Monday 22 January 1996
Savings and Restructuring Act, 1995, Bill 26, Mr Eves / Loi de 1995 sur les économies et la restructuration, projet de loi 26, M. Eves
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Chair / Président: Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
*Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
Danford, Harry (Hastings-Peterborough PC)
Flaherty, Jim (Durham Centre / -Centre PC)
Grandmaître, Bernard (Ottawa East / -Est L)
*Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC)
Kells, Morley (Etobicoke-Lakeshore PC)
Marchese, Rosario (Fort York ND)
*Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
*Pupatello, Sandra (Windsor-Sandwich L)
Sergio, Mario (Yorkview L)
Stewart, R. Gary (Peterborough PC)
*Tascona, Joseph N. (Simcoe Centre / -Centre PC)
Wood, Len (Cochrane North / -Nord ND)
*Young, Terence H. (Halton Centre / Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Caplan, Elinor (Oriole L) for Mr Sergio
Clement, Tony (Brampton South / -Sud PC) for Mr Kells
Ecker, Janet (Durham West / -Ouest PC) for Mr Stewart
Gerretsen, John (Kingston and The Islands / Kingston et Les Îles L) for Mrs Pupatello
Johns, Helen (Huron PC) for Mr Danford
Lankin, Frances (Beaches-Woodbine ND) for Mr Marchese
Phillips, Gerry (Scarborough-Agincourt L) for Mr Grandmaître
Sampson, Rob (Mississauga West / -Ouest PC) for Mr Flaherty
Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt ND) for Mr Wood
Also taking part / Autre participants et participantes:
Colle, Mike (Oakwood L)
Cooke, David S. (Windsor-Riverside ND)
Curling, Alvin (Scarborough North / -Nord L)
Clerk / Greffière: Grannum, Tonia
Clerk pro tem/ Greffier par intérim: Decker, Todd
Staff / Personnel: Baldwin, Elizabeth, legislative counsel
The committee met at 1002 in room 151.
SAVINGS AND RESTRUCTURING ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LES ÉCONOMIES ET LA RESTRUCTURATION
Consideration of Bill 26, An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda / Projet de loi 26, Loi visant à réaliser des économies budgétaires et à favoriser la prospérité économique par la restructuration, la rationalisation et l'efficience du secteur public et visant à mettre en oeuvre d'autres aspects du programme économique du gouvernement.
The Chair (Mr Jack Carroll): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Amethyst Room. Just a couple of housekeeping things before I ask the clerk to explain some of the documentation that you will be presented with this morning.
First of all, I just want to refresh everybody's memory about how the process will work this week. According to the motion passed in the House, and I'll read from it:
"From Monday to Friday during the weeks of December 18, 1995, January 8 and January 15, 1996, from 9 am to 9 pm" the committee will meet "to receive public submissions on the bill," which we have done, "and from Monday to Friday during the week of January 22, 1996, from 10 am to 6 pm to complete clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. All proposed amendments shall be filed with the clerk of the committee by 4 pm on" -- Thursday -- "January 25, 1996. At 1 pm on January 26, 1996" -- Friday -- "those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 128(a); that the committee be authorized to meet beyond 6 pm on Friday, January 26, 1996, if necessary until consideration of clause-by-clause has been completed."
That's the process under which we are operating today. Room 228 has been set up as an overflow room with live television in there for anyone who cannot find a seat in the Amethyst Room.
I made an arbitrary decision with the Clerk's office that lunch would be from 1 to 2. Is everybody in agreement with that, to split the day up into a three-hour period and a four-hour period rather than a two-hour and a five-hour period? Do all parties agree with that?
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): That may be the last unanimous approval.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): We're used to arbitrary decisions.
The Chair: Okay, thank you, Mr Cooke.
I think we should probably also allow for a 15-minute break in the morning and the afternoon. We'll have those in the middle somewhere. Having said that, I'd ask Mr Decker to explain the procedure and some of the paper that has been handed out and how it's to be used.
Clerk Pro Tem (Mr Todd Decker): I guess most importantly in what members have in front of them is the first package. It's got an elastic band around it. It consists of government and NDP amendments that we have received as of this morning. There are additional ones being copied. There are more than this. This is just the first 100 pages. They're numbered 1 through 100, and the others will be numbered, also consecutively, from 101 on as we receive additional ones.
As amendments are tabled that makes it into a part of this package or subsequent packages, we will number them A, B etc so that when you are integrating your packages, you can easily determine at which point in the packages subsequent amendments should be put.
You've also been provided with a quick reference which indicates all of the schedules in the bill, the acts that are amended by those schedules and the specific sections of those acts in those schedules, just to provide quick and easy reference.
The Chair: Any questions for Mr Decker?
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Does that include all the amendments that were filed at the two subsections of the committee last week?
Clerk Pro Tem: We're currently copying the remainder that we already have. This is just the first 100 pages. By the end of the morning we should have the remainder of everything else that's been tabled through the end of the bill. As I said, any additional amendments that are tabled today and in subsequent days will be numbered accordingly to fit where they should fit chronologically in the overall package and be copied as quickly as we can copy them.
Mr Phillips: They should be two-sided. I just want to be clear. I understand the government has now tabled 140 amendments. Have I got that number right?
Clerk Pro Tem: I haven't counted them. I'm not sure of the number, but they have tabled amendments that go right through to the end of the bill. We're copying them now and we'll have them in the committee room as quickly as we can.
Mr Phillips: It's very difficult. Just as an example, they tabled an amendment last Thursday, which we assumed had been well thought out, and then in an amazing turn of events, they tabled an amendment to the amendment on Friday. I don't know whether you're dealing with the amendment or the amendment to the amendment, but it is very difficult, I think, for us to be dealing with this bill when, as we start the bill, we don't even have the amendments that the government has already tabled, which I gather are 140, if one can believe that.
The second thing I'd say is that it was my expectation that the ministers were going to be here to explain the substantive amendments, because many of them fundamentally change things. I assume the ministers will be in shortly to explain the significant changes.
The third thing I'd say is, if we're going to try and make sense out of this extraordinary process where the government originally simply wanted us to pass the bill with no debate and now we've got 140 amendments, I wonder if the government can indicate to us, at least, are we finished with the amendments?
I know you must have them all done because originally you weren't going to have any debate. Can we now assume that the book is closed, we've got all the government amendments and we know what we're dealing with from the government side now on amendments? Is that a fair question to you, Mr Chair?
The Chair: Mr Sampson, can you comment on that?
Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): With respect to the amendments, Mr Phillips, you have I believe in your possession the amendments that we are currently hoping to officially table. We know they are not officially tabled until they're read into the record and moved by somebody, but you have what we have so far, as far as our indication of what the potential amendments might be.
With respect to the ministers attending at this committee, my understanding was and in fact I believe the clerk did send off a request to the ministers to attend. At this point in time I'm not aware of any who have indicated an indication to attend, but it's a request that was expressed by the committee through the clerk to the ministers.
Mr Phillips: May I just say, Mr Chair, I find it frankly insulting to the public that we are seeing the government proposing some very fundamental changes -- and that's their own definition. The bill, as presented, was very much flawed. We now have, I gather, substantive amendments, and the ministers don't have the courage to come here and explain them. I don't mean to be difficult, but I think the public would expect that much from the ministers.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs has frankly messed this whole process up. At one time no taxes were in there; now he acknowledges it was possible to have taxes. The restructuring proposals have changed, arbitration with our firefighters and our police has changed. We have a bill that was flawed. The government's trying now to do some significant surgery on it to see if they can't save it, and the minister doesn't have the courage to come in here and explain what is intended by the amendments.
This should not be a surprise to the ministers. We specifically, I know, raised that at least three weeks ago, saying it would be our expectation, and I thought we had an undertaking from the government that that would happen. I find it just part of this sorry process we're going through, where you first tried to ram the bill through with no debate, you then were forced to have some debate, and now, when you're forced to acknowledge that the bill was a -- I believe when you look in the dictionary in the future under "incompetent," they'll have a picture of Bill 26. This is an incompetent bill, and the ministers refuse to come and explain the changes.
I find that insulting and I would hope that the government members would use whatever authority they have and whatever influence they have to perhaps place a phone call to wherever they're hived out and suggest that they come out of their offices and get over here and explain what they're doing to the bill. I really think we're owed that.
Mr Cooke: Mr Chair, we have tabled some procedural motions with you this morning that I expect and hope we will get to this morning. One of them deals with the attendance of ministers before the committee. Mr Phillips is correct that, I think on the first day on our side of the committee, after a couple of the ministers made some very brief comments and answered a few questions, we indicated we would certainly want the ministers to be here on the first day of clause-by-clause, because we've got dozens, hundreds of amendments that have been tabled.
We've got a Minister of Municipal Affairs who on the first day that this committee started hearings said: "There will be no need to amend the bill to deal with the tax issue. I'm confident of it." We all knew of his public statements that if in fact he was wrong, he fully intended to resign, if there was a need to bring in an amendment to stop sales tax, income tax and gas tax at the municipal level. His credibility has been destroyed during the public hearings, absolutely destroyed.
We've got among the most respected municipal lawyers in the province who have totally destroyed Mr Leach's credibility. I think the public and the members of the Legislature are owed an explanation by that minister as we go into the amendments, why is he now agreed that this bill, as unamended, would allow for gas tax, sales tax and income tax at the local level? They scrambled in the last week to make sure that this didn't happen, as Tory mayor after mayor came before the committee and said, "When this bill is passed, we're going to put in a gas tax at the local level." That was the norm.
I think it's absolutely essential, normal, a definition of respect for this place and the process, that the ministers should be appearing before the committee today explaining their amendments not only to us but to all these folks and people who are going to be watching this on the TV who have in fact made presentations. They want to know what those amendments are and what the rationale for the government amendments is and, quite frankly, what the rationale for the government rejecting certain amendments is. That's a basic respect that most governments show for the democratic process.
I'm sure there will be no one in the province particularly shocked at the lack of respect of this government for the democratic process on this particular bill, since it has been the norm on how this bill has proceeded. But I don't know how we can proceed fairly and how we can proceed with any appropriateness without having cabinet ministers appear before us. I find it mind-boggling that the one minister whose name is on this bill, the Deputy Premier, the Treasurer, hasn't had the guts to appear before this committee once. He, of all people, understands the process and I thought had some respect for the democratic and parliamentary process in this place. He didn't even come before the committee, and the bill's in his name. That is mind-boggling.
I'd like to know, for all of the people who want to follow these proceedings, who have gone to great difficulty over the Christmas holidays, and at times very difficult, to put together their presentations, to make recommendations to all of us -- they'd like to know the outcome. I'd like to know about cabinet ministers and what we're going to do about that. I'd like to know about copies of the government amendments for all of the people who want to follow this procedure over the next few days, whether the government has had the courtesy and respect for those who made presentations to the committee to prepare enough copies of the government amendments to distribute free of charge. Hopefully there's not going to be a $600 or $800 charge, as there was for the original bill, to distribute copies of those government amendments for the public that is viewing here in this room.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I guess at this point nothing surprises me any more, but from my own experience here in the Legislature, I have never seen a substantive piece of legislation that did not have someone carrying the bill through committee, someone there to answer questions on behalf of the government at all times. I've never seen a substantial piece of legislation -- I'm not talking about purely housekeeping; I'm talking substantial legislation -- that has not had the minister responsible for that legislation not only make a statement about its policy intent but also be available at some point to defend the changes that the legislation was enacting. For the people who are here, I think that not only is it important but it is respect for the democratic process, respect for the House and respect for good lawmaking that the ministers who are proposing these changes be here to defend them and that we have someone here to answer the policy questions that follow from and are a very significant part of this huge and complex bill.
I've said a few times throughout the public hearings that I felt Bill 26 was about power and not about policy. I believe that unless we have the ministers here during the discussion of clause-by-clause, the understanding of what this bill can do -- even if the ministers say, as they have said before, "We have no intention of doing that" or "We're not going to do that," the reality is that people have a right to know from the ministers that they understand the potential of Bill 26.
As I understand it, it was not an invitation from this committee; it was a request based on the importance of having the ministers here to defend their legislation and answer those questions. My worry is that they can't answer the questions. It's not that they don't want to answer the questions; I don't believe the ministers are able to answer those questions, because I don't think this bill was thoughtfully considered before. Certainly, and I don't blame any of the members of the government caucus, many of them could not answer the questions. We got to the point where all questions had to be tabled and we had to have written answers, and that does not make for good lawmaking.
So Bill 26 is a bad bill. We've seen a huge number of amendments. We've had no one here from the government giving us the answers, and unless they do, it will remain a bad bill and bad law. I would ask the ministers to reconsider and to come to this committee and defend the policy implications of this legislation.
The Chair: Ms Lankin, do you want Mr Sampson to address those issues or did you want to comment first?
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'd better make comments on that first because there's one point in particular that Mr Sampson might be able to respond to.
Let me say first of all that I agree with the comments that have been made and I'd like to be a little more specific in terms of my own desire to see the Minister of Health come before this committee and to present the amendments that have been tabled, 80-some-odd, to the health sections of this bill, to explain the intent of them and to defend the areas that he has chosen not to amend, with amendments that have been recommended by virtually every presenter who came before the committee.
But let me give you three examples of why I feel it is important both for the public and for myself as a committee member to have the minister here and to be able to ask him direct questions.
Group after group came forward and suggested that it was very important that the ability for the minister to delegate powers to the Health Services Restructuring Commission be limited, and in fact eliminated from the bill. Instead, the amendment we see having been tabled last week gives that health restructuring commission more powers. Instead of just "duties as assigned," the language that's been amended and added in is "powers as assigned." That runs absolutely contrary to all of the presentations from the hospital sector and community health sector that we heard. I'd like to know why not only did the minister not listen to the presenters in terms of what they wanted to see in an amendment, but why he's gone in the absolute opposite direction.
Secondly, an amendment with respect to concerns that have been raised about the general manager of OHIP making decisions on medical necessity and therapeutic necessity is a problem that was clearly articulated by presenters. The ministry puts forward an amendment which I think was drafted in extreme haste, which has the general manager consulting with a physician with respect to both medical necessity and therapeutic necessity. While that might sound okay on the surface, what it means in practice -- and anyone who knows the Ministry of Health and knows OHIP and the insurance system and what services are covered knows that that means the ministry has now put a physician's opinion as an overriding opinion over the delivery and the appropriateness of therapeutic services such as chiropractic and chiropody, not to mention the problems that raises under the scopes of practice of the individual professions under the Regulated Health Professions Act, but simply within the whole health care reform move to a multidisciplinary team.
For the ministry at this point in time to codify a superior position for one health care practitioner to be reviewing the practice, professional scope and duty of other health care practitioners is beyond mind-boggling. In fact, it's incorrect under legislation, it is contrary to the directions of health care reform and it is an affront to those other professions who are very angry about this and were not told that this was an intent.
I think it was a mistake. I suspect that needs to be amended, and I noticed, Mr Sampson, that you didn't really respond to Mr Phillips's question about whether there would be further amendments coming from the government. Specifically on that issue, I would like to know if that's going to get fixed. Are we going to see an amendment to the amendment to fix the mistake that you made while you were trying to fix another mistake that was in the bill, all of this speaking to how quickly this has been done and how necessary it is to have the minister here? I'd like to ask him why he approved that amendment, why he, sitting in his office reviewing all of the amendments that would be tabled, would not have recognized, given his experience as a minister and his knowledge of the departments that he oversees, the very significant problems he was creating between different classes of health care practitioners.
Thirdly, in the regulations tabled on Friday, in the Health Care Accessibility Act under section 9, which is a general regulation-making section, there is a new regulation-making power put in that says, "We can make a regulation prescribing anything that we can make a regulation under." It doesn't even narrow the power that you're trying to give yourself. All the way through the criticisms that we have been hearing from the public is that too much has been left to regulation, that too much will be done behind closed doors, that we don't know how these regulations will be used, that the government is asking us for a blank cheque and they're refusing to tell us what number they're going to write in before they cash it. That has been a repetitive theme of the presentations before the health section committee dealing with this bill.
Instead of seeing more of the things that would have been done in regulation written into the legislation, we see the exact opposite; we see a regulation come forward that doesn't even centre on any particular power, just saying you can make regulations under which you'll make regulations. I'd like to ask the minister what he intends to use that for. There's no purpose set out in the Health Care Accessibility Act; we can't even tie it to the intent of that piece of legislation. It's a small, grab-all piece of legislation. What does he intend to do with it?
Those are our legitimate questions, and those are only three examples out of many more that I could go on with that we, I think, need to have the minister appear to answer and to be able to present his views of the amendments he's putting forward and how they respond to the public's concerns.
So, Mr Chair, I would urge Mr Sampson to address the committee members' concerns in his response and I would indicate, if you haven't been informed by the clerks, that there are motions that have been tabled in this respect that the committee will have to deal with.
The Chair: Mr Curling, you're next. Did you want Mr Sampson to address those issues first or are yours --
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I'd like to comment and make some appeals to Mr Sampson too that in the meantime, when he's addressing those, maybe he can address mine too. My appeal goes beyond Mr Sampson; my appeal goes also to you, Mr Chair, and I seek your support in this.
We are going to pursue one of the most important pieces of legislation ever to have been presented here in a most unprecedented manner. In order for us to be effective, yes, I would hope that the ministers, whichever ones of them, appear so we could get some sort of explanation on some of the bills.
As you know, Mr Chair, the government was all ready to have this legislation, this law, in place by December 14, so I would assume that they're ready. As a matter of fact, they were trying to get the opposition off guard in order that they could ram this thing through. This did not happen, and I presume they themselves maybe appreciate the fact that they were given the opportunity to put in this amount of amendments that they are putting in today. The clerk hasn't told us yet if this is all. I don't think he can guarantee us that these are all the amendments that the government will put in. We have amendments, the Liberal Party; the NDP have their own amendments. I would like to know, to you Mr Chair, because we need to do this legislation the best, this very complex piece of work which a lawyer said he had to spread out about two dining tables, to spread the laws out to get some coordination to understand this.
Therefore, with the help of the experts, those ministers who seemed to have a hand in this -- and the government members seemed to be shut out too, because they could not explain some of the questions that we asked and some of them refused, because as soon as they explained something, the minister contradicted, and as soon as the minister stated something, he also contradicted himself through that process.
I'm going to ask you to appeal to the ministers on your part as the Chair so that we can have a very effective piece of legislation put through. I don't see how effective it can be, because it is so wrong from the start.
I'm going to appeal to Mr Sampson, because of his colleague in caucus, that since I'm sure you meet your minister once a week or I'm sure you speak to him somehow -- you are his parliamentary assistant. He must speak to you, even somehow to ask you what's going on down here. If he's not, he tells me he has no interest in --
Mr Cooke: He must have e-mail.
Mr Curling: He must have e-mail, all those laptops you get. You could ask your secretary or the many, many policy people you have there, "Did anything come on the e-mail that the minister wants me to do?" You can e-mail him, if you don't even see him, and request him to come forward.
We are tired of bailing out the government on this part of it. There are over three weeks of hearings by the government, by this committee. The opposition in some respects have tried to have shadow and parallel hearings for those who were shut out or refused.
I'll tell you an instance. I'm from Scarborough North, Mr Chair, and you must have been to that wonderful part of the country. We are maybe the fifth-largest municipality, and that mayor was refused to appear because there was no time. Now you're going to give them enormous powers to carry out some of the work in your restructuring -- Mr Sampson, you can tell your minister -- in this restructuring process, and he did not get an opportunity, and neither did Scarborough get an opportunity to have a hearing. I had to have a town hall meeting. Over 200 people attended, and professional people, who wanted to present. I went to St Thomas, where there are people there, the mayor there did not get an opportunity either to present.
So we're tired of bailing out the government in having hearings so people can speak. I went to the Premier's riding in North Bay. Over 150 people turned out there, with not enough idea of what's going on down in Queen's Park, thinking Queen's Park will dictate to him.
My appeal to you, Mr Sampson, is to tell the Premier himself to send Mr Eves and all the other ministers who are impacted on this, because the fact is that we cannot proceed in a very intelligent way. These are laws that will affect people's lives. These are laws -- well, I wouldn't call it laws, regulations -- which we don't even know how they're going to be impacted. If they were legislation, I would say it's quite possible we could read them and say, "Well, we see where the government is going." But you intend, in the kind of bullish way the government is doing, not to have legislation but to have regulation, hopeful that one night they get up and they change their mind, and all in the name of restructuring and all in the name of fiscal responsibility, while they are encroaching on people's lives. It is sickening, and I hope I can appeal to you from that basis, that you can say to the ministers to be here so questions can be asked.
I would like to know too, and Mr Sampson may be able to tell me, is this half of the amendments? I would refresh your mind on what Mr Phillips has said. Are these amendments to the amendments or are we going to get another amendment to the amendment to amend those amendments? Because we haven't started yet and you start amending.
You know that this would've been law December 14, and your ministers and your Premier would have said to all the people of Ontario, Merry Christmas, and sock it to them without knowing what's going on.
So my appeal to you, sir, is that as the first day that we meet, you could report back by this afternoon, even by e-mail. I'll even go personally if you want me as a messenger. I'll go personally to the minister for you if you're scared to talk to him, since they have not shared many things with you, to bring the minister here. Maybe we could get the Sergeant at Arms, in the same way they would've ejected me just trying to get this thing going, to bring him here if you want that. We'll do anything to get them to do that.
The Chair: Mr Silipo, Mr Sampson and Mr Gerretsen: That's the order.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I just want to add a couple of comments to what my colleagues have said on this point. I have to say that we've heard a lot during these hearings about whether the government is just simply being incompetent, and I think quite frankly that's the best that can be said of the way in which the government has been handling this bill and the way in which this government continues to deal with this issue and this bill today.
I think it's far more than that. I think it shows complete arrogance and complete disdain for the democratic process. We have been asking for ministers to be present for the better part of last week, indeed from the beginning, but Mr Sampson, who was with our half of the committee, will recall, as will other members of the government, my request and those of Mr Phillips and others to have the ministers present, today or throughout the week, when they saw appropriate, as we were dealing with the various schedules.
I just find it completely incomprehensible. Although nothing surprises me any more from this government, I still have to say I find it incomprehensible that this government would continue to show the kind of disdain for the democratic process by not having the decency to indicate that ministers would be present at whatever points in the week it makes sense in terms of the schedules that we are dealing with.
Let me just point out, Mr Chair, a couple of other areas that are clearly affected by this bill about which we've heard very little.
Pay equity: There are changes to this bill that remove the rights of pay equity for 100,000 of the lowest-paid women in this province. The Minister of Labour, who is responsible for that legislation, did not ever appear before the committee, and the only reference we had to that major change for 100,000 women in this province was two lines in a statement from the Chair of Management Board.
We heard last week from Mr Sampson that the government had "other ideas about how to deal with this," I think were his words. Well, the only thing that I've seen is a slight amendment to that section, but it does not change fundamentally the taking away of the rights to pay equity for 100,000 women, and I think it's incumbent upon the Minister of Labour to have the courage to come before us and explain why the government is taking those actions, because I haven't heard a word of explanation yet from anyone on the government side.
This bill changes significantly the arbitration rules, and yet we've heard very little in the way of either, again, the Minister of Labour or the Solicitor General, who's responsible for the way in which that new change will apply to two major groups, the firefighters and the police. Again, there have been some amendments tabled on that point, but I'd be quite interested to know how the government intends to explain those amendments, because what they seem to be doing, as I've read them, is they seem to be on the one hand toughening up the criteria and the directions to the arbitrators and the restrictions on the arbitrators, and then they also seem to be saying, on the other hand, arbitrators can disregard those directions. I don't know how the government is going to try to explain that one, but again it would be useful to have a minister responsible here so that at least we can understand their version of how this particular part is going to be effected and interpreted.
Thirdly, we know that this bill takes away the pension rights of thousands of people who work for the government. Again, that's been one of the concerns, together with the others, that we heard throughout the hearings, and again we see no explanation from the government side and from the ministers responsible as to why those actions are being taken.
For those reasons and more, and certainly those that my colleagues have raised, it just seems to me to be ludicrous that the government would want to proceed on a bill of this nature without having the courage and the decency to have the relevant ministers in front of us throughout the week. I just can't believe that the government would actually intend to go through the clause-by-clause process of debate on this bill without having the relevant ministers here.
The Chair: In view of the fact that we have several motions relative to this whole area we're discussing, can we agree that Mr Gerretsen would have a chance to talk, Mr Sampson to answer, and then we'll deal with the motions? Is that reasonable? Okay.
Mr Gerretsen: I would just like to add to the points that have already been made and deal specifically with the municipal affairs area. There are two major reasons why schedule M is there, and that deals with restructuring and the direct taxation questions on behalf of the municipalities. Just from the amendments that have been brought to our attention today and the ones that were moved on Thursday and Friday at our committee meetings, it appears to me that there has been some major rethinking by the ministry in both of these areas, and it seems to me it only makes sense that if the minister was there initially to give some presentation as to why he needed these two areas, why he needed these changes with respect to restructuring and direct taxation for municipalities, then he's got to give a reason now as to why he's making some major amendments in those areas.
I think it's interesting to note that in the section of the committee we were part of, right up until Thursday we were told on a daily basis that no amendments would be moved at all by the government until this morning, and the reason for that was that it would be totally unfair to those people who had already made presentations or were about to make presentations to the committee since they didn't know whether to respond to the amendments or to the original bill etc. Of course, all of a sudden that changed on Thursday, when I think there were initially six amendments moved and then another two, and I guess on Friday afternoon, at the very last hearing in Peterborough, another, what, 50 or 60, were put forward by the --
Mr Phillips: They amended the previous day's motions.
Mr Gerretsen: They amended the previous day's motions.
The sole point I'm trying to make is this, Mr Chairman, very clearly and concisely: If the minister felt that these sections are necessary in order for municipal government to function more properly -- and I'm specifically talking about restructuring and giving the municipalities more power -- and now he's making some major amendments in those areas, then I think that by the same token that he gave the original explanation, he should now come before the committee and explain to the committee why he feels there are major amendments necessary to the legislation.
He at one time stated that if there are any changes to be made, he was going to resign. So let him do the honourable thing. Let the parliamentary assistant take the word back to the minister and say: "Mr Minister, you were there on the very first day of the hearings. You indicated why it was necessary for these two major changes to take place in the Municipal Act. Now there are some amendments that make some major changes in that area to the way they were proposed." Let him come forward and explain it to the committee. Take the word back, and hopefully he'll do so.
The Chair: Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson: Thank you, Mr Chairman. By the way, if I slip and call you Mr Speaker, don't take that the wrong way. I had a tendency to do that on the road.
First of all, with respect to somebody carrying this particular piece of legislation, there will be three parliamentary assistants carrying this piece of legislation: myself, Mr Hardeman and Ms Johns. So there is a parliamentary assistant who will be carrying this particular piece of legislation through the committee work to the final end.
With respect to the ministers being here to defend the changes, again, we have the various parliamentary assistants responsible for the ministries here, who will speak to the items with respect to questions and concerns and the debate on the various sections to be discussed.
In addition --
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr Sampson, and I apologize for that, but the information that you are giving is directly contrary to the information that was given to the health committee and directly contrary to a ruling of the Chair.
I specifically attempted to ask a question of Ms Johns, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health. I was informed that there were no parliamentary assistants who were carrying this bill or had carriage of this bill. I objected to that; I asked for a ruling. I was told by the Chair, who recessed to seek a ruling and came back and informed us, that there was no rule which compelled a parliamentary assistant to carry it. We pointed out there was tradition and precedence. We were informed that that was not the way this bill would be proceeded with, that the parliamentary assistant did not have carriage, and I was refused the opportunity to place questions and to have questions answered by that parliamentary assistant. So I have a bit of a problem with what you're suggesting now, because that is not in fact what we have been informed and what the procedure was.
Mrs Caplan: On the point of order --
The Chair: To that same point of order, Ms Caplan?
Mrs Caplan: Yes. Ms Lankin's absolutely correct. We specifically requested either the parliamentary assistant or the minister to carry this bill at committee and we were told that there was no parliamentary assistant carrying the committee, all questions had to be tabled and would be answered only in writing. In case you weren't aware of that, that was what we were told, and that is a departure. I was very concerned about it at the time and I remain concerned that the ministers are not here to defend their bills.
Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Mr Chair, as someone who was party to that discussion, my interpretation of the context is somewhat different than my two friends across the way. That was a discussion in the context of the public hearings and hearing from deputants from across the province. I at no time suggested, nor did the government at any time suggest, that when it came to clause-by-clause, the technical, important work that this committee must do this week, there were going to be no parliamentary assistants who would have carriage over this legislation.
Mr Phillips: You split that hair real finely.
Mr Clement: So I think we were being utterly consistent --
Ms Lankin: It would have been interesting if you'd told us that at the time, Mr Clement.
Mr Clement: -- and I would suggest that the opposition would welcome the fact that we now have parliamentary assistants who are part of the process and willing to speak to the particular amendments.
Mr Gerretsen: You mean they know something now that they didn't a few days ago?
Ms Lankin: They couldn't answer questions in the last two weeks. I don't expect to get any answers from them now.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Clement. With all due respect, Ms Lankin, that's not a point of order. Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson: Well. Where was I?
Mr Cooke: Go for option 3.
Mr Sampson: I'm just trying to catch up on my notes here. With respect to the amendments, I believe all the committee members have received a copy, in a binder --
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, we just got it.
Mr Sampson: -- which is a consolidated version of the proposed amendments, both for the health and the non-health side.
Mr Cooke: So will you resign if there are any new ones?
Mr Sampson: Not unless you will, Mr Cooke.
Mr Cooke: If we bring any new ones in, I assure you that --
Interjection: We'll vote for that.
Mr Sampson: Obviously, the amendments are not the official government amendments until they're tabled and moved. There may or may not be subsequent amendments as we go through this process. We'll have to wait until the clause-by-clause review comes up. That's the purpose of the clause-by-clause review.
And as it relates to amendments, I should remind the committee that amendments, as legislation is reviewed, are not an unusual event. I would ask the members of the NDP to think back just a few years ago to the time in which they brought in Bill 74, which had 125 amendments, as I understand it; Bill 101, 124 amendments; Bill 121, the Rent Control Act -- there's an act that involves almost every Ontarian -- 111 amendments; Bill 163, Planning and Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 99 amendments; Bill 109, Consent to Treatment, 94 --
Mr Cooke: Right, and you called us incompetent.
Mr Sampson: Bill 40, there were 70 amendments.
Mr Sampson: Amendments are not an unusual part of the process. It reflects that through the committee process so far, when we've had deputations from concerned citizens, we have been listening and we're prepared to deal with those issues and concerns.
Mr Cooke: You should withdraw the bill and start all over.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): So are the ministers coming, or what?
Mr Sampson: The parliamentary assistants will be here in the absence of the ministers when the ministers are not here, and that's how we will deal with this particular legislation.
I just want to close by saying we're being told it's incompetent to bring forward amendments. We don't think that's incompetent. We think it reflects the fact that we have listened to the issues and concerns of Ontarians in dealing with this particular bill, and we will continue to do so until the end of the time allowed to introduce amendments which, if recollection serves, is Thursday at 4 pm pursuant to the order from the House. Mr Chair, I'll pass the floor back.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Sampson. I believe we agreed now to address these motions.
The Chair: I understand that, sir. I must remind you that the process today is between the members sitting at the table. At this particular stage of the game we've had our public consultation, and we're under the orders of the House to deal with this bill clause-by-clause. There is no precedent that I'm aware of that copies of amendments have been shared with the public, so that won't happen today.
The Chair: Thank you very much, sir.
Mr Cooke: Mr Chair, on a point of order: You may want to correct what you just said. There are many precedents. There was one process under one piece of legislation that I remember very clearly -- Mr Curling's rent review legislation -- where presenters actually sat at the table with members of the committee when they went through the bill clause-by-clause and were allowed to make comment on amendment after amendment.
The request has been made, and I think you need to address it and so does Mr Sampson. At the very least, we should be able to expect a package of government amendments that people out there can get a copy of and follow along and review the government amendments. This is not an in-house process. This is a public process, not just for the 130 members of the Legislature but for all 11 million people in the province who pay the bills.
The Chair: I stand corrected. The amendments are currently being copied and will be distributed as soon as they're ready.
Ms Lankin: Mr Chair, on a point of order: I'm hoping you will help me with this. You as Chair of the standing committee on general government made a ruling in response to my attempt to place a question to Ms Johns as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health. You ruled, as Chair of the committee -- not in a subcommittee; as Chair of the committee -- that there were no parliamentary assistants carrying this legislation and that I was not allowed to place questions to Ms Johns. If you check the Hansard -- and I would ask you to do that -- I believe you did not specify the period of public hearings versus clause-by-clause. You made a ruling, and I believe that ruling stands.
I would like you to check the Hansard -- recess if you need to -- because I believe you have prohibited us from placing questions to Ms Johns as a parliamentary assistant for Health. That would, I believe, apply as a general ruling to other parliamentary assistants and it would speak to the motions we are about to move and debate with respect to requesting ministers to appear.
The Chair: I agree that I made that ruling. Would you rather that ruling stand? Are you asking that ruling to stand or are you asking me to change that?
Ms Lankin: I'm asking you for a ruling. At the time, I objected very much. You made a ruling that I thought was out of order then. You made it. Now I want to know what the rules are. What I want, bottom line, is the ministers here to answer for their legislation and for the amendments and to explain it to us.
The Chair: Can we recess for five minutes, please? Thank you.
The committee recessed from 1051 to 1107.
The Chair: Sorry for the delay. Basically, Ms Lankin, what I said when you asked the question before was that there is no requirement in the standing orders for anyone to be present to carry the bill, and that in fact is true.
Today, during clause-by-clause, there are three parliamentary assistants here who have said they are prepared to be the focus of questions, and it is their choice to do that. So I have not changed the ruling.
If there is a section that requires the expenditure of money or the imposition of a new tax, the minister has to be present, and there may be some situations where that arises.
Ms Lankin: Could I ask for a clarification? If I ask a question of Ms Johns today and she decides she doesn't want to answer it, your ruling is that she doesn't have to answer it? Or now that she has put herself forward as parliamentary assistant -- she sat for there weeks with me on the committee and refused to acknowledge that was her role, but now that she's put herself forward in that role, is she compelled to answer my questions?
The Chair: As I understand, Mr Sampson has indicated that he, Mr Hardeman and Mrs Johns are here today to deal with your questions.
Ms Lankin: Do we have to get a verification or a clarification of this every day? If for some reason the government doesn't like the way it's going, will there be a substitute for Mr Sampson or Ms Johns tomorrow? Would that be, in your ruling, appropriate as well?
The Chair: Maybe Mr Sampson could answer that better.
Mr Sampson: All I can tell you is that at this point in time, the three PAs carrying this bill are the ones that I have noted on the record.
Ms Lankin: So at this point in time, there are three PAs. Tomorrow, it could be different, because last week it was different; there was none. At this point in time, all the amendments have been tabled but there could be more. Could we get some order to how we are proceeding with this? I don't know how you expect good legislation to come out at the end of such a fatally flawed process.
Mr Chair, I think you have a responsibility also in these proceedings to ensure that work of legislators can be carried out in a way that is informed and in a way that will actually produce a product at the end which is governable in Ontario. I have no confidence in the way we've proceeded thus far and the way it's being set out that we will proceed. I will also ask that you move to the motions, because I believe this committee should now formally request the ministers to appear.
The Chair: Carry on with your motions, Ms Lankin.
Ms Lankin: The motions will be moved by my colleague Mr Silipo and I. I will move the first motion, which is:
I move that the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jim Wilson, be requested to appear before the standing committee on general government for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 26.
The Chair: Ms Lankin, did you want to have an opening statement?
Ms Lankin: Yes. I'll actually keep my opening statement fairly brief. I think I have made the majority of the points. Let me say that through the course of the public hearings, it was very clear to me that the parliamentary assistant was not in a position to answer questions with respect to the details of this legislation. The answers that came from the ministry by and large were not satisfactory and did not answer the points that had been raised in questions.
Now we have a series of amendments which, as I pointed out to you earlier, either run directly in the face of recommendations that were made by many of the presenters who came forward or that further complicate errors that were in the original bill by trying to fix them and making mistakes while they're fixing them -- and I suspect we'll have to see amendments to the amendments with respect to that -- or in fact give broader powers than we had seen before without any narrowing of the scope or any definition of what powers regulations will be made under.
I believe that it should be the committee members' right to know why the Minister of Health, for example, believes that a physician should be consulted by the general manager of OHIP with respect to the therapeutic necessity of a chiropractor's treatment. I would like to know the answer to that question from the minister. I would like to know, when he reviewed all of the amendments that are being tabled and went through that, why he believed that was an appropriate amendment and why he would defend that amendment, or, if I am right that there is a fundamental problem with that amendment as it as been brought forward, why he allowed it to be tabled.
The minister is the person who is ultimately responsible, and I remember going through this process of having counsel from the ministry come and present potential amendments to legislation to me when I was Minister of Health, I remember reviewing them with ministry staff and political staff, with members of our committee, I remember making decisions, and ultimately I was responsible for that decision, for that to be tabled. I want the answer from the minister, why he believes that's an appropriate amendment to place, or if there was an error, why it got past him. I want to know how he went through that process of reviewing those amendments.
I want to know why he believes, when all of the hospital sector coming forward asked for a very clear indication that the hospital restructuring commission would work in an advisory way with the minister to perform duties as assigned but that powers would not be delegated to that commission, why in fact that's the amendment that he approved to come before this committee to be added to the legislation.
There are many other areas where I want the minister's answers as to why he believes these are the appropriate amendments. The minister was not with us during these hearings. I'm assuming that the dialogue that took place was reported back to him by members of the committee, of what the presentations were, I'm assuming that he read Hansard, that he is fully aware of the presentations that were made. Therefore, I want to know why, when he reviewed personally every word of those amendments, he felt they were appropriate to agree to, given the kind of implications we are aware of in terms of some of those amendments and what had been pointed out to us by presenters.
Ms Johns, with all respect, cannot answer those questions and Ms Johns is not responsible at the end of the day for having approved the amendments that are coming before this committee now to Bill 26. At the end of the day she is not responsible for the management of the health care system in this province; the minister is. There are fundamental changes that are taking place here and there are amendments which are not clear what the intent of the government is with respect to it. The minister is the one who is ultimately responsible and should be here to explain to the public and the committee and to defend to the public and the committee the actions and the decisions that he personally took with respect to these amendments.
I request that committee members support this motion, which simply says that we request that minister to appear and that this request be forwarded as soon as possible.
Mrs Caplan: I will be brief. I sat in the chair of the Minister of Health and I believed then and I believe now that the minister must be responsible for explaining policy changes. The minister must be responsible for explaining implications. The minister must also be responsible for having some discussion before a bill is passed as to what effect the intention of the bill is going to have on the delivery of health services, what his intended result is going to be as a result of the changes to the substantial number of pieces of health legislation.
I agreed and remained quiet -- relatively quiet, although I did object -- when you made your ruling that the parliamentary assistant, Mrs Johns, would in fact not be representative of the minister and that she was not answering questions on policy during the hearings, policy questions that people asked and deserved an answer to. The reason I didn't make a fuss about that, although I did express my disappointment, was because I fully expected that the minister would be here during clause-by-clause discussion to answer those questions.
To be now told that he's not going to be here is wrong, absolutely wrong, and it's also wrong because that's not what we were led to believe. We were led to believe that the ministers would be here to defend their policy decisions. This is a warning, and I see a number of members of the Conservative caucus sitting here who are going to have to defend this bill back in their own home towns, but I issue this as a warning. If your cavalier attitude to democracy continues, the people will punish you. They do not like bills being railroaded through this Legislature and they do not like ministers remaining silent when it comes to policy. They must be accountable.
Mr Phillips: I'm just trying to appeal to logic here and to say to the government members that there's no reason why they should not support this motion. You are trying to put through a bill that fundamentally changes Ontario, and you are trying to put it through with as little debate as possible. Frankly, we've now got 139 amendments.
Mr Gerretsen: One hundred and thirty-nine?
Mr Phillips: I lost the bet. I thought there'd be about 85. We now have 139.
Mr Gerretsen: We had a pool.
Mr Phillips: And we were all low, by the way.
Mr Cooke: That's right, even the winner.
Mr Phillips: Even the winner was low.
Mr Gerretsen: I had 200.
Mr Phillips: One hundred and thirty-nine amendments. But surely from the public's perception, we're not going to get through this this week.
Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): Not at this rate.
Mr Phillips: No. There you go, you see, not at this rate, because we're trying to have a debate around the ministers coming here and explaining what they're intending by this bill, having some courage. They're in their offices right now watching this, the ministers. The Minister of Health is watching this. Leach is sitting over there somewhere embarrassed to come out, his face red. Actually, the most extraordinary thing was someone who calls for his own resignation and then proves that he should resign. It's extraordinary. But why doesn't he have the courage to come here and explain why he originally called for his own resignation?
Mr Cooke: And then blames the amendments on the opposition.
Mr Phillips: Yes. But the point from the public's perception is this: They are owed an explanation of what you are intending with this bill.
Mrs Caplan: Exactly right.
Mr Phillips: Al Leach has made some major amendments to the bill. Many municipal leaders came and spoke in favour of the bill for reasons that no longer exist in the bill. So we have the embarrassment of some mayors who were called and asked, "Come on down and lend your shoulder to this bill." They came down and supported it, and now we find, as we look through these amendments, that Al Leach has undermined them. He has taken away things they thought were in the bill.
He owes those people a personal explanation, sitting there and explaining it, and I find it insulting that the Minister of Health, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Finance don't have the courage and the decency to come here and explain what they intend by this bill.
It is symptomatic of the process we've gone through. Originally, just to refresh our memories, the government said, "We are going to ram this bill through in two weeks," and introduced it when most of us were locked up, November 29. I think everyone in opposition here was in a lockup, and the government knew that. We were in a lockup till 4 o'clock. They introduced this at 3:30 in the Legislature, trying to minimize the debate, and said they wanted it through in two weeks.
Finally, we forced some hearings on it, and then I'll just give you two or three examples in the hearings. We were told throughout the hearings no amendments would be tabled until the process was over, until the hearings were over. At 9 o'clock we were in Thunder Bay and Mr Sampson gave us this lecture. "There will be no amendments to this bill until we begin clause-by-clause," this morning, Monday. That was last week on Wednesday at 9 o'clock.
At exactly that moment, about 1,200 kilometres away in Kitchener, the government was tabling I think 50 amendments. So out of one side of their mouth they were saying, "We're not going to table any amendments," and out of the other side of their mouth, 1,200 kilometres away, they tabled amendments at that very moment. The very next day, finally Mr Sampson was ordered to table some amendments.
Mr Gerretsen: After the municipal leaders presented.
Mr Phillips: That's right. My colleague makes a point. He tabled several in the morning and then he was going to table one at 1 o'clock, but the wardens from that area were presenting and the amendment that was going to be tabled at 1 didn't do what the wardens wanted so the amendment was tabled at 2 o'clock. Not at 1 o'clock but at 2 o'clock. Then at 5:30 on Friday in Peterborough, we got another stack of amendments, one of which contradicted the amendment from the previous day.
Why am I going through all of this? It's because I think the public should understand what the government's attempting to do here: ram something through, not debate it, try and keep the public in the dark, thumb your nose at the public, and this is the latest example.
I believed I had an undertaking, a commitment, by the government that the cabinet ministers would be here to explain their amendments and I am extremely angry that they don't have the courage to come here this morning and explain their amendments. There can be no other explanation for it -- no other explanation.
What could be more important than explaining what they're attempting to do in this bill? This is supposed to be your big bill. You wanted to get it through in two weeks. You put a gun to our heads and said, "You've got to have this important bill." If it's so important to the people of Ontario, isn't it important enough that a cabinet minister can come over here and spend an hour with us and explain to ourselves and, I might add, more important, to the public? Because as one person this morning said, there are fundamental changes in here that they have no idea what they are.
I appeal simply to fair play, decency and your public spiritedness. What is possibly wrong with picking up the phone and asking, instructing, begging your cabinet ministers to get over here and explain what they're intending by this bill? Surely we're owed that much.
The Chair: Mr Clement.
Mrs Caplan: Let's hear how you defend them.
Mr Clement: Three points to make with respect to the particular motion moved by Ms Lankin. Firstly, despite the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves today, it is not extraordinary to have the parliamentary assistant have carriage over the legislation in committee. Mr Wessenger, who was a member of the former government party, did so on behalf of the Health minister I would say almost exclusively --
Mrs Caplan: But all the way through.
Mr Clement: -- as far as I've been able to research in this short period of time. So that really is the rule rather than the exception.
Mrs Caplan: From the beginning. From day one.
The Chair: Mr Clement has the floor, please.
Mr Clement: I think that's the way it should be. I'm sure Mr Wessenger was there for a lot of the hearings, heard what the public would have to say on a particular piece of legislation and would be able to combine, just as our parliamentary assistants are able to combine their understanding of what they had heard from the people of Ontario at these hearings with the goals of the ministry and with the strategy of the ministry in question. They are able to do that.
With respect to the supposed lack of responsibility and accountability of a minister, I would remind the honourable members that a minister is accountable through the Legislature. It's the minister who has to stand up day in and day out when the Legislature is sitting to defend that legislation.
Mr Phillips: That's exactly the point.
Mr Clement: That right of the opposition is still in place, and certainly the other safeguard that our democratic system has in place is the fourth estate, the media. The press have the right under our system, and frequently do so, to put the minister on the spot and held accountable.
Mr Phillips: Save us, press, save us.
Mr Clement: Thirdly, I would just like to make this point for the record --
Mr Cooke: Get him into a scrum. Maybe he'll offer to resign again.
Mr Clement: For the record, the members opposite have been quite consistent in the view that there are numerous changes to the status quo that are represented in this legislation, and they are correct. But I would argue with them on this point: The status quo, as it had existed, was a deteriorating status quo. The status quo meant more hospital beds lost. It meant less opportunity to help with palliative care. It meant less opportunity for municipalities to solve their problems. That was the deteriorating status quo and there was no possibility of discussion with respect to that.
Through our bill, there is at least this opportunity to discuss, to hear from the people, to work on how to change the status quo for the better --
Mrs Caplan: There's no process in your bill.
Mr Clement: I would say that this is better than the way previous governments acted, which was to bury their heads in the sand and let the status quo deteriorate without any meaningful debate. I would speak against this motion.
Mr Cooke: Mr Chair, I'll be very brief. I think it's important that we realize or understand the process over the next week. We've got five days here in committee and then the bill does not go back into the House to go into committee of the whole, where in fact there is an opportunity not just to review the amendments but to ask questions of the minister on an ongoing basis in committee of the whole and get explanations of what the amendments mean, what the impact will be, why those amendments are coming forward. We have no committee of the whole stage because we agreed to this process of having a week in standing committee.
Quite frankly, I can speak for myself, and I think the Liberal House leader would agree if he were here, we just assumed that on a bill that -- this is the flagship of the Tory government. This is the implementation, as they say, of the Common Sense Revolution, even if it's going to be amended and amend the amendments and so forth. I would have thought the Deputy Premier and the ministers would not only have wanted to appear here, but would have been damned proud to appear before the committee, because this is their agenda.
Not in my wildest dreams did I believe the government would say in that final week: "The ministers are not allowed to come forward. We're not going to put them in the position where they have to answer questions. We're going to put in the parliamentary assistants." I'm quite frankly surprised that the parliamentary assistants have allowed this to happen. I remember in dealing with a particular bill that I was responsible for, I had some scheduling errors, and the reason my scheduling errors were corrected and I appeared before committee is because my own backbenchers said: "You're coming before the committee. We need you there to answer some questions that the opposition has."
I'm surprised that the Tory members here are -- I guess this is an indication of where they'll be for the next five years, that whatever a cabinet minister says is what they will dutifully follow, and they will play no significant role whatsoever other than to occasionally be the mouthpiece of a cabinet minister when they're told to do so. But the accountability role is absent if they're not coming before us.
We know the Minister of Health has not reviewed the amendments. He was out of town; he was on vacation. We know that he didn't review the amendments. That's why he doesn't want to come forward, because he's not up to date. He's not in a position to defend those amendments. He didn't even review them. There is no ministerial accountability. These amendments, I suppose, were approved by the whiz kids in the Premier's office. Politicians were shut out of the process, and now these folks here have been told: "Go defend it for a week. We'll get the bill passed next week and that's the end of the process. We don't give a damn about what anybody said in the last three weeks." I think it's a disgrace and that the Tory members of this committee -- and Mr Clement, to actually speak here and try to defend the process, he should know better and just sit there and shut up, rather than trying to defend a process that's absolutely indefensible.
Mr Silipo: Mr Chair, I wonder, before we proceed to a vote on this, whether the government members might not want to take a moment and reflect on what they're about to do, because I think they should realize that they're about to cause themselves, let alone the parliamentary process, severe harm by voting against this motion, which, after all, simply requests that the Minister of Health appear before this committee. I take from Mr Clement's position that this would be the position of the government members, to vote against this request and presumably all of the others that will follow.
I would suggest that the government members might want to reflect on that. I would offer on our behalf, if it's helpful, that the committee recess for five to 10 minutes so the government members might want to reflect on that, perhaps pick up the phone, call some of their ministers and really, really understand what they're doing and really conclude whether they want to do what they're about to do. So we make that offer, Mr Chair, if it's helpful, to get us through what I think is going to otherwise be an even more difficult process than it needs to be this week.
Mr Curling: I do regard this, really, the refusal of the minister to come before the committee, as almost sabotaging the whole process or an insult to the whole democratic process. It is important that he comes. More than that, we did not get any answers out of any of the government members there when we attempted to get some explanation of the directions and the purpose of this bill.
We know what the purpose is. We have come to the conclusion that they want to dictate anything that they say, anything that they want. The reason I think it is so important that the minister comes -- as we went around the province, and not only to the areas that were assigned by the House but the unassigned areas, people were asking us: "What can we do? What explanation do we have for this part of the legislation?" The offer that I gave to them was that I did not know, I confess, because one day in one city it means that, and the next city a lawyer will interpret it another way and another professional organization would say it would have another impact on them. When I at times revealed to some of the mayors around the province that this has an impact this way on them, they said they didn't know. My colleague Mr Phillips at one time stated that someone appeared before a committee who was in favour in some respects of the direction the government had gone, and by the end of the presentation they had more concerns than those who were against it. My feeling is that it needs the minister here to tell us exactly what the intent of this bill is.
The other point I want to make as to why it's important to be here: They seem to want to move to some even drastic measures to get the attention of the minister and to get the attention of this government. I said: "No, we believe in the process. I believe we are able to convince the members over there that they can bring the minister to explain some of the confusion that's in this bill." To be told now that the minister will not be coming I say is an insult to the process.
As an example, when I was the Minister of Housing, we had a very, very difficult bill, Bill 51, the landlord and tenant bill. We had about five weeks of hearings. I sat on every hearing, Mr Chair, because it was so important for me not only to understand the desires and the aspirations and what laws my government at the time was instituting on the people, but to be able to come back to make proper amendments as to what people had stated.
Now, the minister did not appear at any of these. The parliamentary assistants here did not know what they're talking about. Some ministers themselves admitted openly in the House that it's a complex bill and they haven't read it in detail. We are saying now you have had an opportunity, although we had to do some extraordinary things to bring it to today; you have had some time in which to read the bill and have some explanation. I am saying that you still have not -- I'm talking to those members who are sitting on the committee -- been properly informed, as they said, on what the whiz kids have dreamed up, what they find this tool should be -- someone said a sledgehammer -- in this restructuring bill.
So it's important, so important, that we bring the minister here, and if he doesn't understand it, we appreciate that -- we could go through that; it's difficult -- so we can have some explanation to this. Because as the days go on, we'll be asking the parliamentary assistant to explain, and it will not be acceptable to tell them they have to go back and check with the minister to find out what he means or to check with the whiz kids to tell the minister to tell them what it means. It will not be acceptable.
We hope that in appealing to you over there in a matter of decency, a matter of democracy, in the art of openness, that you have nothing to hide, that you can bring the minister here. I hope you change your mind and your votes.
Mr Gerretsen: As a newcomer to provincial Parliament, and I think I'm the only one, with Ms Pupatello, on this side of the table who is in that position, together with all the members on the government side, who I believe are all newly elected this time around on June 8, I find it somewhat extraordinary, quite frankly, that we had the ministers here on the first day, I believe for an hour. There's so much in this bill that we only had an opportunity, I believe, to really question one minister -- there may have been actually two -- out of the three or four who were there that day.
We've got some major changes that have been suggested in the amendments. As a matter of fact, one day the Minister of Municipal Affairs even walked into a meeting when the mayor of Mississauga was giving evidence. It's my understanding he walked in because he thought she was going to be totally in favour of what was being suggested, which she was, but for a totally different reason. That dealt with the gas tax situation. I can still remember, in answer to a question that I asked and I believe Mr Phillips as well, "Are you in favour of a gas tax?" "Oh, of course." "And a number of other things?" "Yes, we may very well need these things," at which point in time the minister decided not to have a media photo op with the mayor of Mississauga, because obviously his interpretation was different. It's very interesting. In one of the amendments that you have here, you're saying, "No gas tax." I wonder how the mayor of Mississauga feels about that today, by the way. I'm sure she has a totally different view.
The point is this: Here the man came into the meeting for no reason other than to be supportive of a mayor who he thought was supportive of the position. Now we've got some major amendments dealing with that act and with many of the other acts and you refuse to deliver these people to us so that we could at least ask them questions. I can only assume that you're not doing so for one of about three reasons: (1) they don't know anything about the amendments, (2) they know what the amendments are but can't explain them, or (3) they can't explain why they're now taking a different position than they did initially.
I've heard Mr Sampson, and he will say, "Well, we've listened to the public." Right. The public has input into this in the same way that the government has input into it and the opposition has input into it. You're not going to tell me that the only reason why you're filing these amendments is because the public have persuaded you to do so. There's got to be another reason as well. There's got to be a reason dealing with either ministerial accountability or it no longer makes any sense for those ministries to have those kinds of powers that you're talking about in this bill. There's got to be something else to it, and we want to know what those reasons are.
We can go through all sorts of nonsense here and sooner or later the ministers will be asked as to why they're in favour of various amendments in any event. I would think it would be a lot better for the public policy process in Ontario for those people to come here at some stage. We don't want to take up their whole day. Let them come one at a time. They don't have to appear all four or five together, or 10, however many are involved.
Mrs Caplan: Just within reason.
Mr Gerretsen: Let's draw up a schedule now. Let's find out what their schedule is and see if some time during this week, the sooner the better, they can be here on a one-to-one basis so that we can actually discuss the amendments with them.
The Chair: If there's no further discussion on the motion, we'll call for a vote.
Mr Cooke: A recorded vote.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
Clement, Ecker, Hardeman, Johns, Maves, Sampson, Tascona, Young.
The Chair: That motion is defeated.
Mr Silipo: I move that the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Ernie Eves, be requested to appear before the standing committee on general government for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 26.
The Chair: In view of the fact that our purpose here is to get to the clause-by-clause discussion, have we any all-party interest in limiting the debate, since these motions are substantially the same?
Mr Silipo: We don't intend to be very long on these, Mr Chair, if that helps. Just very briefly, because we're not going to repeat the points that have been made, I would have thought that with respect to the Minister of Finance -- the point's already been made, I believe -- his name is the minister's name that appears on the bill. It's telling that he has not chosen to appear before this committee and I guess will not appear before this committee.
I think that's particularly telling in terms of the government's stated position that there's only one taxpayer, yet we know that this, being the budget bill of this government, makes significant changes to the taxing powers that are being given to municipalities, makes significant changes to the way in which the wealth of this province is being redistributed. It would have been incumbent, we feel, for the Minister of Finance to have had the courtesy to appear before the committee, and that's what this motion requests him to do.
Mr Phillips: Just to speak on the motion, I think firstly he owes us an explanation of why so much is in this bill. We in our party, and I think the New Democratic Party, have been quite prepared to deal with the matters that he believes are absolutely fundamental to dealing with the fiscal situation in the province. But in this bill are freedom of information, major changes to the Mining Act, the Game and Fish Act, to I think 43 different acts. I think he owes an explanation to us why he put all that in and why we and the people of Ontario can't have the courtesy of taking the portions of this bill that he does not need to deal with these financial matters and having some reasonable debate around them.
I can only conclude that it was incompetence, that originally the bill perhaps was designed to deal with the financial matters and then word got out that "There's going to be a big party and if you come to it, you're going to get your legislation passed." So everything's jammed in here, every ministry's wish list, from freedom of information to the Mining Act to the Game and Fish Act, and you're trying to ram it all through at once.
He owes us an explanation of how in the world that happened, because it's bad enough that people are mad at you, but people are laughing at you now. People are finding you incompetent. People are wondering how in the world any organization that purports to want to run the province could allow this to happen. You said there were no amendments necessary, it's going to pass in two weeks, and then you've filed now 139 amendments and we have no assurance there aren't going to be a lot more amendments.
The second thing is that only he, I guess, has the power to do what we in the opposition have been advocating; that is, take the sections of the bill that don't have to be rammed through on January 29 and allow for a reasoned debate on them. But in the final analysis, unfortunately for him, his name's on this bill and somebody allowed this mess to be put together. We thought the patient was terminally ill when you brought it in on November 29, and now we're sort of in emergency surgery. You're trying to patch up this botched operation. I think he owes an explanation of how in the world we got to this place and to help identify those sections of the bill that he doesn't absolutely need next Monday and allow for some reasoned debate on it. I think that's why Mr Eves should be here and why the motion is in order.
Mr Sampson: I just want to clarify a few things. The comment was made earlier by one of the honourable members that this is the budget bill of this government. This is not the budget bill of this government and he knows that this is not the budget bill of this government. "There are linkages attached to the economic statement." That was a comment that I picked off of what I heard just a few minutes ago, that there are linkages to the economic statement.
This is the bill this government intends to implement to be able to give us the ability to respond to the promises we made to the voters of this province during the election, which was to significantly change the way in which we're governed in this province, not to make tinkering changes here or there. That commitment, frankly, stretched across ministries, which is why this bill deals with Mining Act issues, deals with finance issues, deals with health issues, deals with freedom of information act issues. Our commitment to the province of Ontario and the voters in this province was to make real change, and we're doing that. This is not tinkering. We're not prepared and the province of Ontario --
Mr Cooke: Why won't your boss come here?
Ms Lankin: Why won't Ernie come?
Mr Sampson: -- is no longer in the position to reflect the tinkering.
Ms Lankin: Thanks. We appreciate your advice on this.
Mr Silipo: That's exactly why he should be here.
The Chair: Mr Sampson has the floor. I fail to understand why, when people on this side of the floor speak, there is absolute silence; when people on this side of the floor speak, there are always interjections. I think it would be fair to allow the person to have the floor.
Mr Silipo: Mr Chair, on a point of order, I would hope that your comment just now is not an indication of the way the rest of the week is going to flow. You're supposed to be an impartial Chair. Please remember that.
The Chair: And I am. I'm just saying it would be nice if --
Mr Silipo: There were comments on the other side of the table made when people on this side have spoken.
The Chair: I'm just saying it would be fair if we treat one another with some respect.
Mr Silipo: Absolutely. That's the point of these motions.
Mr Sampson: The Minister of Finance is represented by his parliamentary assistant at this hearing.
Mr Silipo: Recorded vote.
The Chair: No further comment on the motion? Recorded vote.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
Clement, Ecker, Hardeman, Johns, Maves, Sampson, Tascona, Young.
The Chair: The motion is defeated.
Mr Silipo: I would move that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Al Leach, be requested to appear before the standing committee on general government for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 26.
Mr Cooke will speak to this on our behalf.
The Chair: Does this require some debate?
Mr Silipo: Yes.
Mr Cooke: I will be brief. I feel particularly strongly about Mr Leach coming back before the committee because of comments he has made that amendments to the bill dealing with the taxing powers of municipalities were not necessary and publicly stating that he was going to resign if amendments were necessary, and then the amendments come forward and he still doesn't offer to resign.
I think there's a fundamental question here about competence that needs to be answered and an explanation about the amendments, both on the restructuring sections and on the taxing and licensing and user-fee powers for municipalities, that Mr Leach owes the committee and owes the public.
I think there's a side issue here that is of great concern to a lot of us: that this is the minister who is in charge of implementation of the Golden report and reorganization of the entire greater Toronto area. At this point, the competence, or incompetence, that he has demonstrated has made it very clear to all of us that not only should he resign because of the promise he made on the taxing issue, but he should resign because he has demonstrated, out of all the ministers involved with this fiasco called Bill 26, complete and total incompetence. He needs to come forward to demonstrate to us that he has at this point some understanding of the legislation or to indicate that he has in fact agreed that it would be best for him to leave.
I want to finish by saying that I think there's another aspect to the section dealing with municipalities that is absolutely essential. It has become absolutely clear during the public hearings that there has been a backroom deal done between the municipal sector and this provincial government that has resulted in changes to the arbitration process, pay equity, taxes and fees. I think it's very clear that there has been this secret deal that has been done by the municipal sector, shutting out all the people of the province who are going to be affected by this. I think that it's an abuse of power and I'd like to know how this deal was achieved, how in fact this could be done in Ontario, where two levels of government, democratically elected, would be so undemocratic in the way that they determine public policy. So for that reason, for democratic reasons, and also for competence.
Mr Chair, I think that over the weeks of public hearings the incompetence of this process has been very clear. I think we should now be putting the proper name to this government. They liked to call us, in particular -- whenever we had amendments to legislation they said we were incompetent. This is clearly a government of the Flintstones, and Mr Leach is Barney. We need to have him called before the committee so that he can explain to us --
Mr Gerretsen: That's an insult to Barney, you know.
Mr Cooke: Well, it is an insult to Barney, but I think he owes it to people to come and explain his actions.
Mr Phillips: I actually tend to agree with much of what Mr Cooke just said.
Mrs Caplan: It's scary.
Mr Phillips: I feel badly for the government members, because if there's one part above all that has been botched, it's the Municipal Affairs section. I remember we were on the road and the headline was something like, Leach Going to Take Charge of the GTA Study. He's going to allow 90 days for debate and then he's bringing in an omnibus bill.
I hope I'm not being unfair to the Conservative members, but it was very hard on their breakfast. He hadn't finished the operation on this bill yet -- and believe me, it's botched; he's going to leave some instruments in this body -- and he's heading off to operate in the room next door on the GTA. It's a frightening sight. I have a feeling that he may not be the chief surgeon. If he is, he'll have some competent surgeons looking over his shoulder.
There is no question that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario had a huge input into this bill. The problem is that there are a lot of other organizations that were sacrificed as a result of that. There's no doubt, on the arbitration process, it fundamentally changes for our fire, police, hospitals, our essential services, our teachers. It fundamentally changes bargaining for them. Frankly, the amendments were tabled at 5:30 on Friday night in Peterborough, and I'm not sure they've yet fixed the problem of direct taxation at the municipal level.
Mr Gerretsen: No, they have not.
Mr Phillips: On the licensing provisions, the city of Kingston believes that the way the bill is currently written, with the amendments, it still permits a gas tax to be administered through the licensing provision, not the fee provision. He owes us an explanation of what is his intent in that area.
On the restructuring provisions, frankly most municipalities had been led to believe that there would be changes, amendments to accommodate their concerns. Once again, the mayor of Peterborough was there with concerns at 10 o'clock Friday night in Peterborough, but he never had a chance to look at the amendment that was proposed, that didn't answer his concerns, tabled at 5:30.
The reason I raise all of that is, if there was one group that came out in support of the bill, it was municipalities. The problem is that some of the reasons they thought they were supporting the bill apparently no longer exist. Some of the amendments that they had I think been promised do not exist. So I think the Minister of Municipal Affairs owes us an explanation of just what in the world he is trying to do here.
I'm not sure which of the three scenarios my colleague outlined -- whether he doesn't want to come because he can't explain them, doesn't want to come because they go in a direction that he's promised other people he wouldn't go in, or whether he simply doesn't know what in the world's happening and somebody else is trying to --
Mr Gerretsen: All three, Gerry.
Mr Phillips: -- save his political career. But whatever it is, surely we're owed that. If he had time to come for what he thought was going to be a positive photo op, he had time to make his way over from his big office to do that, surely he has time to come over and explain what in the world he's trying to do with this bill.
Mr Chair, I urge you to put some careful thought into this because, in the final analysis, it's you people they're hanging out to dry. You're the suckers in this and they're sitting back in their offices unwilling to come over here and explain what they're intending and hoping they can simply get by this week, zipper this thing up at 6 o'clock on Friday, stuff all the amendments in it, wheel it upstairs Monday for a vote on this basically dead bill.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): First of all, I'd like to point out that the Minister of Municipal Affairs did appear before the committee the first day of the hearings. The issue that's being questioned by the opposition is the ability to charge gasoline and income taxes. The minister made it quite clear in that statement that in his opinion the act did not allow charging of such a tax.
Mr Cooke: Nobody else in the province agreed.
Mr Hardeman: There were others who put forward the position that, as they read the bill, it would be possible. I sat through most of the hours of the hearings and I don't believe there was anyone who said that it was certain that they could, but there was some doubt cast by some who appeared before the committee that it could be done. In order to correct that situation, the minister has approved an amendment, put forward the amendment that we will be addressing when we get to that part of the bill, that makes it quite certain that that is not a possibility. I don't believe there was anyone here from the municipal sector who would be surprised by such an amendment, recognizing that the minister had made the statement at the start of the hearings that the act would not allow that type of taxation.
So I find it somewhat curious that the opposition at this time would decide it's inappropriate to put forward such an amendment to make sure we do not end up in court with municipalities in terms of what they can or cannot charge in taxation. What they want, I believe, is certainty as to what will or will not be allowed.
I also want to point out that the reason for the restructuring and that part of the act is that municipal government also needs to deal with the financial situation of the day, which is that we need less government and have less money to pay for that. They need the ability to do that.
Many presenters before the committee came forward with the concern that there was not enough public involvement in the process as it was written in the legislation. There again, the minister has approved an amendment to be put forward that will legislate the minimum type of public involvement obligated to be put forward through the commission process.
The amendments are dealing with concerns expressed by the people who appeared before the committee. I suggest that's what the process was supposed to do, and I'm proud to be here to see that it's working.
The Chair: No further discussion on the motion?
Mr Silipo: Recorded vote.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
Clement, Ecker, Hardeman, Johns, Maves, Sampson, Tascona, Young.
The Chair: The motion is defeated.
Mr Silipo: In order to be helpful, I'm going to combine the remaining three motions into one, if that's acceptable.
I move that the Chair of Management Board, the Honourable David Johnson; the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer; and the Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Chris Hodgson, be requested to appear before the standing committee on general government for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 26.
Each of these ministers, were they to come before us, I think we would want them to explain why some very important changes in Bill 26 are being proceeded with by the government notwithstanding what we have heard during the hearings.
In the case of the Chair of Management Board, we know that one of the things this bill does is take away the pension rights of thousands of public servants who work for the government. The incredible thing about this is that the government is giving itself the power to break the law. This legislation allows it to override decisions the courts of this province have made saying that what this government is about to do is illegal, and that is the astounding thing. I can put it no more clearly than in the words of one presenter, who said to us: "We knew this government would be pushing public servants out the door. We didn't realize that they'd be picking their pockets as they went out the door." That's exactly what this government is doing with this bill.
In the case of the Minister of Labour, it's astounding that the rights to pay equity for 100,000 of the lowest-paid women in this province are being taken away by this legislation and the Minister of Labour has not appeared and will likely not appear before this committee to explain to us why that is being done and why the government is causing the absurd result, as a result of this legislation, that some women will have the right to pay equity and others will not and those who will not will be among the lowest-paid women in this province.
We also know there are significant changes to the labour relations area by way of changes to the arbitration processes coming through this bill, which, as we saw them initially, were really no more than wage controls by the back door. Although some changes have been made, and particularly because in this area one important amendment is being tabled by the government, I think it would be incumbent upon the Minister of Labour to be here to explain to us what that amendment really means, because as I see it, it can be read in two different ways. It can be read that it's loosening up the rules or it can be read that it's tightening up the rules. I think all sorts of problems will be caused by that particular amendment because of the uncertainty it's causing.
In the case of the Minister of Natural Resources, we heard a lot of concerns about the mine closures, the conservation authority changes being proposed by this bill, all of which were underlined very clearly by the fact that the environmental commissioner of this province, someone appointed by agreement of all three parties, I must say, saw fit to issue a special report, which in and of itself is an unusual situation, condemning the government exempting Bill 26 from the applications of the Environmental Bill of Rights. For those reasons and many more, it would have been incumbent upon the Minister of Natural Resources to come back to this committee to explain why the government is proceeding with the changes it is, in light, again, of the comments we heard during the hearings.
Mrs Caplan: I agree with all the comments Mr Silipo has made. I think it is extremely important that these ministers in particular come before this committee, because I don't think the public has the faintest idea that these things are actually happening. I'm only going to give one example, and that is the example of the changes to the pension plan. Every employer who has undergone restructuring in the province has been bound and will continue to be bound by this legislation, with one exception: the province of Ontario. They are exempting themselves from a provision that is required of every other employer in the province. Surely the minister should be here to justify that kind of extraordinary change for only the province.
Those are the kinds of things put into this bill which have nothing to do with the most significant parts of the bill, which are health and municipal affairs; we know those are the two parts that have been focused on. But in terms of the provisions referred to by Mr Silipo, those that affect the ministries of Labour, Natural Resources and most especially Management Board, we have not had the opportunity to discuss in any way their policy implications, and we've had very few public presentations about those either. If government members on this committee believe they were elected to come here to make good law, they would want to have those questions answered as well.
I believe it's important for the Minister of Health to be here, I believe it's important for the Minister of Municipal Affairs to be here, but these three are equally important, and I hope the government members would think about why they were elected. I hope they would think about this reasonable request to have the ministers come to explain and defend their policy. That is reasonable when you're making new law.
Mr Sampson: We're just a little over two hours into this proceeding, and I'm already dizzy trying to follow the logic of the members of the opposition on a number of the points they've talked to so far.
We started off the hearings and they said, "We want you to table your amendments immediately" -- the first day into the hearings. But then in the same breath they said: "No, we would like you to listen to the people of Ontario before you proceed further. We need further consultation. In fact, we need you to extend the hearings." I'm having difficulty following the logic of that one.
Then we heard, as to the changes on the municipal side, "The reason the sections in the current bill are the way they are is that you've cut this deal with AMO in the back rooms." Then in the same breath we hear them say the municipalities aren't happy with the bill. If we cut a deal with AMO, then how is it the municipalities aren't happy with the bill? Ladies and gentlemen of the opposition, I'm afraid you can't have it both ways.
You say: "The ministers are incompetent; they don't know anything that's in this bill. But, Mr Chairman, we want them in front of us to explain the bill." What is this? I'm having extreme difficulty following the logic of this.
The members opposite know full well the procedures in --
Mr Cooke: So we can take your no vote as meaning that you agree with us that they're all incompetent and they shouldn't come before the committee.
Mr Sampson: Well, I've clearly identified to the members opposite their logic problem, because I note they want to interject every time I raise that.
Mr Chairman, I said earlier that the PAs will be here in the absence of the ministers, when the ministers are not here, to deal with the questions raised as we go through clause-by-clause debate, which I hope we can get to shortly.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a couple of points: These amendments in the municipal section are significant changes, where they deal with the restructuring and direct taxation aspects, from the bill the way it was originally proposed. We had the anomaly, in the presentations brought before the subcommittee, that basically the municipalities agreed with the proposed changes because they thought they were getting greater direct taxation powers, and we had the chambers of commerce come before us and agree with the bill as well, but they didn't agree with the fact that the municipalities were getting more power in terms of direct taxation. So you had two groups basically saying the same thing but for totally different reasons.
The point we're trying to make is that the changes now being proposed to schedule M significantly alter the original intent of schedule M.
Mr Gerretsen: That's true. Just read it, okay?
The other point I want to make is with respect to the pension matter. We had a number of presentations in front of our subcommittee on the pension matter and the one that struck most home to me was with respect to a 48-year-old individual who, under the new regulations, would not be entitled to a pension until he was 55 or 60 -- I'm not sure -- whereas under the old regulations he would have been entitled to a reduced pension at age 50. To that individual, with a salary of I believe about $24,000, it was going to make a difference of almost $300,000 over the lifetime of that pension up to age 82, which is the average life expectancy for a person that age.
I think it's incumbent for everyone in the province to know the major changes being contemplated by that particular pension section. If the Chairman of Management Board cannot come here to explain exactly what he had in mind with respect to schedule L, I think it's a travesty, not only the way this government deals with the people of Ontario but also the way it deals with its own employees.
I ask you again, Mr Chairman, to make the request to each of these individual ministers to come to this hearing at some point in time during this week so we can at least have them explain to us why they're making the major changes they're contemplating in the act -- well, I know why they're doing it, but at least give the people of Ontario an explanation of why they're doing it -- and also why they're doing some of the major amendments.
Ms Lankin: Recorded vote.
The Chair: A recorded vote.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
Clement, Ecker, Hardeman, Johns, Maves, Sampson, Tascona, Young.
The Chair: The motion is defeated.
Ms Lankin: Mr Chair, there were two other motions I had tabled. One had to do with the orders of proceeding and opening statements from parties. Given how the morning has unfolded thus far, I withdraw that motion. I think it's not necessary.
The second motion was with respect to an authorization for this committee to meet for the purposes of public review of all regulations related to Bill 26 prior to the act coming into force. I have tabled that and I will give notice that at some point later in the week I will move that. I don't think that needs to be debated this morning.
I do, however, have one other motion that I would like to table. I have it in writing but I don't have copies.
I move that the parliamentary assistants who have carriage of the bill be given 30 minutes each to present the government amendments, followed by 30 minutes for questions from the opposition parties (split equally) to each PA, beginning immediately with Ms Johns.
The Chair: Does everybody understand? Any debate on the motion?
Mr Clement: Could we get some clarification, Mr Chairman, about how you feel about what is within the powers of this committee to --
The Chair: I'll read the motion again.
Ms Lankin moves "that the parliamentary assistants who have carriage of the bill be given 30 minutes each to present the government amendments, followed by 30 minutes for questions from the opposition parties (split equally) to each PA, beginning immediately with Ms Johns."
Did you want to speak on the motion, Ms Lankin?
Ms Lankin: Mr Cooke would like to speak to it.
Mr Cooke: Mr Chair, given the fact that we've just been lectured for the last hour and a half that ministers are not coming before the committee and, as Mr Sampson said, that the parliamentary assistants are fully briefed, fully up-to-date on every amendment, every reason for every amendment, and can defend the bill before the committee, this is not an unusual request: that there be some time at the beginning of the proceedings that the government would explain their amendments to us and to all the other people who have participated in the hearings; that this be allowed to occur and that there be some opportunity for the opposition parties to question the government on the rationale.
We've been told for the last hour and a half that the parliamentary assistants are carrying the bill, so I think this is very reasonable. I think this will actually encourage the process over the next five days to work efficiently and I think that's the most important part of it. It will mean that the hearings or the process over the next few days will be very efficient.
I cannot, on this one, see any reason why the government could possibly vote against this. I expect it to be passed and I certainly encourage the members to support it. Of course, if they vote against it, we can only assume that the members are voting against it because, one, they don't have confidence in their amendments and, two, they don't have confidence in the three PAs.
Mr Phillips: The only reason I'm speaking is because I just assume this will carry, but in case there's any hesitation, I want to make sure that we just go over the reason for it. I was fully expecting the ministers to be here this morning. I told my caucus I thought we had an undertaking back in December that that would happen. I raised it last week in the committee in the expectation that it would happen. I'm very disappointed they're not here. This is a compromise that I support. I would much prefer the ministers to be here.
But let's just recognize that there are thousands and thousands of people out there who are following this proceeding very closely because you're going to impact on their lives very directly. They've presented to the committee, the ones who could get on, the one third that could get on, the two thirds tried to. They want to know what is in this bill. The risk right now with the 139 amendments is that people who are desperately interested in the municipal sector or the health sector or the mining sector or the arbitration will never have their issue debated. So Ms Lankin's motion is bang on.
The parliamentary assistants, who we understand are standing in for the ministers, fully understand it and can outline for the committee and for the public the major changes and we'll have an opportunity to discuss them. As my colleague Mr Cooke said, I think the proceedings then can flow much more smoothly. We'll have some idea of where the government's heading on this bill. I can't imagine the government not welcoming this opportunity. Clearly it's an opportunity for the government to defend its bill, and I look forward to getting on with it very quickly.
Mr Clement: I'm sorry if I'm a bit thick this morning and I do apologize, but I'm not sure of the complete ramifications of this motion. Is this in addition to going through clause by clause? Is this a process in addition to that?
Ms Lankin: This is at the beginning, yes.
Mr Clement: So that subsequent to this exercise we would then go through the bill clause by clause?
Ms Lankin: Yes. Mr Chair, can I quickly clarify in answer to that? I realize I wrote it out hastily so it's not particularly well worded. The intent would be, starting with Ms Johns, that she has 30 minutes to present the amendments to the sections of the bill that she has carriage of and to give an explanation and a rationale overall of what the intent is. There would be 15 minutes for the Liberals to ask questions of Ms Johns, 15 minutes for myself. We would then move on to a similar process for the second and the third parliamentary assistants, and then we would be in a position to move into the clause-by-clause analysis of the sections of the bill.
Mr Cooke: Not much different than going clause by clause.
Ms Lankin: Very, very similar to other times when in fact a minister would come forward and would present an overview.
The Chair: Mr Clement, do you understand?
Mr Clement: Yes, I just had one further question of the mover, if I might, Mr Chair. Why are we starting with Ms Johns when schedule A is the first schedule of the bill?
Mr Cooke: Amend it.
Ms Lankin: If you want to amend the motion, you are free to. That is my motion, my request. I have been involved on the health sections, so I would like to begin with Ms Johns on the health sections.
Mr Cooke: That's a real vote of confidence, Tony.
Mr Clement: No, I'm just curious. It's a curiosity question.
Ms Lankin: I presume if we were dealing with ministers, we would deal with them in the order of their availability and their schedule, and I don't see that there's any difference. The clause-by-clause will go through in an orderly fashion. I'm just asking for a presentation.
Mr Clement: I would suggest, Mr Chair, if we could be allowed, since we did not know this motion was coming, just three minutes of recess so we can caucus on it rather than giving just a reaction without having the ability to discuss among ourselves.
Mr Gerretsen: We didn't discuss it. We're ready to vote on it.
The Chair: The rules state that you're entitled to up to a 20-minute recess at the time a question is put. If you want another recess, you need unanimous consent of the committee for that. Five minutes, Mr Clement? We'll recess for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 1215 to 1225.
The Chair: The five minutes are up. That was the agreed-upon time for the discussion.
Mr Gerretsen: We're ready to vote, Mr Chair.
The Chair: Is there any further discussion on the motion?
Mrs Caplan: I think it's a reasonable motion. In the 10 years I've been here, the process has always been one where ministers appeared to answer their questions. We're perfectly ready for the vote right now.
The Chair: If there's no further discussion on the motion, all those in favour?
Ms Lankin: Recorded vote.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
The Chair: All those opposed? The motion carries.
Mr Cooke: I would like to move --
Ms Lankin: Could we split up the bill at this point?
The Chair: In view of the hour and in view of what the next process would be, since we're not locked into an actual time for lunch, should we take our lunch hour now?
Mr Cooke: I believe there may be a motion.
Mrs Caplan: I believe it might be appropriate at this time to actually move on to the first motion that we have placed, which would allow for the bill to be split.
The Chair: The order of business, as we just approved, is for the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health to immediately take the floor for 30 minutes. That was the motion we just approved, unless you want to change that motion.
Ms Lankin: She's not here.
Mrs Caplan: Where is she?
The Chair: She's not here. In the absence of that --
Mr Phillips: I can hear some emergency briefing going on.
Mrs Caplan: Could I suggest that we take another five minutes and give her a chance to get here? We have a full half-hour before the lunch break, and it would be a shame to waste the committee's time. If they're just outside, ask her to come in and let's get going.
The Chair: I would just suggest switching the lunch break for an hour now and then coming back.
Mr Phillips: I'm not sure where they are, but if that's helpful, as long as you can get their agreement that we'll start back up at 1:30. Is that fair?
The Chair: That's what I suggest in the interest of time.
Mrs Caplan: But I've made an appointment from 1 till 2.
Mr Gerretsen: Surely the government isn't filibustering these hearings now, are they? They're not here.
The Chair: What we're dealing with is a motion has been passed --
Ms Lankin: We could be so mischievous right now.
The Chair: I know you could.
Mr Phillips: We can't find the minister and now we can't find the committee.
Mrs Caplan: To be honest, I think the public and everyone else knows that this committee was scheduled to begin at 10 and go through till 1 and then reconvene at 2. Many of us had made appointments between 1 and 2.
Ms Lankin: I have actually.
Mrs Caplan: So have I. I don't think it's fair, half an hour before, to change the time. I'd rather give them five minutes to come in and begin.
The Chair: Okay, we'll just recess for five minutes and see if we can find them.
The committee recessed from 1228 to 1233.
The Chair: The next order of business.
Mr Clement: I'd like to move a motion that the previous motion that was passed by this committee be amended to commence with the parliamentary assistant responsible for schedules A to E.
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Chair: That appears to me to be a reconsideration motion and the member was not present in the room voting against it.
Mr Clement: It's a separate amendment.
The Chair: The motion is not in order, Mr Clement. It's contrary to the agreement of the motion that was just passed.
Our next order of business, according to the motion passed, is for Mrs Johns to make a 30-minute presentation on the amendments.
Mr Clement: I would like to move to recess for one-half hour.
The Chair: We need all-party unanimous consent for that. Do we have unanimous consent?
Mr Cooke: What's the purpose of the request?
Mr Clement: The purpose of the request is to provide this committee with the best information possible and to allow Ms Johns to be able to present in a way which is accurate and responsive to your concerns, precisely the intent of the motion that was previously passed.
Mr Cooke: That comment by Mr Clement is a complete vindication of the entire debate this morning that we need cabinet ministers before us, because what he has just said is that there needs to be another 30 minutes because the parliamentary assistants are not knowledgeable enough about the bill or the amendments. Bring the ministers here and quit this farce now.
The Chair: Do I take it we don't have unanimous consent?
Mr Cooke: What a farce.
Mr Phillips: Just on the motion, Mr Chair: This is turning into comedy hour. We originally thought we were going to have the cabinet ministers here to explain the legislation. I think the people of Ontario would simply assume that this would be the logical thing to do.
The government is so proud of this bill, so proud of its agenda, it's making significant amendments apparently, and you would think they would want to be here to explain it. We were then told, "No, there's no need for that because we have the parliamentary assistants here to explain it," the well-versed parliamentary assistants. Then we have the total embarrassment, the comedy, of saying, "We want a half-hour more to prepare."
Is it a surprise that we might be discussing these amendments today? Did the parliamentary assistants arrive surprised that they perhaps had to know what was in it? Then for Mr Clement to say, "We want to make sure we give you the facts," we have some understanding of why he might say that, but surely even this incompetent government would have known that perhaps the government members should have arrived here this morning having some understanding of the amendments that are in the bill.
As I say, the problem that you're running into is that people now know you're not only, as I've said many times, mean-spirited, you're incompetent. This is turning into a joke. As I said, when you look in the dictionary in the future under "incompetent," there'll be "Bill 26 debate."
Mr Cooke: Take today's Hansard and Mr Clement's comments.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): Just quickly, it's perfectly reasonable to ask for some time for the three PAs, who have just had a request thrown to them five minutes ago to make a half-hour presentation. The government left the room and I think was perfectly willing to go along with that motion. Simply, anyone who's asked to make a half-hour presentation out of the blue --
Mrs Caplan: It shouldn't be out of the blue.
Mr Maves: -- I don't see that it's an impossible thing or illogical to let them have a few minutes to prepare.
It's got nothing to do with competence, it's something that was thrown at them and we are ready to go with the motion, we're in favour of the motion, but they're requesting some time to prepare so that their presentation might be an orderly one. That's not at all incompetent or illogical or unreasonable. It's perfectly reasonable, Mr Carroll. I think Mr Clement's request is perfectly reasonable.
Mrs Caplan: What is expected and what is reasonable is that the government caucus would come here today expecting that we would be debating this bill and that we would expect from them an opening statement, that we would expect from them an explanation of the amendments that are being tabled. What we expected, because that's what we were led to believe, was that the ministers would be here to do that. We were told that the ministers are not doing that, the parliamentary assistants will.
Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Chair: You asked for unanimous consent. That wasn't granted. We're wasting time. Can we proceed?
Mr Clement: Mr Chairman, on a point of order: Is my motion in order in the first place?
The Chair: You cannot make a motion to recess.
Mr Clement: Can I make a motion to adjourn until 2 pm?
Mrs Caplan: I had the floor, Mr Chairman.
The Chair: Yes, you can.
Mr Clement: I would then so move.
Mr Cooke: This takes it all. After a couple of hours this morning of the government saying, "No, you're not having cabinet ministers," that they're not going to come and defend this bill or explain the amendments or what you've heard from the public hearings process and that your parliamentary assistants are fully capable and up-to-date and they can present the government's position, you now have the gall to say you're going to adjourn the committee till 2 o'clock this afternoon because your parliamentary assistants are completely incompetent and are not able to defend the bill.
Mr Chair, they now are going to go out -- this is unbelievable. We've had three weeks of public hearings. The bill was tabled back in November. Your members couldn't even get the bill the first day.
This vindicates everything the public has been saying about this bill for the last month, that you people tried to ram this bill through and the public didn't understand it, and now your parliamentary assistants don't even understand it. You couldn't come back here for the vote. You're scrambling now to put a motion forward so you can have a rapid-fire briefing of the parliamentary assistant. You got up and voted for this bill en masse on second reading supporting it, and you have now admitted on TV to all the people of this province that you didn't even understand what you were voting for as parliamentary assistants and as MPPs.
This is a farce. This is an embarrassment. This is the height of incompetence --
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Cooke.
Mr Cooke: -- and, Mr Chair, you should not allow them to adjourn. You should force the committee to proceed so that all the people in this province can see the level of incompetence of this government.
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr Cooke. I was in error. Mr Clement did not have the floor to make a motion. Mrs Caplan had the floor.
Mrs Caplan: Thank you, Mr Chairman. That was going to be my next comment, that this motion is not in order because I do have the floor. Now that I know what his motion is going to be, I am appalled. What Mr Clement is saying to the people of this province is that this government still doesn't get it. You don't understand that you are going to have to defend your policies, you don't understand that you cannot ram this bill through without appropriate scrutiny, and you don't understand that the people of this province and the members of the opposition are not going to let you get away without that scrutiny.
It is perfectly acceptable and regular procedure in this democracy at the start of clause-by-clause deliberations for the government to defend its bill. It is expected that the minister or the parliamentary assistant will begin with an opening statement of about 30 minutes in length and then be available to answer detailed questions on the policy implications of the legislation. The fact that after discussions this morning, which began at 10 o'clock -- it is now a quarter to 1 -- that you are asking for an adjournment until 2 o'clock, after you criticized all morning and turned down every motion to have the ministers come here and do this, is an admission of incompetence and an admission of an abuse of power.
Mr Chairman, I strongly suggest that Mr Clement not table that motion and that we get on with these hearings, or else the people of this province are going to fully understand that this bill in its entirety should be scrapped.
The Chair: I am going to have to call a two-minute recess myself to clarify something. We'll recess for two minutes.
The committee recessed from 1243 to 1244.
The Chair: All right. I'm going to back up a little bit, and I apologize for this. Mr Clement's original motion to recess I should have ruled was in order and it is debatable, so we have to go back to that particular motion.
Mr Clement: Mr Chairman, on a point of order: I'd like to withdraw that motion.
The Chair: Okay, motion withdrawn.
Mr Cooke: "Who's on first?"
The Chair: It's fun to be in the loop here. In view of that, I guess we're at the 30 minutes for Mrs Johns to make her presentation.
Ms Lankin: I think she's had enough briefing; we've wasted enough time, so we could begin.
The Chair: Mrs Johns, our decision to break at 1 o'clock is still in order, so we'll be looking at about 12 minutes and then the rest after lunch.
Mrs Johns: I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to speak. As you might guess, I've never been in committees before and I'm a little nervous about this whole process, so I hope you will bear with me as I proceed to tell you what I've learned over the last four weeks and what I've learned in the Ministry of Health prior to that.
I'd like to talk about our amendments, as was asked, and I'd like to start with the Ministry of Health Act. In that act, we made four amendments to the act. We made the amendments under subsection 8(7), where we wanted the commission to perform assigned duties and exercise assigned powers. Our second amendment to that was under subsection 8(8), a technical amendment to correct a translation error. The third amendment we have is to subsections 8(8.1) and (8.2).
Mr Gerretsen: That's on page 47?
Mrs Johns: I don't know. I haven't got the page in front of me. I'm sorry. I'm not following through in the act. Schedule F I'm talking about at this particular point.
We're amending the commission's four-year term and we're talking about adding additional periodic review. We're looking that a sunset clause be at four years.
The fourth amendment is to clause 12(c.1).
Ms Lankin: Mr Chair, on a point of order: I understand and sympathize with the first time before a committee and the nervousness, genuinely, but the intent of a presentation is not to read the amendments to us. We have them. It's to talk about the reasons these amendments are being brought forward and what has been heard and why. For example, we just skipped over the commission and assigning powers, which is one of the ones I've raised.
Mrs Johns: I'm just telling you what the amendments are now. I can talk about --
The Chair: Basically, the motion reads that the parliamentary assistant will have 30 minutes to present the government's amendments, which I believe is what Mrs Johns is doing.
Ms Lankin: So she's going to read the amendments, and you think this is an appropriate presentation.
Interjection: That's what the motion says.
Ms Lankin: If this is what the government thinks, if you want to play games and think this is appropriate, for a PA to read the amendments and not present the intent of the government, when that's what we have been debating all morning --
The Chair: Mrs Johns has the floor, Ms Lankin.
Ms Lankin: -- then you once again are showing that you don't care about the process, you don't care about informing people about the intent of the government and that you can't defend this bill and your amendments. This is a shame. If we sit here and have her simply read the amendments into the record and not give an explanation, this is an absolute sham of a process.
The Chair: Ms Lankin, Mrs Johns has the floor.
Ms Lankin: Absolutely, Mr Chair.
Mrs Johns: The fourth amendment in this section is under clause 12(c.1), the regulations assigning duties and powers to the commission.
As we went through the last three or four weeks, we had a number of people talk to us about the commission and the need for the commission. We had the Ontario Hospital Association come to us and talk about the need to assign a commission to implement the district health council proposals or to implement restructuring of hospitals in Ontario. That's what we're trying in this act to do.
One of the very major recommendations that came out of the last three weeks of hearings from a number of presenters, both hospitals and the OHA, was that we needed to sunset the clauses within this section, that this should not be running forward indefinitely. That is probably our major amendment to this section. We listened to the people and we've sunsetted the clause after four years. We made sure that provision was listened to from the people.
In the other sections, we're clarifying with respect to the commission's power. People have talked about what the commission should be able to do and what it shouldn't be able to do, and we talked about that in subsection 8(7).
The second group of amendments is to the Public Hospitals Act. The first amendment is subsection 6(4.1). It provides that we give 30 days' notice of intention re directions on what we're going to do with the hospitals.
Subsection 6(9) is the repeal of section 6 powers after four years.
The third amendment is to subsections 9(1), (1.1) and (1.2). We gave 40 days' notice re --
Mrs Caplan: Fourteen.
Mrs Johns: What did I say, 40? I'm sorry. As soon as I stop shaking, I'll be okay.
We gave 14 days' notice re implementing hospital supervisors, unless at any time there wasn't a quorum on the hospital board. That's what we did under that section.
In clause 32(1)(d), we've amended the regulations with respect to the hospital bylaws.
In subsection 13(3) of the bill there is a deletion of regulations prescribing additional circumstances where a physician's right to hearings and appeals could be limited.
The next amendment is to subsection 13(3). Where hospitals cease to provide services, boards can take actions re the appointment and privileges with no hearings, appeals or damages. We had references to clause 32(1)(u) and subsection 44(2) of the act.
The last amendment to the Public Hospitals Act was in section 14.
What we're basically doing here is making sure that we are able to implement the district health council reports, that we can work towards restructuring the health care system in Ontario. It has been my firm vision during the period of the hearings that with a restructuring of the hospitals, there will be money available to reallocate into other areas within the community.
We have had the Ontario Nurses' Association, in a written brief, say we have to have money to allocate into long-term care and into other health areas. This is our goal in this section: to make sure we are allowed to implement the hospital restructuring that comes out, which is community-driven, and we can then take the funds available from the restructuring and move them into health care. That plan is win-win for all the people of Ontario.
The third section we have amendments to is the Independent Health Facilities Act. The first section we amended was subsection 18(3), and that was the definition of "maximum allowable consideration," to ensure it covers the transfer of licences and shares.
We also amended subsection 19(2), which deletes the clause we had in the act previously, "or a prescribed person," to address the concerns of the CHA.
Section 25 is a technical amendment. There were two amendments to that section, and there was also one to section 23.
In section 26 we made some deletions. We deleted subsection 11(4.1) of the Independent Health Facilities Act, and it relates to a previous amendment.
In section 30 of the Independent Health Facilities Act, it also was a technical amendment, so I won't go into those.
Subsection 33(3) of the act is a technical amendment.
Section 34 is with respect to personal information and confidentiality. We have talked with the privacy commissioner this morning and I'll go into that as we get through those sections.
Section 35 is an amendment to grant immunity to the college as a corporate body. There's no immunity for inappropriate disclosure. That is something we heard a lot about during the hearings: make sure that a person's personal information was held private and sacred. As many of the people who made presentations during the hearings heard, there was some controversy about this, although it was never the intention of the government -- it was never anything we intended to do -- to have personal records and information being disclosed throughout the community. What we decided to do was clarify what we had thought was our intent originally, and I think we have pleased the privacy commissioner with what we did.
Mr Gerretsen: That's section 35?
Mrs Johns: Yes, 35.
Section 37: a technical amendment.
Subsection 38(1): an amendment to allow the ministry to put conditions on regulations exempting any health facility or service from the application of the act.
Section 38 is a technical amendment.
Subsection 38(4) is an amendment to allow the ministry to place conditions on regulations for prescribed amounts payable for services rendered in an IHF under subsection 42(1) of the act and to prescribe amounts payable to nil.
Subsection 38(4.1) is an amendment to allow the ministry to put conditions on regulations exempting any service from the application of the act, and subsection 38(5) is a regulation-making power for personal information.
The last two are subsection 38(6), which deletes subsection 42(5) of the act, and subsection 38(6), which is a technical amendment.
The reason we have independent health facilities is to ensure that we have a quality of care throughout Ontario. These independent health facilities, thanks to the Liberals, as we heard throughout our committee time, have put into place independent health facilities to allow people to ensure that they were getting the same quality of care throughout many organizations. We wanted to broaden that perspective to allow people to know there was a quality of care and that there was due process with these independent health facilities.
This section is here because we wanted to broaden that power. It's also here because we may need this in the district health council restructuring in some areas, and this is an important aspect of us being able to restructure the health care in Ontario and provide great-quality service for the people of Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs Johns. We'll recess until 2 o'clock, at which time Mrs Johns will have 18 minutes left.
Mr Phillips: Mr Chair, I'm not clear on who will be talking to what sections of the bill. There are two sections, among others, that I'm very interested in -- the arbitration section and the pension section -- and I'm just not sure who will be speaking to that.
The Chair: Does anyone have an answer for that?
Mr Clement: According to the motion, it's the parliamentary assistant who has carriage of that particular section of the bill.
Mr Phillips: Who has parliamentary carriage of that section of the bill?
Mr Sampson: I do.
Mr Phillips: Good. The mystery is cleared up.
The Chair: Thank you.
The committee recessed from 1257 to 1400.
The Chair: Welcome back. We will now continue with Ms Johns. She's got 18 minutes basically to go, to finish presenting the amendments. Ms Johns, the floor is yours.
Mrs Johns: Good afternoon. I was in the process of discussing schedule F, the Independent Health Facilities Act. I ran through the amendments to give you an opportunity to see the depth that we were talking about with the amendments.
Basically, in the Independent Health Facilities Act, we're looking for the ability to be able to restructure the hospital sector. We're looking for an overall view to be able to do that.
We're also looking to be able to provide more care in the community with a guaranteed quality assurance. We believe that's very important so that we know the people of Ontario are getting the best quality of health care and the qualities are being maintained at a certain level.
The third thing that we're doing in the Independent Health Facilities Act is that we're introducing an RFP process which will be able to look at certain preferences and to be able to decide on a weighting system that will allow us to get the necessary kind of care that the people in Ontario need in their communities.
The next section is schedule G, and that section relates to the Ontario Drug Benefits Act. We have 11 motions here. The first motion is on section 4. It's a housekeeping motion which clarifies a situation where eligible persons can be charged an additional amount for a prescription. Section 4 prohibits pharmacists from charging eligible persons for no-substitute prescriptions that meet prescription conditions. Subsection 6(6) allows reimbursement by ministers of additional costs of no-sub prescriptions. We then have four amendments on confidentiality as per the discussions earlier that we had about the freedom of information.
We then go to subsection 18(1), where we're talking about the regulation-making authority for no substitution. We have clause 18(1)(g.6), regulation-making authority to limit the supply of prescriptions. We also have an amendment, subsection 18(1), a regulation-making authority for personal information.
Section 23, the College of Pharmacists requested to make usual and customary fees apply to the drug dispensing, and subsection 27(1), the College of Pharmacists requested these two additional statutes.
Basically, what we're doing in this section is we have three motions to address concerns raised during the hearings, changes that will allow us to look at no substitution. We heard a lot of talk about this during the last three weeks of hearings, and we've made some changes by that. Two of the amendments are issues that were addressed by the College of Pharmacists and they meet the needs of the College of Pharmacists discussed.
The next acts, which is schedule H, I want to comment on this, the Health Insurance Act. I want you all to know that this schedule was prepared for the first time in 1972, and as a result of this, many of the needs that were expressed in the Health Insurance Act do not relate to the needs and the issues that are important in 1996. The Ministry of Health decided that it was time to make some amendments to allow this bill to meet the needs of the people of Ontario, and that's what we have done. We have a number of amendments here, and I guess we could run through them.
Section 2(1) is about personal information, as is 2(2). Section 2(3) is again about personal information, as is section 2.1. Sorry, the other two were subsections (1), (2) and (3).
Subsection 3(1) is about the MRC and the expedited process, the Medical Review Committee, how we can move towards allowing the MRC to act quickly in specific needs.
The next section is about the PRC and the same ability to move more quickly within the legislation to deal with situations that need to be taken care of quickly.
Section 9 is the private insurance for costs that are not paid by OHIP.
Section 11 in the bill, or section 17.1 in the act, thresholds for specific services: This allows us to deal with remaining within the caps and the ability we have to be able to provide services within that cap.
Section 12 of the bill is the general manager payment decisions based on opinions.
Section 13 is the eligible physicians' payment decisions based on opinions.
Section 12 of the bill expedites the MRC-PRC review. Section 12 also relates to the payment of costs where the general manager's decision is upheld. Section 12 is no publication under the expedited review process as a result of a decision being made.
Section 14 talks about who can appeal and the ability to appeal as a result of the expedited process.
Section 21: We have two amendments with respect to personal information.
Section 22: We allow the general manager to determine the address of the physicians. So we're trying to get personal information with respect to the physicians.
Section 23, date changes; section 23, exemption for non-eligible physicians.
Section 29, personal information; section 29, information collected by the RHPA; and section 30, clarifying who is entitled to information about whether a service was rendered.
We also deal in section 31 with the disclosure of personal information, and in section 32 the general manager may request an expedited review process. We've put that amendment in to move the process more quickly.
Section 32: The MRC and the PRC may conduct expedited reviews at the general manager's request. Section 32: We can clarify the applications of medical and therapeutic necessity.
Section 33: We eliminate the ministry inspectors we had put in previously. Because of a number of people who came in during the hearings and talked about the need for them and how many inspectors had been called upon previously, we brought in an amendment to that.
Section 33 changes the reference to inspectors in the MRC and section 33 does it with respect to the PRC. Section 33 is a correction re inspectors' powers. It's a housekeeping amendment. Section 33 is the MRC-PRC inspectors, the powers they have of a commission.
Subsection 34(1) is the regulation-making authority for fees. Subsection 34(2), we delete regulation-making authority, and subsection 34(7), regulation-making authority re limitations on fees.
In this particular section, there are a number of amendments as a result of the way we want to change the Health Insurance Act, mainly due to the age of the bill. We have listened carefully to people as they've come in through the committee process, and we have made some substantial changes as a result of that.
The last section is on the amendments to the Health Care Accessibility Act. This is the last area where we have made some changes. This act was put in effect by the Liberals, and what we have done with the amendments in this act is we have eliminated the ministry inspectors.
So that's what we've been trying to do.
From a global picture, which I think is what everybody was asking me to talk about, and why this government brought in Bill 26 in the health sections, I want to comment a little bit about that.
There are a number of problems with health care in Ontario that we have heard time and time again from people who have come before the committee, and this government is trying to make some substantial changes to be able to be more responsive to the desires that the people of Ontario have for a continuation of health care into the next millennium.
We have closed 9,700 beds in the last 10 years without a single light switch being turned off or a building being closed down. Areas of health care that need investments -- there are lots of them. The long-term care is growing at 13% per year. We have no money to move towards those new areas that need money. We have no ability to be able to meet the needs of the people of Ontario as it is.
We are providing in this act the ability, the tools that are necessary to make the locally planned improvements to the hospital system that will allow it to operate more effectively, more efficiently and will allow us to make better use of the scarce resources we have, which are dollars. We need to reinvest, we have to reinvest, and that's the purpose of why we have part of this bill, schedule F.
With respect to the independent health facilities, why did we touch this bill? What was the reason for us doing this?
We have independent health facilities at this time that provide a wide variety of services. Many of them offer services that are not provided by OHIP, and there needs to be a greater quality control on all of these different facilities that offer these services. We are increasing the government's ability to make sure that general health restructuring takes into account the role of the independent health facility and the relationship it will play to restructuring and community needs in the future.
The opposition has been criticizing the government for opening up a possible two-tiered system. We do not believe that. We believe it is far from that. What we are saying is that we're increasing the quality control that will help protect the citizens and the people of Ontario.
Why did we touch the Ontario drug benefit plan, schedule G? When the Ontario drug benefit program was brought in in 1974, the actuaries assessed the government's and said that the program would never grow above $100 million. Twenty years later, we have a program that costs approximately $1.3 billion and it's still growing. It's tripled in the last 10 years.
We have decided that in order to continue to afford the Ontario drug benefit program, and to extend benefits to 140,000 working-class poor in Ontario, we had to make some decisive decisions. We had to decide how best to reallocate the money within the program so as to be able to meet the needs. We're asking people for a small contribution to be able to help the working-class poor of Ontario.
Changes will also allow the ministry to add some of the new and very expensive drugs that are on the market on to the ODB formulary. We heard a lot from the AIDS people about this and how we had to be able to be receptive to be able to get new drugs on, because that was their lifeblood. So that's one of the things we're doing with respect to ODB.
The option that previous governments have used is that they've delisted drugs or taken them off the ODB formulary. I believe during the last two governments there were -- I'm going to quote -- maybe about 120 drugs that were taken off the formulary. Our government does not want to do this because some of those drugs are very important to people and they need those drugs to continue on. What we're looking for is a better way to provide drug benefits and drugs to the people of Ontario.
Under the Health Insurance Act, the ministry has knowledge of fraud, misuse and abuse of the health care system by consumers and by providers alike but very little ability to be able to combat the problem of these issues. We have given the government the ability to bring accountability to the use of taxpayer dollars in our health care system. I think we all know that there are enough dollars in health care at this point if they were allocated properly within the health care system. The people of Ontario can't afford to have one dollar that isn't going to the use of drugs and to their ability to best allocate the money down to them. That's the important thing. We're trying to get money down to the people who need it most, the people of Ontario, not tie it up in administration, not tie it up in programs that aren't working. We have given the government the ability to bring accountability to the use of taxpayers' dollars on health care.
One example of a provision that caused great concern was the introduction of the Ministry of Health inspectors. The Ontario Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons came to the ministry and said: "We can help you achieve the directives you want to have without you imposing inspectors. How about an expedited MRC process that will allow things to move more quickly, that will allow us to ensure that our system is being used effectively?"
The government listened, and that is why you're seeing a number of the amendments we've put in the bill. We made the necessary changes that will speed up and allow the Medical Review Committee process that will allow the government to deal with many of the problems that arise on a timely basis and will allow ourselves to be able to deal with them in a very efficient manner.
Mr Gerretsen: Now which amendment is this that you're speaking to?
Mrs Johns: We're now speaking to the Health Insurance Act, H.
Mr Gerretsen: No specific amendment?
Mrs Johns: No, I'm just talking. We're looking for a global perspective here.
Mr Gerretsen: I see.
Mrs Johns: Other changes in the Health Insurance Act allow government to manage the schedule of benefits, which governs how physicians have been paid in the past. In 1991, the NDP government gave up this ability, and as a result, some specialists and groups of physicians have said to the Ministry of Health that their services haven't been increased for many years. We see that problem when we talk about the delivery of babies in Ontario and how much money it costs them. We heard that numerous times as we went through the consultation process. We're taking over the schedule of benefits so that we can actually look at how physicians are being paid for certain services. Until Bill 26, the government has been able to help these physicians and therefore to help the people of Ontario.
While Bill 26 has been painted as a draconian, power-grabbing, undemocratic bill, I suggest --
Mr Gerretsen: I agree; I agree. Do you agree?
Mr Curling: I'll vote for that.
Mrs Johns: It's my turn.
I suggest that this is just not so. When we take away the fearmongering and all of the discussions that have gone on from the opposition, what we find in Bill 26 is a blueprint for health care reform in Ontario.
Mrs Caplan: Oh, please.
The Chair: That concludes your time, Mrs Johns. We now have 15 minutes per opposition party left for questions, beginning with the official opposition.
Mrs Pupatello: Helen, before we broke before lunch, you mentioned -- and I was very careful to listen to how you framed this -- you said it was the intent of your government that you had to redefine how moneys were spent within a community for health care, and it was your intent that moneys will be reallocated within the community. You having said that a couple of hours ago is in direct opposition to what the Minister of Health is on record as having stated, that the moneys in fact will not necessarily be going back to that community where the moneys are found in savings because of restructuring.
To most communities across Ontario, which are intent on restructuring anyway and will now be forced to do that rather quickly, this is a critical point and I need you to clarify, because we're getting two sides of this and communities need to know. When savings are being found within the community, is the money then staying within the community, as you said before lunch, or is it not staying within the community, as the Minister of Health is on record as saying?
Mrs Johns: What is happening with the reallocation of dollars is we're looking at specific projects and where we will invest money back. For example, this government has already reallocated money back into measle immunization. They've allocated money back into some long-term-care areas. We have allocated money back into dialysis.
What I'm saying to you is that we are looking for reallocation dollars. We will find the savings first, and we will reallocate them back into the communities.
Now, it won't go -- so what will happen is it will not go back --
Mrs Pupatello: So is that "communities" then?
Mrs Johns: "Communities." It will not be a saving in Windsor will go back to Windsor necessarily. It will go back to where the consumer need for the health service is.
Mrs Pupatello: Just for clarity then, those communities that find the millions of dollars of savings will not realize those same millions of dollars of savings within their community in health. Yes or no?
Mrs Johns: I think the issue that would be stated with that is that communities will have the health care they need and deserve, that every community will have the ability to have allocations as we make them on a need basis. For example, in your community if you don't need more dollars in long-term care and someone else does, we may well put them into an area where there are needs as opposed to just saying, "It came out of this area, it came into this."
The problem with what you're saying, Mrs Pupatello, is this, that we have some really very big growth areas in Ontario that do not have the same level of funding as other places.
Mr Cooke: All of Windsor's money is coming to the 905.
Mrs Johns: So in some areas we are reallocating the money. We're finding the savings. We're reallocating them back into the area where there is the need for it and where the service needs to be augmented.
Mrs Pupatello: I do have some trouble with that because this government is going back and forth on that. I think groups that are out there trying to restructure should know clearly that the carrot that was there with the previous government, something that did convince them to work cooperatively together, is gone. Any savings you find will be sucked out of that economy and likely go somewhere else, and I would submit that the government needs to find ways to act as incentive for these kinds of programs.
Mrs Johns: Can I just add to that before you change that?
Mrs Pupatello: Another point you made earlier was that you were listening to the Ontario pharmacy association and in response to what they were offering, you have come forward with amendments. I'm going back to a certain page in Hansard from the Ontario pharmacy association when they were here to speak to you. What they say is that they are "shocked and dismayed" that they have not been consulted, they have not been listened to and the only thing they are pleased with is that they finally got an opportunity to have hearings. I'm just curious to know what it is you're responding to because their organization is not pleased with you at all.
Mrs Johns: With respect to the first question that you had, Windsor does benefit by the reallocations we have made in the system. For example, we are immunizing your children from measles also, so we have reallocated money back. We are looking at dialysis machines throughout all of Ontario, so there is a reallocation back to a number of areas within Ontario. Where does the money come for those programs if we're not reallocating back into your community?
Mrs Pupatello: Are you asking me?
Mrs Johns: I'm saying it is --
Mrs Pupatello: I'd be happy to take some time to answer questions, Chair. I don't know that that's appropriate for this committee. I'm looking for the answers from you, frankly.
Mrs Johns: Then that is the answer from me.
Mrs Pupatello: So far you're telling the people of Ontario then that the money is not going back to their community. I wish you'd just say it like it is because people in Ontario are not interested in a paragraph answer when the reality is that the money's not there, that we already have people on waiting lists for dialysis despite programs being announced. In Windsor there are lineups. So what you're saying and what is actually happening are two different things. I'll defer to my colleague, Gerry.
Mrs Johns: With respect to the second question that you asked, the pharmacy college asked for the amendments that we've put through, not the association. That's the answer to the second one.
Mr Phillips: I was one of the members who was not on the health sector, so I just want to make sure I understand that you're implementing what I think.
You remember in the Common Sense Revolution you said:
"For some time now, there has been growing debate over the most effective way to ensure more responsible use of our universal health care system. In the last decade, user fees and copayments have kept rising and many health care services have been `delisted' and are no longer covered by OHIP."
You went on to say:
"We looked at those kinds of options," namely, copayments and user fees and delisting services, "but decided the most effective and fair method was to give the public and health professionals alike a true and full accounting of the costs of health care, and ask individuals to pay a fair share of those costs, based on income. We believe the new fair share health care levy, based on the ability to pay, meets the test of fairness and the requirements of the Canada Health Act while protecting the fundamental integrity of our health care system.
"Under this plan, there will be no new user fees."
My question is this: Do the amendments in your plan have the fair share health care levy in there and does this plan prohibit, as you committed to, any new copayments, new user fees or delisting services? Can you assure us that under your plan there will be no user fees? Is that all part of your plan here in the amendments and in the bill you proposed as kind of the cornerstone, I think, of this document?
Mrs Johns: I forget the first part of the question. I'm sorry. The second part was about no new user fees. The first part was about, oh, the fair share health tax levy.
Mr Phillips: Just that I assume that the reason for the health amendments was to implement your promises, and here you said that you looked at the possibility of copayments, delisting services, user fees, but you rejected all of those because you had a better plan, and during the election that was the fair share health care levy. I just want to be assured, because I wasn't in the health section, that there's nothing in this bill that permits new user fees, new copayments or delists services, and that the part of this plan is for your fair share health care levy.
Mrs Johns: First of all, with respect to the fair share health care levy, this is not discussed in Bill 26. The fair share health care levy is an issue that will be raised with the first budget and economic statement, the budget statement that we have.
Mr Phillips: So it just prohibits copayments then, I guess.
Mrs Johns: So that is not there at this particular point.
The second part, user fees as copayments: User fees are on those services that are covered by the Canada Health Act. These copayments that we have put in with respect to drugs are not user fees. We believe that.
Mr Cooke: Even your cabinet revised that.
Mrs Johns: And from that standpoint, what we are saying is that the copayments that people are making in Ontario for drugs will allow 140,000 new people, working-class poor, to have the ability to have a drug plan. This is a system that has never been before. These people work mostly for minimum wage, and a health disaster could wipe them out in a moment, so this is a system that's good for Ontario, and in my riding I can say that I haven't very many people calling to complain about this. The seniors of Ontario believe that they should be helping their fellow mankind.
Mr Phillips: I appreciate that. It's just that you have gone against what you said you were going to do. That's all I wanted to know, that you've decided that what you said there you've changed, and this bill changes it. That's all I wanted to know. You said you wouldn't have copayments.
Mrs Johns: I don't agree with that.
Mr Phillips: I realize that you may not, but that's what you just said.
Mrs Caplan: I have a number of questions, unless any of my colleagues want to go first.
Mr Gerretsen: Go right ahead.
Mrs Caplan: The first question I would have for you is, do you agree that Bill 26 has very significant health policy implications?
Mrs Johns: Yes.
Mrs Caplan: You're also saying that your amendments respond to what you've heard from presentations at committee. Is that correct?
Mrs Johns: In some instances, yes.
Mrs Caplan: Just about every presentation before this committee said that the minister should not have the ability to delegate his authority to the restructuring commission, and yet you've brought in an amendment which allows him to delegate more and is more specific about the authority to delegate.
How can anybody believe that you've listened to anything you've heard when your very first amendment doesn't respond to the wishes of the Ontario Hospital Association, the doctors, the insurance companies? Everyone who came forward said the minister should not delegate his authority, he should make the decision and then allow a commission to implement, but he must be responsible. They said he must not have the ability to delegate his powers. How do you justify that?
Mrs Johns: What I heard said over the course of the last three weeks was that there had to be a restructuring commission. There had to be somebody to implement the communities' plans and what they feel is best for their health care in their communities.
What we heard was that there had to be a commission that would allow the implementation of this process to happen. For example, the Ontario Hospital Association suggested that, the district health council that came in suggested that. There had to be some body to be able to allocate and to implement the plans within each area that needed to be done.
We believe we have met those needs by setting the commission and giving them the responsibilities to be able to amalgamate, to merge, to be able to meet the needs of the community, and we believe we've fulfilled their objectives in that area.
Mrs Caplan: Then you haven't heard a word that anyone has been saying to you. Even those who came in and said, "Yes, you should have a restructuring commission to implement plans," each and every one of them said, "but the minister should not be able to delegate powers." My question to you is, if you really want to listen, if you really have heard, will you bring in an amendment or will you pass our amendment which will allow a restructuring commission to implement but will ensure that it is the minister who approves those plans? Will you commit today that you will not delegate powers, as every one of the presenters asked you. They said: "Do not allow the minister to delegate his powers. He must be accountable."
Mrs Johns: As a result of the NDP's implementation of the district health councils, there are 60 reports that are coming to us in the next period of time. We want to act quickly to implement health restructuring and hospital restructuring in Ontario and we need to have an ability to react quickly to these reports and to be able to implement visions to be able to have the hospitals restructured. We believe that the best way to do that is to have a commission that deals with every one of those reports, finds similarities and differences and can use that knowledge to be able to move on to the next restructuring. We believe a commission is an absolutely imperative issue.
Mrs Caplan: I'm not arguing with you about having a commission to implement a plan where there has been process in a community and consensus developed in a community. What I'm arguing, as well as every presenter before the committee, is that that commission shouldn't have the powers of a minister. That's the only thing that everyone has said consistently. There are some people who didn't like a commission at all, but those who did like the idea of a commission felt the minister should make the decision and then the commission implement. Why haven't you listened to all of those organizations and individuals and presenters who said yes to a commission to implement, but the commission should not have the powers of a minister?
Mrs Johns: We believe we have listened in the fact that we've said the commission must be accountable to the minister and that at any time the minister can go back and ask the commission to be accountable for its actions. We believe we are doing that.
Mrs Caplan: The next thing that people objected to with your commission was the fact that there was no process. While it is true that your legislation doesn't change the advisory nature of a district health council, nor does it require any process or community participation whatever, why haven't you listened to each and every one of those presenters who came forward and said, "Make sure that you build in a requirement for community participation so that people can be heard, so that there will be what's called due process"?
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Caplan. The 15 minutes is up. Third party.
Ms Lankin: The issue with respect to the health restructuring commission and the assignment of powers I think, Ms Johns, you haven't answered, and I think the amendments you have put forward in fact do not accomplish what we heard from virtually every group that was in support of the health restructuring commission. So I hope that's an amendment you will revisit as we go through the clause-by-clause.
Following up on Mrs Caplan's question, you said in your overall presentation that these actions would be community-driven, and I think you've said a number of times during the public hearings that your government intends to respect the work of local district health councils in the local planning. It was pointed out on a number of occasions that while the legislation requires the health restructuring commission to be set up and while it continues to require the work of district health councils, there was no linkage between the two, and you've said on a number of occasions that it's your intent as a government to have those two things linked.
I'm wondering why you didn't bring forward an amendment to address that point and, secondly, will you support our amendment which in fact makes that linkage?
Mrs Johns: This is an issue that we have heard from a number of different people, and I'm sure, because I know how thorough you are, that you've read the ONA report too, where they talk about linkages and how in some cases the district health council looks at specific issues and doesn't take into account the global perspective of health care in a community. When it started out, the district health council only looked at hospitals as opposed to health care. One of the criticisms they had is that we have to look at long-term care, we have to look at a number of different issues when we're assessing the needs of the community, because right now, quite frankly, what happens is that the hospital structuring comes in, closes a hospital or closes a bed, and all the savings are deferred.
Ms Lankin: Ms Johns, I want to actually bring you back to the question, I'm sorry to do this. I think that the points that you make are all valid points --
Mrs Johns: Yes, so can I just refer to that?
Ms Lankin: -- and the commission has the ability to implement what it sees fit on to your legislation and I'm not asking for some binding. I'm saying, having regard to those reports, this is what you committed to us over and over again during the hearings. I'm just wondering, will you support an amendment that actually makes that linkage that the commission has to look at and have regard to DHC reports?
Mrs Johns: From that perspective, there may be a case where a district health council has not looked at all aspects within the community --
Ms Lankin: Granted.
Mrs Johns: -- and we may have to in some ways --
Ms Lankin: Augment the process.
Mrs Johns: -- be prepared for that situation or augment the process.
Ms Lankin: Right.
Mrs Johns: So we have decided that the terms of reference with respect to this can include process or we can talk about the different issues so that we will be able to change them in different situations. So we believe that the linkage shouldn't necessarily be through legislation, that there should be an adaptable process to be able to meet the needs of the community.
Ms Lankin: Thank you. So what you told us day after day during public hearings is in fact not what you're prepared to support in legislation.
Let me ask you about your comments in terms of reinvestment of the dollars saved into the overall health care pot. Nothing in this legislation guarantees that and I think you would acknowledge it's one of the very sensitive points that people are very concerned about. There is an amendment that has been proposed by our caucus which would see the moneys saved earmarked for reinvestment in the health care sector and it's an amendment I'd like to know whether you would support and whether you would ask the minister if he would support, and perhaps he might even sponsor it, given his commitments to the reinvestment of those dollars.
Mrs Johns: The party has stated --
Ms Lankin: I know that. Would you support that kind of an amendment?
Mrs Johns: -- that we will have $17.4 billion in health care at the end of our mandate and what that means is that money will be in the health care system in the same amount as is in today.
Ms Lankin: Would you support that in an amendment to the legislation?
Mrs Johns: We feel that that's a strong enough statement that we don't need to --
Ms Lankin: Don't need to put it in the legislation.
Mrs Johns: -- that's what we will be dealing with.
Ms Lankin: "Trust me."
Mrs Johns: I think the voters will be judging us on those grounds, if we have the money maintained in health care or not.
Ms Lankin: "Trust me." That's what it boils down to.
Could I ask you, with respect to the Ontario Drug Benefit Act, there were some very specific and I think important concerns raised by a number of groups around copayments and I heard you say a little bit earlier that seniors support this. That's not quite what we heard from the seniors who came forward, but let me ask you about an even more particular group. Those patients who are suffering from mental health illnesses or psychiatric illnesses, we heard very, very damaging predictions about what the copayment would mean to that patient population. Could you tell me why you haven't listened to that and why you haven't built something in that would protect that very vulnerable group?
Mrs Johns: We have heard that. There are a number of people who will be impacted as a result of the number of prescriptions they take in a time frame and we intend to look at that through the regulations to make sure that people aren't unduly penalized as a result of a serious number of prescriptions that people like the mental health may well have.
Ms Lankin: So are you giving us a commitment that the regulations will actually set out classes of people to whom the legislation will now not apply in terms of copayments?
Mrs Johns: No one's giving me a clue.
Ms Lankin: Okay.
Mrs Johns: Don't know.
Ms Lankin: Don't know. "Trust me"; that's number two.
In terms of schedule H and the Health Insurance Act, section 12, sections 18(2) and (3), the consulting by the general manager of OHIP with a physician -- I think you know the section -- could you tell me why you think it is appropriate for the general manager of OHIP to consult with a physician about whether or not a chiropractor's billings are in fact therapeutically necessary?
Mrs Johns: I think this is one of the excellent points that you've brought up on our three-week road trip. I agree with you that what we have said, in effect, is that for doctors there will be a practitioner who is able to evaluate that. At the Ministry of Health, at this point, there is no chiropractor or person who is employed by the Ministry of Health, so they have used a medical practitioner in that area. What the intent is of the Ministry of Health, and has always been the intent --
Ms Lankin: Are you going to amend this? Are you going to amend your amendment?
Mrs Johns: We're waiting to see your amendment.
Ms Lankin: No, I'm sorry. This is an amendment you dropped on us on Friday morning, after days and weeks of you being able to prepare your amendments. It went through you, it went through the other two PAs who are on this committee, it went through the Minister of Health, it went through his staff, it went through legal counsel. Nobody noticed it. It took me five minutes to find it. It's not up to me, Ms Johns, to correct your mistakes.
Mrs Johns: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Ms Lankin: Are you going to amend this?
Mrs Johns: We have a draft of one and we would like to submit it for your approval first. Have a look at it and see what you think of it, and we would be happy to do that.
Mr Cooke: Why didn't you give the original amendments to her?
Mrs Johns: The original amendment deals with this. I want to say that it was never the intention of the Ministry of Health to say, "We'll always use a doctor to establish chiropractic or any other needs."
Ms Lankin: But you agree that that's what your amendment would --
Mrs Johns: That's the way the reading goes, and we're certainly happy to clarify that.
Ms Lankin: Can you tell me why the Minister of Health, sitting in his office reviewing that, would have approved that amendment to be tabled before this committee?
Mrs Johns: It's the current practice.
Ms Lankin: It is not the current practice for a physician to review chiropractic billings.
Mrs Johns: Well, the ministry people here are saying it is. Mary Catherine, would you like to talk to that issue?
Ms Lankin: At this point in time, I will move on, but you'd be interested to speak to the chiropractors about that and their understanding of the process and their involvement in that process. They would disagree with what you have just said. But I understand that was provided to you by counsel and officials sitting with you.
Let me ask you about independent health facilities. You said that your intent was, through DHC restructuring reports and hospital restructuring, that more services would be provided through independent health facilities. We heard over and over again that people felt there needed to be a public process about those services that you would designate to be provided through an independent health facility.
Mrs Johns: I missed it. I'm sorry, there's too much noise.
Ms Lankin: With your amendments, you did not address that fact. There is no public process around the designation of services and/or clinics and/or operations to be designated under an independent health facility. I'm wondering why you haven't amended it to deal with that very real concern that I think people have that you are going to move things out of the hospital sector and/or bring in occupations and groups and services that have never been covered under the act, without due process or without public process.
Mrs Johns: With the independent health facilities, we believe that with the restructuring, we need to be able to allocate some areas to independent health facilities. So that's what we're trying to do and we believe we have to have the ability to do that. I don't think that was your question.
Ms Lankin: No.
Mrs Johns: You're asking me about the due process. I'm sorry, it was really noisy. I apologize. There was talking here going on. Can you just --
Ms Lankin: Very specifically, there were groups who are currently providing services outside of a hospital who indicated a concern that they may be swept under the auspices of the Independent Health Facilities Act without any due process. The designation does not set out a process for informing people, and quite frankly, the powers with respect to revocation of licences and others -- I'll keep talking while you read that or --
Mrs Johns: No, I'm going to read it to you.
Ms Lankin: Okay, go ahead.
Mrs Johns: "Public hearings and 30-day notice provisions may delay the intent of the amendments to permit flexibility and quick response that may be recommended by the restructuring commission. Where recommendations for designations arise through restructuring initiatives, consultation through the process would have already occurred. In other instances such as designations to move a private hospital within the scope of an IHF, a consultative process may not be necessary." It may be that they're doing those services at this particular time.
Ms Lankin: So in fact, although that concern was made by many groups, made very clear, it's a concern that you've not listened to. Essentially, you're saying to people again, "Trust us."
Mrs Johns: The Ministry of Health doesn't believe that that is necessary or a safeguard that needs to be there.
Ms Lankin: I guess if you want to have all the power to make all the decisions and to act as quickly as you want and not have any respect for a public process or due process, sure, I can understand the ministry taking that position. That's not the position you, as an elected official who's elected the responsibility to guard public interest and public process, I think, should be taking, but there we have it. It's another "Trust me."
With respect to the Public Hospitals Act, section 14, subsection 44(1.1), where you have narrowed the application of the minister's ability to give powers to CEOs to revoke hospital privileges of physicians without due process to a situation where the hospital ceases to provide services, either at the decision of the CEO or by the direction of the minister: Can I ask you in that situation why you wouldn't provide either due process for physicians in that situation because there where a service is ceasing to be provided, it more than likely will be relocated, say in a merger or in the rationalization of services, to another hospital and there is no ability for a physician to argue that he should be able to follow his patients or his clientele to that?
Secondly, what we heard you argue was that where there were quality concerns or due concerns about the physician, why would you not protect the existing process for physicians in this circumstance?
Mrs Johns: With respect to the doctor and what will happen is that in some cases specific wings in a hospital will be closed down because the restructuring will suggest that we move them to another area to consolidate or the closure of a hospital, we have said that the doctor's privileges will not follow. Basically what we're saying is that the doctor's not employed by the hospital. He's a self-employed individual. He has the ability to apply for privileges at another hospital that will give him all of the benefits that come with the privileges of another hospital.
Ms Lankin: But you've taken away the appeal process if that is rejected. That's the concern. If you rationalize services and move nephrology, was an example that we heard, to another hospital and the individual doctor has been a very strong advocate on behalf of that hospital budget area in that centre and has been a thorn in the side of the hospital CEO community and they know it and privileges are denied, there's no process for appeal for that doctor. Why would you do that?
I understand the need for restructuring and being able to. In a situation of closure it's fairly obvious, but where services are being moved, why would you not leave the right of appeal and due process for the physician and those physicians' patients to have the physician go with them to where the services will be provided?
Mrs Johns: If the hospital is no longer providing services, for example, they're not in the OB area any more, there's no need for the services from that doctor if he's a doctor who delivers babies.
Ms Lankin: Ms Johns, where you're rationalizing services, what's happening in many of these restructurings is services are being relocated into one hospital instead of being provided in two or three different hospitals.
Mrs Johns: Yes.
Ms Lankin: In that circumstance, the hospital that is actually ceasing to provide the service can revoke the privileges.
Mrs Johns: Yes.
Ms Lankin: But you've also not provided an opportunity, if the other hospital doesn't grant the application for privileges, for the appropriate appeal.
Mrs Johns: That's true. I agree with you that's true. The doctor then has to go and apply to the other hospital for an ability to work in the hospital, for privileges.
Ms Lankin: Okay.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Lankin. Thank you, Mrs Johns.
Ms Lankin: There's much more I would like to be able to ask the honourable parliamentary assistant. I'm sure you're aware of that, Mr Chair.
Mrs Johns: I'd like to thank you for your time and your questions.
The Chair: Who's next? Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson: Thank you, Mr Chairman. I'm here to speak to --
Mr Curling: Everything.
Mr Sampson: -- just about everything else, with the exception of --
Mrs Pupatello: Schedule Q.
Mr Sampson: No. We'll deal with schedule Q. I'll be speaking to everything but schedule M.
Let me just start off by indicating to the committee that the sections I'm dealing with are part of, obviously, this particular piece of legislation and certainly part of the overall theme and intent of the legislation, which is to follow through with our election commitment to streamline government, to reduce its cost and to deliver to the electorate of this province on our commitment to change the way in which we're governed in this province.
Our first priority, and it's part of this bill, is to get Ontario out of the burden of the rising debt. We clearly must deal with the fact that there are a number of things which this government is currently doing, instituted by previous governments, that we shouldn't be doing any more. It's important to focus on what government does best and do that better; and what government is not very good at, rationalize it, reduce it or eliminate it. That's what business has been doing for years. That's how business survives a down cycle. They don't survive a down cycle by continuing to go to the banker and saying, "Please, more money, sir or ma'am." They survive a down cycle by focusing on what they do well, doing it better and ceasing what they don't do well.
We in this province have $100 billion in debt. We must figure out ways so that we can pay the interest on that first, and then, through the restructuring and realignment of government, identify how it is we can start to pay that back. Clearly, if we don't deal with the spiralling debt and deficit problem, there are fundamental things which this government is currently doing that we just simply will no longer be able to do -- period, full stop, that's it. It is not appropriate for the government of this province to go back to its electorate and say: "I'm sorry, I can no longer afford education. I'm sorry, I can no longer afford certain aspects of health care." We must restructure what we're doing. Bill 26 is part of that restructuring process.
Mr Gerretsen: So you're announcing the tax cut then? Is that correct?
Mr Sampson: One of the ways in which we intend to deliver on the restructuring process is to deal with our transfer partners fairly and effectively, providing them, as we've called it, the tools to be able to manage their affairs like we want to manage ours. It's inappropriate for us to deal with getting our house in order, but can you continue to have the handcuffs on our transfer partners as they deal with their economic reality, their commitment to their electorate and, frankly, their ability to raise funds to pay for what it is they're doing? This bill allows the flexibility so that we in the provincial level and our transfer partners can get on with the job of governing effectively, efficiently and with a purpose.
Our government is committed to the objective of delivering on job growth and job opportunities. We heard, as we travelled throughout the province, as it relates certainly to the Mining Act amendments, from mining companies and prospectors, small and large prospectors who believed what we were doing in the Mining Act amendments was providing them the opportunity to stay in the province and also to actively develop the rich resources that this province has. So that's part of the reasons why the Mining Act amendments are in this particular bill. It's part of our job strategy. It's part of our strategy in dealing with government size and bureaucracy, but it's also part of our job strategy.
I'm going to go through a schedule-by-schedule review of the particular bill and the aspects that I intend to speak to. But let me start off with commenting about the public sector salary disclosure act.
What we have in that particular act is an attempt to force people who are earning a salary, indirectly or directly via the public purse, to disclose that salary just like public corporations must now disclose the salary and benefits of certain senior executives. There's nothing unusual about this.
Mr Cooke: We all agree with it.
Mr Gerretsen: Nobody said there was.
Mr Sampson: Frankly, you're right, Mr Cooke. Nobody has spent a lot of time on this one. There are in fact, as we would suggest, no particular amendments to this act.
Schedule B, amendments to the Corporations Tax Act: What is that particular amendment? I put it to you that it's dealing with the business of governing that the previous government was not prepared to deal with in its term of office. It's dealing with proposals that were put to the people of Ontario in a budget over two years ago where the NDP government said: "Here's what we intend to do with respect to corporation tax issues. Trust me. We'll put it into legislation." Here we are now over two years later and "trust me" never happened.
People, corporations have been paying taxes -- I want it clear -- on the basis of law that the previous government never put in place for well over two years. We're prepared to put it into place.
Mr Cooke: And we're grateful for that.
Mr Sampson: I want to also point out that throughout the hearings we heard from members from the NDP that one of the solutions to the current economic situation we're in now is to tax the rich and to tax corporations. This particular amendment, this schedule takes the tax for corporations down, not up. Where were they two years ago with this view that the way out of the debt problem was to increase taxes to corporations? Where were they? It's typical doublespeak from the NDP.
As I said earlier this morning, sometimes I just get dizzy trying to follow the logic and trying to establish some level of consistency between the various parties' views from time to time, minute to minute, day to day, year to year. So we're prepared to implement what our friends on the other side deemed was so crucial two years ago and now they believe they would like to have unwound. I notice none of the members of the NDP would own up to this particular section of the act during the public hearings. Certainly, when comments were made by deputants that the solution to our economic problems was to increase taxes, I noticed they weren't prepared to pipe up and say, "Well, we thought opposite two years ago."
Mr Cooke: Hey, look, we're in third place. Why are you attacking us?
Mr Gerretsen: We won't count this against you.
Mr Sampson: There'll be two technical amendments to that particular act that deal with issues that could have created a double taxation point that was a very complicated piece of legislation. I'll have you know, by the way, that that particular schedule, when you take out the French and the English version, is 11 pages thick or deep or however you want to call that, and that puts it the fourth-largest section in this bill, highly complex but the fourth-largest section of this bill.
The Ontario Loan Act, 1995: Well, we are all well aware of the financial situation that this province is in. Unfortunately, contrary to some of the deputants who came in front of us who said we should renege on our debt, that we shouldn't borrow the money --
Mr Gerretsen: No, no, they said renege on your income tax cut.
Mr Sampson: -- we have to borrow the money. I will note to you also that many deputants said to us, "Why are you borrowing money offshore?" Again, I'm sorry if I'm beating up on the third party today, but the opposition will get its time. It's the third party, the NDP, that instituted that program a number of years ago -- borrowing money via the Eurobond market from, yes, offshore, paying, foreign currency debt, exposing this province to significant foreign currency risk and exposure simply -- why? -- because North America said: "I've had it. There's no more money for you, Mr Ontario. The pot is empty." Why? Because the biggest provider of capital to this province in the past, public pension funds, said: "I've had it. No more money for you. I'm overexposed to the province. You've cut the value of my portfolio significantly because of three credit downgrades. This is it. It's over."
So we had to go to the Euromarket, we had to go to the foreign market and we had to expose ourselves to significant foreign exchange risk. This is the legacy that was left to us by the previous government. Unfortunately, we're going to have to borrow. Schedule D outlines how that is done. No comment through the hearing on that.
Schedule E relates to amendments to the Capital Investment Plan Act. Here we have yet another piece of legislation that we are having to enact to establish in law a policy and a priority, I think at that time, and an initiative established by the NDP government, a private-public sponsorship of a highway. Great idea, but did they have the fortitude to bring legislation to the table? No. Why? I frankly have no idea. I have a hard time understanding why anybody on that side of the table does anything, but I have no idea why they wouldn't bring it to the table. A fundamental policy, their first foray into public-private partnership and they weren't prepared to legalize it.
Mr Cooke: That's because you were filibustering everything in the House.
Mr Sampson: So we're going to have to do it. Well, the comment was that we were filibustering. The honourable member knows that the House sat in 1995 for a little over three months, all of them during our term of office. They refused to bring the House back, in fact, after the winter recess. I think the results of the June 8 election might give us some indication as to why they did that.
Mr Cooke: I'm sure we lost the election because we didn't sit in the spring of 1995.
Mr Sampson: You might have lost even more.
Schedule J, pay equity amendments: This particular section of the act is attempting to bring pay equity back to its fundamental basis. We have heard concerns about that throughout the province, yes; that's quite true, but most of those concerns have focused on whether or not the base pay for certain jobs is appropriate, not whether the comparison to male jobs is appropriate but whether the base pay -- I think most of the discussion centred on pay for day care workers -- is appropriate. We've attempted to bring pay equity back to its fundamental basis and move on from there.
Schedule K, amendments to the freedom of information and privacy act and the municipal --
Mr Silipo: That's it?
Mr Gerretsen: That's all you're going to say about pay equity?
Mr Sampson: Mr Chairman, if the members here would like to take the floor, they're more than welcome to table this bill.
The Chair: This is Mr Sampson's half-hour. You do have your time coming up.
Mr Gerretsen: I thought he was going to talk about the amendments.
Mr Silipo: I thought there'd be some explanations first.
Mr Sampson: Schedule K deals with the privacy act. We at this point in time are proposing no amendments to that particular act. That schedule deals with and is part of our attempt to try to relieve the administrative burden of various agencies and various bodies having to respond to the privacy act requirements.
We are proposing no amendments, as I said, but we believe this schedule deals with the requests for information under that act fairly and appropriately. We have heard some discussion that the way to do that is to receive the request, have all the work done to prepare the information, and after that, as a result of a series of hearings and appeals etc, then determine whether it's fair. Well, that doesn't solve the cost problem associated with frivolous requests. It doesn't come anywhere near to doing that. In fact, it adds to it.
Schedule L, amendments to the Public Service Pension Act: I think it's important for the committee to understand that when amendments to the Pension Benefits Act were brought to the House in 1987, the other side of the floor here didn't raise one question about this section of the Pension Benefits Act amendment -- not one. It didn't come up in committee, it didn't come up in the House in the debates, but now they're terribly concerned about it. Where were they in 1987? What has changed between now and 1987? Not one concern.
The other thing that I think is important for this committee to understand is that the payments that would be required, in the absence of this schedule, to be paid to the employees pursuant to the windup provision are not funds that have been paid into the pension fund by the employee; they've been paid in by the employer. There's absolutely no payment that an employee has paid that will be reduced as a result of this schedule.
Mr Gerretsen: That won't solve the workers' debt.
Mr Sampson: That is the fact, Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: That's even worse.
Mr Cooke: It's deferred wages.
Mr Sampson: It's not deferred wages; the members on the other side know full well it's not deferred wages. The purpose of this particular section of the schedule is to deal with Pension Benefits Act amendments. They were all-encompassing in 1987, by the way, and were prompted by issues relating to surpluses and how pension surpluses were to be dealt with. As a concession to deal with pension surpluses, this particular component was slipped in to protect the integrity of the fund. I put it to the members of the public who came before the committee and I put it to this committee and I'll do that again and again, I suspect, that the integrity of this fund is not jeopardized by a substantial layoff. The province owes the money under the fund. The province is everybody. "Is the province going out of business?" I kept asking the public. No.
Schedule O, the Mining Act amendments: This schedule is dealing with at least two issues that we believe are part of our plan to reschedule and restructure and create jobs. The first is dealing with the reality that mine development is not a stagnant issue. Environmental issues change day to day, year to year, as governments and Ontarians get more, or less, environmentally concerned. Mines are developed or not developed based upon certain commodity prices, so it's very difficult to determine in any year how developed a particular resource base is or will be.
The company's financial ability to deal with any relating mine hazard changes from time to time, from cycle to cycle. So the current provisions of the act that say, "Here is a one-shot time picture of your environmental liability and here is your one-shot picture of your potential economic losses associated with that," are inconsistent with reality. It doesn't work. It's important to have the flexibility to deal with mine issues, environmental concerns relating to those, as the mine goes through its life cycle and as corporations go through their economic cycle, and that's what this schedule is trying to do.
Closure plans will be filed -- same process -- but they'll be reviewed from time to time to determine their level of appropriateness. Financial assurances tests will be established at the beginning and they'll be reviewed from time to time to determine their level of appropriateness. That's the way it should be. That reflects the reality of mine development. That does not reflect what the current statute is calling for, so amendments were needed and that's what's here.
We've also responded to environmental concerns, and I put it to you that the amendments proposed in the schedule create a burden on corporations with respect to environmental policing, if I can put it that way, that are higher than the current statute. Why? Because we've provided mine inspectors with essentially unlimited access to information, documents, sites, the whole ball of wax at a moment's notice, without a warrant. Why? Because we said to the minister, "You need the powers to be able to move today to deal with today's environmental issue," not tomorrow to deal with today's environmental issue, because tomorrow is a completely different day and it has associated with it potentially completely different hazards. The minister needs the power today. We've given him that in this particular legislation.
Schedule P, another one that attracted reams of attention during the hearings, as you can probably expect, amended the Ministry of Correctional Services Act quorum. No comment-saves us $300,000. That's what we're doing.
Finally, schedule Q, amendments to various statutes with respect to interest arbitration: As you probably expect, we heard a significant amount of public input on this particular schedule. But we put the schedule in this act because it's part and parcel of our need to identify a fundamental fact: that in 1996 the ability to pay additional increases in the public sector is limited to none; period.
Anybody who does not agree with that, I encourage them to step out of the room, stop John Q. Public and say, "Excuse me, sir, could I have another $100 in tax from you?" I think you'll find a very clear answer, and it's not going to be in the affirmative.
The population of this province is taxed. We aren't at the tax wall; we're over it. Anybody who believes that there's an unlimited source of money there to tap, to resolve arbitration issues, is simply not dealing in the reality of 1996. We heard deputations saying, "Well, arbitrators believed that ability-to-pay criteria in 1967 or 1972 were inappropriate." Of course they were. Of course they were inappropriate then. The financial positions in 1960, in 1970 and even in 1980 are like night and day compared to now. I put it to you that the financial situation between 1990 and now is significantly different, with another $50 billion in debt hanging over each and every one of our shoulders and our children's shoulders. But certainly to compare and say that we were in the same economic reality in the 1980s and 1970s as we are now is, to put it mildly, a big stretch of one's imagination.
We need to have criteria laid out in law that instruct arbitrators about what it is they must consider. Is it the full basket? No. They can consider other relevant factors, and we've brought in amendments to deal with other relevant factors that they may or may not want to consider. But fundamentally it's crucial that they focus on where the money is coming from to pay for the award.
Mrs Pupatello: Is it level of service?
Mr Sampson: Somebody's got to check the bank account first.
Mr Cooke: So why are you cutting taxes?
Mr Sampson: You and I don't go and buy the freezer and the fridge and the car without checking the bank account.
Mr Cooke: No, but you're going against --
Mr Sampson: We all have to behave by the same rules financially and economically. The banker's over our shoulder saying: "No more overdraft, Mr Province. Deal with the reality."
Mr Cooke: So why are you cutting taxes?
Mr Sampson: The taxpayer's looking over our shoulder saying: "No more taxes, please. I've had it. In fact, you're taking way too much."
Mr Cooke: Why are you cutting taxes?
Mr Sampson: Because we're taking away too much.
Mr Cooke: You're cutting taxes in order to increase the deficit.
The Chair: This is Mr Sampson's time, please.
Mr Gerretsen: A point of order.
The Chair: Mr Gerretsen, no, this is Mr Sampson's time. You have your time coming up.
Mr Gerretsen: You don't even know what I'm going to say, so you don't know what my point of order is. All right. If you don't want to hear my point of order, then fine, let's go ahead. At least we know where you're coming from.
Mr Sampson: Mr Chairman, to facilitate my friend to the left, this is the last schedule. I just want to close by reminding the committee that, frankly, we campaigned on a pledge to the province, to the voters and the taxpayers --
Mrs Pupatello: No health tax. That's one of them.
Mr Cooke: No new user fees.
Mrs Pupatello: No health tax, no user fees. What else did they say wouldn't be taxed?
Mr Sampson: Can I continue, Mr Chair, or does somebody else want the floor?
The Chair: They seem to.
Mrs Pupatello: I'd be happy to take the floor.
The Chair: It's not your turn, Mrs Pupatello. It's Mr Sampson's turn.
Mrs Pupatello: Then please just finish. If it's a little bit more --
The Chair: Show him some respect, please. Show him some respect and let him finish.
Mrs Pupatello: That's fine. I want to hear specifics about the schedules of this bill.
The Chair: It's his turn. He has the floor.
Mrs Pupatello: I don't want to hear about a campaign promise that they have yet to pursue.
The Chair: Mrs Pupatello, Mr Sampson has the floor.
Mr Sampson: We campaigned on a commitment to this province, unlike some of the members on the opposite side who campaigned on something that wasn't -- I'm not too sure what it was. We said to this province we would make major changes to the way in which this province is governed.
Mr Cooke: No cuts to health and no --
Mr Sampson: Not tinkering here and there. We've had the tinkering. The tinkering has gotten us from $50 billion in debt to $100 billion. Thanks very much for tinkering. That's it. We don't want any more tinkering.
Mr Cooke: What about new user fees?
Mr Sampson: The electorate said: "Deliver on significant change, government. We expect it, we want it, we deserve it." Bill 26 is part of that program. We're not finished our mandate yet. There are significant changes to make. This is the Queen Mary we're turning around and it's going to take some time. This is a first alteration in course. It's dramatic, yes. It certainly reflects a big change from the status quo, the downward- spiralling status quo, and we're prepared to deliver.
Mr Chairman, I will now yield to my friends on the other side who I think have some questions for me.
The Chair: Thank you. Now it's your turn, Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: This is just on a point of order. I thought the reason the motion was passed was for the parliamentary assistants to run through the amendments, as Ms Johns did, in fairness to her -- well, at least she did before lunch; I don't know what happened during lunch -- to indicate where the government is going to make some changes with respect to things in the bill they have heard about from the public in the last weeks. All we heard from Mr Sampson was a campaign speech, or maybe that's the speech that ought to have been given by him or by the minister at the time the bill was presented. At least then there would have been some sort of justification for that speech.
It sounds to me as if he hasn't learned anything from the 180 delegations that appeared before the committee because he's still spouting exactly the same thing. He hasn't indicated in any way, shape or form, in any of the schedules, what he has learned from having the public speak to him and the other members of the committee over the last three weeks --
The Chair: Mr Gerretsen, this is not a point of order. You're using your 15 minutes, you realize.
Mr Gerretsen: -- what changes the government is prepared to see in what particular schedules of the act. That's the only point I was trying to make: that he has not addressed the issues for which we allowed the parliamentary assistants the opportunity to make a presentation with respect to the amendments. That was the whole purpose.
Mr Phillips: I'll start on schedule Q. Can you explain very quickly the major difference between what was in the bill and the amendment, what the implications are?
Mr Sampson: There are effectively six amendments, five which you might call substantive and one technical. In the area of subsection 6(5.1) and all the other sections similar to that particular verbiage in the other components of the act, we're establishing the fact that the board of arbitration must take into consideration all factors it considers relevant, including the criteria that are listed.
Mr Phillips: What does that mean? What's the real change from what you had in the schedule to what you've now got in the amendment?
Mr Sampson: There was some concern that listing the criteria would have been all-inclusive. Some of the deputants said, "You've listed the criteria, so that's effectively all-inclusive." Our view was that no, it's not all-inclusive, that the arbitrator should consider in his or her view all the relevant factors that have been put to him or her. We had to effectively clean up the language to say that's fine, that's what we intended, that the board of arbitration must consider all relevant factors, but including this list.
Mr Phillips: Most people who came before us said paragraph 2 should be clarified. Right now it says, "The extent to which services may have to be reduced...." Both the management side and the bargaining unit side said we should amend it to say, "The extent to which services may have to be reduced by the municipality...." You've chosen to ignore that, so I assume it is still going to be up to the arbitrator to make the decision on the levels of service.
Mr Sampson: No, that's not correct. The theme of the deputations in front of us was that there was some concern that the arbitrator was determining service levels. None of this language, inclusive of the amendments, indicates that the arbitrator is empowered or required to determine service levels.
Mr Phillips: You've ignored the advice of the municipalities and many of the bargaining units, who said you should clarify it to say, "The extent to which services may have to be reduced by the municipality...." You haven't done that. That language, I think most people would say, still leaves it open to interpretation that the arbitrators can make decisions on the level of service. I guess you've chosen to ignore the advice of the municipalities.
Mr Sampson: I don't concur with you that the language you're proposing substantially differentiates that particular clause from the one we have.
Mr Phillips: That was the recommendation of municipalities. I gather the intent of this motion is to substantially reduce the payments that might otherwise have been awarded under the old rules of arbitration. I gather you've told the bond rating agencies and the municipalities that that's the intent.
I'll just take the fire organizations. This does fundamentally amend the Fire Departments Act although you promised you wouldn't amend it without full costing to the fire organizations. Can you give us the costing that's been done on this to determine how much money this is likely to save the municipalities in firefighting? If you haven't done the costing, you haven't done what you promised the firefighters you would do. Second, just how much money do you expect to save as a result of putting in the ability to pay? You've gone to great lengths to say this is designed to really cut back on the cost of firefighting.
Mr Sampson: First, on your point that we have told the bond rating agencies that this is what we're doing and that this is going to make them happy, I would put to you, Mr Phillips, that it's the bond rating companies that have told us that we've got to realize we have a limited tax base. They did that three times by downgrading the credit rating of this province, so I think the message was delivered by them to us: "Pay attention. You have a limited tax base." That, Mr Phillips, as you know, is how they assess the ability to pay on a debt instrument. It's the tax base and the ability of that tax base to absorb any increase.
Mr Phillips: But just how much money do you expect these amendments to save?
Mr Sampson: You're asking me to answer a hypothetical question. If I knew what the increases in the allocation were going to be going forward and if I were able to be three years from now sitting in this chair, I would be able to tell you, "This is how much we saved." There is no costing on this. It's impossible to cost, and you know that.
Mr Phillips: The last part of this says, "Nothing in subsection (5.1) affects the powers of the board of arbitration." What does that mean?
Mr Sampson: It relates to the point you wanted to discuss earlier with respect to the second criterion, that we're giving additional powers to the board of arbitration to, for instance, dictate service levels. We felt it was important to add a section that said this is not adding new powers to the board of arbitration with respect to any of the criteria noted above, responding to your concern and some of the concerns that service levels could be interpreted to be dictated by some of the provisions of this amendment.
Mr Phillips: I really find that a confusing answer. You're saying, "Nothing in subsection (5.1) affects the powers of the board of arbitration." In other words, none of those criteria affect the power of the board of arbitration, so aren't we chasing our tail here? If you go through all the work of saying, "Here are the criteria and here are the instructions to the arbitrator," and then you have, as the last line, that nothing in the subsection affects the powers of the board of arbitration, what does affect the power? I think you just said to me that this essentially renders the five criteria irrelevant.
Mr Sampson: No, it does not. The board has never been empowered, to pick the example of determining service levels, to determine service levels. It never has in any of the previous statutes. What we're saying in that particular (5.3) is that the criteria above, specifically paragraph 2 in my example, is not adding powers to the board of arbitration with respect to determining service levels.
Mr Phillips: So they've always had those powers?
Mr Sampson: No, I said they've never had those powers. They've never had the power to determine service levels and we're saying, "Do not interpret this act as giving powers to arbitrators to determine service levels."
Mr Phillips: We've been through three weeks of hearings where you say you are giving new instructions to the arbitrators. This is a big deal. Al Leach has gone to the municipalities and said, "Boy, I'm going to do this for you." Now, if I hear you properly, you're saying you've added this little two-line thing that says all of that means nothing. "Nothing in subsection (5.1) affects the powers of the board of arbitration." I guess it's the best of all worlds. To the firefighters you can say, "Don't worry, we've taken everything away from them with that two-line statement," and you hope the municipalities won't become aware of this two-line thing until the bill's passed.
Mr Silipo: They'll stop reading at (5.1).
Mr Phillips: Yes, it really is extraordinary. Your explanation is not, frankly, an explanation right now. You're saying that nothing in subsection (5.1) affects the board, so I wipe all those out, and we're left with nothing.
Mr Sampson: No, it's the powers of the board of arbitration. The powers of the board of arbitration are not and never have been, and it's not intended in this legislation, to be to determine and dictate --
Mr Phillips: We only have 15 minutes, and I'm afraid we'll run out, Mr Chair. The other one is just on the pension one.
Mr Gerretsen: Can I ask a question about the arbitration?
Mr Phillips: How much time do we have left?
Mr Sampson: I'd like to hear from the ex-mayor of Kingston.
The Chair: You have six minutes.
Mr Phillips: Okay.
Mr Gerretsen: Are you basically saying with these amendments that the police, the fire, the hospital workers and the teachers in this province are getting too much money?
Mr Sampson: No, we're saying that the board of arbitration must consider the ability of the people funding those particular boards and operations, their ability to pay for it.
Mr Gerretsen: Are you saying that past arbitration awards have been too high in relation to the municipalities' ability to pay? Is that what you're saying?
Mr Sampson: We're saying that the arbitration decisions in those particular areas of the public sector must behave and start to deal with labour issues like the private sector has, which is to reflect --
Mr Gerretsen: Right, but they haven't in the past, or else you wouldn't --
Mr Sampson: Are you going to let me finish?
Mr Gerretsen: Yes.
Mr Sampson: -- which is to reflect the ability of the payor to pay, which is to reflect negotiations and concessions with respect to working more efficiently and effectively. Productivity bargaining, which has happened in the private sector, can under this particular section of the bill be reintroduced and brought to the fore in the public sector.
Mr Gerretsen: And they haven't in the past. That's why you're making these changes. They haven't worked effectively in the past, as far as you're concerned, or else changes wouldn't be necessary.
Mr Sampson: We're saying that in 1996 you need to deal the with economic realities in 1996, not in 1967. If you have difficulty with that, I'll have you look back at the books in 1967 and tell me we're in the same financial position.
Mr Phillips: The last year the Conservatives ever balanced the budget was 1969, so don't give us any lecture on managing the finances. I love your survival in a downturn. I've never seen a company with a big problem declare a $5-billion dividend as you're going to try. It makes no business sense to me.
I want to get to the pension plan. You said earlier that this was a law passed in 1987 and no one raised any concerns.
Mr Sampson: Right.
Mr Phillips: I hate to break the news to you, but the Conservatives were in the Legislature then. You were there when this law was passed. You tried to break the law; you tried to take away these benefits from pensioners by passing a regulation. In July of this year, quietly, the cabinet passed a regulation to try and take away the benefits. You were caught. You were taken to court. You were proven to be acting illegally. So what do you do now? You are trying, through this bill, to exempt yourself from the Pension Benefits Act. I find it embarrassing that you're doing that. If you don't like the law, bring the law before the Legislature and debate it, have it out there, but you're trying to exempt yourself.
I want to get clarification from the government. You tried to do this illegally through regulation. You were caught. You're now trying to exempt yourself from the Pension Benefits Act. This is money that these people are legally entitled to. You're going to lay off, I'm told, 13,000 people. Why are you persisting in acting in a way that discriminates against our own employees by exempting yourself from the Pension Benefits Act? You've given no explanation. We fully expected to see an amendment brought forward to deal fairly with this. Why are you continuing to want to exempt yourself from your legal requirements to deal fairly with pensioners in the province?
Mr Sampson: Mr Phillips, I think you were around at the time this act was amended. The reason the windup provision was brought in was to deal with how pension surpluses were being treated at that time. The concern with respect to pension surpluses -- and the concern was more in the private than the public sector, obviously -- was that to allow a private sector employer access to pension surpluses could potentially hinder the ability of that pension fund to honour its commitments to the employees, subsequent to a wind-down or a bankruptcy or a dissolution.
Mr Phillips: But it was designed to give benefits to people impacted by that windup too, and that's what you're doing.
Mr Sampson: No. It was designed to do that because there was some concern about the future of the surplus to honour the pension commitments, the base pension commitments. The employees at the time, regardless of whether there was a significant windup or not --
Mr Phillips: Can I get a quick question; we have so little time. You said you have no amendments to the freedom of information act.
Mr Sampson: That's correct.
Mr Phillips: You gave us amendments on Friday.
Mr Sampson: I think you'll find that they are probably going to be ruled out of order.
Mr Phillips: So you've withdrawn those amendments now? We had them Friday --
Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): They haven't been tabled yet.
Mr Phillips: But you gave them to us to study. What are you saying, that they're irrelevant?
Mrs Ecker: No.
Mr Phillips: The people can hear this. They gave us these amendments on Friday afternoon -- presumably, you've had all these weeks to study them -- and you withdraw them on Monday morning? What are you doing?
Mr Sampson: Those particular amendments and one also in the Mining Act, you'll find, are out of order with respect to the procedures of this committee and the House.
Mr Phillips: Whose show are you running here?
Mr Sampson: We will need to have unanimous consent to bring them forward and we may bring them forward. They are technical in nature, as you know, if you've read them, they are not substantive, so we may bring them forward as amendments that will require unanimous consent to be dealt with. But at this point in time, they're not in order, so I don't understand what the issue is.
Mr Phillips: The issue is that you've had all this time to prepare them, to give them to us on Friday and withdraw them Monday.
Mr Silipo: I want to get to some real questions. I'm going to jump into a couple of different areas. I have questions on virtually every schedule, but I want to make sure I get to the ones that are most pressing and pick up the others as we go through the clause-by-clause if we're not able to now.
I have to say I can understand now why the government members wanted to change the order, because had Mr Sampson gone first, he would have set the context in terms of the government's rhetoric around this. I just find it passing strange that we can be lectured about how private companies would be behaving in a down cycle, that they don't survive by going to the bank for more money, I think were Mr Sampson's words, or we have to check the bank account to see where the money's coming from, if we've got the money. But, Mr Sampson, this government has no qualms whatsoever in going to the bank to borrow money to give a tax cut to the rich of this province. The logic is just flabbergasting, and I'm sure we'll talk more about that as we go through not just this bill but the term of this government.
But let me get to a couple of particular sections, starting with the last one, on the arbitration. I want to be really clear, because I actually had understood that what the government wanted to do with this section was to really put a real emphasis, as Mr Sampson I think said at the beginning, on this question of ability to pay and really say to arbitrators, "We think you need to put these things into your equation, that where employers, public sector employers, say they can't afford to pay more than X, that's basically what you need to be not just considering but in effect putting into the arbitration award." Is that in effect the direction that the government still is saying comes as a result of this section of the bill?
Mr Sampson: As I said earlier, and I'll try one more time, this particular schedule attempts to bring to the attention of the board of arbitration, amongst other things to be considered in an arbitration decision, some fundamental criteria that must be considered as part of the process to determine an award.
Mr Silipo: I think that's the point I wanted to get at, and I guess I would just ask Mr Sampson the question this way: Are you just interested in having them consider these things or are you interested in having them actually apply it, whether it's the ability to pay, whether it's the extent to which services may have to be reduced if there are no tax increases etc etc? How does the government interpret this section is I guess what I'm really asking. How will you explain it to a municipality? Maybe that's the other way you might answer it, Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson: I think the wording, frankly, of the proposed section is quite clear. It says "shall take into consideration," and it goes on.
Mr Silipo: And then, when you get to subsection 6(5.3), which says that "Nothing in subsection (5.1)," which is the one that lists all of those things, "affects the powers of the board of arbitration," let me give you an explanation and just ask you whether you would agree or disagree with this.
It seems to me that an arbitrator looking at this would say: "Okay, subsection (5.1) says I have to consider all of these things, but subsection (5.3) says nothing in those considerations affects my power. So I can consider those things, and then I can deem them to be invalid, completely." Is that the message you want to give people out there?
Mr Sampson: If that's the decision of the board of arbitration and it's considered all the facts, inclusive of the ones that have been enumerated, that may well be the decision. We are not directing arbitrators, as was proposed by some of the deputants. We are not directing arbitrators that the decision is zero, or minus five, or plus 10. That's a decision they are empowered to make. That's their responsibility. That's within their authority.
Mr Silipo: So you're quite clear, particularly with the amendment in (5.3), that you're saying to arbitrators, "At the end of the day, you're the ones who make the decision; you're not bound by anything that's in this legislation."
Mr Sampson: They are bound by this legislation. They are bound to make sure that they have considered all relevant facts, including these five points. Right now there's no requirement for that.
Mr Silipo: But the weight that they give to them, Mr Sampson, you're saying is really up to them at the end of the day to determine.
Mr Sampson: The weight that they consider to any one of these components, including the ones that aren't listed here, is up to them to decide. That's the purpose of the board of arbitration.
Mr Silipo: What's the point of having those things in the legislation? We've heard, and you were there for most of those hearings, that in fact in every case of arbitration today, every employer makes exactly the case that's listed in (5.1). They make all those arguments. There's nothing to prevent them from doing that. What's the point that you achieve, other than the rhetorical value of putting those things into legislation?
Mr Sampson: The point was that it was not clear in the deputations from the municipalities throughout the last three weeks of hearings that the arbitrators did consider the relevant facts, inclusive of these criteria. It was not clear. In fact, as I recall, one of the deputants -- I think it was on record; I can't remember whether it was nor not -- in complete disregard of the municipality's ability to pay, as they were leaving, apparently -- this is the comment that I heard -- as they were leaving the arbitration hearing, said: "I can't remember whether the request was 8% or 10%. Oh, I'll give you 10%."
Mr Silipo: I think municipalities are going to be surprised by Mr Sampson's answer, Mr Chair, because I don't think that's what they were expecting. I think what they were expecting was a direction to arbitrators, and I think that's how they read it and in fact that's how the earlier version was. But I think Mr Cooke wants to pursue this point.
Mr Cooke: I just want to ask on the process, then, are we not likely to have a case made before an arbitrator, a case referred to an arbitrator, the arguments will all be made and then the ruling will come down, and if the employer is unhappy, then the employer will be able to appeal the case to the courts on the basis that these criteria had not been adequately taken into consideration? Won't we now see that there'll be a lot more arbitration cases appealed to the courts on the basis of the fault in law?
Mr Sampson: That presumes, Mr Cooke, that the board of arbitration's not prepared to list, as it normally does, in its decision --
Mr Cooke: No, no, it's because --
Mr Sampson: Are you going to let me finish?
Mr Cooke: No. Let me just put it to you --
Mr Sampson: If you don't want the answer to the question, then don't ask it.
Mr Cooke: But you're answering the wrong question, because if you've ever been on -- I was on a school board. I've had something to do with other public organizations that will be affected by this law. I don't believe there's ever been an arbitration decision that I've seen that either side feels they've been adequately and properly dealt with. They're always looking at ways of saying, "No, the arbitrator favoured the workers," and on the other hand the workers saying, "No, the arbitrator favoured management." So you're going to have the employer sitting there and looking at other ways of being able to deal with this.
Somebody must have done some analysis about whether there'll be more cases appealed to the courts.
Mr Sampson: It's our view there won't be. I think you'll agree that when you've seen arbitration decisions, they've listed relevant facts considered, reasons for decision. I would put to you, Mr Cooke, that in the consideration and the listing and the enumeration of the relevant facts considered, if missing from that was any one of these five criteria, there might be a reason for an appeal.
Mr Cooke: Well, you watch.
Mr Silipo: It's going to be interesting to see how that part of the bill and its application will unfold.
Let me turn to pay equity for a minute. Mr Sampson's comments I think were, "This will bring pay equity to its fundamental basis," and he talked about base pay comparison. I'm not sure what he was talking about there. I'm sure he can explain as he answers a couple of these questions.
I guess the essential point I want to pursue here is this: First of all, does the government have any intentions of further repealing pay equity beyond repealing the proxy pay equity? Because that could be one conclusion I could draw from what Mr Sampson said, and I don't want to draw that conclusion unfairly.
Mr Sampson: I'm not aware of any.
Mr Silipo: Okay. So by eliminating proxy pay equity, we will end up in a situation in which certain categories in certain jobs -- obviously, in all of these, we're talking about jobs predominantly filled by women. Some job categories will now be covered by pay equity, others will not. Interestingly enough, the ones that will not be covered, the ones that you are removing by virtue of removing proxy pay equity, happen to also be the ones that tend to be the lowest-paid categories: child care workers, nursing homes, people who work in children's aid societies, many of the other social services.
I just need to understand the rationale. When the government says, "We're bringing pay equity back to its fundamental basis," explain to me, please, the rationale of saying that if a woman works as a school secretary, she will continue, by virtue of the original pay equity provisions, to be covered by pay equity, but if a woman works as a child care worker, she will no longer, once this bill becomes law, be covered by pay equity. Please explain to me the logic of that.
Mr Sampson: I think in your first example, there are comparative jobs in the male class with respect to secretarial services, maybe even within the same school, that would allow one to determine the inequality between the male and female compensation as it relates to the fact that one is male and one is female.
I would also put to you that it was not clear for me from the deputations we heard over the last three weeks that that same comment could be said with respect to child care workers, where there are, for all intents and purposes, very few if any male categories, and if there are then there's a comparable.
It is inappropriate, I think as one municipality brought to our attention in Peterborough, being asked to give pay equity comparisons to a job that's located 300 miles away, in a completely different institution, completely different job environment. Yet that particular comparison would have been covered under the proxy comparison component.
We as a government are committed to the principles of pay equity: the fundamental, base principles of pay equity. That's a comment I made throughout the weeks. That's a comment I'm prepared to make now on behalf of the government.
Mr Silipo: We maybe just have then a very basic difference in terms of what the fundamental basis of pay equity was, because I and I know many people in this room always thought that the point of pay equity was to deal with the inequities of pay as it affected women, and not just to limit that within the same workforce but in fact across the board in the public sector, and to ensure that in effect there was a way for us to recognize, on the value, on the dollar value that one could attribute to the different types of work that were being done, that women were being compensated adequately. We know that historically there has been an underpayment in jobs that have been performed mainly by women in this province. In fact, the situation has gotten worse.
I guess again we come back to the same basic point, which is the illogic of seeing proxy pay equity, which was brought in exactly to fix the problem that existed with the previous pay equity legislation, which was that it didn't recognize that you had situations in the public sector where you couldn't make a comparison within the same workforce because there just were no male-dominated workforces to compare to, so the next logical thing that you had to do was to go to the next, nearest public sector workforce that would be as close as possible and be able to make the comparator there --
Again, I continue to press this point, because I have to say, even after the three weeks of hearings, I'm at a loss to understand whether what the government is doing here is really based on an ideological bent or just quite frankly on a royal screwup. I really mean that, because I have a feeling sometimes that they really didn't understand what they were doing by eliminating proxy pay equity. I think they thought they were dealing with the fact that there were some instances where there have been some problems with the way in which proxy has been applied, and I would be the first to say that there have been some problems. But I guess I continue to raise the point, hoping that somewhere along the way, in the remaining days that we have, the government will come to its senses on this point and understand that it is wrong for it to eliminate, in the way that you are doing, a fundamental right that affects 100,000 of the poorest-paid women in the province, the lowest-paid women in the province.
I ask Mr Sampson again whether the government is prepared to look at this section again in light of that reality and to do more than the limited amendment that they are proposing, which we certainly think is a little bit of help, at least in helping to ensure that the 3% that is there will continue to be safeguarded, but the difference between 3% and 100% of pay equity is a long ways. Is the government prepared to look at this particular section differently?
Mr Sampson: We have looked at this section as a result of the deputations we've had and this is our position at this point in time, Mr Silipo. But I want to confirm to you that we are committed to the principles of pay equity. We're going to be spending more on it than the previous government did, on the program of pay equity.
With respect to the proxy comparison component, our view is it's not working. The issue as it relates to the compensation -- I think the example we're all using is the day care worker -- in our view is probably not best solved in the pay equity component but we need to take a look at whether that's appropriate compensation for a job class, period. I think that's the issue the previous government tried to skate around, if I may, by incorporating that into the pay equity component when it should have been addressed head on as another item.
Mr Silipo: Again, I say to the government --
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Silipo, and thank you, Mr Sampson. The time is up.
Mrs Pupatello: Mr Chair, I have a point, please. May I enter a question, at least on the record, so that I can have an answer either after the meeting, in writing, whatever's going to be easier? The reality is, this is schedule Q. The likelihood at this rate is we will not get to these questions in a clause-by-clause by Friday. The frustration that we on this side feel at finally having access to someone who at least attempts to answer a question, that is, once we get can past the rhetoric of a campaign and actually get to specifics --
Mr Gerretsen: Which took a while. It took half an hour.
The Chair: Your question here, Mrs Pupatello?
Mrs Pupatello: You don't know how frustrating this is for the rest of us, and particularly those new who want to see something actually happening.
In schedule Q, subsection 5(2), there's been a change in the amendment that's being put forward in the criteria for teachers specifically: "4. A comparison, as between the employees and other comparable employees in the public and private sectors...." The only difference in this amendment being put forward as it relates to the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act is the addition of "and private sectors." I'd like to know the rationale for this amendment. I'm assuming it's because you're attempting to drive the salary levels of teachers down to private teacher levels, but I need to know that that is the case.
There are a number of things that the minister is currently doing publicly that we're not aware of and we read about in the media, such as eliminating the preparation time etc for teachers, but I'd like to have the answer to this and many other questions.
Mr Chair, I'd just like you to know how frustrating this process has been, not to have access to people who at least would attempt to answer the questions, albeit not the answers we're looking for. This whole process is flawed, and I think you should know we feel very strongly about that.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm not sure whether they're hearing it yet.
The Chair: As agreed this morning, we will now have a 15-minute recess.
The committee recessed from 1551 to 1606.
The Chair: Welcome back. By our fast watch on the wall, the 15 minutes is up, as noted by Mr Phillips. Mr Hardeman, you have the floor.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon to everyone. First of all, I agree with Mr Sampson and his analogy of the situation we find ourselves in, the fact that we have a money crunch in the province. I think municipalities have realized that, along with the province. They're prepared to deal with the situation and cut the size and the cost of government in that area, but to do that they require changes and ways of dealing with that chore. They can no longer go along with the status quo, providing the programming as the province dictates and then paying for it, without having municipal taxes increase dramatically.
I do not intend to go through a long list of things that are self-evident or that have been said many times in the past three weeks as we've travelled the province and talked to different deputants. I just want to maybe question the members of the committee, as I am the third parliamentary assistant to make a presentation. The first one was criticized for speaking just to the amendments, the second one was criticized for not speaking to the amendments, and I hope I can find a happy medium so we could all agree we've met that challenge.
Mr Cooke: How about a suggestion?
Mr Hardeman: A suggestion would be acceptable.
Mr Cooke: If you could outline for us the amendments, what they will do and why they're necessary, that would be very helpful.
Mr Hardeman: I will start off and follow the directions suggested to me. We will start with the amendments.
The first amendment is subsection 25.2, in the definitions section of the bill. It defines the term "resident." The term "resident" is required to be defined. As we go on into the restructuring proposals, we will find there is a requirement for 75 residents to apply to the minister for a commission in the unorganized territories, so we need the definition of "resident" in the act. That's the reason for that amendment.
The next one is a technical amendment. It was just the wrong numbering of a subsection in the bill. I think that's self-evident.
The next amendment is to section 25.2, removing the clause of municipal liability. There were many concerns expressed during the hearing process that the fact it was there was a detriment to municipal politicians because they might feel they could not make decisions for fear of having to go to court to defend those decisions. Upon further examination, we find that a municipal politician is already governed by law if they do what they do not have the power to do, so the section is not required to deal with the issue, and it's suggested that we will remove that section completely from the bill.
The next is to section 25.3, and this is to deal with appointing a commission. The act presently provides for the local initiative for restructuring, where municipalities proceed with the process of restructuring and then recommend a proposal to the minister which the minister can implement, and it goes on to suggest that the minister can appoint a commission. Many deputants to the committee as we travelled the province suggested that there needs to be more public input into the appointing of commission, so this amendment to the act sets out a process that the commission must follow as a minimum standard for achieving public participation.
One of the first items the commission must deal with is to prepare a draft report. He must then post that draft report at a minimum of one public meeting, where anyone present has the opportunity to speak. It must then be presented to every municipality involved, and upon having achieved that, he must then print a final report. It outlines the process he must go through in providing the municipalities and the public with notice of when that report has been completed, and provides a 30-day waiting period from the time the final report is completed to the time it can be implemented by regulation.
The committee will note that in that amendment is where we have need for the definition of "resident" as it applies to the unorganized territories that may wish to initiate a restructuring proposal through the commission. They can do that with the signature of 75 of the defined residents.
The next amendment is to section 25.3 of the Municipal Act, allowing the minister to add additional requirements to a restructuring commission that may go above and beyond the requirements in the previous amendment. It has been concluded from the deputations that there will be great variance in the type of restructuring proposals put forward throughout the province. In some areas, it will just require the amalgamation of two municipalities; in other areas, it may require the changing of total counties or groups of counties. Each instance, because it is unique, may require different types of proposals, and this gives the minister the authority by regulation to implement those types of changes or requirements.
The next section is to section 210.4 of the act, section 8 of the bill. This deals with the definition of "local board," and will define that the police services boards and the school boards are not considered a local board for the purpose of dissolution by local municipalities. There will be the opportunity to expand on those that would be exempt from dissolution through regulations, but the police services boards and the school boards will be exempt in the act, the school boards of course for constitutional reasons, the police services board because there is presently a province-wide review ongoing to deal with police services, and we would not want its results to be pre-empted by municipalities wanting to dissolve the police services boards -- what shall we say? -- before their time. The end result of that study is not present so it was felt appropriate that the police services boards would be exempt by legislation from dissolution by local councils.
The amendment to subsection 220.1(1) of the act points out that the school boards and hospitals do not have the power to pass bylaws to charge user fees, and it goes on to add that the crown and all others will be obligated to pay municipal user fees as they're imposed by municipalities -- just for clarification about who can charge and who must pay.
The next amendment is to clarify the situation about the type of taxes that will be allowed to be charged. As the committee members will be aware, we've had a number of deputations about how they would interpret the ability to charge user fees and the type of tax they would be allowed. Some came forward and suggested that direct taxation such as an income tax or a fuel tax, in their opinion, may be allowed. We did have a legal opinion tabled with the committee that they would not be allowed, but enough deputants came forward with the suggestion that there was some doubt in their minds as to what could or could not be done that, rather than having municipalities and the province spend a lot of time in court or having the minister --
Mr Phillips: Resign.
Mr Cooke: Or at least temporarily step down.
Mr Hardeman: No -- be forced to pass a regulation to prohibit a type of tax they did not feel was appropriate, it was felt to be appropriate that we clearly define the intent of the legislation, which was put forward to the committee the morning that the minister spoke to the committee, that these types of taxes would not be allowed. We are clarifying that that would in fact be the case.
I would point out that this amendment is the one Mr Phillips spoke to this morning, where there were amendments and now there are amendments to the amendments. This amendment is the combination of the two amendments, one dealing with poll tax and one dealing with the other type of taxes. Legislative counsel deemed it appropriate to have it in one amendment.
Mr Phillips: Where did the "generation, exploration, extraction" clause exist before?
The Chair: Mr Phillips, would you please hold your questions until it is time to answer your questions. Let him finish his process here, please.
Mr Hardeman: The next amendments are two very minor amendments, changing the word "a" for "any," substituting "a trade" for "any trade, calling" in the legislation. That would imply that a clergyman travelling door to door in a municipality could be caught up in that. There was, in our opinion, no need to have "calling" included, so "calling" will be removed.
The next one is section 22, subsection 257.1(1) of the act. This in effect prohibits or eliminates the ability of municipalities to license businesses or resources extraction that is already licensed and under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources. They would not be allowed to license resource extraction.
Section 22, subsection 257.2(2): This is changing the wording of subclause (i) to "requiring the payment of licence fees." It's to remove the ability to change a licence fee to charging it in the nature of a direct tax. It will now read "requiring the payment of licence fees." It actually puts the limit on a licence fee as opposed to being able to put in another type of tax. It puts a ceiling on the licence fee.
The next is section 22, subsection 257.2(2):
"(2.1) In setting the amount of fees to be charged for a licence, the council shall take into account the costs of administering and enforcing the bylaws of the municipality licensing businesses."
So the cost of licences must relate to the cost of licensing.
Section 257.7: This amendment is to clarify that only provisions of other acts which may be overridden by municipalities when licensing provisions which allow municipalities to license other businesses -- so the issue that they can override other acts; they can only override other acts as they relate to the licensing provision. There are different acts presently in existence where they give authority to license certain types of businesses or certain types of licences. This will override that act. It would not override other acts that relate to other issues.
The next two are amendments that deal with the block funding.
Mr Phillips: I've got the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto as my next one.
Mr Hardeman: Yes, it's the issue of Metropolitan Toronto. It's to deal with the ability to put the funding into block funding. The two sections of the act -- there are two that require to be changed in the Metropolitan Toronto act, because they deal with how roads shall be funded. Since they will not be funded that way in the future, it requires the removal of that part of the act.
I would point out that I have been informed that in all probability those two will be ruled out of order because in fact it does open up a section of the Metropolitan Toronto act that is not presently in Bill 26. It's an issue of cleaning up the act. The funding is being provided that way, but this will -- we'll have to wait for the ruling of the Chair as to whether that is the case.
Section 31, subsection 3(1) of the Ontario Municipal Support Grants Act. This is the last four lines: "Upon the recommendation of the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services concerning police or fire services, or upon the recommendation of the minister concerning other matters."
The purpose for this amendment is that the present act says that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has the authority to set the standards and to withhold funding if the provincial standards are not met. It was deemed appropriate for the services that are governed by the Minister of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services that that minister should have the authority to administer those standards. So that's the reason for the amendment. It's the same number of standards; it's a different ministry that will have the power to administer them.
The next amendment, section 31, subsection 3(4), is in fact that same issue, having the Solicitor General being the authority in order to authorize the withholding of grants if the provincial minimum standards are not met in that ministry.
Section 33.1, subsection 23(10), the issue in the regional act: Again, it deals with the funding as it relates to the block funding, and we're taking that out of the regional act, that they would not be funded and would not be governed in the same way. Also, the requirement to pass bylaws as they relate to receiving the municipal road grants presently; this will not be required since they are not getting municipal road grants. So it is again a clarification of the act.
Subsection 34(2), page 157: Again, it's repealing subparagraph (d) of paragraph 4 and it's a technical amendment just to clarify the subparagraph. The letter (d) was used as opposed to the letter (c).
The next one, again, is the same issue. It's subsections 39(3) and 39(4) as they relate to the County of Oxford Act. It's the same as the other regional acts, removing the references that automatically come out under Bill 26 and all others as opposed to those that are governed by their own act.
Mrs Pupatello: We don't have a copy of that 39?
Mr Hardeman: Again I would point out to the committee that the clerk may have removed that 39 because that would be another one that was identical to the ones I mentioned earlier. They may be out of order because it is taken out of the Oxford county act when the Oxford county act is not presently in Bill 26.
The Chair: They were withdrawn. They were pulled out.
Mr Hardeman: Subsection 39(7): Again, subsection 39(7) is identical. It's to the district of Muskoka, dealing with the same issues.
Section 41, section 13.1 of the act dealing with conservation authorities: Again, it deals with the issue of the dissolution of conservation authorities.
"Notice of meeting
"(4) The authority shall ensure that notice of the meeting is published in a newspaper having general circulation in each participating municipality at least 14 days before the meeting.
"(5) No vote shall be taken on a resolution requesting dissolution of the authority unless members of the public have been given an opportunity at the meeting to make representations on the issue.
"(6) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may dissolve the authority, on such terms and conditions as the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers appropriate, if,
"(a) the minister receives a resolution requesting the dissolution passed by at least two thirds of the members of the authority present and entitled to vote at a meeting held under this section and at which a quorum was present; and
"(b) the minister is satisfied that acceptable provision has been made for future flood control and watershed interests and for the disposition of all assets and liabilities of the authority."
This again is an amendment to clarify the process required for the dissolution of conservation authorities.
The next amendment would be section 42.1. This is an amendment that will require unanimous consent from the committee to be used. The purpose of the amendment: The bill presently does not have the ability of the province to appoint members to the authority but it would still have the opportunity for the province to appoint the chair and the vice-chair. So the recommendation in the amendment is to also remove the province's right to appoint the chair and the vice-chair. With unanimous consent, that would be the amendment put in.
Subsection 43(1.1): The operative clause is "to charge fees for services approved by the minister." This will deal with giving the authorities the ability to charge fees for service for some of the functions that they are presently providing and even other functions that the municipalities under whose jurisdiction they would be operating would want them to provide. This would give them the authority to provide those on a fee-for-service basis.
Section 45, section 24 of the Conservation Authorities Act: This is to approval of projects.
"Before proceeding with a project, the authority shall file plans and a description thereof with the minister and shall obtain,
"(a) the approval in writing of the minister for the project and its funding; and
"(b) if any portion of the cost of a project is to be raised in a subsequent year or years, the approval of the Ontario Municipal Board."
"This section does not apply to a project if all the participating municipalities approve the project and its funding, unless the project involves money granted by the minister under section 39."
It will not require the minister's approval for projects that are being funded totally outside the provincial realm.
The next section is 46, page 163, and it's an amendment to change the French translation. There's been much discussion of whether one understands the bill, and I'd be the first to admit that this section I do not understand because I do not speak French. But it is a change of a word.
Mr Gerretsen: How refreshing: an honest government member. You've shocked everybody in the room, Ernie.
Mr Hardeman: I would never shock anyone.
The next section is subsection 50(1), subsection 44(2), and it's an amendment to deal with the bylaw levying county road dollars on lower-tier municipalities, the ability to give the local flexibility to charge those who are using or have use of county roads and those who do not. There will be some changes as the road structures change and as roads go from the upper to the lower tier and the other direction. There will be municipalities that presently do not have any roads in their municipalities under the county jurisdiction that in the future may have, and this will give the county the ability to levy those municipalities, as deemed appropriate by county council.
Subsections 50(2) to (4): Under the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act, this is to deal with the ability of municipalities to decide on the migration of the road authorities and to provide the ability for a road that was moved from the upper tier to the lower tier to be vested in the lower-tier road system and vice versa, so if an upper tier were assuming the responsibility for a lower-tier road, it would automatically be vested as a part of the county road system.
Section 58, subsection 75(1), again deals with the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act. This will allow the province to make arrangements directly with the council of an Indian band without necessarily involving the government of Canada.
Again, the next one, section 58, subsection 75(3), deals with the same transfer to enter into an agreement and standards.
Section 67, clause 117(e), is to remove a section of the act. Again, it has to do with the change in the way it's funded.
Section 67, subsection 118(2): again, that the province will be able to deal with the roads on Indian territory without going directly through the federal government. Subsection 118(2) is of a similar nature to deal with the Indian situation on the roads on the reserves. That concludes the amendments that we put forward. I'd be happy to try and answer any questions you might have on it.
The Chair: We now have 15 minutes for the opposition party for questions, beginning with Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, let me say it was kind of refreshing to have somebody actually go through the amendments without the political speech and rhetoric that we heard earlier.
I just want to get this clear, though, because I think it's fair to say that a lot of municipalities that came before the committee were of the opinion that they were getting much broader taxing, licensing and fee powers, which they supported mainly because they were going to lose revenue by way of transfer payments from the province. I think it's also fair to say that many of the chambers of commerce that came before the committee, although supportive of the title of the bill, had some major concerns about some of these broadening areas.
If I look at the amendments that are being suggested, and I'm specifically dealing with amendments to section 220.1 on page 147, you're saying that no poll taxes or anything like poll taxes are now possible. In (2.2)(a) you're saying no income tax is possible. In (b) and (c) I guess what you're getting at is that there's no gas or usage tax possible etc. But I would like you to explain to me, as parliamentary assistant, what then is the difference between the rights and powers that municipalities will have in the future and the way it currently exists in legislation if you're going to exempt or not allow those three main categories of taxation that there's been so much discussion about in the media and before our committee. What new powers, in effect, are you giving to municipalities? It seems to me there aren't any that they don't already have right now.
Mr Hardeman: I think first of all I would agree with you that we had presentations from the municipal sector that said they wanted more powers, and we had presentations from the chambers of commerce and the boards of trade that said they were concerned with the powers that were being vested in municipalities. I guess being in government it's very difficult to please everyone, so I would be the first to say this act and these amendments do not do that. They deal with the principle of what is best for everyone. I really don't believe there were any municipalities that came forward that realistically believed they could charge gasoline taxes or that they could charge income taxes. They said they would like to, and yes, they hoped this would allow them to, but I don't think there were any, including Hazel McCallion, who said, "We can do it." If I remember correctly, and maybe someone can read the Hansard back to me and correct me, but I think she said, "Maybe now we won't have to ask the government to allow us" -- maybe not. I don't think anyone realistically believed they could do that. They hoped they could.
Mr Gerretsen: Ernie, I beg to differ with you, and Hansard can correct us on that, but that's not the issue. You have now taken those three areas about which there was a lot of discussion and a wide-felt feeling, as far as I was concerned, within the municipal sector, that they could at least look at those areas. Whether they were going to impose it or not was going to be entirely dependent on their own fiscal and financial situation. The point is, with these three amendments you've basically taken away those areas where municipalities thought they were getting more power.
My question to you is very specific: Taking into account the amendments and taking into account the clause as framed in schedule M, what additional powers, if any, will municipalities have, according to the ministry thinking, that they don't already have now, before Bill 26?
Mr Hardeman: I think, Mr Gerretsen, there are two things they will have that they did not have before. One is a broader range of things that they can license which previously was done based on a given list. The second thing they will have is that they will be able to license on a cost recovery basis. Under the present legislation there are a lot of licences they are allowed to license but that are a given amount they can charge. The ability to work on a total cost recovery will now be available to them.
Mr Gerretsen: Right, and I realize there were some of the old licences that didn't make any sense -- for example, a dollar for a bakery and stuff like that. Is it your feeling then that with this additional licensing power and fee power that municipalities have, they will basically be able to recover the amount of grants they've lost from the government over the next two years, which is going to amount to something like 50% of the government transfer payments?
Mr Hardeman: No. I do not believe that the intent was before or that it is today that all the reduction in grants can be recovered in user fees or licensing fees. The intent, hopefully, is to provide the opportunity in other areas for restructuring and reducing the cost of government, that in fact the cost of governing at the local level in the municipal sector will be lower. The intent is not to just turn all the reduced grants into another form of revenue through licensing or user fees. The intent is to reduce the cost of government.
Mr Gerretsen: Okay. Dealing with the restructuring area, and then I'll turn it over to Gerry, I realize that you've added some public process into the notion now. But I also still think there is one serious flaw, that there is no requirement still for a public meeting after the draft plan for restructuring or after the commission has come out with a draft plan. It talks about, "It shall give a copy to the municipality and to other people," but it really doesn't allow for any kind of public exposure, if I can put it that way, of any draft plan at a fully constituted public meeting, for further public input. But we can deal with than when we deal with it on a clause-by-clause basis.
Mr Phillips: Yes, the --
Mr Hardeman: If I could, just to take some of your time, I would caution or suggest in your question that the requirement for public participation is after the completion of the draft plan for the restructuring, not prior to the draft plan. There is a need for public consultation after the plan has been prepared.
Mr Gerretsen: I would suggest to you that it's required just as much before and after the draft plan. I don't think you should come to a draft plan stage without getting some input from the public, or a lot of input from the public. I don't think this should happen after, in effect, the die has been cast.
Mr Phillips: I want to follow up on the licensing thing. I gather the fees -- I call them the "save Al Leach amendments" -- are designed to correct a problem that exists in the legislation that he didn't think existed. He said he wanted to resign if he was wrong and then he went out and proved himself wrong, one of the more extraordinary things we have seen, actually: a minister calling for his own resignation and then proving he was wrong.
Mrs Ecker: Better get a new line. You've used that one twice before.
Mr Phillips: Yes, but I actually didn't interrupt you and I think people are always --
Mr Gerretsen: If it's the truth, it's worth repeating.
Mr Phillips: That's true. I think people always are interested in incompetence being pointed out more than once so they know what kind of government they're dealing with.
My questions are on the licensing provisions. In spite of the amendments you've put in here, I think the Ontario Restaurant Association and the city of Kingston would both argue that the way the licensing provisions are written, because you say "requiring the payment of licence fees," and you're giving quite unlimited flexibility for licences, and you say, "If there is a conflict between a provision in this part and a provision in any other section of this act or any other act," having to do with the licensing, that the one that favours a municipality, "that is less restrictive of a local municipality's power prevails," that the municipality can interpret its interpretation over anybody else's. I read that to mean that a municipality could impose a licence on a restaurant on the basis of its sales, 1% of sales. The city of Kingston I think felt that you could put as part of their licence, for example, a cent a litre for gasoline. I don't see anything in the amendments, other than that you've taken out the words which may be in the nature of a tax, but you still say "requiring the payment of licence fees."
Can you give us the legal support that would say what I think is true is not true; and if you can't, is that what we should expect, that this gives the municipalities -- and I know you want to give them unlimited flexibility -- under the licensing provision, the opportunity to implement essentially indirect taxes disguised as a licensing fee, as the Ontario Restaurant Association says?
Mr Hardeman: No. I don't believe that the legislation allows for variable licensing fees. I think it's the ability to put a licence on an establishment and charge a fee, not a fee on an ongoing basis as in the nature of a tax.
Mr Phillips: Why would the Ontario Restaurant Association and the city of Kingston both say they believe your law permits that? I've seen no legal interpretation from the government on this matter. I guess I'm asking the parliamentary assistant to get us some written assurances that at least we know what you're trying to do here. If you're trying to permit those things, then let's be sure that's what you're trying to do.
When we were in the fee section, it was pretty clear that in the end that did permit a gas tax, a head tax, an income tax, and you moved, I gather, to close that. This section still looks wide open to us. If you don't want that to happen, then I suggest you should be looking at some similar amendments. If you do want it to happen, then at least we should know that the city of Kingston's interpretation and the Ontario Restaurant Association's interpretation are correct.
Mr Hardeman: We do not believe that is the interpretation.
Mr Phillips: Will you get us the written legal opinion before the week's out?
Mr Hardeman: We can look into that. I guess I would just point out that the last time we went through the process of a legal opinion, no one wanted to take the legal opinion as the consensus.
Mr Gerretsen: That's why you changed the act.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): We were right.
Mr Gerretsen: It was wrong and you changed it.
Mr Phillips: We asked for a legal opinion and actually, in fairness, the legal opinion did not say that this prohibited taxes. It didn't say that. That's why you amended it, so it worked. Now get us the legal opinion here.
Mr Hardeman: We will endeavour to look into the matter.
Mr Colle: Just a quick question. Say Metropolitan Toronto wanted to impose a user fee for transportation on the Don Valley expressway. Could it still do it under Bill 26, amendments and all, and call it a user fee for transportation and charge people for --
Mr Phillips: They could use a parking fee on the Don Valley.
Mr Hardeman: The question would be how they intended to impose that fee. If the intent or their ability was to actually impose it on the user of the road, the bill would allow that.
Mr Colle: Okay. Thank you.
Mr Phillips: Bingo.
Mr Hardeman: That's it.
Mr Phillips: Several of the mayors said to us --
Mr Phillips: That's what they just said, a toll on the Don Valley Parkway, so it's going to take me longer to get down here. I'm going to have to take the back roads now.
Mrs Ecker: It wouldn't make it any slower.
Mr Phillips: Many of the municipalities said to us that they wanted the commission's report -- I'm now on the restructuring -- to not be final, to be a recommendation to the minister, and I can recall many mayors coming forward and saying that was a strong recommendation. I gather the intent of your amendments is to not listen to the mayors but to make the commission's report law, that once the commission finishes its report it submits a regulation that implements its report; it isn't subject to approval and possible change by the minister. Is that correct?
Mr Hardeman: That is correct. The situation is identical, as it presently exists, with a restructuring or a change in northern Ontario when the process goes through the Ontario Municipal Board. The decision of the Ontario Municipal Board on that type of restructuring is final and does not go to the minister for approval. This process would be based on that same principle.
Mr Phillips: Just to follow up on Mr Colle's comments that the city of Toronto and Metro Toronto are quite anxious about the Queen Elizabeth Way. I think they feel they've kind of inherited a bit of white elephant. They could actually put a user fee on that road then. They could say to the people coming along that road, "In order to pay for its improvements, we are going to charge you a user fee." That would be permitted under Bill 26.
Mr Hardeman: Theoretically, under the bill it would be permitted. Realistically, it would be very difficult to administer on a road that was not at some point structured where you get on and off to make it a practical approach for getting on and off.
Mr Phillips: It's often stop and go. You just have to go from car to car.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Phillips. We appreciate your question.
Mr Colle: You just have the transponders. That's all.
Mr Cooke: This is a new aspect of a new focus of Bill 26 to talk about tolls on existing highways that have been recently transferred to local governments. I'd just like to get a better read from the minister or from the parliamentary assistant, who's speaking on behalf of the minister, and the more we ask about this bill the more we understand why the minister doesn't want to appear before the committee.
The position your party took on toll roads when you were in opposition was that tolls should only exist on new transportation systems, on new highways. You're now telling us today that this bill totally reverses that and says that there can be tolls set up on existing highways in Ontario that have been transferred to the municipal government.
Mr Hardeman: No, that's not quite what I said. I said this bill does not specifically prohibit tolls on municipal roads.
Mr Cooke: You've been hanging around Al Leach too long. In other words, Metropolitan Toronto, and there are other expressways in this province: Ottawa and there's one down our way. Some of those expressways have been already transferred to the municipal governments; others the province has wanted to transfer but hasn't at this point. Every one of those municipalities, once they're transferred, would be able to set up tolls. That's what you're saying. Correct?
Mr Hardeman: As the act is today, yes, they could.
Mr Cooke: Are you planning an amendment to this?
Mr Phillips: Tomorrow.
Mr Hardeman: No. I would just point out that any charge, user fee that is deemed inappropriate can be prohibited by the minister by regulation.
Mr Cooke: Let's go back --
Mr Hardeman: But the act says --
Mr Cooke: No, Ernie, let's go back to this because I think one of the key questions that has been asked to you this afternoon has been asked by Mr Gerretsen, that is, in this bill that you've touted -- and I would argue and wish I had more time to ask you about how the deal was negotiated with AMO and who was involved in negotiating the deal with AMO other than the minister, the ministry and AMO and how that process excluded the people of the province -- tell us what additional powers there are.
Then you say to us that yes, there is an existing new power in Bill 26 that will allow municipalities to set up tolls, but if the minister feels that it's politically unpopular -- in other words, if Metropolitan Toronto set up a toll on the Don Valley or set up a toll on the Queen Elizabeth because there is on Queen Elizabeth $50 million worth of repairs that need to take place on that highway that you haven't done, that we didn't do either and now you've transferred it to them with those repairs necessary -- if they set up a toll in order to pay for those and it becomes a political liability in Metropolitan Toronto, the minister will set himself up as a hero and say: "No, we didn't really mean that. We're not going to allow you to do that."
Now what is the new level of respect that you have for municipalities that you say, "We have given you some additional control over licensing and some additional powers like setting up tolls, but if any of those become unpopular and it's politically popular for us to intervene, we will do so"? What's the respect for municipalities being equal partners when that's the game you're playing?
Mr Hardeman: I would suggest, Mr Cooke, it's not a game we're playing. The definition in the act deals with user fees for municipal services. There is no mention in the act of a toll or a cost to use other municipal services. It deals with a broad definition of charges for municipal services.
Mr Cooke: No, no, no, why would there be? You wanted to try to get this bill through before anybody understood it. You wouldn't print it in a way that people could understand it.
Mr Hardeman: That definition does not exclude such things as toll roads.
Mr Cooke: Right. So does not exclude or does permit. Let me ask you then specifically since --
Mr Hardeman: It does not prohibit that.
Mr Cooke: Which means it permits. Let me specifically ask you then -- you would not pass the motion this morning allowing the minister to come forward -- if Metropolitan Toronto decides to put up tolls on the Queen Elizabeth or on the Don Valley, is it your government's intention to allow that to proceed or are you going to stop it?
Mr Hardeman: I can't answer that question. I don't know.
Mr Cooke: You have contemplated it.
Mr Hardeman: Hypothetically. We don't know whether they were thinking of doing that, and I'm not in the position to tell you what they --
Mr Cooke: Don't you think that in terms of developing public policy there's some logic to saying that, "We're going to be clear about the rules and we have thought of this, and no, we're not going to allow tolls," or, "Yes, we are going to allow tolls." Or, as you say, "This bill does not not permit" or whatever the double negative is that you were using which means that it permits it. Shouldn't you be clear?
You come out of AMO. You used to lecture all of us about the level of respect the provincial government should have for the municipal sector. How can municipalities believe that there's any level of respect from this government when you're saying: "We're going to permit it, but we might stop it. I can't tell you the rules of the game today, but we want the bill passed by a week today"?
Mr Hardeman: First of all, Mr Cooke, I want to tell you that I've never lectured a minister of the crown, including you.
Mr Cooke: Well, it depends whether you're on the other end, believe me.
Mr Hardeman: I think the level of respect is there. The bill is intended to give more local autonomy to municipalities, and I think municipalities see that as what is happening in the bill. I want to tell you that it was not a secret deal made with anyone, unless of course it was made where I was not present. I'm not aware of any deal.
Mr Colle: Who was there?
Mr Hardeman: I wanted to clarify that. I am convinced that it was not done, but I cannot speak for --
Mr Silipo: The minister.
Mr Hardeman: -- the world. I just know where I was present and there definitely was not that situation.
Mr Cooke: The only thing you can testify is that you weren't invited to the back room to negotiate this deal.
Mr Hardeman: All I can say is the issues and the discussions with AMO on the same topics coming up with the same requests have been ongoing with not only this minister but many ministers before this minister as to what was required for local municipalities to have more local autonomy.
Mr Cooke: I still don't understand and maybe when there's a longer period of time you can explain to me where the additional local autonomy is when you're saying that if there's an unpopular tax, like a toll, that is imposed, the minister might very well stop it, but we won't tell anybody what the rules of the game are today, and you've got some additional licensing and all of this for a 50% reduction in the grants to municipalities.
All I can say is, I wish the same negotiators were at the table when AMO was negotiating disentanglement with me. Because if they would've settled for that kind of deal, we could've had disentanglement years ago.
Mr Hardeman: I think it's important to recognize that more local autonomy is not an exchange for the money that's not available to municipalities.
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, come on.
Mr Hardeman: The province hasn't got the money to give municipalities. That money is not there. What the bill proposes to do is to give some tools to municipalities to deal with this difference in money.
Mr Cooke: What are those tools? Tell me what the tools are.
Mr Hardeman: Again, the broader licensing and the powers, the broader user fees, the ability to restructure in a timely, efficient manner.
Mr Cooke: Let's just talk about the restructuring for a bit, because you were part of the municipal sector that was incredibly critical of the previous government when we restructured London, and that process, I might remind you, took about 14 years. Can you tell me, under Bill 26, what the difference would be if you were going to restructure London-Middlesex under this legislation when it passes as opposed to what was done before?
Mr Hardeman: I think there are two things, two major differences. One is the fact that it's the request of the local municipalities for the restructuring to take place.
Mr Cooke: London requested it.
Mr Hardeman: Secondly, it hopefully will not take 14 years, because we do not have 14 years in the provincial or the municipal sector to deal with the restructuring of government and getting a handle on the cost.
Mr Cooke: Okay, London did make the request, and yes, you're right, it won't take 14 years and I don't agree that it should ever take 14 years either. The only thing that takes 14 years is whether a government of the day has the courage to bring the legislation into the House. That's what takes the time, not at the municipal level. It can be resolved at the municipal level or the province can make a decision.
But isn't the major difference now, if this passes, that what in fact will be in place is that if London-Middlesex were to be restructured under this law, there would never be legislation come into the House, there would never be public hearings on the legislation? That is the difference. There wouldn't be any of that level of accountability to the Legislature or the ability for the people of London to speak to their legislators about the proposed law.
Mr Hardeman: I would agree with you that it would not get to the Legislature.
Mr Cooke: Is that a view that you used to support when you were a part of AMO?
Mr Hardeman: The process is designed to be locally initiated --
Mr Cooke: It was locally initiated. Under this law London would be able to make the request.
Mr Hardeman: -- and locally produced through the commission, and then it would be implemented on the recommendations of the commission.
Mr Cooke: By regulation.
Mr Hardeman: By regulation, yes.
Mr Cooke: Is there any money in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for transitional costs for restructuring of local governments? I know under this you will actually charge the municipalities for the cost of the commission, but how many dollars have you put into the ministry for transitional costs?
Mr Hardeman: I think you'll find that all ministries are working on a very tight budget and we have to recognize that's the reason we are in this dilemma. We don't have any money, and no, there is no extra money in the ministry budget to deal with the transitional costs.
Mr Cooke: Do you not agree that there are transitional costs associated with bringing together collective agreements, for smoothing out some of the changes in the tax base over a period of time so that there can be some assistance with that transition, and that one of the major difficulties, unless the government simply imposes restructuring, which I think is the real agenda under this bill, is that there will be no assistance or there will be no restructuring that will occur at the local level because it can't be done without transitional dollars?
Mr Hardeman: I think there's a lot of restructuring that can take place without a lot of extra dollars. I think it's also important to recognize that restructuring should not be done for the sake of restructuring at great cost to the local ratepayers.
Mr Cooke: At the end of the day there are savings.
Mr Hardeman: At the end of the day, there should be a cost saving for the municipality doing it --
Mr Cooke: At the end of the day there is.
Mr Hardeman: -- and I think they can deal with that.
Mr Cooke: Could you or Doug from the ministry tell us where the last major county restructuring took place where there weren't transitional dollars made available?
Mr Hardeman: I don't suppose, in fairness, there have been any major county restructurings to date taking place that did not have some transitional funds made available.
Mr Cooke: Okay. So that's going to be a major problem.
Mr Hardeman: I do want to point out that the last amalgamation of two municipalities took very little transitional funding. That was in Elgin county and it was done by a --
Mr Cooke: That's a minor restructuring.
Mr Hardeman: -- done by a local initiative, and I think they can be done that way in a lot of other areas.
Mr Cooke: Very quickly, just to jump for a second to freedom of information, because I think there are some changes to the municipal freedom of information rules and laws, can you just outline for me the level of problem that existed across the province of abuse of freedom of information in order to bring in the changes that you're now bringing in that will vastly and significantly restrict access to information?
Mr Hardeman: I can't tell you on a total global budget how much money has been spent on freedom of information by municipalities over the last two years, if that's the figure you're looking for. I can tell you that it has been brought to our attention in a number of cases that individual municipalities have spent considerable sums of money to deal with requests that at the end of the day they deemed very inappropriate and it was a lot of taxpayers' dollars going for that purpose.
Mr Cooke: Could we maybe ask the ministry to supply some information to us, hopefully before we get to that section, on the levels, because what's been provided to the committee so far as we travel the province is that it was primarily a couple of individuals who were abusing the process, irritating police forces, police boards and municipalities. I guess I'd like to get a better idea, before we pass this major amendment, of what the analysis is that has been done by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, because there has got to be analysis.
One other piece of information I would like from the ministry, because I know this is always done when you're deciding the levels of transfer payments, could the ministry provide for us the impact analysis that the ministry would have done before the cabinet made the decision on transfer payments? So the impact statement, layoffs at municipalities, programs that will be closed, there's always work done on that. So I think that would be helpful to the committee to table that.
Mr Phillips: I know we would find it useful to have that legal opinion before we finally deal with the bill in terms of the licensing provisions. I think what we'd like to know, we've had two presentations, one from the city of Kingston and one from the Ontario Restaurant Association, one asked would the bill permit the establishment of a fee that could be, for example, tied to percentage of gross sales, and the city of Kingston I think indicated that they interpreted it could be for a service station a cent per litre for gasoline or $1 per night for occupied rooms for hotels, or $1 per litre for alcoholic beverages for actually the Brewers Retail and Liquor Control Board. Could we get a legal opinion on whether the licensing provisions in this bill permit that?
I don't have to have it now, but I don't mind it in written form before we have to deal with the bill finally.
Mr Hardeman: We don't have it now and I'm not sure it's a legal opinion, but it is an opinion from the ministry.
Mr Phillips: From the minister?
Mr Hardeman: From the ministry, clarification of the issue.
Mr Phillips: Okay. I wouldn't mind the legal opinion too.
The Chair: We now move to clause-by-clause analysis of the bill. In the absence of any other direction from the committee, obviously we begin at the beginning and we go to the end. In view of the fact that the majority of this bill is made up of the various schedules, is there any direction other than standard procedure that the committee is interested in or do we start with section 1 of the bill or do we start with the schedules?
Mr Clement: I'd like to suggest, since section 1 and the subsequent sections deal with the entire act, it would make sense to me to start with the schedules first, deal with those clause-by-clause, and then come back to the all-encompassing sections which are found at the beginning of the bill.
The Chair: Does anybody else have a thought on that?
Mr Phillips: I would've thought we'd do what I thought was kind of the obvious and start from the front and go to the back, which avoids anybody arguing, "Well, I want to deal with my section." "I want to deal with my section." And so I kind of assumed that was going to be the process. Maybe somebody has an argument why we wouldn't follow that.
Ms Lankin: We could spend the next few days on health.
Mr Clement: No, I'm saying start with schedule A. But schedule A is not the first section of the bill.
My suggestion is start with the schedules and come back to the all-encompassing sections.
Mr Phillips: Only because my instinct is to deal with the all-encompassing section just because some of them tend to impact on all parts of the bill. That's what I kind of thought.
Mr Clement: Keeping the great rhetorical footage at the end rather than at the beginning.
Mr Cooke: We may never get to the end.
The Chair: So I gather that we will start at the beginning and go to the end.
Mr Phillips: The public must really wonder about that.
The Chair: A pretty profound statement from the Chair at a quarter after 5.
We'll deal with the first section on page 2. Are there any amendments to the first section?
Mr Silipo: If you could direct me as to whether this is where this would fit, but when are we dealing with the title of the bill?
The Chair: We deal with it last.
Mr Silipo: We deal with it last?
The Chair: Right.
Mr Silipo: Okay.
The Chair: We deal with the short title in this particular section and we deal with the long title of the bill last.
Mr Phillips: That's normally done, is it? We always deal with the title at the end?
The Chair: Yes. The title comes last.
Mr Silipo: So we're on subsection 1(1)?
The Chair: So we're on subsection 1(1), or section 1 basically to start with. Are there any amendments to section 1?
Mr Silipo: Yes. I move that subsection 1(1) of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:
"Enactment of schedules
"1(1) All of the schedules to this act, other than schedules A, D, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P and Q, are hereby enacted."
The Chair: Mr Silipo has moved an amendment to subsection 1(1) of the bill. Is there any discussion on the amendment?
Mr Silipo: Mr Chair, I would just simply make the point that this would allow the sections that we believe are not controversial, particularly schedules B, C and E, to proceed. There are others that we believe need amendments and we've heard all of the problems with respect to all of the other sections. I'm not going to get into them at this point because that would take probably the next hour of the committee, so we'll just move that amendment.
Mr Cooke: I think what both opposition parties and many members of the public have said for the last several weeks very clearly is that we need to look at what can proceed and what needs to have further discussion. We've put forward a proposal that would allow some sections of the bill to go ahead and would provide a mechanism to allow the government and the opposition, the Legislature, to have further study and, I would hope, more public discussion about the legislation.
There has been overwhelming criticism about the process, both in terms of the ability for the public to understand the legislation, to be part of developing a strategy, but more important than any of that is to be part of the process to look at the future of this province because I think more than anything this legislation, as the Tories have been quite proud to say, will as it's implemented change the face of this province. I think that we need to be taking a look at an ability to allow certain parts of the bill to move forward -- we all agree with that -- but to also have further discussion and to have more public participation. The people of this province have that right and I think this amendment does that.
This out of all of the amendments reflects the public input that we've had and to reject this one means that the Conservatives are in fact rejecting the most fundamental presentation of all that have been made by 80% of the groups that have come forward.
Mr Clement: I will speak against the amendment. I understand why Mr Silipo would like to proceed with schedules B, C and E, but the fact of the matter is this legislation must and should be treated as a whole. It is not just particular portions of this that deal with the fiscal realities. It is all portions of this legislation that provide the context through which we must as a province and as a society proceed.
It is not just a question of fiscal realities as well, if I may say so, Mr Chairman. Those on the health side know that I've made this point before; namely, that this is also about restructuring our health care system so that it can do its job for the citizens of this province, for everyone in this province. It means dealing with the portions of the health care system which are not working well or are misallocating resources or allow for fraud or inefficiency to take place and dealing with those in a forthright, upfront manner rather than allowing the status quo to proceed where things are decided, hospital beds are closed, long-term care is not looked after, and ultimately it's the patient and it's the person in Ontario who pays, but there's no mechanism by which we as a province can deal with these issues.
So to me, it's wider than just a fiscal issue. To me, it's also a matter of restructuring our health care system so that it does its job, not only from a taxpayer point of view, although that is terribly important, but also from the point of view of all of us who at some time or another, either in the past, present or future, are going to be patients and recipients of health care in this system.
Similarly for the municipalities, there is a need for the municipalities -- and they have said this time and again -- to grapple with the changes that are occurring in our society and the changes in terms of their revenue generation and in terms of their expenditures.
We cannot stand idly by and allow those decisions to be occurring by default. I think that is the worst form of government, where things happen through muddling through, through burying your head in the sand. We've had governments like that. Perhaps we should all, as citizens in this province, take ownership that we have all been part of this problem, because we have allowed ourselves to bury our heads in the sand.
The time has now come where the people in the province of Ontario are demanding answers, and we heard this through our deputations as well, if I may say so. There have been deputations, Mr Silipo is quite correct, who said, "Split the bill up," or "Let's go easy on this," or "Let's go very, very slowly on this, because they're important issues." Yes, they're important issues, but there are also people who have made it clear to this committee that the price of not proceeding with alacrity is a very high price indeed.
Mrs Caplan: This has nothing to do with it.
Mr Clement: The price of having a $10-billion deficit every year is a price on our health care system. It's a price on our health care system; it's a price on our municipalities.
To me, what I derived from some -- not all -- of the deputations was, they want somebody to act. They're looking at the Legislature for leadership. They're looking to the government for the ability to get the job done so that we can start restructuring and finding the savings where they need to be found and reapplying those where there's a consensus that they should be applied.
For those reasons, I must speak against the motion. This bill is a whole. This is a strategic whole for this government --
Mr Cooke: It's a hole?
Mr Clement: -- whole with a w -- to deal with the issues that have to be dealt with and that, quite frankly, people are demanding. They are demanding that we behave responsibly and they are demanding that we, as legislators, finally, after all is said and done, after 750 presentations, after 11 cities, we, as legislators, finally legislate. So I must speak against the motion.
Mrs Pupatello: With respect, to speak to this motion, I must say that in terms of dealing with this bill as a whole, I think Mr Clement will admit that even in the limited hearings we had publicly across Ontario, even the hearings couldn't deal with the bill as a whole. It had to be split in two so that you had health and non-health. That was very limited, but even that was a recognition on the government's part that you could not deal with this bill as a whole. Moreover, every community we went to, you had about 400% of the presenters not presenting, so a very limited one quarter of those who would have liked to actually managed to present.
From the very beginning, this government compared, I guess, previous governments and opposition parties as wanting to support the status quo. Another thing I think those who really have listened all of this time will understand is that not a one of us agrees that the status quo should be maintained. Every one of us is in favour of making good change. That means doing that responsibly, and when you try to effect the bill as a whole, in fact you would be irresponsible.
I think the government members had to realize, and have, in terms of how they've been forced by us to deal with this, unlike what they would have done without us, and that is, ramming it through before Christmas -- all of that speaks to the fact that the motion, as has been presented so far, should be passed.
Mrs Caplan: I guess the thing that I'm most concerned about is that the government just doesn't seem to be listening. One of the things we've heard from them is, "We consulted," yet when I asked research to do a review of a number of groups that said they had been consulted compared to the number of groups that had not been consulted, overwhelmingly -- overwhelmingly -- the number of presenters who said: "We have not been consulted. If we were consulted, we could help you draft better legislation. Go slow" -- even those who supported the bill said: "Split it up so that we can consider it thoughtfully. There are parts of it that you're rushing through that are going to result in just simply bad legislation, bad law, and most importantly bad policy."
When I listen to what the government members say, I am convinced they haven't heard anything. They haven't heard what people have said to them. So, Mr Chairman, the most significant thing that I think we can do today is to accept amendments that will say to the government, "Split this bill into manageable pieces and let's look at it thoughtfully so that we end up with good law."
I was elected to do the best that I could to advocate for good lawmaking. We are legislators. We are lawmakers. We share many of the same goals. This bill does not achieve those goals of good law, of good lawmaking, because it has had a bad process. So I appeal to the government members to think about that, to accept these amendments which are technical in nature and will allow for proper scrutiny and better lawmaking.
The Chair: Any further discussion? All those in favour of Mr Silipo's motion? Opposed? The motion is defeated.
Any additional amendments to section 1?
Mr Phillips: Mr Chair, we have several amendments here. The paperwork is getting so thick, I'm not sure whether everyone has all the amendments or not. We had a Liberal motion on section 1 of the bill that, because it was very similar to the motion we just dealt with with Mr Cooke, I'm going to, in the interest of trying to make sure we get through as much of this bill as we can, withdraw and move on to our second amendment.
Mr Sampson: Mr Chair, on a point of order, if I may: I don't have copies of the Liberal amendments. I don't know if there's any other committee member who does, apart from Mr Phillips, at this point in time. I've not been delivered a copy of the Liberal amendments.
Mr Cooke: They've been handed out by the clerk.
Mr Gerretsen: They've been handed out by the clerk. Now you know how we feel most of the time.
Mr Phillips: I think it's unfair that the committee's kept Mr Sampson in the dark. I, for one --
Mr Sampson: I have the NDP motions. The package that was in the infamous rubber band, I have. But this is the one I don't have.
The Chair: Now you have it.
Mr Phillips: Should we wait a minute or two till Mr Sampson finds his amendments?
Mr Sampson: Can we adjourn for five minutes while I have a chance to flip through the amendments, let alone find them?
Mr Phillips: I plan to read them and maybe I'll read slowly for you.
Mr Sampson: That's fine.
Mr Phillips: Is that all right?
Mr Sampson: Go ahead.
Mr Phillips: I'm dealing now with our motion, section 1.1 of the bill.
I move that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
"Biannual report," if everyone's on that one.
The Chair: Excuse me for a second. What you're introducing is a new section, 1.1, I believe.
Mr Phillips: That's right.
The Chair: So basically we should vote on section 1, because there are no further amendments to section 1. You are adding a new section now, 1.1, so we'll deal with section 1.
Shall section 1 carry? All those in favour of section 1 being carried? All those opposed? Section 1 is carried.
Okay, now, Mr Phillips.
Mr Phillips: Section 1.1 of the bill: I move that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
"1.1 (1) Every six months, beginning with July, 1996, the Minister of Finance shall table a report with the assembly setting out the actions the government has taken in the preceding calendar year in exercising powers granted to it under this act including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,
"(a) actions by the Minister of Health under the Public Hospitals Act to issue directions, to appoint a supervisor and to review human resource plans;
"(b) actions by the Minister of Health to revoke or rescind a private hospital licence or to reduce financial assistance to a private hospital without notice, the right to a hearing or appeal or any other legal remedy;
"(c) actions by the Minister of Health to limit the circulation of a request for a licence for an independent health facility;
"(d) consideration by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of the price of a drug as a factor in deciding not to list it under the Ontario Drug Benefit Act;"
"(e) actions of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing or a municipal restructuring commission which, while defined by regulation, can prevail over any act or regulation;
"(f) action by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to exempt a business or a class of businesses from municipal licensing provisions;
"(g) limiting the need for permits with regard to carrying on logging, mining exploration, an industrial operation, construction, clearing, dredging or filling shore land on crown land, building dams and outdoor fires and travel in fire zones; and
"(h) the financing of wildlife and natural resources management in the wake of dedicating relevant fines, fees and royalties to these items.
"Public hearings and debate
"(2) The assembly shall refer any report tabled under this section to a standing committee, where at least three weeks of public hearings shall be scheduled to consider it and time shall be set aside in the assembly for debate of the report."
If I might speak briefly to it, Mr Chair.
The Chair: Yes, Mr Phillips.
Mr Phillips: The intent of this is, frankly I think even the government may acknowledge, we are moving very quickly on a wide range of fronts and all of us may not be aware of the total implications of what we're doing. The government may deny that, but I think certainly on our side we think this bill is heading into some uncharted waters, the consequences of which many of us can't foresee.
So the purpose of this is to put in the bill a mechanism that ensures there is a review of what happened as a result of the bill and an opportunity for the Legislature to review that. We tried to anticipate what we think may be some of the major areas, but it says "without limiting the generality of the foregoing." In other words, there may be other things that should be in this report as well.
I think it's wise to put in here a review mechanism for the Legislature and it may actually be useful for the government to calm people down mildly to say, "In six months there's going to be a public review of this and an opportunity for you to see many of the implications of what's happened as a result of the bill." So that's the purpose.
Mr Silipo: I speak in favour of this. I just point out that it's a fairly mild but I think useful process that would allow people to take a look at what's happened, as a result of the passage of this bill, six months from now. It seems to us to be something that even the government members ought to be able to approve.
The Chair: I wasn't used to such a short comment. I almost fell asleep.
Mrs Caplan: I'd like to speak very briefly to this. In fact, I think this is a very useful provision and I'm hoping that the government will support it. Given the unprecedented nature of this bill and the broad powers that it gives to the minister and to cabinet, if you're going to have the opportunity to just let the Legislature know how it's going, how you're doing, in fact it would be a way of gathering support if it's working, and if it's not working, conversely it will hold true that by letting people know what's happening, it would be an opportunity to say, "Look, it wasn't working; we're proposing certain changes," or "We've done it."
I believe this is a useful amendment both for the government and for ourselves as legislators who want to be able to know how this is working in its implementation and how the government, through regulation, is making changes that this bill will allow behind closed doors. By having some transparency I think we would all be well served. So I hope the government will support this, because it really is a democratic amendment that is not meant in any way to be adversarial or confrontational or even in any way a criticism, but it's an opportunity for us to see the government be a little accountable, given these massive and unprecedented, sweeping powers that they're taking unto themselves.
Mr Cooke: I think that this is a very interesting amendment and is one of those amendments that appeals to those of us who believe in democracy, and also I think should appeal to the Conservatives as well. The reason I say that is that you hear a lot of criticism from the right wing that governments do things without any accountability, that no one measures whether the actions that a government is taking are working and how often they're used and all of those types of things. This would actually allow the progress of this bill, the success of this bill, the success of any actions the government takes under this bill, to be measured and to be debated.
So if there are problems that the government has with the time lines, I'm sure the Liberals would be willing to take a look at any changes, whether six months is appropriate or whether another time line is appropriate, but I can't see how the Conservatives could oppose this one. This just makes government accountable and brings a business approach to government.
Mr Clement: Despite Mr Cooke's challenge, I feel I must oppose the amendment for the following reasons. I think we all agree on the ends; it's a question of means. I agree with the mover and the speakers that public accountability is absolutely critical to this whole process of government and governing. The issue is how best to do that. I would bring members' attention to the fact that there are a number of public accountability mechanisms already in place which deal with a number of the aspects that the mover is concerned about.
For instance, we have budget hearings and pre-budget hearings which travel around the province by committee, allowing members of the public as well as other groups --
Ms Lankin: They don't travel.
Mr Clement: Sorry, I misspeak myself, but they are available to the public and allow members of the public as well as various stakeholders to have their say as to what the financial priorities of the government of the day are.
We have the Premier's accessibility, typically through either the media year-enders or throughout the process, where the Premier is held to accountability for the actions of his or her government. We have, on occasion, the speech from the throne, which proceeds to communicate to the public what the priorities of the government are and how best to deal with those priorities.
We have within the legislation itself, in schedule F, a review procedure for some of the more, as they have been termed, "extraordinary" powers of the Minister of Health. By "extraordinary," I mean powers which will be used only sparingly, rather than "out of the ordinary" in another sense; for instance, the sunset clause that is on the hospital restructuring commission or section 6 powers that the Minister of Health purports to exercise.
Finally, we have public accountability through question period. I'm sure members of the government would attest to the fact that they have been definitely accountable for their actions and, in some cases, missteps that they have publicly acknowledged, and that's all part of the process.
So I think that public accountability is important and I think that we have a system of public accountability in place which meets the concerns of the mover.
Ms Lankin: I have to say that was the most astonishing display of doublespeak I have ever heard from the Conservative party whose leader, now our Premier, Mike Harris, stood day after day in the Legislature and insisted on reports being tabled in the Legislature, insisted on issues being referred to standing committees, insisted on public hearings being held on various issues, who told us day after day that the accountability measures that were already in place and being acted upon in the Legislature of Ontario were not sufficient to provide the kind of accountability that he, as Premier, would provide under the Common Sense Revolution to the people of Ontario.
To hear now the weak defence put forward that, "All is well in the province of Ontario and that all the procedures we have always had work perfectly and that even though we are taking extraordinary, unprecedented powers on to ourselves to make decisions behind closed doors, which is entirely opposite to what we said we would do during the campaign and during our two years of travelling around with the Common Sense Revolution, despite that, we're also going to say that we are opposed to a simple amendment which would have accountability measures of tabling reports after the fact of how these unprecedented powers are used and allowing that referral to a public committee to monitor the progress of the government with respect to the implementation of powers, new powers, never-before-held powers in the history of the province of Ontario, to monitor how those powers are being used and the effectiveness of it, so that the Legislature in fact does have some mechanism of accountability, even if it is after the fact, and so that there is an opportunity for that to be reviewed in an open public way as opposed to simply regulation-making powers being done and exercised behind closed doors."
I find it extraordinary that you could marshal the wherewithal to argue against a process which seems to me to have been at the cornerstone of everything you've publicly proclaimed as a party over the last couple of years in terms of your beliefs about accountability. How quickly we change.
Mr Cooke: I guess I -- and Mr Sampson is gone.
Interjection: Here he is; he's back.
Mr Cooke: I wanted to ask him a question, because I'm not quite sure what the roles are. Mr Sampson, I think, has got major carriage of the bill. Mr Clement is, I don't know, major spokesperson.
Mr Sampson, you had indicated a few minutes ago that you hadn't had a chance to look at the amendments because you hadn't been given them. Is this a particular amendment that you would be prepared to stand down till tomorrow while you have a chance to review it? Because quite frankly, if you can't accept this amendment, I think we're heading in a direction that there are no amendments from the opposition parties that you're going to be accepting over the next four days. You're just going to approve all of yours, except for the ones that are out of order, and we might as well at least tell everybody who's watching this: "Read the Tory amendments. That's what the final bill will look like. You can see what we've moved and they're all going to be rejected. We might as well pack it in if that's the game plan of the government." This amendment just makes sense. What's your problem with it?
Mr Sampson: Mr Chair, I would like to have had the same opportunity that we provided the other members to review their amendments. As I said, I literally just got them when they were handed to me 10 minutes ago, with respect to the Liberal amendments. I have not had a chance to go through any of these amendments. We'll be taking a look at them if we continue on till 6 o'clock, taking a look at them, minute by minute, as they are raised.
Mr Phillips: Just on a point of order, Mr Chair: When were these distributed?
Interjections: This morning.
Mr Phillips: He said he wanted the same courtesy. You got the same courtesy. They were distributed this morning. So I would appreciate it if you'd withdraw that comment.
Mr Sampson: Come on, I'm not going to withdraw that comment, because I was literally given these 10 minutes ago. You saw the act of them being given to me.
Mr Phillips: Excuse me, but your caucus was given them this morning.
Mr Sampson: I'm just telling you what the fact is. The fact is that this is the first time I've seen these amendments, the Liberal amendments.
Mr Phillips: Don't blame the Liberals.
Mr Sampson: I'm just telling you what the fact is. If you wanted due consideration of these amendments --
Mrs Caplan: The way it works is, it gets filed with the clerk, the clerk distributes it to everybody. To suggest that you were not given any courtesy is an affront to the clerk; certainly not to us. We tabled them appropriately this morning. Your caucus got it. We didn't single you out not to get it. I think the clerk gave it to you and perhaps it's been sitting there and you just didn't see it. Let's be fair about this. It's going to be a very long and frustrating week if the attitude that you've just displayed in the last couple of minutes is going to prevail.
Mr Sampson: I'm not displaying any attitude, Mr Chair. I'm just telling you the facts. The facts are that I personally just got these amendments when they were handed to me. That is the fact.
Mr Phillips: Excuse me. I must interrupt, Mr Chair, on a point of privilege. You said in your remarks: "I would appreciate the same consideration from the Liberals that I gave them. I only got this 10 minutes ago." That is not true. You only found them 10 minutes ago. You got them this morning. The reason I raise this is that you create a climate in the room that is not helpful. We tabled them this morning; you got them this morning. I can't help it, we can't help it if your filing system isn't working or you can't read through these or no one points out that under that little pile of paper there you have the Liberal amendments. All your colleagues have them. You got them early this morning. So I would appreciate if what you'd said was, "I'm sorry. I didn't notice I had these amendments that I had this morning. I have not had a chance to read them," not, "I wish they would give me the same courtesy that I give them," because you got the courtesy, getting them this morning.
The Chair: Obviously, we could argue all day about this. When were they received?
Mr Clement: It's all a blur, Mr Chairman.
Mrs Caplan: Why don't you ask the clerk?
The Chair: Okay. The amendments were handed out this morning. I don't know what caused the confusion that Mr Sampson didn't get them, because we saw him get them. Anyway, they were handed out this morning.
The Chair: I don't know that it really is worth an awful lot of our energies. Mr Cooke, you were asking a question of Mr Sampson.
Mr Cooke: I'd ask Mr Sampson, would it be of any assistance to stand down the amendment? Or, since you are going to be the major decision-maker on how the Conservative caucus proceeds in the next four days, is there a logic that we adjourn the committee now at quarter to 6, give the parliamentary assistant the opportunity to go through all the amendments, and we proceed tomorrow? Or are they just going to be defeated tomorrow?
Mr Sampson: I think the right route would be to give us all on this side and perhaps all the committee, because I don't know whether the NDP has seen the Liberal amendments and the Liberals have seen the NDP amendments --
Mr Sampson: -- but give all the committee members a chance to consider these amendments and whether there's any validity to them, otherwise there's a strong chance we would be standing them all down until we have a chance to consider them.
The Chair: Are you making a motion, Mr Cooke, that we adjourn till tomorrow?
Ms Lankin: But I thought you were prepared to proceed this morning.
Mr Sampson: We are. I'm just telling you, how can I proceed on amendments I didn't get? We're back to the same argument again.
Ms Lankin: Then how could we have started this morning, Mr Sampson?
The Chair: Mr Cooke, are you making a motion?
Mr Cooke: I'm asking Mr Sampson a question. With the 15 minutes, does he want us to adjourn now and we'll come back and start clause-by-clause in more detail tomorrow so we will get due consideration of the amendments, or is it going to be the same result? Has this amendment got a chance of carrying? Is there any logic to it?
Mr Clement: We're standing this one down so --
The Chair: Mr Clement, the question was asked of Mr Sampson.
Mr Sampson: I would suggest that we stand this one down. Yes, that would be appropriate, and we'll continue with the next amendment.
Mr Cooke: So we come back to this first thing tomorrow morning?
The Chair: Do we have unanimous consent to stand this amendment down? Agreed.
There was another new proposed section 1.1.
Mr Silipo: I move that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
"Application of Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993
"1.1. Despite subsection 15.4(2) of Ontario Regulation 73/94, section 15 of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, applies in respect of this bill and all of its schedules."
The Chair: Mr Silipo, do you want to speak to the motion?
Mr Silipo: Before I speak to this, I don't want to push the point, but --
Mr Sampson: I've seen it.
Mr Silipo: Mr Sampson has seen this one? Okay. Do you want to us to proceed with this one now?
Mr Sampson: Go right ahead, Mr Silipo.
The Chair: Mr Silipo, the floor is yours.
Mr Silipo: Then let me say that it's maybe a little-known fact that on the same day the government introduced this legislation, it also passed a regulation exempting this bill and, more particularly, exempting the whole Ministry of Finance from the application of the Environmental Bill of Rights. That, we believe, is wrongheaded, because it doesn't allow for the safeguards in the Environmental Bill of Rights to be applied to this legislation.
We certainly heard through the hearings a number of concerns as they relate to things, for example, like the closure of mines, as they relate to some of the changes that affect conservation lands, and the potential and likely sale of some of those lands as they relate to the game and fish lands and rivers act.
We also know that the Environmental Commissioner, who's an independent officer of the Legislature, took the unprecedented action of issuing of a special report to the Legislature in which he condemned the government's actions of exempting itself and exempting this bill and the Ministry of Finance from the application of the Environmental Bill of Rights.
For all those reasons, we believe it would be appropriate to put this piece of legislation to the same test that all other pieces of legislation are subject to: the provisions and the safeguards provided for in the Environmental Bill of Rights.
Mr Phillips: I want to speak in support of the motion. I think it's fair to say, and I hope members on all sides will agree, that a part of this bill that has not had the consideration it should is the impact on the environment. We began to hear towards the end of our hearings from groups involved with the environment. We heard Friday night a fine presentation from an individual who spoke about the concerns for the environment. But it was only towards the latter part of the hearings that the people who monitor for Ontario the environmental impact of bills began to be aware of the impact.
I happen to think the combination of some of the things happening in the Mining Act, the Fish and Game Act, the conservation authorities, coupled with the government's decision -- three things happened November 29. Everybody was aware of two of them, the financial statement and the omnibus bill, but that same day the government exempted itself from many provisions in the Environmental Bill of Rights. I think that's a mistake, because it is going to have an impact on the environment that we simply do not have a handle on.
The amendment makes sense and I think will give some assurances to the environmental concerns around the bill, that this isn't going to be an major -- "disaster" is too strong a word, but a major problem for the environment. We'll be supporting the amendment.
Mr Clement: As we all know, government has a balancing role to play as both the custodian, in the first instance, of our environmental heritage and as custodian of an economy that we are charged with assisting the private sector in working well. I think this bill does strike that proper balance. I don't see any deferral of any safeguards. In fact, Mr Sampson quite eloquently earlier this afternoon mentioned the improvements to the Mining Act, how that would improve the environment through the use of inspectors. I see this as a proper balance as it now stands and would speak against the amendment.
Ms Lankin: I want to underscore for everyone interested in this particular issue that much like the privacy commissioner, who is an independent officer of the Legislature, who was very critical of the government's actions with respect to privacy of health information records and other changes contained in Bill 26 to freedom of information and privacy protection legislation in this province, the Environmental Commissioner, who is also an independent officer of the Legislature, went so far as to hold a press conference to condemn the government's actions with respect to exempting itself under Bill 26 from aspects of the Environmental Bill of Rights.
I think it is not appropriate for us as legislators to make light of that kind of important advice and concern registered by an independent officer of the Legislature. To simply say that government has some overriding ability to balance these issues of the economy and the environment -- in fact, that's exactly what the Environmental Bill of Rights sets out: a process for that balancing to take place, for the concerns of the environment to be publicly acknowledged and responded to by government, but every right to balance that. To exempt yourself is once again to move yourself into the realm of making decisions and taking actions behind closed doors without public scrutiny, in this case with respect to the environmental impacts of your decision.
Once again it seems to us that the whole way this government intends to operate is to be able to do things in a secret manner, in a manner that is not accountable. I would hope that when Mr Sampson has a chance to read the earlier amendment we have stood down, perhaps we will see a different approach from the government members tomorrow morning when we deal with that. This is another very good example of the very same issues at the heart of it: issues of accountability, of openness, of public scrutiny. I believe those are things that your government would profess to believe in, yet every action you take seems to run right in the face of that.
I speak very strongly in favour of this and very strongly in favour of taking the advice of the independent officer of the Legislature, the Environmental Commissioner, who has made her advice known publicly to all of us. I think it warrants at least listening to.
The Chair: Any further discussion?
Shall the new section 1.1, as proposed by Mr Silipo, pass?
All those in favour?
Mr Cooke: Can we get a recorded vote on this, and on every amendment?
The Chair: Okay.
Caplan, Gerretsen, Lankin, Phillips, Silipo.
Clement, Ecker, Hardeman, Johns, Maves, Sampson, Tascona, Young.
The Chair: The new section 1.1 is defeated.
I understand there's a new section 1.2.
Mr Phillips: I hope Mr Sampson's got this one.
Mr Sampson: They're all here.
Mr Phillips: Good. I feel better now.
I move that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
"Petition of members
"1.2(1) On the petition of 15 members of the assembly, any action authorized by provisions in this bill, including the passing of a regulation, may be referred to a committee of the assembly.
"(2) Where such a referral is made, the committee shall consider the matter, may hold public hearings and shall report back to the assembly."
This is in the same vein as the previous motion in the sense that the government should be looking for opportunities to provide reassurance to the public that they need not worry about this bill. We obviously think the public should be worried about the bill; we think it's got sweeping provisions for powers that no government should have. But if the government is looking for some things it can go out to the public with and say, "Don't worry too much," this is one of them, where if 15 members of the assembly want to, they can petition provisions in the bill and have an opportunity to look at it.
I clearly recall during the hearings the faith we all have in municipal politicians that they will not abuse the power. I don't think the Legislature would abuse this either. There's a self-correcting mechanism in the Legislature of making sure one doesn't step too far over the bounds. This is a good motion that assures the public that there's an opportunity for some review of possible abuse in the bill, and for the government, it's a good way to show you're at least considering some valves that will let off public steam. That's its purpose. As I say, it's not unlike the previous one, and I would hope the government would consider it.
Mrs Caplan: This is not new in the Legislature. Over the course of time I've been here, this was a provision we'd had in the past. When we've had different rule changes and different procedures, this was one of the things that, for a while, we tried to do without. In bringing it back, it's really something that many members felt worked quite well, and missed the opportunity. When there was an initiative by the government, for members of the Legislature of all parties who wanted to have an opportunity to examine it further, with the petition of 15 members they could do that. I'm hoping the government will see this as something which is helpful and friendly and would allow standing committees of the Legislature to review things that perhaps members of the government caucus might like to see studied from time to time as well.
Particularly as it relates to this bill, given the dramatic new powers it gives to the government, there will be concerns raised by some of the things done by regulation. This is a safety valve, it's reasonable, and I can't think of any reason the government would not permit this scrutiny by a legislative committee of the Legislature.
Mr Cooke: Again, you've got to put this amendment in the proper context; that is, when you consider that there are so many things under Bill 26, if it's passed in its current form, that used to require the assent of the Legislature but are now going to require approval of cabinet only, all this does is allow the assembly to be involved occasionally with some exercise of this power.
I'll go back to municipal restructuring. If there were a major restructuring of a county government into a regional government, as this bill would allow -- and would allow to happen without it ever having to come to the Legislature-this would simply allow the Legislature to take a look at it. It wouldn't be able to stop it, but at least to be involved in the process and get some feedback.
I don't think it's particularly radical. Quite frankly, I don't think it's particularly adequate. It doesn't do nearly enough to replace the powers the assembly is losing under Bill 26, but at least it provides a small amount of democracy in an otherwise very undemocratic bill.
Mr Maves: I would say that this has the potential to be abused and really just delay governing. Each time a minister puts forth a regulation, the opposition, in an effort to delay proceedings in governing, could use this section to do so. I think history shows that avenues like this that can be abused have been abused. We spent years and years with standing orders, for instance, trying to get rid of tactics which simply tie up government and don't allow governments of the day to govern.
Already, there's nothing stopping members from recommending things to committees to be studied anyway. If I'm not mistaken, any member of a committee can ask that committee and the people on that committee to study something. That's already there.
Also, there's already some degree of public accountability in the bill, for instance, in restructuring, where public meetings are now required under the bill.
I think it has the potential for being abused, the potential to delay government being carried on by duly elected people. I would urge my fellow members to vote down this amendment.
The Chair: In view of the time, we'll have to continue the discussion tomorrow. We stand adjourned until tomorrow at 10 o'clock. Ms Lankin, you will be the first to be recognized.
The committee adjourned at 1757.