Thursday 9 May 1991

Deputy ministers' expenses

Committee budget

Continued in camera


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

Vice-Chair: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Bradley, James J. (St. Catharines L)

Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North L)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

Haeck, Christel (St. Catharines-Brock NDP)

Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent NDP)

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

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York NDP)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

Clerk: Manikel, Tanis

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

The committee met at 1009 in room 228.


The Chair: You have your agenda before you and we have the motion by Mr Tilson, which we will deal with first and then the discussion of the committee budget. Then we will go into closed session, if time permits, to draft reports. Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: I put the committee on notice several weeks ago that I wished to put this motion forward.

The Chair: Mr Tilson moves that the Provincial Auditor immediately conduct an audit of the expense accounts of all deputy ministers and report to the committee on the guidelines that deputy ministers are required to follow with respect to the use of their expense accounts.

The audit will also show the actual amount that each deputy minister is granted for the purpose of expenses and will include any suggestions the Provincial Auditor might have which might be implemented to improve the accountability of the use of these expense accounts.

Mr Tilson: This motion has been made by myself as a result of a question that I raised in the House in December involving the former Deputy Minister of Culture and Communications, on information that had been made available to us. I think at that time the auditor had expressed, in so many words at least, that the accounts had been proper, presumably pursuant to the guidelines that were set forward.

With the information that was available, it appeared to me at least that those guidelines could be questioned. In other words, how much leeway do deputy ministers have with respect to their expense accounts? That is the intent of the motion.

That one finding -- and there may be others -- gave me concern. Because of that one finding, I believe that all deputy ministers' expense accounts should be looked at. I would also like to hear from the auditor as to what his staff and he think as to how we can improve the accountability of the use of these expense accounts by deputy ministers.

The Chair: Ms Poole and then Mr Cousens. Let's not play favourites.

Mr Cousens: She's prettier.

The Chair: That is true.

Ms Poole: Thank you, Mr Chair. You take accolades in this business however you can get them. If it is being called pretty in comparison to Mr Cousens, hey, I will take it.

Mr Tilson: Is that what the morning is going to be like?

Ms Poole: That is what the morning is going to be like.

I will support the intent of the motion that Mr Tilson has put forward. Certainly expense accounts, not only for deputy ministers but for various officials within the government, are something that should be under close scrutiny to make sure that they are as efficiently conducted as possible. I guess the only thing that I have some concern about is the motivation.

If this is simply a statement made and explored to try to embarrass the previous Liberal government or the current NDP government, then I have a problem with it in that the standing committee on public accounts has always been non-partisan. I am wondering, in that regard, why just deputy ministers were isolated and not other groups which certainly I think there is some value in exploring.

On the face of it, deputy ministers are paid a fairly generous salary, I think probably double or triple that of many MPPs in this room right now. If we are getting good value for our money, that is fine. Their expense accounts should be questioned and the guidelines that are available should also be under scrutiny.

I would just caution that we as a public accounts committee in the past have been as non-partisan as possible within the limitations we have in this Legislature. Nothing in this Legislature is ever truly non-partisan, but this committee probably comes as close as one --

The Chair: Lunch is.

Ms Poole: Lunch and coffee breaks are non-partisan. Other than that, I am afraid we fail miserably at being non-partisan. But if Mr Tilson is making this motion in the spirit in which I hope he is making it, that we truly want accountability at all levels of government, I will certainly strongly support him in that endeavour. I just have that one caution, that I hope members will try to look at this in a very objective light and say, "How can we improve the system and make it better?" not "How can we try to embarrass other parties about what has been done in the past or what is being done?" Let's look to the future and make sure what will be done is the best thing for the taxpayers of this province.

Ms Haeck: I want to ask a question of the auditor. At this point, to what degree are those officials mentioned by Ms Poole, or specifically the deputy ministers as outlined by Mr Tilson, regularly audited, and what recommendation would you make for regularity in the future to sort of keep a handle on those kinds of expense accounts?

Mr Archer: We do not audit them every year. We audit them, like just about everything else within the government, on a cyclical basis every five or six years. We did what we call a cross-ministry audit of travel expenses a couple of years ago, picked about 10 or 12 of the major ministries and audited the travel of all people right up through even the ministers, and reported on it in, I guess, our 1989 auditor's report.

So, unless the committee feels otherwise, that would be the procedure we would follow. We thought we would not do another cross-ministry audit of travel for another couple of years.

The Chair: That information, too, would be available through estimates, would it not?

Mr Archer: The total amount of money that is spent by each deputy for travel is reported in the public accounts. There is no mystery as to how much they have spent. I think the tentative motion is to get behind what are they spending it on and is it all necessary.

The Chair: I figure it should all be plugged into a computer. When it hits a certain number, bells should go off and then we could audit.

Ms Haeck: My question was not just about travel, but definitely, as Mr Tilson has outlined, the total range of expenses. What you are basically saying is that you do them every five or six years and the most recent one you focused in on was related to travel expenses.

Mr Archer: Right. Yes. Other than their salary, that is about the extent of additional expenses that the deputies incur.

Ms Haeck: So, without direction from this committee, you would not be looking more closely at how they are spending, not only the expenses related to their departments?

Mr Archer: I think you seem to be putting a broader definition on deputy ministers' expenses. In the expenses of running his office, for example? Like staff that he has and so on?

Ms Haeck: Yes.

Mr Archer: Again, when we audit the payroll, for example, we would include the staff of the deputy minister's office, but we do not zero in on the deputy minister's office and all the expenses that are incurred by that office and do an audit of that per se.

Ms Haeck: Okay. I think that pretty much answers my question.

Ms Poole: Just a point of clarification from Mr Tilson. When you were talking about expenses in the second paragraph, were you referring only to expense accounts or were you taking in the broader sense that Ms Haeck has, that it would include expenses of the office itself?

Mr Tilson: The purpose of the motion is to deal specifically with deputy ministers, and I suppose that could be expanded to include the offices of the deputy ministers, and if a deputy minister has certain staff, they may have expense accounts as well. In other words, anything to do with the deputy ministers.

More important, the guidelines -- whatever guidelines there are; I do not even know if there are any -- may have been met. I would certainly like to hear the comments from the auditor as to whether the guidelines that exist, if there are such guidelines, are sufficient to provide the accountability he feels is necessary of each deputy minister and his or her staff.


Mr Archer: I guess I was going basically by the tone of the debates that you referred to earlier. I thought you were zeroing in on the travel expenses of the deputy himself, as opposed to the expenses of the deputy minister's office.

Mr Tilson: Yes, that obviously is what caused me to get on this whole subject, that issue, that it has been raised in the House. That is what got me on the whole issue. But I am interested, as I would imagine we all are, in the expense accounts of deputy ministers. What are they? Second, can the use of these expense accounts be improved? So it is really twofold. You are quite right. It goes to travel, it could go to lunch, it could go to entertainment expenses, it could be all kinds of expenses, not just travel. It could go beyond travel.

Mr Archer: All that type of expense, lunch and entertainment, is recorded in the public accounts under that whole heading.

Mr Tilson: I am quite aware of that.

Mr Archer: But these other expenses, such as the number of staff he has and the travel they do and renovations to his office and things of that nature, considerably enlarge the project, if that is what you have in mind.

Mr Tilson: I am interested in all of that. I would like to know what rights the Legislature is giving deputy ministers, either themselves personally or their staff or, yes, the whole wide range as to what rights they have to spend government money -- all that.

Ms Haeck: I think Mr Cousens had a comment to make.

Mr Cousens: I was testing the Chairman.

The Chair: Actually, the clerk and I were just looking at the motion, and you have enlarged it a great deal, so we would really have to take out of there the word "accounts." It should just be "expenses." It should be just "an audit of the expenses of all deputy ministers," because you are really looking for a lot more than just whether they --

Mr Tilson: My definition of expense accounts means that if the deputy minister wants to purchase art work for his or her office, that is an expense. Maybe my definition and your definition are two different things.

The Chair: What if he wants to refurbish his office with furniture?

Mr Tilson: I assume that is the same thing. That is my definition.

Mr Archer: What you are getting at are the expenses incurred by the deputy minister's office, including those of the deputy and any employee therein.

Mr Tilson: Yes. I mean, are we going to give them a car? I do not know what we are going to give them. I would like to know what rights the deputy minister has to spend government moneys, other than obviously operating the specific ministry, but there is obviously a distinction where that ends. Sure, refurbishing an office, I think that is an expense. You are right, Mr Chairman, I quite agree that that goes beyond lunch.

The Chair: I am just trying to clarify it so that if this is passed, we give specific instruction to the auditor so that he knows exactly the parameters.

Mr Tilson: If we are going beyond what you would call his lunch expense or some sort of travel expense, I would like to go into the other areas that you have been referring to.

Mr Cousens: You are on the question I was wanting to target in the first place, Mr Chairman, and it has to do with the discretionary spending of deputy ministers. I had not originally thought it would include the things Mr Tilson is now suggesting, but I do not think it hurts, especially after the comments a couple of days ago of someone who is not a deputy minister who has nine TV sets in his office. There are certain things that open up one's thinking about what is going on there. If you have that option to do something, I think we, as legislators, want to make sure we are aware of it and, if we have the power to do it, that there are checks and balances in place for it.

The one thing I had in the back of my mind is also where in companies now it is quite a thing if you cheat on expenses. I mean, you are dismissed without too much question. There are a number of people I know in business where they had duplicate bills, one was on a Visa card and the other was a restaurant receipt for the same meal. They submitted it and that same --

The Chair: They put you in jail for that kind of stuff.

Mr Cousens: In a company you are fired. What happens as well in companies that I have been involved with, they are monitoring very carefully. If you are the senior person and you have your people with you, how often are they buying lunch for you? It is one way in which you escape responsibility for it yourself, so you sort of assign it to someone who is working for you and then he is picking up your meal.

The other thing that really should be part of it is the people who are at the event. I was just looking at the meal side of things, because that is really one of the costs. If you are taking a group of people, then you should identify all the people who are with you and their positions, unless you are buying a dinner for 200 people. But Tories do not do that any more; we do not have that many friends.

Ms Poole: You try to find 200 people who want to come to dinner with you, even if it is free.

Mr Cousens: I remember the halcyon days when it happened. But okay, I think there has to be some kind of --

The Chair: Are you taking over the Sam Cureatz role or what?

Mr Cousens: Well, I have been there too. I think there has to be some kind of delineation of who is involved in these events, and that is the kind of thing I saw the auditor looking into, because you cannot just look at the deputy minister without looking at the levels around that person.

I think you really have to look at the discretionary spending of that office, where it is outside of the ministry but it is social, and some of those other parts of the things that are now coming up to this issue as to where discretion is being used and what controls or limits are on.

Mr Archer: I just point out that your initial example, which has been recently in the press, of the TV sets, that individual would not fall under the deputy minister.

Mr Cousens: I know that.

The Chair: He would not fall under the definition of a deputy minister. Can we not deem anybody with nine television sets to be a deputy minister?

Mr Archer: Maybe this is a good time to raise the question as to how extensive or how literally this motion should be taken. Do you want all deputy ministers? There are 35 of them. There are also about 10 people who do not have the term "deputy" in their title but they have deputy minister status. Normally when we do an audit of this type, we would select maybe 10 or 15 of the major cost centres, if you like, and audit those, rather than try to do every one.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair, I am not on a witchhunt. I am simply trying to determine what the rules are, or whether there are any. It has been suggested that I amend the motion as a result of discussions we have had, and I am prepared to do that. There may be other suggestions. I have put down the words "all deputy ministers." Again, I emphasize that the intent of the motion is to find out exactly what the rules are, and yes, it includes beyond lunch. It includes paintings in offices and whether a chair is made of leather or simple cloth, the furnishings in an office. It includes all of those things. If it is too expensive to look at all deputy ministers at this time, on your recommendation, if you would like to make it selective, that is fine too. My real emphasis is, what are the rules and how can they be improved?


Ms Haeck: If we are concerned about the kinds of employment contracts the universities are undertaking with their presidents, I think we have to look at what the government has been doing generally and will be doing in future as far as contracts with the senior administrators are concerned. I think that has to be fairly clear, and I am quite concerned as well as to what kind of perks may be coming with certain offices that are far above and beyond what most people would understand those offices to warrant.

The Chair: You have heard what Ms Haeck has added to this. Do you feel comfortable?

Mr Archer: We will audit whatever the committee decides. Ms Haeck has now extended it to the salaries and the contracts under which the deputies operate, and certainly we can include that.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chairman, on a point of order: My motion does not go into salaries. My motion does not go into perks; and if we appear to be getting into the word "perks," then I will go back to my original wording. I am trying to limit it to what are the rules regarding deputy ministers' expense accounts; it is as simple as that. If, at another time, we want to get into other things, that is fine, but this specific motion is on that subject and that subject alone. Perhaps another time we could get into these other areas, but the word "perks" is something else and goes beyond the issue of expenses.

Mr Archer: Earlier in your remarks you asked whether they get cars. That is a perk deputies do get, but you are not interested in exploring that area.

Mr Tilson: I guess the question is whether that is defined as an expense. I suggested that an amendment I would consider is deleting the word "accounts" and replacing it with "expenses," and deleting the words in the first paragraph, last line, "expense accounts," and replacing them with "these expenditures." I do not want this to be a broad definition. Again, are expenses of deputy ministers reasonable, based on existing guidelines, and can those guidelines be improved? Now if the wording of that is too ambiguous, then fine, but I do not wish to get into salaries or contracts. Each deputy minister could have a different contract, and I do not want to get into that. That is a different subject. Perhaps at another time it would be appropriate to do that.

The Chair: Mr Johnson has been eagerly and patiently waiting.

Mr Johnson: Thank you, Mr Chair. I thought long and hard about this motion of Mr Tilson's before I came here, and I thought it was a good motion and that there was a purpose in that motion. I would agree with what Mr Tilson said now as well. If the auditor were to audit the expense accounts of the deputy ministers, as is indicated in the original motion here, would that not flag deputy ministers who may have some shortcomings in how they have used their expense accounts? At that point, we could go beyond the expense account and maybe do a more comprehensive audit of that particular deputy minister and his office. That is how I interpreted this function.

Mr Tilson: If we leave the wording as is, we leave the words "expense account." Now let us take the example of a car. You buy a deputy minister a car. I hope they do not, but let us say we have bought one. Would your audit reveal that, if I left in the words "expense accounts?" Let us say we find something outrageous. We buy the deputy minister an expensive car. Would your audit, with that wording, reveal that?

Mr Archer: It may, because the lease cost of that car would be going through the office.

Mr Johnson: Gas receipts will not reveal it.

Mr Tilson: This is not a budget debate.

Mr Archer: I think we would pick that up because the cost of the lease of that car, for example, would be going through the ministry as an expense of the ministry.

Mr Tilson: Would the cost of the purchase of the car be revealed?

Mr Archer: Oh yes, sure.

Mr Tilson: If that is the case, then I have no problem with my original wording of the motion.

Mr Archer: So I gather the only thing you want to exclude is the deputy minister's salary.

Mr Tilson: I am not interested in that.

The Chair: I guess as long as the auditor knows what we are dealing with. Ms Poole and then Mr Hayes.

Ms Poole: I was on around the time Mr Cousens spoke, but I kind of got forgotten about. That is what happens when you are five feet tall. They tend to forget about you over here.

As far as the wording of the motion, I personally would be a little happier with the revised wordings, simply because I do not think "expense accounts" would be comprehensive enough. That being said, I also do not want the auditor to be put in a position where the balance of the year he does nothing but spend his time at every deputy minister's office looking at salaries, expenses, office expenses, expense accounts. I think we have to have a balance here. I would think if we put "conduct an audit of the expenses of" -- and then take out "all" -- "deputy ministers," that would allow the auditor some leeway as to which ones would be chosen.

Obviously, if you look at the perspective of the Deputy Minister of Health as opposed to, say, the Deputy Minister for the Anti-Drug Secretariat, their needs are going to be vastly different. They are administering a huge budget in the case of Health and they have obviously a need for more staff and greater expenses. I do not think we should get into this as treating all deputy ministers equally. I think the auditor can take a superficial analysis of what the various deputy ministers are costing and then make an informed choice as to which ones would be best for the purposes of establishing whether there are guidelines and whether they are adhering to the guidelines. But I think it would be good to make it a little broader and say "expenses," which would then give the auditor leeway to look at office expenses that may be out of line.

If there is a Monet painting in the office and this is caught not on an expense account but as an office expense, I would like the auditor to have the flexibility of taking a look at it. If we leave "expenses" in there on its own, that gives him that flexibility. We could also, as a committee, give the auditor directions as to what our -- Mr Tilson stated what his intent is, which I think will be very helpful to the auditor, but to give him some discretion, how far he goes depending on whether he sees anything there. If there is nothing untoward about office expenses and they seem to be run-of-the-mill office expenses, why would he spend many hours and weeks investigating it?

My recommendation would be that we do amend Mr Tilson's original motion, that is, if he is willing to do that, to take out "accounts" and take out "all" and then give the auditor directions as to what our preference is.

The Chair: We seem to be sort of dealing in semantics here. I think we all know what we want, but if you want to continue on, we have other things to do. I will go to Mr Cousens, Mr Hayes and then Mr O'Connor.

Mr Cousens: I will defer.

Mr Hayes: Thank you, Don. Actually, pretty well everything has been said. I got caught out of turn here, but it is okay, Bob.

I do not really see too much wrong with this motion, even the way it is, except for the part about "all deputy ministers," and I do not know how you can do that. We probably should leave it up to the auditor, either at random or whatever way he so chooses to do, to pick 10 or whatever. I think the bottom line here is that this motion says on the last line, "to improve the accountability of the use of these expenses." I think that is the really important wording in there.

Like I mentioned earlier, I hope and I do think it is not a witchhunt, but I think we should know exactly where the money is being spent and how it is being spent. I will reiterate the word "accountability," and I think that is most important. I think these things really should be disclosed. We might find out that in some cases we are getting one heck of a good deal, and in other cases there may be some waste there. I think we should really know that, and if that is what is found, then I hope we take the appropriate action. I think the bottom line is that we are saying we want the expense accounts of deputy ministers audited and a report back to this committee. At the same time, I also think the auditor should have some flexibility in doing that. Maybe he would want to come back with suggestions telling us exactly what he feels should be done so it will fulfil the message in this resolution.


Mr O'Connor: All I wanted to add was that we do not want to limit what the auditor is going to be allowed to look at. So maybe the word "accounts" should come out of there, as he suggested earlier. I think we have talked about everything we need to talk about with this. I just wanted to make sure we do not limit the auditor here.

The Chair: Okay. Mr Tilson, we have an amendment, I think.

Mr Tilson: I agree with the amendments proposed by the members that in the second line the word "expense" be changed to "expenses." Maybe I will just read it as amended.

The Chair: Actually, we do have a motion by Ms Poole that the motion be amended by deleting the words "expense accounts" in lines 2, 5 and 12 and replacing them with the word "expenses" and deleting the word "all" in line 3. That is with reference to the deputy ministers. It is your motion, so I think you should really have the opportunity to do that.

Mr Tilson: Yes, I would like to do that. I will read the motion as I am suggesting with the amendments of the proposals of the various members.

"That the Provincial Auditor immediately conduct an audit of the expenses of deputy ministers and report to the committee on the guidelines that deputy ministers are required to follow with respect to the use of these expenditures."

The second paragraph is as was read previously.

The Chair: Okay. Any further discussion or are we ready to vote?

Ms Poole: I have just one question for the auditor. There are words in there -- "immediately conduct." Is this problematic for you if you already are in the midst of an audit? I would just give the auditor that leeway, that he complete whatever project he is on right now.

Mr Archer: I think we can start almost immediately, because we have had, in essence, two weeks' notice that this has been coming. So that is no problem for us, the wording.

Ms Poole: Good.

Mr Johnson: With regard to conducting audits of expense accounts, that is a finite thing, an expense account as opposed to a broader --

The Chair: We have taken that up by the amendment.

Mr Johnson: Yes, I realize that, but how long would it take the auditor to do an audit of an expense account? It would vary from ministry to ministry, I would think, because there are differences, I suppose, between ministries. In the original motion I thought it was most interesting and I thought if an expense account were audited and if they were all done, then certain deputy ministers, I guess, would be flagged if there were some irregularities in how their expense accounts were audited. Then there could be a further, more comprehensive audit of that deputy minister's office. I know that the motion has been changed and amended, but I was just curious to know how long it would take to do an audit of an expense account.

Mr Archer: Just dealing with expense account defined as "travel expenses incurred by the deputy," it would be relatively straightforward and would not be too lengthy a task. However, an audit of the expenses incurred by the deputy minister's office is a much broader issue. At this point, having never done an audit on that specific subject -- directly, at any rate, on that specific subject -- I could not give you an average time that it would take. It would depend on how large a staff he had and the extent of expenses incurred for his office recently. If the committee is interested in knowing when we might be finishing this, I think we would have to give you a status report after we had done one or two. We may choose to do 10 and we could give you an idea of when we would be finished the 10 and report back.

The Chair: I wonder if Mr Johnson's concern, with the concurrence of the committee, might be met by asking the auditor to report first on expense accounts for our benefit, to be followed up by this.

Mr Tilson: We have amended by taking out the word "all," and I can tell you that if the auditor comes back with some shocking news, I would be immediately making a motion that all deputy ministers be looked at. I put the committee on notice of that, in fact.

Mr Johnson: That is the point, because if all expense accounts were audited, we would have an idea of all of the deputy ministers. But what we have done now is we have given the auditor the right to choose some and audit them, and I do not know if that will reflect on -- although we know this is not a witchhunt; it is just an accountability function.

The Chair: Are you seeking to amend the motion as it is? If you are looking for a much more immediate type of information coming back, the auditor could certainly be directed to bring that back to us as quickly as possible as part of the total audit.

Mr Johnson: If it were not time-consuming and if it is a relatively simple exercise to do an expense account audit of all the deputy ministers -- if the time for one is very short, then I would suspect that for 35 it will be 35 times that short time, and maybe it would not take that long.

Mr Archer: You seem to be drawing a correlation between the individual travel expenses of a deputy and the expenses of his office, and I do not know if there is necessarily any correlation.

Mr Johnson: No, I am not. I thought the intention of this was that if expense accounts were audited and there were irregularities in a particular deputy minister's accounting, then maybe we would want a more comprehensive audit of that particular office to see if it was a glitch in that expense account or if there were some more serious problems.

The Chair: Are you saying that people's tastes show up in their expense accounts?

Mr Johnson: It depends on how you interpret what is in their expense account, I guess.

Mr Archer: As I interpret your remarks, instead of leaving the selection, say, of 10 or 12 ministries to our discretion, we first of all audit the direct travel expenses of all 35, and select our sample from detected irregularities in that phase of the audit.

Mr Johnson: That is what I am suggesting. I do not know if that is feasible or if it is something the auditor finds he would even like to do.

Mr Archer: Based on our last audit of deputy ministers' expenses, which covered the year 1988, I do not expect we are going to find a lot of glaring irregularities. I think it is going to be more a lack of precise definition of just what deputy ministers can incur. It is left pretty much up to their judgement.

Mr Cousens: Can we call the question?

The Chair: Any further discussion? That is not an invitation.

Mr Tilson, we are not certain whether you can amend your own motion.

Mr Tilson: I do not care who amends it.

The Chair: Ms Poole moves that the motion be amended by deleting the words "expense accounts" in lines 2, 5 and 12 and replacing them with the word "expenses," and deleting the word "all" in line 3.

Mr Johnson: I have a problem with that. To just change "these expense accounts" to "expenses" in the last sentence I do not think makes sense; "these expenditures" would make sense.


Mr Tilson: That is what I originally said.

The Chair: All right, so it would be with the word "expenditures."

Ms Poole: Can I make the amendment?

The Chair: Sure.

Ms Poole: I will either accept Mr Hayes's amendment or make a friendly amendment to my amendment, whatever the Chair suggests.

The Chair: A friendly amendment.

Ms Poole: Okay. Amend the amendment to "expenditures."

The Chair: Shall the amendment carry? Carried. Okay. We will move on to the next item --

Clerk of the Committee: We have Mr Tilson's motion.

The Chair: Oh yes. I am sorry. Shall Mr Tilson's motion, as amended, carry?

Motion agreed to.


The Chair: The next item in open session will be discussion of the committee budget. You have before you a number of things that hopefully you will have had a chance to peruse because they will have some bearing on the budget: a list of the Ontario treatment facilities -- which is amazing; I did not realize there were that many -- and also the US treatment centres most commonly visited. You have before you a possible scenario of travel to those places. And in your budget, you have an additional item that has been added for ground transportation, and that is because we will probably, hopefully, be looking at some of the facilities here within the Ontario arena and perhaps even receiving some briefing on what these facilities entail.

The only other change was that we added translation at $2,000. Other than that, the budget is basically the same as it was before.

The clerk tells me the suggested travel to the US has not been included in the budget, and what she needs to know is which of the items that have been placed before you is most desirable. You have two of them. You have possible agenda 1 and possible agenda 2.

Mr Johnson: In number one you only have to fly once.

The Chair: Mr Johnson does not like to fly. Maybe the clerk could explain how she arrived at these.

Clerk of the Committee: If you look at the other sheet that I put out, which starts off, "Ontario treatment facilities," the last page of that has the most commonly visited centres in the United States. Basically I took this list, put it out on the map to figure out where their closest major centre was, and then, just figuring that at most we would only have a week to travel in the US looking at these treatment centres, I just sort of mapped out a route that I thought would be possible for the committee, and I came up with these two different agendas. As far as I know, I have not got the information to decide which of these centres would be better for the committee to visit. I do not have any criteria to base it on, so this is a very arbitrary decision based on distance.

Mr O'Connor: Could I be given maybe some idea of numbers of patients receiving treatment in facilities in the United States? I notice one here where you have got "adolescent treatment." Maybe we could have a breakdown on the differences between the adolescent services over there and adult services, so that maybe when we make a decision we base it on that as well, so we can include that. That is something we should be looking at and if we have a deficiency here, then that is something we should he using as we make our decision, as part of the basis.

Clerk of the Committee: So what you are asking is, the number of people from Ontario who visit these centres, and broken down into adult and adolescent.

Mr O'Connor: Just so that we can maybe make that value judgement, as opposed to just making it on whether we are going to fly or drive to the actual treatment centre, because I think that would be important.

Clerk of the Committee: We would have to get that information from the minister and see if it is, in fact, what they have in the statistics.

The Chair: Mr McLellan has some of it.

Mr McLellan: I will just comment. I think I had mentioned at one point when we started to talk about this subject that I contacted OHIP -- on the instruction of the ministry to speak to OHIP directly -- and asked them the 12 or 15 or 18 most popular and most frequented clinics in the US. They came back with that list of 12, I believe it was. I just showed it to the Chairman. I think what you are asking now is whether we can rank the most popular within those dozen so that we are getting those clinics that Ontario people visit the most. We might whittle it down from 12 to perhaps five or six or four, and then break it down on an adult and adolescent basis as well.

Mr O'Connor: Yes. What I would like to see is if there is a large portion of adolescents being treated abroad, then will you make sure that we do not exclude that, just on the criteria of what we have got set out as two possible agendas. Actually I am quite interested in taking a look at that because I think that would be quite useful. Then, if we do include the study of the Bowling Green Adolescent Center in New Jersey, we should look at something in Ontario that is comparable, so we have something to compare it to. It would not make much sense to go and take a look at that facility and then come back and not look at a facility that is trying to treat the same people, or has a possibility of treating the same clients.

Mr Tilson: Or we look at a facility that we should have in Ontario.

Mr O'Connor: Right, for sure.

Ms Poole: Do we have any idea of how many Ontario residents go to these facilities?

The Chair: Some of the places were able to give a research officer that information and we will be making that available.

Clerk of the Committee: At present we do not have any specific numbers.

The Chair: We have dollar values.

Clerk of the Committee: No, those are dollar values that we posited there.

The Chair: Okay, we do not then.

Ms Poole: I just wondered if that would be helpful, if we would be going to facilities that do treat a lot of Ontario clients and patients, and whether they would perhaps be more informed about what is happening because of that, whether that could influence which ones we go to.

The Chair: I am not so sure that would necessarily be representative of who has had the most success with Ontario residents or if it would be more representative of who was able to solicit people more successfully. As you know, there was a group in Toronto that was set up to encourage people to go down there. So dollars will not necessarily mean anything. I think what degree of success they have with patients is the real key.

Ms Poole: Which may be difficult to analyse.

Mr McLellan: We do have that. We do have the success rate for the US clinics. The profile we have on them right now lists, in addition to the location: addictions treated; special groups -- whether it is women, veterans, children under 12 -- target groups, that is; and then the costs for the various programs; the success rate; and special programs. That is what we have right now.

The Chair: I think that is really at the root of the whole thing. The cost is certainly not incidental or insignificant, but I think the success of those treatment programs is really the key. What did we call it? Value for money.

Any further discussion? Now we are going to have to decide on which one of these scenarios we can plug it in.


Clerk of the Committee: No.

The Chair: No? All right. We have to plug that into the budget and since we cannot get before the Board of Internal Economy probably until after the constituency week, we will defer that until we have the information Mr O'Connor has asked for. Then we can decide which one of those agendas we want to deal with. Okay?

Clerk of the Committee: We may have a new one.

The Chair: Yes, we may have a new one, in fact.

Ms Poole: I just want to make one comment. I do not think the cost is really a factor because you are only talking of a difference of $1,300. So really what we want to find out is which would be more fruitful for our research endeavours in finding out what is successful in the United States and what could work here.

The Chair: Right. As I say, if we can get through the reports we have we would perhaps want to schedule some of the Toronto and area ones so that we would have a flavour of what we are looking at when we go down there.

Ms Poole: Could we actually do that when the House is in session?

The Chair: I think we could.

Ms Poole: We probably could if we did it in the 3:30 to 6 o'clock time slot.

The Chair: Public accounts sits from 10 until 12. We could go at 9 in the morning and come back by 1 o'clock.

Mr Tilson: Just before we go to the in-camera session, I appreciate that there is only a certain amount of time you are allowed, as a new member, to ask naïve questions, but I will ask this one.

The Chair: I am still doing that and I have been here six years.

Mr Tilson: This is a public accounts committee and I have not been present at most of the meetings since we have started, mainly because I was on another committee. But since I have been here, most of the time I am in camera dealing with the subject of university audits. Why are we in camera dealing with that subject?

The Chair: I suppose the question of preparing reports has been dealt with in two ways. It has been dealt with in camera and also out of camera, and I guess that is really the decision of the committee.

Mr Tilson: In the little bit that I have been here for so far, I have not seen anything that should not be discussed. This is a public accounts committee and we should be discussing many of these topics in public. I do not know why we are in private session on those matters, but perhaps there is some logical or legal reason.

The Chair: I think the clerk has put it that discussions that give total freedom to the members to discuss their interpretations of what the evidence was or the hearings were are discussed in camera, but that is a decision of the committee. We can decide to do it in full view if you like. I do not know whether that is going to hamper some people from saying certain things; I would hope not. There may be instances, I do not know whether this was one of them, where perhaps something comes forward that is controversial and you want to have a full and frank discussion beforehand. I do not know. I am in the committee's hands. I am quite prepared to have Hansard stay, but I think we did move, back when we first got started on this, that it would be in camera.

Ms Poole: I do not know what the precedent was before the last Parliament, but I know in the last Parliament any committees I sat on, whether the select committee on education or public accounts, when it came to the draft report stage, they were held as a matter of practice in camera. I think most members felt that it did open the way for a fuller and more frank discussion. As soon as members go on the public record, obviously they have to be very careful that they are not offending any groups, any constituency groups or anybody else, so it limits the freedom of how you would approach an issue. I think that was one of the reasons that was given.

The second was simply that as you proceed to the report writing stage, sometimes you float trial balloons out among the committee and then, once you have had the researcher look into it, we have found that there is absolutely no validity to going in that direction, that the evidence does not support that direction. Yet in the meantime, if you had this on official Hansard, you would have a number of the constituent groups who would be either outraged or alarmed or panicking. I think that was one of the primary reasons the meetings have been held in camera.

I do not have strong feelings on it myself, other than I did find that when we are in camera members are less partisan, that they tend to be fuller and franker and able to air exactly what they are thinking without worrying about whether somebody is going to be on the phone the next morning to criticize them for such frankness.

I do not have any strong objection to holding these in public, I just think we should be fairly careful about the ramifications of doing so.

Mr O'Connor: One thing too, when we are discussing things in camera, a lot of what we are discussing are matters that we have dealt with in committee that, as you have said, may disturb some of our constituents and not necessarily reflect the wish of this committee. We do require some help in putting together our report, and quite ably by our researcher, but we do not necessarily agree with everything he comes up with, so if everything is recorded at that point in time and it is a public document, then they are not necessarily seeing the public documents of this committee.

I think it is a good practice that we do allow ourselves to be open and not to send out any mixed signals, because the final report is going to be the report that is the consensus of this committee. As we work through it, then the reports that we are working through are not necessarily the consensus of this committee. So I think that to be open and to be frank, you can do it much better in closed session. Not all discussions need to be held in camera, but to be open, I think I have to agree with Ms Poole.

The Chair: I am not sure from what you have said, Mr O'Connor, whether you are in favour of us going in or out of camera.

Mr O'Connor: I think we should be in camera until we come up with the final report, because we do not need to send out any mixed signals to our constituents as we deal with these matters. We will be changing them as we go through them and not necessarily all of the things that are discussed in camera are reflections of this committee's decisions. They can be the reflections of the researcher trying to compile what he feels are our opinions and decisions until the final document is out. I am not saying our researcher is not very able, either.

Ms Poole: Just one final thought that stemmed from what Mr O'Connor just said. I know one of the most difficult things in a legislative setting is when members put themselves publicly on the record on something and then rethink their position because further information becomes available. I have seen it happen all too often where a member did not have all the information, put himself on the record and then could not gracefully back away from it. They are locked into that position. So sometimes it tends to be much more antagonistic than perhaps it needs to be because people end up defending their original position rather than keeping an open mind and waiting until all the evidence and the discussions are completed.

The Chair: I think it is analogous to a jury, why a jury deliberates in private, although I note that is under review in the press today, and why they passed that law that does not allow you to find out why the jury decided is to give you free and frank discussion. But we are in this by consensus. If anyone wishes to change that consensus, let us know. Mr Tilson, do you wish to --

Mr Tilson: No. I understand some of the things that are being said. I guess it is difficult sometimes to think out loud, and that is probably the main reason.

The Chair: I think your comments were well taken. I think it is something we discussed and maybe it is something we should keep in mind, that nothing is cast in stone here. It is usual, but not necessarily the unbroken rule. Any time a member feels that the matter should be in the public domain totally, we will just ring Hansard at 967-1111 -- no, no -- and it can be here. So certainly we are not trying to hide anything.

All right. Having said that, we are continuing in camera. We will do that and we will call Hansard if we need it.

The committee continued in camera at 1111.