the OPP have a responsibility, a mandate, that they're charged with the responsibility of looking after all of the people of Ontario in all parts of Ontario -- they would want to know what is the understanding here about wrong turns and no-go zones. Are there any other understandings anywhere else with anybody else in Ontario? It's not just about this situation and First Nations people; it's about the very fact there could be and would be understandings as to where the OPP would go.
What happens if there's a 911 call that comes in from somebody in that area? How does this understanding work vis-à-vis that? That is why it's important to ask these questions here, to have a discussion here, and indeed to have an independent investigation of this. So I ask you, will you share with us what is the understanding, who is it with and how many other understandings of this kind exist with respect to what the OPP do and where in the province of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The primary understanding is that public safety is paramount. That is what the understanding is. Every situation is unique. Surely even you would recognize that this is a unique situation. This is a situation where, given the circumstances, this is what is being done. That doesn't mean that this will now be transferred to any other situation in Ontario. Every situation is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and the proper response is tailored to make sure that public safety is maintained, and that is paramount.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, as you know, Caledonia and the Six Nations have experienced traffic chaos over the last 100 days. The former Minister of Transportation was AWOL, so to speak, on this issue, unable to communicate what the Ministry of Transportation was doing to properly route traffic in and around Caledonia and the Six Nations.
Now, due to the McGuinty government's absence of communications, there is rampant speculation about the barricades: When they are coming down, what was offered to get Argyle Street opened and whether Argyle Street could be re-blocked, as we've seen in past weeks.
Minister, my question is quite simple: What progress, if any, has been made to facilitate the movement of traffic on Highway 6 north from Caledonia to destinations south of Caledonia on Lake Erie's shoreline?
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield (Minister of Transportation): Thank you very much for the question. To the honourable member, it's my understanding -- and I may in fact refer part of this question to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs -- that the Ontario Provincial Police are involved in re-routing traffic on Highway 6 and have that situation under control.
If there are additional requests you were looking at, maybe you could give me some other information and I could follow through with you later. But it is my understanding that the Ontario Provincial Police have the situation under control and that the detour route is Highway 6.
The Speaker: Supplementary, the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): Minister, it's my understanding that you've made no progress. The OPP is rerouting traffic off Highway 6 and through downtown Caledonia. I can attest that that's a disaster.
I quote from an e-mail: "The traffic situation in Caledonia is increasingly intolerable, likely due to the large number of vehicles coming through town instead of using the bypass."
Another reads: "With Argyle open and the bypass closed you now have all traffic routed through town, which is causing unbelievable traffic jams... It is actually worse for us now that only one barricade is down." Minister, you would know this if you would come down to Caledonia -- or the previous minister or any of your colleagues.
My question: Minister, will you finally be straight with people in Caledonia? Specifically, will you provide us with an update on the negotiations to open up that provincial Highway 6 bypass?
Hon. Mrs. Cansfield: I'd refer the question to the minister of aboriginal affairs.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): Tomorrow, the long-term working group with Barbara McDougall and Jane Stewart reconvene with Grand Chief Allen McNaughton. We now see that there's a transition from the short-term discussion to the long-term table because it has been very apparent, as I've said, as of the last few days that the federal government now has the tools of land claim resolution that we think it's going to take to even solve the short-term solution here. That is going on tomorrow. Those discussions now are merging at that table. We're hoping for a very positive outcome.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): In the absence of the Premier, I will ask the Acting Premier if he would stand in his place and apologize to the people of Caledonia, Six Nations and area for the bizarre and insensitive remarks of the Premier yesterday that the 99 days of Caledonia have proceeded without incident?
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): Quite the contrary. I have the privilege today of standing, proud to support all the remarks of our Premier on this issue. We represent a government that takes a decidedly different approach than you do. We have witnessed from a variety of members opposite, and most especially the local member, a desire to send in the police, to get involved in the actual operational nature of police service. Rather, we continue to support the leadership of our colleague the minister of aboriginal affairs, who has dedicated himself, over a long period of time, to resolving this in a fashion that at the heart of it preserves our belief in human beings. This is our goal, and this is how we will continue to put all of our energy forward.
Mr. Kwinter moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 56, An Act to amend the Emergency Management Act, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 / Projet de loi 56, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la gestion des situations d'urgence, la Loi de 2000 sur les normes d'emploi et la Loi de 1997 sur la sécurité professionnelle et l'assurance contre les accidents du travail.
[SISIS note: This was a lengthy debate. The excerpts below are those that specifically relate to the Six Nations land reclamation.]
The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I appreciate the comments of the minister and the member -- I forget the riding -- Mr. Balkissoon, I think is the correct pronunciation. I'll get it out yet.
Certainly, our members who sat through the committee hearings on the legislation expressed significant concerns, primarily centred, I think, around the extraordinary powers that will be given to the Premier of the day with respect to control over a whole range of things he or she will be able to have power over in an emergency situation. But by and large I think our concerns, when we talk about this, are primarily focused on the current occupant of that chair and the observations of that individual in action, or inaction may be a more appropriate way to describe it. Our concern really centres not so much around vesting them in the office but around the individual occupying the chair and those unelected folks who surround him and are clearly making the day-to-day decisions that could impact on all of us Ontarians in terms of rights being removed and extraordinary powers being lodged within the office of an individual in whom we do not have a great deal of confidence, given, certainly most recently, the situation in Caledonia, which has been allowed to fester into a significant public safety crisis, in our view, and has extended to the point where it is now, in historic terms, the longest land occupation by a First Nation in Canadian history.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I'm certainly responding to the minister's comments today. I have the greatest respect for Mr. Kwinter and his intentions here, but I'm often required to monitor what actually is going on and the context in which it's going on in today's world, when we're seeing incidents of the threats of terrorism right here locally, as well as what's going on in Caledonia. You need some kind of discretionary authority -- leadership, if you will -- and we're failing to see a lot of that from McGuinty. Yet, at the same time, I recall Mr. Trudeau's comment, "Just watch me," during the War Measures Act. That was quite a scary event technically for the liberties that we fought for in the climate of the world.
It says, "Orders may be made in respect of many matters, including the regulation or prohibition of travel to or from a specified area, the evacuation of persons and the removal of personal property from a specified area" -- I think of Caledonia and what could happen if the wrong person was in charge -- "the establishment of facilities for the care, welfare, safety and shelter of individuals, the construction of works and the restoration of necessary facilities, the procurement of necessary goods, services and resources, the fixing of prices for necessary goods, services and resources and the prohibition against charging unconscionable prices for such goods, services...."
You know, there is a lot in here to trouble the ordinary citizen and that's why a full debate -- I'm anxious to hear the comments from our leading commentary person on this later this afternoon. The member from Leeds-Grenville has a great deal of experience, having served as the minister in this area, so I'm looking forward to his comments. There needs to be balance and consideration of who you give the power to -- not about this bill, really. That's what this is about.
Mr. O'Toole: The member from Niagara Centre in his one hour certainly made some arguments that need to be listened to and supported, because you're always looking for the protection of individual rights. Also, which takes precedence, the greater good for the greater number or individual rights? If you look at this bill, it says, under "Purpose," in section 7.0.2:
"The purpose of making orders under this section is to promote the public good by protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of Ontario in times of declared emergencies in a manner that is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
They've tried to include that. For us, this bill, quite frankly, is a matter of trying to find the trust in the McGuinty government to execute this bill in a fair, reasonable and open manner in what is declared as an emergency as such.
When you look at the response to the current issues before the government -- not to inflame or provoke -- certainly the media reporting of a suspected terrorist plot or whatever constitutes a threat. Probably much of that would be of a federal nature, I suppose, but the suspected evidence is in the province of Ontario. I would look for leadership on this, as I would in the Caledonia issue. What role does the government have, not necessarily for enforcement, but finding some role to make sure there's peace, harmony and respect, as I've described the purpose clause here? In that execution and leadership, to me, the challenge is to have the ability to trust that challenge.
As I said, there are provisions in here for litigation, and in the fines section, and for extensions. The offences under section 7.0.13 are fairly extensive, and there's protection from action in section 11, all of which raise questions for me against this bill, but it's badly needed.