A Tale of Two Phones
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
Monday 23 October 2023
OPPOSITION DAY MOTION
Mr. John Vanthof: Speaker, I would like to respond.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): I recognize the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for response.
Mr. John Vanthof: Thank you, Speaker. Before I begin, I would also like to—having just heard the government’s argument on this, also reserve to submit more paper later.
First, so the government is saying that this motion shouldn’t be allowed under section 25. We submitted the motion, I believe, on Wednesday. It was ruled in order by the Clerk’s table. We are now several days later.
Before we go further, I would like to read the motion into the record.
“Whereas the Government is under criminal investigation by the RCMP for their removal of lands from the Greenbelt; and
“Whereas the Auditor General is in the process of reviewing whether there has been mismanagement and abuse of Ministerial Zoning Orders; and
“Whereas there are outstanding questions about an inappropriate relationship between a former Government Minister and a land speculator, and incorrect information provided to the Integrity Commissioner about this relationship; and
“Whereas there are outstanding questions about whether there was preferential treatment given to a foreign company to build a private spa on public land at Ontario Place; and …
(Mr. John Vanthof)
... questions about whether there was preferential treatment given to a foreign company to build a private spa on public land at Ontario Place; and
Whereas there are outstanding questions about preferential treatment given to government donors and personal friends of the Premier with respect to the building of Highway 413; and
Whereas there are outstanding questions about unqualified patronage appointments to public agencies, boards, and commissions; and
Whereas the Premier has admitted that he regularly uses his personal phone to conduct government business and those communications might be relevant to these inquiries;
Therefore the Legislative Assembly calls on the Premier to cease his access to information appeal and disclose the contents of his personal phone and email accounts to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Let’s be very clear: The Premier made this the realm of the Parliament when he said his personal phone number, he gave it to Ontarians, he basically told people to call him and that he would fix their problems. The government House leader responded several times that that’s what people expect. Then, when he said that, it stands to reason—and I will back up a second: I’m not a lawyer or a standing order expert. Perhaps I should be to be making this argument, but I’m not. But when you give your personal phone number and say, “I’m doing business on the personal phone number, and it is the business of the public,” then it stands to reason that those phone records should also be public. Are we talking about the courts? No. But the Premier said in the Legislature, gave his phone number and made no bones about it that he was doing public business on his personal phone—public business, taxpayers’ dollars, on his personal phone, in this room.
A motion is a serious thing, but it’s not a binding motion. It doesn’t direct the courts and nor does it direct the integrity and privacy commissioner. It doesn’t direct the commissioner. We are trying to get information to be made public, that should be made public so that the public can find out what happened, right or wrong.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): Does the member for Chatham-Kent–Leamington have a point of order?
Mr. Trevor Jones: Speaker, point of order: The member opposite is arguing the merits of the motion, not the actual point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): I’m going to ask the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane to continue his remarks.
Mr. John Vanthof: Thank you.
Actually, the merits of the motion—the point of order is that the motion shouldn’t be brought forward. So I think it is part of the argument that you have to debate the merit of the motion.
Just from the public perspective, this is the House of the people. So we brought a motion forward that the Premier’s phone records—which do include public business; that is not under dispute here. The Premier said it. The government House leader said it. That’s not under dispute at all. We, in this opposition motion, are trying to convince the government and the Premier to release those records, to be open and accountable to the people of Ontario.
Your point is that this motion shouldn’t be discussed here, that public business and public dollars on the Premier’s personal phone shouldn’t be part of the public record. We very strongly disagree. If the government feels that this motion ...
(Mr. John Vanthof)
… We very strongly disagree. If the government feels that this motion shouldn’t be—I don’t see what the—I’m going back up for a second. If this motion goes forward, the government has every opportunity to make their argument that this motion shouldn’t go forward. Also, because it’s a majority government, you can also vote this motion down.
You have a majority. There is no question that, if the government decides that they don’t want this motion to pass, that this motion will fail. You have a majority, one which you use—rightfully so—on a regular basis. The last opposition day motion, you chose not to vote; you chose to ring the bells to eliminate the vote. With this motion, your motion, you’re basically trying to eliminate debate.
You can use all the legal terminology you want, but at the end of the day, that is what you’re trying to do. And quite frankly, Ontarians should be even more interested in, ??right now, what’s on the Premier’s personal phone—even more. They should be, because had you just let this motion go through, made your argument—but now you’re using procedural tactics to try and prevent information from coming to the floor.
We will provide more information once we’ve had time to actually study your legal arguments—long-winded. And I get along great with the member personally, so he’s not taking this personally. But for the government to have had this motion on Wednesday and wait until the morning of the day it’s going to be debated, that also puts out some red flags that the government is doing whatever it can not to be put on record regarding the Premier’s personal phone.
Now the people are realizing that those records should be part of the public record, need to be part of the public record, have to be part of the public record. And eventually, they will become part of the ??government ??record, regardless of what this government is trying to pull. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bhutila Karpoche): I will reserve my ruling.