Thursday 23 April 1992

Election of Chair

Election of Vice-Chair

Business subcommittee

Committee business


Chair / Président: Mancini, Remo (Essex South/-Sud L)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence L)

Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South/-Sud L)

Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

Haeck, Christel (St Catharines-Brock ND)

Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent ND)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

Murdock, Sharon (Sudbury ND) for Mr Johnson

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND) for Ms Haeck

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Otterman, Jim F., Assistant Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffière: Manikel, Tannis

Staff / Personnel: McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative

Research Service

The committee met at 1012 in room 228.


Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): Honourable members, it's my duty to call upon you to elect a Chair. Are there any nominations?

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): "Are there any nominations," she said.

Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): I have had many opportunities to participate in public accounts. I would like to make one of those risky moves that you do when you're in third-party status. There happens to be a chap from Essex South who has proven himself over many years of work in the Legislature. If he promises to bring forward -- I don't even have to say "if" -- when he demonstrates once again that he is capable of being non-partisan, which this committee has been; and when he demonstrates as well that all parties, New Democrats and Conservatives, should be treated nicely, which this committee is really trying to do -- he has to put up with a few Liberals, but I'm sure he can handle that.

Mr Sorbara: Until he's challenged.

Mr Cousens: Having made those brief remarks -- that is a challenge and a half for any human being and I know that the person I am nominating to this high position, Mr Remo Mancini, really could meet those high challenges. I would therefore take pleasure in nominating Remo Mancini as Chairman.

Mr Sorbara: There's no one more qualified.

Clerk of the Committee: Thank you. Are there any further nominations?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I think that after being in the Legislature now for about a year and a half, seeing the member opposite speak eloquently on many occasions and knowing how non-partisan this committee has been under the capable chairmanship of his colleague Bob Callahan -- I'm sure he will at times turn to him for some advice on how to try to be non-partisan in this committee -- I'd like to second that motion in the spirit of this non-partisanship my colleague from Markham has displayed today.

Mr Cousens: He could even go back to Mr Ed Philip for guidance on how this committee was run for so long. We would hope that he would have opportunity to draw upon the great expertise of the present Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

Mr Remo Mancini (Essex South): I just might do that.

Clerk of the Committee: There being no further nominations, I declare the nominations closed and Mr Mancini the elected Chair.

Mr Sorbara: We've had two tedious speeches. I hope you don't have to get involved in acceptance remarks. Could we just get on with it?

The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): There will not be a tedious acceptance speech, other than to thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Chairperson.


The Chair: We have a number of other items of business to conclude this morning. The first item is the election of a Vice-Chair.

Mr Cousens: I would like to nominate Mr Joseph Cordiano as Vice-Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Cousens. Is there a seconder for that?

Mr Sorbara: Here.

The Chair: Mr Sorbara. Mr Cordiano has let it be known that he will accept the office of Vice-Chair.

Now we need a motion for the business subcommittee.

Mr Sorbara: I think we had better vote on that.

The Chair: I'm sorry. Are there any further nominations? Seeing none, the nominations are closed. Mr Cordiano is duly elected Vice-Chair.


The Chair: Mr Hayes moves that the subcommittee on committee business be appointed to meet from time to time at the call of the Chair, or at the request of any member thereof, to consider and report to the committee on the business of the committee; that substitution be permitted on the subcommittee; that the presence of all members of the subcommittee is necessary to constitute a meeting, and that the subcommittee be composed of the following members: Mr Mancini, Mr Cordiano, Ms Haeck and Mr Cousens.

Mr Sorbara: Who's the final one after Haeck?

Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): Mr Cousens.

Mr Sorbara: Don Cousens? Okay.

Motion agreed to.


The Chair: What I'd like to do is ask our clerk to go over very briefly some of the work the committee has done so that we can decide what we wish to do today, if anything, and when we wish the subcommittee to meet. There was a substantial document sent to everyone. We might want to discuss that for a moment and what we're going to do with it, and see if we can order our business in the next two or three minutes.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Just a quick question, Chair. Are you planning to meet today? Ms Haeck is available some time around 11 o'clock. I am only here as a sub.

The Chair: I don't think so. Some of us have to go back to the Legislature for private members' business. We've made previous commitments. I thought we could take five or 10 minutes, or even 15 maybe, to get ourselves reoriented and organized for future meetings.

Mr Owens: Sure. That's fine.


Clerk of the Committee: Okay, if I can just review some of the things that are before the committee at this point that we're carrying over from last year: This package was sent to your offices earlier in the week; it's a survey on crown corporations. This is something that came up at the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees at the annual convention in Winnipeg last year. They asked that we have this complete at the end of January, I believe, so I do feel we should get it completed fairly soon. Ray McLellan, our researcher, has been working on this. We feel most of the questions have been answered except for a few right at the end of the survey, which we felt members had to answer as to what they saw as the role of the committee and of the Legislature.

We have two reports that are ready for the committee to look at. There's the report on substance abuse, which was brought before the committee when it met in February, but because very few of the members had been involved in the discussion of substance abuse it was felt we should carry this over to this time. That report is prepared and ready. I can have copies sent out to all the members today.

Also, we've prepared an annual report. This is something the committee has been doing for the last 10 years or so, just outlining what it's done over the years or over the year. In this case, it'll cover the two years because of the election. We've done this in the past. We've found it has been easier to amalgamate two years into the annual report. That's ready as well.

At the meeting in February the committee instructed the clerk and the researcher to prepare a letter to be sent to the Ministry of Health, the Treasurer and Management Board of Cabinet inquiring about what's happening with the amendments to the Audit Act and asking about the Ministry of Health entering into an agreement with the hospitals. This letter is also ready, and when we look at what the committee is doing on the hospital audits we may want to continue with that. The committee started a review of the hospital audits as outlined in the Provincial Auditor's annual report.

When the committee met in February there had been a request from CUPE Local 2001 of the Toronto General site of The Toronto Hospital asking to appear before the committee. At that time our schedule was so tight we couldn't put them on, but the committee had agreed we would have them on early in the session, so that's something else outstanding before the committee.

There's one other thing. The committee did a report on university accountability. There's been a task force on university accountability set up. They would like to meet with members of the committee who worked on that report, just to talk about the recommendations the committee made. Obviously, because the committee hasn't been meeting, I haven't been able to make arrangements for that, but I'd appreciate some direction on that.

That's what's before the committee.

The Chair: Okay. What do you think? Any ideas?

Mr Sorbara: Just a very brief point: I'm brand-new on this committee, so having looked at the questions contained in the survey that is now a couple of months late, and not having enough background on how this committee works to provide a response of substance, I was going to suggest that perhaps you, sir, given your experience not only on this committee but on matters relating to the questions here, might consider responses for the consideration of the committee. You can obviously work with the clerk and the researchers and take advice from whomever you please and then at our next meeting simply put forward proposed responses to these questions, along with whatever commentary you choose to give the committee, and then the committee can either confirm those responses or amend them accordingly. In other words, we want to leave it in your hands.

Mr Cousens: I support what my friend the member for York Centre has just said. Just to add to that, though, I notice that in the responses, if you've changed schedule 1 -- you've got it asking for the answers under different columns than we normally deal with when they talk about mixed crowns, commercial crowns, some of the definitions that are used, the universal response to the questionnaire. It doesn't come through to me that we've answered it correctly by virtue of the way we've got schedule 1. Oh, I see, you've got schedules 1, 2 and 3, organizations, all different, so do the answers go right down through all the columns?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Cousens: I don't see them following through as they should. Maybe someone could just comment on that.

The Chair: Does someone want to reply to Mr Cousens?

Mr Cousens: On the first page you've got schedule 1, schedule 2 and schedule 3, but then when you get to the second page, you haven't carried through the typing to the columns nor have you gone through each of the columns and filled them in accordingly.

Mr Ray McLellan (Research Officer): I'll just respond to Mr Cousens, if I can. When we received the questionnaire, my first step was to go to Management Board and discuss the complexities of crown corporations in Ontario. Their response to me was that it wouldn't be possible to fit this particular formatted structure to the Ontario system. They basically said what we really have to do is rely on our schedule 1, 2 and 3 format. It may be difficult for them to interpret it at the other end. My feeling is that the format that has been used here -- all crowns, commercial and mixed crowns, is really based on the federal system and certainly less on the Ontario system.

Therefore, Management Board's advice to me was to go with schedules 1, 2 and 3. They in turn sat down, went through the first 25 or 30 questions and answered those questions based on schedules 1, 2 and 3. It's unfortunate that the model devised hasn't worked for Ontario and it may not work for other provinces. As I say, the questions have been answered by Management Board with some input from the Provincial Auditor's office and from the Ministry of Treasury and Economics.

That's the difficulty in answering this question. We've wrestled with it for some time. It's Management Board's advice to us to try to set it up and deal with operational agencies, which cover schedules 1, 2 and 3. The commercial crowns we are really talking about, which number about 20, including Ontario Hydro, fall into the operational schedule 2 group. They're the real commercial crowns. But as Management Board has said to me, we have to look at operational agencies. Those operational agencies fall into all groups, 1, 2 and 3, and they provide goods and services to implement approved government policies and programs. They are involved in either commercial or quasi-commercial operations. In a long story, the model doesn't fit Ontario particularly well.

The Chair: I think what we'll do is have a meeting in very short order and get something prepared to give all the committee members to consider.

Mr Cousens: I appreciate the answer Ray has given. It explains an awful lot of things. We should have clarification in the comments section or prefacing the whole report, outlining the problem we've had beyond what I see here, unless there was a document that explained some of the differences we saw. But when you're doing the response --

The Chair: Okay.

Mr Cousens: I have one more point on the selection of the new auditor. I was away last week. Was there a motion placed by the government House leader giving this committee authority to be involved in the selection of the new auditor?

The Chair: The clerk is not aware of any such motion.

Mr Cousens: Possibly, once it's made the rounds, unless this is a good time to do it, I'd like to open that up for some discussion, because I think it's going to be one of the items on our agenda. Can I do it right now?

The Chair: Let's finish up this item and we'll get right to that item.

Mr O'Connor: You have mentioned about four different items for discussion, but on the item before us that we've been talking about, the accountability of crown corporations, during the past summer the public accounts convention was on and some of our colleagues had an opportunity to go there. I believe our past Chair, Bob Callahan, and Christel Haeck and Paul Johnson from our caucus, went there. It might be beneficial for them to actually have a chance to take a look and review this as well, so maybe with the information that our Chair has suggested be gathered, some of that could be forwarded to the people who represented this committee to the public accounts convention, and they can also review it at the same time. I will comment on the other matters as they come up.


Mr Sorbara: The Chair has jurisdiction to consult with whomever he wants.

The Chair: Very good. That is a good idea. Mr Cousens, you brought up a matter.

Mr Cousens: The issue of the selection of a new auditor: I understand there is a motion coming forward from the government establishing the process by which the auditor will be selected and that it will be passed to this committee. Because of the urgency of it, I just hope it can be expedited, because I think we want to see this appointment made and the process of interviewing and selection resolved.

I have to believe that when we are talking about our agenda for the next several months, this is going to be a large part of our activity, and not to understand that before we begin -- I am not trying to pre-empt any kinds of things, but I was at House leaders when it was discussed and it really will impact our activities. We should be at least cognizant of it, and maybe the Chairman could review it further with some of the members from the government caucus just to see what is happening on it.

Mr Sorbara: The problem is the choice is very narrow. It has to be a competent accountant. I have worked for an NDP government in Manitoba and there are not all that many.

The Chair: I had some experience in hiring in the process --

Mr Sorbara: It just went right over their heads.

Mr Hayes: For Mr Sorbara's information, it did not go over anybody's head over here. If he wants to start playing games, we will play games with him.

Mr Sorbara: I was just trying you out, what with carrying casinos on your shoulders.

Mr Owens: At least we've got something on our shoulders.

Mr Sorbara: Yes; it's not brains.

Mr Hayes: I think it is a good suggestion by Mr Cousens that possibly you could speak with the House leader or members of the government on that particular issue.

Mr Sorbara: Can you tell us, Mr Chairman, how a new provincial auditor is to be selected? What is the process?

The Chair: I am going to look into this, but I have had some experience on a committee when an officer of the House has been hired. The former standing committee on agencies and Legislative Assembly, which was one at one time, went through a lengthy process to hire our present clerk. I participated in that process, so I am somewhat familiar with how it can be done. We may not be able to use the exact model, but I think we can use part of it, and I certainly want to speak to all the House leaders and get their input. We may do it through a subcommittee. We may have to delegate a subcommittee, and then the subcommittee may want to narrow down the list to a manageable level; we have a lengthy list. Then my recommendation would be that the full committee get involved.

Mr Sorbara: I take it, though, that there is nothing in the standing orders which charges this committee with any responsibility whatever, or is that not the case?

Clerk of the Committee: If I could just answer that, I have done a little bit of research on this. As far as it goes, the Audit Act says the Chair of the standing committee on public accounts will be consulted on the nominated person, with that name. That is the only reference there. There is nothing --

Mr Sorbara: I am sorry to interrupt, Tannis -- will be consulted about the nominated candidate?

Clerk of the Committee: Yes. That's all the Audit Act says. The standing orders don't say anything about this at all. The only other reference we have is a report of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, in 1985 I believe, which dealt with the selection of officers of the House. Again, it was just that the selection process would be done separately, but that the committee would be consulted, again reviewing the successful candidate. So there is nothing in our standing orders that gives us any reference to do this. That is why we need a motion from the House outlining what the committee is to do.

The Chair: There was a report -- I believe it was 1985 or 1986, and there may have been one earlier than that -- from the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly which highlighted five or six different positions within government that should go through a committee. If memory serves me right, the Clerk was one, the auditor was another one, the Ombudsman; the chairperson of the Commission on Election Finances was placed on that list. There was consensus at the time that these individuals, when they were considered for these positions, would go through the committee, which looked at how a Clerk should be hired for the assembly.

The committee went through a lengthy process. It worked very well. I can't remember any significant problem that we were unable to overcome. It was secret ballot by the members. We had a lot of discussion. The subcommittee did some work. The full committee did the rest of the work. It was done in fairly quick order and we had some terrific individuals apply from all across Canada.

Mr Sorbara: Given the fact that you, sir, are the only person mentioned in the legislation in any respect and that you have a key role, if need be I would put forward a motion that you consult with your colleagues, the various House leaders and whoever else it is necessary to consult, and and, based on precedents, some of which you've mentioned, bring to this committee a process for consideration that you're satisfied with for the selection of a new Provincial Auditor. You are mentioned there. The rest of the world is sort of ignored, so I guess you have a lead responsibility.

Mr Cousens: I don't know about other caucuses, but our caucus has already raised the subject because it has been raised to House leaders on more than one occasion. My understanding, unless there's been some change -- the fact that there hasn't been a motion brought forward by Mr Cooke leads me to believe there may be some movement away from the original position. I don't think there's any great breach; we're just talking process at this time. My understanding was that the government was going to have the public accounts committee responsible for the selection process, so that out of the discussions we have here, inasmuch as the position doesn't report to the government, but to the Legislative Assembly, it really has quite a different role to play.

We heard Mr Cooke saying that the government was going to give the responsibility of the selection to this committee. If that's the case, and I think that's a very appropriate approach, then the real point is that when we're planning our time for the next three months we should take that into consideration because it's going to change our legislative agenda somewhat. Probably nothing could be more important for the next period of time than to make sure the right person is in place as auditor.

Mr Sorbara: Once again, if that's the case, I suggest the Chair's responsibility is to --

The Chair: There's a motion on the floor anyway, Mr Sorbara. I guess we're speaking to that motion. Mr Sorbara's motion, if I can recount it, was that I contact the House leaders, explain to them the situation we find ourselves in and see if I can get any direction from them. Once I get a direction, I'll bring it back to the committee for discussion.

Mr Sorbara: With respect, my motion wasn't that you seek direction from them, but having consulted with them -- think you're mentioned in the legislation, so I think you have the pre-eminent responsibility to bring forward a process for consideration. In other words, it's not a matter of taking your marching orders, but having consulted with them and reviewed the precedents, it is to bring to this committee proposals for procedure to retain a new Provincial Auditor.

By the way, while I have the floor, our friend Doug Archer is now no longer with us or is about to retire or has retired.

Mr Cousens: A long time ago.

Mr Jim F. Otterman (Assistant Provincial Auditor): December 25.

Mr Sorbara: Oh, that's right.

Mr Otterman: I think you missed the gathering.

Mr Sorbara: Of course, I missed the gathering. I'm sorry about that.

Mr Cousens: We had a lunch to bid him farewell on your behalf.

Mr Owens: With due respect, in regard to Mr Sorbara's motion, I believe Mr Hayes gave the committee an undertaking that he would approach the House leader to make a determination as to what the process is going to be at this point. I'm just wondering if the motion may be a bit premature until this committee discovers what the process will be which, if Mr Cousens is correct in his statements, will take into account the points Mr Sorbara is attempting to make in this motion.


Mr Sorbara: If I may comment, I don't think those facts are inconsistent with my motion. I just want to make sure that the Chair -- we've just elected a Chair -- that these matters, whether coming through Mr Hayes or --

Mr Owens: With due respect to your Chair, I think he understands his role quite sufficiently and I'm not sure that a motion is needed for Mr Mancini to do his job as per the Audit Act or any other --

Mr Sorbara: No, we're asking him to bring forward to us the procedure that will be used. Obviously the government, with its majority, will have a very great impact on what that is, but we're asking him, through this motion, to put before this committee the procedure that is being proposed for our consideration and our adoption and ultimately our approval. That's all.

Mr Cousens: I understand the intent of Mr Sorbara's motion, and I don't really mean to hurt his feelings, but --

Mr Sorbara: I'm going to be shattered if you disagree with me.

Mr Cousens: I am about to disagree with you. To me one of the things that can make this committee work much more effectively is if there is a consensus gathered and the Chairman can go and do his thing without having a formal motion to make it happen. It would give us a chance to test the Chairman's ability to see what he's going to do on this one. We can then wait for him to come back. The motion isn't offensive, but it really gives our Chairman a chance to play a bigger role in how the committee can function effectively. I'd rather just give him that option.

Mr Sorbara: I'll withdraw the motion if you're going to do it anyway. That's fine.

Mr Cousens: I think that's what we're saying.

Mr Sorbara: I don't care.

Mr Cousens: I don't want to hurt your feelings.

Mr O'Connor: On the motion, at this point I've got two of my colleagues from York region here and they both seem to be taking similar but different views. I agree that since I've been on this committee it has always tried to gain a consensus working around whatever issue we've been grappling with in respect to the Provincial Auditor's report. I think the direction the Chair set out initially in his statements that he would like to proceed in is a very wise direction. The Chair has already shown his capabilities.

The Chair: Okay. We'll do the best we can with this issue and we'll have something to report back to you. Maybe what I'll ask to have done is have the legislative library review the records.

Mr Cousens: Don't bother. Cooke --

The Chair: No, don't bother?

Mr Cousens: He might be doing it today.

The Chair: No, but it might be good for the other members just to see how it was done.

Mr Cousens: Just make it happen.

The Chair: Make it happen? Okay.

Mr Sorbara: It's your role; it's not Cooke's role.

The Chair: It's my role. Right, I understand.

Mr Sorbara: You're mentioned in the legislation; he's not. But they're the majority. Obviously you play a role identified by the legislation. They have the majority and they're going to get their way, but you should be reporting to us as to what the agreed-upon procedure is. That's all I'm saying.

The Chair: Okay, that will be done.

Clerk of the Committee: If I might just get some direction from the committee so that I can set the committee's agenda for next week. Do you want to do the two draft reports that are prepared and get those completed?

Mr Sorbara: What are those again?

Clerk of the Committee: One is on substance abuse. That was what the committee was studying last summer and fall. The second one is an annual report covering 1990 and 1991.

Mr O'Connor: Those were the other points that you had raised earlier. On the report on substance abuse, which was discussed earlier, I was involved in that process from the beginning and I felt that I would like to have an active part in discussion in the committee, so I appreciated the committee deferring it until some of us members who did have an opportunity to take a look at the drug treatment facilities had an opportunity to be involved in writing that report. I appreciate that.

There are a few other items you had mentioned. One was the review by bringing in someone from CUPE. Whenever that's possible to fit into our schedule, I think that would be quite useful as well. There was also some discussion around the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. In reviewing the Provincial Auditor's report dealing with universities and colleges and seeing how this committee had made recommendations to the ministry, I think it would be quite useful for us to take a look at the reporting mechanisms that they have put in place and the follow-up, so that would be quite appropriate. I think the committee would appreciate the opportunity to review that as well.

The Chair: Okay. I want to make sure that whatever agenda we prepare for ourselves on a weekly basis is something that we can accomplish. We usually set aside a couple of hours every Thursday morning. If it's necessary, we can reconvene Thursday afternoon.

Clerk of the Committee: No, we can't.

The Chair: We're not able to do that?

Clerk of the Committee: No, we only have permission to sit Thursday morning.

The Chair: Then that restricts us even further, so maybe we should take bite-sized chunks so that we have a feeling of accomplishment when we leave the room here. I heard what you said and we're going to work towards that.

Mr O'Connor: The reports might be useful for us to go through at this time.

The Chair: We will certainly do that.

Mr Sorbara: I feel fine about dealing with those two reports next week. My problem is that I'm new on this committee and I don't know how the general flow of work comes to this committee, what the real nature of its work is except from what I've heard sitting in the Legislature. So perhaps you -- or if you would prefer to have the clerk describe generally how this committee proceeds, what is the substance of its work, how that work gets to the committee and how it's generally dealt with etc.

The Chair: I've seen it proceed in many different and interesting ways. I think we're going to follow the historic pattern that this committee has used over the last decade or two. There are going to be many interesting subjects brought to our attention that we're going to decide to look into.

Mr Sorbara: If I might interrupt, can we do that on our own motion? Bills are not referred to this committee, I take it.

The Chair: No.

Mr Sorbara: We can do it on our own motion?

The Chair: I believe we can. I believe there is historical precedent for that.

Mr O'Connor: In fact, it gives us an opportunity to review what the Provincial Auditor has pointed out in his report and see areas that piqued the interest of committee members. All the committee members have an opportunity, on the basis of consensus, to then decide exactly what area we'd like to delve into. It has been a very good committee as far as working on consensus and being non-partisan in nature. It's actually a very interesting and relaxed atmosphere to deal with government business in.

The Chair: As was said, we look at anything that the Provincial Auditor has done in his report and we can look at any expenditure. That's what public accounts is all about.

Mr Sorbara: The Provincial Auditor's report is generally brought down -- help me out here.

Mr Otterman: Late November.

Mr Sorbara: Late November, so that the sitting time post-late November, I guess in the winter months and in the spring months, is often devoted to consideration of the auditor's report. Is that the case? Is there any work done in this committee leading up to the auditor's report? In other words, does the auditor refer questions to this committee in anticipation of writing the annual report?

Mr Otterman: He hasn't done in the past.

Mr Sorbara: Does he generally attend this committee and is he available to do questions on matters within his competence?

Mr Otterman: Yes.

Mr Sorbara: To use an example, obviously the issue of the day/week/month/year is the government's determination to establish casino gambling in the province. If we were to want to examine in detail the economic impact and the economic effect of such a radical change in our lifestyle and how we raise revenues here, could we do that and could we acquire the information necessary and command that information from a variety of ministries?


The Chair: I'm going by memory only and by past practices. I think once funds start to be expended this committee has the opportunity to see how those funds have been expended and whether we believe they've been expended properly, meeting whatever guidelines and criteria exist within government. It's not necessarily the responsibility of the public accounts committee to discuss the policy initiatives. However, may I add, when you're expending funds, it is difficult to talk about the expenditure of these funds without its impact on policy. But the policy is not the primary goal of the committee.

Mr Sorbara: I have a problem there with "the expenditure of funds" and what exactly you mean by that. Funds have already been expended. Apparently cabinet has already approved this measure in principle and the government is about to announce something. From my own experience in government, that means that funds have been expended doing public opinion surveys to see the political impact of diverting from previous principles within the government party, funds have been expended within ministries to write up cabinet submissions and consult with the various entities that are going to be operating these casinos, and obviously surveys have been done to determine whether Sarnia or Cornwall or Ottawa or Metropolitan Toronto is an appropriate site. Money has been spent.

The Chair: Nobody in Windsor wants the casinos.

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): Mr Chair, on a point of order: I understand that Mr Sorbara is jumping to some conclusions here, and for all the comments that have been made, and I think that in reality -- I understand he has made up his mind on a number of things --

The Chair: The point of order is?

Ms Haeck: -- but between the Premier and the minister involved, no decisions have been made.

The Chair: Thank you, that is a point of information. It's not a point of order.

Ms Haeck: I think it is unrealistic to --

The Chair: Order, please.

Mr Sorbara: I guess my point is this --

The Chair: Order.

Ms Haeck: No, no. I think really it has to be made clear to --

The Chair: We need order in the committee in order to function properly and the member is now out of order.

Ms Haeck: -- understand that in reality we have been very non-partisan --

The Chair: Turn off the mike, please.

I want to remind the member that I don't call for order for my own sake; I call for order for the proper procedure of the committee. I asked you three times to place your point of order. You refused.

Mr Sorbara: Mr Chairman, if I might just continue with that, we're trying to set our agenda, and I --

The Chair: Order. The most recent copy we have of the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly is October 1989. I suggest we all look at it. If we go to page 34, 104(j), it says very clearly, "Standing committee on public accounts which is empowered to review and report to the House its observations, opinions and recommendations on the report of the Provincial Auditor..." So everybody understands that. The auditor does his report and we can do whatever we like with it, working with the auditor and his staff.

Then it goes on to say, "and the public accounts" -- which means the expenditures of the government -- "which documents shall be deemed to have been permanently referred to the committee as they become available."

There may be documents available somewhere in some ministry that refer to the matter of casinos, but I want to reiterate to all committee members that we are here to review the expenditures. We're not here to study the policy initiatives of the government. The only caveat I add is that it's very difficult to review expenditures without in fact having some discussions on the policy. You can go from committee to committee and you can have sat on this committee for 10 years and you will realize that that's how it works.

I didn't realize casinos were going to be on the agenda this morning. In fact it isn't, but if we want to talk about that at some future date, we're going to have to follow the procedures that are available to us in the standing orders. I think we can come to a joint conclusion as to how we're going to look at that, if in fact we are going to look at it.

Mr Hayes: I agree with the comments you've made. My understanding of being on this committee, just to expand it somewhat, is that we should be dealing with agencies, boards and commissions -- those kinds of expenditures. I find it hard to sit here and start discussing issues or policies that we assume are already taking place or are going to take place. I'm a little bit concerned here, because I think what we have to do is that we have some work we have already started dealing with, with substance abuse and with some of the hospital boards and school boards and things of that nature that we have on the agenda. I hate to see us sway from that agenda on something that we assume may happen or may be happening.

Mr Sorbara: Mr Chairman, every time I raise this subject or broach it, I am being accused of being partisan and somehow violating the rules of the game. We're sitting in a Legislature. We're dealing with public policy. I have been the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and I know that if a government wanted to, it could, under the laws governing charitable gaming, establish a whole series of casinos right across the province, having a significant impact, I believe, on the quality of life in this province. I'm against it.

I know that can be done without a bill being presented in the Legislature, without any committee ever being given an opportunity to look at the details and without any study or any consideration by elected officials, so yesterday in estimates and today in public accounts, I am searching for a forum where these matters can be discussed in an open and public way in the Legislature by the elected officials of the province.

I am incredulous that government members somehow find that offensive and think I'm trying to be political or partisan. We are politicians and these issues are important to the public. People on the radio this morning said, "If Bob Rae wants to have casinos, he didn't propose that in the election and he should have a referendum." I'm just looking for the context where this matter is going to be debated. I don't know whether cabinet has made a final decision. What I know is that there was nothing in the throne speech, and the whole province is abuzz with the fact that there is about to be an announcement.

My understanding of the democratic process is that before you impose that sort of major shift on the province, you present legislation, you consult, you have a public debate within the democratic councils of the province. I would like an opportunity to do that here. From what you said, Mr Chairman, I see that we could look at the expenditures of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations in respect of charitable gaming, because they do expend money there, and we could use that as the context to look at the public accounts of charitable gaming, and coincidentally the proposal for casinos.

I just want to put the government members on notice. If you think this decision is going to be made without a public debate going on someplace in this building and a public debate going on in every riding in the province, you've got another think coming.

The Chair: We could also wait until the one in Windsor opens up. Then we could go down there and see how it operates.

Mr Sorbara: We could do that as well.

The Chair: We could do that too.

Mr O'Connor: After having sat on this committee for quite a few months, and since I've been a member of the Legislature, I've noticed that we've always dealt with the Provincial Auditor's report, dealt with finances. At times there were finances that the committee deemed were somewhat in question, as the Provincial Auditor pointed out, and upon reviewing his audit we have decided we would delve into that matter.

The discussion this morning seems to be debating policy. It seems to me, as a member of the Legislature, that questions of this nature happen and there is debate. The member opposite is quite right. There will be a lot of debate happen should this come to be the end result.


Mr Sorbara: Can I just interrupt to ask --

Mr O'Connor: Question period is the time for that sort of debate. The consensus building of this committee, dealing with all the interesting arguments -- we do get the chance to bring witnesses in the matter -- in reviewing the Provincial Auditor's report, has always been very fascinating. It's been one that has been able to carry on despite whatever issue members would like to have brought for discussion in the Legislature during question period or whatever forum, whether they'd like to introduce opposition resolutions or motions or have an opposition day. That takes place in the Legislature.

In this committee we've always dealt with the Provincial Auditor's report, had discussion around it, and it's been less political as far as the nature of the issue of the day has been concerned. I'd like to see us continue in that nature. The committee has worked and operated very well in that nature, and indeed when committees do sit debating legislation, then the rhetoric certainly does fly, and it's much more appropriate when you're dealing with a piece of legislation.

Mr Chair, in the very near future, I hope we can review the substance abuse report this committee has worked on. Regardless of what our other duties are within the Legislature, this committee has always been able to deal with the mandate it has placed before itself. I hope we can continue in that nature.

The Chair: It's very clear what our mandate is. We can review the report of the Provincial Auditor and all the public accounts. To me our mandate is very wide-ranging, and if it's the wish of some members to review the expenditures or non-expenditures for the spraying of the gypsy moth, we can do that. If it's the view of some members that we review the expenditures or perceived expenditures involved in casino gambling, I believe we can do that. If it's the view of the committee that we review the work that has been done and completed before us, we can do that also. We're going to carry on.

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I'm a new member of this committee and I certainly appreciate the opportunity, because I think accountability is extremely important. As you made clear, the mandate is around reviewing accountability of programs, agencies, boards, commissions and ministries etc, any government expenditures which obviously come into existence as a result of policy, which of course can and will be debated in the House, either in the introduction of bills or question period, or outside the House in the media. I'm very much looking forward to participating in this committee.

The topics that will come up, like drug-related university accountability and hospital accountability, are of very great interest to me. I think these are extremely important issues around the provincial budget and overall expenditures. I think we have our work cut out in these areas and I certainly hope that while concentrating on these discrete areas, we will be able to have a significant impact on the overall government expenditures and policies.

The Chair: Can I just say that over the years I've noted that a good number of people don't like the work of the standing committee on public accounts, because they don't want anybody to know what they're doing with the government's money and the taxpayers' money. To those people who feel that way, I say, "Too bad." We're here to review the expenditures wherever we wish to and wherever the standing orders of the assembly allow us to. I don't believe this committee is going to have any problem finding a lot of work to do. I really don't.

It's now 11:05. I'll have an agenda prepared for all of you well in advance of next week's meeting. I've heard the discussion this morning. We're going to be dealing with the -- sorry, Mr Tilson.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Just on that topic, Mr Chair, with respect to the agenda my assumption is that we will continue with preparing a report on substance abuse.

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Tilson: There has been a list of items we could discuss in the future that is probably out of date and old at this stage. There are also a number of new members. I assume that perhaps the clerk will be requesting a list of topics. I take the position that with the amount of work this committee has done on substance abuse, that would continue.

The Chair: I think that's an excellent idea.

Mr Tilson: But I assume as well that we would all have an opportunity to prepare a list and submit that to the clerk for presentation and that list would be discussed in due course.

The Chair: Can I ask that the subcommittee members, in consultation with your own caucuses, prepare a short list so that we can make one comprehensive list, and then the committee can decide. With some give and take, I think we can do something of what everybody wants.

Ms Haeck: Has there been any date set for the subcommittee?

The Chair: No. I will let you know as soon as possible.

From listening to the committee, the first item of business next week is going to be the review of the substance abuse report. In the meantime, I hope to have had a meeting of the subcommittee, and I am asking all subcommittee members to make up a new, updated list of what you wish to look into and what the committee should consider for its work over the weeks and months ahead. That can contain any number of things which may be of interest to all the members.

I want to thank you for coming this morning.

The committee adjourned at 1106.