The Chair: I call the meeting to order. Where we left off yesterday afternoon was an adjournment prior to voting on the issue of Mr Chiarelli's motion, which was to include Cornwall in our list of towns for visitation. Further discussion? All in favour? Opposed?
Ms Swift: This is a relatively minor matter. When I gave you the report yesterday, I did not include a separate list of the recommendations, so what I have done is number the recommendations from the report that you approved yesterday and included, and will include, subject to your approval, a separate list of the recommendations, setting them out by numbers.
The Chair: The clerk brings to my attention that while we did discuss at some length the amendment, or proposed amendments that were not actually brought to the floor, we did not at great length discuss the report itself.
Mr Morrow: On a point of order, Mr Chair: We sat in this committee for over an hour yesterday discussing, I do believe, the third paragraph of the report. I do believe all three parties had adequate time and my colleague Mr Fletcher has called the question. I would ask that you support his calling the question. There was adequate time for this yesterday.
The Chair: My ruling is that, while we discussed the amendment to the extent that I think closure would have been appropriate, we did not actually discuss the motion itself at great enough length. I think I have already made that ruling.
Mr Fletcher: Mr Chair, other than talking about this recommendation, I do feel that the member sitting opposite is showing total disrespect for the rulings of the chair and a total disrespect for the Chair.
Mr Fletcher: I think something should happen, Mr Chair, because this is not the first time this has been complained about. I know what we can do because, as I was saying, I do believe we have talked about this subcommittee report and I cannot agree with your ruling that we have not had the opportunity, just because of the technicality that it was not moved before the discussion went on. The discussion was on the total report and especially section 3, and then it was moved only because it was a technicality. I cannot agree with your ruling and I would hope you would reconsider that ruling. Thank you.
Mr Harnick: Yes, it is. If he is permitted to make the argument he made, why can I not make the argument I am going to make? I do not know where you stand, because you change your mind several times in the course of deliberating on these things and I have no idea where you stand right now.
The Chair: I do not know why I allow further discussion on that when it was already past the point at which I had made that ruling. Now, sir, we have in front of us the motion. As you so rightly point out, we are no longer discussing my ruling, which has already been made. In front of us is the motion. We should be discussing the motion, not a closure motion that has already been ruled against.
Mr Harnick: I would like to propose an amendment to the motion. I move that the committee travel to Sault Ste Marie, Niagara Falls and St Catharines and have hearings in each of those locations. They are significant border locations and the impact of this Sunday shopping legislation is detrimental to them. I also request that we have a recorded vote.
Yesterday we had discussion on the importance of going to these border cities. I can appreciate that it is the government's position, as is stated on the record, that it draws a very significant distinction between cross-border shopping and Sunday shopping. They do not believe there is any overlap between those two issues. I simply say that when a community is not able to be open and an adjacent community on the other side of the border is able to be open on a Sunday, people avail themselves of the opportunity on that so-called pause day to cross the border and do their shopping. In fact, they do it in another country, they hurt people doing business in their own communities and there is a significant impact on people trying to maintain the viability of their businesses in border towns in Ontario. Accordingly, and I agree it may not be the total answer to the cross-border shopping problem, it certainly compounds the problem border communities are having, that when they cannot compete on a Sunday they lose business, and it is business they cannot make up.
Mr Harnick: Let me put it this way: As I speak, they laugh. I do not know what they are laughing at, but they certainly are not listening to the content of what I am saying and I merely point that out.
Mr Harnick: I point that out to the people in Sault Ste Marie and the people in St Catharines and the people in Niagara Falls and even those people in Cornwall. Although we did not ask for a recorded vote at that time, I might advise that the opposition was fully in favour of going to Cornwall to discuss the Sunday shopping legislation and the government members unanimously voted against going to Cornwall. I think the people in those communities should know there is not an ear on the government side that is prepared to listen to them and prepared to help them through probably the most trying economic circumstances those border communities have faced since the Depression. That is something we have heard the Premier speak about.
Mr Sorbara: I am going to be supporting Mr Harnick's motion and I hope we can get to it soon. I do not expect we will win the motion but, just to explain to my friends on the committee why I will be supporting it, I want to make the point clear that I am going to live with the list of cities we ultimately come up with but just want to express my disappointment that the government members are unwilling to bring these hearings to other border communities.
I appreciate that cross-border shopping is not exclusively a Sunday shopping issue. Of course it is not. It is a tax issue, it is a cost-of-doing-business issue, it is a value-of-the-dollar issue, but for border communities not having the opportunity to open on Sunday really is part of the competitive disadvantage.
In fact, when our Sunday shopping legislation -- I cannot remember the number of the bill; I am sorry about that -- was before the Parliament, one of the serious criticisms that the then opposition party, the NDP, launched against our bill was that it would pit community against community and have a domino effect. It would force all communities to open. For example, if Metro Toronto decided to allow for so-called wide-open Sunday shopping, it would be virtually impossible for the region of York or the region of Durham or the region of Peel, all of which are neighbouring municipalities, to resist the pressure to open on Sunday because of the competitive disadvantage. That point was argued eloquently by the opposition.
In our view, they were wrong on the point that the marketplace would determine which stores opened and which stores did not, in the main, to the extent that municipalities would agree, but nevertheless the point was made and I think it was an interesting and a strong point because it reflected the realities of the marketplace.
Any of you who have lived in a border community like Niagara Falls, Windsor or Sault Ste Marie know full well that the community on the other side of the border is really just next door, at least in terms of the consumer marketplace. It is a little bit different, but not that much different, from crossing Steeles Avenue from York region into Metro. Admittedly, there are some disincentives -- there is a wait at the border, there is Customs -- but there are also some very significant incentives. That brings us back to the cross-border shopping issue.
For all of those reasons, the issue of Sunday shopping is of particular concern to these communities. Talk to the mayor of Windsor who recently said, much to the chagrin of the Premier, that his community would simply declare itself a tourist area in every corner and therefore be open on Sunday. To Windsor and to Niagara Falls and to Sault Ste Marie and other border communities, cross-border shopping also includes the issue of Sunday shopping.
So when we now vote as a committee, at least when you vote to exclude those communities from an opportunity to have the committee come and visit them, I think it is an affront and that is why I ask you simply to reconsider. I would be willing to substitute communities that are already on the list. We cannot make our hearings longer.
By the way, the political risks you suffer are minimal. Yes, there will be some criticism there, and yes, perhaps the deputations will be somewhat stronger, but what you lose there you will gain in terms of courage. In the end I think that is probably a more important political plus; that is, the courage to go in and confront the communities that want something slightly different than what is in your bill.
All of us who have carried a bill have been through this kind of stuff. I perhaps make too many references to Bill 162, but it was a very controversial bill, amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. My strategy was to take that bill to the heart of those communities that were most opposed to it. I believed in it strongly, I believed we were making important improvements to workers' compensation and I respected the opinion on the other side. Gord Wilson and the Ontario Federation of Labour waged a magnificent campaign against the bill. I knew I was going to win because we had the majority.
Maybe we lost the election because of Bill 162, but I think not. I think that was not the issue. I think other issues played a much more important factor. Your next election is, God knows, four years away and down the road. Frankly, I think we are probably going to have wide-open Sunday shopping by that time no matter what law you pass now. But down the road no one will remember except about your political courage, whether you have the courage to go to where the problem is felt most directly. I just want to say that in my view, and it is not infallible, those places are border communities. It is not that North Bay is not concerned and not that, heaven knows, Collingwood or Peterborough of Lindsay or Trent are not concerned about these issues. They are, and there is a wide variety of opinion out there and that is why this issue is so difficult.
The people of Ontario are schizophrenic about Sunday shopping. They want all the stores to be closed except for the ones they shop at. That is why it is so difficult to come to grips with the issue. We all feel sort of the same way about it. You cannot have one general rule, and that is why we went to a municipal option, yet we do not seem comfortable to move to simply vacate the territory and let the marketplace determine.
I plead with you as we start this venture just to take a politically courageous route. It is not going to change the dynamic very much; it will just make those communities slightly happier. We do not get the political opportunity of sending out a press release saying that the government refused to come to Niagara Falls, and we will forgo that for the opportunity of bringing this committee there. If you do not go, by the way, we will go ourselves. Our party has already determined to have Liberal hearings in those communities if this committee refuses to go. I just plead with you in the interest of trying to make this thing work well.
I want to say that if Charles' amendment passes, we would be willing to forgo some other communities. For example, I would prefer Sault Ste Marie to North Bay. I would prefer Niagara Falls to all the time we have in Hamilton or perhaps one of our days in Toronto. I personally would be satisfied with Niagara Falls and Sault Ste Marie.
I implore you to set aside the whip and set aside the political demands of the Solicitor General and show just a spark of independence here. I want to assure you, to the extent I can, that it will not mean the failure of the legislation. You have the votes to pass it. There may be one or two little amendments this committee can advise on to improve the bill slightly, but going to Niagara Falls and Sault Ste Marie will not destabilize the province, destabilize the legislation or destabilize this committee, but it will be an act of political courage, and I recommend it.
Mr Morrow: I am obviously going to speak against the amendment because basically the amendment does not support what we did last week or what we did yesterday. As we all know, the main motion supports the subcommittee's report. As far as I can see, Bill 115, the Sunday shopping legislation, has nothing at all to do with cross-border shopping. They are two distinct, separate identities. Basically, cross-border shopping is a federal matter. It is a problem with GST --
Mr Morrow: We do have a provincial matter here as in Bill 115. As far as I can see, if we have a one-day hearing in Hamilton, all areas such as St Catharines and Niagara Falls are properly represented because they are all within at least one hour of Hamilton, nowhere close to two hours.
Mr Morrow: I let you talk, right? My understanding from talking to the clerk is that yes, we will pay for groups to come in and represent themselves. We will pay for individuals to come in and represent themselves. There is no problem there. We are listening to the public. I would like to remind Mr Harnick, by the way, that in the House on 17 June, when we were debating second reading of Bill 115, your leader did want to take the third reading. This government wants to put it out for public hearing. I would like to remind you of that. I also would like to remind you that to go into St Catharines and Niagara Falls would be a significant cost, not only to this committee but to this government, and we are committed to doing things properly.
The Chair: I am sorry. My apologies. Procedurally speaking, the clerk reminds me that putting the question puts the previous question, which is the report of the committee. The report of the committee, not the amendment.