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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
June 12, 2006
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I do want to say, though, that the actions of Premier Eves during the blackout and the SARS epidemic have led me to see a problem today, and that's what I would consider to be the lack of leadership from the current government. I was disappointed today in some of the answers that the Premier gave on the Caledonia situation, the crisis. This is turning out to be a much, much bigger issue than I would ever have thought. People are looking for leadership on this file right now. We have not seen the Premier or the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services present at Caledonia.
You can call it a disaster, you can call it a crisis, you can call it an emergency, but the reality is, this is something that's growing by the day, by the week. It's costing this province a lot of money. It's costing a lot of our OPP officers. They're tired. They're weak from the amount of time they've had to put in down there. They've had to wear a lot of the burden of any negative side of the Caledonia crisis. I asked the Premier today if he would visit Caledonia, or the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Of course, they don't want to be there. But I don't think it has to be a finger-pointing trip if they go. In their leadership roles, as leaders in our province, they can go down and send a strong message that everybody cares and we want to find a peaceful resolution to this crisis as soon as at all possible.
Although this is not part of Bill 56, I do think we have a crisis on our hands. I don't think we're going to see an early conclusion to this at all now. We could be standing here at the end of the next session, in late December, and there may still be blockades on the streets around the community of Caledonia. Hopefully there won't be blockades in other communities because of a lack of action. I urge the Premier and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services as well as the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs to at least try that.
I don't think that bringing David Peterson in as the mediator is working. We heard today that he has hardly been there at all. We haven't seen an awful lot of him. So in Caledonia right now it looks like the Ontario Provincial Police are the only people who are there trying to do anything. Someone's negotiating behind the scenes or whatever, but we're not seeing any conclusions. We've been there for over 100 days now, and I would say, if anything, this issue is escalating in Caledonia as opposed to being resolved by now. We're coming into a period of the year, the hot summer days, when tempers seem to flare even more. I think it's important that this issue gets resolved and gets resolved as quickly as possible.
I think that's why I was afraid, why I didn't want to see the Premier have a lot of additional powers under Bill 56, because my concern is, depending on who the Premier is, they may not be able to handle that type of pressure under a crisis. I think we're seeing this in Caledonia. That's one of the problems. Not only myself but a number of people who presented to the committee talked about the powers of the Premier and where we were going with that.
Take, for example, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. I'll just read this on the record. I'm not going to take a lot more time on this, but I want to put a couple of these things on the record:
"The OAFC has concerns with the Premier taking direct control of a municipality's resources or requiring a municipality to provide its resources to another area without any consultation or input from the municipality. This is a real change from previous practice where the province provided support to the local emergency responders.
"First, the province is not a direct deliverer of front-line services; therefore, it does not have the expertise to effectively direct and control the local municipality's administration, facilities and equipment. The province's role should be as a support mechanism to those who do deliver the services and have the expertise, i.e., the municipal governments."
It goes on and on with those kinds of comments. I just wanted to say that we heard that over and over again in the standing committee on justice policy. The powers of the Premier seemed to be an area where most of our respondents were disappointed and wanted amendments made.
That has not occurred. However, we know that this Premier may not be the Premier much longer, so we have an opportunity to put people in the position with maybe more courage than the current Premier has. Some of these issues may be able to be addressed easier by someone else.
I wanted to say to you, as I mentioned earlier, that we have a bill here that I think a lot of the people who attended our committee hearings would have liked to have seen amended in more ways than one, but the government chose not to make those amendments. They've chosen to go on the path they're going on. But that's not to say that another government a couple of years down the road couldn't make major amendments and make the bill a lot better than it even is today.
I do appreciate the fact that I've had this opportunity to make a few comments tonight. It's actually the leadoff speech. I'm not going to take the full hour tonight. I think I've made my point clear in the opening remarks in the one-hour leadoff on second reading debate. As I said earlier, our caucus is in support of seeing this bill passed. It has really brought our attention even more to some of these potential activities, and we certainly don't want to be in a position to hold back the government from making legal decisions in case an emergency happens. Hopefully, disasters and emergencies of the magnitude we're talking about will not happen and we'll be safe from that in the future, but that's not to say that they can't happen.
I appreciate this opportunity to say these comments tonight and look forward to further debate on this bill.