Thursday 4 June 1992



*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)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants

Huget, Bob (Sarnia ND) for Mr Johnson

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Jim F. Otterman, Assistant Provincial Auditor

John Sciarra, administrative assistant to the Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffière: Manikel, Tannis

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

The committee met at 1009 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The standing committee on public accounts is called to order. We have before us an agenda that we would like to go through this morning. The first item on the agenda is a letter from the Toronto Hospital signed by Alan R. Hudson, president. If members have not had a chance to review the letter, I ask that you take a few seconds to do so. If you have had a chance to review the letter and wish to make any comments in regard to the letter, the Chair will entertain them.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Is that letter before us?

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): It was sent out with the agenda yesterday.

The Chair: It should be in the package.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): Was that the one we received in the House?

The Chair: I'm not sure. I thought it was sent to your office, but you could have received it in the Legislature.

Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): This one here?

The Chair: That's the one, yes. It's a fairly short letter, four or five paragraphs; strongly worded, though.

The committee will recall that based on the presentation we heard some weeks ago from CUPE Local 2001, we passed motions instructing the Provincial Auditor to undertake certain work, as I recall that for the committee, and it's apparent from the letter that the hospital administration prefers to meet with the committee before that work is commenced or completed. Are there any comments or wishes from the committee members? Maybe the auditor can update us before we get into the questions and answers.

Mr Jim Otterman: I contacted Dr Hudson on May 25 when we received the letter from the Chair requesting the special assignment. He hadn't received it at that point, but I think his Chair had received it. I arranged to meet with him on the Thursday following, May 28. My senior audit staff and I met with him, explained the assignment, what we wanted to do, how we wanted to do it, and they agreed that we could proceed. I wasn't aware of the letter, which is dated May 21, although I was aware of his concerns.

The Chair: Okay. Anything further? Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: I think this is what the committee would welcome, for them to come. That's my recollection, that we were unanimous that we would like some response. If the facts are close, someone is in trouble, and if they're not close, I would imagine there would be statements of claim flying around. They are very serious allegations and this committee cannot ignore them.

The Chair: That's very good. Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor: I recall when we did have CUPE before us and we did have a discussion following that in which they had made some very serious comments. I think we had agreed at this committee that we would then await a response from the hospital, and perhaps we can give them that opportunity to respond.

The Chair: Mr Frankford.

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): It seems to me that these audit documents they mentioned here around the construction and around the computer would require quite detailed consideration. Could we get those separately from the presentation?

The Chair: That's a good point. Anything else? Mr Sorbara.

Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): Just by way of question and answer, sir, I understand that this committee is still seized of the matter of the Toronto Hospital and that the acting Provincial Auditor is doing some work on that. Is that right?

Mr Otterman: That's right. They requested that we go back in and audit these allegations that were made, and any other matter.

Mr Sorbara: Who made that request?

Mr Otterman: This committee.

Mr Sorbara: And that work is now ongoing?

Mr Otterman: We've had, as I just mentioned, our initial contact with them and started arrangements for the audit.

Mr Sorbara: And that audit arises from the submissions of CUPE to this committee?

The Chair: That's correct.

Mr Sorbara: I take it then that once you have completed your work, you will come back to this committee with a report of your findings.

Mr Otterman: That's correct.

Mr Sorbara: I take it that Mr Hudson, as president of the hospital, is not concerned about the auditor undertaking this work. Is that the impression from your meeting?

The Chair: If I can help the committee at this point, I did have a chance to have a brief conversation -- and I was going to mention this at the end of the member's comments this morning -- with Mr Hudson as to why the committee had asked the auditor to do this work. I suggested to him that because of the complexity of the whole matter, because it dealt with tendering and contracts and computers and staffing and a whole host of things, that it probably would only confuse the matter even more at this point if he were to come in immediately and claim that everything that had been said a couple of weeks prior was in fact not correct.

I suggested to him that he cooperate with the auditor and let the auditor do his work, and that when the auditor's work was completed, I was sure the committee would give him and the hospital the opportunity to be heard in the same manner that we heard CUPE Local 2001.

Mr Sorbara: I think that's an excellent resolution of the situation. If this committee is still seized of the matter and we are going to be hearing a report from the Provincial Auditor at some time, I think in conjunction with our consideration of that report we should set aside some time to let Mr Hudson make submissions in respect of those matters.

The only qualification I would put on that is if Mr Hudson were of the view that the audit ought not to happen and that the allegations were so inappropriate and so inaccurate that he is suggesting this committee would be wasting its time in asking the Provincial Auditor to do its work. I don't get that from this letter, and in any event, if he is going to be accommodating to the audit process, then I think if we simply invite him to come and speak to the report when the report is made, he'll have an opportunity both to respond to the initial allegations and, more important, be able to speak to the report that's made to us, which we know will be unbiased and accurate.

The Chair: As committee members know, Mr Hudson is a newly appointed president at the hospital. The only other matter he brought to my attention was that after a great deal of effort, he believes he's brought the hospital back into the black. He was only wanting to express his concern that the audit process take into consideration the efforts of the hospital to bring itself back into the black and that he had hoped the audit could be done without a complete disruption of the daily operations of the hospital. I have great confidence that our Provincial Auditor and his staff will ensure that everything is done professionally and will work cooperatively with the officials at the hospital. I'm sure that can be done and I'm sure that's been done in the past.

Maybe we'll just acknowledge the letter and the auditor will continue his work and when the work is completed the committee will again have the chance to deal with the matter.

Item 2 is "Discussion of areas of the Provincial Auditor's annual reports to be discussed during the summer adjournment." We're working up a schedule as to the type of work and what we should be doing and the length of our work for the summer. We already have three or four days scheduled for the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees work that will take place between, I believe, July 4 and 9, give or take a day or two. I believe we need to set some time aside for the selection of the new auditor, and that will be dealt with later on this morning, and we may wish to set aside some time to deal with issues that are contained in the annual report of the Provincial Auditor or issues members may wish the committee to undertake.

I think item 2 is the area for discussion in regard to the committee's agenda outside the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees work that's taking place and outside the selection and time needed for the selection of the Provincial Auditor. This matter is up to the members. Any ideas or advice?

Mr O'Connor: I recall that earlier on in the session when we met we put together a number of areas we thought we'd like to take a look at within the Provincial Auditor's report. Perhaps in the way of refreshment we could have that information given to us again. I think there are a number of areas we would like to look at. Maybe I'll ask the legislative researcher to help refresh our memories.


Mr Ray McLellan: If I could just go back to a memo dated December 11, 1991, which was sent to the committee from the office of the Provincial Auditor, in that letter there's a list of possible audits that might be considered by the committee from the 1991 auditor's report. I don't know whether the members have a copy of the auditor's report before them right now, but in the table of contents 2.5 addresses the issue of government microcomputers, and that covers various ministries; 2.6, government minicomputers, and again various ministries are covered; 2.7, government mainframe computers, various ministries involved, and last, 3.16, Ontario waste treatment facility and other matters under the Ontario Waste Management Corp.

Traditionally, the auditor has made suggestions to the committee as a point of departure for discussion. I would also add that when this committee met on November 27 of last year it agreed at that time to address the issue of the hospitals. As the committee will recall, we had a chance to look at the Toronto General division, section 2.8, and also, during February, to look at section 3.6 dealing with hospital operations.

The Chair: Ray, if I could just interrupt for a moment, I think the membership of the committee has changed substantially since these considerations back in November. I'm not sure if at the present time the members feel any urgency to review all these matters regarding computers, whether they are micro, mini or macro. There might be other business that's been carried over from the last committee's work that members might be interested in. Is there anything else members might be interested in?

Mr O'Connor: There was one area that the committee had raised the wish to maybe take a look at further -- and the Provincial Auditor touched on it in his report -- the differences in cost and what not of nursing homes as opposed to homes for the aged, and provincial money going there. There was some concern about the possibility of taking a look at that. That was something we had talked about. I just open that up as another area we had talked about at one point.

The Chair: That could have been in 1990, which is nearly two years ago now.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chair?

The Chair: Just so I can finish, we're going back two reports instead of just last year's. I'm not ruling it out; I'm just pointing that out as a fact of interest.

Mr O'Connor: That was one area we had talked about. Maybe that was the 1990 report the committee had looked at.

The Chair: Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: I'm sorry; I thought you had finished, Mr Chair. I do recall the matter Mr O'Connor had raised and I concur that this is an item -- I agree that the composition of the committee has changed somewhat since we had those discussions, but it was certainly an item that was high on the priority of the committee to look into, particularly with the concerns of the funding of long-term care. I only speak in support of the issue raised by Mr O'Connor.

Mr Sorbara: Because I'm new at this committee, I'm looking for the first time at the sections that had been considered, or as it says here, "had decided to consider." Given what we're doing with the Toronto Hospital, I'm certainly not interested in the first section. I think there are areas to pursue in the area of waste management. I will defer any opinion on section 3.4 of the report until I've had a closer look at that. I think there are some issues worthy of consideration on waste management. I'm not sure when.

I have a particular concern, if I can be very parochial, about what in the world is going on down in Lincoln and the costs of the Ontario Waste Management Corp. I hear that's a $100-million or $150-million adventure that is delivering zero to the province.

I'm not concerned about microcomputers or minicomputers.

Again, I want to defer any consideration on government-owned housing. I think there is an issue in the area of housing that is worthy of consideration by this committee. I'm not sure if it's mentioned in the auditor's report, but I think the value for money in the provision of government-assisted housing or the subsidization of housing built by community groups or the private sector is of some moment.

Just to argue by way of example, I refer to a question raised by the Progressive Conservative Party a couple of weeks ago in question period. It arose from a press release issued by the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations relating to a number of bachelor units, 11 bachelor units to be precise, that were the beneficiaries of funding assistance from the Ministry of Housing. The press release stated that the annual assistance for those 11 bachelor units was $254,000, which I think factored down to $1,900 per month per unit.

The Chair: Is that over and above the rents people paid?

Mr Sorbara: This was the public money that was going in. If the individuals are putting in no money whatever, then the level of public assistance is about twice and a little bit more the market rate if you were going out to rent the unit yourself.

In other words, if you wanted to rent a bachelor unit in the city of Toronto right now, you would probably, in a fairly good building, be paying about $750 per month or $500 at the lower end, and there's a fairly significant supply.

When I see the government providing public assistance for government housing at a rate which is two and a half times the level of the market value, I've got to say, "What in the world is going on?" I thought we were assisting people who needed income assistance or rent-geared-to-income units. I would dearly love us to be able to have a look at exactly what is going on in the Ministry of Housing, particularly in those areas. I want to offer my qualified support for number 4.

That having been said, there are a number of areas I think we could properly look at. I just want to touch on them here, and by way of notice of motion I will be providing the committee with copies of these draft motions for its consideration.

The Chair: Mr Sorbara, would you give us notices of motion for your particular points then?

Mr Sorbara: Yes. I'm going to be tabling motions, first of all, dealing with the accounting procedures in the budget. I think my colleagues on the committee will recall some questions that we in opposition raised, including certain matters within certain areas of the budget, for example, including the sale of crown assets as a revenue item to the tune of about $1.2 billion.

I note that a letter was sent by our leader to the acting Provincial Auditor and I'm going to provide members of the committee with a copy of this correspondence. A response came from the Provincial Auditor which said in effect, if I'm not paraphrasing too widely, that this is not something the Provincial Auditor automatically looks at, but would look at at the instance of a direction from the standing committee on public accounts. I want to present a motion there.

I just note that the Treasurer, when the matter was raised in question period, was supportive of the notion that the public accounts committee would look at a number of the accounting procedures used in the budget, including the one I mentioned, the delay of payments into the teachers' pension plan, and a number of others. I also think we have a responsibility to look at some of the --


The Chair: That's your first notion of motion?

Mr Sorbara: Yes, and if the clerk wants to --

The Chair: No, I'll make notations, Mr Sorbara.

Mr Sorbara: The second area that I think we might want to look at -- and this may be somewhat more difficult for government members, but nevertheless our business here is not simply to support our caucuses but to look at those high-profile and extraordinary expenditures. There was a lot of discussion about the use of the 1-800 numbers and the whole consultation process which was funded about six or eight months ago. They were accompanied by fairly lavish advertising on the part of the government encouraging the people of the province to send in their comments.

This doesn't appear on Hansard, but I'm just showing the opposition members a copy of the advertisement, "The Ontario government wants your input into its 1992 program." I think it's worthy of us to look in a sort of non-partisan way at what the real results of that program were, whether we got value for money on it, the kind of response that arose, and if we do that, then there can be a basis for a recommendation as to whether or not the government ought to do it again.

Mr O'Connor: Expand on it perhaps.

Mr Sorbara: Or maybe expand on it. There was some criticism of the program at the time. I'm not sure personally that given the availability of technologies, particularly through 1-800 numbers and sophisticated polling mechanisms, this isn't going to become one of the ongoing tools of government, no matter what stripe or no matter what political party is in office at the time.

Let's see, that's the second. This one is perhaps more political, but I think it's something other public accounts committees have done and I think it's appropriate for us to do it because we're the only committee in the government that will do it, and that is a public accounts review of the expenditure of ministers and ministers' staff and the size of ministers' staff.

I was, I'll tell you frankly, really surprised yesterday in estimates to hear that the Minister of Health has a political staff of 18 people. I know this government has taken a new approach, but 18 people in a minister's office -- that was about the size of the Premier's office in the previous administration. I think he was at around 20 or 21 perhaps.

Her explanation was interesting. She said the smaller ministries have downsized as compared to the last administration, and the larger ministries have got much larger staff. This is a new record for a provincial government, to have a political staff of about 18. I would like to just give notice that I would like that to be considered and the details of ministers' staff to be the subject of an examination here.

The next one, and in conjunction with that, is the matter that was raised in the Legislature a few days ago, and that is the details of the contracting with Jack Layton. Some of us were rather affronted and I would like to see a copy of that contract and the terms and conditions of that contract examined by this committee, and I'll just give notice of that.

Finally, there is a motion dealing with the Ontario Housing Corp. That is somewhat related to number 4 on the list of items that were previously suggested for consideration. My motion deals specifically with the Ontario Housing Corp, looking at individuals with "deep needs," as defined by the Ministry of Housing, looking at whether non-profit and cooperative housing agencies are accepting referrals from local housing authorities, and there are a couple of other matters here.

I'll provide the details by way of written copies of these motions, but generally we're looking at how the Ministry of Housing and the Ontario Housing Corp do their work, serve their client base and spend the money of the taxpayers of the province.

So, Mr Chairman, that's the general description. I'm at your pleasure as to whether you would want me to make copies of these and distribute them or read them into the record at some later date when I have copies. Again, I'll await your direction.

The Chair: For the record, it appears, Mr Sorbara, that you have gone over the four points members have copies of.

To paraphrase your presentation to the committee, on point 1, which included inspection audits of hospitals, you felt the work in regard to the Toronto Hospital was -- suffice it to consider that. We're not interested in 2 and 3. You felt point 4 was of interest and in fact may be similar to one of your notices of motion.

You brought four further points: (1) accounting procedures in the budget; (2) the use and the advertising of the 1-800 numbers; (3) the review of the size and expenditures of certain ministry staffs, and I refer to political staff; (4) a review of the contract afforded to Jack Layton. You've placed all those as notices of motion, and we would expect that you would table your motions at your earliest opportunity so that the clerk can make them available to all the members so we can deal with those motions next week.

Mr Frankford: I'd just like to go through the list of topics here and, yes, I think I see a lot of merit in them. On the inspection of the hospitals, the Toronto Hospital is certainly going to provide some interesting aspects, I imagine. But if one is looking at the whole hospital sector, I think that is extremely timely, because it's no secret that the whole hospitals act is going to be reviewed and this will bring up many questions around accountability. These are the things which will provide information in the consultations, which I understand Dr Layton will be conducting. So I think that's very timely and I would support it.

On waste management, I think, as a Metro member, there are many questions around waste management which I'm sure are of great interest to my constituents and to Metro members in general.

On microcomputers, I'm very supportive of that because I think what I've observed since I was elected is a real mishmash of standards around computers. I think there are many things that could be done. I think one has the potential of very economical systems if people understand what they're doing, and I think many parts of government have been overconsulted. There are incompatible systems, and I think this would be very timely in an area where there is, I suspect, very great potential for cost savings.

Finally, where it says "government-owned housing," I would hope that this would be broader. If it said "government-funded housing" it would perhaps be more appropriate at the present time because the non-profit and co-op sectors are not really government-owned, and this is an area of considerable concern in my riding. I would like to be able to report to the people in my riding, who tend to get rather scared about any housing with government money in it. I think this could be very helpful in setting their minds at rest or indeed in showing that there are problems about excessive subsidies, although I've not had it proved to me that these exist yet. I would certainly very much like to get the auditor's opinion on that. I think this is a very good list and I'm basically accepting it except for number 4. I think it should be clarified that it's not just government-owned, but government-funded housing.


The Chair: Okay, we'll debate the exact wording as we go along, if you want to do that right now.

Mr Hayes: On the proposals or motions that Mr Sorbara is presenting here, are we going to be debating these types of things now or after we --

The Chair: It's been pretty free-wheeling this morning. I'm not going to prohibit anyone from making comments. Mr Sorbara's been instructed to prepare the motions, give them to the clerk and have them made available to all the members so we can deal with them next week. You can certainly make comments on them this morning if you wish, Mr Hayes.

Mr Hayes: I just want to make a very brief comment here. Looking over the items here, 1, 2, 3, and 4 -- I know Mr O'Connor has mentioned nursing homes. I believe that would be of interest to all members here. Outside of the suggestion that Mr Sorbara's being totally political, in my opinion I think we have quite a heavy workload, even if we went with the four items to deal with in the auditor's report.

The Chair: As I said to Mr Sorbara, if anyone has motions they wish to present before the committee, get them ready, give the committee notice and have them tabled with the clerk so they can be distributed.

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): I see Mr Cousens isn't here. He and I had the privilege of sitting as part of the subcommittee before, when Mr Callahan was the Chair. When we were discussing some of these things, definitely between the two of us, he and I were very interested in seeing the Ontario Waste Management Corp looked at to a very great degree.

I have to speak with my constituency hat on. There is a great concern locally from the environment group, as well as the community at large, over the size of the expenditures. We understand locally that the OWMC has spent something in the neighbourhood of $100 million over the last 10 years and it definitely gives some pause to realize that the facility isn't built yet and we are looking at some time until the environmental assessment process is completed. I'm personally a very strong advocate of item 2, as we had agreed previously.

The Chair: As I said earlier, the makeup of the committee is different at present than it was at that time and I believe the new committee has to decide for itself what work it wants to undertake. The new committee can endorse in its entirety the suggestions of the previous committee, amend, change or do as it pleases..

Mr O'Connor: At this point I'd like to maybe ask for a little bit of direction. Though the committee has changed in its composition, I think the majority of the committee is still the same. I know the discussion around nursing homes and homes for the aged was something we had talked about at that time, when the majority of this committee here now -- though under a different Chair -- at that time had talked about it, so I'd ask your direction. Would you want a notice of motion placed that we look at that? I know that was something we had talked about.

The Chair: I think what we're doing this morning, Mr O'Connor, is asking everybody to put their interests on the table. You do that by either entering the discussion and expressing an interest or by giving a notice of motion, or both. I feel it's important for the committee to do that. That's why the item is on the agenda. It's up to the committee to decide what it wants to do and it's up to the committee to defend what it's chosen to do and chosen not to do, so everyone knows what their individual and collective responsibilities happen to be.

Mr Sorbara: I'm trying to respond, I guess in part to my friend Mr Hayes's comment that my motions are political. I don't, first of all, propose that these motions take up all the time of the committee. In fact I think many of them can be dealt with by submissions to this committee from the government or from the Provincial Auditor setting out costs and results, setting out the auditor's opinion, for example, on accounting principles in the budget, and these are small, discrete, but decidedly political items.

I simply want to tell Mr Hayes that both he and I and the rest of the people sitting on this committee are politicians. Politics is our business. We are elected to raise not only issues relating to nursing homes but the more highly charged political items. Historically, I guess perhaps before the last election -- and I think Mr Hayes will recall this -- this was one of the committees where the opposition had an opportunity to probe and ask questions beyond the theatre of question period. Often when an item was highly charged, it would be referred to the public accounts committee to allow for a longer, more thorough debate based more on substance than on allegation.

There's nothing wrong with that. That's the very heart and soul of a democracy, that those kinds of questions can be raised and debated in a political atmosphere. Again, this is a political chamber and we are involved in the business of politics.

You have to appreciate the position of opposition members, particularly those of you who have not sat in opposition. As government members, you have access to a workforce of some 90,000 civil servants to manage your information, to provide you with information, to support you in your arguments and to do the things governments do, and that applies whether you are a minister, a parliamentary assistant or simply a member of the Legislature. As opposition members, we have a staff of about six or seven researchers to provide us with the material with which we engage in the debate of public administration and public policy in the province of Ontario.

I am just expressing a hope that Mr Hayes's comments that my motions have a political flavour to them are not to suggest an opinion that somehow they don't have any place in this committee. This is one of the committees the democratic system in Parliament has provided primarily to question and probe and investigate and ferret out inappropriate expenditures of government.

We don't need to concern ourselves with the appropriate expenditures of government. There's no reason to do that. The auditor looks at the expenditures of government, and by and large he renders a view: 70%, he generally says, or 75% of it, is just fine, and there is 25% where maybe the government could do some improving. We in this committee can't even investigate 25%, but we can ferret out and identify that sort of spending which probably needs far more public scrutiny.

We are not here to be auditors. We are here to do the kind of scrutiny the average man or woman on the street would want to do were he or she given the opportunity to query and investigate the way in which her or his tax dollars are spent. I just say once again that I hope the suggestion that these are politically driven does not mean somehow they are inappropriate, because they are not.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Sorbara. We're running a list. We have Mr Tilson, Mr O'Connor, Ms Haeck and Mr Hayes.

Mr Tilson: My question is that the committee members are giving topics they wish the committee to deal with, and then I assume the subcommittee will sit down and make recommendations to the committee and it will shorten that list. Is that the procedure you're suggesting?

The Chair: I haven't suggested that procedure. It's up to the committee if it wishes to suggest that procedure, if that's how the committee wishes to proceed.

Mr Tilson: I guess I'm just inquiring. We can all think of our pet little topics we have, and some of us agree on some of them and some of us don't. Somewhere along the line -- we can't talk about all these things in one year.


The Chair: No. I hope that within the period of the next week or two the committee will have established for itself an agenda to carry it through the rest of this calendar year.

Mr Tilson: Could I suggest that committee members, through notice of motion or just orally, inform the clerk now of topics that we wish the committee to consider? Perhaps then the subcommittee could look at and shorten that list for the committee's consideration.

The Chair: I agree with you entirely, Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: Otherwise we'll be here all day.

The Chair: In fact, you've echoed my earlier comments to committee. Let's get our interests on the table now or let's get our notice of motions on the table now or within the next week. Every committee that operates in this Legislature has three different points of view. Somewhere down the road there is a compromise, an agreement that not everyone's agenda can be heard in full, but usually what happens is that some parts of everyone's agenda are usually heard. I'm assuming that's the way it's going to work here somewhere down the road.

Mr Tilson: If we're adding to the list, and I don't know whether the clerk or someone is writing all these down, all the topics that have been raised thus far by Mr Sorbara and others -- I'm sure the committee could spend useful time on all these things -- but I will throw out items that I -- is that agreeable as opposed to a notice of motion?

The Chair: It's agreeable.

Mr Tilson: I would support Mr O'Connor and Mr Hayes on the subject of long-term care. I would support Mr Sorbara on the subject -- I think anyone who sat through the Housing hearings would like to hear more on government-run housing and how it's funded, so I support him wholeheartedly on his topic and what he's saying. As well, the subject of waste management has been raised. I support that position.

The only other new item is a subject which the committee allowed me to spend a day on in the past. I believe more time should be spent on it by the Provincial Auditor -- if he can get at such things as Teranet and Real/Data -- the whole subject of Polaris and the new direction of this partnership that is being proceeded with in the computerization of our land registry system. More and more information is slowly slipping out that perhaps the company that won the contract didn't have the letters of credit as has been suggested.

There's been a change of the control of that private company. We still don't know who's in it. We're still not clear whether it's an equal partnership or whether the private company has 60% control. There are a lot of unanswered questions. You talked about political issues, Mr Hayes. I know this is a very difficult issue for both the New Democrats and the Liberals, but I feel it's an issue this committee should spend some time on.

The Chair: Okay, Mr Tilson, I hear you agreeing to some of the points made by some of the members, and you've added to the list the matter of Polaris. That will be added to the list and the committee will certainly consider your views on that.

Mr Sorbara: Mr Chairman, if I might just interject, the business of Teranet and Polaris is not a difficult topic for the Liberals.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Sorbara. We're running a list. We have Mr O'Connor, Ms Haeck, Mr Hayes.

Mr O'Connor: I agree with Mr Tilson in that I think we can all put together our ideas and then the subcommittee can grapple with them. I do take some exception to the fact that we're trying to politicize the committee when each party does have its research staff, which can do some of its own political investigating if it wants, where we are charged with reviewing the Provincial Auditor's report and looking at areas that it's raised as concerns. I think we've got an important role to play there. It's a role that has been agreed upon within this committee by consensus on most occasions. Sometimes there has been some partisanship show itself; usually it's quite less often. I would appreciate the subcommittee taking a look at the suggestions. I just agree with Mr Tilson that it would be a more appropriate place for some of this discussion to take place.

The Chair: I assume the subcommittee's work is going to come back to the committee so I assume the committee should have an understanding of where everyone's heading to. I don't think we're wasting our time.

Ms Haeck: My apologies to my committee members and all the committee members here. I was at another meeting and I couldn't be here, so I just want a quick clarification. We are just strictly on item 2 at this point; have we dealt with item 1?

The Chair: Yes, we've dealt with item 1. We're asking members to put forward some of their interests at the present time.

Ms Haeck: I gathered that. I was just wondering if we had gone through the rest of the agenda.

The Chair: We've gone through item 1 and we're fairly near concluding item 2 and we'll be moving rapidly to item 3.

Ms Haeck: Very good. I appreciate that, and obviously, as part of the subcommittee we'll have a chance to review a number of these options.

Mr Hayes: I really want to thank Mr Sorbara for his education on how politicians should work. I realize that we are all politicians. There's no question this is a political process but I do have concerns. As I said, in my opinion some of these things Mr Sorbara raised are just strictly for political reasons. I think it's an issue he wants to just kind of highlight and grandstand on, but that's just my opinion. I have no problem with subcommittees getting together and coming back with recommendations to this full committee on what issues we will deal with.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I agree with some of the things Mr Tilson has said and I agree with some of the points we should be looking at. However, under point 4, government-owned housing, if we're just going to simply talk about government-owned housing then we're just going to be talking about the Ontario Housing Corp. I was wondering if we could change that to read "government-subsidized housing" and then we would --

The Chair: Mr Frankford also made the suggestion to change the wording.

Mr Duignan: Yes, because then we would be dealing with the non-profits and co-ops, actually. This way just deals with the Ontario Housing Corp.

The Chair: That was already noted. I appreciate you bringing it up again for clarity for all the members.

Mr Tilson: Just for the record, I didn't want to give the impression that I was supporting it. I'm supporting what Mr Sorbara said, which is quite different than what you two are saying.

The Chair: I believe we all support the idea that we should look at this and then the auditor will appropriately do his work with staff and then report back to us. The other thing I want to alert the committee to is that when we decide as a committee that we're going to undertake certain work, the first thing we do is ask the auditor to do an appropriate review. When that review comes back to the committee we can decide whether or not it's worthy of the committee to spend further time on the subject. We can commission reports from the auditor and in due course, as his workload allows, he'll report back to the committee.

I don't want anyone to leave this morning thinking that we can only undertake one, two or three projects because there's a lack of time or because we only meet on Thursday mornings or because we only have two or three weeks during the summer. We can turn this work over to the auditor, who will make the reports. We'll decide for ourselves individually or even collectively that this is worthy of calling in witnesses on or that it's not worthy of calling in witnesses on, that it's worthy of saying, "Thank you very much for your work and please put it away," or that it's worthy of our asking the auditor to do more. We can decide all those things. I just want to make sure the committee is aware of that.

The committee has functioned like that in the past and I don't want anyone to feel nervous or excited that this may be somewhat political. This committee has always been highly political. I can recall that during many of my years in opposition we paraded endless numbers of witnesses the government did not want us to parade and that either the Bill Davis government or the Frank Miller government or whoever was in charge at the time did not want us to parade. Even the David Peterson government was involved in similar such reviews by this particular committee.

I think where the partisanship comes into play is whether or not we have particular respect for each other. That's my own personal view. Any item can be turned into an unhappy, partisan affair. The matter of the inspection of hospitals can be turned into such a situation; the matter of government-owned and government-sponsored housing can be turned into such a situation. We're going to spend all our time talking about what's partisan and what's not partisan.

Anything else before we move to subject 3?


Mr Duignan: I hadn't finished making some remarks.

The Chair: I'm sorry, Mr Duignan.

Mr Duignan: That's okay. I'll be very brief. I agree with Mr Hayes and Mr O'Connor in relation to some of the motions put forward by Mr Sorbara. I believe some of these motions can be undertaken by the research staff of each of the political parties.

The Chair: Who's next?

Ms Haeck: I have a point of information. I also sit on the standing committee on the Ombudsman. We had a subcommittee meeting yesterday. There will be a letter, I believe, coming to you, sir, with regard to a request that this committee look at the Office of the Ombudsman, or possibly charge the auditor to review the Ombudsman's office, so that may be something further that should be considered. I believe it should be something the subcommittee should take into account as far as the total list of projects that will be on the table for discussion is concerned.

The Chair: I understand there has been some concern expressed by members in regard to the style, type and extent of advertising used by that office.

Ms Haeck: I think there's actually a whole range of issues that are part and parcel of that office, so I really hope we will give that some serious thought. I think the report from the Ombudsman committee was just delivered shortly and it will definitely add something.

The Chair: I'm not surprised that's coming. I've been hearing rumblings about that.

Mr Duignan: I agree with Ms Haeck. I also sit on that committee, and this recommendation is unanimous of all three political parties. There are some real problems in that office which need to be looked at.

The Chair: Okay, seeing no further discussion on item 2, we will proceed to item 3.

This committee has requested the following period of time for its work during the summer recess. As I stated earlier to the committee, approximately four days have been set aside with regard to the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees. Further, we're going to ask for two weeks to go through the process of hiring a new Provincial Auditor. I'll be recommending that those two weeks occur during the first part of September, immediately after Labour Day, so we'll have a short work week and a regular work week with regard to the hiring of the new Provincial Auditor. I was hoping we could start the process immediately after Labour Day, something like Tuesday afternoon, which would give out-of-town members time to drive in.

Mr Sorbara: Mr Chair, I'm sorry. Might I just review? You're saying the two weeks immediately following Labour Day are going to be devoted to the selection of the Provincial Auditor?

The Chair: That would be my recommendation.

Mr Sorbara: I want to support that.

The Chair: Thank you. Then we have two other weeks to consider matters contained in the Provincial Auditor's annual report and any of the numerous subjects that have been raised by the committee members this morning. What we have to decide as a committee is when we would like those two weeks. Do we want to have them together, one following the other? Do we want to have them interspersed, one in July and one in August? Do we want to have them very soon or later? I made no decision on that and I make no recommendation on that to the committee. This committee's schedule is such that each individual member has certain obligations of which I am unaware.

Mr Duignan: I'm just wondering what dates those weeks are in September. Is that the week of the 7th and --

The Chair: September 7 and 14. I think we should lock that into our schedules. This is pretty important.

Mr Sorbara: I take it Parliament recesses and then returns on the 28th? Tannis, do you know whether that is right?

Clerk of the Committee: Yes, those are the dates.

Mr Sorbara: Labour Day is on September 7 this year, so you are talking about the week of the 7th and the 14th. There is one additional week, then, before Parliament resumes. All the scuttlebutt around this place is that we are going to be sitting in the Legislature probably most of July or at least two weeks of July, with a break for -- if I can check my calendar -- June 29 to July 3 -- probably we'll get that off -- and then July 6 and July 13 we'll probably be sitting. That reduces the summer period considerably.

I guess I would like to see at least one of those weeks be one of the weeks when we consider matters arising from the Provincial Auditor's report, and that would be the week of September 21. In other words, that will set up a calendar such that we are coming back to business at Queen's Park the day after Labour Day and then doing three weeks of work on this committee and then going back to the Legislature.

I don't have any particular recommendation for the other week, although my preference would be some time in August rather than in July, because with the House sitting conceivably all of July -- but as it appears, for at least two weeks in July -- I think the temper, the mood and the agreeability of people on this committee will be somewhat strained and we ought not to be trying to do substantive committee work.

The Chair: Mr Sorbara, your recommendation then is to use one of those two weeks, during the week of September 21?

Mr Sorbara: Yes.

The Chair: That's noted. Any other suggestions, advice?

Ms Haeck: Just as a point of information -- why I was late coming here -- I believe your caucus is looking at September 21 to 23 as your caucus retreat.

Mr Sorbara: Yes, so scrap that.

Ms Haeck: What can I say?

The Chair: It's a good thing you're here to tell us.

Ms Haeck: Obviously you're providing us with some information as far as our --

Mr Hayes: It works both ways.

The Chair: Yes, it works both ways. We'll tell you the House schedule and you tell us when we're having our retreat.

Ms Haeck: I just happened to be speaking to your whip.

Mr Sorbara: I'm sorry, Christel. You're absolutely right. Thank you.

Ms Haeck: So there we go. We don't have a date for ours, so we have no idea how that's going to impact -- unless you have that information.

The Chair: Let's keep kicking at this can until we get it right.

Mr Tilson: I'm just telling the clerk that I thought there was an agreement of all three parties that we would be taking our retreat the same week and I understood it was immediately after Labour Day. Maybe that's all changed. That was as of two weeks ago.

The Chair: We'll double check to see if this schedule is going to be a problem. The clerk will work on it today and I'll speak to the Liberal whip and everybody will speak to his or her own whip. But we've got to make at least an initial effort at trying to get a schedule.

Mr Duignan: I was going to suggest, rather than this going around the room here right now when we really don't know what dates and what people are doing, that maybe the subcommittee could meet when we have this information and the subcommittee then could make a recommendation to the committee next week.

The Chair: I find that when we don't make an effort to set our own schedule, we have other people set the schedules for us. If you'd prefer that, then all we'll do then is send a letter to the whip or the appropriate people, the whips and the House leaders, and say we need X amount of time to do our work and please set our schedule. If you want to do that, that is an option.

Mr Duignan: It's not a question of other people setting our time schedule. There are dates that we don't know what things are happening on yet, when our caucuses are --

The Chair: But isn't it nice if we make a suggestion as to what should happen, as to what our first priorities are as far as scheduling is concerned? Maybe some of you, or all of you, have made plans to be away the week of August 10. I don't know. That's what we should be telling each other, when we are going to be completely unable to meet. Mr O'Connor, then Mr Sorbara.


Mr O'Connor: Thank you, Mr Chair, you are most generous with my time. I guess one of the difficulties we have as a committee is that the Board of Internal Economy, of course, will review this again and quite often we get chopped from the two weeks we ask for to one week. Hopefully they won't disturb the two weeks we've set aside for the selection of the Provincial Auditor. I think there's a strong recommendation from the committee that they don't touch that at all. The difficulty may be in the fact that the other two weeks we asked for could be affected by the Board of Internal Economy, as has happened in the past. That's something else that will have to be looked at.

I'm in agreement that we send it to the subcommittee and let them deal with it. I'm sure, as we get a little closer to the end of the session, that the House leaders and the whips will have a little further discussion and maybe they'll set us a little straighter on course as to how we're going to spend our summer and I don't think --

The Chair: Can the committee members then tell me which weeks they cannot sit? Let's do it that way. Can we go through July and August and you tell me which weeks we cannot sit?

Ms Haeck: We normally sit through August, don't we? That's basically an option the committees have, that committees will be sitting some time in August.

The Chair: Normality changes quite a bit around here.

Ms Haeck: We understand that, but as I have said many times, my name be Christel but I don't have a crystal ball.

Mr Tilson: I wouldn't use that line any more.

Ms Haeck: I have not yet been able to totally decipher what in fact will be transpiring over the summer. I have no information on that. I think we have to try to figure out and sort of follow what has happened before. Obviously we will have to be flexible.

The Chair: My effort this morning is to try to give the committee the best chance possible to get the weeks you want to sit. That's the only reason we're going through this effort.

Ms Haeck: I know what you're trying to do.

The Chair: If you think it's a wasted effort let me know and we'll just -- Mr Sorbara, then Mr Tilson, then Mr Duignan.

Mr Sorbara: No, I don't think it's a wasted effort at all. I'm going to make another suggestion. Again, given that we will probably be sitting in the Legislature in the first two weeks of July or perhaps more and that we've booked off the first two weeks of September for the selection of the auditor, I'm going to recommend that we take the first two weeks in August so that at least our workload is distributed over the summertime. That's a personal recommendation.

The Chair: I understand that and that's what I'm asking members to do.

Mr Sorbara: I'm not wedded to it; that's not to tell you that if you're picking another week I can't possibly be there.

The Chair: I also want to add at this point -- and I appreciate what Mr Tilson has told us. If there had been previous all-party agreement that all caucuses take their individual policy retreats the week of Labour Day, we will then immediately move the work in regard to the hiring of the new auditor to the weeks of September 14 and 21. We have a week there to play with if we run into difficulty. So if there's no objection from members, we'll work on that basis. We had a recommendation from a committee member that we should consider the first two weeks in August as a recommendation to the whips and the House leaders for time for this particular committee. Thank you, Mr Sorbara. Any other recommendations?

Mr Tilson: I must be having a bad day and don't know it when I'm agreeing with these people, but I agree with Mr Duignan and Mr O'Connor that there's a lot of unanswered questions: when the caucus retreats are, Board of Internal Economy. I don't think we're delegating the subcommittee to make our decisions for us, but I think we're delegating all this debate to that committee and I would agree with what they're saying that perhaps this discussion could be put in their hands and they could come back with a recommendation to committee. At that time, if members of committee are still unavailable, we could pursue these discussions.

The Chair: Okay, if there's no further discussion on item 3, the last item for this morning is the approval of advertising for the selection of the Provincial Auditor. You have a document before you that has been worked on by the human resources branch of the Legislature. You will recall that we asked Ellen Schoenberger to work with this committee to help us do a number of things, and one of those items that we had asked her to work on was the advertising in regard to the placement of ads in the Globe and Mail national edition. I think we had agreed to do at least three days there, and further I believe we had agreed to publish this ad in appropriate trade magazines. Is that the recollection of the entire committee? I appreciate that. Can we get a motion, or can we get consensus to approve this ad? Mr Duignan.

Mr Duignan: I move the motion.

The Chair: Mr Duignan moves that the ad provided to the committee, as prepared by the human resources branch, be approved and that necessary steps be taken to place the ad at the appropriate time.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Less than five minutes for the committee. The clerk brings to my attention a letter we've received from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick in regard to one of the business sessions re the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees, a particular case study in regard to how Ontario does some of its reviews. Is that what's needed, Ray?

Mr McLellan: Yes.

The Chair: Can we authorize Ray to start on that work for us to review?

Mr Tilson: This is a letter from --

The Chair: The Clerk of the Legislature of New Brunswick.

Mr Tilson: No. This is a letter from --

The Chair: I'm sorry. Maybe I've misread the letter.

Mr Tilson: This is a letter from British Columbia.

The Chair: Oh, yes, pardon me. You're right, Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: I won't be attending the conference, nor will Mr Cousens. I don't know whether our party is sending anyone or not at this stage, but I will say that last year in Winnipeg almost the entire time was spent on the subject of accountability of crown corporations.

I have no problem spending some time on it, if we are sending a delegation, and I trust we are. But the way it's being suggested, that they're going to do the same thing again this year -- I mean, there are lots of topics to talk about that we can exchange ideas about. I would be concerned --


The Chair: Order, please. This is an important point.

Mr Tilson: I would be concerned doing the same thing as we did last year. I think we agreed to spend some time, but this proposal from Mr James -- I don't know what all that means, but he is suggesting again that the entire time be spent on accountability of crown corporations. At least that's what it would appear from his letter. I don't know what the members feel about that, but I feel we spent enough time on it.

Mr O'Connor: Were you one of the members who went to Winnipeg?

Mr Tilson: Yes.

Mr O'Connor: Was there an awful lot of time spent on that?

Mr Tilson: Yes.

Mr O'Connor: I guess our Chair went there as well.

Mr Tilson: Yes.

The Chair: I understand from a comment from our clerk that our case study does not have to be on the crown corporations. I hear you very clearly, Mr Tilson. If we spent last year's conference reviewing accountability of crown corporations, I can understand your lack of enthusiasm for doing it all over again. Do we have any other comments from members in this regard?

Mr O'Connor: Would it then be appropriate perhaps in the form of the case study that we actually have our legislative research take a look at something this committee has looked at, for example, the report on substance abuse? Would that be an appropriate forum for that to be brought up, discussed and reviewed?

The Chair: Let's find out from Ray. I don't see anything wrong with that, personally.

Mr O'Connor: If public accounts committees from across Canada took a look at actions of other committees across Canada, I think they would probably find the process we went through very interesting and maybe gain something from that, not perhaps to go into as much detail as we did or maybe to go into further detail. I would like our researcher to comment on that.

Mr McLellan: Not to disagree with you strongly, but based on the meeting last year and the proposed agenda by British Columbia, I feel that they're really taking a strong tack on accountability and making that the theme with respect to crown corporations. I think if we went in with a paper, in other words, not dealing with a crown corporation, it may not fit within the thrust of what they're hoping to get.

Just as a brief aside, I've circulated a list of commercial crowns to you. There are 17 in Ontario. I'll just take one minute to say that yesterday I went through the list of crown corporation audits conducted by the Provincial Auditor since 1987, through to 1991, and really, the focus by the Office of the Provincial Auditor -- and this is the tack I thought the committee may take -- is to go back and to look at one of those crown corporation audits.

The Chair: We should look at the Thunder Bay ski jumps. I'm wondering what that is.

Ms Haeck: He was actually looking at the Moosonee Development Board.

The Chair: Has anyone been up there?

Mr Hayes: Yes, I've been up there.

The Chair: How's the jump? Lots of skiing up there?

Clerk of the Committee: Not good this time of year.

The Chair: Not good this time of year. Okay, maybe we'll deal with something else.

Mr Hayes: Of course, we have the Ontario Agricultural Museum Artifacts Evaluation Committee.

The Chair: That would be interesting. Anyone else? Mr Sorbara.

Mr Sorbara: I'm very sensitive to Mr Tilson's comments about why we're going to study accountability of crown agencies again this year, but I simply remind him of the realities of Canada. Today's date is June 4, and there ain't no way in the world that Ontario is going to say, "Why don't we get this meeting of 10 provinces and two territories to discuss something else?" The time frames just aren't there.

Mr Tilson: New Brunswick is hosting it. They'll probably do as they like anyway.

Mr Sorbara: Any decisions or any input, I think, ought to be at the discretion of the Chair, having consulted with the Provincial Auditor and the clerk and legislative research. If we are going to submit a case study, if work has been done on the good old Stadium Corp, we ought to do that. The reason is simply that you're talking to people from all over Canada and they understand it, they know it. They see it on television and they can relate to it and it will be interesting to them.

The Chair: It would be highly political, though.

Mr Sorbara: My goodness, then let's not do it.

Mr Hayes: It's very nice that we have an unbiased Chair.

The Chair: I was just trying to make fun.

Mr Sorbara: Anyway, I would recommend that one, but I would want to make a motion to leave it at the discretion of the Chair to come up with a reasonable suggestion sensitive to the interests of the participants.

The Chair: Will the committee leave it up to myself, the Provincial Auditor, the clerk and our research staff to come up with an appropriate response to this June 3 letter? Thank you. The standing committee on public accounts is adjourned until next Thursday morning.

The committee adjourned at 1124.