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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
June 22, 2006
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): On Tuesday, I visited the beautiful community of Caledonia, and what I heard can best be summed up from a Toronto Sun article of the other day. I'll read parts of it.
"Frightened politicians make lousy negotiators -- especially when they're representing us. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is apparently so freaked out by the native protesters in Caledonia, that he's now making major concessions to them -- with taxpayers' money -- without getting anything in return....
"One of the big concerns the Six Nations negotiators had was that if the disputed land was developed while they were waiting for their case to be heard, it would effectively negate their chances of keeping the land. In other words, it's reasonable to think a court would be reluctant to order the demolishing of an established subdivision years down the road, even if the natives won their case. The tendency would be to try to compensate the natives with something other than land.
"By agreeing to buy the land and hold it in trust, McGuinty has removed that concern, but apparently got nothing in return -- unless there's now a deal or understanding between the two sides we aren't being told about.
"The protestors say they'll continue to occupy the development until they win title to the land. Perhaps, sensing weakness from the province, they're upping the ante and pushing to get the entire issue settled now, rather than years from now.
"And why not? A few days ago, McGuinty said he wouldn't continue negotiations with the natives until they took down all their barricades and co-operated with an OPP investigation that led to charges against seven native protestors last weekend.
"Subsequently, the native protestors took down some of the barricades, but not the main one. And as of yesterday, only one of the seven protestors sought by police was in custody.
"And yet, here's McGuinty not only negotiating but offering a big concession. Someone should tell the Premier that there's not much point" --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Premier, we asked you day after day to come forward with the cost of your land purchase deal in Caledonia -- or the lack thereof -- and day after day you gave us the same answer. You stood up and you told the entire Legislature that the single reason for not being transparent and accountable when it came to millions of dollars of taxpayers' money being spent in Caledonia was that the landowners, the people selling the land, had requested that it remain completely secret.
Premier, can you please explain to us why the lawyer managing negotiations for the landowner, for the seller, is now saying that this is not and never has been the case? Perhaps you can explain yourself to this House.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'm delighted to have the opportunity to shed a bit more light on what has been happening in this regard. In April, we hired a special adviser, Rob Chadwick, to begin negotiations for the purchase of Douglas Creek Estates. The reason we did that was to ensure that the two local brothers who have sunk virtually their whole life savings into this land do not face financial ruin because of circumstances over which they had no control.
Throughout this entire process we have respected the confidentiality of the discussions. Last week we were able to reach an agreement to purchase the land so that it is removed from the debate and placed in trust.
Today our special adviser, Rob Chadwick, was able to receive the consent of the local developers to release information about the agreement. In the context of supplementary, I'll provide that information.
Mr. Tory: The fact of the matter is, when you were here the other day you told us without qualification that it was the seller that you've talked about today -- and we all sympathize with the plight they're in, which, by the way, has been made worse and dragged out much longer because of your inaction and weak leadership.
Having said that, the owners of this land -- their lawyers have indicated publicly in the newspaper today that they have not, prior to now, asked that that information remain confidential. You're the one who said it should remain confidential.
When is this documentation going to be made available to the people of Ontario, to us and to the media? Why did you stand up in your place when it's the lawyer for the developers who said it was not their wish to have this kept confidential before today?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, to repeat, our adviser today obtained the consent of the developers to release information about the agreement. The Ontario government, on behalf of the people of Ontario, has agreed to purchase Douglas Creek Estates for the amount of $12.3 million; plus, there will be an additional amount which remains the subject of ongoing negotiations.
Again, the reason we are doing this and proceeding with the purchase of this land is because we feel it is only fair and proper that we help out a couple of local brothers who assumed responsibility to develop these lands and, through no fault of their own, were caught up in circumstances. We feel a sense of responsibility to help them out.
Mr. Tory: You certainly should feel a very big sense of responsibility for that and a lot of other things. It's just unfortunate you didn't accept the responsibility a lot earlier than is the case here.
I've reminded you and your government on a daily basis that it is not your money; it belongs to the taxpayers. The government has to be -- as you would have argued in opposition, as you even would argue in government -- open, transparent and accountable when it comes to spending millions of taxpayers' dollars, not just on the purchase of land but all of the other costs associated with this fiasco that has taken place on your watch.
I have written to the Auditor General today -- I'd ask the pages if they could bring a copy of this letter over to you -- and I've requested that he immediately review all government expenditures that have to do with this entire fiasco, including the land deal.
I would ask you, will you be fully co-operative with the Auditor General and take the initiative to work with him, starting right now, to turn over all information about all expenditures on this Caledonia matter so he can have an independent look at exactly what has gone on here with the taxpayers' money? Will you do that?
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: We would be more than pleased to co-operate with the Auditor General in any way.
Hon. Mr. McGuinty: And any time. But let me say that obviously I can't agree with the leader of the official opposition's ongoing characterization of developments in Caledonia. He's just not prepared to accept that we are in fact making progress, whether it's a matter of getting the barricades down or providing financial support to the community, whether it's to the municipality itself or to business persons. He doesn't like the fact that we've set up a community liaison table. He doesn't like the fact that we've set up ongoing meetings to work with the community. He doesn't like the fact that we've set up a central table, working with the federal government, so that we can bring to heel these issues, which have over 200 years of history connected with them. He doesn't like all of those things. Apparently he has some special plan of his own that he's not prepared to share with us, but it would be interesting to get that at some point, to know exactly what he would have us do at this point in time.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): New question.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): A question to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Today is day 115 in the crisis in Caledonia. Dalton McGuinty's weak and indecisive leadership has led to a major crisis of public confidence in our front-line Ontario Provincial Police officers. Yesterday's Toronto Star said, "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. It has tarnished our name." That's from a front-line OPP officer.
Yesterday, Premier McGuinty simply dismissed this seemingly as a fabrication. Surely, Minister, the one responsible for the Ontario Provincial Police is going to stand up in the House today and tell us you're going to look into this matter of who is giving direction to the Ontario Provincial Police and move forward with the inquiry. Stand up for our Ontario Provincial Police officers.
Hon. Monte Kwinter (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services): For the last few weeks, I've been listening to the opposition talk about Caledonia. The only thing they have to bring to the table is the fact that someone in their organization can read the newspapers, because, I'll tell you, all of the information you get is in the newspapers and most of it is not totally correct.
But I do want to quote from one particular newspaper that you might find interesting, and that is Karl Walsh, president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association: "All the same, 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."
So here we have a situation, and the question the member asks is, "Who is directing the OPP?" The answer is, nobody is directing them. The OPP are independent. They make their decisions and they act --
The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Supplementary?
Mr. Hudak: I wonder what the minister's been doing. He accuses us of playing politics. I don't know if you're playing golf, cribbage or shuffleboard, but what you're not doing, Minister, is standing up for Ontario Provincial Police and front-line officers in the Caledonia area or across the province of Ontario.
Let me remind you what's happening under your watch. As minister, you have condoned something called a no-go zone for Ontario Provincial Police. You didn't say a word when Ontario Provincial Police officers were taken out of their car, their windows smashed -- they were arrested and humiliated. And now we're seeing votes of confidence against the OPP commissioner and mockery of the OPP front-line officers because of Dalton McGuinty's weak leadership.
Minister, if you're not going to stand up for OPP officers, maybe you should consider stepping down and letting somebody else stand up for the OPP, because you certainly are not.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I find it interesting that the member would make those statements. I challenge him to bring forward one senior officer in the OPP, the commissioner of the OPP or anyone else who will stand up and go on the record and be critical of the way we have dealt with this situation as far as the OPP are concerned. I challenge you to do that. Come up with one name. Don't refer to unsubstantiated reports. Give me a name.
Mr. Hudak: Talk about gutless leadership. You wonder what this minister -- why aren't you talking to the front-line OPP officers? If I were the minister and I saw that article in the Star yesterday, I'd be on the move and I'd be looking into it right away.
Minister, with all due respect, you're a veteran of the Ontario Legislature, and your voice should carry weight at the cabinet table. You should be standing up and getting onside with Ontario's front-line provincial police officers. You're more interested in bowing down before the leader than doing your job as minister.
Minister, I have no choice. I have no choice because of your lack of leadership and your lack of support for Ontario Provincial Police officers: Minster, it's time for you to step down and let someone else fight for our Ontario provincial police officers.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I don't want to give the member a history lesson, but the history of this institution is loaded with Solicitors General who spoke to police about a matter and had to resign. You should know that. You should know that that has happened. To suggest that I should be directing the OPP, that I should be talking to OPP officers about this issue, is totally, totally irresponsible on your part and indicates that you have no idea what you're talking about.
The Speaker: New question.
The Speaker: Order. I can wait. The member for Hamilton East.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): Back to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services: Let me read you some of the headlines in today's newspapers. Brantford: "There's No Law in Caledonia." London Free Press: "Caving In at Caledonia; Willing to Buy Peace At Any Price, the Province Gives Into Thugs and Sets a Dangerous Precedent." Stratford: "Residents Demand Law and Order." North Bay: "Caledonia Residents Demand Law and Order."
Clearly, Minister, under your watch, the rule of law has been suspended. The Toronto Star reports, and I gave you this quote, "There were physical assaults taking place in front of you and you couldn't do anything about it. The OPP is a joke in terms of Caledonia. It has tarnished our name," said a front-line OPP officer.
Minister, is the reason you're not acting because you think that the author, Jessica Leeder, and the Toronto Star fabricated the story? Is that why you're not acting?
Hon. Monte Kwinter (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services): The reason I'm not acting is because I have a responsibility not to interfere with the operation of the OPP. It's too bad your seatmate isn't beside you, because he was quoted just recently when he was interviewed about an event that is taking place somewhere else in the province, and he said, "The Solicitor General should not interfere with policing in Ontario." That is a basic policy that every single Solicitor General not only does honour, but has to. Otherwise, they have no choice but to resign.
Mr. Hudak: This assembly has had weeks and weeks -- in fact, 115 days -- of excuses from Premier McGuinty; excuses from the Minister of Correctional Services. The reason you're not acting is because you want to remain wilfully deaf and blind to the crisis in Caledonia and the suspension of the rule of law.
The minister said earlier that if I gave him the name of a senior police officer who says there's something going on down there, he would then investigate. "Due to political pressures and optics involved with this, the OPP seems to be bending their own rules while sacrificing officer safety." He cites deviations from usual practices, such as telling the tactical team not to wear riot gear on the site lest they provoke a native backlash. That's from Karl Walsh, the president of the Ontario Province Police Association. Surely that fits your definition of an important police officer. Minister, hearing this, surely you'll look into the matter.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member either doesn't listen or doesn't want to listen. I quoted --
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Okay, well, let me tell you what he also said. You had your chance to speak. You had your chance --
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I think it's important to understand -- this is what one of his colleagues said about him. He said, "We have a minister who's incapable, incompetent, in handling it, and that is Minister Hudak." Let me tell you this and let me read this to you. This is your own colleague who said that about you. Let me read this quote one more time. You quoted Karl Walsh, and Karl Walsh said, "... he appreciates the government's hands-off approach to policing in Caledonia and says the opposition should stop playing politics with the standoff." That's Karl Walsh. He said that. He said you're playing politics and that he --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): A petition titled "We Demand Leadership in Land Dispute." This relates to Six Nations in Caledonia.
"Whereas the McGuinty government was notified of this land issue over a year 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 agree with the sentiments and have affixed my signature, and I will be asking our page Madeleine, from my riding, to deliver this to the Clerk's desk.