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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
June 21, 2006
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): The land dispute at Caledonia-Six Nations has reached 114 days. The barricades are still up at Dalton Creek Estates. Repeatedly, I've informed this Legislature about the chaos, the mayhem, the violence that has impacted people on all sides. This is a political dispute and a legal dispute, but let's not forget one group of people who have had no say in this: the children.
I'm reading e-mails written by children from area schools. One says, "Maybe if you see it through a kid's eyes, you'll understand more.... I have not been able to go to school." Another reads, "As soon as they hear something bad is going to happen, they freak and send me inside."
Premier McGuinty has repeatedly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. I ask the Premier, what does he have to say to some of these young people? They made the trip to Toronto today. Some are in the visitors' gallery behind me. Toronto should be a place to visit and have fun for these children.
Children should be concerned with what they're going to do in their summer holidays. They should be talking about swimming and family vacation. However, in Premier McGuinty's new Ontario, children are worried and scared. I'm sorry and sad to say that this could be the worst summer ever for the children of Caledonia.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): It is important that all Ontarians recognize these contributions, particularly when we are hearing stories on a daily basis about the situation at Caledonia. Aboriginal peoples across our province have been dealing with difficult situations for centuries. The situation at Caledonia is only the most recent example.
Given these current events, it is important that we take time to reflect on the positive role that First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples play in this province.
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): Recent events at Six Nations-Caledonia underline the need for greater appreciation, awareness and co-operation between and among our communities.
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): We also say to this government, in the wake of what's going on in Caledonia, that they waited too long to deal with this particular issue, and as a result of that, this issue has gotten way out of hand. The government would have done better to listen to what people were saying in the local community before all of this blew up into what it is now, and maybe we would not be where we are.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. Today, the people of Caledonia -- and some are still here in the House with us this afternoon -- decided to pay you a visit, the mountain coming to McGuinty, as it were. The people here tell us that they've come to ask for your help. For months on end, they have lived in fear in their own communities and even in their own homes. The lawlessness that has taken place on and off now for more than 110 days has left them in a very dire state, and they feel there is no one looking out for their safety and that of their families. They quite frankly feel abandoned.
A week after you set conditions, and then abandoned them in large measure, five of the seven people with outstanding arrest warrants remain at large, including one individual with attempt murder, forcible confinement and assaulting police officer charges levied against him, among other things. The land you're trying to buy continues to be occupied, with no end in sight. What do you have to say to these people who have come here to ask for your help?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I was very pleased to have the opportunity earlier today to meet with representatives of Caledonia, as were my Ministers Ramsay and Cordiano, who had the opportunity to meet with representatives last evening. They have agreed to meet on a weekly basis with representatives to ensure that we are completely in the loop, and I think just as important, that they're in the loop as well with respect to our activities.
Progress has been slow, but it is undeniable. We have brought barricades down. We have reached an agreement with the local developer to purchase the disputed land. We have recently invested $1 million more in relief for local businesses, bringing the total to $1.7 million. The community liaison table is again meeting today, as well as the main table. I am also pleased that a second arrest was made earlier today, and I understand that the police are continuing to pursue the necessary --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Tory: It really sums it all up, that just about a year after the letter you received warning you about this, more than 100 days after the occupation began and weeks after we started asking when ministers might sit down with these people and communicate with them on a regular basis, now -- more than 100 days later -- you're starting weekly meetings. Better late than never, but it sure would have been better if they had started a lot earlier than now.
Premier, I ask you this: How do you think the people of Caledonia feel when they read articles, like the one in today's Toronto Star, about the lack of law and order in Caledonia and the powerless OPP officers who have apparently been ordered to stand down in many of the instances we've seen? We have a quote in the Star from an OPP officer, who, for reasons we would all understand, remained anonymous, but who told the Star, "There were physical assaults taking place in front of you and you can't do anything about it. The OPP is a joke in terms of Caledonia." What do you have to say to people about this and about what the police officers have clearly --
The Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: It may be that the leader of the official opposition is somehow privy to insider information with respect to what directives have been issued by the higher-ups in the OPP to the police, but that's not information that we have. He keeps making constant references to a state of lawlessness. If there is advice or information that he has regarding policing activities at Caledonia, then we would greatly appreciate it if he would share that advice, those recommendations he has for the police, here with this Legislature.
Mr. Tory: I have been very pleased to share with the Premier advice with respect to the role he could play in asking all sides, all corners of this community, to come in and be told by him that lawlessness will not be tolerated and that negotiations will not continue in the event we see this continued lawlessness in this community. I was simply quoting an OPP officer, who, for obvious reasons, remained anonymous. And he talked not to me; he talked to the Toronto Star, so you should take that up with them if you think they manufactured that quote.
Your whole approach on this, whether it's the weekly meetings we hear about today or anything else, has been to wait as long as you can, do as little as you can, show weak leadership and hope the whole thing goes away. Even your compensation package to business is out of touch. You have offered business owners a small amount -- one of them claims to have lost, by himself, $100,000 since this began -- and yet you can come up with a sum in the millions you won't tell us about to buy the land.
When will the people of Caledonia, from all corners, expect to see you stand up and speak up for the rule of law applying to all people at all times --
The Speaker: The Minister of Health will come to order. Premier?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Apparently the leader of the official opposition has some particular advice or recommendations, which he is not prepared to share with us, for the police. I appreciate that my friend likes to quote unnamed sources, but here's somebody who is prepared to admit to who they are. He's president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, Karl Walsh. He is quoted recently in a Christina Blizzard column: "Walsh says he appreciated the government's hands-off approach to policing in Caledonia and says the opposition ... should stop playing politics with the standoff." That comes from the president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association.
I would ask that the leader of the official opposition kindly take into regard the advice of the president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, who says that he is playing politics with the standoff.
The Speaker: New question.
Mr. Tory: I have a new question for the Premier. I will tell him now that I will continue to stand up here, day after day, as long as we're here, and, when we're not here, I'll stand up elsewhere and put the questions to you --
The Speaker: I need to be able to hear the Leader of the Opposition ask the question. He's the only person who has the floor.
The Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Tory: You would prefer that nobody asked you any questions about this whatsoever, including the one I'm going to ask you now about the cost of the land that you are buying in Caledonia.
Today, you've repeatedly refused to tell the taxpayers how much money you're going to pay for this land. Today, there seems to be some confusion as to whether the deal that you announced last Friday with such fanfare is a binding agreement with a price or something much less, which you exaggerated for political purposes. Is there, in fact, a binding agreement which has been concluded and executed, and if there is one, will you tell the taxpayers what the price is that was paid for the land? Stop hiding behind excuses and be straight with them about their own money.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: There is, in fact, a binding agreement to purchase the land, but the leader of the official opposition has a hard time accepting good news and signs of real progress.
We've got the Argyle Street barricades down. We've got the Highway 6 barricades down. We have, in fact, reached an agreement with the local developer to purchase the disputed lands. We have invested close to $2 million now in additional supports for the communities. We have put in place a community liaison table, which is meeting as we speak, and specifically, today, they're talking about developing guidelines for a relief program for residents in the houses that are directly affected by this situation. Last week, there was the arrest of one individual. Just today, there was an arrest of a second individual. The main table is also meeting today to find out how we can best address the longer-term issues.
The leader of the official opposition has difficulty accepting it, but there is some good news here.
Mr. Tory: What I have more trouble accepting is that there are five out of seven people who have arrest warrants sworn out for serious matters still at large. The land is still occupied. The barricades there are still up, and perhaps most important of all, the people who are here today, in many cases, because they told me and I'm sure they told you, they are afraid to be in their own homes in the province of Ontario. They're worried about what's going to happen when the schools are out this week and their kids are on summer holidays. So, yes, there may be some good news, but there are a lot of things left to be done in this whole thing.
We're told that one of your pieces of good news about the land transfer -- and I think we'll have to see about that when we actually have the details, if we ever get them -- may take six months to conclude, so that could mean six more months of disruption on the part of people in this community. The chaos would continue. On top of that, of course, you refuse to tell us the price. Can you tell us: What is the timetable for this land to change hands? Can you guarantee people from all corners of this community that this land deal you're in the middle of doing, without a price apparently, will be concluded --
The Speaker: The question has been asked.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: We will continue to discuss this with the vendors of the land.
Let me tell you a little bit more about what informs our thinking and inspires our efforts in this regard. This development company, the principals of which are two brothers from the community of Caledonia, is caught up in a situation which is entirely not of their making. We feel a responsibility to help them in this regard to ensure that they do not suffer financial losses, because if we were to do nothing, they would suffer very significant financial losses. So we feel this sense of responsibility. We are sitting down with these developers and making sure that they do not suffer financial hardship as a result of circumstances which are entirely beyond their control.
Mr. Tory: The Premier told the House earlier that there is a binding agreement in place. As he would know -- he's a lawyer -- a binding agreement will have in it a purchase price and a closing date. You've repeatedly refused, and I ask you one more time, to tell us what the purchase price is and to abandon these flimsy excuses you're using not to tell us how much taxpayers' money is involved. Tell us, then, what the closing date is as well. And while you're at it, perhaps you could tell us what the total cost of this fiasco is going to be, because there are estimates now circulating to the effect that the total cost will exceed $100 million, including the cost of the land, the cost of the policing, the cost of the compensation, and all the other costs. If that's not the right number, tell us what the right number is, tell us the price of the land, and tell us the closing date in the binding agreement you said you've signed.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The Leader of the Opposition is, if nothing else, colourful and inventive. I have no idea whatsoever, and I would speculate that neither does he, with respect to this $100-million figure he has just floated.
We will continue to work with the community. We will do everything we possibly can to resolve this in a manner that is peaceful. I think the leader of the official opposition has now made it perfectly clear that his preference would be that we had not entered into negotiations with the developers, that we had allowed them to flounder and suffer serious financial hardship. That's the approach he would bring. We bring a different approach on this side of the House. We feel a sense of responsibility to sit down with the community, to sit down with the developers in particular, and to ensure they do not suffer financial hardship.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): To the Premier: Today we talked to busloads of Caledonia residents and they have questions for you. Premier, you can have a backyard barbeque. These people are frightened to go into their backyards. The barricades are still up. Five warrants are still outstanding. This morning, on the front lawn, we heard that children are eating their lunches under their desks. Things are worse now than they were February 28, not better.
Their questions: Is it now government policy to negotiate from a position of weakness, no matter how many laws are broken? Secondly, why did you start talks when your very own conditions have not been met?
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): I think as the member knows, my colleague Joe Cordiano and I met with representatives of the alliance last night. We certainly heard first-hand much of what you've also been telling us in the House here. We're very sympathetic to the disruption that has been caused to people's lives in Caledonia.
I want to inform the member that as we speak, Jane Stewart is in negotiations today and concentrating on the issue of disentanglement of people there. We understand the activities on the occupied site are causing disruption to people's lives there. We don't want to see any of that intimidation that's going on and we are determined to put an end to it. That's what Jane's job is this afternoon.
Mr. Barrett: Thank you, Minister. I continue my questions to the Premier. It may go back to you. I don't see the Premier now.
Two conditions were set for negotiations. Neither have been met. The barricades are still up. We're not seeing any co-operation in handing over the five suspects.
On Monday, your Acting Premier said, "The barricades are down." Yesterday, your Premier cited "progress in getting barricades down," an admission by your government that your Acting Premier was wrong. There's a reason for those signs outside this morning that say, "McGuinty sold Caledonia for 30 pieces of silver. How much is your town worth?"
Premier, your constant flip-flopping has put you in a position of weakness and it's clear you don't really mean what you say. If you can hear me, if you do strike a deal, how will all sides know that you'll keep your word?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The member likes to nitpick over wording and vocabulary.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): No.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Well, he does. First of all, we had an occupation, and he knows that. The land was occupied. So we've always considered the Douglas Creek property as an occupation. Then, when things went not the way we wanted and we saw some barricades set up -- the transportation corridors and the hydro corridor were barricaded -- we talked about the barricades for all those transportation corridors and they are down. Now we're dealing with the occupation.
You've got to know -- and you understand with the arrests today -- we're making progress. Last week you were talking about seven defenders at large. Well, now it's five. So we're making progress. You should be helping us and supporting us to make this progress. The police are doing their work. They are doing their job. There's co-operation between the professional force on the reserve and the OPP, and the job is getting done. We're doing the job now.