Thursday 18 June 1992

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:

*Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South/-Sud ND) for Mr Johnson

*Eddy, Ron (Brant-Haldimand L) for Mr Cordiano

*Huget, Bob (Sarnia ND) for Mr Duignan

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND) for Mr Frankford

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes: Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

Wiseman, Jim (Durham West/-Ouest ND)

*In attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffière: Manikel, Tannis

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

The committee met at 1145 in room 151.

After some time:



The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The committee requested two further weeks for the purpose of reviewing the annual reports of the Provincial Auditor and the accounts of the province of Ontario. We requested the week of July 27 and the week of August 3. We chose those two weeks for obvious reasons. First, I assumed the Legislature would adjourn around the middle of July. That would give members one week in their constituencies before having to come back. Second, I wanted members to have some time in their constituencies before we commenced our work on August 24, so henceforth I decided the week of August 3. Those two are up for review here and I'm sure they're going to be up for review when the House leaders and the other people who are going to have a say on this forward to us their opinion. How does that sound?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I think part of the problem we're going to have with that is that the House leaders will sit down and get into discussion around what pieces of legislation they'd like to send out to committee, and we're not going to know whether we're going to be given that time until that goes to the House leaders for that discussion. So it might be a little bit premature of us. Although I see why the Chair wants to move that we put those two dates in, we may have some difficulty in getting those weeks from the Board of Internal Economy and the House leader's office.

The Acting Chair (Mr Robert V. Callahan): That very often can be the case, Mr O'Connor, that we'll request dates but we won't get them. I think if we can tentatively accept those and if we do in fact get permission back from the House leaders that we can sit, that will allow us to do it.

With regard to the other two, I don't know whether that's subject to House leader approval or not, the ones for interviewing the auditor and the final -- that still has to be approved by the whips and House leaders. If we put them in as tentative dates, at least we can get on with our lives and think that's when we may meet. If it doesn't turn out to be the case, so be it. We're hamstrung.

I don't know what Mr Mancini was going to do, but I think the next thing we should do is to look at what we would do during that period if we get it. Those are the ones that are not for the hiring the auditor but for discussion. The Chair is open to suggestions as to what we would deal with during those two weeks that we've requested from the House leaders.

Mr Sorbara is not here, so I don't think we'll get back to -- we do have a list, actually, from the last --

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): If I could make just a point of information, I had put a motion on the floor last meeting about going through the list to approve or reject the various proposals. I think the sticky points are four items that had been proposed by Mr Sorbara. We could possibly just stack the votes and go through all that.

The Acting Chair: I have no difficulty with that. Mr Sorbara is not here, but could be here. I think, as a matter of courtesy, he should perhaps be here before --

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Mr Chair, just prior to the adjournment of the last meeting I did ask for a recess in order to caucus, among my party, the issues. I've now had a chance to do so. I'm sure Mr Cousens will have some comments specifically -- I know Mr Cousens wants to speak on this -- but as I understand it, the government members are essentially saying there will be only two issues of this list they will be prepared to deal with, one being the issue involving the auditor examining the registrar general and the other being the Office of the Ombudsman. Is my understanding correct? If I'm right, I know Mr Cousens will have some extensive thoughts to make.

The Acting Chair: Mrs Haeck, would you like to clarify that?

Ms Haeck: I believe the motion before us was originally to go through the list. We obviously have -- at least I have -- some arguments to make with regard to Mr Sorbara's submissions for consideration. I believe, from the list that was before us, that we in fact have a much longer list of items. If I may just quickly review, sections 3.9 through 3.15 as per our list were all basically agreed to, and the comment the subcommittee made when we met last week was that we didn't want to go into them in any great depth but we were prepared to consider them.

We are also doing the follow-up audit on the Toronto General Hospital; we're looking at the registrar general's office and the Office of the Ombudsman. We also have, shall we say, a joining of section 3.15 and the review of the Ontario Housing Corp, as suggested by Mr Sorbara, which was the last item on the list.

So the items of some contention are the accounting procedures, the 1-800 number, the Ministry of Health staffing, the Ministry of the Environment staffing. Mr Sorbara had in fact withdrawn the detail of Mr Layton's contract. So we do have a much broader list of things to work with than -- at least, if my recollection serves me.

The Acting Chair: I'm going to go to Mr Cousens, unless you want to say more on that.

Mr Tilson: That is correct, although there is no question -- of course, we've put the housing aside because the auditor is presenting something in due course. But as I understand it, the government members aren't prepared to discuss number 8, which is the accounting procedures used in the 1992-93 budget, the use of the 1-800 numbers in the consultation process or the subject of staffing in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment. Of course, the Ministry of the Environment is one issue which Mr Cousens, as our party's critic, has considerable concern about and I suspect that many of his thoughts will be directed to that, but I wanted to be clear that those items the government members aren't prepared to have this committee discuss. Mr Chair, through you to Ms Haeck, is that right?

Ms Haeck: I believe Mr O'Connor was quite articulate in his comments, and I believe he also sits on the estimates committee; his comments, I think, were quite appropriate that both the items on the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment really and truly are estimates items.

My personal comment would be that since Mr Sorbara and possibly Mr Cousens have some concerns with regard to what they see as staffing improprieties, if they have some evidence to that effect, then I think they have an obligation to report those problems directly to the Provincial Auditor, and that would be the appropriate route. Otherwise, this is strictly an item for estimates, and the estimates process is currently ongoing. In fact, the estimates process on the Ministry of Health quite recently was adjourned; obviously the opposition parties had the opportunity to question the minister and bring these kinds of issues to the fore.


The Acting Chair: I'm going to ask the clerk, but I think the only way a member can have the auditor do an investigation is through this committee. I may be wrong. You can't individually ask him to do it?

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): The act says that a minister can ask for it, or this committee, or the Legislature, but not an individual member.

Ms Haeck: He could bring that information to his attention, I would suspect, without necessarily having an investigation.

The Acting Chair: If I'm correct in what the clerk has said, I don't think there's any statutory obligation on the part of the auditor to be triggered into an investigation of that type.

Ms Haeck: That may well be so. It's just that --

The Acting Chair: That's why I think the person can bring to this committee and the committee, after hearing it, could decide whether it wished to have the auditor deal with that.

Mr Tilson: Just on that point, it's my understanding that this would be put in the same category as the issue of the Office of the Ombudsman. I think all three parties are concerned with that. As to the government's comments that with respect to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment on the whole subject of staffing it would more appropriately be done in estimates, it may well be, but once you ask the question, that's the end of it. If that committee decided it wished to make an investigation, who can make an investigation? That's why you have a public accounts committee.

The Acting Chair: I'm going to interrupt for just one second. This has been a rather unusual day, to say the least, in light of the fact that the House will not be sitting for lack of a quorum. We are sitting, which we're entitled to do, but we normally sit from 10 to 12. We got started late. The clerk says I don't have to ask for unanimous consent, but I'm going to ask for it, that we sit until 1 o'clock, if that's appropriate, so we can maybe clear the decks here and get some of this stuff done. Is there unanimous consent that we sit until 1 o'clock?

Interjections: Agreed.

The Acting Chair: Go ahead, Mr Tilson.

Mr Tilson: Just to conclude, the whole purpose of the public accounts committee is to look into exactly what has been suggested by Mr Sorbara. The concern of both the Liberal members and the Conservative members of this committee is the whole subject of staffing in the Ministry of Health and in the Ministry of the Environment. We are also concerned with a full review of the Office of the Ombudsman, and the appropriate committee and the appropriate person to do that is the Provincial Auditor. If we feel there are difficulties in those -- and we certainly do or we wouldn't be requesting it -- the appropriate person to do that is the Provincial Auditor. I don't think an adequate investigation can be -- I would hope that the government would reconsider its position on specifically those two items.

The Acting Chair: I'm going to go back and forth as I've done when I chaired the committee. Mr Cousens, I'm going to go to Mr O'Connor and then I'll go to you.

Mr O'Connor: I appreciate the fact that as a committee we've been able to come to an agreement to sit and continue with our discussions and hopefully come up with some agreement as to what we'd like to take a look at as a committee. I realize that at the last committee meeting we did go through this list quite well, but perhaps just to make the discussion a little more current, I want to go through a few of those things.

The top three were areas the auditor was going to review. Those were the nursing home services, the access to extended care beds and the home care assistance. That was an area I think a lot of us had some concerns about, and it was something this committee had agreed a year ago that it would like to take a look at if we had time. As we never had enough time because the committee had a full agenda, we never got to that point.

Another area the Provincial Auditor is taking a look at is waste management, hazardous waste. That's something the committee has agreed upon as something that actually is going to be looked at, and the auditor is reviewing it.

One other area the auditor is going to review is the Ontario Housing Corp. It's something I think the opposition members and the government agree needs to be looked at and, because there was nothing very current from the Provincial Auditor's report, it was something they were going to look at.

So those areas alone would constitute quite a heavy agenda, and perhaps in the fall we're going to take a look at some of that once the reviews are made.

Mr Tilson: Just to be fair, he's completed his report and has also indicated that that report will not be available until November. So we're talking about items for the summer, and that's why we decided to set that one down.

Mr O'Connor: Exactly. That's why I pointed out that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 13 won't be able to be looked at. We can eliminate them because there is a review taking place by the Provincial Auditor. It's something we did have clarification on. So of the list of 14 things we have before us, we can eliminate 1 through 5 and number 13. The Provincial Auditor is taking a look at those, is going to do a review and bring back some information to the committee, so it's something we can't look at this summer. If we eliminate them, we could look at what we can take a look at this summer during the two-week period we're going to have.

The Acting Chair: Hopefully.

Mr O'Connor: Hopefully, if the Board of Internal Economy finds it in its purse that we'll be allowed to.

Polaris was one area that had some concern. I know my colleague from the Conservative caucus had some concern about that, and that was one area we'd dropped. So there is one more thing we can eliminate from our list of --


Mr O'Connor: Did you drop it?

Mr Tilson: We've dropped it for the moment.

The Acting Chair: My recollection was that it was dropped.

Mr O'Connor: It was a recommendation by the subcommittee that we drop that if it's the wish of the committee. It's not necessarily something we have to drop; it's something we can drop. Perhaps it's something we pick up again.

The Office of the Ombudsman: There were some recommendations by committee members that we take a look at that for a number of different reasons. Members of this committee also sit on the Ombudsman committee, and they had some concerns. I think most of us, as members of the Legislature -- just noting the billboards all across the province, they do have an incredible advertising budget. The problem is that they're having difficulty getting things through that process, and when the people of Ontario have some complaints they want reviewed that's where the review is supposed to take place. So we'd be interested in taking a look at that; that's something probably all of us would agree on.

The next item was introduced as a motion by Greg Sorbara, a review of the Treasurer's accounting for the budget for the 1992-93 fiscal year. There were a number of areas they'd pointed out concerns about and what not. I think we would have difficulty in finding out whether the auditor could actually pass judgement on whether or not the Treasurer has used some practices that are inappropriate. My feeling on that issue, as I pointed out last time this committee sat, was that the budget process is a process that is reviewed in many different ways. The first step of the process was through the standing committee on finance and economic affairs --

The Acting Chair: I don't think it's the process, Mr O'Connor. My recollection is that it was the procedure. I'm inclined to agree with you that for the auditor to comment on that would be really commenting on policy, which I don't really think a civil servant should do. But I would think they could certainly comment on whether that fits into the normal accounting procedure.


Mr O'Connor: My thought around that was that we're going to be asking the auditor to comment and pass a judgement on the policy and practices of the current Treasurer.

The Acting Chair: I don't think we can do that. I don't think it would be appropriate to ask any civil servant to do that.

Mr O'Connor: That's the concern I have around it.

The next one we have is the use of government services, the 1-800 number. It's a new practice. There were 13 numbers put out in the consultation lines. It was one thing raised in many public meetings throughout the riding as a way of trying to open up the process to let people get more information. Perhaps that would come back, because now that they have more information, they're going to say that we're not doing things right or whatever. But I think we do have to try to open up the process.

In taking a look at that motion as it was laid out, though, I would almost suggest that perhaps the Chair would want to rule that out of order, because this is a political decision made by the government of the day. The system, being something of policy, I would think couldn't be judged. It's a policy matter and it's something we shouldn't be taking a look at. I would almost suggest that the Chair should be ruling it out of order. It certainly is an interesting area. As more people find out about this process, I think it's one area more people are going to be calling about. We're hearing more even about these ad campaigns on television, people buying and receiving packaging that tells them, "For the service department, call 1-800."

The Acting Chair: Were you asking me to rule on whether that's in order?

Mr O'Connor: My thought was that it was out of order and perhaps you might want to take a look at that and rule. My sense in taking a look at that is that it's out of order because it's an area dealing with policy.

The Acting Chair: In the part that's policy, I agree with you. But it's not all policy. Some of it is asking for dollars and cents, which is certainly the issue public accounts should be involved with.

We'll get to you, Mr Cousens. Mr O'Connor still has the floor. Don't leave.

Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): This is going on and on. I've got to leave.

The Acting Chair: Just a second, Mr Cousens, come back. Mr O'Connor, would you yield the floor?

Mr O'Connor: Most definitely.

Mr Cousens: As it's going on now, there's a serious concern of the opposition that issues of importance to us are not able to be considered through the public accounts process. These issues have enough importance that certain honourable members have brought forward recommendations which, with the majority of the New Democrats, will not end up having full debate or discussion.

May I suggest a compromise in how we can go about it? The subcommittee could meet between now and next week, with each caucus coming forward with their first, second and third choice of issues, and the subcommittee can then allow for possibly three issues to be put on and determine the time that's going to be allocated to each of those three issues, then the remainder of the time could be split up accordingly, unless all of it could be used. So each of the caucuses will have a chance to make its presentation.

My second point, which ties into that, is that when people say, "I want to know specifically what you're interested in in the environment," with issue 12 you're talking about the Ministry of the Environment staffing, which is no different from the Office of the Ombudsman, where there are issues and concerns.

That's the value of having debate and review of these things. The public accounts committee is the forum for that kind of discussion, as Mr Tilson has so ably presented. If the committee were to consider this as an approach, we might get ourselves out of this impasse. Otherwise, I fear the committee will be fully stymied and may not even have a chance to review any of the issues.

The Acting Chair: My recollection was that the report of the subcommittee was voted on and was defeated at our last sitting or the sitting before that. It was then moved that we go through the items line by line, and that's where we're at now.

Mr Cousens: I'm trying to get us back into a process, since this isn't working; that there be at least one from each of the caucuses. That's really the substance of it.

The Acting Chair: I certainly would have no objection to that, except that, in light of what has happened with the total report being voted against, I'm wondering if that's not a waste of time. I don't know. Do any committee members think that's a worthwhile process, rather than sitting here and debating endlessly? Mr Tilson, very briefly; Mr O'Connor had waived the floor.

Mr Tilson: Until the last few meetings at least, I believe with great pride that there hasn't been much partisan politics on this committee. Since the -- to be perfectly frank -- war has developed over the rules in the House and the opposition and the government members are going at each others' throats, in my observation it seems to be falling into this committee.

Sure, you people -- when I say "you people," I mean the government members -- can do anything you like, as you can in any committee. The whole issue is one of fairness. I hope this committee continues its non-partisan views. You can never get completely non-partisan views, but generally speaking it has worked pretty well until recently.

I think Mr Cousens's proposal, or something similar to that, that all three caucuses put forward a topic or topics is a reasonable proposal. I think Mr Cousens has offered to the government a means of being reasonable in this process. I am only speaking as a committee member, that I support Mr Cousens's effort to get out of this mess we're in in the House, at least as far as this committee is concerned.

The Acting Chair: I'm going to go back to Mr O'Connor. Do committee members want a few minutes to caucus on that and decide whether that's a reasonable approach, or is there any point? Your colleague, Mrs Haeck, is the whip on the committee, so maybe --

Ms Haeck: We have been pirouetting around this now for a couple of weeks. I personally cannot recommend the kind of solution Mr Cousens is proposing. I have found in reviewing Mr Sorbara's motions that there are some very clear reasons, some of which Mr O'Connor has gone through again and commented on, why I personally can't support it.

I've looked at what we as a committee have to do, and there are a lot of things the auditor has flagged for us and things we can be doing. I suggest, however, that whatever impasses have occurred within this committee occurred before the rule changes were ever even suggested. I think the partisanship was flagged several weeks ago. Some individuals have felt that lectures are the appropriate method for conducting business here. I think we do have work to do. There's no reason not to move ahead with a whole range of items that are not as inappropriate as those suggested by Mr Sorbara. So my caucus will be voting no.

The Acting Chair: Could I just ask one question in light of that? Otherwise, we're going to have a vote here and then we're gone and we've really not accomplished anything. I'm not the Chair, but if --

Ms Haeck: But you're the Vice-Chair at present.

The Acting Chair: If the Chair were to sit with the committee on the understanding that Mr Sorbara's motions would be gone through very closely to determine where he is talking about policy and where he's talking about numbers -- which is really the auditor's job -- and perhaps some of that was removed so that it doesn't become what might be called a hook, would you be prepared to look at it? I can understand why you're saying no, but if there are numbers in there that are important and that are not going to be just an exercise in politics, then perhaps we can deal with it.

Ms Haeck: Mr Callahan, I respect you and I respect a number of the members of this committee. We've worked together very well. I appreciate what you're saying. I think you have to appreciate where I'm coming from.

The Acting Chair: I do.

Ms Haeck: I can't support it.

The Acting Chair: All right. Mr O'Connor.


Mr O'Connor: As I was going through and speaking to them in order of the list we had before us, I talked about a number of these motions and I tried to relate how they would be more appropriately handled by other committees.

I would not recommend to anybody that we limit debate or try to stymie the role of the opposition. In fact, I try to be as helpful as I can to this committee because I sit on the standing committee on estimates and a number of issues that have been raised are more appropriately raised through the estimates committee. Some of the other areas that I pointed out perhaps could be better dealt with through the standing committee on finance and economics.

So, trying to be as helpful as I can, I'm not trying to limit the debate around any of the issues before us. I think there were a number of areas we can find agreement on. Some of the things on our list come from other members. We have a number of motions that have been put before the committee by one of our colleagues, one of the new members to the committee. I was trying to point out where some of those motions could be dealt with in a more appropriate fashion.

We can't change the motion. The motions before us either have to be accepted or voted down one way or the other. Without the mover of those motions here, I don't think we can actually look at them and have them rewritten. Perhaps if they are voted down they could be reviewed and then come back in the form of a new motion. Maybe that's what has to take place.

I think we have been at an impasse. There's no doubt about it. The committee has sat for quite a while trying to come up with an agenda. I think the motion before the committee -- raised by Ms Haeck around a number of these issues -- that we go through them one at a time and vote on them is perhaps appropriate. Perhaps what ends up before us again are further motions by our colleague that if these motions don't stand, he would then take the advice the Chair has offered today. Since they could be appropriately handled from other committees, perhaps he would like to reconsider the way they're worded and then bring them back to the committee.

As I pointed out, some of them are areas of policy and not appropriate for the Provincial Auditor to look at. Some of them should be dealt with through finance and economics and some through estimates. Some of these motions have shown in estimates and are getting responded to by the appropriate ministry. I'm referring to the ones from the Ministry of Health.

The Acting Chair: We've been trying to reach Mr Sorbara but we can't. I'll continue to have the clerk do that until the vote is taken to see -- Mr Bisson?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): No, it's okay. My question has been answered.

Ms Haeck: I think we've all said our piece on this and I'd like to vote on it.

The Acting Chair: Any further questions or comments from members of committee?

Mr Bisson: The question has been put.

The Acting Chair: The motion has been put, but I still think that until we change the rules I, as Chairman, must protect the interest of the minority and I think I have to give Mr Tilson an opportunity to speak.

Mr Bisson: The question has been put. I move that we move to the question.

The Acting Chair: That's in fact a motion of closure.

Mr Bisson: The standing orders say that once the motion is on the floor we must vote on it. Am I correct?

The Acting Chair: In fact, the nature of it is a motion of closure.

Mr Bisson: Is my interpretation of the rules correct? I ask the clerk.

The Acting Chair: Let me just have a second. We'll take a five-minute adjournment. I'd like to --

Mr Bisson: Just hang on. I need an interpretation of the rules. The rules are fairly clear. Once the motion is on the floor, the question must be put, am I correct?

The Acting Chair: Just a second, Mr Bisson.

Mr Bisson: No, am I correct?

The Acting Chair: I don't know. I've told you my view, that it's a closure motion. The rules --


The Acting Chair: Just a second; let me say what I'm going to say. It's a closure motion. The rules, as I understand them, say -- at least now they do; whether that will change or not, I don't know -- that the Chair, the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker has an obligation to ensure that there has been sufficient debate by the minority, which in this case is the opposition.


The Acting Chair: Just hang on a second. Rather than make that decision off the top of my head, I've asked the clerk to check it, and that's why I'm asking that we adjourn for five minutes to allow me to have the clerk check whether I'm right or wrong. If I'm wrong, then I will give you the decision the clerk's office tells me is appropriate.

Mr Bisson: It's been the practice on every other committee I've sat on that once a question has been put to a committee, it comes to a vote.

The Acting Chair: That's why you get a little extra, although I know --

Mr Bisson: With respect to the Chair, that's why we have standing orders.

The Acting Chair: Well, that's right, but that's also why you have a chairman, Mr Bisson, to make decisions as to whether or not the rules have been applied properly. You certainly wouldn't want me to not inquire with the clerk, who is in fact the person who advises what the appropriate rulings are. The people out there may think we've got all these answers off the top of our heads; we don't. The Speaker even confers with the table to find out these things. We may have found out we don't need the five minutes while we were talking.

I report to you that I was right. We've just checked with Deborah Deller and she tells me it is in the discretion of the Chair that it is a closure motion. It is to the discretion of the Chair to determine whether or not there has been sufficient debate, and accordingly I don't feel there has.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Chair: because it's my motion at this point. There have been two weeks of debate on this motion.

Mr Tilson: On a point of order, Mr Chair: That's not correct. There have not been two weeks of debate on this motion.

The Acting Chair: Let me intervene. Under the standing orders, I've made my decision. There is no debate of the decision of the Chairman, and I'm sorry, that's where it's at.

Mr Tilson, I'm going to take you, and then we will deal with the motion.

Mr Tilson: I think the proposals that have been put forward by Mr Cousens are reasonable. The government members for some reason seem to be averse to having the Provincial Auditor look at the staffing in the Ministry of Health and the staffing in the Ministry of the Environment, and yet they -- and I say "they," the members of the government -- are not averse to looking at a full review of the Office of the Ombudsman. The same criticisms that have been coming out of the Office of the Ombudsman have been made -- at least by the members of the opposition; not necessarily the government -- with respect to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment.

If you look at Mr Sorbara's motions -- and they don't apply, but I use that as a guide, as the intent as to why these were put forward, because we do have a different motion on the floor; we have a completely different motion on the floor as to the one that was defeated -- I ask the government members to look at the wording of Mr Sorbara's rationale, specifically with respect to the office of the Minister of Health and the office of the Minister of the Environment.

One could replace the Minister of Health with the Office of the Ombudsman as to the items he is recommending. It's a perfectly reasonable request; just take it one by one. I'm going to zero in specifically on these two items. My friend may wish to speak on some of the other items, but the two that interest me the greatest at this particular point are those two items, because I think it's perfectly reasonable.

Is there a policy? We have discussed this in the past. We don't even know what the policy is with respect to the staffing in these ministers' offices. It's a perfectly reasonable question to ask. If there isn't a policy, why isn't there a policy? If there is a policy, has this policy been followed?

The greatest expense and the greatest amount of tax dollars that are being spent in Ontario is in the Ministry of Health. We're spending, as Ms Haeck has quite rightfully pointed out, a considerable period of time and will spend a considerable period of time on the Toronto Hospital issue, and we may have the Minister of Health back; I'm sure we will. We'll have the Minister of Health back, and I'm sure we'll have the officials back from the Toronto Hospital, because the whole subject of health is a grave concern.


I ask the members if they have the sheets Mr Sorbara has prepared. If you look at his rationale, it's quite reasonable. The number of individuals on the minister's payroll and seconded to the minister's staff -- this is with respect to the Ministry of Health -- and the salary ranges: All of these items can quite rightfully be put with respect to the Ombudsman. So the rationale the government's putting forward doesn't jibe.

If you can deal with the Office of the Ombudsman, there's nothing wrong with dealing with these other items, which are of great concern to all of us. The tax dollars that are being spent in the Ministry of Health -- we have to cut this one third -- who knows what it's up to now. It was $17 billion; I don't know what it's up to now.

Third, the job descriptions for each position associated with the minister's office's operation: a very reasonable request. Are we getting out of control; is there a policy on job descriptions and is it being followed if there is; any redundancies that exist between positions in the minister's office and the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Health; and finally, the terms and conditions of employment for all staff members, seconded persons and consultants retained by the minister's office in the Ministry of Health.

This standing committee on public accounts is set up to look at the spending of tax dollars in this province, and one of our greatest fears is that health has got out of control. All members of this committee are interested in the subject of the expenditures of hospitals. We've already spent some time, we're going to spend some more time, and these carry on. At the very least, if we're going to follow the rationale of looking at the subject of health, which the government members have agreed to -- it's fine to take shots at the hospitals. It's fine to say that the health expenses in this province are being caused by the hospitals. I believe the whole system needs to be looked at. I don't think it's just the hospitals. I think we need to look at everything. We need to look at the policies the Ministry of Health has. Mr Sorbara is right on as far as this issue is concerned.

It's all there for you to read, subject to the Minister of the Environment, unless other members wish to follow along or pursue that. The same rationale applies. What's good for the Ombudsman should be good for the Ministry of Health and should be good for the Ministry of the Environment. Environment is an issue that is all very dear to us in all of our ridings, particularly recently, on all sides of the House. I think we need to look at the budget and the whole expense and whether proper policies exist in the Ministry of the Environment and whether they're being followed.

To sum up, specifically with the request of Mr Sorbara on the Ministry of Health, if you're going to look at Toronto Hospital, if you're going to pick on those people -- and I don't intend to just pick on those people. It's really an improper word to use. If we're going to examine the very serious allegations being made with respect to the Toronto Hospital -- and we're going to have the Toronto Hospital people come and defend themselves, because those allegations may be completely ill-founded -- we should also be looking at the Ministry of Health. I'm sure that's why Mr Sorbara has raised those very excellent points.

I would ask the members of the government to reconsider at the very least Mr Sorbara's comments with respect to examining the staffing in the Ministry of Health.

The Acting Chair: I'm going to call on Mr Bisson because he has called the question. I wish we had gone through these individually, because I think we have to get back to the situation of this committee being non-partisan. If it's not, we're not going to function. The government has a majority and it will be able to do what it wishes.

When you talk about the Ombudsman being placed in the same place as the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Health, that's not really totally correct. I'm sure you hadn't given this thought, that the Ombudsman is not a political person, and so there is a difference. I think maybe if we had opted for Mr Cousens -- although it's gone by the board to sort of go back and rewrite these -- we maybe could get back to a position where we wouldn't have to do this.

In any event, Mr Bisson, are you calling the question?

Mr Bisson: Yes, I am.

The Acting Chair: The motion is that the committee vote on each item listed for review by the subcommittee individually. You've got them in front of you and we'll call the vote on each one individually.

Clerk of the Committee: First of all, we have to vote on this motion.

The Acting Chair: All right. I'm told we have to vote on that motion first. Those in favour of the motion?

Mr Tilson: Recorded vote.


The Acting Chair: No, you've put the question. The question has been put and it's that we consider a vote on each of the items listed in the subcommittee's report. A recorded vote.

The committee divided on Ms Haeck's motion to vote on each item individually, which was agreed to on the following vote:

Ayes -- 6

Bisson, Haeck, Hayes, Huget, Martin, O'Connor.

Nays -- 2

Eddy, Tilson.

The Acting Chair: We'll go to item 1 then.

Mr Tilson: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: We've heard some comments from all sides on this throughout. If we're going to vote on each individual item, are you giving us an opportunity to debate each individual item as to whether we should be supporting or opposing those individual items?

The Acting Chair: I think we have already debated it. All we're really doing now is voting on individual items. I think that is quite correct. I think the vote is --

Mr Tilson: If I could just make a few comments, by way of a point of order, specifically I can say that the members of our caucus looked at the package that was put forward by the majority of the subcommittee and we voted on that as a package. There's a little bit of give and take. For example, I can tell you I'm a strong supporter of the Provincial Auditor looking into the Polaris --

Ms Haeck: On a point of order, Mr Chair.

Mr Tilson: Could I just finish my point of order, Mr Chair?

The Acting Chair: All right. I'm not sure it's a point of order, but I'll listen a little bit longer and then I'm going to tell you.

Mr Tilson: I'm simply saying that we on this side at least, and I think the Liberal caucus is the same, voted on that as a package. There was a little bit of give and take. To be fair, I don't believe there has been adequate debate on some of the individual topics because of our position on that motion --

The Acting Chair: There is one on the floor.

Mr Tilson: -- which was a package type of vote.

The Acting Chair: Mrs Haeck, your point of order.

Ms Haeck: I fully appreciate what Mr Tilson is saying, and I understand your position as Chair, but I think the record will really very clearly reflect that some of the comments Mr Tilson is making he made within the last half-hour, as did Mr Cousens. I really feel that the kind of discussion he is alluding to in fact has taken place over the last three weeks and that we can very quickly move to a vote and clear up any concern about the direction the committee is taking.

The Acting Chair: I have to say, with respect, that I don't think either one of them is a point of order. I think we'll move on with the vote.

The first one we're dealing with is 3.9, nursing home service, 1990 annual report. A recorded vote as well? Those in favour? Opposed? Carried. Do you want a recorded --

Mr Tilson: I can tell you some of the items I want a recorded vote on.

The Acting Chair: So you'll call for it if you want it? Okay.

Section 3.10, access to extended care beds, 1990 annual report. Agreed? Carried.

Home care assistance, 1990 annual report. Agreed? Carried.

Waste management, 1991 annual report. Agreed? Carried.

Government-owned housing, 1991 annual report. Agreed? Carried.

The Polaris project is out. We'll deal with it anyway. Polaris project?

Ms Haeck: We agree, if Mr Tilson --

Mr Tilson: It's been agreed.


The Acting Chair: That has actually been dealt with.

Mr Tilson: Take it off for the moment, Mr Chair.

The Acting Chair: Office of the Ombudsman.

Interjections: Agreed.

The Acting Chair: Carried. Accounting procedures used in 1992-93 budget.

Mr Tilson: I believe we should have a recorded vote on this item.

The Acting Chair: All right.

The committee divided on item 8, which was negatived on the following vote:

Ayes -- 2

Eddy, Tilson.

Nays -- 6

Bisson, Haeck, Hayes, Huget, Martin, O'Connor.

The Acting Chair: The next one is Ministry of Government Services -- Use of 1-800 numbers in consultation process.

Mr Tilson: A recorded vote, Mr Chairman.

The committee divided on item 9, which was negatived on the same vote.

The Acting Chair: Details of contract with Jack Layton.

Mr Tilson: That was withdrawn.

The Acting Chair: Okay. Ministry of Health -- staffing in minister's office.

Mr Tilson: A recorded vote on that one.

The committee divided on item 11, which was negatived on the same vote.

The Acting Chair: The next item is Ministry of the Environment -- staffing in minister's office. Are you asking for a recorded vote?

Mr Tilson: Yes, Mr Chairman.

The committee divided on item 12, which was negatived on the same vote.

The Acting Chair: Review of Ontario Housing Corp -- "deep needs."

Interjections: Agreed.

The Acting Chair: Agreed? All right. Review of the office of the registrar general.

Interjections: Agreed.

The Acting Chair: Okay. The clerk indicates that we should have a motion as to what order we will take these in. Shall we refer that to a subcommittee?

Ms Haeck: In following up on your suggestion, which I think is a good one, I would suggest that in cooperation with the standing committee on the Ombudsman, we do item 7, and I think we're all concerned about item 14. Those would be the two that I would suggest. If given the opportunity to review them over the summer, those would be, I think, priorities our committee could suggest.

The Acting Chair: The clerk has reminded me that apparently the auditor has indicated he couldn't do a review of the office of the registrar general until September. Next week we will deal with the motion to refer that to the auditor for consideration in September. In light of that, Mrs Haeck, would you like to add something else to it? If we get two weeks, it might be a little --

Ms Haeck: I think we're all interested in housing, so that might be --

The Acting Chair: The "deep needs"?

Ms Haeck: Yes.

The Acting Chair: The clerk advises me that on the matter of review of Ontario Housing Corp "deep needs," that would be another matter that we have yet to refer to the auditor. He would have to deal with it and then it would be dealt with in his next report, which would again take us out of the summer.

Clerk of the Committee: That's not quite right.

Mr Tilson: If I could speak to that --

The Acting Chair: Just a second. Is that not right? I've misinterpreted what the clerk said.

Mr Tilson: Yes. The auditor has spoken on that actually.

The Acting Chair: I'm told there could be a special report and we could deal with that during the summer.


The Acting Chair: The auditor says he doesn't have the staff or the time.

Mr Tilson: As I understand it, the auditor was quite clear that he has indeed done a report. It has been completed but it will not be available until November. That's my understanding on this subject. That's my recollection as to what the auditor has said. You can put it on a list, but I don't think we'll be able to discuss it. That's the sad part of it, because the office of the registrar general is going to be studying matters in Thunder Bay. The auditor has made it quite clear he can't provide a report for us on that until the fall, so that leaves only one topic to go over a period of two weeks that this committee has now agreed to. How in the world we're going spend two weeks on the Office of the Ombudsman -- it is really a sad state of affairs if that's all this committee can come up with.

We're blowing in the wind if we start talking about waste management. We know there's an audit being done there. As to the review of the Ontario Housing Corp, the auditor has spoken on that, and nothing will be available until the fall. So to set things up on these other topics for July 27 and August 3, we're just wasting our time. We might as well go to the Board of Internal Economy and say we need only a few days.

Ms Haeck: I suspect, Mr Tilson, and I think if you check with your caucus colleagues with regard to the Office of the Ombudsman, there's a lot more there than you assume.

Mr O'Connor: When we did have the auditor come to this committee the last time we sat, there were a number of areas he had under review. The first three were areas that he said there was no way he would be able to deal with until the fall, as well as the Ontario Housing Corp's "deep needs." It seems to me there was a review taking place on waste management, but it was something that we could probably deal with, though he did say there was a review. I think that was something we might be able to look at as well.

Mr Tilson: It's in the process of being done. A lot of it is in the process of being done, but I think he made it quite clear that wouldn't be available for the summer as well.

Ms Haeck: Mr Cousens had brought forward the idea of the Ontario Waste Management Corp chair. That was something that was definitely reflected in his last report. I know Don was very concerned about that and had brought it forward at subcommittee some time ago.

Mr Tilson: If I've misinterpreted what the auditor said, I'll be the first to apologize, but that was my understanding.

Ms Haeck: There was a larger issue of waste management, but there was a specificity to what Mr Cousens had put forward, and I definitely know I was in agreement with it because obviously it's very much a local issue and of great interest to a lot of constituents in the Niagara Peninsula. I would be very anxious to personally look at that.

Mr Tilson: I have no problem with that. Obviously we can't make a decision without consulting with the auditor.

The Acting Chair: So what is our motion then?


The Acting Chair: The auditor will be here next week in the hope that we will -- I think we can still sit. Even if the business of the House should be to cancel private members' hour and run it as a straight 10 to whatever hour for government business, we would still be able to sit because the House is in session.

Mr Tilson: I admire your expectations, Mr Chairman. This place seems to change from minute to minute.

The Acting Chair: That's true.

Mr Tilson: We'll wait and see.

The Acting Chair: It's flexibility. Do you want to put forward another item or do you want to ask the auditor where he's at with these things?

Mr Tilson: Ms Haeck is correct. I appreciate that the Office of the Ombudsman may take some time, but I don't think it will take two full weeks. I could be wrong. I would therefore reopen the subject since we didn't hear any strong opposition, at least to the whole subject of Polaris. We have spent some time questioning the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, but there are a whole slew of other areas we could get into.

The Acting Chair: I'm sorry, Mr Tilson, by unanimous consent we've just agreed that Polaris had been dealt with, so I don't know how we --

Mr Tilson: I'm saying we only have one item left on the table and I'm therefore suggesting that perhaps we should bring some other items back. I can't believe we need two weeks to discuss the Ombudsman.

Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): I know we want to sit here and try to set the priorities on which ones we can do, but I think it'd be most appropriate if we had the auditor come to the meeting next week and let the auditor decide, or at least make recommendations and let this committee know what he feels he can handle and which ones he can do first.

If you want, I'll make a motion to that effect. I don't know if it's necessary, but I think the appropriate thing to do would be to have the auditor -- because we're sitting here saying, "The auditor doesn't know whether he could do this one or that one." I think we could go by the auditor's recommendations.

The Acting Chair: Let's at least clear one thing off the board. We've agreed on number 7. Let's vote on number 7 and next week when we speak to the auditor we can decide what other item we're going to deal with. Is that agreeable?

Mr Tilson: Mr Chairman, could I ask one question? Looking at the top, what do we have on our plate now? Has this committee made any decisions with respect to inviting members of the Toronto Hospital or members of the Ministry of Health back to discuss that subject? Have we?

Mr Hayes: Yes.

Mr Tilson: We have a date set?

Mr O'Connor: No. The auditor's going to go in there. He won't be able to report back until --

Mr Tilson: He won't be able to do it until the fall?

The Acting Chair: We're waiting for his report.

Mr Tilson: Thank you.

The Acting Chair: All right. Are we in agreement on number 7 being at least one of the items, if not the only one. If that turns out to be the only item we can do. Agreed? Agreed.

All right. I think we've done about as much as we can do for today.

Mr Tilson: I hope members of the committee will go away and come back next week with some other topics, because I really think it's incumbent upon us to look at matters other than the Office of the Ombudsman. We have time in the summer. We have two full weeks in the summer, Mr Chairman, and I think there's lots of work we can do other than just that.

The Acting Chair: We have been productive today, if no one else has.

Mr Hayes: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Mr Tilson sits here and makes little accusations. What we did here, Mr Chair, was to decide that would be the first one we wanted reviewed and we have not said that's the only one we want done.

Mr Tilson: You put closure on us.

Mr Hayes: No, we didn't do that at all. We've given you lots of opportunity to speak.

Mr Tilson: You closed us down.

Mr Hayes: All I'm saying -- and I think if Mr Tilson was listening, we said we'll have the auditor come back next week and make some recommendations and guide this committee on which ones we would deal with. No member is going out of this room saying this committee is only going to deal with one agency. That's really not the way it is.

The Acting Chair: I think we have to get back to being prepared to discuss items even though they affect whatever party. That's the purpose of this committee and we'd better get it back on the rails or we may become redundant. In any event, thank you very much for sticking around. We stand adjourned until next Thursday at 10 o'clock.

The committee adjourned at 1254.