FOR THE PREVENTION
OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
"Whereas the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has not been updated since 1919;
"Whereas Bill 50 would require all veterinarians to report suspected abuse and neglect, protecting veterinarians from liability;
"Whereas it would allow the OSPCA to inspect and investigate places where animals are kept;
"Whereas the bill would prohibit the training of animals to fight;
"Whereas Bill 50 would allow the OSPCA to inspect roadside zoos;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pass Bill 50, entitled the Provincial Animal Welfare Act, 2008, to protect our animal friends."
I support this petition and I affix my name to it.
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 7, 2008, on the motion for third reading of Bill 50, An Act to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act / Projet de loi 50, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Société de protection des animaux de l'Ontario.
I have to start by saying-somebody just gave me this quote, which I really do have to share with the House: "To err is human; to forgive, canine." You've got to like that.
I also want to acknowledge that we have in the House Mr. Michael O'Sullivan and Mr. Tim Trow from the Humane Society of Canada and the Toronto Humane Society. Welcome to Queen's Park again. They have oft been in attendance here, both deputing before the committee and, of course, in attendance in the House for debate of this bill.
You will recall that prior to third reading, second reading and first reading, we in the New Democratic Party had some serious concerns with Bill 50. One of the concerns that we had was with section 6. In response to hundreds of e-mails, mostly orchestrated by the humane societies that this would affect, particularly the Toronto Humane Society, we were concerned that this particular section be removed. We didn't get what we wanted. We got something, however. I want to read the amendment that the government brought in. They added, "A corporation or other entity that was an affiliated society on April 3, 2008 may continue to use" these names, i.e. "`humane society,' ... even if it is no longer an affiliated society."
There are a couple of problems with that. First and foremost and, I think, somewhat to the relief of those humane societies that are living in fear of this bill passing third reading-humane societies like the Humane Society of Canada, the Mississauga Humane Society, the Burlington Humane Society-they might find some solace in the fact that I really do believe, based on legal advice, that this section is ultra vires. What does that mean? It means that I don't think the OSPCA or the McGuinty government of Ontario has the legal jurisdiction or right to remove the name of someone who calls themselves a humane society, whether we pass this or not. I want to let stakeholders who are concerned about this know that this really is covered by federal law. I have to admit, it's still egregious that it's here. It's certainly a slap in the face of others who are doing wonderful work with animals, who want to call themselves "humane." But based on some legal opinions that we've seen-in particular, I'm going to cite one of the deputants, the Burlington Humane Society, which sought a lawyer's advice on this. The name "humane" is descriptive, for starters. We can't force someone to call themselves humane, or inhumane, for that matter.
Despite the fact that we in the opposition couldn't get this section removed, I do commend all of those stakeholders who raised a problem with this particular section, who called for its amendment or repeal. Because of their efforts, we at least got this amendment.
Despite the amendment and despite their concerns, I would say to have some confidence, going forward, in using the name that you've traditionally used, and let them come get you, because I don't think they can. So, there's that.
Here are the concerns about the bill that were raised by some of the deputants.
First of all, oversight of the overseers: There was a general concern from many deputants about who was going to oversee the OSPCA, whom somebody could appeal to if they didn't like the ruling, etc. I'm going to deal with that.
I believe that in part I've dealt with section 6, but I'll continue.
The other aspect of this legislation which is particularly egregious, and I heard one of the members stand up and read a petition about this, is that there is a lack of private roadside zoo regulation. We remember back to the member from Willowdale, Mr. Zimmer, who brought in Bill 154 about private zoos. We remember also some assurances from the McGuinty government that they were going to bring forward legislation that was going to deal with private roadside zoos. Even CAZA is concerned about private roadside zoos.
We had an incident not too long ago of a wallaby that escaped from a private roadside zoo. We're not saying that that wallaby did not get good treatment at this private roadside zoo, but who's to know? There is not a lot of oversight-there's no oversight, in fact-and unfortunately there isn't any oversight in Bill 50 either, so that's a problem.
Now, is this going to be left to regulation? That is why I stand here today. I certainly hope that the government, when reading these transcripts, when listening to this debate, will do something in regulation to make sure that private roadside zoos get the scrutiny they need. I know that the member from Willowdale wants that. I know every deputant who came forward wants that. We in the New Democratic Party want that. So, again, let's hope that what's not in the bill comes forward somewhere in regulation.
Another concern that was often raised was about the definition of "distress"-I will deal with that-and the other one was regarding training of OSPCA agents. Certainly the general feeling out there among deputants was that that training needs to be more extensive.
I'm going to wander through this and I want to really, in this presentation, give credence to our deputants. Here we purport to practise democracy, and where we see democracy really in action at a grassroots level is when a committee like this on Bill 50 goes out into the community-perhaps not as extensively as it should have, perhaps not for as long as it could have, but it does go out and listens to people coming forward. I want to honour those who came forward and I want to say up front that we in the New Democratic Party are going to vote in favour of Bill 6. But, and this is a big "but," we have concerns. We hope that the government listens to the concerns. Even a bill that's an inch forward, a step that's an inch forward, for animals is better than nothing, and that's the spirit in which we support Bill 50. But there are problems and there are possibilities still in regulation, so let's not say that this is over. Please, let us continue forward and look at how this bill could be strengthened for everyone concerned.
I talked about the ultra vires action of section 6. I'm not going to deal further on that. Suffice it to say that I don't think it would stand up in a court of law. So for those who are concerned about it, I spoke to the Mississauga Humane Society just this morning to find out and, again, they are concerned about it. I assured them, "Keep on using your name; keep on using your name." Part of the problem, of course, is that the OSPCA is the arbiter of who is or is not an affiliate. This, again, is a problem of transparency and oversight. There might be a humane society that wants to be affiliated with the OSPCA, and they decide, "No." Again, where's the route of appeal there? There are a number of problems with that section, but I don't think a problem in actuality, because I do believe it's ultra vires. That is to say that I don't think it will hold up in court.
Just to break it up, because I know that the tendency of talks that go on for an hour in the afternoon is to make people somewhat soporific, I'm going to break it up with some other good quotes about animals. Here's one from Winston Churchill. He said, "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." I think we can take some solace in that.
The Mississauga Humane Society came and deputed before us. I'm just going to read a little section out of the good work that they do. Again, this is one of the humane societies that would be affected were Bill 50 to have its way and section 6 to hold up. The Mississauga Humane Society takes in surrendered animals that otherwise might end up at Mississauga Animal Services and be killed. Remember, we've heard about euthanasia rates, kill rates, for some of the services. The Mississauga Humane Society doesn't kill any animals. In fact, they don't house animals; they actually find animals adoptive homes. And they save the city funds and reduce their kill rates simply because of their existence and their good work on behalf of the animals. The MHS also contributes greatly to the city of Mississauga by reducing the overpopulation of stray cats, for the same reason, that are almost everywhere in the city.
A cat quote-I have a cat, so I'm particularly fond of felines: "Dogs have owners, but cats have staff." You've got to like that, George.
Moving right along, one of the concerns about transparency of the OSPCA and its conduct is, of course, the fact that they get taxpayers' money: $6.1 million, in effect. That has been verified by ministry staff, Mr. Zimmerman, among others-$6.1 million. Here is the problem: Who tracks that? We have heard it said by the government side that this is a private agency, but here's the problem: You can't have it both ways. You can't have a private agency that does public business, which is clearly what the OSPCA does and what is going to be done, of course, even more extensively with the passage of Bill 50, without having public oversight.
We in the New Democratic Party are particular fans of our current Ombudsman. We think André Marin is the best. We like André Marin's reports. We think he does a wonderful job. We think he's critical where he should be and he praises where it's warranted. André Marin has no oversight over the OSPCA, none whatsoever.
Even further, FOI, freedom of information act requests: We hear from the government side-in fact, it was sent to Mr. O'Sullivan of the Humane Society of Canada-that the OSPCA, their books, their bylaws, what goes on, where the money is spent, their audit reviews, are not FOI-able. One might ask, with $6.1 million of taxpayers' money going toward this private agency, why are taxpayers not allowed to find out how the money is spent?
I was very concerned, of course, about the lack of transparency with the bylaws of the OSPCA. I asked and asked and asked, and toward the end of the deputations in our committee hearings, I finally received them. So I do have the bylaws for the OSPCA. I would certainly suggest that someone who is interested in them contact my office or keep pressing, because they're out there. But it highlights the difficulty that even a member of provincial Parliament has. If I have a difficult time finding the bylaws of a private agency that gets government taxpayer money, how much more difficult would it be for a private citizen or someone else? Again, this points to the lack of transparency. Certainly, that's a problem. It's a problem where $6.1 million of taxpayers' dollars are being spent and where de facto you have police abilities given to a private agency-the right of warrantless entry, for example.
To be fair, they have always had the right of warrantless entry. I know this has come up; I know my colleagues to the right have raised this. Most people didn't know this, and now they do, I hope: The OSPCA does have the right of warrantless entry, whatever we may think of that. Personally, if there's an animal in danger, I would like to have an agent be able to access that house, that car, that pound, whatever, to look after those animals. So I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but again, this highlights the lack of transparency. If you have an agency with police powers, you need to have transparency. You need to have the right of appeal, in the same way that the criminal justice system gives us a right of appeal: You're innocent until proven guilty. The animal owner needs that right, that you're innocent until proven guilty.
So, again, transparency, and that's all we're asking for here. We're asking for the same rights of transparency for our citizens, and for our animals, for that matter, that humans have before their criminal justice system.
Here's a Mahatma Gandhi quote: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Well, certainly if that's the case, we have a long way to go in Canada, and we have a long way to go in Ontario.
One of the concerns that was raised repeatedly about this bill, and certainly we on the committee were all educated about, is the difference between animal welfare and animal rights. I think the general population of Ontario and the general population of this assembly would err on the side of animal welfare rather than animal rights. I just think that's where we're at as a community.
But even then, one might ask oneself about the huge exemptions in Bill 50, the huge exemptions to wildlife, to farm animals-and again we're not talking here about standard practices of farmers. We heard many deputations about that, and they are exempt from the bill. We're not even talking about-although some of us might want to go there-the standard practices and legal practices of hunters and anglers. Those too are exempt.
What we're talking about is the needless cruelty visited upon huge swaths and sorts of animals that is not covered in Bill 50. I think of the case, for example-and this gentleman is a lawyer, so perhaps that says something about lawyers-the example of the lawyer gentleman-hardly a gentleman-farmer who had 50 horses starve to death on his property. Those horses are not covered and would not be covered by Bill 50. We have to ask about the extent of a bill that wouldn't cover an egregious, horrendous act like that. Similarly, many of the deputations that came before us mentioned cases of ridiculous, sadistic cruelty to wildlife. We're not talking about normal hunting and angling practices; we're talking about sadistic practices. Again, that is not covered by this bill.
It's interesting that that's certainly not the case in other jurisdictions where animal welfare and/or animal rights bills have been passed, and I will get to it. There's certainly an interesting case in New Jersey where, despite their deeming that some farm practices are "normal," they still passed a bill outlining them as egregious, as hurtful, and certainly covered them in a piece of animal welfare legislation that was passed in New Jersey. If they can do it not far from here, south of here, then why can't we do it with Bill 50?
Here was our opportunity and, as you heard, as the minister got up and announced third reading of this bill, this has come along once in, what, 100 years almost, 90 years? Surely we don't want to wait another 90 years to have something that will protect wildlife and farm animals just a little bit better than we're doing already and what we're doing in Bill 50.
Again, I mention my colleague-it's unfortunate he's not here-the member from Willowdale, Mr. Zimmer, who brought in a bill looking at roadside zoos. I think perhaps in doing that he was atoning for his role as parliamentary assistant on that other infamous-I'll say "infamous" from the New Democratic Party point of view-pit bull ban. I have to say that I'm really sorry that ban was held up in Superior Court this last little while, because if Mr. Zimmer and the members of the McGuinty government really were the animal lovers that they profess to be, if they were dog lovers, they'd know that violence in animals is not breed specific. Most vets will tell you that; it's not breed specific. If you've got a violent animal-it could be a springer spaniel, it could be a beagle, it could be anything-it's more likely to be a problem with the owner than a problem with the animal. So we in the New Democratic Party are sad to see that upheld, and we certainly think that maybe Mr. Zimmer was trying to atone for his actions as parliamentary assistant when bringing in Bill 154. Unfortunately, that too has gone up in smoke in this Legislature. Again, in Bill 50, too bad, no protection of roadside zoo animals either.
The WSPA also came and deputed before us. They support Bill 50. They think it's a step forward-a "significant improvement," as they describe it-and that asking veterinarians to report animal abuse is certainly a good thing. But even they admit, and I'm reading from their deputation, that "unlike Mr. Zimmer's bill," the proposed legislation would not "proactively promote better treatment of animals...." So they seem to give with one hand and perhaps take away a little bit with the other-they are talking there about the regulation of roadside zoos.
We've certainly heard from others about standards of care, which are pretty universally accepted as a benchmark for animal welfare. I'm going to read them, because I think it's important that we hear them and then know whether Bill 50 really addresses them for most animals in the province of Ontario:
(1) All animals must have access to a sufficient quantity of potable water and an adequate supply of fresh, nutritive food appropriate to the species and presented in a species-appropriate manner for the maintenance of good health and to satisfy the animal's nutritional needs.
(2) That the animal be provided with adequate medical attention when the animal is sick or injured or in pain or suffering.
(3) That the animal is provided with adequate protection to minimize the risk of pain, injury,
disease, fear and distress.
(4) That all animals must have access to adequate protection from the elements. Shelters must be sufficient for accommodating all animals at the same time if necessary.
(5) All animals must have access to a comfortable resting area, appropriate bedding and comfortable surfaces.
(6) Transport the animal, if it is transported, in such a way as to ensure the animal's physical safety and good welfare and not confine the animal to an enclosure, pen or area without adequate space, with unsanitary conditions, without ventilation, with inadequate light, with uncomfortable substrates and surfaces, with uncomfortable temperatures, and together with one or more other animals that may pose a danger to the animal, or that is in a state of disrepair that is dangerous to the animal's health or well-being.
The internationally recognized five freedoms, by the way, are freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
What they're asking for, because we don't see this in Bill 50, is that this be part of the regulations that are looked at and are added to Bill 50 to give it some weight; also some direction, quite frankly, to those who deputed before us who wanted to know what this bill meant when it talked about animal distress. If they added the five freedoms and the other general standards of care that the WSPA is asking for, I think we might get a little closer to that mark.
Again, I ask the government to please consider their submission when looking at the regulations. Certainly, if the animals under human care were granted these, then it would give us some jurisdictional mandate to look at roadside zoos, among other enclosed areas, among other ways of holding and treating and keeping our animals, that would stand up and would certainly be a boon to agents looking into this.
One of the interesting aspects of this-and I have to point this out, again in light of our deputants' concerns-is, where are the agents looking at the pens, the shelters run by the OSPCA, in light of these concerns? Again, one would hope, with transparency and oversight of the overseers, if you will, someone is checking their shelters and making sure the OSPCA's shelters and everyone's shelters also meet the standards of the WSPA and other animal welfare groups in light of this deputation. One hopes that is looked at.
They go on and on to recommend a number of substrates of that in terms of captive animals.
The animal alliance network and the farm sanctuary movement wrote us a letter and were concerned about some aspects of Bill 50, in light, again, of the animals left out of its purview. They mentioned the New Jersey Supreme Court and its ruling, which goes much further than Bill 50. I've mentioned that. Their concerns fall under the following three headings: animals used for research, native wildlife, and animals raised for food. They raise the concern that none of those groups is covered by Bill 50. As I say, we're erring on the side of animal welfare here, not on animal rights. Certainly, the bill does make mention of animals used for medical research. We're not against that in the New Democratic Party. We are concerned that animals used for research, animals in the wild and animals raised for food are also treated well and concerned that if we're extending warrantless entry by the OSPCA-if they're going to be looking at the welfare of animals in other areas, why not in those as well?
Burlington Humane Society, one of the humane societies that is and was affected by section 6 of this, in terms of being able to use their name: Again, I thank them for their hard work, for their deputation. I mentioned their lawyer, a trademark law specialist, who also gave the opinion that the province did not have the authority to enact legislation in this regard, as trademarks, unlike business names, are considered federal jurisdiction-so, the ultra vires comment which is so important. Again, by all means, keep using the name "humane society."
We in the New Democratic Party never saw a reason for section 6 to be in this bill. Really, it has nothing to do with animal welfare; it has to do far more with human welfare, with one charity competing against another charity for charitable dollars. It has no place in a bill respecting animal welfare.
I know that the government has raised their concerns about fraud; I heard that also from ministry staff.
By the way, kudos to ministry staff. I have to say they worked really hard on this bill. I thank them for their hard work, I thank them for the briefs that they gave me, the bylaws that they finally found for me, the work that they did for my office, on behalf of this bill.
Really, there is not a concern about fraud here. Anyone who uses "humane society" in a fraudulent way would, of course, fall under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. They're already covered. If somebody fraudulently tries to raise money for any kind of charity that doesn't have a charitable status number, that doesn't do what the charity purports to do, that comes ringing your doorbell and calls themselves whatever, that is already covered by federal criminal justice. So we don't need section 6 in this bill to protect people from themselves.
I really put forward that this still has more to do with one charity battling another charity than anything else and is not to do with animal welfare.
Here's another deputation which I found somewhat interesting. This is from the Southwestern Ontario Wildlife Coalition. They said something in their conclusion in their statement to us: "This proposed legislation is toothless. It is `feel good' legislation, drafted to make it seem as though the OSPCA is a useful body (a point we do not concede) and that somehow the wording of this act will make the lives of animals better. In very limited circumstances, it might. But for all the large issues-those that cover the 95%-plus of Ontario's animals who are not pets or livestock-this legislation does nothing"-again, their point of view, but again, I think with some basis. However, as I said, an inch forward is better than nothing.
They concede that this act confers a modest increase in authority and responsibility for the OSPCA, but it does not give them the responsibility or even the right to act on behalf of the greatest number of Ontario's animals. Their authority is limited to not much more than the family pet. So there you hear from one side of the spectrum: animal rights and animal welfare.
It's interesting to look at the bylaws that I did receive-by the way, not all of them. They're here and certainly they will be, as I said before, in my office if anybody wants to see them. But I would suggest that anybody and everybody listening at home, anybody who is concerned about animal welfare, do read these bylaws, look at them, hold the organization that issues them to account. Even if Bill 50 doesn't give us the transparency we want, the oversight that we ask for, or the accountability that we're due, perhaps citizens can themselves hold this organization to account. We certainly would ask that.
Again, I want to make it very clear. We heard from OSPCA agents. I'm sure many of the agents who came before us have absolutely the best interests of animals in their hearts and in the application of their duties. Nobody is faulting them. People are simply asking for what is rightfully theirs, which is the oversight of a somewhat public and somewhat private agency where taxpayers' dollars are involved. That is all one is asking for.
Of course, in a sense, we want to work with those agents. We want to be able to better prepare them for what they're going out there to meet in the outside world. We want, for example, to see that their training is extended. That's not in Bill 50 either, but we certainly heard a number of deputations that seemed to imply that more training is not only desirable but necessary for agents who are acting on behalf of all Ontarians, quite frankly, where animal welfare is concerned. Certainly, I heard some assurances from the government side that that is going to be put into effect.
I hope, and inveigh upon the government, that perhaps-this is probably not even a regulatory matter-in your conversations with Hugh or the OSPCA you make sure that that promise is upheld, because we certainly would want that for the agents for their own protection, and we would want that for the animals.
Here's a deputation that was somewhat interesting. I won't give the name of the deputant in this instance, but it talked about what one has to go through in order to be an affiliate:
"In order to be approved as an affiliate, as I mentioned, we had to sign an agreement with the OSPCA, and among other items in this agreement, article 9 states: `Shelters must be well-ventilated, have plenty of light, and be heated to 60 degrees. Outside runs and shade must be provided.' Nowhere in this agreement does it state the size the runs should be, and nowhere does it state what a cat area or a reptile area should look like. The OSPCA has many shelters under their umbrella, and we would guess that not one of them has the same standards, so how can we impose standards on zoos or exhibits unless we have them too?"-good question.
One would ask, again, for what I mentioned at the very beginning. One of the concerns was oversight of the overseers, that we make sure the shelters, the pens and the runs owned and operated by the OSPCA have some oversight as well, because, when giving them these extended benefits and extended responsibilities, we should also be extending them the onus of those responsibilities along with the rights.
I'm just looking at some of these others. In terms of the ministry staff and their briefing of me, after a few of the deputations went on-and I know that this committee travelled around the province and did a lot of excellent work in doing so and listening, and I believe we really did listen. The ministry staff gave me a briefing-not myself alone but some other members of the committee, and it was welcomed, and was extensive-in which they tried to answer some of our concerns and questions, one of them being about warrantless entry not being new. The other was about the number of complaints investigated. So I just want to read these into the record, because I know they were questions that some of our deputants had.
According to OSPCA records from 2007, 16,834 complaints were investigated; 254 charges were laid-211 Criminal Code charges and 43 provincial offence charges; 2,581 compliance orders were issued; and 5,171 animals in distress removed. It doesn't say what happened to those 5,171 animals, but it does note that they were removed. One would want to know, in the interest of transparency, the follow-up there: How many had to be euthanized, how many were euthanized, how many were adopted out etc.
There were 35 appeals of compliance or removal orders received: 17 appeals were rejected, abandoned or resolved and 18 appeals had completed hearings and decisions. That was through the Animal Care Review Board.
They answered the question, as I said, about warrantless entry not being new. They answered the question about funding: $6.1 million. We have that from ministry staff. They also go on to say-and this, to be fair, was before the amendment was brought forward by the government-that there are only 10 known groups operating in Ontario with the name "humane society" that are not affiliated with the OSPCA. Section 6 of Bill 50, they said, again before the amendment, would also repeal section 10 of the OSPCA Act to enable over 200 animal welfare groups that are not affiliated with the OSPCA to continue operating legally. It's kind of an interesting statement. It doesn't jibe with our research but, again, I read it into the record so that people can respond and, because this is the last time they'll get to look at this bill-undoubtedly it will be passed today-so that they then deal with the regulatory body and send in their concerns, if they have concerns, about the details that I've just read.
In terms of funding, I can and will go into details with anybody who's interested. We received that from ministry staff, so thank you for that.
To continue, the International Fund for Animal Welfare also deputed-a prestigious organization, one that we listened to with interest and gave the gravity that it was due, I believe. They brought us back to the five freedoms which I mentioned: freedom from thirst and hunger, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. They also had concerns, of course, with section 6, with the humane societies. Just about everybody did.
My concern is that the amendment did not go far enough. Unfortunately, on this side of the House, we don't have the number of members necessary to force the government's hand on something like this. We do give thanks to all of those people out there-and there were hundreds, if not thousands of them-who sent us e-mails demanding that section 6 be removed. We did what we could, but the amendment to section 6 is due to them. So I want to thank them again.
Here are some concerns: This was just from an individual, but I thought they were very salient. She said that, in her estimation, inspectors didn't have enough training or supervision. She asks: "Who hires, trains and supervises these inspectors? Some of them are volunteer agents, and they have the powers of a police officer. The OSPCA inspector who handled my case would have had two weeks' training, a high school education and a driver's licence. That's all you need to get the job. The chief inspector is hours away in Newmarket. Who supervises their daily actions?"
She raised this concern when this particular inspector came into her breeding area where there were puppies, which of course needs to be sterile: "When the OSPCA arrives, you ask them to disinfect their hands or step into a bleach bath or put on boot covers or overalls. They're always refusing, saying, `You're the first place I've visited today.' When I pushed them to disinfect their hands before they touched my puppies, they told me that they didn't have to and touched the puppies anyway."
This could be hearsay; I'm not saying-that's a valid concern, but I'm saying that we heard enough of that so-called hearsay that one wants to reiterate the training aspect of the inspectors.
Of course, the Humane Society of Canada has raised their own concerns about the parliamentary assistant refusing to meet with them; the freedom of information act supposedly not being applicable; $6.1 million, in effect, being spent; and the qualifications for the chief inspector. What are the qualifications? Again, something left to regulation, one hopes. But certainly one would hope that the qualifications are extensive.
Perhaps what was most telling was when we heard from the veterinarians themselves. I'm not saving the best for last, but I'm saving it.
The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association submission to the Standing Committee on Social Justice re Bill 50. They had some interesting things to say:
"(A) Bill 50 should be expanded to include government oversight and public accountability of the OSPCA. With the OSPCA being given greater responsibilities and further enforcing authority, it would be prudent to have the Ontario government have direct oversight of the organization, providing accountability to the general public. This would include implementing an obligation for the OSPCA to provide regular reports to the government.
"That being said, we should also encourage the government to provide ongoing funding." It is providing funding, but ongoing funding. Along with the funding, they go on to recommend that the oversight be there.
"(B) The Animal Care Review Board: In addition to the OSPCA, we recommend that the government have full oversight of the Animal Care Review Board. The board should be required to report regularly to the government and make their decisions available to the general public. It is also recommended that Animal Care Review Board members be adequately compensated for their time on the board. This will assist in attracting and retaining qualified experts capable of successfully fulfilling the board's mandate." It goes on.
"(E) Veterinarians: Bill 50 requires veterinarians to report all suspected cases of animal abuse. Although this adds to veterinarians' responsibilities and obligations, not only do we welcome it, we have been advocating for this change for many years. This obligation will make a significant difference in helping to reduce animal abuse in Ontario. Providing veterinarians with protection from liability when reporting suspected cases of animal abuse in good faith will allow veterinarians to report with more ease and confidence. We strongly encourage that this provision be kept in Bill 50." That's a good point, because if you want them to report animal abuse, and then someone turns around and goes after them in civil court, there should be some liability option there.
Again, I say all these things in full knowledge that Bill 50 will pass. I say this again to the government in full hopes that the government will take these as useful, helpful suggestions; that they will bring them into regulation; that they will listen to the vast majority of deputants who ask repeatedly for some clear themes-not going to be included in Bill 50, I'm afraid, folks, but certainly to be included in the regulation.
Just to rehash, first of all, that there's some oversight of OSPCA, of its operations; that there's some oversight of the Animal Care Review Board; that there's some oversight of the chief inspector; that there's some oversight of the way $6.1 million of taxpayers' dollars are spent; that there's some reporting mechanism. Certainly, we think that the goings-on of the OSPCA, being a recipient of taxpayers' dollars to that degree, should be at FOIable, if not under the mandate of the Ombudsman. Either/or would certainly help to solve the problem, but certainly a reporting mechanism. This is only sensible. Any accountant would tell you the same thing.
Section 6: It's amended. Thank you, at least for small mercies. At least it helps some who call themselves humane societies, but it still has that egregious aspect to it that there are many humane societies-I would suggest more than 10-who will be covered by section 6, and who will not be exempt by section 6, even as amended.
Now, as I said, my advice to them, having talked to lawyers, is that they continue to use their name until somebody comes after them. Then maybe we can raise the question in the House if they do, because as far as I'm concerned, it's ultra vires: It's not their jurisdiction; it's not our jurisdiction in the province of Ontario; it is under federal jurisdiction. So there's that.
Next, the lack of private zoo regulations: Poor Mr. Zimmer, completely ignored by his government that promised to do something about regulating private zoos. It's kind of sad. Actually, I was preaching up in his riding yesterday, up at Newtonbrook United Church on their 168th anniversary. It's a wonderful riding. They're happy to support animal welfare in the riding of Willowdale. Wouldn't they all be very saddened to know that what was the genesis of a good idea has been lost in Bill 50? Not only private zoos, not only Wally, but also all of those animals raised for food, all of those native and wildlife species, all of those used in medical research. Again, nobody is asking that those activities not be exempt in some way, shape or form, but surely we can ask that there be some kind of oversight of the welfare of the animals under their care, and perhaps standard practice is just not good enough in the 21st century. Certainly that's what we heard from the deputants. That goes to speak to the broad-based problematic exemptions of Bill 50.
Finally, the training of the agents who have been given the powers of warrantless entry, among other aspects of their jobs, who are working really for a private agency-sort of; sort of now a public agency. They should be given the training they need. One would hope that that's more than a couple of days, more than two weeks; that they really know what they are doing before they walk into that breeding area, before they walk into that zoo; that they have someone along with them. We've heard assurances of that from the OSPCA. Good, let's see those assurances lived out, again, hopefully, in regulation.
Certainly I would say, just to wrap up, that there is no cause ever for ignoring the voices of those who do not ignore the voices of animals and those who care for them. "Why, oh why?" we might ask. For example, the Humane Society of Canada, the Burlington Humane Society, the Mississauga Humane Society, to name only three bodies, why have they been shut out of the regulation process, of the process of the writing of the bill? I mean, really, all we're asking for, again, is transparency and what one should always ask from one's elected representatives: that they respond to those who elected them. I can tell you that across our ridings, across Ontario, we heard deputations that carried those same themes in them. Those deputants want to be heard and they want to know that their government is reacting and acting in their best interests and the interests of the animals they look after.
Not one of the deputations came forward without some recommendation now to be looked after in regulation, including-and maybe I should finish with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, which also came forward and asked about the fact that Ontario residents are still free to keep tigers, monkeys, cougars or pythons as pets.
You know, it has been a long process to get us to this point. We've travelled the width and breadth of Ontario, we've listened to deputations from individuals and organizations. Everyone here, and I speak in a completely non-partisan way, I believe, wants the best for animals. There's no question about that. I think what has happened here is that we have a government that finds there's an organization that kind of came ready-made, that was willing to do the work of government for less money than it would take the government to do it. I understand that. I understand that in tight fiscal times you look around to find ways to look after those under your care, including animals, and you try to do that with the least spent of taxpayers' dollars. Here you have an organization, the OSPCA, which does the work. They're doing the work of government even though they're a private agency. They're doing the work of government and getting taxpayers' money to do it.
The only thing that we ask, then, since the government has found this organization ready-made to do their work for them, is that they at least do the due diligence that's required in looking after that agency, in making sure the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted; in making sure the $6.1 million is well spent; in making sure the agents are well trained; in making sure that there aren't such broad-based exemptions to the bill; in making sure that it's not just about pets, that it's also about exotics and zoo animals; in making sure that it also covers those animals that are exempted by definition, even if to do so means to do it in regulation, and that it's still not okay for that gentleman farmer to starve 50 horses to death with Bill 50 passed. We're looking for better legislation to protect our animals.
Finally, thank you to all the deputants. Thank you to all of those who came forward. Thank you to Tim Trow of the Toronto Humane Society. Thank you to Michael O'Sullivan of the Humane Society of Canada. Thank you for all your hard work.
Thank you for all the hundreds of e-mails we received from people who are in support of the general gist of Bill 50 but who would like to see it strengthened, who would like to see far more in regulations than is there. Thank you to all the legislators who sat on the committee and thank you to ministry staff who made it possible.
Really, let's hope, finally, that there is a thank you that we can hear in some bare whisper, in a language we don't quite understand as humans, from the animals themselves.
The member spoke about a lot of the concern regarding the humane societies. I can remember a time, for those who are unfamiliar with it, about 20-odd years ago, when the Toronto Humane Society disallowed anybody to adopt a pet if the individual worked in a grocery store with a meat department. I think some of the concerns would be about the extent to which the regulations would have an impact on individuals or societies throughout the province of Ontario.
The member also spoke about zoos and roadside zoos. I know WSPA has provided individuals with a definition of a roadside zoo, but those individuals around the room have to think, what is the roadside zoo in their community? Is it the one in Peterborough, the Riverview zoo? Or is it the Cat World, or the Bowmanville Zoo, which is the oldest private zoo in Canada? What is the standard for those zoos, and whose standard are they going to use?
For roadside zoos and the standards that are being brought forward, the concern that would be brought forward that the member was speaking about-and I am making comments on the member's comments-is that there would only effectively be two zoos in the province of Ontario, which would be the Metro Toronto Zoo as well as possibly the African Lion Safari, with some moderate changes.
When you speak about the proper care and control of animals, it's establishing a standard by which it's being left to regulation that causes them concern. For those who are unaware, the average boar bear, which is a male bear, has a normal range of about 90 square kilometres. How are you going to fit that into an area which individuals would say is an acceptable area, an acceptable domain?
I don't think anybody in this room-nor do I know anybody here nor do I know anybody who wants to see animals mistreated. We want to ensure that those animals are properly protected in our community, and we would do anything that would be-but there is some strong concern about the impact of the regulations and how they're going to be enforced.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Mr. Dave Levac: I want to thank the member from Parkdale-High Park for her extensive comments on the bill, her being there and witnessing it; I believe she's the critic for the NDP. I know you've got a large portfolio and it's very difficult, but you were there for the entire time, so thank you for your input.
Yes, we did arrange for the briefings and ensured that staff worked with you diligently and co-operatively. And yes, I did ask them to give you all the details, because that was a commitment that I had made, that I would provide that data that was asked for, and they were very good in providing that. I too extend my thanks to the staff for their hard work.
Just a couple of quick comments about the some of the points that you made: First of all, some of the measures that we've been taking to prevent cruelty include increasing the annual funding of the Ontario OSPCA to $500,000 to support agent and inspector training; the one-time funding on top of that of another $100,000 to support training to begin the zoo inspection plan, in co-operation with MNR and CAZA. There have been some ongoing talks with MNR and CAZA to ensure that that $100,000 is used specifically to train in what they're looking at and what they're doing to ensure that when they look, for the first time in some cases but also at other times, they know exactly what they are inspecting, so they can establish whether or not they're being treated as best as they possibly should. Those are a couple of ideas I want to make sure you're aware of, and are indeed already started.
There's a one-time capital grant of $5 million to the OSPCA for the fiscal year of 2007-08 to improve and modernize their infrastructure. A lot of ridings have already announced that some of that money has been made available to those centres and shelters to take care of some of the concerns you've raised about the present condition of some OSPCA shelters. Some of them have been able to do great fundraising to keep these updated, but others need that help, and that's that one-time $5-million capital grant.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Thank you to the members from Brant and Oshawa for their comments. Thank you particularly to the member from Brant for that clarification. Again, it's not so much the money; it's the oversight of it. As you suggested, we want to make sure that the $500,000 and the $100,000 grant are spent in the way that is intended, and that the one-time grant of $5 million is spent in the way it is intended. This speaks to the transparency of the organization itself.
It will be interesting to see that transparency in an ongoing way. We understand it's a private charity. If there are other grants after this one-time grant is made, there should equally be a reporting mechanism on the way they're spent-any taxpayers' dollars. I was pleased to hear that, and I look forward to receiving those reports as they come in. If you could keep us updated, I would appreciate that, and also being kept updated on any bylaws that happen.
Of course, I would ask all our stakeholders to report back to me, if they could, on section 6 and if anybody tries to invoke it. I'm most interested in that because, again, I don't believe it's sustainable.
At the end of the day, this is a step forward. It's a step forward that has taken 90 years, but let's hope it's not the last step. Let's hope that this is the beginning of a new way of looking at animal welfare in the province of Ontario, that this is the beginning, not the end, in a sense of Bill 50 even; that in regulations we look at tightening it up, extending its jurisdiction and making it stronger so that more animals are covered by it than, as you heard the comment, just the family pet.
With that, I'm delighted to have been part of this journey. It has allowed me to meet all sorts of amazing people, and particularly to tour the Toronto Humane Society, which I highly advise everybody to do and adopt an animal while you're there.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Further debate?
Mr. Tim Hudak: I'm pleased to rise and offer some comments on Bill 50. Particularly, I want to focus on some issues of concern brought forward by constituents in the riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook who have met with me or e-mailed me.
I also want to note that I think a lot of impetus for this bill actually came from some efforts of members of the Ontario PC caucus that had pushed similar concerns about strengthening our animal protection legislation in the province of Ontario.
You may remember that in December 2007, Bob Runciman, the leader of the official opposition in the Legislature, brought forward Bill 23, An Act to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. This proposed, among other things, extending to all animals of a domestic nature the standards of care afforded to dogs and cats bred for sale. I think that a lot of what Mr. Runciman suggested may have helped to inform the minister's decision in bringing forward this bill.
I also want to give a lot of credit to my colleague from York-Simcoe, Julia Munro, who has been a long-time and powerful advocate for animal protection legislation that accurately reflects the state of affairs in the province of Ontario today. Ms. Munro comes from a lot of experience in this vein. In fact, you may remember that An Act to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 2001, was an initiative from Ms. Munro's work at the time. That bill proposed to create standards of care for puppy and kitten mills, and proposed ownership bans and potential lifetime ownership bans as penalties. The act became a model piece of legislation for other jurisdictions. I do want to commend my colleague Ms. Munro for her groundbreaking efforts in 2001 and my colleague Mr. Runciman for his work in 2007, as a forerunner to this bill.
Our colleague from Simcoe North, Mr. Dunlop, has been our critic on this. He has been through the committee hearings and brought forward a lot of sensible advice on how to improve the bill, some of which was heard and some of which was not. I do want to thank Garfield for circling some of the shortcomings of the bill in its initial form.
By way of example, one of the issues we on the PC benches brought forward is that the bill allows the OSPCA inspectors a right of warrantless entry. We've certainly see an expansion of this power under the McGuinty government, under a number of acts, and we do want to raise the ongoing concern about the degree to which the government has been giving rights of entry on to private property, into buildings, without warrant. It has been expanded significantly under the McGuinty government. Obviously, warrantless entry would be something that you want to give only in the most extreme circumstances, not something that should be broad-based across government agencies and ministries.
We also raised a concern that the bill did not contain provisions to ensure sufficient training and oversight, in light of the powers that have been provided to the OSPCA inspectors under Bill 50. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, among other stakeholders, particularly those in rural Ontario, has noted that Bill 50 had the potential to threaten the existing standards of care, especially for agricultural workers.
Furthermore, one of the concerns brought forward by the Ontario PC caucus was that Bill 50 did not specifically address standards of care in zoos, which has been an item of debate in at least one if not more private members' bills in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
As was referenced by my colleague from Parkdale-High Park, this bill called for animal welfare groups not under the OSPCA to cease using the name "humane society"-section 6-which has been an important part of debate here in the Legislature and in committee.
I want to commend my colleague from Simcoe North, Garfield Dunlop, for bringing those issues to the floor and for pressing them for some changes. The changes did not go as far as we had hoped in many of those areas, but we do feel that we were able to represent the voice of many Ontarians in rural and urban Ontario who had expressed concerns about those specific provisions.
Let me get into a bit of detail.
Warrantless entry-sections 11.4 and 12 of the bill-would permit OSPCA inspectors or agents to enter buildings where animals are with or without a warrant. Nowhere in the act, in giving this significant authority to inspectors, is consideration given to the implications this may have on the animals and therefore, by extension, on the farmer or landowner or caregiver to those particular animals. For example, in their submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture said the following: "Many livestock and poultry operations employ biosecurity measures and protocols to maintain herd health. Human contact with the animals is controlled to achieve animal health. On a farm, even those individuals who have direct contact with the animals shower and change clothes before entering the barns and again before leaving. These measures serve to minimize possible disease transfer. Likewise, farmers do not enter the barns of neighbours, again to avoid possible disease transfers."
Certainly, representing a significant agricultural portion of the Niagara peninsula and into the Glanbrook and upper Stoney Creek areas, this is a concern shared by many farmers, neighbours and landowners in the rural areas.
I've had the opportunity to visit poultry and livestock operations in the past, and I know the very strict precautions that farmers take to ensure that those barns are not contaminated in any way, which often runs against what many people who have not visited these places may think-extraordinary measures to maintain our food supply at the highest standard of care.
I received a number of e-mails from residents in my riding that I will speak to, a few examples, later on. One in particular, Diana Shore from St. Anns-not too far from where my home is, in Wellandport-raised the warrantless entry issue quite vociferously in her e-mail.
Another active citizen from Caistor Centre, Walter Zimmerman, has felt so strongly about animal protection, and has gone through an experience where he was trying to act to protect cats which were endangered by a neglectful owner, only to find that his encounter with the humane society seemed to target him more than the owner he had seen throw cats from a truck while in motion. I'll get to Mr. Zimmerman's concerns and recommendations momentarily.
Here's the concern: Nothing in sections 11, 4 and 12 of the bill even acknowledges on-farm biosecurity protocols. Nothing, for example, mandates SPCA inspectors or agents to be trained in on-farm biosecurity protocols. Again, that's from the OFA recommendation. So hopefully the minister will take that into consideration. No doubt, the Minister of Agriculture will lobby on the OFA's behalf to include biosecurity training for SPCA inspectors who may be going into these environments. It seems that, if livestock is contaminated, if a farmer's income is so affected or the food supply endangered in any way, compensation to farmers for financial losses due to an inspector's failure to follow biosecurity protocols is far more than reasonable.
Again, on behalf of many of my constituents in Niagara West-Glanbrook, there is a concern that if individuals were simply granted, through Bill 50, powers equivalent to a police officer's, at the very least, measures must be taken to ensure accountability, transparency and regular training of that individual and the organization which provides its oversight. As I mentioned, my constituents have highlighted this section of the act.
Section 6, as well, attracted a lot of attention during debate and from my constituents who follow this bill quite closely. There is significant controversy around excising section 6 from the bill entirely. Section 6 effectively removes the right of an organization, except the OSPCA or its affiliate, to include the words "humane society" in its name. Certainly, these terms are synonymous with the hard-working and caring individuals who work on behalf of animal welfare in our communities. Many of the agencies simply have not affiliated with the OSPCA and found section 6 of the bill to be well beyond the pale, and ask for it to be removed from the legislation in its entirety. The Toronto Humane Society, for example-recognizable by its name for 121 years-is one that raised that concern. A constituent of mine, Kalee McTaggart, has brought this forward; I'll read that to you momentarily. The concern was the bill would prohibit that altogether.
Because of the pressures brought forward by various interested parties, by both the official opposition and the third party, there was an amendment to the act to prevent only future organizations from using the name "humane society." We're still-at least, I am-not satisfied with that change. It's an improvement from those that currently exist, but as much as we rejected this restriction for existing organizations, we similarly reject it for any potential future organizations. I guess we will see if this section of the act is actually enforced. My colleague from Parkdale has expressed her concern about whether this is even enforceable, whether it's ultra vires in the first place. I guess that remains to be seen. We had hoped they would listen to the amendments my colleague Mr. Dunlop had brought forward. Sadly, they have not. We'll see if this half measure is appropriate.
Mr. Dave Levac: Some were.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Some were accepted. I think I said that earlier, my colleague from Brantford, to be fair. Yes, some of the amendments were accepted, which we do appreciate. There have been improvements made to the bill. There are some areas where we still express our concerns, as do my constituents.
Mr. Dave Levac: I only want to be fair.
Mr. Tim Hudak: I always try to be fair, I say to my friend, and I did note that early on.
Mr. Dunlop, on behalf of the PC caucus, had brought forward an amendment to repeal section 6 altogether. That was not accepted by the government members. They did bring forward a half measure. It does protect existing organizations; we'll see how it treats future organizations.
"I am writing to you with regards to Bill 50, and requesting that section 6 be removed. I am an avid supporter of animal rights and I think that removing support to the local humane societies would be a huge mistake. Places like the humane society give second chances to animals that have been abused, neglected or that need immediate treatment. The humane society also refuses to euthanize animals unless they are seriously ill or are un-adoptable.
"Please support local humane societies and the animal welfare movement in Ontario by removing section 6 from Bill 50 before the damage is done.
I thank Kalee for taking the time to send me that personal message. I would be interested to see if Ms. McTaggart is satisfied with the amendment to section 6. I do feel that we made every effort in the Ontario PC caucus to support the call we heard from Ms. McTaggart and other constituents.
I mentioned Diana Shore of St. Anns, as well. I know that Madam Speaker, coming from the Hamilton area, is probably aware of St. Anns, which is close to my own home in Wellandport, a significant agricultural community with a proud history. Ms. Shore's e-mail is dated
November 13, 2008, so just a few days ago. I had mentioned the enhanced powers of inspection-section 11-for the bill and such. She said: "As a landowner and caregiver of farm animals I am fearful of these representatives of this `charity' organization who will have more rights than our police force. This Bill 50 has stripped me and my neighbours of our personal sense of security ... which was granted to us as Canadians under the Charter of Rights. These OSPCA officers have no background checks and the majority have no idea or experience regarding animal breeds, care requirements nor veterinary medical training. Experiences in Ontario with the OSPCA in the last few years appear like `money grabs,' a way for the OSPCA to extort money from their victims."
This is very strong language from my constituent Ms. Shore from St. Anns, but I think it reflects the concern in rural Ontario about the expanded powers of warrantless search and the lack of training that some OSPCA officials may have when it comes to agricultural operations.
She mentions further in her e-mail, "Let's face facts; yes, there are puppy mills hiding in our province"-and I mentioned earlier, as an aside, the outstanding work of my colleague from York-Simcoe who brought forward the bill to shut down puppy mills back in 2001-"and there are animal abuses that should be stopped. Reality is that less than 0.01% of animal owners and caretakers in Ontario fall into this group-the rest are innocent taxpaying Canadian citizens. We the Ontario citizens/voters already have several documented cases of the OSPCA wrongfully seizing animals and never laying any charges."
She goes on in her e-mail to talk particularly about the horse sector: "As a horse owner, these cases of wrongful seizures resulting in the loss of healthy and registered horses are increasing ... and Bill 50 hasn't even passed yet. We fear these incidences will continue to increase as Bill 50 will further empower the OSPCA."
She makes a series of recommendations at the end of her e-mail. Most notably, I want to highlight the first action she asks of the government: "Stop Bill 50 from passing until amendments for accountability are established and remove all actions that strip us of our basic security as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights (i.e. warrantless entry)."
I do want to say to Ms. Shore, to other constituents in my community and those who are involved or are close to the agriculture sector, that we made every effort to improve Bill 50 to ensure that the legitimate concerns of farmers are taken into serious consideration with amendments to improve the bill. As I said, some amendments were accepted, and sadly, some very important amendments were voted down by the Liberal members of the committee that oversaw Bill 50.
I also want to mention, in the time I have remaining, a very active citizen who has taken the time to come in to see me, twice in the last number of months alone, on the issue of animal welfare: Walter Zimmerman from Caistor Centre. Walter Zimmerman, folks may know-my friend from Welland, Mr. Kormos, may have seen Little Wolf Apiaries products around. Walter spends a good portion of his summer at farmers' markets selling his delicious honey. I'll recommend it, for fans of honey here in the Ontario Legislature; Walter has one outstanding product.
Walter is one of those citizens who wants to get involved to improve his community. He recently appeared, by the way, at the Smithville council on an unrelated matter-just to show that he is somebody who has a broad range of interests, not only in agriculture; he was calling for some greater controls on ATVs and snowmobiles that had gone on private property that had upset many local residents and seniors and damaged farmers' crops. So it's consistent for Mr. Zimmerman to show his concern about the welfare of animals.
Not too long ago, Walter and his wife were driving along a local highway and they saw an individual toss two cats from his pickup truck. Mr. Zimmerman, bless his heart, stopped, took care of the two cats-he wanted to ensure that they were okay-and called the police and the OSPCA in to help investigate and to ensure that justice was done to the individual who had callously tossed cats, might I note for the record, from a pickup truck while the truck was driving down the highway. Sadly, Mr. Zimmerman's encounter with the SPCA was far from satisfactory. To quote him, from his meeting in my office, he is concerned about the expansion of the policing powers of the SPCA, saying they throw their muscle around too much. He thinks the SPCA should respond, but use police for more of the investigations in things like the warrantless entry.
Mr. Zimmerman has also called for some sort of arm's-length review board as an appeal mechanism for OSPCA matters, and that some kind of government lawyer or crown prosecutor should be used in these cases so individual taxpayers like himself are not on the hook if they find themselves on the bad end of an experience, as Mr. Zimmerman did when he was trying to act in the best interests of these two cats. So he will be pleased with some of the amendments that the PC caucus advanced that were accepted. He will be disappointed, I think, largely in those that were not accepted. He would like to see this bill reopened sometime down the road to make the changes that he does suggest.
I thank Mr. Zimmerman, Ms. Shore, Kalee McTaggart and others for their interventions on this matter. I'm pleased to bring their voices here to the Ontario Legislature as we debate Bill 50.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Mr. Peter Kormos: I was pleased to be able to be here during the comments made by the member for Niagara West-Glanbrook. I note especially his concern on behalf of farmers down in Niagara region and, I trust, across the province who are of the view that they haven't been adequately listened to in the course of the development of this bill. I'm going to have a chance to speak to this bill for 20 minutes in just a few minutes' time. There are some things that I want to put on the record-very much so.
I was really, really disappointed in the rather inadequate, indeed inelegant, response to the concerns about section 6 and its impact, among others, on the Toronto Humane Society. It was something that could have been addressed far more clearly, far more thoroughly, to resolve any donor concern and to avoid what could well be some litigious efforts. The only people who really win are the lawyers, at the end of the day, for all intents and purposes.
I was also saddened by how the Premier's office abandoned David Zimmer, the government member for Willowdale, because you will recall that it was David Zimmer who, just before the last provincial election, introduced a private member's bill here in this chamber that was designed to regulate private zoos-roadside zoos. I'm going to have some things to say about that, because let me tell you, you go to places like-what is that, Marineland, down in Niagara Falls? A sad, dusty, shabby place, and you find private zoos that need regulation and inspection and improved standards.
I'm going to have 20 minutes to talk about those things and a few others in just a few minutes' time. I will be pleased to do that if the Speaker will accommodate me.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Mr. Dave Levac: I thank the member for his presentation to us and his reference to the members from his caucus who have been identified as champions of animal welfare. I want to remind him, and I'm sure, in terms of him telling me that he always wants to be fair and balanced, that he would not forget the fact that the member from Eglinton-Lawrence, Mr. Mike Colle, was an extremely large champion. When in opposition, he introduced a private member's bill that seemed to be saying to the government of the day, "This is something we should be doing," and received very large support from the people of Ontario. I believe it was 200,000 signatures on cards that basically said it's time for us to move forward on a 90-year-old bill. I'm sure he would not want to miss that opportunity to give him credit and, according to our friend from Welland, making sure that Mr. Zimmer gets mentioned in his championship of roadside zoo issues.
A couple of other members in the past, I understand, Mr. Runciman, and I believe there were others-I could go back in history-basically championed animal welfare. So I wanted to make sure that Mike Colle got a little bit of a dessert on the work that he did, that actually ended up being somewhat mirrored by the bill that was accepted by the government of the day, except I think they exempted breeders, if I'm not mistaken. The government of the day exempted breeders from the strength of the legislation. I'm sure that as we move forward and continue to work toward animal welfare, we would do our best to absolutely ensure that it is entrenched wherever we can.
Let me quickly talk about warrantless entry. I think everybody here knows that there still exists an opportunity to do warrantless entry, with the permission of the owner. If the owner gives permission, the inspector can go in and inspect without a warrant. That's clear, because it's not something new; it's something that existed. The other part is that, in this legislation, you can't do it in a residence. Unbeknownst to some people, who think it is warrantless any other time, it's not-
I am pleased that I had the chance to bring forward just some of the e-mails or conversations I've had with constituents in Niagara West-Glanbrook who wanted to see this bill improved. Certainly, my experience with our local humane societies and the OSPCA, as an MPP, has been largely a positive one. In fact, my folks' dog, Gator, was a resident from the humane society in Niagara. Poor Gator now has passed away but was a great dog for the 12 or so years that Gator was with us. Gator, of course, was named after the Lakeshore Gators. My father was the principal of Lakeshore, a high-quality school in Port Colborne, an excellent school with some fantastic football teams and basketball teams, among others that I know-
Mr. Peter Kormos: But Gator's gone.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, the Gator has now passed away-
Mr. Peter Kormos: That's sad.
Mr. Tim Hudak:-but is hopefully watching over the Lakeshore Gators as they contend for another championship in the time ahead, as an unofficial mascot for the team.
No matter how strong the work is of local boards and organizations, we do have to make sure that the work of inspectors is within balance and is respectful of the unique concerns of the agriculture community, and needs to give due respect to the long histories of humane societies in our province that may not be directly affiliated with the OSPCA. I'm pleased that, through debate in the Legislature and the hard work of my colleagues, most notably the critic, some improvements were made to the bill, and we'll look to see how Bill 50 is in implementation.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Further debate?
Mr. Peter Kormos: New Democrats are going to support the legislation. We share some of the concerns that have been articulately expressed about its impact on the agricultural community and the potential for misapplication in the agricultural community, which is under a whole lot of pressure, as you well know, you having been travelling the province as a leadership candidate for the Ontario New Democratic Party, talking with people in agriculture, with people living in rural Ontario and with farmers.
Just yesterday I read a wonderful article-I recommend it to folks-in the Toronto Sun by Antonella Artuso. She did a rather lengthy article about the Toronto Zoo. I get back to Mr. Zimmer's initial efforts-David Zimmer, from Willowdale-to have a regulatory regime for private zoos. Do you recall the incredible support he received for that proposition, not just from within his riding and in the province-because we got those e-mails and letters too-but from across North America? While it's true that this legislation is applicable to the animals in private zoos, this legislation is not, in and of itself, a regulatory regime for private zoos.
Let me talk about zoos in general, because that's why I made reference to the Artuso article-very well done. It was an entertaining read and a very informative one. It focuses on the Toronto Zoo, owned by the city of Toronto, and the notorious junketing done by the Giorgio Mammolitis of Toronto city council. This guy has travelled the world, Lord knows how many times over, in the pursuit of zoo information, I presume. But the Toronto Sun has blown the whistle on the Toronto Zoo board and their perks, their self-enriching perks at the expense of the zoo. I had been to the Toronto Zoo, and every time I've got somebody visiting here from outside the province or outside southern Ontario, a trip to the Toronto Zoo is mandatory. If you think summertime is fun at the Toronto Zoo, wintertime can be as wonderful, if not a little more challenging, because it creates a totally different climate there, or a totally different landscape.
I grew up down in Welland-Crowland, really. As a matter of fact, I was just at the Ukrainian Labour Temple, on Ontario Road, for the 90th anniversary of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians on Sunday-the Ukrainian Labour Temple, that remarkable accommodation of the progressive thinkers. It's where people who formed the United Electrical Workers down in Welland would meet, and the Ukrainian Canadian community, along with other Eastern Europeans and Anglos, would have this hall as a focal point for progressive organization. I have been going there for a long, long time, not only for the food, but for some of the earliest political speeches, as not quite a teenager yet, that I heard at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. I don't have to tell you that they were enlightened and progressive ones. There was no advocacy for unfettered capitalism in the Ukrainian Labour Temple. If there was any mention of it, it was in absolute condemnation. These are people who sought and fought to build a better world. So I was there, in Crowland, and that's where I come from.
The reason I mention that is because when we were kids, of course, the Buffalo Zoo was the zoo destination for people who lived in southern Ontario. While we were fascinated with it as kids-and I'm talking about back in the 1950s-even recalling that zoo is shocking because it was your classic concrete and iron bar cages with sad, lonely lions pacing back and forth with the obvious symptoms of lion dementia.
I made reference a little while ago to places like Marineland in Niagara Falls. Have you ever been there? I've never been. All I've had were some complaints from people who have been, who describe it as a sad, seedy, dusty place. I don't understand what the fascination is with somehow thinking that a captive whale-have you ever been out to the east coast and seen whales out there off the Gaspé, off Percé Rock? You're not up close. Sometimes you're closer than you would ever think you'd be. I don't know, I just think it is a far more exciting experience to see humpbacks and killer whales as they dive and arc.
It strikes me as strange that there are some people who would somehow find it entertaining and who would actually believe that the whale is happy. The entertainment element of it is almost perverse-you know, the effort to impress people with: "Look, the whale is smiling." Whales don't smile. It's stupid. And whales don't enjoy performing. They're conditioned. They're trained to do it in classic Pavlovian style with the promise of food. Whales are not domestic animals. Of course, a few others here grew up in the 1950s, and we were indoctrinated with the Disneyfication of wild animals, the Flipper syndrome; remember? Before Flipper, it was Rin Tin Tin. Who was the collie? Lassie. "Go call 911, Lassie." This Disneyfication of animals and wildlife in general was very unhealthy. It was a very unhealthy indoctrination of my generation and of subsequent generations.
What I'm saying is, I increasingly question even the validity or legitimacy of the entertainment zoo. There's been serious criticism-Toronto Zoo is one of the finest in the world; make no mistake about it-criticism, for instance, of the elephant enclosure, and if you've been there, you understand the criticism. Smaller animals that have more square footage per size of animal are a little bit better off. They can do what most animals do, especially nocturnal animals: They can hide. Now, that frustrates the audience; right? You've got kids screaming at their parents, "Where are the lemurs?" But I'd question whether in the year 2008 there should even be such a thing as an entertainment zoo, that like other zoos, the Toronto Zoo-annual multi-, multi-, multimillion-dollar budget. When the natural habitat for so much of this wildlife is being consumed at a voracious rate, maybe, just maybe, we as a community should be making bigger investments in preserving the habitat of wildlife where that wildlife is under attack. The deforestation of South America, amongst others, is an assault on some of the world's most beautiful and dramatic creatures, and I suspect we have an interest in helping them survive in a hostile environment. So maybe zoos, if and when they do exist, should have a focus or a purpose rather than being displays, because let's face it, in this world of high-definition, widescreen television, PBS and other broadcasters have brought us closer to any number of these magnificent or fascinating or even strange creatures than we could ever dare to see them, even in an enclosure.
It reminds me-have you ever been to Coney Island? It's fascinating. Mermaid Avenue at Coney Island-I think it is 20 years since I've been there. Coney Island is like walking into a time warp. One of the fascinating things about Coney Island was the wax museum. I realized, as I was walking around the wax museum at Coney Island, that this was the creation of a phenomenon for people that predated television, and indeed even popular and constantly displayed movies. This was an opportunity for people who couldn't see television, and who perhaps had the most modest of newsreels from time to time, to look at historical characters, and of course the inevitable obsession with criminals and the bloodiest and most vile of crimes. Surely most of the zoo phenomenon is very much the same thing.
Maybe the only zoos that should exist are zoos that are dedicated to a particular purpose: dedicated to doing research, dedicated to reviving a species that is at risk, perhaps with the goal of stocking its natural habitat with that species. Maybe our public monies would be better spent in that way. That's not to say we won't have places or shouldn't have places where people can come and see this happening. But rather than entertainment, it should be educational.
I give Antonella Artuso great credit for having focused on some of these very issues in her article in yesterday's Toronto Sun. For the life of me, I don't understand why we need private zoos at all; I just don't. There's a reference to the old Riverdale Zoo in the Artuso article. Again, that was a zoo built and designed on traditional and now very obsolete models and approaches. One of the most fascinating things about the Riverdale Zoo-do you remember the Riverdale Zoo? Yes, you do, east of Parliament Street. First of all, it's in a beautiful part of town; it really is.
When the Riverdale Zoo was transformed-they shipped out all of the exotic animals, if you will, when the Toronto Zoo was built-what they kept was a little farm with farm animals which, unlike lions and zebras and elephants and tigers, are far more amenable to being in smaller enclosures and grazing, and far more amenable to contact with humans. That experience, especially for kids in Toronto, was as exciting and delightful an animal experience as you could ever find, because here are kids starting to understand a different part of Canada and Canadian culture; that is, the agricultural part of Canada and Canadian culture, and the rural part of Canada and rural culture.
Having said that, I know some people who specialize, for instance, in things like reptiles or snakes-two examples-who do a great deal of work and breeding in an effort to ensure the survival of these species and do it on a private basis, simply out of their passion for those animals.
I regret-I really regret-that Zimmer's bill was abandoned by the McGuinty government.
I have no qualms about saying that this piece of legislation will give animal inspection personnel the authority and powers that they need. But, look, all the legislation in the world means squat if those various humane societies, SPCAs, don't have the resources to do their job. Pass all the bills you want. I don't know what it's like in Hamilton, but down where I come from, in Welland, we've got a pretty cash-strapped municipality. Our SPCA down there that does the animal protection and deals with animals and public safety is pretty understaffed-the humane society-and under-resourced. You could have Godzilla in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon, and you're not likely to get an officer out because of the staffing problems. And as you know, police don't like dealing with these scenarios; they're not trained to.
Obviously, if the province doesn't step up to the plate-and I know there have been some modest increases in the levels of support, but the biggest single funder of this activity is municipalities, the ones that can least afford it. Look, I have great sympathy. I was with Mayor McMullan from St. Catharines down at the Chetwood community centre on Saturday afternoon, the seniors' centre, cutting a ribbon there because they had renovated the place. I was there with Malcolm Allen, the newly elected member of Parliament, Jim Bradley and a couple of the city councillors. I had occasion to commend the city of St. Catharines for its support for this small seniors' centre, because city councils are in an unenviable position, especially in those towns like ours, where industrial jobs have been lost and industries shut down. Not only do those communities lose those jobs and those incomes, but they also lose the tax base. Then you've got an irrational and unaccountable actual value assessment system that, oh, the Liberals railed against when they were in opposition but have done nothing to change since coming to power, other than to freeze assessment for two years, so that now people are getting whacked, as Mr. Marchese is wont to say, after two years of frozen assessment, upon opening up their assessment notices.
We're going to get this bill ready for proclamation, I suspect, this afternoon. It's interesting: Just this morning, I was talking to my neighbour Ms. Rosie, and she has the Road Warrior, one of her several cats that are very well taken care of. The Road Warrior was having some dental work done, some teeth removed, over at Main West Animal Hospital. You've got to understand: I know the Road Warrior. Ms. Rosie's cats are semi-feral. She spends a fortune caring for them. The vet is-
Mrs. Liz Sandals: Are they half-pregnant?
Mr. Peter Kormos: No, no. Listen to me. The vet-I don't know what kind of car he or she drives, but the vet has done well by Ms. Rosie and her semi-feral cats. Well, you've got to understand. There are feral cats, there are domesticated cats and there are cats that can't quite make up their minds.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: I thought you said "semi-sterile."
Mr. Peter Kormos: Good grief. Ms. Sandals thought I said "semi-sterile."
Mrs. Liz Sandals: That's why I was questioning the story.
Mr. Peter Kormos: Good grief. It's like being half-neutered.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: Exactly. That's why I was questioning your-
Mr. Peter Kormos: Well, no, you should understand "half-neutered." That's like being in the Liberal backbenches.
Look forward to Mr. Zimmer's continuing advocacy for regulation of private zoos. We need that debate, because we have to, I think, at this point decide whether there is even a role for private zoos. I'm talking about commercial zoos as compared to private collections or people who have a serious scientific interest in a particular animal or breed of animal. It's a lost opportunity. Zimmer is one of the best on the Liberal benches, and for him to have been shot down like that by the Premier is truly regrettable.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Mr. Dave Levac: The member from Welland is well known for his presentations and his capacity to get to the point and also entertain us at the same time, so I appreciate some of those pieces of entertainment. I'm sure Mr. Zimmer would appreciate that too.
But having said that, I do want to reinforce a couple of the points that he made about the roadside zoos. It has not been lost on the government in clarity. We've talked about it at committee. We talked about it in the briefings. We talked about the potential of where we can assist in doing that. The government is taking some action, as I pointed out to the critic, to ensure that some of that gets dealt with on the financial side, which is the increased funding of up to $500,000 to support inspection and agent training and an additional one-time $100,000 funding to support training specific to zoo inspection plans, working with MNR and CAZA, in order for us to understand what they are doing to bring that safety and the concerns that were raised by Mr. Zimmer, the member from Willowdale, in his attempts to ensure that there was some type of inspection happening. So some of those things were happening, as the member well knows.
In terms of some of the areas that the legislation does not deal with-which is fair, because it was pointed out in the presentations as well, and in the briefings, that the three areas were before OSPCA inspection-we would have the accepted farm practices so that we wouldn't be seen doing anything extraordinarily different from what we normally do with agricultureal standards of animal care and the science and research under the animal bill that already exists in terms of taking care of animals that are being used for research and science. The third area would be the anglers and hunters, which were exempted from that because they are already covered under legislation.
Having said that, the critic from your party indicated that she wanted to see those expanded in ways in which regulation could tune that up, and I think that is being discussed as we speak.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Mr. John O'Toole: I always listen carefully to the member from Welland because he brings a lot to the discussion, and in this case he certainly brought up a number of interesting and valid concerns.
From our point of view in our caucus-and I can't speak for everyone in our caucus, but I know that we want to make sure that animal safety is a priority. Certainly I would think that some of the information we're receiving from our constituents-indeed, in my riding, I have three zoos that I have heard from. One is quite well respected, the Bowmanville Zoo, and the zoo keeper there is Michael Patrick, and I believe his wife is a doctor of veterinary medicine. As well, I have Jungle Cat World, which is in Orono, on 35-115, and is mostly exotic cats and other species. Also, they're very much in support of having standards; in fact, they believe that they are in compliance today. However, with this particular bill, there seems to be a bit of a non-animal issue going on here, where the thrust is to eliminate any reference to a private zoo. This has them concerned.
Northwood is another zoo in my riding where they have a similar concern. They're very much interested in animal welfare, to the extent that they are actually recovering animals that perhaps are in unsatisfactory conditions and are acting in the best interests of protecting the animals, and yet they feel threatened as well.
These organizations in my riding have called me, talked to me and felt that there is not the proper balance in this legislation. So I think the member from Welland has raised some issues, as we have as well, but the government at the end of the day has the majority of the votes and they will ram this through without much consideration for any amendments that we might have made. So with that, I just want to be on the record as saying that I listened to the people that look after animals in my riding and I think they're right.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments?
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: What can one say about the member from Welland? We're just really, really glad he's on our team in the New Democrats. I heard his comments about roadside zoos address the fact that this legislation doesn't have, really, anything to say about zoo animals, farm animals, animals involved in medical research, or native and wildlife. The fact that someone can still have a tiger as a pet without breaking a law says a lot about the inadequacy of Bill 50. We hope that the government takes that to heart and expands, through regulation, the ability of the inspectors to inspect, to go into situations where a tiger is kept as a pet. I certainly know that when I spent time in the country there were many of my farmers who had pets that were exotics and, thankfully, most of them looked after them relatively well, but the fact that they could have them and nobody knew and nobody oversaw the treatment of those animals, including the possible escape of those animals, as we saw with Wally this last week, is a problem and needs to be addressed. So the member from Welland really highlighted that.
Certainly, we hope that this isn't the end of this conversation; that the government continues to feed us and feed myself the information that I requested. We hope that the government takes to heart what they've heard from the deputants in terms of regulation and we hope that the government doesn't stop in bringing forward legislation that has more teeth in it, that's going to protect animals across the province of Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Andrea Horwath): Questions and comments? The member from Welland, did you wish to make a response?
Mr. Peter Kormos: Thank you kindly, Speaker. The bill is going to pass in, I suspect, a few more moments. It's then up to the government to make sure that those charged with the responsibility to address animal welfare and public safety vis-à-vis animals, have the resources that they need to do their jobs.
I should mention that Ms. DiNovo, the member for Parkdale-High Park, was the steward of the opposition to this bill for the NDP during its course through committee. She took on that responsibility because of her passion about the issue, but also her concern for the Toronto Humane Society and the manner in which it was going to be very negatively impacted by the then-section 6. Ms. DiNovo was an enthusiastic advocate for the THS, Toronto Humane Society, and for those who care about animal welfare. She displayed a remarkable pan-Ontario sensitivity, because while an urban and urbane woman, she also demonstrated a remarkable familiarity with, as I say, the culture of rural Ontario, the culture of agricultural Ontario and the needs of those very specific communities.
To Mr. Zimmer I say, continue to struggle. We join you in your battle with your Premier's office to get a proper zoo regulatory regime enacted in this province. I couldn't be prouder than to stand in solidarity with you in your struggle with an oppressive Premier's office that so often ignores its back bench and simply calls upon them as voting machines and to do the heavy lifting, but takes all the glory for itself.
Seeing none, Mr. Bartolucci has moved third reading of Bill 50. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.
All those in favour, please say "aye."
I believe the ayes have it.