April 19, 2012

ACCEPTING SCHOOLS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 POUR
DES ÉCOLES TOLÉRANTES

Resuming the debate adjourned on April 18, 2012, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters / Projet de loi 13, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation en ce qui a trait à l’intimidation et à d’autres questions.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): At the adjournment of the debate, Mr. O’Toole had just finished his comments, so we’ll go to questions and comments. The member for Simcoe–Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson: I want to commend the member for Durham for his remarks and indicate that, really, we should be making a little more progress with respect to anti-bullying in this House, and it’s unfortunate that things are a bit bogged down. We are moving forward with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, Mrs. Witmer’s bill, Bill 14, hopefully in committee soon. We should have been at the stage where Bill 13 and Bill 14, the government bill and the PC bill—a bill that Mrs. Witmer worked on for some three years now—were both at committee, and not have Bill 13 stuck at second reading because we want a select committee to delve into the Ornge matter.

We offered the government the opportunity to have both bills put into committee after first reading, Mr. Speaker, which is rarely done but can be done with consent of the House, and there would be a meshing or a melding of the two bills and we would bring forward the best, most comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that I think this country has ever seen. There still is that opportunity. We believe that we can move forward, and we will eventually move forward, but the fact of the matter is, it’s unfortunate that that wasn’t done at this time.

Mrs. Witmer’s bill has a clear definition of bullying, which we don’t see in the government bill, Bill 13; early intervention—incorporation into the curriculum beginning in kindergarten so that students at all ages will learn that bullying is bad; a province-wide ministry model for prevention and intervention plans; the development of detailed school board prevention plans; and the reporting of incidents of bullying inschools, which is not in the government bill. So we should work together to try to merge the two bills and come up with one that’s going to deal with this issue once and for all, hopefully.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I want to just rise to make comment on how important I think this bill is. I’m happy to hear the member opposite talk about working together, because I think what is really important is that we get this legislation passed so that we can have a framework, a legislative framework within which our schools can function.

Some years ago, we put in place an equity and inclusive education policy. What that did was reintroduce into our school system the notion that equity and the seeking of equity in an inclusive education environment in our schools was important because, in fact, for some years, previous to our coming to office, the word “equity” had been expunged from the education ministry. There was no policy or legislation that actually included the notion that equity was important. I think an inclusive classroom and an inclusive school system is what this Bill 13 is about.

On the issue of Bill 13 and Bill 14, Bill 14 having been brought forward by the member for—

Mrs. Liz Sandals: Kitchener–Waterloo.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —Kitchener–Waterloo, and our Bill 13, which was brought forward by our Minister of Education, my understanding is that there is a lot of goodwill on this side of the House to merge these two bills, to take pieces of the opposition bill and put it into Bill 13 and to get the legislation passed. I think there’s a bit of a disconnect between some of the language and rhetoric that’s being used and what’s actually happening on the ground. My hope is that the language and the rhetoric could come closer to the reality and we could actually work together, get this legislation passed, because it is in the best interests of all our children in our schools that this legislation be in place and that anti-bullying for all be the norm.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Hon. John Milloy: I’m happy to join in the debate on this important bill in terms of offering two minutes of comments.

Much has been made about the importance of the bill by all sides of the House. I, I think, as well as all of my colleagues, have been particularly disappointed that in terms of the level of debate on this bill that what we’ve heard from the official opposition has basically been the sound of bells ringing. We’re now at over 11 hours that we’ve debated this bill, and for the most part all the opposition has done, instead of talking about it constructively, has been to ring bells.

It’s not about me personally—the bells ring; we have a break here for 30 minutes as we wait for it—but it’s the simple fact that what this bill is about is young people. It’s about our education system. It’s about educators. I’ve certainly been hearing from many individuals about how concerned they are that we’re not making progress on this bill. I certainly acknowledge the good work that has been done by my neighbour to the north, our colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo, in terms of her bill, Bill 14. Certainly, the government has approached the opposition with the intention of seeing ways that we could reconcile both bills.

To that end, I think it’s important to put on the record that the Minister of Education has written formally to the member from Kitchener–Waterloo and made sure that the opposition is aware of our openness to amending the government bill to take what is best from both of them and combine it in the type of bill that could be dealt with by this Legislature. As the government House leader, I was disappointed that we couldn’t get agreement moving forward of how we could pull the two together, despite a great deal of discussion. But that being said, we’ve always made known—and I just referenced the letter—that if we were to move G13 to committee, finally, if the opposition were to quit with the bell-ringing, we would be very open to having the types of discussions that would strengthen the bill.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Mr. Frank Klees: Speaker, I’m looking forward to participating in the debate on this bill a little bit later—

Hon. John Milloy: We want to hear it, Frank.

Mr. Frank Klees: Well, the government House leader will hear.

I think members of this House know that the issue of bullying is one that I’ve brought forward in this House on many occasions. It’s a very serious one. I have dealt with constituents on many occasions. I know the effect that bullying has, not only on the victim of bullying but the victim’s family as well, and I have repeatedly called in the past on the Minister of Education and on the government to bring forward meaningful legislation that will make it very clear what the obligations are on the part of the teaching staff and on the part of the principals in our education system. I have called repeatedly for a recognition of the victims of bullying.

In the past, most of the focus has been on the bully and how does one deal with the bully. Who we tend to forget are the victims who struggle with the effects—the psychological effects—that bullying has had on them. I’m concerned about the bill before us, the government bill, because it does not address in a comprehensive way many of those aspects; I am pleased that my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo has brought forward a bill that does in a very comprehensive way. We look forward to seeing what kind of progress we can make to ensure that those essential parts of that member’s bill are incorporated.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member for Durham has two minutes for a response.

Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you very much. I’m very impressed this morning that the Minister of Education, Ms. Broten, is here as well as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ms. Wynne. Both have spoken. I appreciate that, both having served as Minister of Education.

But more importantly, my remarks on Bill 13 were to stress the importance of and the balance that Mrs. Witmer, the member from Kitchener–Waterloo—in the time she spent on developing a full and comprehensive response to bullying.

In my remarks yesterday, I was just citing right from the paper that there were two incidents where cyberbullying was cited as being provocative and current. That type of bullying has a very low profile in this overall discussion on Bills 13 and 14.

When you look at the strength of the Anti-Bullying Act—and I think the member from Simcoe–Grey paraphrased it very respectfully. It’s a clear definition of bullying in Bill 14, which is lacking in Bill 13. These bills need to come together.

Now they’re going to deflect all this and say that we’re ringing bells procedurally. This is a democracy and the opposition are very concerned that the government’s not listening, not just in the budget but they’re not listening on the need for a select committee on the wasteful, scandalous spending of Ornge helicopter—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I request the member to keep the comments to the bill we’re debating.

Mr. John O’Toole: Well, I’m trying to explain. All due respect to you, Speaker, all deference to you, that is one of the reasons for the bells.

Mrs. Liz Sandals: Don’t argue with the Speaker.

Interjections.

Mr. John O’Toole: See? Now they’re yelling. The Liberals are yelling at us now. I’m trying to speak in a civilized way. I feel like I’m being bullied.

So, respectfully, Mrs. Witmer has put on the table early intervention incorporated into the curriculum beginning in kindergarten, a provincial-wide ministry model for prevention, a development of the detailed school board prevention plan, counselling services for the victims and the perpetrators, ongoing professional development, parent and community engagement and consultation, publicizing anti-bullying initiatives and policy, reporting incidents, prompt investigation. This is why we need to move forward.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Simcoe–Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Back to our exchange off-camera there, the fact of the matter that we’re here this morning again debating Bill 13 is a product of an inability of the parties to get together and merge these bills after first reading. We didn’t have to have Bill 13 mired where it is in the second reading debate. If we had agreed to bring the bills together, in somewhat an unprecedented way, in the social policy committee, where Mrs. Witmer’s bill is right now, the government at any time could have taken Bills 13 and 14 and put them in committee, and we would have merged the bills.

Unfortunately, if I recall back then, the government had some requests of what the framework of that discussion would be. Our belief very strongly on this side of the House in the PC caucus, and mine as House leader, is that we’re not going to allow, in a minority government, ministers of the crown to dictate what the committees of this Legislature will or won’t do. Therefore, we simply wanted the bills to come together, let the committee decide how they would merge those bills, and allow the committee to do its work in an independent way, without the influence of a minister of the crown sending a letter dictating how that committee would behave.

That sets a very bad precedent for other committees of this Legislature and a very bad precedent in a minority Parliament. The Liberals don’t have a majority anymore and they have to stop behaving like they do. The fact of the matter is, this issue could have been resolved.

We’re very, very positive about Mrs. Witmer’s bill, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, Bill 14. She spent three years developing the bill, travelling across the province, speaking with virtually every group and parents that had an interest in the issue—a lot of discussion, a lot of consultation.

The government has the option right now—Bill 14, Mrs. Witmer’s anti-bullying bill, is in committee; it’s before the social policy committee—to bring that forward for debate in committee and for clause-by-clause consideration and just simply pass Mrs. Witmer’s bill.

It is a comprehensive bill and has far more features in it than the government’s bill. It actually has a definition of bullying, which is a tricky thing to do, but it managed to create a definition with great buy-in from people across the province. It is a comprehensive way to protect children of every race, colour, creed, size, shape, whatever—it’s very comprehensive—those who are subject to bullying.

It deals with the bullies themselves and requires them to go into—I’ll say it in layman’s terms—rehab and to understand why bullying is wrong and to correct their ways.

Bill 14 is a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that focuses on prevention, accountability and awareness. Just reading from Mrs. Witmer’s notes: “Bill 14 provides students, parents, educators and the community at large with a strategy to raise awareness and prevent bullying, as well as a process to resolve it…collect data and report” that data to the ministry, which is not contained in the Liberals’ anti-bullying bill, Bill 13.

In fact, the Liberal bill does none of those things that I just mentioned. The Liberal bill does not address the root causes of bullying. We believe in tackling bullying head-on. Unlike the Liberal bill, the PC bill does so with four critical areas.

One is reporting of bullying and investigating root causes of bullying; accountability of school officials and boards to the ministry—that is, providing the data to the ministry and making sure that we can see this on a school-by-school basis and get to the root cause of it—education, a very important part of the member for Kitchener–Waterloo’s bill, public awareness, a very important part of Bill 14—public awareness to prevent bullying—and the fourth area, which is not dealt with in the government’s bill, is remedial education for bullies to teach them that bullying is unacceptable.

Mrs. Witmer’s bill, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, requires anti-bullying lessons to be incorporated in the provincial curriculum from junior kindergarten to grade 12, something that the Liberal bill does not do.

Mr. Speaker, again I say—it is unfortunate, but I want to explain to the public the reason that this bill is being brought forward again this morning. It’s perhaps that it is stuck in second reading because we wanted a committee to deal with the issue of the Ornge ambulance scandal, which is by far the largest scandal in my 21 years here in the Legislature. And yet the government wants to hide that. Some unparliamentary terms I wouldn’t be allowed to use, but they don’t want to get to the bottom of it. They don’t want to have an inquiry.

We’re stuck in a committee that has procedural rules that are archaic and are not attuned to getting to the bottom of these issues. It will take years, at the rate we’re going. I think my colleague Mr. Klees, the member for Newmarket–Aurora, has done an exemplary job on this issue in uncovering tens of millions of dollars—

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Point of order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We’re talking about Bill 13, and the member opposite is not talking about Bill 13. He’s not even approaching the substance of the issue. I’d ask that he stick to the subject.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. I would ask the member to restrict his comments to Bill 13.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Fine. If the government doesn’t want to hear the full story, then I move adjournment of the debate, Mr. Speaker, because we need a select committee on Ornge.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member has moved adjournment of the debate.

All in favour of adjournment, please say “aye.”

Those against adjournment, please say “nay.”

I believe the nays have it.

Call in the members; a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 0921 to 0951.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Could all members take their seats, please?

Mr. Wilson has moved adjournment of the debate.

All those in favour of the motion, please stand.

All those against, please stand.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 28; the nays are 33.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order. The motion is lost.

Mr. Wilson?

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yeah, it shows that one of these days, we’re going to win one of these votes. Persistence will pay off. But again, we wouldn’t have to be ringing the bells if the government would agree to abide by the will of this House, which on a couple of occasions has actually voted and passed that a select committee be struck or an inquiry be held into the multi-million dollar scandal—as I said, the largest scandal I’ve ever seen in my 21 years here. Yet the government doesn’t want to get to the bottom of it and doesn’t want to uncover the whole truth. We have to do that in a committee room under archaic rules where witnesses can only appear for a half-hour. Therefore, Bill 13 is caught up in some procedural wrangling, but the government knows where the escape route is and refuses to take it.

The fact of the matter is that Bill 13 shouldn’t even be in second reading debate right now. It should be in committee, along with Bill 14, Mrs. Witmer’s bill, the honourable member from Kitchener–Waterloo, who spent three years of her life painstakingly meeting with parents, consultants, children who have been bullied and bullies themselves, to come up with a very comprehensive piece of legislation that I believe this House, if given a fair chance, could vote upon and would pass, and find it a very comprehensive piece of legislation that’s leading in this province, in this country and indeed in North America.

There are good parts of the government’s Bill 13, their anti-bullying bill, that we would like to merge into Mrs. Witmer’s bill, the honourable member from Kitchener–Waterloo. The government had every opportunity to do that after first reading, when the House leaders were having discussions. And the minister; our critic Lisa MacLeod, the member for Nepean–Carleton; and Mrs. Witmer, the honourable member from Kitchener–Waterloo, were having some discussions about how to, in a somewhat unprecedented way but a way they often do in Ottawa, pull the two bills after first reading. Therefore there wouldn’t be this debate, if they were to go into committee to be merged together—the best of both worlds. It would come out of committee on agreement, unanimous consent perhaps, and bring it back to the House and then the debate we’d be having today would be on a merged bill. We would call it a government bill. It would be on a merged bill with the best of Bill 13 and Bill 14. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

I still think the government knows the way out of this, but refuses to take that route. I would encourage them to come to their senses about this. I understand they’re having a press conference this afternoon to try and embarrass us or whatever. We have done our best to work with the government. We understand it’s a minority Parliament and that working together is what we should do, and you guys across the way keep carrying on like you have a majority. Shame on you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Mme France Gélinas: I can speak for people in my riding, where we have seen the tragic face of bullying. The story is about 10 years old, but it’s worth repeating.

We had five beautiful young girls in Nickel Belt who made a suicide pact because they had been bullied in school. Out of those five beautiful girls, two of them died in that suicide pact and the other three managed to hang on.

I was a health care practitioner at the time and we spent a lot of time in that school. We spent a lot of time talking to the kids and asking them what went on. All of the kids knew what was going on. All of the kids knew that those five girls were being bullied, but nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to address it. Nobody knew how to reach out. Nobody knew how to help them.

Is there room for us to move? Absolutely. Bullying is still there in some of the schools. Because of the tragedy that happened in my riding, I would say a lot of the schools have put in good programs that help prevent all sorts of bullying. The kids understand, and the young people understand what it means to be bullied. They understand how to prevent it. They understand how to help one another, but all this happened because time, effort and resources were put into those schools to make sure that we teach those youth what to do, how to recognize it.

The two bills that we have in front of us, Bill 13 and Bill 14, once merged together and once we pick the best ideas from each, could do the same thing. The progressive programs we now have in Nickel Belt could be available to all. Let’s move on.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Hon. John Milloy: It’s a pleasure to speak again to add some comments and questions after hearing from the opposition House leader. Unfortunately, his speech was interrupted by ringing of the bells for 30 minutes, yet again; I think another indication that the opposition is not that serious about moving forward with this bill.

He spoke a lot about the member from Kitchener–Waterloo and the private member’s bill that she put forward. Again, I want to reiterate, to put on the record, the openness of this government from day one to work with the opposition—in particular, the member from Kitchener–Waterloo and the member from Nepean–Carleton—in order to take what was the best of the two bills and put together one that was stronger.

We had what I felt were many productive discussions amongst House leaders about how we could move forward, a number of ways that we could reach agreement on sections that would move forward. Those collapsed because, quite frankly, the opposition didn’t want to co-operate on that. But at the same time, the member from Kitchener–Waterloo’s bill has gone to committee. We would be very happy to vote in favour of the government bill, send it to the same committee and continue to find ways to strengthen it.

To that end, the Minister of Education has provided the opposition a very detailed list of amendments that the government is willing to entertain, is willing to agree to, which would take what was the best from Bill 14 and add it to Bill 13.

The Minister of Education just handed this to me: “Definition of bullying”—a big issue—“Expanded definition of bullying to include cyberbullying, school climate surveys, principal’s duty to investigate reports of serious student incidents”—and I could go on.

I think what’s important for members to understand, and for those watching on television to understand, is the government’s willingness to work with the opposition, to work with the member from Kitchener–Waterloo and bring forward the best bill possible.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments.

Mrs. Julia Munro: I’m pleased to have a couple of minutes to add my voice in the conversation on Bill 13, and obviously on Bill 14 as well.

I’m interested in the remarks made by the government House leader because of the fact that, at this point, there has been no formal recognition. I think that, on this side, we look at Bill 14 in terms of the way in which it expresses concerns over pieces in Bill 13 that are missing.

Particularly, I just would want to comment on the whole issue of anti-bullying awareness, and part of that anti-bullying awareness piece is also recognizing the kinds of issues that perpetrators have and the important role that any piece of legislation should deal with—the victims, obviously, very clearly, first and foremost, but also the question of the perpetrators, in dealing with prevention and treatment.

I remember having a student many years ago who had been caught intimidating other students. When I knew that she was going to be going to the detention centre if she so much as threatened another student, never mind beat them up, which was usually what she did, I said to her, “Come on. You’re too old for this. You’re not supposed to beat up people.” Her answer to me, very simple, said it all. She said, “Well, what do you do when you’re mad?” That’s the kind of intervention and opportunity that is in Bill 14, and that’s what we need to have.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments.

Mr. Taras Natyshak: This is the first time I believe I’ve had the opportunity to rise and discuss the efforts made on behalf of this Legislature to address the issues of bullying. Maybe a perspective from the outside of this Legislature will help aid in the discussion.

I’m a parent of two young kids. My daughter is eight, my son is five and a half, and they’re looking forward to having this type of protection. They understand it. We talk about it.

Also, in my riding, the visits I make to grade schools, to the grade 5 civics classes and to the grade 10s—we talk about this piece of legislation. It’s interesting that within the brief hour that I have to talk to students in their schools about bullying, we’ve come to the resolution, to the conclusion that it’s important that we need to address the issue, that those who are being bullied need protection, that those who feel marginalized and pointed out due to their sexuality, their physical attributes, their culture, their heritage, their language, their name, their height, their weight, the colour of their hair—it doesn’t matter. Kids can be picked on for any reason. What’s interesting is how quickly they come to the conclusion and to the resolution that it’s a type of protection that—it’s been far too long since it’s been addressed.

Also, this House, potentially, is suffering from never having addressed the issue in our own educational system. We seem to be a group that has never had the ability within our school system to understand the impacts of bullying. We could have certainly used a couple of lessons in terms of how to act and to behave in our schools. We’d be getting along a lot better in this House if that were the case.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments? Further debate? Sorry. Member for Simcoe–Grey, you have two minutes for a reply.

Interjection.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Yes. Let’s repeat it all again.

I just want to thank the member for Nickel Belt. Obviously she’s got some good programming in her riding. As she said, let’s get on with this so that all of the children in our schools can benefit from that type of programming—progressive programming, as she called it—with respect to anti-bullying.

The member for York Simcoe, I thank her for her comments, and the member for Algoma–Manitoulin and the government House leader. I see the list that the minister has provided the House leader as possibly a small step forward, some progress. We hadn’t seen that up until this moment. The fact that the approach that the government took up to this moment has been—at one point they did agree to have this bill along with Mrs. Witmer’s bill, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, in committee after first reading, but then the minister sent along a letter to both our critic Lisa MacLeod from Nepean–Carleton and Mrs. Witmer from Kitchener–Waterloo, dictating what clauses we could look at and what clauses we couldn’t look at.

We cannot allow a minister of the crown of a minority government under any circumstances to dictate what our committees are going to do in this Legislature. Committees are to be distanced from any influence in that way. Committee members are free to do what the committee wants to do, and we need to make sure that that is absolutely respected, particularly when the opposition has a majority in this House by two votes, and we have a majority in committee.

People want to know where this bogged down. It bogged down with the government dictating what a committee is going to do on this particular subject, and that simply isn’t acceptable. It shouldn’t be acceptable to any party in this House, and it just shows the government continues to rule like they have a majority, like the arrogant way they did in the last eight years.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Mr. Frank Klees: On behalf of my constituents, I rise to participate in the debate on Bill 13. It’s probably an issue that I’ve received as much communication on as any bill that has ever been before the House, and I can say that overwhelmingly, the tone and the message that I’ve been asked to bring to this House is one of great frustration with this government for having taken an issue that is of such importance and made it complex in a way that was unnecessary to do. This is an issue that we should have been able and should still be able to find common ground among all parties and make a decision to move forward in the interest of our children. And yet this important piece of legislation has been allowed to become polarizing, unnecessarily so.

I want to share and put on the record a communication I’ve received from Ms. Karen Sebben, who is with a very highly respected organization called Many Voices—One vision to eliminate bullying. I’d like to read it and ask members of the Legislature to consider her thoughts: “It has been brought to our attention that public comments from the Liberal Party are quite opposite from the comments made behind closed doors when it comes to anti-bullying legislation. This is very disturbing, as we were hoping all parties would work together for the common good of our students in this province. We ask why it is not the intention of the Liberal government to work collaboratively with the opposition on anti-bullying legislation? Anti-bullying legislation of any kind must be non-partisan. The issue of bullying is a social issue and should be everyone’s concern. It should be tackled with the same vigour as the Ornge air ambulance fiasco. Sadly, we ask ourselves how many more losses we need to see before we agree on an anti-bullying bill that protects all students. We implore you to put aside your obstinate thought process and do what is right for the children of Ontario.”

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Speaker, it’s that obstinate thought process that concerns us. We have two bills before the House: one introduced by the government, the other by my colleague the member for Kitchener–Waterloo. Both deal with the issue of bullying. The difference between the two bills is that the legislation being proposed and tabled by the member from Kitchener–Waterloo is strictly focused on the issue of bullying. The bill introduced by the government contains clauses that we fail to understand why the government felt necessary to insert into that bill.

We proposed to the government that what should happen is that both bills, having been tabled, should go to committee so that we can, in fact, work together collaboratively to ensure that we have the best possible piece of legislation that addresses the issue of bullying. The government agreed to that, and then issued conditions that essentially took off the table a number of areas that were of concern to the official opposition. That is not a way to work collaboratively on this issue. We believe very firmly that it is in the best interests of ending up with the best possible legislation that both of those bills should go to committee. They should go to committee now.

Unfortunately, we have no reason to trust that the government will do what it says it will do once there is second reading on this bill. I believe that if the government wants to indicate good will, they will agree to refer both of those bills to committee.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order.

Mr. Frank Klees: It’s unfortunate—in one sense, I suppose it’s a good thing—that the people who are watching the proceedings here can’t see the members of the government and can’t hear them, because what’s going on right now is bullying at its best. I’m making a recommendation, making a proposal; the minister, Ms. Wynne, continues to heckle me, doesn’t want to hear what I’m saying. She’s entitled, you see, to disagree with me, but one would expect that she would at least allow a member of the Legislature to express his or her views without being heckled and bullied by a minister of the crown. I think we need bullying legislation for this place. It may put Ms. Wynne in her place. We would support that.

There’s something that has happened here. Those who have been following the proceedings have been watching the dysfunction of this place. They’ve been watching a government that fails, first of all, to respect the official opposition and the express will of the Legislature. They have refused our request to move both bills into the committee so that we can, in fact, work together and find a resolution to this important issue. The government has also refused to accept the will of the Legislature when we had a vote here that we should strike a select committee of the Legislature to deal with the issue at Ornge.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order, please.

Mr. Frank Klees: We hear the cackles over there and we hear the bullying that’s going on. They don’t want to be exposed for how they’re suppressing the work of the Legislature. That’s why I have no choice. Because they refuse to strike the select committee of the Legislature, I have no choice but to move adjournment of this debate.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We’re on the clock. I was about to stand.

Interjection.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member has moved adjournment, but I’d note for the member that the time on the clock was almost—I was ready to stand up. So this House stands recessed until 10:30.




Oral Questions

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Ms. Soo Wong: My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, you introduced the Accepting Schools Act in November. Shortly after you introduced that legislation, the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo also introduced a private member’s bill, Bill 14, on anti-bullying. At that time, you said and the Premier also said that you would be willing to work with the opposition and include elements of Bill 14 in the Accepting Schools Act.

When the opposition’s education critic, the member for Nepean–Carleton, had the second reading leadoff to the Accepting Schools Act she said, “Let’s put these two bills into committee.” She said that Ontarians want to work together.

Mr. Speaker, my students in Scarborough–Agincourt support the Accepting Schools Act. Through you to the minister: Minister, can you tell this House why you haven’t passed the anti-bullying legislation yet?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I want to thank the member for Scarborough–Agincourt for her question because she has been an active participant in the debate on this legislation. However, it is very unfortunate that much of the debate time has been taken up with procedural games. The PC Party has disrupted the debate on this important legislation—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I would ask the minister to stick to the question asked on government policy.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: —six times, Speaker. In fact, this morning during debate on this very bill, we had the bells ringing.

What I have said on so many occasions is that this legislation must be in place—

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order, please.

Interjection: It’s out of order, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I would agree with the member who made the comment that it’s out of order. But if you continue to make the noise, I cannot hear the answer. So I would ask the opposition, if you would like me to hear the answer so I can rule, then I’d ask you to keep it very low. Minister?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Speaker, we look forward to getting Bill 13 to committee. We want to hear debate on it. We want to have conversation at committee so we can make Bill 13 the best bill that it can be. That’s why I’m calling on the opposition to move Bill 13 to committee so that we can get to the important work of amending the legislation and incorporating elements of Bill 14. We always said we’d be open to making sure that we had the best bill, the strongest bill to protect all of our students. Let’s get that bill to committee, and let’s stop ringing bells.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Supplementary?

Ms. Soo Wong: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister’s response. The minister is correct, and I have listened to the debate attentively in terms of the Accepting Schools Act on seven different occasions. What I’ve noticed is the PC Party has repeatedly said they want to work with us. In spite of all that, the bells have kept ringing, and this legislation which would make a real difference in the lives of Ontario kids isn’t moving forward.

Yesterday during the debate, the member of Dufferin–Caledon said, “What I would like to see is for the minister to stand up and say what kind of discussions she’s had with the member from Kitchener–Waterloo.” Speaker, through you to the minister, will the minister tell the House how she has tried to work with the opposition to pass this legislation?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I really appreciate the chance to speak on the record about this. I met with the member from Nepean–Carleton and the member from Kitchener–Waterloo on February 23, Speaker. After that meeting, I thought that we had an understanding to move the legislation quickly to committee so that we could start helping kids right away. Since then, my staff have met with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo on several separate occasions, and I’ve had repeated correspondence with her.

Last week, on April 11, I sent the member another letter urging her to help move this legislation to committee, including a list that had more than half of her bill incorporated into the Accepting Schools Act. She asked for more specificity, Speaker, and yesterday, I sent the member a list with the entirety of the amendments in legislative language.

I will say again, Speaker, on this side of the House, we are deeply committed to making Ontario schools a more accepting space so that all of Ontario’s students can be safe and protected and achieve their goals. We want to get this bill to committee. We want—

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Please sit down.

The member from Newmarket–Aurora.

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