Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. I will begin by adding my voice to those who have complimented our colleague, the deputy critic for democratic reform, for doing an awesome job on a very complex file.
I will make reference to an article in The Globe and Mail that reads:
A dramatic confrontation in the Ontario Legislature ended yesterday in a major victory for the opposition parties and forced the Progressive Conservatives to agree to extensive public hearings on the government's sweeping omnibus legislation.
The victory occurred after an unusual standoff in which veteran Liberal MPP Alvin Curling delayed debate on the bill for 18 hours by refusing to leave the chamber when ordered to do so for violating parliamentary rules. Attempts to use force to remove Mr. Curling were thwarted by opposition politicians who blocked approaches to his desk and stayed all night to prevent authorities from reaching him.
The protest, an almost unprecedented act of civil disobedience for a politician, was undertaken by Liberals and New Democrats to force province-wide hearings next month on the omnibus legislation, known officially by its numerical title as Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act.
For those Canadians who live in our most populous province, they will probably remember that bill number because it was a major issue. I want to point out that the date on that article in The Globe and Mail by Mr. Martin Mittelstaedt was December 8, 1995.
I raise that for a number of reasons. Obviously, it ties into the motion before us, but when it states, “Attempts to use force to remove Mr. Curling were thwarted by opposition politicians who blocked approaches to his desk”, I was one of those politicians who was thwarting. I consider it a highlight and certainly one of the most memorable times.
The other reason I mention that and the reason that it is relevant is not just that it was the Conservatives' provincial cousins, other than a minor name change, but what is really interesting, and we never know how history will unfold, is that today I find myself sitting right across from three former colleagues of the Ontario legislature who now sit as senior members of the Prime Minister's cabinet. They were applauded back in that day too because they were also on the front bench of then premier Mike Harris's government that brought in bill 26.
Do I hear that caucus now saying that bill 26, as it was brought in originally without hearings, was the right thing to do? It just went kind of quiet because they only want to heckle the parts that they like. They should stay because we can have lots of fun on this. They should be a part of this.
The members talked about history. We have seen history repeat itself. Lo and behold, here we are today and those three senior cabinet ministers who were part of bill 26, the omnibus bill that they tried to ram through the Ontario legislature back in 1995, are here today in 2012, having rammed through one bill and getting ready to ram through another omnibus bill. It was unacceptable then and it is damn well unacceptable today.