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LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
Tuesday 4 December 2018
The committee met at 1401 in committee room 1.
RESTORING TRUST, TRANSPARENCY
AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2018
LOI DE 2018 VISANT À RÉTABLIR
LA CONFIANCE, LA TRANSPARENCE
ET LA RESPONSABILITÉ
Arthur, Bourgouin, Shaw.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Okay. Schedule 31 is, accordingly, carried.
Moving along to schedule 32. There are no amendments to sections 1 and 2 of schedule 32. I propose that we bundle sections 1 and 2 of schedule 32 and consider them together. Is there agreement?
Mr. Doug Downey: Agreed.
Mr. Ian Arthur: Agreed.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Is there any debate on sections 1 and 2 of schedule 32?
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Yes.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Yes, Ms. Hunter?
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to speak and to address this committee. This is an important committee. The work that you do involves the expenditures of the province and the entire budget. Bill 57 that is before you today is in support of the government’s fall economic statement. The government’s fall economic statement outlines the government’s priorities for the province and its intentions, and it’s very revealing. I think the discussions that we’ve been having today have shown that there are serious concerns.
Bill 57 gives insights into what it is that this government believes is important and what it cares about, and also the things that it fears.
Mr. Dave Smith: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Mr. Smith?
Mr. Dave Smith: We’re discussing schedule 32. Debate needs to be around schedule 32. There’s an opportunity to discuss the entire bill at the end.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Yes. The debate right now is centred on specifically sections 1 and 2 of schedule 32. So if you want to focus on that, you can continue to discuss, otherwise there will be debate at the end.
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Absolutely, Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Do you wish to—
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: I’m speaking specifically to schedule 32, and my comments are very much about schedule 32.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Okay.
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Oversight, independence and evidence. Schedule 32 refers to the Pay Transparency Act and, thus far in the conversation and the debate on Bill 57, we have not paid much attention to this, but I believe that it is really important. The planned changes are sweeping and they affect many people. Any delay in the enactment of the Pay Transparency Act, which was scheduled to be enacted on January 1, 2019, is of concern because this impacts many people; in particular, it impacts women.
When we think about the concerns that were being addressed in the Pay Transparency Act, the gender pay gap in this province is a well-known issue. There are many groups that have been addressing this concern for many years, like Equal Pay Coalition. Many groups have fought for many years for equal pay for equal work, and the gender wage gap is a concern. In fact, we were to begin with the OPS as the first group to be addressed by this act, followed by large employers.
In schedule 32, section 1, where the act is to be proclaimed at a later date, there is no date. The date was January 1, 2019, and that’s been removed. It’s a small line change, but it’s a sweeping change. It’s an enormous change in terms of the priorities for pay equity in this province, for pay transparency in this province. This act really addressed concerns of reprisal. It addressed concerns of reporting by employers. It even addressed concerns around—
(Ms. Mitzie Hunter)
... reprisal. It addressed concerns of reporting by employers. It even addressed concerns around the opportunity for people to negotiate wages without the threat of reprisal.
So I want to register this concern. There are many others that have been debated in different forms by the public, in the Legislature, during debate and during questions, but I think that this one, while it seems like a small change to take away the immediate proclamation that would have been forthcoming on January 1, 2019, to some other date that is unknown to this Legislature, I think this raises a great degree of concern, Mr. Chair.
I wanted to raise that, because as I listened to the clause-by-clause in this omnibus bill, there are tremendous changes in this bill in terms of how we live in this province. You could say that some of that is based on different ideologies or different perspectives, but I think that the movement around gender pay and gender equity—equal pay for equal work—has been well discussed in this province. The repealing of this date and any delay that will be caused by this will affect people in this province, and predominantly women in this province who perform work or who are in a situation where they would need to negotiate pay with their employer. We’ve delayed this tool. I wanted to register that on record today and really urge the government to not wipe this out, to not destroy this. It’s been hard-fought and carefully considered, and it impacts a number of people in this province and how they live, by being recognized for the work that they do.
Thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. I just wanted to make sure to register for schedule 32, on the Pay Transparency Act: “Subject to subsection (2), this act comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor,” but the date is not reflected, which was to be January 1, 2019, so that raises a significant concern for me.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Any further debate? Okay. Are members ready to vote?
Mr. Ian Arthur: Recorded vote.
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Recorded vote.
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: Thank you, Chair, for the opportunity to speak. Today, in answer to a question that I put to the House, the Minister of Energy said that Ontario’s economy was a “basket case.”
I thought about those words, because Ontario has one of the most robust economies in Canada. When you look at our sources of revenue, the size of our economy, the size of our population, we’ve had one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7. We currently have one of the lowest unemployment rates certainly in two decades—I’ve recently heard 40 years. Yet—
The Chair (Mr. Stephen Crawford): Is this related to Bill 57?
Ms. Mitzie Hunter: This is absolutely relating to Bill 57 because this is the view that the government has of Ontario’s finances and Ontario’s economy. If this government believes that Ontario’s economy is a basket case, what is being presented here? This list is not the answer. It’s not the solution. Because all Bill 57 does is tear down, break apart, dissolve and destroy. It’s not creating anything. It’s not solving anything. It’s not building anything.
In fact, last week, when the young people were here—these were young people who had spent time in the care of children’s aid, who had experiences as Indigenous youth in this province—they put out a really important caution and a warning about Bill 57. What they said is, when you have an office like the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth that is working, that is meeting the needs of vulnerable children in this province, that is giving voice to the voiceless, why would you take it away? It’s not broken; it’s working.
But the government has said in its own acts and words that it is about finances. Really, for a government to think about balancing its finances on the backs of vulnerable children, what does that say? What does that say about the times that we’re in? That’s pretty ruthless.
I was out in London, Ontario, this weekend and there was such a protest about Bill 57 and the fact that French language rights are a part of the heritage of this province of Ontario. They’re part of who we are, and yet the independence of the French-language commissioner, the plan for enhancing French-language education by having a university that is governed by francophone for francophone is being cut, taken away. It’s not building anything up. It’s not offering a solution. 1740 You talk about the economic opportunity for French language in this province.
Has anyone looked at the need and the demand? No. It’s just a cut. It’s just taking away without building for the future. When we look at the various acts and the actions of this government, it is of concern. Why the rush? Why not take the time to improve the delivery of services and programs and build policy? Why take away something without replacing it with something better, without improving it? That’s the question our young people asked.
Really, the question they were asking was of the government. I don’t know if anyone was really, truly listening to them and the wisdom they were imparting to the government. But when you look at how much is being done in these pages without consultation—certainly the limiting of the debate of the Liberal members, deliberately so. In fact, this bill seeks to take away the voice of 1.1 million people, one in five, 20% of the voting population that voted Liberal in the last election, by framing the official party status as if it was something that the government had to do.
The government had to change those numbers, but it didn’t have to do that. It was really about fear. What is the government afraid of? If you look at governments across this country and globally, that’s not the direction they’re headed in. They’re actually looking to be more inclusive of representative democracy, giving people more rights to speak, giving people more opportunity to question the government, not taking away those rights, not diminishing those rights, not using the power because it is there in a way that oppresses.
I would say that this government has a lot of thinking and reflection to do. What is the rush? Why does this bill have to include so many offices, so many policies, so many programs that the government wants to get rid of, that the government wants to silence? You can’t say that that’s not the case. We just went through clause-by-clause of this bill, and there is a theme.
There is a pattern that has emerged, and that pattern is about taking away. What are you building? What are you replacing it with? You might not think that these programs, institutions and offices have had any importance or that they’ve done anything, but have you talked to the people who have participated in them? Have you talked to those young people who believe that their lives have improved because of the services that have been provided by these offices? I stood with those people in London. They talked about their aspirations for their children to be educated in French language and to have the opportunity to study in French language at the university level in this province, where we have hundreds of thousands of francophones who want to have their culture and their heritage recognized, appreciated and valued. I haven’t even touched on the Environmental Commissioner and the professionalism of her office and the work that has been done.
I can tell you—because as the previous government, we were criticized as well by these officers— it’s not always easy to hear the criticism, but oftentimes when you hear them, you seek to improve. You seek to do things better. Why does this government not want to hear? Why is it so challenging that it would take every opportunity to remove oversight, to diminish accountability, to make things more opaque, not less? My colleagues from the NDP talked about a portion in this bill that is being added, in fact, making access to members of government, to ministers and members, something that is done. Fine; that’s your choice to create that opportunity.
But why not make it transparent by having people who give to political parties and members—associations—sign, attest that they, as individuals, have made that donation and that that source of income and money has not come from anywhere else but them as individuals? Why take away that transparency? Why take away that attestation?
The only conclusion I have is that it makes it more hidden and it makes it more difficult to see what is really happening with this government. I see here not a remedy to boost Ontario’s economy, Ontario’s economic opportunities or to lift people up who need to be lifted up.
I just see a series of undoing what this government believes was done by a past government that it wants to do away with, and I don’t think that’s the way to lead in this province. The best way to lead in this province is to make decisions that benefit all the people, that represent the best interests of all Ontarians, because that’s the responsibility of governing. We are no longer in an election. We are in the space where we have to be responsible for the decisions that are made while you’re in government. I hope that the government members who are here will take this back to their respective caucuses and teams and talk about what we are doing to build, not just take away or undo what was done previously. I think that’s the responsibility we all have, but especially those who are on the government side.
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