Wednesday 25 September 1991

Broadcast and Recording Service


Chair: Duignan, Noel (Halton North NDP)

Vice-Chair: MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East NDP)

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk NDP)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South PC)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North L)

Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East L)

O'Neil, Hugh P. (Quinte L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre NDP)

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville PC)


Abel, Donald (Wentworth North NDP) for Mrs Mathyssen

Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre NDP) for Mrs MacKinnon

Phillips, Gerry (Scarborough-Agincourt L) for Mr Morin

Sola, John (Mississauga East L) for Mr McClelland

Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC) for Mr Villeneuve

Ward, Brad (Brantford NDP) for Mr Jamison

Clerk: Arnott, Douglas

Staff: McNaught, Andrew, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1537 in room 151.


The Chair: Seeing a quorum, I call the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order. The item for business in front of us today deals with the use of the parliamentary channel. We had three requests. Request A has been withdrawn, which leaves requests B and C, and we will tackle request C first. Would Bill Somerville come forward and explain the request.

Mr Somerville: This is a request by the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs to televise the official welcome to Ontario of the royal visit of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. They are due to arrive in Sudbury on October 22 at approximately 12:15. In the past, other royal visits which we have broadcast on the satellite have happened at Queen's Park here, the last one being by the Queen Mother, and before that, Prince Andrew. This is a request for a similar type of access to the satellite for probably 25 minutes while they are officially welcomed to the province.

Mr H. O'Neil: Is that the only coverage they would like, in other words just the arrival, or had you planned to maybe televise some of the other events too?

Mr Somerville: This is the only request we have received. I believe they are televising other events, possibly one in Kingston, but this is the only access they have asked to the transponder, being that they would like to broadcast the arrival through the province.

Mr H. O'Neil: Are any of those people here today? Are any of the people in the --

Mr Owens: Royal family?

Mr Somerville: No. The only person I would have liked to have come would be Larry Kent, the communications director of Intergovernmental Affairs, who sent the letter to me. But no, these people are from the other request, the B request.

Mr Sterling: Who will be meeting them?

Mr Somerville: The official welcoming party, at the moment as far as I know, is the Premier and the Lieutenant Governor.

Mr H. O'Neil: Will there be any oaths taken at all while they are there?

Mr Somerville: The service we have been asked to provide on the satellite is the arrival outside Science North, which is the official welcome to the province.

Mr Sterling: I have a great deal of difficulty with this proposal for a number of reasons. My primary reason is that our TV system here is an electronic Hansard first and foremost and only for that reason. We have from time to time allowed it to be used for other things, but October 24 is on a Thursday. We will be having private members' hour before that. It will be broadcast at that point in time. So it will take almost to 12:15, maybe 12:05, 12:10, depending on whether there is a vote. Second, if in fact the royal couple is late, you could get into the period of the introduction into the Legislative Assembly at 1:20 or 1:25. If we granted this and there was some problem with the arrival of the people, I think it would be difficult to say, "We are going to cut you off," just as they were arriving at 1:25. I would rather they find some other means of broadcasting this. The government has a television network, TVO, and I think that would be the most appropriate route for it to take on this.

Mr Owens: Looking at the memorandum to our Chairperson from Mr Somerville, is that with respect to your concern around late arrivals, that we provide Mr Somerville with some direction? I have no difficulty in supporting the use of the satellite for this purpose on the proviso that if late arrivals are an issue, we do switch to the regular parliamentary session.

Mr Sterling: I am not sure that is possible. Once you are hooked into a system, you are hooked into a system. When do you make this decision. At 1 o'clock or at 12:55 or whatever? People who will be watching are going to be much more interested in watching the royal visit than in me giving a statement at 1:30. But the fact of the matter is that this is a parliamentary channel and there is possible conflict.

Mr Owens: The issue that was raised by your party after the decision was made with respect to the oath to the Queen was that you are a party that supports tradition. The visit from the royal family is part of that tradition and it is for that reason that I clearly --

Mr Sterling: The debate here is that the Legislative Assembly pays for the expenditure of funds for this TV channel. It is not the government's channel, it is the Legislative Assembly's channel.

Mr Owens: I understand that.

Mr Sterling: There are two issues here. I would object even if we were not sitting that day because this is not a channel for the Premier of the province to be on as the leader of our government. This is a channel to show the debate of the Legislature and that is it. If the government wants to hire the TV channel for these purposes, etc, then that is fine and dandy, if it wants to do it that way. I think there are two complicating facts here, but I object to it on both grounds. My party has been consistent on all issues save and except for charities, in terms of running a charity fund-raiser, and the Indian band up north for a short period of time on Sunday afternoons. That has been our consistent position. Every time there is a request by a government to run basically a government show, we have said no and we will continue to say no.

Mr H. O'Neil: I do not agree with you. The thing is, I think there are only so many times in history that a royal family visits a province and a country. I think we have to make some sort of allowance, even if we postpone our own coverage for a short while to get them on the channel. There are a lot of people who would be very interested in seeing that arrival. In fact, I guess I would go even a little further. I would say for the royal visit, within reason again, if we had to postpone question period for half an hour -- I do not think we will; they are usually on time -- or if there are other circumstances whether in Kingston or Toronto that the channel wants to carry, I think it is great that we should give that type of coverage. I do not see it as being just coverage for the government. I think it is coverage of something that is very dear to this province and this country. I would support the request that is being made by Mr Kent on behalf of the royal visit.

The Chair: Mr Somerville, just to clarify a couple of issues, you came forward with this request to the committee here this afternoon to get some direction and confirmation that the broadcast of Parliament would basically take priority over that of the royal visit, so it would not begin until the end of private members' hour and it would end prior to the beginning of question period. Is that correct?

Mr Somerville: It is my understanding of the use of the parliamentary channel. I would like that confirmed. Also, does the committee approve the use of the satellite transponder for transmission of this royal arrival?

The Chair: So there are two issues.

Mr Somerville: Two issues, yes.

If you do, and if it is late, do you want to keep the royal visit on the air and delay the Parliament? As you know, the two previous royal visits we did put on the satellite. The arrival was at Queen's Park and the Parliament was delayed. The Parliament was recessed in fact until the royal visit was over to allow members to attend it. These items never arose before.

Mr Cooper: The point here is that this is going to take place at the airport, though. Right?

Mr Somerville: No, at Science North.

Mr Cooper: Oh, Sudbury. Right. Once you start it, is there any way of ending it?

Mr Somerville: Oh, yes. It is very simple technically to come back to the Parliament here.

Mr Phillips: What has been the past history on this sort of thing? Is this something we have always done?

Mr Somerville: On the two previous visits by the royal family, as I say, they have arrived at Queen's Park and we have transmitted the arrival and the welcome.

Mr Phillips: On the same channel?

Mr Somerville: On the same channel, yes.

Mr Phillips: We are just talking this time of the incremental cost of setting up.

Mr Somerville: No. The only cost involved is that they have asked me to act as a consultant. I have discussed that with the Speaker and he said any expenses involved they would pay; they have agreed to pay. But all the costs are paid by the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. There is no cost to the assembly.

Mr Sterling: I have to tell you, this is taking a brand-new step, though. In terms of the other visits, they were ones where we as members were involved at the time. In this situation, we are saying that we are going to delay the Parliament of Ontario because there is some protocol event occurring out there in another part of the province. We cannot have our TV cameras, our electronic Hansard, here for our purposes. The main purpose of the installation of the TV system here in Ontario was for the purpose of an electronic Hansard. We are not a TV network. We are an electronic Hansard. That is what it is all about.

If you make this decision to go this way, you are not only making a decision to cover a royal visit in Sudbury or whatever it is, but you are also setting a precedent for what we will be asked the next time through. There are other alternatives. The province of Ontario has a TV network. All Bob Rae has to do is get on the phone to Bernie Ostry and say, "We want it covered." Why can he not do that? I do not understand. TVOntario has better distribution than our system, as I understand it. Does it?

Mr Somerville: TVO broadcasts over the airwaves as well as satellite communication. Yes, they do have a bigger network than we have.

Mr Phillips: I have a lot of sympathy with Mr Sterling's concerns, primarily around precedents and what do we do the next time and all of those things. I just wondered, have we approached TVO? I was just reading these guidelines, that we have written permission and enter into an agreement with TVO for the use of TVO's -- has all that been done? Have we talked to TVO about whether it would be more interested in --


Mr Somerville: No. I spoke to TVO about the technicalities of switching over to Sudbury and then coming back to the Parliament here -- technically, we can handle that; we have no problems with that -- but I certainly never approached TVO to get involved in this broadcast or televising the event, no.

Mr Phillips: Is that one thing we might do?

Mr Somerville: I would be reluctant to do it. I am consulting with the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs; I am not producing the thing as such.

Mr Sterling: I have a concern on protocol for the government, when the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs comes to the administrator of our television and says, "Can we have your TV station?" I understand why they do that. It is because it is less expensive for them to do that than to go and buy it from TVO or to repay them. Why gum up your own network when you can gum up our network, if you want to look at it like that? But this is not the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs' network. This is the Legislative Assembly network, and its primary purpose is to provide electronic Hansard here in the province of Ontario. There is a chance that the 45-minute visit will not occur between 12:15 and 1:30 pm on Thursday, October 24. I think there is a very good chance that would happen.

Notwithstanding my United Empire Loyalist roots of 200 years in this province and in this country, and being very much an avid monarchist, that is not the issue that we are talking about here.

Mrs Marland: I am apologizing for being a few minutes late because of something I did not have any control over, but I just want to place on the record that I share totally the concerns about this request that have been stated. I guess the irony is that when the people of Ontario turn on their television stations for the evening news broadcast, of which there must be any number, perhaps seven or eight, accessible even to five million people in the greater Toronto area to start with, when you look at the number of evening news broadcasts there are between 5 pm and 7:30 and then again between 10 pm and midnight, I think the public will have ample access to the coverage of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Nobody will look forward to that coverage more than I will, but I am quite sure that those people in this province who are interested and appreciate their access to their government and what the business of the government is through their electronic Hansard service will know that they do not need to miss any aspect of that during the day because they will get this coverage later in the evening.

Mr Owens: I guess I have some concerns about what has traditionally, or from what I have seen since I have taken membership on this committee, been a non-partisan approach to issues and that approach is clearly being compromised today with the insinuation that this is being used by the Premier as a Premier's TV show and the vehicle for the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs.

I think the suggestion that was made with respect to using the time that is not taken up by Parliament -- if there is a delay in the visit, then the parliamentary proceedings take priority -- clearly addresses the issues that the members opposite are getting at without the insinuations of partisan politics in this issue.

I have some concerns that we are passing up what I see as an opportunity to expand the broadcast of the visit beyond the regular television networks, and I think that we are obliged to use the technology that the taxpayers have paid dearly for to whatever good purposes that we as a committee can find for it. I think this clearly falls into that category.

Mr H. O'Neil: I have tried to see what the Conservative members are driving at, but again, I think we have a special occasion here. We have had visitors from other parts of the world where we have had them as part of our TV coverage within the House. We have done other things when we have had other royal visits where we have postponed the House coming into session until that happened. I think it is a very special occasion. I think we could give a little bit of extra coverage to an event like this and I do not look at it as partisan. There may be some of us who are part of that visit in two or three parts of the province. I certainly am going to support this application or this request.

Mr Sterling: I want to say another thing as well. Mr Kent does not make any mention in here whether or not CBC, CTV, Global or any other network will be covering this. They may very adequately be covering this arrival of the royal visitors.

I want to also indicate that if members of this committee would like to read Hansard back in terms of history, with regard to this debate when it has arisen from time to time, our party objected to the then-Liberal Premier using electronic Hansard as a focus on the giving out of Ontario medals. As a result of that, the program was changed so that all three party leaders were present when the Ontario medals were presented, as being part of the Legislative Assembly, the Ontario medals coming from the Legislative Assembly and not just from the government of Ontario.

There was a compromise made, and that was why that particular process went on. From time to time, members had been less vigilant than I am in terms of being very jealous about the ownership of the electronic Hansard, but it is so easy for the government to come along and say, "We have wonderful uses for this." You know, it slides from royal visits to other kinds of uses of the TV network.

As I say, if they want to buy the services, if they want to buy and pay for these things, that is fine and dandy, but I do not understand why the Legislative Assembly budget should be paying for these kinds of services. That has been our consistent position. Quite frankly, the past Liberal majority would respect the objection of any one of the three political parties to the use of the electronic media. It would never come to a vote.

Mrs Marland: Mr Sterling's final sentence was just the beginning of my comment. I think what is significant here is that when we have had exceptions to the normal practice, it has only been with unanimous consent of all three parties. I stand to be corrected, but I think the first and only non-parliamentarian to address our Legislature was Bishop Tutu. It was in the Legislature, and it was with unanimous consent of all parties that this exception was made.

I think what we are looking at here is another exception, and perhaps from time to time in everything we do, there may be exceptions in the interests of members that we can all agree on, but I do agree with Mr Owens very much that the Legislative Assembly committee should be the least partisan committee of any of the standing committees of this House. I also agree, although I am a fairly new member on this committee -- the same as Mr Owens -- that we have been very fortunate because this has continued to be a non-partisan committee.


If we are looking at the interests and therefore the responsibilities that we have in looking at the interests of our members of this Legislature, it better be non-partisan, because we are looking at the whole functioning of this place, not just this committee room today, not just the chamber, the House, but this entire precinct, and our responsibility, I would suggest, is a very serious and very grave one. I think the only way that decisions can be made is if we have unanimous consent to do something which is the exception to the practice, no matter what it is. We are talking about a specific example today, but I hope we do not get into a situation where it is a numbers game, and I hope that we respect the rights of all individuals in the House.

I may give you as an example the fact that we dealt very briefly with the subject of opening prayers with our new Speaker, and as far as I am concerned, he has been exemplary in his position on that subject because, as a very fair Speaker and an even more fair individual and gentleman, he has taken that issue under advisement because there was not unanimous agreement about a change.

I am hoping that this afternoon we can set an example on this committee that unless it is unanimous we do not make a change, because there may well be people on all sides of the House, whom we are sitting here as representatives of, who do not agree that this particular service -- which is a service for the members, and through the members, to the people of this province, regardless of who the government is and regardless of how many seats are on one side of the House or the other. I really hope we will not be reduced on this subject to making it a vote; that if it is not unanimous, we will decide to set aside the request without a motion.

Mr Owens: Mr Somerville, what is your sense of the timing on this, other than you need an answer as soon as possible?

Mr Somerville: I think the timing is crucial. There is very little time between now and October 24. I have already visited Sudbury once when the representatives of the royal household were there and we went through the arrangements. I do not think there is much time to defer a decision. If the committee or the assembly does not want to grant the use of the satellite transponder, then the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs would appreciate being notified quickly.

The television and the other arrangements are going ahead at the moment, as far as I know, so it is only the use of the transponder and the access to the transponder.

Mr H. O'Neil: Again, maybe what we may have to do, or maybe what we should do, is turn it back to each of our leaders' offices to let them make a decision, but I do not go along with you, Margaret. You are saying if you do not get your way, in other words, if two or three of you vote that you are not for it, that we are going against the tradition of Parliament. We have put things to a vote here before, and I do not think you should put it that you either get your way or it does not go on.

The Chair: If you could address your remarks through the Chair.

Mr H. O'Neil: I think some of us would like to have different opinions, and they can be very justified and everything else. It may be that we could get it clarified by each of the leaders' offices and take it from there, but I do not like being --

The Chair: Mr Sterling?

Mr Sterling: I have already clarified with my leader. Just prior to the meeting I had a discussion with Mr Harris and he is fully supportive of the position I have taken.

There is another problem here, that if, in fact, the situation goes beyond 1:30, the assumption is that there is going to be unanimous consent to postpone the starting of the House. I am not sure you are going to get unanimous consent on that basis, if, in fact, this committee breaks with the kind of tradition that we have taken. So the dispute does not end here.

The Chair: Again, for a point of clarification, it is my understanding that broadcasting would not begin until after the proceedings in the House ended for private members' hours. Broadcasting would finish at the time routine proceedings would begin, is that correct?

Mr Somerville: That is my understanding of the guidelines I work under. I would just like the support of the members to pull the switch if, for whatever reason, the royal visit was late. I do not want to have to be making a decision on the day. I understand my mandate of the parliamentary system and the broadcast of such takes precedence over any other item.

The Chair: That is my understanding too -- that the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings takes precedence over any other issues. Is this correct?

Mr Somerville: That is my understanding too, yes.

Mr Owens: As things move forward on that day and there is a possibility of delay, is there not a way of creating some kind of a blurb to flash in front of the television at some point before the switch-over takes place, to inform the folks out there watching that, in fact, a switch will take place at 1:30?

Mr Somerville: Yes. Technically we can put notices up on the screen.

Mr Owens: Whether it makes good television or not, I do not know.

Mr Somerville: The technicalities are very easy to do correctly, so that the viewer knows what is happening. If the visit is late, then we come back to the parliamentary opening at 1:30.

Mr Sola: One of the problems with that approach is if you create the expectation and then just as the plane touches down you say, "Sorry, folks, we are switching back to Queen's Park," you would be creating a much worse situation than not allowing it in the first place. It would be similar to following the World Series with the Blue Jays in it. You get to the seventh and final game and it is rain-delayed, and the television station tells you, "Sorry, folks, but we are going back to regular programming." It does not matter whether they decided to go through with the game or not. The same sort of hullabaloo you would get in that situation, you would get with this. If people are watching the TV screen in order to see the duke and duchess, and at the moment that they are arriving you cut away, you are creating a worse problem than by not even presenting them with the opportunity to see them. I would suggest that if that is a possibility, we not grant the exception.

The Chair: In the interests of non-partisanship in the committee, I wonder if it is possible to record the arrival of the royal couple and rebroadcast it at a time when the House is not sitting. Is that possible?

Mr Somerville: Yes.

Mrs Marland: It is not as though there is not another alternative. It is not black and white. It is not that we are saying, "Not on our parliamentary channel." The people of Ontario have ample opportunity to see this visit. As I have already said, I will be one of the people who will be rushing home to see it. If we feel there should be an opportunity for those people who fortunately are home during the day to see it live, as they arrive, I cannot understand why it cannot be scheduled through another network, especially the one that is owned by the government. So you have to wonder if there has been any discussion with TVOntario. Bill, am I right, does TVOntario reach further corners of this province than this network?


Mr Somerville: Yes. Viewers can receive TVO without a cable service, whereas they cannot receive the parliamentary channel unless they are on cable television.

Mrs Marland: There is the answer. If we are really doing this out of the sincere intent to make this visit of their royal highnesses accessible to the viewing public around this province, would it not make more sense to put it on a network that is in fact giving greater numbers of people more access? They do not have to be cable subscribers, and people throughout the remote corners of this province also have access to it through TVOntario. If you look at some of the public service programming that TVOntario provides, there probably could not be an event that would better fit that qualification of public service broadcasting. Therefore, it makes even more eminent sense to say they do not need to use our channel in order to achieve the broadcast of this exciting event for the people of this province.

Mr Cooper: To clear up a few things that Mr Somerville said, will you be advertising this?

Mr Somerville: If it were decided to put it on the parliamentary channel, yes, I would promote it and say, "Watch the royal visit on the parliamentary channel."

Mr Cooper: If it were delayed enough so that all we would catch is the plane touching down, but nothing else, you would not start it, right? You would not start it on the channel if we were going to have to switch back to Parliament?

Mr Somerville: That is why I would like the guidance of this committee.

Mr Cooper: That is one of the qualifications I would want -- that you would not start it if it were delayed that much.

Mr Somerville: No, I think I would like the decision made now so that I do not have to call the Speaker and say, "Can you delay the House for five minutes?"

Mr Cooper: That is one of the concerns -- that we would not delay the House.

Mr Somerville: Right. And that is the major concern I have. Although I have been assured by the people organizing this they are never late, but --

Mr Cooper: You know that happens, right? Mrs Marland was saying we could watch it on the news. Nowadays, people like to watch things live and they do not really like to put off until news time. That just seems to be my impression, that people would rather see it live. We cannot count on somebody else doing it. We are broadcasting at that time. It is just that we would be switching up to Sudbury at the time.

Mrs Marland: In 1986, the Duke and Duchess of York opened the Mississauga new city hall. In levels of importance, that visit and event was not as important as this. He is to be the next King of England. We are looking at an example where that opening of the Mississauga was televised, so I think on your question, Mike, about live coverage at the time, it is probably quite possible that there would be live coverage at the time. What I am saying is that there are a whole lot of elements here over which, no matter what decision we make, we have no control. Air traffic controllers, for one thing. Let's give an example of weather --

Mr Sterling: Have you ever flown into Sudbury? Sudbury is one of the worst airports for adverse weather.

Mrs Marland: There can be any number of reasons for the timing in the schedule to be interrupted or delayed. If our wish is that the people of Ontario really get to see this visit, then why do we not encourage arrangements to be made where they have more assurance of that happening through a network that can allocate the time? I would suggest the TVOntario could be that vehicle because it can have other programs in the can, as their expression is used, where it can pull a film or a video and show something as a time-filler while it is waiting for any delay or any change in the schedule.

The situation Mr Somerville is in is obviously impossible. If there is a delay through any undue cause, we cannot leave him in the position where he is on the phone to the Speaker saying, "You've got to delay the start of the House." This discussion is getting pretty ludicrous and pretty silly. I would like to move --

The Chair: If you could hold the motion, I will just hear the final two speakers, Mr O'Neil and Mr Owens.

Mr H. O'Neil: I was going to suggest that maybe Margaret could call Bernard Ostry and set it up for us. Or we could always declare a holiday on that date, because the Legislature is not sitting, for the whole province and all the kids.

Mr Owens: I was just going to suggest, in the interest of keeping this committee as non-partisan as possible, that what we should clearly do is refer this issue back to the Speaker to seek out all the other alternatives and to provide clarifying information, as we may deem necessary.

The Chair: It is the role of this committee to act as an adviser to the Speaker. It would be very helpful to the Speaker to forward all the comments from all the members of this committee to him to review and then make a final decision, hopefully based on the comments made by the members here.

Mr Owens: I move that.

The Chair: Is there consensus? All in favour? Consensus.


The Chair: The second item on the same issue is a request from the new planning commission for Ontario and I understand that we have a number of witnesses to appear in front of the committee this afternoon. They are the chairman of that commission and two commissioners. If they would come forward at this time. If you could state your name.

Mr Sewell: My name is John Sewell. I am the chair of the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario. I have the other two commissioners with me, Toby Vigod and George Penfold.

The Chair: The normal procedure of the committee is that you take whatever time it is to make your presentation and, at that point, when your presentation is completed, it will be open and subject to questions from all committee members.

Mr Sewell: I am very pleased that we could get on the agenda today. I think the committee has before it the letter that I wrote to Mr Somerville, outlining our request. We are a commission that was appointed in June to look into planning legislation in Ontario. We are getting ourselves under way at this point. We would very much like to have a press conference next Wednesday that would be broadcast over the television channel.

We have been doing a fair amount of travelling already, even though we have not begun public public hearings but just trying to let people know what it is that we intend to do in the commission. We have been having lots of opportunities to speak to particular interest groups. We have been to places like Thunder Bay, North Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Stratford, Kitchener, Kingston and so forth, but what we would really like to do is have an opportunity to actually formally kick off the beginning of our work, the substantive part of our work. We think that if we had the use of the television channel it would help immeasurably. The focus will be the newsletter that we are starting with -- and we want to inform people about this so they can get on a mailing list -- which talks about the kinds of approaches we think should be taken and the kinds of consultation we would like to do.

There are two reasons why we would like the use of the channel. The first is that we want an opportunity to speak directly to people so they get some sense as to what we are doing. We have no problem getting normal publicity. We do it all the time. For instance, the three of us were at the Urban Development Institute luncheon today giving a speech. We will be all over the news tonight. That has happened in most of our appearances. But in fact they are situations where people read about it in the newspaper and whatever happened to be said at that point is what people pick up. We would like an opportunity to say to people in Ontario, "Here's what we're about," because we are not a national story and we are not quite a local story; in fact, it is a province-wide thing that we are trying to do.

We can get through very easily to interest groups and we are doing that, whether they are developers, whether they are environmentalists, whether they are planners, whether they are local politicians, and we have spoken at conferences of all those people. We see the television channel as a chance of getting through to the rest who do not consider themselves part of those special interest groups. We think the use of the television channel would help immeasurably.

The second reason that we would like to use it is because we think this is a fair opportunity for journalists from throughout the province to ask us questions at the press conference. We can easily hold a press conference here at Queen's Park and get the Queen's Park journalists to ask what they want. Using the television with direct phone-in means journalists from throughout the province who are not able to come to Queen's Park, who know about a development issue that they are concerned about in their municipality, will in fact be able to directly ask us a question at this press conference. We think that is really important, not only for us, so that we are getting a sense as to the kinds of problems out there that we may not be responding to unless we hear those questions, but also to those journalists so in fact they can make some link with us and make sure they are ensuring that we are dealing with the kinds of issues they think are important.

So there are the two main reasons why we think the use of this will be extremely beneficial to people in Ontario. They are the ones we want to speak to on this issue, and we think this is a really good use of that facility to do so. That, I think, in simple terms is our request. Toby and George might have things they want to add.

Ms Vigod: I was just going to reiterate, I think first of all we are a province-wide commission and the matter we touch on is of broad interest to people everywhere in the province. As John has said, this would give us an opportunity to reach people we otherwise would not be able to deal with. It is certainly a broad provincial interest.

The Chair: Just before we begin, a point of clarification: This issue was brought to my attention some number of weeks ago. Originally you wanted to do the broadcast on September 25. I felt, as Chairman of the committee, I could not make that decision. That was up to the committee to make that decision. So at that point I said, "No, it was up to the committee to do that," and that is why this issue is here today.

We will now open it up for questions. I will take a question from each member who wants to ask a question before I go back to that member for a second question; I would like everybody to get in first. Mr Sterling.

Mr Sterling: What was the exact date you were aiming at? Is it in the correspondence?

Mr Sewell: Yes, because we were hoping that we could do it this morning in fact, except the Chair indicated that he wanted to come to committee, so it would be Wednesday October 2, in the morning.

Mr Sterling: Who appointed the commission?

Mr Sewell: Mr Cooke appointed the commission, as I understand it.

Mr Sterling: It is purely a government commission?

Mr Sewell: I do not know. I know we have been appointed and we are an independent body and we have got our own opinions and we are not tied to anybody. We are not having politicians --

Mr Owens: Point of order? The line of questioning is out of order in --

Mr Sterling: No, it is not.

Mr Owens: -- the context of the conversation around the use of the television link-up. It has absolutely nothing to do with how that commission got here, who made the appointments. I would request the member continue with the topic that we are --

Mr Sterling: No, I think it is important to understand how people are --

The Chair: On the point of order, Mr Sterling?

Mr Sterling: Yes.

Mr Owens: This is not the committee on government agencies.

The Chair: Mr Owens, please.

Mr Sterling: What I want to establish is where the commission is coming from and who it is reporting to and I think that is important.

Mr Phillips: Just on the point of order, I think Mr Sterling's line of questioning is bang on actually and I think he is trying to deal with a matter of principle. This is legislative champ, and I think he is trying to determine if this is a legislative committee we are dealing with or a government committee. It is a matter, I think, of significant principle and I think it is quite in order. Maybe the Chairman does not know it but one of the others might know it so I am interested in the question.

The Chair: On the point of order, in fact it is not a point of order, Mr Owens. I believe Mr Sterling is correct.

Mr Sterling: Were you appointed by an order in council?

Ms Vigod: Yes, an order in council under the Public Inquiries Act as an independent commission.

Mr Sterling: How many members are there in the commission?

Mr Sewell: Three of us.

Mr Sterling: Okay, fine.

Mr Sewell: Just let me define who they are: George Penfold is associate professor of rural planning, University of Guelph; Toby Vigod is the executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and I am whatever. But we do report to the minister and we see ourselves as being responsible to the people of Ontario.

Mrs Marland: Mr Sewell, could you give your title?

Mr Sewell: I am the chair of this commission. What else do I do in life? Well, I have done a number of things. We are all full-time in this for two years. In terms of the commission, our intention is to have a report in draft form that is available by the end of next year, which we will then hold public hearings on throughout the province.

We are going to hold lots of public hearings before then -- expect to hold some later this year as an example, and we hope that we can give a final report to the minister in the spring of 1993. And we will then work hard to try and ensure that in fact that becomes legislation. As I have explained on many occasions, our job is to find out what consensus there is about how planning should be done in Ontario and what kind of goals lie behind it. We believe, and we say it right in our first newsletter, "These days almost everyone is unhappy with the planning process in Ontario."

We believe that, and the question is: What kind of an agreement can we get among all the players to get on with things, to actually get some goals that we all agree with and then get a process that fairly does all the things that have to be done in terms of planning? Our job is a fairly tough one but we see it in terms of creating a consensus where everybody can say, "That's the kind of stuff that we should do." We do not believe everybody is going to agree on everything but we think that most people are going to agree on most things and that is the way we see our jobs.

Ms Vigod: If I could add, I think we have also said that we are committed to an open process. I think that is why the use of the parliamentary channel would put some meat to that, to say we are open and we are going out to all the people of the province to let them know what we are doing and to try to get them involved. So it is very much in line with the strategy we are taking.


Mrs Marland: Are you going to be travelling extensively throughout the province?

Mr Sewell: We have already begun to do that, yes. We are doing that quite extensively, yes.

Mrs Marland: So you are going to be travelling extensively throughout the province in the next two years?

Mr Sewell: We have been doing a lot of it in the last couple of weeks and we are going to be doing -- yes.

Mrs Marland: All right. You said it is necessary to have the use of the parliamentary channel for your press conference in order to reach media throughout the province and you have also that you are going to be holding extensive public meetings throughout the province. Well, I think there is a contradiction here, and I say that with respect, because I think if you are going to be travelling the province anyway -- and you will obviously be announcing your schedule of where you are going to be when in local newspapers and so forth -- at that point you are then inviting these people who have concerns with the planning process around the province to come before your commission.

I would suggest to you that it is somewhat redundant to request the use of our parliamentary channel, because you are going to be covering that ground. You are going to be holding public meetings; you are going to be travelling extensively. If it is simply that you want to reach the people of Ontario who have concerns about the planning process -- and I agree there are a lot, both professional and non-professional; anyone who wants to try to do anything within the Planning Act as it exists today has a lot of difficulties, and we as a party have been asking to have that planning process streamlined and expedited, while protecting the environment, for the last six years that I have been at Queen's Park -- I think the publicity you are looking for to tell the people of Ontario what you are going to do can be very, very easily addressed by simply having a member's statement in the House.

I think if your concern is how do you reach these people without having the world come into your press conference, I would suggest you are going to be meeting that need as you travel. Maybe the day of your press conference you could have a member in the House make a statement about your commission and your program for the next two years.

Mr Phillips: Is this questions and then we will have a chance later for comments? Or should we --

The Chair: We are going to discuss this in closed session.

Mr Phillips: Just while the group is here, the challenge I think we have as a committee is a matter of principle, as I said earlier, and that is that you are a government-appointed body, and that is fine. It happens all the time. This is the legislative channel, which performs a different role from the government role and so I think, just to kind of tip you off, I will have some significant difficulties voting in favour of it, but it will be a matter of principle.

I do not doubt the importance of your work and I do not doubt the need for you to get out and do all those things. But I just do not see a way of drawing any lines at all if this goes ahead. Every single government-appointed board would want, and quite understandably, exactly the same opportunities. I think at the end of the day, once we start this, we are into just an endless stream of them, understandably. I just do not think that is the use for which the legislative channel was envisioned, or the funds were allocated, or the basis on which we can defend the allocation of those funds -- nothing to do with very important work, and I wish you the best of luck.

Mr Sewell: It is interesting our being categorized as a government committee. I do not think the people we have been working with have seen us that way. In fact they have seen us, I think, as an independent inquiry and that is the merit that we have got. We are independent; we are set up under an act that says we are independent. I have difficulty with someone saying, "You're someone who is just a government person." I do not think that is the way the three of us see each other or anybody else sees us. They see us as an independent inquiry. That in fact is our basis, our constitution.

As I said, we might have to report to the minister, but in fact as Toby has made clear, we are an extremely open process, we expect everybody to know exactly what we are doing. We see ourselves as being responsible to the public, to the people of Ontario. They are the ones we are responsible to. If we do not make them happy, we are in trouble.

Mr Owens: I think what this commission of inquiry is undertaking is extremely important and that you, Mr Sewell, hit on an interesting point with respect to your use of technology and the idea of having reporters from smaller municipalities call in to ask you folks questions directly. I think that is an excellent idea because obviously you are not going to be able to hit -- maybe I am making a gross assumption. Maybe you will hit every municipality, small town, village and burg that exists in this province. But as my understanding of the newspaper business goes these days, I think the reality is that there are very limited funds and opportunities to send reporters, whether it is to Toronto or to neighbouring towns, for press conferences. They are stretched like any other business in this province these days. But I would like to applaud you for your creative use of technology to get the message out to people of the importance of this undertaking you are embarking on, and have no difficulty in supporting your request and understanding the fact that you are clearly an independent commission of inquiry and will report your findings in that manner.

Mr Cooper: To follow up on this whole process, basically you are not advertising that you are coming to see these people. You are advertising that the commission is being launched and you want them to call you so that you will know whom to go visit. Is that correct?

Mr Sewell: Yes, and so that they can get on a mailing list so that we are ensured that they are going to be getting a newsletter which talks about what we are up to, and we are going to be publishing it every two --

Mr Cooper: So this is a way of starting the whole process.

Mr Sewell: Yes, and it is getting through to a different kind of person than we were getting through to. For instance, we had to figure out how we could mail this out to as many people as possible. We have the mailing list of the Urban Development Institute; they gave it to us. We have the mailing list of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute; they gave it to us. We have the mailing list of the Ontario Environment Network; they gave it to us. Those groups are okay. We are worried about the rest of the world that does not belong to those groups.

Mr Cooper: This is what I was going to follow up on. Having travelled the province fairly extensively during the summer session on various committees, I found that through newspaper advertising a lot of people were not getting the message that we were coming and then at the last minute they would find out and could not get on the list for a presentation. So to start the process this way is much better and more efficient.

Mrs Marland: Mr Sewell, you have a lot of experience with municipalities and media and I am sure you would agree -- with those lists you have just identified that you already have -- that it would be equally simple to obtain the lists of all the media, print and local cable stations across this province, and the municipalities and the councillors, so you have within your means a very simple way of direct contact with all of these people.

Mr Sewell: Indeed we will be contacting them for the press conference, but we would like to give them the opportunity of asking questions to us live, right there. We have to face the cameras. We think that is a valid thing to happen. If we are trying to design an open process, what could be better than someone who might have an embarrassing question actually having the chance to ask it in public? That is the point. We do not have any problem in getting publicity. I have never had a problem that way, and sometimes it has been costly.

Mrs Marland: And you are asking for one hour.

Mr Sewell: We would probably speak for 15 minutes, and then we will have questions. If you speak any longer than that you lose folks.

Mrs Marland: So you are saying realistically, to accomplish what you want to accomplish, how many people will be able to reach you in 45 minutes?

Mr Sewell: In terms of media, I suspect we might find we could probably deal with with 20 or 25 questions in that time.

Mr Penfold: There are two key points I would like to make. One is that in addition to the media we are really trying to provide an opportunity for the public to understand what we are about. The issues we are trying to deal with and review, the Planning Act and process, have a lot to do with openness and integrity. The second is that we have set ourselves a very rigorous schedule of trying to get information back to the House within two years, and making use of the best resources to access the public and the media is critical to our being able to accomplish that.

Mrs Marland: I am not questioning what you are trying to do. I have already said it is needed. I am glad you are there and going to be doing it and I wish you Godspeed and great success, but I do not wish to give you use of the parliamentary channel. For 45 minutes it is not going to accomplish very much for you anyway, but I wish you well in your work around the province.

Mr Frankford: You would have some process of filtering out that your calls came from accredited media or accredited reporters?

Mr Sewell: As I understand it, we would be telling the journalists throughout Ontario, "Here's the number to call when we're on air." If some of them happen to have said, "Here's the number; call," then I am not sure there is anything we can do about it. But we are trying to get the journalists to have that opportunity so they can actually say: "We've got this kind of development problem in Cornwall. What are you guys going to do about it?" They are the kinds of questions we would very much like to be able to deal with.

Mr Frankford: You certainly would be in a position to start sensitizing reporters all over the place both to what you are doing and what the approaches would be.

Mr Sewell: That is correct. I know just from the very recent visit to North Bay last week that there is a great big paper, the North Bay Nugget. It is a perfectly good thing but you tend to think, what about all the other places where people might be able to get some good background information?

Mr Frankford: You are seeking more than just advance publicity for meetings. You are really trying to educate and sensitize people.

Mr Sewell: Yes.

The Chair: Any further questions of the commissioners and the chairman? Being none, before we get into discussing the issue before us I thank the chairman and the commissioners on the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario for coming along here this afternoon and putting your request.

Mr Sewell: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Everybody will be getting one of these pamphlets in the next few days which talks about --

Mr Phillips: We need more paper, more paper.

Mr Sewell: Yes, I am sure, better reading.

The committee recessed at 1643.


The Chair: I call the meeting to order, seeing that Bill Somerville has come back.

Mr Sterling: Mr Somerville, when I have a press conference it is not beamed out to all of Ontario; it just goes within this building. Is that correct?

Mr Somerville: Within the parliamentary precinct and to a few government buildings on the east side.

Mr Sterling: If I as a member said I wanted to do that, could I do it?

Mr Somerville: Technically, yes.

Mr Sterling: But have you ever done it?

Mr Somerville: Yes, we have. We broadcast the last election call by the Premier, and then the other leaders followed with another 20-minute release, so we have broadcast press conferences before.

Mr Sterling: When they were used by all three parties.

Mr Somerville: Yes.

Mr Sterling: Has any government agency ever been given the right to use the parliamentary channel?

Mr Somerville: No.

Mr Sterling: So we would be setting a precedent here?

Mr Somerville: Yes.

The Chair: My question is in relation to the cost. Would this cost the Legislative Assembly any money?

Mr Somerville: No. In my note to the members and to yourself I mentioned I would put a camera in the media studio. We have the camera and staff so it would be a matter of me scheduling someone to go in there. The equipment we have in the media studio is not broadcast quality. The camera you see in your office, that picture is not good enough quality to broadcast.

The Chair: Again, if there were a committee in this room at the same time, the committee would take precedence over this particular news conference?

Mr Somerville: That is my understanding of the guidelines I work under, yes.

I have discussed on the telephone with the Commission on Election Finances that it would like to use the parliamentary channel at some time in the future, in November or December. They are working on a proposal they would bring to the Speaker and to this committee through me. They are interested in using the channel to pass out their information, so there is another request. They may come to you next month or in December.

We also broadcast at one time one piece of information by the election office when it changed the Election Act. We broadcast that once. That was a Legislative Assembly process, in my opinion.

Mr Sterling: Just on the same subject, the Commission on Election Finances reports to the Legislative Assembly?

Mr Somerville: Yes, to the Speaker.

Mr Sterling: So it is a body of the Legislative Assembly.

The Chair: Thank you, Bill. The floor is open for debate. Any further questions?

Mrs Marland: What are we dealing with now?

The Chair: We are dealing with the request from the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario requiring BRS to supply one camera and cameraman, plus the co-ordination of the telephone lines and broadcast. That is basically the request from the commission.

Mr Owens: I would like to move that the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly grant the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario permission to use the satellite linkup and the legislative channel for its press conference.

The Chair: There is a motion on the floor. Is there any debate on the motion?

Mr Sterling: I move we put the question.

The Chair: That the question be put.

Mr Owens: I request a 20-minute recess to determine numbers.

The Chair: The committee stands recessed for 20 minutes.

The committee recessed at 1648.


The Chair: I would like to reconvene the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. Mr Owens, did you wish to say something?

Mr Owens: After some consultation with the Chair, I think the Chair outlined clearly that this request does not meet the criteria as set out and as has been applied to previous requests. It is therefore with some regret that I request my motion be withdrawn. The Chair will have some further things to say on the criteria.

The Chair: So the motion is withdrawn. Is that agreeable to the committee?

Mr Owens: Chocolate chip cookies would be nice.

Mr Sterling: Listen, if I had been wanting to play this in a political way, I would have forced the vote.

The Chair: The request from the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario is for use of the parliamentary channel. As we act as an adviser to the Speaker, we will be forwarding comments from the members to the Speaker outlining that request. The opinion of this committee is that it is denied because it does not meet the criteria as laid down. Is that agreeable to the committee?

Further to the whole request about the use of the parliamentary channel, it appears we have had three today, including one who could not come here today, and I understand there are a couple more in the wings. Is it advisable that this committee establish another subcommittee to look at the criteria as established January 25, 1989, and see if we need to update them, add more stringent guidelines or whatever the case may be? What is the feeling of the committee on this suggestion?

Mrs Marland: A lot of work went into establishing the regulations and procedures for third-party access to the Ontario parliamentary channel and those regulations and procedures are barely only two years old. I think they have been working very well. They established the protection of the use of that parliamentary channel and they perpetuate the correct use, in my opinion, and I do not think it is necessary for us to establish a committee to look at them again. I think how you deal with all the requests is that if they do not meet the existing regulations and procedures, there is no further application on that request.

Mr Owens: One of the issues we need to address around regulations is, while I understand that a lot of hard work was put into the establishment of the regulations, I do not think that simply because something is two years old it does not mean that we cannot take a second look at it. If we look at what we are doing around the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it is only three years old but we are looking at reviewing it and making some suggested changes.

Just a question to the Chair: Are you suggesting that we establish a separate subcommittee or that the subcommittee that exists around the three parties now deal with the issue and report back to the committee?

The Chair: Whatever the wish of the committee would be, if the committee so desires such a committee be established.

Mr Owens: We have a subcommittee set up at this point, and to create a second subcommittee would only add further work on already overworked members. If we proceed with this, I suggest we keep it within the confines of the subcommittee.

Mr H. O'Neil: I think the comment Steve made is right. We have a present subcommittee and we have the whole committee. When you start looking at changes to the rules here, it is just as well we leave it as it is.

I might also say that I am pleased that Mr Owens withdrew his motion because we could have been into a possibly political situation here where, as Margaret mentions, rather than having sort of co-operation before this committee there might have been some people who would have seen that we were trying to politicize the TV channel. Whether that was the case or not, it might have been seen to do that, and I think withdrawing that motion was very wise.

Mr Sterling: If you wanted to look at the rules again, probably the best idea would be -- I am just saying this because I went through the last experience, or the first experience; hopefully not the second one -- that the subcommittee might consult with Bill Somerville and ask him where he thinks they should be strengthened or if they should be strengthened or if they are wide enough or whether there is a need to do it.

The other part was that when we were setting up the overall rules and terms of the electronic Hansard here at the Legislature, you tried to quantify a certain amount but you always wanted to leave a certain amount of discretion as well. Particularly on the commission coming in, it was clear to me that that was outside of the bounds of what has been allowed in the past. I cannot see, unless you are going to change the very fundamental concept of what the electronic Hansard is all about, that you are going to be able to permit the government of the day -- regardless of which government -- that kind of use of the legislative channel.

I think it is hard for government members, particularly in this instance, when you have a quality person like John Sewell chairing a very important commission -- to have him and his people in front of the committee, giving him the hope by coming here perhaps that a positive decision would ensue out of that. Perhaps in cases where there appears to be -- from looking at the existing rules -- a real problem in granting it, it might be better, without having a witness here in the first instance, for the subcommittee to consider it, so that you do not face the situation you did today.

I hate to say no to John Sewell and the other people because I think it is important that people submit and get to know that this commission is in place. Nobody can argue against that. But in terms of the principle, it is well established. It may be sort of a pre-hearing meeting with the subcommittee to go over it and say: "Can we really get to second base? Is this one where there is latitude in terms of the committee?" That might be a better way to handle it so you do not pull people in with the expectation that they are going to get a positive response or there is a chance of a positive response.

The Chair: I think you have made some good suggestions here this afternoon. Maybe we should refer this matter to the subcommittee and consider some of the points that have been raised here by the members this afternoon.

The committee continued in camera at 1717.