Thursday 6 December 1990




Chair: Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South L)

Vice-Chair: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Bradley, James J. (St. Catharines L)

Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South L)

Charlton, Brian A. (Hamilton Mountain NDP)

Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North L)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent NDP)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings NDP)

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York NDP)

Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

Substitutions: Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP) for Mr Hayes

Clerk: Manikel, Tannis

Staff: McLellan, Ray, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1018 in room 228.


Clerk of the Committee: Okay, if we are ready to start, it is my duty to call upon you to elect a Chairman. Are there any nominations?

Mr Bradley: I would like to nominate Mr Callahan.

Clerk of the Committee: Mr Callahan has been nominated. Are there any further nominations? There being no further nominations, I declare the nominations closed. Will Mr Callahan please take the chair?

The Chair: That is the easiest election I have ever had. I want to thank you for that overwhelming vote of confidence.

The next item on the agenda is the election of a Vice-Chair. It is my duty to call upon you to elect a Vice-Chair. Are there any nominations?

Mr Bradley: I would like to nominate Ms Poole.

The Chair: Any further nominations? I declare that Ms Poole is now Vice-Chair of the standing committee on public accounts.

Ms Poole: Thank you. It was a hard-fought battle.

The Chair: You can see that the tide is turning.

Clerk of the Committee: Now we have a motion regarding the subcommittee.

The Chair: Mr Bradley moves that Mr Callahan, Ms Poole, Mr Charlton and Mr Cousens do compose the subcommittee on business; that the subcommittee on business meet from time to time at the call of the Chair to consider and to report to the committee on the business of the committee; that substitutions be permitted in the subcommittee, and that the presence of all members of the subcommittee is necessary to constitute a quorum.

The Chair: Is there any discussion on that motion? I might add that Mr Charlton is not here today. We do not need a motion for substitution, do we?

Clerk of the Committee: No.

The Chair: Perhaps one of these other members could sit today so that we can get on with it.

Clerk of the Committee: He may be here later.

The Chair: Is that right? All right. Is there any discussion on the motion? Those in favour of the motion?

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: We have the Provincial Auditor, who is going to give us an orientation session by video, from the Office of the Provincial Auditor. Take it away, Mr Auditor.

Mr Archer: Thank you, Mr Chairman. There is a clause in the Audit Act which states that at the request of the standing committee on public accounts, the auditor and any member of the auditor's staff shall attend at meetings of the committee. This, over the years, has translated into sort of a standing invitation. There is hardly a meeting of this committee where I or members of my staff are not in attendance, but it may be worth noting that this is at the request of the committee so you could change that at any time. It is not mandatory that we be here.

The Chair: Would you like us to do that?

Mr Archer: No, I am just pointing out that it is an option you have. In light of the tradition that has been established, I think it would be worth while for the committee members to know a little about the office, how we work and what the nature of our mandate is. The previous members of the committee certainly will be well familiar with that but for the new members I think it may be worth while to spend a few minutes explaining the nature of our office. Rather than me just sit here and talk to you, we have developed an orientation film which we have used on many occasions, including for previous new members of the committee. It runs about 10 minutes, so it is not too onerous in that respect. I think it may serve also as a refresher for some of the returning members. If we could show you that, then we would be pleased to answer any questions or receive any comments any members have.

Mr Cousens: How much did this cost to put together?

Mr Archer: I think about $12,000.

Mr Cousens: That is what I thought.

Mr Archer: I should have asked you to guess.

The Chair: Were you in it, Don?

Mr Cousens: That is what is wrong with it, if you are going to put that kind of money into it.

The Chair: Maybe we could have the lights dimmed and the popcorn popped. We will watch the video.

[Video presentation]


The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Archer. Is there anything else you would like to add? I think that says an awful lot.

Mr Archer: No. As I mentioned earlier, if anybody has any questions now, or later for that matter, feel free to raise them or contact us. We will be glad to try to explain what we are doing at any time to any member.

The Chair: Would there be any questions now from members of the committee, or would you like to hear the role of the committee staff and then perhaps ask questions?

I would say at the outset that I have not been on the standing committee on public accounts more than once, I guess. It is my understanding that the tradition of this committee is that it is in fact as nearly as possible non-partisan. I think the auditor's video sets the stage for how they do it and sets the stage for how we should do it too.

Mr Bradley, you are smiling. I will not even ask you to interpret that smile.

Mr Bradley: I always found it to be the most political committee in the Ontario Legislature --

The Chair: Is that right? I do remember a few days I sat on the committee when it got a little political.

I would like to ask Ray to explain his role and Tannis to explain her role and then we can have questions after that.

Mr McLellan: My role essentially is to assist the committee in its primary function, that is, the hearings process. As we work our way through the auditor's report in the hearing process, I provide background papers for the committee, outline possible lines of questioning and questions for the committee to consider, and as required by the committee I may produce summaries of particular issues it is interested in, and also produce a final report and annual report at the committee's instruction.

The methodology for me as we select the audits for consideration is to meet first with the auditor's staff and discuss the audits with the auditors involved in the particular reports. From that I go on to prepare a background report very similar to this one used last January. In this report I try to summarize the auditor's report with specific reference to the conclusions, observations and any recommendations made by the auditor. This document is used by committee members in the hearings process.

From this document we move to the next stage, an individual report, which the committee has decided to issue in the past. At times they could just include one or two audits or perhaps more than that. The most important part of this document is to review the testimony and the questions and concerns of the committee, and also to work through to the final recommendations of the committee.

The last stage in the process from the legislative research perspective is to prepare an annual report for the committee. This report may include a series of audits. Last year I believe we had about nine audit reports in here with recommendations. That is the final document at year's end for the committee.

That is essentially the role of legislative research. If there are questions collectively from the committee I can deal with them, or if there are individual questions and a member wants to meet with legislative research to discuss a specific aspect I certainly can do that. That is essentially the role of legislative research, to facilitate and to assist where possible.

The Chair: Perhaps before any questions are fielded, if there are any, we will ask Tannis to explain her role.

Clerk of the Committee: As most of you are aware, the role of the clerk of the committee is to handle the administration as well as the procedural aspects of the committee. I am responsible for making sure we have a committee room to meet in and that there is coffee and juice available. Once we decide on what we will be doing I will contact the ministries, the agencies, whomever we are inviting in, and schedule their appointments when they will appear before the committee. Of course, I am available to give procedural advice to all members of the committee -- that is one of the main functions of the committee clerk -- and to give procedural advice to the Chair as well.

The Chair: He needs a lot of it.

Clerk of the Committee: I am not sure how much information you need about what I do, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me now or later. What I generally have been doing on this committee is setting out a proposed agenda covering four to five meetings. We have not really formally voted on it; it has been left that if anyone had a problem with it, then it was raised. This seemed to work well; people knew what was coming up. Of course, this was pretty well decided by the subcommittee. What was left to me was scheduling people in case there were mixups, where people could not come on certain days. This is something the committee can discuss.

There will be a few things we will have to discuss at some point -- probably later would be a better time -- once we get into report writing, how the committee wants the format of the committee reports set out; the number of copies each member needs, things like that.

There are a couple of things I should explain. Every year, the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees meets. Last year, it was in St John's, Newfoundland, the first week in July. Next year it will be in Manitoba; I understand it will be in August. While we were at that meeting, there was a delegation from Australia which has sent our committee an invitation to appear at a similar type of conference for the Australian-Asian public accounts committees. This will be taking place in Northern Australia in May. It is very coincidental that this happens to be during constituency week, so the committee will have to make a decision on how we are going to proceed on this and whether we will request permission to attend. I am hoping the subcommittee can discuss this fairly quickly, because I should let the people in Australia know.

Otherwise, there is another conference the committee often attends. It is the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation. That conference is usually held around the first weekend in November. It was in Ottawa this past November and in Toronto the year before. Next year, I believe it will be in Montreal. The committee in the past has sent members to attend this as well.

These are a few of the things that are more or less constant. Other than that, the committee's travel and the committee's agenda will be set by the subcommittee and the full committee.

The Chair: Any questions by any members of the committee? Okay. I would urge you, if you have not already, to go through the material that was given to you, the Guidelines for Public Accounts Committees in Canada. That will be most helpful. From what I gather in just having a look through it some time ago, a lot of this comes from these conferences, discussions between various public accounts committees throughout not just Canada but places outside of Canada. Those conferences are not just holidays. They are working conferences. More often than not, a paper is delivered by the Chairman at those conferences on how the operation is here so we could share with our colleagues in the Commonwealth.

The other thing I would ask you to look at is the standing order that sets up this committee. It is very broad. It gives significant authority to the committee to review things, unlike most committees that are set up where they have specific direction. If they want to get greater direction, they require a motion in the House to give them that direction.

If there are no further questions, then the next item we would discuss -- it will have to be in general terms -- would be the committee's budget. For the new members, once the budget is struck and approved by this committee, and more than likely it will be looked at or considered by the subcommittee -- it is my understanding that under the standing orders if the subcommittee approves things then they are in fact approved, and when it comes back here they are --

Clerk of the Committee: No. That is from another subcommittee.

The Chair: Okay, but they will probably consider the budget and present it at the next meeting. In fact, our next meeting, which will be next Thursday, will probably be a fairly brief one in that you will probably see what the subcommittee has agreed to in terms of things to do. Also, perhaps we will have some idea of what the budget truly is, because it has to go the Board of Internal Economy when?

Clerk of the Committee: We would like to get it in as quickly as possible, because at this point the committee has no budget. If we are meeting in the intersession, we will need funds for everything we do.

The Chair: Yes. Tannis is paying for the coffee out of her pocket, so we do not want that to continue. Those are the things that will happen on the next occasion. Perhaps I could get some feeling from the committee right now about whether the next committee hearing would be 20 December, whether we wish to sit on the 20th, considering the fact that it will probably be just the day of the break. Any views on that? Is anybody interested in sitting on 20 December?

Mr Cousens: I suggest that we sit next week, we make approvals of what we need to do for a budget and plans for the year and that it would be sufficient and that we not meet on 20 December.

The Chair: All right.

Mr O'Connor: Perhaps the subcommittee can come back with a report.

The Chair: We will, on what we are going to do, but I just want to get some handle on whether you want to say now that you do not want to sit on 20 December. I think that is the tenor of the suggestion. I do not think we need a motion on it. Is anybody contrary to that? Okay.

Mr Bradley: Not unless a major scandal breaks that we will deal with non-partisanly.

The Chair: All right. That gives the clerk and myself and the subcommittee some idea of how to plan. The clerk indicates that is everything. We stand adjourned until 10 of the clock of next Thursday.

The committee adjourned at 1047.