Wednesday 29 May 1996
Use of chamber
STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Chair / Président: Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Hastings, John (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
*Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC)
Bartolucci, Rick (Sudbury L)
Boushy, Dave (Sarnia PC)
Cooke, David S. (Windsor-Riverside ND)
DeFaria, Carl (Mississauga East / -Est PC)
*Froese, Tom (St Catharines-Brock PC)
*Grimmett, Bill (Muskoka-Georgian Bay / Muskoka-Baie-Georgienne PC)
*Hastings, John (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
Johnson, Ron (Brantford PC)
*Miclash, Frank (Kenora L)
*Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East / -Est L)
*O'Toole, John R. (Durham East / -Est PC)
Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt ND)
*Stewart, R. Gary (Peterborough PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Mr Silipo
Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South / -Sud PC) for Mr Boushy
Sergio, Mario (Yorkview L) for Mr Bartolucci
Clerk / Greffière: Lisa Freedman
Staff / Personnel: Lewis Yeager, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1542 in room 228.
The Chair (Mr Ted Arnott): I call this meeting of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order. I have a report by the subcommittee that I'd like to read to committee members.
"Your subcommittee met on Monday, May 13, 1996, and agreed to the following:
"1. That the committee postpone any further consideration of the issue of order and decorum until after the House leaders have discussed this issue.
"2. That the committee not pay to send any representatives to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"3. That the committee look at establishing a policy for the use of the legislative chamber at its next meeting."
I require a motion to adopt this report.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I so move that we adopt the report of the subcommittee.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Miclash. Any discussion on this motion?
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Just a question. The very first remark is a very open-ended one. I'm not satisfied that the issue will ever come back here. Under what motive would it come back? I'd like to see a time or a date put on there that this be dealt with by the House leaders before the end of this session so that this committee is empowered to examine, in a non-partisan way, the issue that I've heard each member here speak of sympathetically: the issue of decorum.
The Speaker has sent a memo to each member, and it seems to have a bit of polarity to it with the House leaders. I would like to move an amendment to recommendation 1 that we include a date, and I will move that after other persons have had an opportunity to speak.
The Chair: Do you have a date in mind, to make your amendment more specific?
Mr O'Toole: I know it's probably going to be busy. We meet till the end of June, which leaves us little time. I would say certainly before the last week of this sitting of the House.
Mr Miclash: I would suggest that the House leaders have taken it upon themselves that they want to discuss the issue, and if you have a problem with that, speak to your House leader. They have taken it upon themselves, as leaders within each of our caucuses, to discuss the issue, and I think you should report directly to your House leader. I think the amendment's out of order.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I assume that to this point there is no report that the House leaders have met or have done any report back to this committee. Is that right?
The Chair: It's my understanding the House leaders meet quite frequently --
Mr Miclash: Weekly.
The Chair: -- and have met recently, but this issue has not yet been resolved to their satisfaction. Whether or not they've had a chance to preliminary --
Mr Stewart: Or whether they've even discussed it. I think that's the concern of Mr O'Toole. They got direction from the committee to meet, and we don't know whether they have talked about it or discussed it or whatever. This has been on the agenda from the first day we met in this committee. I know that government moves in various slow and mysterious ways, but when I see the conduct of the last few weeks in the House, I would suggest we move on it a little faster than we have been in the past year. I'm going to support this motion of putting a deadline on this. It's nuts, the way it's been going.
The Chair: While Mr O'Toole continues to put his amendment in writing, is there any further discussion by committee members?
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): May I make a suggestion that perhaps you, as the Chair, could send a letter to the House leaders and mention that it was raised at committee that there's a concern about not having any response so far, and if so, when do they plan to answer us. Then it's the committee, because it's the committee who's waiting.
Mr Stewart: That's the way I feel.
Mr Morin: Sure. You ask them, "When do you plan to give us an answer?" Let them decide.
The Chair: As Chair, I have no problem doing that. Is that meeting with the intent of your proposal, Mr O'Toole?
Mr O'Toole: We are still under the direction of the House leaders, even with that recommendation of the subcommittee. All we're doing is putting in a date by which we'd like a response. If they agree not to discuss it, we can save ourselves a lot of time. We can move forward from this point. All I'm saying is, if they could get back to us by the end of this sitting, I'm happy. If they tell us to sit down and shut up, I guess that's fine too. This way it's caught in limbo; we might never talk about it again.
Mr Miclash: Talk to your House leader. That's the House leader's job. You should be discussing that with your House leader.
Mr O'Toole: In all fairness, Frank, I don't think that's a problem on our side. It has been discussed in caucus. I've discussed it in caucus and it's been responded to.
Mr Miclash: Then your House leader should have discussed it with our House leaders.
Mr O'Toole: They do.
The Chair: I have Mr O'Toole's amendment in writing and I'll read it to committee members: that recommendation 1 be amended by adding at the end "that the House leaders be asked to respond to the committee before the end of this sitting." Any further discussion on the amendment?
Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): The amendment does not say what they have to come to us with. It just says they have to come back to us by the end --
The Chair: "That the House leaders be asked to respond to the committee before the end of this sitting."
Mr Froese: Respond to what, though?
The Chair: "That the committee postpone any further consideration of the issue of order and decorum until after the House leaders have discussed this issue and that the House leaders be asked to respond to the committee before the end of this sitting." It simply gives a time frame, an expectation that we'll have some sort of response from the House leaders before the end of this sitting, as I interpret it.
Are all members ready to vote on this amendment?
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): No.
The Chair: Mr Bisson, did you have something you wish to contribute?
Mr Bisson: I'm just subbing here for a few minutes on the basis that our House leader is before the Estey committee. I find this a little awkward, to be trying to move this particular motion forward without my House leader being here. I would ask that we at least put this off until he's finished testifying to that committee and have him speak to this particular thing. It seems to me it's a different --
The Chair: I have a motion before the floor and I have to deal with it.
Mr Bisson: I'd move a deferral.
The Chair: I'm informed, Mr Bisson, that you're not properly substituted in. You're here representing the interests of your caucus, but you're not able to move --
Mr Bisson: I would just ask for unanimous consent as a member of the Legislature.
The Chair: Is there unanimous consent to defer this? No.
Mr Miclash: I'll move deferral.
The Chair: You're moving a deferral of the vote on this amendment?
Mr Miclash: Yes.
The Chair: For how long?
Mr Miclash: For 20 minutes. Isn't it normally 20?
The Chair: The committee's in recess for 20 minutes.
The committee recessed from 1550 to 1611.
The Chair: Mr O'Toole has moved an amendment to the subcommittee's report. All in favour of Mr O'Toole's amendment? Opposed? Carried.
Next, someone has to put a motion forward to accept the subcommittee report, as amended.
Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I so move.
The Chair: Any discussion on the motion? All in favour of Mr Grimmett's motion? Opposed? Carried.
USE OF CHAMBER
The Chair: The next issue we have is to review the issue of functions permitted in the legislative chamber. Our researcher, Mr Yeager, has prepared a bit of background information. Mr Yeager, I'd ask you now to give a brief presentation of what you prepared.
Mr Lewis Yeager: You've probably had a chance to review the memo. I won't go through it entirely. The essential information is on page 3, "Current Situation."
In March of this year, the management advisory committee considered and approved general policies and procedures for booking events and functions, including model parliaments, in the House. Appended to this are the minutes of the MAC meeting where this was approved, and the first page of appendix D includes the approved policy for model parliaments, including the basic policy and a list of procedures that have been approved for any group that wishes to use the facilities.
One of the provisions is that should they sit on weekends or in the evenings when the building is not normally open, that groups would be charged the costs associated with providing security, liaison and other functions. No group has yet actually had to do this, so the mechanism for determining these costs is still being prepared. One group has already postponed its request for using the chamber because they hadn't budgeted for such costs.
I don't see any need to go through this -- it's fairly straightforward -- but I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a question. I can understand that out-of-pocket costs for the Legislative Assembly would have to be covered, but I'm just wondering why there would be actual out-of-pocket costs when we have full-time staff.
Mr Yeager: The explanation provided is that there would have to be increased security associated with the use for these events. Possibly, the cafeteria or the snack bar would have to be opened, and there would have to be somebody there to coordinate with the group for the use of the building. On weekends or evenings those types of people normally aren't present in the building, so there'd be overtime charges involved, perhaps booking additional staff on. The actual policy how to calculate this and charge it has not been finished yet, only the general principle that there would be a charge placed against the groups.
The Chair: We're talking about incremental costs above and beyond the normal staff complement.
Mr Yeager: That's exactly right. If an event is booked during the week, like one was last week, there are no additional charges, because the existing staffing and facilities are all in place. If, however, they wanted to have their model parliament Saturday and Sunday, the policy as approved by MAC would be that they would be charged some amount for the additional staffing required on the Saturday and Sunday as opposed to a typical Saturday and Sunday here in the building. I was unable to get any exact process yet, because Barbara Speakman's office is still developing the policies on how this chargeback would be made.
Mrs Marland: I wouldn't want the fact that we are saying there has to be a charge to be a deterrent to model parliaments using the chamber until we know what the real charges are. Personally, I'm a very strong supporter of model parliaments. It's a tremendous experience for young people, whether they're of secondary school age or university age. And this building does belong to the people of Ontario.
If there is a way of facilitating the use for model parliaments, I think we should try to find that way. There's lots of staff who work overtime and take time in lieu. It's not an additional cost, because they take time in lieu of their overtime hours. If security means our OPP security service people, I realize that's a little more complex than staff in our interparliamentary public relations department. I would hope we don't make a decision or send out information on this until we know from Barbara Speakman's office what the real cost would be and what is a minimal amount of service necessary if it were on the weekends.
All of us have experienced model parliaments, I would expect, in our ridings -- I know I certainly have -- but at the provincial level, those students or young people travel from all over the province. The essence of the ethic we are helping instil in those young people is the future of democracy itself, and it's demonstrated by their participation in model parliament. I think anything that we can do to encourage that experience and that opportunity is worthwhile. With the fact that they do have to travel from all over the province, it's generally facilitated more easily on a weekend because trains and planes and other transportation, buses, are cheaper on the weekend. I just leave that for consideration by the committee, to try to enhance the opportunity of that youth.
The Chair: Any further questions or any further observations?
Mr Bisson: I am just subbing here, as I said earlier. Our members of this committee, one of them being our House leader -- he's giving evidence to the Estey committee. I'm at a bit of a loss here because I'm having to read through all this information fairly quickly. I would just ask, with respect from the government side, that we defer these matters until the next sitting of this committee so the regular members of the committee from my party can be here, especially my House leader, to deal with this. In fairness, I ask them to defer any votes on these matters until my House leader is here as a regular member of the committee.
The Chair: Well, Mr Bisson, you're subbed in to represent the interests of your party. It's a pretty straightforward issue.
Mr Froese: Is Mr Cooke not on the subcommittee?
The Chair: No, the official member of the subcommittee for the New Democratic Party is Mr Silipo.
Mr Froese: But the members who sit on the legislative committee from the NDP are aware of these amendments, right?
The Chair: They're aware of the subcommittee report and the New Democratic Party is aware that this was going to be discussed today, yes. Whether the information has been conveyed to Mr Bisson is another question.
Mr Bisson: I know there has been concern expressed at our caucus meetings. As the chair of caucus, I'm aware of some of those discussions. Some of these matters we take very seriously, as you do on the government side, in terms of how we change the way things are done around this assembly when it comes to matters of security and how we utilize this building and how people access it.
It is a departure, in my view, from how we have done things in the past, in many cases. I just ask again, in respect for Mr Cooke, who can't be here because of the evidence he's giving, that we defer the votes on this until the day he is here the next time. It's not going to make the government fall to back this off by one legislative day of this committee and I would ask, with due respect, that we do that.
Mr Grimmett: Personally, I've gotten a little tired of having these committee meetings constantly put off and put off and put off. I'd just as soon deal with the stuff now. I think it's a pretty straightforward issue.
We've discussed some of this stuff before. Personally, having reviewed the material, I'd just like to say that I think we're headed in the right direction. We're liberalizing the use of the chamber, making it available to students. I don't think the weekend and evening issue is that big. We have enough time that the chamber's available in the daytime during the year when we're not in session. I think the Speaker is going to be able to work the groups in during those times.
Looking at the recommendations we've been provided with, I think number 1 makes a lot of sense, allowing the Speaker to manage the system within the guidelines in existence. The only thing about the guidelines that concerns me is that every request has to be referred to the House leaders, and I'm not sure that's really necessary.
The Chair: In fact, the House leaders and the Speaker have requested that this committee come up with some sort of protocol to deal with these things. They have asked for our advice.
Mrs Marland: I just want to confirm that it is this afternoon's meeting that's referred to in the subcommittee report, in light of Mr Bisson's question about deferring it. The subcommittee report said the committee should establish a policy "at its next meeting." Is this the next meeting?
The Chair: It is indeed, Mrs Marland.
Mrs Marland: I think that answers Mr Bisson's question.
Mr Bisson: I don't do this to try to stymie the committee or to slow anything down, but I can tell you, as a former government member, of a number of occasions when the Tory party, which was at that time the third party, with fewer members on the committee, came forward with such requests. I've sat in the chair and done this before in respect for Ernie Eves at the time, your House leader, because I recognized that, as the third party, you have fewer members than everybody else. It is more difficult because the demands on their time and the demands in the Legislature are fairly acute. We allowed those kinds of things to happen in government. I'm asking for a little bit back of the same we did for you when we were in government.
I'm being asked to read a report in the three or four minutes I've been back here and then vote on behalf of my caucus, when I haven't had an opportunity to read the entire report and I haven't had an opportunity to know where the rest of the caucus is on this.
I think you recognize that this assembly is a function of the caucuses, and we decide as groups within those caucuses how we are going to deal with each individual issue as it comes forward. I cannot do my job at this point, given that I've only been on this committee for seven minutes now, to vote on this issue.
It's not going to bring the government down; it's not a big, huge issue. It's not as if it's going to cost the government any extra money. It's not going to cost the government any extra political problems. I'm asking to defer this until such time as the House leader from my party and the other member, Mr Silipo, are here to deal with it. There are reasons why they're not; I think you recognize that they're extraordinary. Mr Cooke is having to give testimony, as we speak, to former Justice Estey. You can't be in two places at one time in this case, and I ask that we respect that.
Mr Morin: Gilles, there's nothing there, nothing at all. I think the most important vote took place a minute ago. We've been lending the House to anyone. I think Margaret raised some important points that should be taken into consideration but I would go along with the first suggestion which was made.
Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Excuse me. Was that the one about privatizing the House?
The Chair: No. "Inform the Speaker that the committee approves all requests for use of chamber by model parliaments as long as they comply with the assembly guidelines and have all other requests for use of chamber determined by the Speaker."
Again, this is something on which the Speaker has requested our advice, as well as the House leaders', to determine the best use of the chamber.
Mr Bisson: Okay. I'm going to make it really simple. I take it that the government is saying no. I therefore request a 20-minute recess to defer this so I can read it before we vote.
The Chair: You cannot request a recess unless there's a question on the floor.
Mr Bisson: I'll wait for the question and then I will request the recess. I need a chance to read this. You're asking me to vote on something I haven't even seen.
The Chair: No one's moved a motion.
Mrs Marland: Admittedly I've sat in this House five years longer than Mr Bisson, but Mr Bisson hasn't just arrived in this House. He's been here almost six years.
Mr Bisson: Actually, going on seven.
Mrs Marland: I have just been subbed in a few minutes ago, as you have. I'm not a regular member of this committee either. During the discussion I've been able to read these nine items, and they're so straightforward that I'm sure you, having been a member of this Legislature for six years, can comprehend those nine items and decide on your own what would be in the best interests of the House. If we want to go through the nine items that are listed here and discuss them and then decide if we want to vote on them as a block -- I would prefer that we vote on them individually -- that's how I would suggest we proceed. If Mr Bisson has any difficulty with that and he wants to move a motion of deferral, let him move the motion and let's vote on that and get on with the business.
I've been subbed in this committee three times this year, and the committee gets adjourned every time. We never do anything.
Mr O'Toole: This is new to all of us. I read mine yesterday and I suspect the nine points -- you're familiar with the change, a very small change?
Mr Bisson: I'm listening to debate. I can't listen to debate and read at the same time. I'm listening to you guys.
Mr O'Toole: I would encourage you to read that. The only questions I have, and I think Margaret's point is made -- first, I'm supportive of the public's use. This tries to ease that process and look at alternative ways of providing appropriate security at the most reasonable cost. That's really what Margaret was talking about, and I completely support that. Other than that, I think the approvals are far more streamlined.
Mrs Marland: I was talking about model parliaments. I want to emphasize that's the use I'm supportive of.
Mr O'Toole: Yes, that's what this is.
Mr Grimmett: I'd like to move that -- I suppose what we're doing is amending the current policy to include suggested amendment (1), "Inform the Speaker that the committee approves all requests for use of chamber by model parliaments as long as they comply with the assembly guidelines...."
The Chair: Your motion is that option number (1) would be the preferred option?
Mr Grimmett: That's correct.
Mr Bisson: The nine options according to this page here? Is there a motion being put?
The Chair: The nine options which are part of your package.
Mr Grimmett has moved that option (1) be the one we would recommend to the Speaker for how the chamber is used for model parliaments.
Mr Bisson: Are we into discussion now?
The Chair: Yes, there can be discussion on that motion. Is there any discussion on the motion?
Mr Bisson: Give me a chance to read it. That's a fairly easy one.
The Chair: Seeing no discussion, I call the question.
Mr Bisson: I'm asking for a five-minute recess so I can go back and confer with somebody. I'm being nice. Rather than 20 minutes, all I want is five.
The Chair: The committee is adjourned for five minutes.
Mr Bisson: Thank you very much.
The committee recessed from 1630 to 1635.
The Chair: We are now in the midst of a vote on a motion by Mr Grimmett suggesting that this committee inform the Speaker that the committee approves all requests for use of the chamber by model parliaments as long as they comply with the assembly guidelines, and have all other requests for the use of the chamber determined by the Speaker.
All in favour of Mr Grimmett's motion? Opposed? The motion is carried.
Mr Bisson: Can I bring up another matter before you adjourn?
The Chair: Other business? Yes, Mr Bisson.
Mr Bisson: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. A couple of things: This is not a strong complaint. I just point out that I had an opportunity in the House to speak to the clerk of the committee and I understood the committee was going to be reconvening at a quarter after. I left the House and was here before a quarter after on this clock and the committee was sitting, so I did not get an opportunity --
The Chair: I can answer that, Mr Bisson, because I watch that clock very closely. We use this clock. It was a 20-minute recess. The start of the recess was 5 minutes to 4, and at 4:15 by that clock, which was 20 minutes, we started the meeting again.
Mr Bisson: I would just point out that somebody had better check them because the clocks between here and the House are not jibing.
The Chair: That clock is different from my watch, but we've been using that clock for the benefit of all members of the committee. I appreciate your point.
Mr Bisson: I just wanted to say that for the record.
The Chair: I appreciate your point.
Mr Bisson: One second. I just want the record to say that, because I was sitting in the House. I'm supposed to be on House duty and I was watching what was happening there.
I say this to Margaret, the member for Mississauga South: You walked into this committee and you knew what you were going to do. It's fairly easy, when you're government and you have people in here all the time who are watching what's happening on the committee, to come and sub in as a member, but when you're asked to come in for your party and you haven't looked at any of this information before, read through it, understand what it's about and make up your mind on how you're going to vote in about three minutes flat, that is somewhat difficult. I'm not looking for a big debate on this. I just want the record to clarify that.
As a third point, I think members should be conscious of their House leaders. I don't believe that Ernie Eves, the government House leader, would be very appreciative of what happened with the motion prior to this one. I warn members that it is not a good thing to go contrary to what your House leader wants.
The Chair: Mrs Marland, on this point.
Mrs Marland: Not to turn this into a debate or to prolong it, but I would like to reconfirm that when I came in here a few minutes before Mr Bisson, I was subbed in and was not aware of what was on the agenda. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not led around with a ring in my nose, whether I sit on the government side or not, and for the number of years that I sat on the opposition side, probably at least 10 1/2, we all know there are times that we are subbed into meetings and we come in and very quickly have to read something. I did exactly that this afternoon as a sub. I didn't come in with my government members saying to me, "This is what we want to do and this is what we're doing." I was just handed this at the point that you came in, so you and I both had the same amount of time. I suggest to you that it was so simple and straightforward that you just had to read it and know, with your historical experience, whether or not you could support it, and that's simply what I did.
The Chair: I have one other thing to bring to the committee's attention. I've received a letter from the Clerk of the House requesting that this committee review a private bill which has been, I believe, presented to legislative counsel. What I'm proposing to do is deal with this matter next week. It's a private bill that has been put forward in the name of Mr Hastings and not yet introduced in the House. I'd like to deal with it next week. We'll have information packages sent out to all committee members in advance of this.
Mr Bisson: Just a question: You're going to deal with a private bill that hasn't been introduced in the House?
The Chair: I'll ask Lisa to explain in detail what this is all about.
Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lisa Freedman): The standing orders state that any application for a private bill that does not comply with the standing orders can be referred to the Legislative Assembly committee. This application is in the application stage; obviously it hasn't been introduced. It's the opinion of legislative counsel that it's not proper subject matter for a private bill, therefore it's being referred here for this committee to determine whether it can go on for introduction.
The Chair: Nothing nefarious.
Mr Bisson: Just checking.
The committee adjourned at 1641.