Bill 16 clause-by-clause: surprising events

So I’m going to try to explain what happened in Ontario on May 9, 2012, in the clause-by-clause session of the Bill 16 committee and what it means for the future.

First, a quick overview of what happens to a bill before it becomes law.

1. First reading
– introduction of bill
– vote to send to second reading or kill it (Bill 16 made it)

2. Second reading
– debates
– vote to send to committee or kill it (Bill 16 made it)

3. Committee
– opportunity for public input

4. Committee clause-by-clause
– suggested amendments to the bill by all parties
– vote on each amendment (all failed)
– vote on passing each main clause of the bill (all passed)
– vote to return the bill to Parliament or kill it (Bill 16 made it)

5. Third reading
– timing decided upon by government
– introduction of changes made by committee
– more debate
– vote to make bill law or kill it

6. Royal assent
– semantics – always approved

So Bill 16 has made it past step 4, which is what happened on May 9.

The first reading was on November 30, 2011. Read it here:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/house-proceedings/house_detail.do?Date=2011-11-30&Parl=40&Sess=1&locale=en#PARA518

The second reading was on February 23, 2012. Read it here:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/house-proceedings/house_detail.do?locale=en&Date=2012-02-23&detailPage=%2Fhouse-proceedings%2Ftranscripts%2Ffiles_html%2F23-FEB-2012_L015.htm&Parl=40&Sess=1#PARA957

The committee public presentations were on April 18, 2012 and April 25, 2012. Read them here:

April 18
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&Date=2012-04-18&ParlCommID=8962&BillID=2552&Business=&DocumentID=26206

April 25
http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&Date=2012-04-25&ParlCommID=8962&BillID=2552&Business=&DocumentID=26243

View the video broadcasts of those presentations on YouTube here:

April 18 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkkKPt5WbLA

April 25 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wydH766pflA

The committee clause-by-clause voting was on May 9, 2012. When the transcript becomes available, I will include it here.

UPDATE: Here is the transcript of the clause-by-clause voting from May 9:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&Date=2012-05-09&ParlCommID=8962&BillID=2552&Business=&DocumentID=26312

View the video broadcast of the clause-by-clause session here:

May 9 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61H3coaRZio

During the committee hearings, a number of public suggestions were made, many centering around owner education, effective enforcement, and removal of breed-specific language. A significant percentage of the presenters listed facts and statistics demonstrating that breed-specific legislation has consistently failed and that certain non-breed-specific approaches have been remarkably successful.

The amendments introduced by the NDP and by the Conservatives during the clause-by-clause session of the committee included some significant improvements to the bill.

Included in the amendments were:

– add the ability for an owner to appeal a “vicious dog” designation sometime in the future if the owner can demonstrate actions taken to remedy the original problems.
– change the wording “menace to public safety” to something more concrete and meaningful, with a clear message to dog owners regarding what is expected of them.
– remove a couple of missed clauses that contained breed-specific language. Even without these changes, the amended law would not contain any powers to target breeds in any significantly populated areas of the province.

The end result of the clause-by-clause session was that all the positive amendments introduced by the NDP and the Conservatives failed to pass.

What this means is that Bill 16 will be returned to the Legislature (Parliament) for a future third reading (assuming that ever happens – see below), but it will not include any of the further amendments that the two opposition parties had hoped to add. It remains in its original form as introduced during first reading.

So, the big question is: Why did all the amendments fail?

The answer to that involves answering a few questions.

1. Why did the Liberals vote against the amendments?

Well, it is my opinion that, just like in 2005, the Liberals never had any intention of seriously considering the public input and they never had any intention of voting in favour of any amendment made by another party. Again, as in 2005, any comments or questions made by the Liberals were simply to get their points into the record (i.e., for show).

The first clue to that was when Kim Craitor, one of the architects of Bill 16, wasn’t included as a member of the committee. That, to me, was a clear indication that the Liberals did not want anyone from their party who was not going to vote with the party line.

The second clue was the inclusion of Lorenzo Berardinetti in the committee. He is a McGuinty “yes man” who was there for one purpose and one purpose only and that was to vote NO to any amendment, period.

As I’ve said before, the Liberals have no incentive to bend at all regarding this bill. Their baby was Bill 132 in 2005 and they haven’t changed their minds at all. They are going to block this every chance they get.

2. Why did each of the amendments fail?

This is the part that was confusing everyone.

The committee is made up of nine members. Four of those are from the Liberal party because they have more seats in the House than any other party. Three of the remaining five are from the Progressive Conservative party and the other two are from the NDP.

So, it would appear that, with a five-to-four majority, all of our amendments would pass. Not so. One of the members is appointed chairperson (the chair). In this case, it was Peter Tabuns from the NDP.

Now, the chair DOES NOT VOTE unless there is a tie. Since, without Mr. Tabuns, the NDP had only one voting member, there were four members in favour of Bill 16 (and its amendments) and four members opposed to the amendments. A tie.

So, the vote on each amendment ended in a tie, all six of them. In each case, the deciding vote then went to Mr. Tabuns, who, it appears, initially thought that he would vote in favour of the amendments.

After initially voting in favour of amendment #1, Mr. Tabuns was advised by someone near him that there is a procedure, a rule, a norm (if you will), that the chair is to do his best to avoid impacting a bill or interfering with its original intent solely by his own vote.

These are the notes from the Standing Orders, as read out by Mr. Tabuns:

“In general, when a committee cannot, by a majority, decide a question, the chair has no obligation to decide on the committee’s behalf and should avoid doing so. The chair should vote in any way that extends debate, maintains the status quo (for example, leaves the bill in its existing form), or offers the opportunity for the committee as a whole to further debate and decide the matter.”

So if, without Mr. Tabuns, the amendment fails (because the vote’s a tie), then according to this rule, Mr. Tabuns is required to vote against the amendment and cause it to still fail.

So, he was forced, by the rules, to vote against all the amendments that both his party and the partnering party had recommended.

Thus, all six amendments failed.

3. Why did the Liberals not vote against passing (carrying) the bill?

Remember, it was only the amendments that Mr. Tabuns was forced to vote against. If, after all the amendments were voted on, he voted against the bill as a whole, he would be interfering with the original bill as it came from the House, which would go against that same rule.

So, the rule that forced him to vote against the amendments also would have required him to vote in favour of the bill passing unamended.

The Liberals knew this, so they didn’t bother voting against the bill, since they would have lost anyway.

Plus, they don’t care. The bill goes back to the House now and sits and waits until the government decides to call it for third reading.

THIRD READING

What is third reading?

Third reading is the final vote on the bill that comes back from committee (in this case, unamended). This vote will determine if the bill becomes law.

Initially, before the bill went to committee, there were 53 Liberal seats in the House, 37 Conservative, and 17 NDP. Adding the Conservative and NDP together for the purposes of this bill gave us 54 seats, one more than the Liberals. This meant that there was a real possibility of Bill 16 passing if it came up for third reading.

Since then, Elizabeth Witmer, Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, has stepped down in order to take a job offered to her by the Liberal government! If I were a conspiracy theorist (which I’m not — yet), I’d certainly be suspicious when the riding that is now forced into a by-election happens to be the first city ever in Ontario to pass breed-specific legislation, back in 1997!

That suspicion aside, Ms. Witmer’s resignation leaves one seat empty and leaves the House in a stalemate on Bill 16, if all Liberals were to vote against Bill 16 and all NDP plus Conservatives were to vote for it.

However, with Kim Craitor being one of the Bill’s sponsors, you have to assume that he will vote in favour of it and there appear to be some other Liberals that may do the same. On the flip side, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so there may be some Conservative or NDP members that might decide to vote differently from the rest of their fellow members.

So, even though it’s the best chance we’ve had in seven years, it’s still a bit of a crap shoot.

And now to my final and probably most depressing point.

Everything I’ve said above means nothing if the Bill is not called for third reading.

The government decides if and when that will happen.

Did you get that?

The government that, in 2005, introduced the very law this bill is trying to neuter (so to speak), the government that appointed yes men to both the 2005 and 2012 public hearing committees, the government that appointed Kim Craitor to a different committee so he couldn’t vote on the Bill 16 amendments, is the government that decides if there’s ever going to be a vote on Bill 16.

This is the same government that fought us all the way to the highest courts that we could go, spending millions of dollars defending this law. They regularly went on television promoting their breed-specific bill and actively promoted the idea that Ontarians would only truly be safe if the bill passed.

It would take a truly humble and honest Premier along with his humble and honest party to admit this mistake and rectify it and it is my personal opinion that neither Dalton McGuinty nor his Liberal party are either of those things!

There is likely only one thing that would cause the government to bring this bill up for third reading and that is public pressure.

If there were enough public pressure (especially media-driven) demanding that proven methods of dog legislation, education, and enforcement be used to increase public safety rather than the current breed-specific methods that have been discounted worldwide, then and only then might the Liberal government listen.

Unfortunately, I think that most people don’t care one way or the other and are certainly not concerned enough to write a letter or send an e-mail or make a phone call.

So, I guess it’s up to the people of Ontario to change the government’s mind.

It also wouldn’t hurt if people outside Ontario (including other countries) let this government and the newspapers know that they won’t be visiting Ontario while there’s breed-specific legislation in place.

11 thoughts on “Bill 16 clause-by-clause: surprising events

  1. Nice, clear analysis and thanks for clerking for us, ie, keeping the proceedings in one place.

    One small point.

    Grant Crack was one of the three LIberals (the other was Mike Colle) who voted for us at 2nd reading. He was originally on this Committee but was sent out to a sub-committee by the Fibs. Which was an early warning that they had no intention of taking this seriously.

    Also, in appointing Tabuns Chairs, the Liberals effectively neutered another pro vote for us.

    They certainly have face, I’ll give them that. These people are not reasonable, do not feel they serve the people in their ridings or in the province as a whole and have no problem giving people the finger any time they feel like it.

    They insult the experts, they insult their colleagues and most of all they insult the honest people who have been playing this straight and taking the high road since the beginning.

    And you can be certain that this issue is not the only one that is being addressed in this shameful, dishonest manner.

  2. And to think this all started because of Michael Bryant, a “man” (for lack of better word) who should currently be spending time in prison for manslaughter for the death of cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard in 2009… but no, he managed to get away with that one too.

  3. I disagree about public pressure. The government doesn’t care about that. They could be pushed into voting for this if the opposition held up government legislation until they agreed to call bill 16 to a vote. As you pointed out Elizabeth Witmer’s resignation has even made that doubtful.

  4. Really great breakdown..
    One other point I would like to make is; the Liberals most certainly fought us with all they had in court. They had a lot to loose. They would have lost the precedence and had a constitutional strike against them. This however is a much easier “out” for them. Whether they stop being the oooooooo I want to use a very bad word here but I’ll refrain, ahem a$$holes McGuinty and his henchmen are…. remains to be seen. It is going to take a monumental ground swell of people contacting their MPP’s (in person or at very least phone call).Emailing in multiples and being a general PAIN IN THEIR ASS! As much good press as we can get and not of the “I love my pittie” kind! It is going to take EVERYONE participating, which is NOT what we have seen to date, in order to get this bill called up for third. It is obvious that those who have voted with us (Liberals) are being shunned. We need noise people and intelligent noise. I know I’ve played nice but now it is all out war in the sandbox!

  5. Thank you for the clarity you have provided for a muddy situation. Many Ontarian s today that are dog owners were left befuddled, disgusted, appalled, confused and angry after yesterdays proceeding.

    It is now quite obvious how manipulative the actions taken by the Liberals to crush this Bill if they can. Never were they concerned about the truth, or what was really the best way to address public safety, but ALL about towing the party line no matter how wrong, corrupt, and insane this current law is.

    I make a stake right now in the ground, that Ontario belongs to its citizens, we will claim back our rights and freedoms that our ancestors fought for. There will be no white flags flown, until freedom once again belongs to all the people residing in Ontario and that includes dog owners.

    This in NOT over by a long shot.

  6. this bill needs to be passed this is a serious discrimanation and outrage there are no bad dogs only bad owners Question would you put your child down(kill) if they had a defect or was just different or were claasified as bad just because of how they look or act

  7. there is a few erroneous things about this stand point and opinion.
    1) Why did the Liberals vote against the amendments?
    Cause they understood how releasing the much needed controls on dogs like this to the ownership of just anyone wouldn’t solve a thing. The amendments that were dictated to the liberal party are self serving to the owner, and cares very little for the requirements of the dog.

    2)Why did each of the amendments fail?
    Again, they were self serving to a small population of pit bull owners, basing their facts on emotional opinion.

    3)Why did the Liberals not vote against passing (carrying) the bill? Cause they want the bill to pass without your amendments, Keeping the Breed specific language and release the dog under a restricted access policy….. Ownership restrictions !!!!!!!!!!! DOLA is a good law, an enforcible law, and with the removal of one word “BAN” it would be perfect. as it controls access, and provides protection and responsible requirements for certain types of dog, And now that is exactly what we will get.

  8. McGuinty is gone. Now is the time for all those opposed to breed specific legislation to regroup and double their efforts. Without McGuinty’s bullying there is now a possibility that bill 16 might actually pass.

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