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Ontario Hansard

Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Ontario Hansard
June 20, 2006

Members' Statements - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): Welcome to Dalton Creek Estates, coming soon to a community near you. First Caledonia, next Burtch; who knows: Townsend, South Cayuga, Brantford, the region of Waterloo?

Under the Places to Grow Act, Caledonia is the first community to host Dalton Creek Estates. Don't go to Dalton Creek Estates if you want to escape Premier McGuinty's weak leadership. Just recently, he bought the whole development at a secret price.

Dalton Creek is a gated community, despite government rhetoric to the contrary. But don't let the gates fool you: Things can get ugly. The rule of law does not apply. Premier McGuinty negotiates, at taxpayers' expense, from a position of weakness despite six warrants outstanding and barricades still up.

Located at the south end of Caledonia, Dalton Creek Estates is facing economic hardship. Business is down; neighbouring subdivisions feel the stress and tension and are exposed to violence and mayhem.

There are no phones or TVs at Dalton Creek Estates, but that's part of the broader policy being promoted by Premier McGuinty: no communication of any kind. And if you don't like the landlords running Dalton Creek Estates, too bad for you, because the question remains: Does anyone know who's in charge? And if someone is in charge, how would we know? There's no communication and there's no leadership.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Late on Friday, your government announced that it had purchased the principal piece of property in dispute in Caledonia. No purchase price was disclosed at that time.

We asked then, I understand we asked the Acting Premier yesterday, and now I will ask you: What was the price paid on behalf of the people of Ontario for that land? Reports have suggested the number may have been as high as 50 million in public taxpayers' dollars. Don't you think the public has the right to know this information? How much will the government be paying for this piece of land?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): We have undertaken to the vendor of the lands not to make that information public at this time. Of course, and I say this with sincerity, you can seek that information directly from the vendor, but it's my understanding that they're not prepared to make that information public at this point in time.

I think that there are heavier, more pressing issues weighing on the minds of Ontarians when it comes to the circumstances at Caledonia. I think they can take some heart and comfort in knowing that we are making some real, measurable progress in getting barricades down and providing yet more financial assistance to the community.

I know that Minister Cordiano visited the community again just yesterday, I believe. I had a chat myself with the mayor of Haldimand county last week. We are working together, all parties involved, and, I can say -- and I say this with some pride -- hand in hand with the federal government every single step of the way as we continue to seek a peaceful resolution.

Mr. Tory: I would agree with the Premier that there are some higher principles that are at stake down there. There's been discussion we've had here about the rule of law. But there's also the important principle of accountability.

I think the people of Ontario deserve to know how much this part of the Caledonia episode will cost them. They deserve to know what the price tag is. It is not your money; it is the public's money that we're dealing with here. It belongs to them and it is managed in trust by you and by your ministers on their behalf. As a result I would argue, and we would argue, that you have no right whatsoever to keep this information from Ontarians.

You're hiding, as you said in your answer, behind the supposed request to keep this secret made by the seller for supposedly competitive reasons. I would ask you: Since when did the competitive concerns of a particular business in Ontario -- the seller of land -- override the public interest in knowing about the expenditure of millions of their dollars? I would ask you, will you ensure that this information is immediately made available even if you have to ask the seller -- you're the Premier of Ontario -- if they will agree to have this information made public, in the public interest?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: No, I will not give an undertaking. Let me quote from a news release put out just recently by Henco Industries Ltd., the people who own the land. When they were informed that we were going to work with them on an agreement to purchase the land, they said:

"We are encouraged by this news. We appreciate the good-faith negotiations on the part of the province to resolve our issues over the native occupation of our property since late February. We're also pleased that the government is continuing discussions with the builders who purchased lots in our subdivision, is providing additional funding to help local businesses in Caledonia, and has committed to help residents most directly affected by the current situation as well as the community at large."

We are working, and we are working well with the community, with the affected parties to resolve this in a manner that is peaceful.

Mr. Tory: No one is taking issue with what can be done to resolve the issue in a peaceful manner. But I'd say, with respect, sir, that if the landowners were insistent that in the case of a multi-million-dollar deal the details remain secret, you should have said to them, "We cannot negotiate in that manner because we are dealing here with public money and with the important principle of accountability to the public. There has to be transparency and openness about this magnitude of public dollars."

It is estimated, as I said earlier, that this could cost as much as $50 million, and that's before you take into account what you yourself mentioned a moment ago: namely, the purchase of other properties. Your own minister responsible for aboriginal affairs said that this won't be the last of these kinds of deals that are made going forward, and I think that makes it more important than ever that we know what the first deal cost.

Will you commit that you will not enter into any land negotiations in respect of any of these claims whatsoever, including any more on this one, where you will not put the principle of openness and transparency and public disclosure --

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. The question has been asked. Premier?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The principals behind that company are two local brothers from the community who put, I think, their life savings in this project. I thought the members opposite would have wanted to champion some local interests in that regard, but obviously they're taking a different tack.

Let me tell you what else was put out last week by way of a release from Haldimand county: "Haldimand county is pleased with the announcements made today by Economic Development and Trade Minister Joe Cordiano, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs David Ramsay, and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Gerretsen, publicizing the expansion of the financial assistance program for businesses in Caledonia, financial relief for residents directly impacted by the situation in Caledonia ... the acquisition of the Douglas Creek Estates property by the province of Ontario.

"Haldimand county appreciates the measures announced today. These positive steps will greatly assist in the implementation of the recovery phase, not only for the community of Caledonia but for all of Haldimand county."

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