STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES ORGANISMES GOUVERNEMENTAUX
Tuesday 8 March 2022 Mardi 8 mars 2022
The committee met at 0900 in committee room 2.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): The Standing Committee on Government Agencies will come to order. We have a couple of intended appointees to go through. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, I must say that I think our good friend Mr. Yakabuski has a report of the subcommittee.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I do, Chair.
I move adoption of the subcommittee report on intended appointments dated Thursday, March 3, 2022, on the order-in-council certificate dated February 25, 2022.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Any discussion in regard to that? Seeing no discussion, all those in favour, please signify by raising your hand. Those opposed? Carried.
Mr. Leo Demarce
Review of intended appointment, selected by official opposition party: Leo Demarce, intended appointee as member, Licence Appeal Tribunal.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): We will move to our first selected appointee from the official opposition: Leo Demarce.
We’re supposed to be online here.
The Clerk of the Committee (Ms. Tanzima Khan): He is here.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): He is, but we don’t see him.
Mrs. Robin Martin: But it’s a nice crest.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Yes, it’s a very nice crest. We’re just going to wait for him to come up.
For people who are aptly wondering, why we’re sort of stalled here is because our presenter is coming to us via Zoom and I guess we’re having a bit of a problem trying to put it up on the screen. As soon as it’s on the screen, we’ll be able to start with Mr. Demarce.
There you are. Thank you very much, sir—an appointee to the Licence Appeal Tribunal.
You have an opportunity to introduce yourself to the committee. Any time you take will be taken from the government’s 15 minutes. You have the floor.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members, for taking the time to hear me today. I also greatly appreciate that you are seeing me virtually. I am here to discuss my appointment to the Licence Appeal Tribunal.
My name is Leo Demarce. I live in Tecumseh, Ontario, which is on the east side of Windsor. I’m very proud of my community. Some even call me “Mr. Tecumseh.”
I grew up in a family business in the mid-1970s. When I was a young boy, my family started a small cafe and developed it into a thriving business over the next 20 years, with a restaurant, a variety store and a gift shop.
I studied business and economics at the University of Windsor, where I earned my honours B.Com.
I left the family business in the early 1990s and started my career in business consulting. I worked with over 100 small to medium-sized businesses throughout southern Ontario and Michigan. I helped them to develop their financial and operational systems as well as strategic planning. I worked with the owners of the companies right down to the front-line workers, helping them to implement change with the least amount of stress.
I met my wife, Karen, in 1990. We’ve been a great team. She’s the love of my life. While we have not been blessed with children, we have nourished her salon business and have 26 employees and five independent contractors who are like family to us.
Running a small business is always a challenge. The last two years have been nearly catastrophic, but so far we have survived, through a lot of courage and a lot of creativity.
My business life has given me a very wide range of knowledge and experience. I’ve had to develop skills in many facets of business, certainly around accounting and finance, operations, government requirements, marketing, contracts and law, HR, and customer relations. You’ve got to wear a lot of hats.
I’ve also been a landlord for over 20 years—both commercial and residential tenants.
Having been an entrepreneur and businessman for over 20 years and growing up in a small business, I feel like I’m uniquely qualified to accurately and fairly adjudicate the issues brought to the LAT. Having to abide by those regulatory bodies myself, having to meet payroll consistently, having to ensure the safety and security of my employees—just a few examples of the experience that I bring to this role.
I have been a volunteer for many things in my life. I have recently been appointed to the Tecumseh BIA, where I was also a member back in the 1980s as a young man. I’ve sought other opportunities to serve, and that brought me to the Public Appointments Secretariat. I was looking for something that would utilize my life experience, which pushed me towards the tribunals, to take a position as an adjudicator.
I feel like I’m gifted with experience as well as an exceptional level of empathy and understanding of the human experience. I’ve had an opportunity to experience the adjudicative process, and I knew I would be great at it. It took me almost a year, from the time I started applying to the Public Appointments Secretariat to the start of my first appointment, which I was granted last April, to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, where I served until it was closed last December. It was a merit-based competition, and I earned that appointment.
I’m not a lawyer, but this lack of credential did not affect my ability to adjudicate in this extremely emotionally charged and challenging role. I don’t know the exact number of cases I sat on, but it was over 20, and I thrived in that role. I was able to dig into many of my talents and strengths—compassion and empathy, firmness tempered with gentleness. I managed my caseload despite being new at the role, using time management skills, focusing on the matter at hand, and gently keeping others in alignment with the task before us. I was blessed to work with many other adjudicators as well as an amazing support team. I was sad to have that board close. I will always treasure my time with them.
In the meantime, I was recognized by the ARB, the Assessment Review Board, as a qualified adjudicator. They looked at my skills and appointed me just a few months ago. The current workload at the ARB is low, so they also decided to cross-appoint me to the Licence Appeal Tribunal, where they felt my skills would fit in quite well. I’m eager to jump in and get up to speed and apply my skills and provide fair, accurate and timely decisions. I have proven myself capable and effective as an adjudicator, and I look forward to serving Ontario.
Thank you for your time and consideration regarding my appointment to the LAT. Thank you, Mr. Chair. That concludes my remarks.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Thank you.
With that, we’re going to start with the official opposition, who have 15 minutes. Mr. Gates.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Good morning, sir. How are you?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I’m well, thank you.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’m going to start by saying we have something in common: We’re both not lawyers. That’s a good thing, I guess, or a bad thing, depending on if you’re a lawyer.
I’m going to start with—and I do this with everybody, so you’re not special on this particular line of questioning, quite frankly. I know my colleagues don’t like it, but I think it’s fair and reasonable, and it’s probably one of the reasons why you were called here today.
Discussing your previous affiliation with the governing party—can you confirm that you ran for the PC Party?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I’ve never run for the PC Party. I ran for the federal Conservative Party in 2019.
Mr. Wayne Gates: What riding did you run in?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Windsor–Tecumseh.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Have you ever donated to the PC Party?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Yes.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Do you belong to the riding association?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Yes.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Do you hold any office with the riding association?
Mr. Leo Demarce: No, I do not.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Did you enjoy running?
Mr. Leo Demarce: It was a great experience.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Was that the first time you ran for the party?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Yes, it was.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Well, I can give you some advice. I ran seven times before I won, so you’ve got six more to go, buddy, before you get elected. I thought I’d let you know. That’s kind of how we run in the NDP—you just keep running. Sometimes that’s because nobody else wants to run for the party. You’ve got six more times to try it, so consider doing it again.
Windsor is a great community. We’ve got some issues in Windsor around the casino. There’s a press conference today around e-gaming. There are a thousand workers who are currently laid off at the casino in Windsor; I’ve got 1,200 laid off in Niagara. If you have any contacts at all, please talk to your people up there. I’m talking to people in Niagara to try to get those workers back. Like you said, with the pandemic, it has been awful for small businesses, but it has been awful for workers too. Some of these casino workers have been laid off for two years with no paycheques. They did get CERB for a while, but that was cut off.
So if you know anybody in your community, in your surrounding area, please talk it up, get those workers back to work. They’re losing their houses. They’re losing their families, by the way. It’s a little off the subject, but I think it’s important. As somebody from Windsor who ran in the Windsor riding, I’m sure you know a lot of people in that area. If you can do anything to help those poor casino workers, please do.
I’ve got another couple of questions around—I say this all the time. We ask that those who appear before the committee—because the government has a habit of appointing their friends and donors to lucrative positions in the government. It’s nothing new.
Have you ever donated to the PC Party or been a member of the PC Party, and if you can recall, what would you have donated? How much?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I am a member of the PC Party. The last time I donated was last year to the local EDA, and it was $400.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Did you ever donate to the federal party?
Mr. Leo Demarce: No—sorry, the federal Conservative Party?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yes. I don’t think you donated to the federal NDP party, so let’s try the Conservative Party.
Mr. Leo Demarce: No, I’m sorry—as opposed to provincial. I did in the year that I ran.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. I appreciate that. Thank you.
You answered this, but I’ll ask it again. How do you think you can balance your role with the tribunal where you must remain objective and that it’s non-partisan even though you’re a partisan candidate?
Mr. Leo Demarce: My partisanship doesn’t affect my day-to-day life like it does—for example, running a business, you can’t be partisan. I have customers that come in from all classes of life, and just like I respect every customer, being an adjudicator—and I’ve proven this in my time at the Criminal Injury Compensation Board. You have to have compassion. You have to be able to listen. You have to be able to adjudicate fairly and impartially and effectively in a timely manner, so applying time scheduling is highly important, being prepared before the meeting starts, having relevant questions ready to go, being able to keep the meeting on task. Those are all very important skills that I carry with me.
Quite frankly, I’m quite excellent at keeping any kind of political views separate in a way from my adjudicating role, just like I do in everyday life.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I appreciate that. Thank you. This next question is relatively long, but I think it’s important to get it on the record. I’ll read it out. Please try to pay attention as best you can.
The LAT and the AABS saw an increase in appeals received, at 15,619 in 2020-21, up from 14,711 in 2019-20 and 13,565 in 2018-19. The number of case conferences held continued to steadily rise to 11,519 in 2020-21, up from 9,971 in 2019-20 and 8,800 in 2018-19.
Last week, we spoke about this issue. The Licence Appeal Tribunal is facing a massive backlog of cases. This government has appointed numerous representatives to the tribunal with little evidence of subject matter expertise or adjudicative experience. Can you discuss your subject matter expertise for this tribunal?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Well, number one is, I already am an adjudicator, so I have proven expertise within the tribunal system, and that’s a big part of why they’ve assigned me to this board. I’ve also got my own life experience with—I’m going to keep saying that, not being a lawyer. I’m ready to jump in with both feet on the onboarding process and get up to speed very quickly. The subject matter experience is there through my life experience. It’s the application thereof through the onboarding process that I look forward to jumping into very soon.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. Thank you. Can you discuss some of the possible strategies for dealing with the ongoing backlog? Is it possible to look at other jurisdictions for examples?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Sorry. I’m not quite sure of the question with regard to other jurisdictions.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Other areas of the country that may have this type of issue. Do you think it would be a good idea to see why they’re doing a lot better than Ontario?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Well, once I get into the system, I’m going to follow the guidance of the Chair and the members accordingly. I don’t feel I’m ready to give an opinion on that at this point.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. Could you go over some of your educational and professional background and how you will add to the functioning of the LAT? Maybe you could discuss which particular area of the LAT you are more interested in assisting with. It’s a wide agency with several topics of coverage.
Mr. Leo Demarce: My background educationally is that I have a combined degree in business and economics, and I’ve got nearly 30 years of experience running a business, being involved in regulatory matters. Whether it be the alcohol or tobacco or driver’s licences—everybody has a driver’s licence. I know it sounds kind of naïve, my answer, but the point being, I’m not a 20-year-old young man; I’m in my mid-50s and I’ve had quite a breadth of life. I’ve been all over this province and I’ve dealt with thousands of people in my career.
So I have a lot to bring to the board, because the adjudicative process is a lot more than just understanding the subject matter. It’s about understanding people. It’s about understanding how to move a process along and to be able to be accurate, fair and timely. Those are the experiences I bring to the table, not to mention that I’m already an adjudicator in that regard.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you. I’ve got one more question for you: Last week, we spoke with a new appointee to the LAT. I really want to address the current problem: the severe backlog. I understand that the LAT aims to convene a case conference within three months of the receipt of an appeal or application in 80% of the cases. It only did so in, if you can believe it, 1% of the cases in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. What should be done to address this problem?
Mr. Leo Demarce: Well, I will be able to look more deeply into that when I get into the board and I get to go through the onboarding process and get some experience behind me. I don’t feel I could render an accurate opinion on that at this point in time.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I don’t want you to be too excited, but there’s a good chance that you will get on the board. I’m looking across at the army of Conservatives that are facing me, staring me down here, and they have more votes than mine. I think you’re going to be in good shape in about 40 minutes or whenever we vote for you.
I appreciate your time, sir. Have a good day. Take care. Thank you.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): All right. To the government side. I think you have about 10 minutes.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Yes, that’s what I was going to say. Yes, you have about 10 minutes.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Mr. Demarce, for joining us today. Partially on the basis of your address and partially on your responses to the questions by MPP Gates, I do appreciate the experience that you bring to the table here. As my dad used to say, you’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with people from every walk of life. I think we sometimes dismiss that. We devalue it, from the point of view that we think that if someone has the educational credentials or they have the LLB behind their name, that somehow makes them a person with better judgment. I tend to disagree with that. Nothing is automatic.
But I do know this: Having a great deal of diverse life experience can prepare someone for just about anything, and as you have said, some of those decisions and some of those thoughts you’ll be able to much better articulate once you’re actually in the job. You have done the right thing by not pre-positioning as to where you would be on something that you haven’t had the opportunity to have discussions on.
The one thing that is very, very clear—and MPP Gates made that clear as well, and you know, based on the fact that you’ve been asked to join this appeal tribunal, and partially because of the great work that you’ve done on previous boards. We know that because of the backlog, the Licence Appeal Tribunal has a tremendously high caseload. Tell us a little bit more about your experience in managing those heavy caseloads and how you can ensure that you’ll be able to stay on top of that workload and deliver your decisions within those targeted processing times that we want to be able to ensure.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Thank you. That’s a great question. In life, you’ve got to learn how to roll with the punches. You’ve got to learn how to be effective and run your meetings and so on, but the biggest part about this is preparation. When you get a case, you have to actually read it. You have to make notes. You have to know exactly what you’re getting into before your meetings even start. And then once that happens, it’s making sure that you have the time set aside to ponder and rule on the case and prepare your findings. That’s all part and parcel of just good time management.
You can’t run a business with 26 employees without knowing how to keep track of your time and managing those who are working for you, and this is no different. I’ve got to manage myself. I’ve got to manage my caseload and ensure that when they come in, I hit them out of the park and do so consistently—make sure that they’re accurate, that they’re legal and that they cut the mustard. I was very good at that in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. I was very prepared. That was a different type of board, but the process is the process.
I’m really good at managing my time. I’m really good at keeping myself on track and identifying what I’m working on at the time and being ready for that meeting, but at the same timing having an open mind, because you never know what’s going to happen when you’re actually talking face to face in those meetings. That’s where you have to also, as the meeting is going on, keep good notes, keep an open mind as to where the next part of the issue might come from, and then rely on your chair and your fellow adjudicators to help you through when there’s something you’re not quite sure to grasp on and not being afraid to reach out for that kind of help when it’s necessary.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Mr. Demarce. You used the phrase “cut the mustard.” That proves that you’re not a young fellow here coming to the board.
I do now want to pass it on to my colleague MPP Babikian, if I may, Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Babikian, the floor is yours.
Mr. Aris Babikian: Thank you, Mr. Demarce, for coming and sharing your experience with us, and also putting your name forward to the Licence Appeal Tribunal board.
All of us know that COVID created so many challenges for all of us. Every walk of life in Ontario, Canada and around the world has been affected. At the boards and the commissions, the delays and the backlogs are no exception. I know that you will be a fit candidate to address those challenges, but my question is, what do you believe it takes to be an effective member on the Licence Appeal Tribunal?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I think I repeated some of this earlier, but the effectiveness comes in preparation. It comes in setting the time aside that is required. You can’t not be prepared for your meeting, and you must have a sufficient amount of time for each case set aside afterwards to be able to adjudicate properly. That’s where I think the biggest part for me is, that I’m willing and ready to put that time aside to be effective, because you have to get it right the first time in order to be able to move through these caseloads. That’s where I’m prepared to put the time in. I know early on there’s going to be a lot more work because I’ve got to get up to speed, but that’s something I’m good at doing, getting up to speed very quickly.
Mr. Aris Babikian: Thank you. Now I would like to pass it to my colleague Norm Miller.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Miller, you now have the floor.
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you, Mr. Demarce, for putting your name forward for the Licence Appeal Tribunal. What sort of engagement do you have in your community? What volunteer work have you done? What have you learned from it and how will that inform your work on the Licence Appeal Tribunal, please?
Mr. Leo Demarce: In my day-to-day life, right now I’m a member of the BIA, the business improvement area. I’ve also spent about 20 years with the local Legion as a member of their colour guard. I played the Last Post for them. They made me an honorary member. I’ve marched in several hundred parades with them over the time.
In that, I also participated in hundreds of fundraisers with our business. I do keep a rather low-key approach to my public fundraising and charitable work because I don’t like to be in the spotlight on that. I like to have the spotlight be on what the charity is about. My family has been entrenched in Goodfellows for my whole life. My dad was the president for 30-some-odd years, and my sister took over after my dad passed away 20 years ago. So I’ve always been deeply involved with the local Goodfellows.
All of those experiences have taught me that you have to have humility and compassion for your fellow man, that everybody deserves a fair shake, that you can’t just make assumptions about where somebody is at. You have to be patient, dig a little deeper and be open to them approaching you so that you can actually accept what they’re trying to ask of you.
Mr. Norman Miller: Thank you. I’ll pass it on to MPP Anand.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Anand, you have the floor and you have about a minute.
Mr. Deepak Anand: Thank you, Chair. I’m going to be very quick.
Mr. Demarce, thank you for coming. You briefly talked about your sister leading the company, so I want to say to every woman: happy International Women’s Day.
Quickly, MPP Babikian talked about COVID. Do you have any concern because of COVID, especially that in-person meetings are not too common nowadays? Over to you, sir.
Mr. Leo Demarce: I am prepared to do in-person or remote. I would have loved to have been at Queen’s Park today, for example, because I love being in Toronto and love Queen’s Park. It’s such a beautiful place to visit.
But that being said, I’m able and capable of operating in both methods. I don’t have any fear of meeting in person. I feel like using proper masks, washing your hands and being vaccinated and boosted—I feel confident that in-person meetings are quite safe and capable to be done.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Seven seconds.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Perfect.
Mr. Deepak Anand: Just one thing: Thank you.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Double thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): I kind of figured it was going to be one long one.
Madame Simard, you now have the floor. You’ve got about four minutes.
Mlle Amanda Simard: Thank you, Leo—Mr. Demarce—for being here today with us. I think we’re getting to know you a little better. My colleagues have been asking really good questions. That’s what happens when you go last, but this is all positive.
I just wanted to get a little bit of context here. How did you become interested in this position? Were you approached or was that on your own initiative that you decided you were interested in this position?
Mr. Leo Demarce: It was on my own initiative. When I joined the CICB, that particular board was in need and was also a position I felt you need to be qualified for based on my background, being an employer and having the life experience that I have. That moving into the LAT, I was looking for where I could have my services utilized and they had a need. So that was the main reason why I looked towards the LAT. It was because there were openings there. I wanted to serve, and that’s where there was a need and I felt like I was qualified to help them out.
Mlle Amanda Simard: It’s a good way to contribute and a challenge too, a different challenge for you.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Oh, very much so.
Mlle Amanda Simard: We asked you about your past as a federal Conservative. You ran in 2019 as a federal Conservative in the election. In the 2021 election, did you help on a campaign or assist any candidate?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I didn’t have the opportunity to. Mostly, with regard to being on the tribunal, I let them know that that would be a conflict, and I certainly gave them my best wishes. But other than a conversation with the candidate to say, “I hope you do well. It takes a lot of hard work,” I had no impact on that campaign, no.
Mlle Amanda Simard: Okay. And in the 2018 election, the provincial election, did you help any candidate or assist any candidate in any riding?
Mr. Leo Demarce: I did not. I really wasn’t that involved at that point. I wasn’t even a member of the party yet. I started in 2019, when I decided that I wanted to serve. That was when I approached the Conservative Party and asked to be their candidate.
Mlle Amanda Simard: Yes, I understand that. Okay.
Well, that’s it for me, Mr. Chair. I’m good.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): That’s it? Okay.
All right. With that, I would like to thank you for appearing before our committee. You will be notified by the Clerk and by the appointments secretariat in regard to the decision of this committee a little bit later. I hope you have a great day, and thanks for coming.
Mr. Leo Demarce: Thank you, everyone. I truly appreciate your time.
Mr. Barton Maves
Review of intended appointment, selected by official opposition party: Barton Maves, intended appointee as vice-chair, Niagara Parks Commission.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): We now have an appointee by the government, who was the selection of the official opposition, for the Niagara Parks Commission, an old friend of a number of us, Mr. Bart Maves, who was a member here in the assembly some years ago.
Without any further ado, Mr. Maves, when you get a chance, you can start. As you know, you have an opportunity to talk about yourself and why you think you’re a good decision as far as this appointment. You’ll start whenever we see you online.
Mr. Barton Maves: I believe I’m here.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): You haven’t changed a bit, Bart.
Mr. Barton Maves: Well, it’s nice of you to say.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Well, you know, as politicians, we always tell the truth.
Mr. Barton Maves: You look good yourself. You haven’t aged, and you’ve been there forever, Gilles.
Thank you very much. Good morning to the entire committee and to the staff, who, I know, probably don’t get recognized enough for the job that they do.
It’s a pleasure for me to be here on the other side of the desk. As the Chair has mentioned, I spent many years, almost nine years, as a member of provincial Parliament, and as many of you probably know, that was between the years of 1995 and 2003. I spent many hours on a whole variety of different committees, and I enjoyed it immensely. I realized today that—I believe I was the Chair of the general government committee in 1996, so it’s a homecoming of sorts.
I’m here as a candidate for the vice-chair position on the Niagara Parks Commission. I’ve been serving on the board since May, but we had an untimely passing away of our chair, Sandie Bellows. April Jeffs, who was serving as the vice-chair, moved to become the chair. I was asked if I would take on the role of vice-chair, and I said very happily I’d be honoured to do so. That’s why I’m here today.
For those of you who don’t know, the Niagara Parks Commission is a great organization in Niagara Falls and throughout the Niagara region. It was founded 130 years ago to make sure that we would remove all of the barkers and the salespeople from around the brink of the falls and to make sure that the area around the falls, from Fort Erie all the way through Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, was kept in park-like condition. That has proven to be a brilliant decision that was made 130 years ago.
As I’ve said before, the parks commission is probably what has been the biggest difference between Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York, and the prosperity in the tourism industry for Niagara Falls, Ontario. Everyone always talks about which side of the border is nicer, and I think the fact that we’ve had the parks commission for 130 years salts away the fact that everyone thinks that our side is substantially nicer than the American side.
My own personal history with the parks commission is that I actually started my first job there as a 15-year-old at the Queenston Heights Restaurant as a busboy. As an MPP, I was happy to move through the provincial government processes permissions to build Legends on the Niagara golf course and the Butterfly Conservatory.
As a side note, in 2001, Premier Harris started Ontario’s Promise, which was something that Colin Powell had started in the US. It was an organization that would hook the private sector up with children’s organizations. The very first partnership that was created was between the Niagara Parks Commission and the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara, and we were all on hand to mark that occasion.
Also, I worked, obviously, as an MPP on many occasions with the board members, the staff and the senior leadership at the parks on many issues between 1995 and 2003. As I said, I’ve been a board member since May, and I would be honoured to serve as its vice-chair.
Members should know that the parks commission, in revenues and employees, is probably about the third biggest local municipality in the Niagara region, if you think of it as a municipality. I think that my experience as a member of provincial Parliament for nine years—where I served as parliamentary assistant to the Ministers of Labour, Health and Transportation; I chaired many committees; and I was actually on the Management Board of Cabinet. I also spent eight years as a regional councillor, and I’ve chaired the public works committee. I’ve been on the planning committee, the public health committee and so on. I was also chair of the long-term-care revitalization committee. I’m on the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, where I have served as chair of the planning committee, chair of the finance committee, and chair of the governance committee.
Lastly, I was—
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Maves, we can hardly hear you. Your mike has moved away.
Mr. Barton Maves: Sorry. I was also chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. How’s that?
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Try it again.
Mr. Barton Maves: How’s that?
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Very low.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): I don’t know. When you moved, something happened to your sound.
Mr. Barton Maves: How’s that? Any better?
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): It’s not the best, but it will have to do, I guess. We’ll get our audio people that—
Interjection: It’s him.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): It’s him? Yes, our audio people are saying it’s something with your end.
Mr. Barton Maves: Is that any better?
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): We’ll have to do as best we can. If you can please speak up.
Mr. Barton Maves: Is that better, Gilles?
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): It will have to do, I guess.
Mr. Barton Maves: Okay. I apologize. I don’t know what adjustment to make here. I’ll continue. I’ll try to speak loudly and hope that it comes out.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Yes, that’s better. Thank you.
Mr. Barton Maves: Okay, there we go.
As I said, I had spent eight years as a regional councillor and chaired many committees. I’m active on the bridge commission and I was a past chair of the conservation authority. I’m active in public service as a coach of baseball, basketball and hockey. I’m an avid curler. I hope that my experience in all facets of government will help me to be a good vice-chair of the parks commission.
Thank you for your time, and I apologize for our tech snafus—of which I’m not an expert, so I have never chaired a tech committee.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): There we go. May I never have to chair one of those either.
We’ll start this time with the government. We started with the opposition. Mr. Yakabuski?
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Bart. Good to see you again. Something we share in common: We will never chair a tech committee of any kind, I can assure you of that.
I really appreciate you coming in, and I appreciate you taking on the challenge of being asked to fill in the empty chair as the vice-chair, with the unfortunate passing of Ms. Bellows. I appreciate the times that I’ve been in Niagara Falls, you’ve shown me around more than once, and your intricate knowledge of the region has always been appreciated by me.
We want to ask you a few questions. Of course, thank you for your service to Ontario. It’s significant and long-term—appointed to the National Parks Commission as member in May 2021. Can you please let the committee know how your experience with the commission has been thus far, and how that experience will help you take on the role of vice-chair?
Mr. Barton Maves: Obviously, as a board member since May, I’ve been attending all the board meetings and am serving on the property committee, so I’ve become aware of all the intricacies of the organization and how the inside of the organization runs. We’ve had a difficult time through the pandemic. We’ve actually been very grateful to receive two large grants from the province of Ontario to help us with operations.
As some of the committee members may know, we have a police force, and we’ve had it probably since the inception of the parks commission. During the pandemic, as did other businesses, we had to shut down most of our attractions and our revenue-generating facilities, but we still had to maintain that police force, which looks after the parkway all the way from Niagara-on-the-Lake through Niagara Falls to Fort Erie. That’s an expense we can’t get away from. Not only that, but we had to maintain the beautification and cutting the lawns and maintaining the parkway for all that period of time. So we had expenses we couldn’t get out of, and we didn’t qualify for some of the government programs like CEWS.
Having gone through all of that, I think I understand the inner workings of the organization and, of course, all of the challenges that we face going forward. I think that’s going to help me quite a bit as vice-chair.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I have no doubt. Thank you very much, Bart.
I would now like to turn the questions to my colleague MPP Anand.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Anand, you have the floor.
Mr. Deepak Anand: Mr. Maves, it’s incredible to see your contributions to Niagara Falls, first as an MPP and then as a municipal councillor. As my colleague MPP Gates always talks, Niagara Falls is the—what is it, the capital of honeymoons in Canada?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Honeymoon capital.
Mr. Deepak Anand: Honeymoon capital of Canada. What I want to ask you is, can you elaborate on how these two distinct roles that you have will help you to contribute to the Niagara Parks Commission?
Mr. Barton Maves: First of all, I’m glad MPP Gates continues to refer to us as the honeymoon capital of the world. Too many people have dropped that. I’m glad to hear that that’s continued. And we usually have this debate with most MPPs, but Muskoka gives us the most debate about having the most beautiful riding in all of Ontario, too. I’m sure he does engage in that debate.
All of the experience I’ve had at different levels of government, all the committees I’ve chaired at the conservation authority, my experience at the provincial and municipal levels—the parks commission has to work with the local municipality, the regional municipality and obviously with the province, because it’s an agency of the province. Having worked extensively at those different levels, I know my way around government. I still have a nice Rolodex, which can help me if the parks commission needs to get through and talk to some people about some issues to make sure there’s a clear understanding of it. I think all of that will help me as a vice-chair.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Yes?
Mr. Deepak Anand: Chair, over to MPP Pang.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Pang, you have the floor.
Mr. Billy Pang: Thank you, Mr. Maves, for putting your name forward again. At the end of 2018, you concluded your eight years of service as a regional councillor of Niagara. I believe that being a regional councillor, your finger is on the pulse of the community, for sure. That said, is there anything that you would suggest that regional municipalities could do further to ensure the Niagara Parks Commission’s success?
Mr. Barton Maves: Yes. I find that the municipal governments—the three mayors of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie serve on both the regional council and the Niagara Parks Commission. There is a lot of positive communication between both the region and the municipal levels of government through those mayors being on the parks commission. They do work well together. There have even been some planning issues over the years that the parks commission has come to the region, when I was the regional councillor, seeking the region’s endorsement for.
So I think they need to continue that solid line of communication between three levels of government. But the way the parks commission is set up, having those three mayors on it and also being on both the region and municipality—I think that’s going to continue to maintain that line of communication.
Mr. Billy Pang: Thank you for the answer. I want to pass my—
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Yes. Mrs. Martin, you have the floor.
Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you, Mr. Maves. Our government provided the Niagara Parks Commission with a $25-million loan to redevelop the historic Canadian Niagara power generation station into a one-of-a-kind, made-in-Ontario attraction. I’m just wondering if you can describe how this new landmark attraction benefitted the Niagara Parks Commission and the tourism industry in the Niagara region, because it’s not just about honeymoon capitals.
Mr. Barton Maves: Especially during the pandemic, I think that construction project was very helpful to keep a lot of the economy moving at the time. As MPP Gates will tell you, when you drive along the parkway and you go past the falls and you look to your right, you see this absolutely beautiful old Canadian Niagara power building. I know that a lot of tourists would go by that and long to go inside and look at that building and see its inner workings, and for many, many years it had been shuttered. Of course, hydro has such a long history in Niagara Falls that it made for a fantastic opportunity to create a tourism experience. That government loan was vital. It wouldn’t have happened without it, especially during the pandemic.
The first part of that project is complete and it’s going to be completely open to the public. We’re actually in the process of completing a really new unique segment of the project, and that is: You can go underneath through a tunnel and you can go right down to the falls, to the water’s edge. So when you’re standing up at the top and looking down on the falls, there’s going to be a platform. You’ll come through the tunnel and you’ll be able to stand on the platform, and the falls will be up and to your right, which is just going to be a sensational opportunity for tourists. What I like about it is the marketing impact, because all the tourists at the top of the falls are going to look down and say, “How the heck do I get down there?” And they’ll find out they’ve got to go through the power plant in order to get down there.
As the pandemic turns into an endemic or hopefully comes to a close and the economy opens fully and we have a very good tourism year—I hope Mr. Miller’s riding will also have that kind of a tourism bounce back coming up—I think that power plant is going to be a tremendous boon for tourism as a new attraction in Niagara Falls.
Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you very much, Mr. Maves. I know my father, the civil engineer, would be delighted with that attraction.
MPP Coe, I think, has the next question.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Mr. Coe, you have the floor.
Mr. Lorne Coe: Good morning, Mr. Maves. Welcome to the committee. From the operational perspective, can you share with the committee members how you might advance the interests of the Niagara Parks Commission by leveraging your contacts that you’ve derived through your extensive business, political and volunteer activities, please?
Mr. Barton Maves: Well, I think any time you’re in government and any time you’re on an agency board or commission, you always lean on your experience and your contacts. Right now, we have another power building called the Toronto power building, which is on the opposite side from the old Canadian Niagara power building. The parks commission has sought for years to also redevelop that property and we’ve started a process to get requests for interests on that property. From that point, we’ll move to requests for qualifications and an RFP process to redevelop it. It’s going to be a $50- to $100-million project, for sure.
I think I can lean on a lot of the contacts I’ve had over the years to make sure people who could do a good job of that project would be aware of the process that we’re going through and bid on it, and that’s just a specific example—
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Thank you very much, Mr. Maves. That will be all the time we have for the Conservatives.
And now we move to the official opposition.
Mr. Wayne Gates: We good? Bart, how are you?
Mr. Barton Maves: Good morning. I’m very good. How are you?
Mr. Wayne Gates: This is second time I’ve had the opportunity to question you. You were appointed back, I think, in May, and you obviously understand how the committee works, so you’re not surprised at that.
The second thing I want to say, quickly, is “Barton” is your real name. That’s the first time I knew that. I always knew you just as “Bart,” so I think it’s pretty funny. We chuckled about that in our office the other day.
It’s always good to see you, Bart, and I’ll ask you the line of questions I’ve asked everybody else, even though I know the answers. I think it’s fair and reasonable to do that. As always, Bart, thanks for coming today. As we do with all our appointees before this committee, I like to begin by asking you about your connections to the current government.
Can you confirm you have donated to the PC Party in the past—I’ll probably put the other question to you as well—and that you’ve run for the party as well?
Mr. Barton Maves: Absolutely. There’s no secret that I’ve been not only the MPP but I’ve run in subsequent elections. Last time I lost was to you in 2014. It kind of retired me at that point in time. I donate every single year. I consider myself a very long-standing member of the party. I look at party politics, as you know, Wayne, like it’s kind of like an extended family and I donate as much as I can every year.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yes, I certainly understand your ties in Niagara, but I also understand that—and I’m not saying this for any other reason, since we ran against each other twice. I also know that a lot of people who are in politics, when they lose, they disappear. They go hide. You never see them again. To your credit, Bart, you haven’t done that, quite frankly. You continue to coach. One of your passions is baseball, and you helped Niagara Falls minor baseball for a number of years. I know you did a lot of work and do a lot of the fundraising with the curling, which is a sport a lot of people don’t really pay attention to until you see it on TV for the Brier or something like that.
So I give you a compliment on the fact you didn’t go away. You ran for regional council. You’re now with the parks. The parks are very, very important to the overall health of Niagara Falls, quite frankly. I want to congratulate you on doing that, because I know a lot of politicians disappear once they lose, and that’s unfortunate, sometimes.
Mr. Barton Maves: I appreciate that. Those are very kind words. Thank you.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Could you discuss some of the goals of Niagara Parks going into what will likely be, maybe—we’re all hoping; we’ve all got our fingers crossed with the tourism season coming up. We know—Bart, me and you for sure, and Niagara Parks and quite frankly, all of Niagara knows—that COVID hit tourism probably harder than any other sector of the economy. We were hit first, we were hit the hardest and we’re going to be the longest to recover.
At the point when it really hit, we lost 40,000 jobs in Niagara overnight, and it was a struggle. So maybe you can talk about how exciting it is to maybe have a tourism season where we can, for the first time in two years, welcome people back to what I consider by far the best riding in all of Ontario, but, quite frankly, one of the best tourist destinations in the world.
Mr. Barton Maves: I, of course, totally agree. Let me answer that from the parks commission perspective, first of all. We’re really anxious at the parks commission, because our revenues have been hit so badly, like the private sector the last few years. We did have to lean on the government twice for assistance. We really want to get out of that. The parks commission has a long history of not using any taxpayers’ dollars and being self-sufficient.
I always say, you have this fantastic monopoly along the river; you better be able to make it work. We really want to get back to that. These are very, very unusual circumstances. I believe there’s a lot of pent-up demand to travel, and I think Ontarians and Quebecers are going to come back to Niagara in full force. I hope that the border can open up so Americans and international visitation can come back, because they’re the ones who stay the longest and spend the most. So I think that’s critical too. That’s what I’m looking forward to most for the parks commission: to get into that recovery mode and be able to get in the black again, pay back the loan to the government and help out.
I think we need to continue to work hand in hand with the private sector. I will tell you that the private sector has really been whacked hard over the past two years, as you said, Wayne, probably harder than any other area in the province. But I’m astonished at the resilience that some of the business owners—the Menechella families, the Cosmos and so on. They’re actually looking at investing, and they’re out trying to find ways to spend money to build more attractions and to improve hotels and restaurants. That entrepreneurial spirit, I think, is really going to serve us well, going forward.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I agree 100% with you, and that’s really what my next question was about, quite frankly. Last year, the parks opened up a new and wonderful attraction: the Niagara Parks power plant. Could you discuss how this new project is going and what future impact it may have on revenue for the parks?
And Bart, you’ll relate to this: I have a member’s statement, so I’m going to try to keep it quick. There are a couple of other important questions I think you’d like to answer, so maybe go quick, and then I’ll ask you something about the private sector too.
Mr. Barton Maves: I think it started off in the year that we were still in partial shutdown, so it did well, but I think this year it will be even bigger and better, because we’ll have more people in Niagara. I think when we’re able to add that platform, as I discussed earlier, that that will completely take off and be the new attraction for people to see.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I agree. I’ve toured it; it’s absolutely wonderful. But I am looking forward to the platform as well. I think it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to create a lot of jobs too, which is always good.
You talked real quick on this, and I know you’re familiar with this, but it was the first time in 130 years that I’m aware of that the parks had to go to the government and use taxpayers’ money. We ended up securing a $25-million loan, with very low interest rates—I think 1%, and 3% if we don’t pay it within three years. I think that was a very, very important time, during the pandemic.
The problem that I have is that I would like the government—if you can help us at all with this—to do the same thing to the Menechellas, to all the big families, the big hotel owners, who want to invest but are having trouble getting money. It’s tough to get a lot of money from credit unions, as you know, and some of them have actually gone to the States to get money. I believe that program is what we should do for the hotel owners and some of the other tourist operators, to help us get out of the problem that we have.
What are your thoughts on doing that same program that we did with the parks? Because it worked; it’s very successful. I think we can just take that program and give it to the private sector, and it would really help them not only in investing but also creating more jobs.
Mr. Barton Maves: I’m okay with loan programs. As a Conservative, I’m not a big grant guy for the private sector, obviously, but I’m okay with loan programs, especially in the current conditions.
I will say, I know some of the private sector guys who tried to take advantage of the federal loan guarantees that were put in place over the past years, and they were really difficult. You still had to borrow from the bank. The bank still puts you through all the processes they put you through before, even though the loan in some cases was 100% backed by the government. That program didn’t lend as much money as they maybe thought they would lend in the first place.
So a loan program that has got some government backing, that’s a little more flexible and a little more understanding than that federal program, would probably be of great benefit.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I agree 100%. I know you have lots of contacts. Talk to them—because I think it’s a lot easier to get money from the provincial government at a lower interest rate. And that’s the issue: The interest rate is what’s killing them. Ninety per cent of the hotels are empty, and then they’re trying to borrow money. But what the government did with the parks, I think, was wonderful, and I think it’s an opportunity to do that.
It’s a little off the subject, Bart, but not really: One of the things that we enjoy and one of the reasons why we have one of the best tourist areas in the world is because of our two casinos. Not only do they go to the casinos, they go to the parks, they go to the restaurants, they do the butterflies—they do all that tourism stuff. The problem that we’re having is that there’s a program that’s coming out called iGaming, e-gaming. Right now, the casino has 1,200 workers on layoff. I don’t know if you’re aware of that, Bart: 1,200. Some haven’t worked for two years. They did get CERB for a while, but that program has been stopped. What we need to do is to put as much pressure as we can on the operators to call all the workers back. They’re losing their homes. They’re losing their families.
I think bringing iGaming into the casinos at this point in time is the wrong time. Let’s get all our workers back, and then we’ll figure out whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know we get 55% of the revenue, which goes to education and infrastructure, and then iGaming is going to give us 22%. Maybe some of your feelings on that—maybe you don’t have any feelings, but I really wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about getting the casino workers back to work. It has been a tough two years for all of us down in Niagara.
Mr. Barton Maves: When the province opens fully again and when the international tourists come back, I think the entire tourism sector is going to hum, and I think the casinos will also hum.
I do think it’s time for a revamp of the way we do gaming in Niagara. I think there are opportunities to expand gaming a little bit, and that would bring even more workers back, make some guys compete with one another. I think that would be better for the whole community. So I do think it’s going to bounce back.
With regard to the iGaming, I’ve read papers where iGaming, when it’s embraced by the land-based casinos—the land-based casinos are actually able to utilize it, and it doesn’t hurt them. I’ve spoken to a couple of former guys from the OLG who investigated that.
Another opportunity that I’d like to see is the sports betting. I’d love to see some guys be able to add some sports bars and sports books in their facilities. That whole Fallsview-Clifton Hill area, you can move about and you can have all kinds of different opportunities in gaming, not just in the casinos.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I appreciate the honesty of the answer. I know I’ve been talking to the hotel owners. They’re really, really concerned with the e-gambling, because obviously they make their money when people come to the hotels, when they spend on the restaurants. So we can have that debate and see whether it’s successful or not. My issue is, let’s get them back to work and then move into a different program. I think that’s my big concern for the workers.
Bart, again, I’m going to apologize. I’m not going to use up all my time—because you’ve been here many, many times, so you know how important it is to get a member’s statement out. I’ll put it on the record, Bart, that if I was here to vote, I’d support you. I think you’ve done good work as an MPP, and you’ve carried that good work over a number of years.
I want to say thanks very much again for coming. Like I said, you’ve been a good community guy, and I enjoy your friendship and your expertise when I come and ask you a question. Thanks for being here and say hi to everybody. Take care and stay safe.
Mr. Barton Maves: Thank you very much, Wayne. Those are very kind comments. I appreciate them.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Good. Madame Simard, you’ve got about two and a half minutes.
Mlle Amanda Simard: To our witness—I’ll call him Bart, because that’s what Wayne calls him—I just wanted to comment, because I was embarrassed to say that I had never been to Niagara-on-the-Lake before last year. What forced me to do it was the pandemic.
We weren’t travelling, but I am from Ottawa. So for us, it’s not as much of a destination as it is for members in Toronto and the GTA, but it was just the most beautiful place. I’ve travelled extensively on business and around the world, and I went there to cycle. So I cycled from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls, and there was this gigantic hill—well, it feels gigantic when you’re on a bicycle—that I literally thought I was going to die on, no pun intended. But it was so beautiful going along that separation where it’s the border with the United States, to go to Niagara Falls, and I just thought, we have such a special place in Ontario that it’s so important to be promoting it more.
I had never been, so I was really excited to go there and see it for myself. And I didn’t even visit the wineries; it was just to appreciate everything there—and the historical places as well, and lots of parks and areas to preserve.
I didn’t have any questions. I just wanted to say that, because that was truly the sunshine of my pandemic, the dark two years: At least I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Well, I can’t think of a better place to go.
Yes, Mr. Maves?
Mr. Barton Maves: I was just going to say I’ll pay it back a little bit. I’m a Carleton graduate, so I lived in Ottawa for a couple of years, and I love it. I worked for the federal government for about two years too. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. It’s one of my favourite places to visit.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Very good. Thank you very much, Mr. Maves. It’s always a pleasure to see you. You know the process: The Clerk and the appointments secretariat will be getting a hold of you soon to let you know the results of your selection.
With that, the committee now has to turn its attention to a couple of items. I think the first one is going to be moved by Mr. Yakabuski.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Leo Demarce, nominated as member of the Licence Appeal Tribunal.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): With that concurrence, is there any discussion? Anybody have any questions? Seeing none, all those in favour, please signify. All those opposed? Carried.
I believe we’re now going to move to a second concurrence.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, we are, Chair. I thank you for that.
I move concurrence in the intended appointment of Barton Maves, nominated as vice-chair of the Niagara Parks Commission.
The Chair (Mr. Gilles Bisson): Anybody have any discussion about Mr. Maves and that concurrence? Seeing none, all those in favour? All those opposed? Carried.
With that, we are almost done, but if anybody has anything before we adjourn? No? We’re good? All right. The meeting is adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1006.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Chair / Président
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins ND)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr. Aris Babikian (Scarborough–Agincourt PC)
Mr. Deepak Anand (Mississauga–Malton PC)
Mr. Aris Babikian (Scarborough–Agincourt PC)
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins ND)
Mr. Lorne Coe (Whitby PC)
Mr. Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls ND)
Mrs. Robin Martin (Eglinton–Lawrence PC)
Mr. Norman Miller (Parry Sound–Muskoka PC)
Mr. Billy Pang (Markham–Unionville PC)
Mlle Amanda Simard (Glengarry–Prescott–Russell L)
Ms. Marit Stiles (Davenport ND)
Mr. John Yakabuski (Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke PC)
Clerk / Greffière
Ms. Tanzima Khan
Staff / Personnel
Ms. Lauren Warner, research officer,