Thursday 25 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:

*Brown, Michael A. (Algoma-Manitoulin L) for Mr Sorbara

*Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L) for Mr Callahan

*In attendance / présents

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 1011 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The standing committee on public accounts is called to order.

Members have received an agenda for today's business: (1) Motion re audit of the Office of the Ombudsman; (2) Motion re audit of Ontario Housing Corp; (3) Motion re audit of the office of the registrar general.

My understanding is that these motions were discussed at the last meeting of the committee. Unfortunately I had to leave partway through, so I'm not sure where members of the committee left their wishes. Is it the preference of the committee that someone move these motions and we have discussion and then a vote on them or is there any other way you wish to proceed?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): Actually, I believe we did discuss these, and as part of the motion we dealt with them and had voted on them.

The Chair: They've all been accepted? I'm told they haven't been voted on. So why don't we just go through the process.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Can we have a clarification of what's happening?

The Chair: The clerk informs me that motions were not made to accept these individual items. So what I suggested was that we make motions on the three items that are on the agenda for this morning and then have discussion and then have a vote, as is normal procedure. Then, of course, members could add items under new business if they wish, if there's anything further for us to discuss. I have a couple of other small things I'm going to bring to the committee's attention as we wind down our meeting.

Mr O'Connor: I move that the standing committee on public accounts requests that, under section 17 of the Audit Act, the Provincial Auditor perform a value-for-money audit on the Office of the Ombudsman.

Would you like me to move all three of them or should we have discussion after each?

Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): I think one at a time.

The Chair: I think it's easier to do it one at a time. I appreciate Mr O'Connor moving the motion. Mr O'Connor, do you want to start the discussion, then Ms Poole.

Mr O'Connor: This is one area that is actually new to me. I know we've had some discussion with my colleagues from all sides of the House with concerns around the length of time it takes for a complaint to go through the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as a huge advertising campaign that seems to be attracting business when they can't even perform the job they've got laid out before them. So I think this would be an interesting area for the Provincial Auditor to take a look at and one that would be useful to all members of the Legislature.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I would certainly be very supportive of this motion for the reasons Mr O'Connor has just stated. I have one suggested amendment to the motion, though. I would like to add the words -- and I haven't written these out, but it's not very extensive -- "within this fiscal year." I know we cannot determine the auditor's timetable; however, if you look at the particular situation of the Office of the Ombudsman, the first point I would make is that this is a request to the Provincial Auditor, and if he indeed cannot meet this timetable then obviously he would do it as soon as possible.

The Office of the Ombudsman has been under a lot of controversy over the last year, and the last six months in particular. As Mr O'Connor mentioned, they have engaged in a massive advertising campaign which some members have expressed is for the intention of building up business so they can keep the fairly substantial staff they retain to deal with the backlog. In other words, they're trying to create work for themselves.

I, of course, had a problem not only with the amount spent on the campaign, but with the actual content of the campaign and that it inferred that the Office of the Ombudsman was able to do something it is not, which is to do the job of the MPP and to look at the first level of problem-solving.

I am very supportive of ensuring that this audit is done as expeditiously as possible and that the auditor is free to determine his own agenda; I suppose I should say his or her own agenda as we don't know the gender of the new Provincial Auditor to be chosen. I think it would indicate to the auditor that the public accounts committee considers this to be of some importance and of some priority.

I would be in your hands if you would like me to make a formal motion in that regard, or I would be happy to discuss it informally to see if there's some consensus on the committee to add those words.

The Chair: We can do it in a couple of ways. Mr O'Connor can make a friendly amendment to his motion or you can amend Mr O'Connor's motion.

Mr O'Connor: I would allow Ms Poole to make a friendly amendment to it. That's a reasonable request. It's something that would be helpful.

Ms Poole: Since Mr O'Connor has graciously agreed --

The Chair: Maybe he could withdraw his motion and then place a new one. Why don't you just withdraw the motion and make a new motion. That way we only have to vote once.

Mr O'Connor: Okay, to make things a little simpler, I will withdraw it and allow Ms Poole to bring forward a new motion.

The Chair: Mr O'Connor withdraws his motion and moves the same motion, adding the words at the very end, "within this fiscal year."

Ms Poole: That is correct.

The Chair: Any discussion? Mr Cousens.

Mr Cousens: There are a few points I'd like to emphasize in supporting this amended motion. The first thing is that I don't ever want to take away the importance of the Ombudsman. In the spirit of the public accounts committee asking for this audit, I think it's one of the more difficult audits you will have been asked to do because the public is prepared to pay a reasonable amount, which is hard to define, in order to have someone such as an Ombudsman who is able to protect their rights and defend their rights from within the bureaucracies of the government. The tradition of the Ombudsman until very recently has been one that people have respected for the way in which people's matters have been processed. I understand there is an increasing sense of worry about that office.

In supporting this bill, I want to make it very clear that our caucus has nothing but praise for the Office of the Ombudsman. The office itself is something I would never want to jeopardize or undermine in its purpose of protecting and defending the rights of people when they have some concern that needs to be raised as it pertains to the dealings of government with them. I think that underlies any intention I have.

The other part is that I hope there isn't any hidden agenda on the part of the Liberals or the New Democrats. They're quite capable of trying to be devious. I've seen a lot of devious people in my day -- certainly not in this room this morning.


Ms Poole: Thank you. I'm quite relieved to hear that.

Mr Cousens: I couldn't talk about Ms Poole. Anyone who has her abilities --

Ms Poole: I may be boring but I'm not devious.

Mr Cousens: I wouldn't even say you're boring, not with those colours on today.

Let there be no hidden agenda on the part of this committee to start undermining the Office of Ombudsman. If we're in a position to say, "Things are going this way and here's our sense of it," then we're able to have a review of the spending and services within that office to see that they're reasonable. I'm satisfied that Mr Otterman and the staff of the Provincial Auditor can define what their sense of reasonableness is and I'm not worried about that. As long as we don't have some other agenda going on here that I haven't been part of, I'll be satisfied with this motion.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): Mr Chairman, I just have a few brief remarks to add to what Mr Cousens has said. With respect to the Ombudsman, I think it's most appropriate, if we choose to move forward with respect to any of the work we conduct, that we not heighten the concern of people before we enter into that work. We're simply doing what this committee has to do in order to do its work effectively.

I don't think it's the intention of this committee or of the auditor when an audit is being contemplated that it's some sort of witchhunt. I think we have these mechanisms in place whereby we conduct audits because it's necessary to determine that things are running efficiently; all of us understand that, in whatever capacities we're engaged in in the service of the public. So I don't believe it's necessary to make some kind of proviso with respect to undertaking an audit, that we have to make that kind of statement prior to the undertaking of an audit.

I think it's necessary that we maintain the integrity of the workings of this committee inasmuch as the committee's work is important to everyone concerned, even those people being audited; that there's a commitment and a willingness on the part of all to have these audits conducted so that there are the efficiency gains over time that we're looking for, and productivity gains have to be made constantly. That's really the ultimate goal of this committee and I believe the ultimate desire of any of the auditors we've had in our history. I think we've done that and we've proven to be effective without conducting witchhunts.

There's no hidden agenda, Mr Cousens, on the part of members of the committee at any time. I think that despite differences of opinion, and we've had quite a few over the last little while, it's really a desire to get to the bottom of the expenditure of public funds. Ultimately that motivates people on this committee.

The Chair: We're running a list now. The list includes Ms Haeck, Ms Poole and Mr Cousens.

Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): I would like to do what I can to assuage the feelings of Mr Cousens about the prospect of undermining the office. As someone who sits not only on this committee but also on the standing committee on the Ombudsman, I am really aware of the amount of work the Ombudsman committee has done to try to answer some of the prevailing questions that in fact are reflected in the annual report. As you may be aware within your own caucus, we did have a meeting with the Ombudsman for a week-long occasion in February and there are still some nagging questions and concerns that I know all of the caucuses share with regard to what is going on there.

Very clearly, it is an adjunct to each of our offices. I've referred people to the Ombudsman's office and I hope that where resolutions can't be achieved that office will be of assistance. But I think it will be clear to all concerned if the public, who have also expressed some concern, can get answers. So far, it has been something of a one-way street. People are not satisfied and I think the Legislature and the elected representatives have an obligation to try to get some answers. The auditor will provide us with a means to clarify that role. Then the committee itself will look at the legislation and see how else to improve the services provided. If anything, I would say our intent is to enhance the role, not to diminish it in any way, shape or form.

The Chair: Thank you. Ms Poole and Mr Cousens.

Ms Poole: Mr Chair, I'd certainly like to support what Ms Haeck just said about the role of the Office of the Ombudsman and its importance. I don't think anybody would question the value of that office. In fact, it has only been relatively recently, within the last six months, that a lot of these concerns have come to the fore.

Probably about four or five weeks ago now, I wrote to the standing committee on the Ombudsman to raise a matter for its attention. This followed a point of order I'd raised in the House with the Speaker relating to the Ombudsman advertising campaign. They had done a series of brochures, very large posters and billboards for subway shelters where it said things such as, "Getting the runaround at Queen's Park?" Then it showed people on a merry-go-round and it said, "Call the Ombudsman," and gave a 1-800 number.

There were a couple of concerns with this particular approach. First of all, it was misleading to the public because the Ombudsman's office is the court of last resort. It is where one goes if one has gone through all the various levels of government; you've exhausted all rights of appeal and there's nowhere else to take your case. The Ombudsman's office is there to really take an arm's-length, independent viewpoint of the whole matter and decide whether in fact the government agencies or ministries have treated the party fairly and if there's anything they would recommend. That's the process.

This ad implied that the Ombudsman was there any time somebody phoned Queen's Park and didn't like the answer he got, so this jeopardized, certainly in my opinion and I think in the opinion of a number of members of the House from all parties, the role of an MPP.

Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): The Ombudsman's office didn't have enough work.

Ms Poole: Right. That brings me to the second point: A number of us questioned not only the type of advertising campaign but the necessity for it. The Ombudsman's staff, I believe, had been increased to somewhere in the vicinity of 135. I hesitate to put that figure out because I'm going from memory, but it was a substantial number of staff expanded to deal with the backlog at the Ombudsman's office. There was a suspicion in some people's minds whether it's valid -- and perhaps this value-for-money audit can shed some light on this -- as to whether the Ombudsman's office was trying to drum up more business to retain this fairly substantial staff it has acquired. I don't think any caucus has any hidden agenda, it's just that it has been a point of concern.


Following my point of order in the Legislature, I wrote a letter to the Ombudsman committee to take a look at this, but there seems to be some question about whether the Ombudsman committee would have the jurisdiction to look at this kind of financing matter and it appears most reasonable that the standing committee on public accounts does it.

Just to allay Mr Cousens's concerns, I certainly had no hidden agenda other than receiving in my office a huge poster which said "Getting the runaround at Queen's Park?" with a picture of a merry-go-round and "Call this number," implying that I wasn't doing my job or that my constituents could go elsewhere for help. I can tell you what would happen, Mr Chair, if a person phoned that number and said: "I'd like some help with this, because I phoned the ministry two weeks ago to get this report and they haven't sent it to me." The Office of the Ombudsman would say: "Oh, I'm sorry. This isn't our jurisdiction. We can't deal with this. Please phone your MPP."

What you've done is misled the public as to what the role of the Office of the Ombudsman is; second, you've created a level of frustration and red tape where the constituent has to go through one more level, one more phone number, to try to get help. This is what triggered it, just to allay Mr Cousens's concerns that somebody somewhere might have a hidden agenda.

Having said that, the Office of the Ombudsman has dealt with extremely difficult cases in the past and has been a vital service that we certainly don't want to undermine, but I think the taxpayers of this province have a right to know that their moneys are being spent appropriately. The only way we can do this is to have a value-for-money audit. Thank you, Mr Chair.

Mr Cousens: Mr Chairman, I appreciate very much the responses of Mr Cordiano, Ms Haeck and Ms Poole, the sense that there is not a hidden agenda. When people look at politicians these days, I really want to make sure that we not only do the right thing but are seen to be doing the right thing. Certainly now, as the Office of the Ombudsman is approached by the auditor, it will be in the correct spirit. That's the only way in which I would like to see us operate. I think Mr Cordiano, my Liberal colleague on my right and political left, says it well: A witchhunt is not the kind of thing we ever want to do. But sometimes people worry that when there are concerns, those concerns won't be addressed.

As this motion comes from the member for Durham-York, it might even be possible to get him to move to something like this for the Ontario Housing Corp or a few of the other areas where some study and evaluation would be helpful. But in the meantime, we'll take what we can get from the New Democrats.

The Chair: Mr O'Connor has moved that the standing committee on Public Accounts requests that under section 17 of the Audit Act, the Provincial Auditor perform a value-for-money audit on the Office of the Ombudsman within this fiscal year.

All in favour?

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Item number 2: Take a moment to review the draft motion before someone initiates its move. Everybody's looked at it?

Mr O'Connor moves that the standing committee on public accounts review the activities of the Ontario Housing Corp. The review should study but not be restricted to studying:

"If individuals with `deep needs' as defined by the Ministry of Housing are being referred to non-profit and cooperative housing agencies according to the OHC's point system;

"If non-profit and cooperative housing agencies are accepting referrals from local housing authorities;

"If non-profit housing agencies are employing selection of criteria compatible with local housing authorities, and

"The coordination of referrals between regional housing offices, local housing authorities and non-profit and cooperative housing agencies."

We'll run a list. I have Mr Cousens, Mr Cordiano, Ms Poole and Mr Frankford.

Mr Cousens: I'd just ask the acting Provincial Auditor, if I may, through you, Mr Chairman, whether this motion gives sufficient scope to him and his staff to have enough of a review that can touch on some of the concerns that have been considered by this committee and that arose in earlier discussions. Do you feel this is a limiting motion? Does it give you enough freedom to come back to us with a report that gives us a sense of what's going on in the OHC?

Ms Poole: On a point of order, Mr Chair: Relating to the question just asked by Mr Cousens, my understanding of this motion, and I'd like some clarification on it, is that it is actually the standing committee on public accounts that would do this review and not the Provincial Auditor. I would just like to clarify if that is indeed the intention. If it is not, then I think we should amend the motion to involve the auditor's office.

The Chair: That's what the motion says. It says the standing committee on public accounts to review.

Mr Cousens: That's really the basis of my question, Dianne, the way in which the auditor would be involved, the preparations he would bring to us before we would begin deliberations. For us to just start running off -- we could have a tremendously competent researcher begin to do some work, but maybe we could combine resources beforehand and then consider these things. That's why I would like to know how the Provincial Auditor in his capacity reacts to this motion and what role he would play in it.

The Chair: The point of order is valid. Does anyone else wish to speak to the point of order?

Mr Cousens: Could the Provincial Auditor respond to the question I have?

The Chair: That may answer the point of order.

Mr Jim Otterman: My reaction to the motion is that there's no role specifically mentioned for the Provincial Auditor in this, and if you wanted the Provincial Auditor to be directly involved, you'd have to revise the wording.

Perhaps there's been some confusion from our involvement in ongoing audits of the Ministry of Housing, so I'd just like to clarify that. In our prior year's report we commented on the Ontario Housing Corp and basically the rent-geared-to-income program. In this current year we've just completed an audit which we will be including significant aspects thereof in our annual report to the Legislature in November, on the non-profit housing side. Both of those reports have addressed to some extent the referral matters you are interested in looking at here.

I would say we have done our work in this area. It's a matter of timing for you people to decide when you want to get at it, either before our reports become public or after.

Mr Cousens: To stay on that, you do not see an immediate need then for further evaluation on the basis that what you've already done should be sufficient for us to begin our study at this time, or do you feel there should be some immediate liaison in this motion with your office? I think you can help us develop a better approach on this. That's all I'm looking for.

Mr Otterman: I wouldn't want to go over the same ground again with the auditee; let's put it that way. You could get into it a bit from the 1991 side of the report, but that's only part of the picture. It's really the non-profit side here that, when we report on it in November, will give you a more complete picture. What I'm saying is that, based on the work we've done, that's the timing of when you would have the final chapter available to you.

Mr Cordiano: On that point, I think the motion would tie into the work you've done if and when that report is made available. We should structure our schedule so the two coincide, obviously, and we can use the information you've already ascertained in your audit to conduct this review with the full committee's involvement.

I'd like to add a few other things, if you have a list there.

The Chair: I'd just remind the committee that I mentioned to the full committee some two or three weeks ago that the work of the auditor in his last piece of work, which was going to be tabled this November, in fact touched on a great number of areas in this motion. I suggested at that time that we stand the motion aside until we got the auditor's report and then try to coincide the work that had already been accomplished with the wish of the committee. That may or may not be the feeling of the committee today.

Mr Cousens: You're responding to my question. The sense I have, and I think what Mr Cordiano is alluding to in the same spirit, is that we very much want to look at this; it is an important subject for our committee. To do so at this time might not be making the best use of the information that is going to be tabled. I won't make a motion to table this motion at this time or to refer if there's more discussion people want to have, but I think that's really what should be done with it: that we come back to this subject once further information is available -- unless the Provincial Auditor were to have information available earlier so we could begin this evaluation this summer, if that was part of the plan the Chairman had. Maybe that's another question. Would it be available earlier to begin with, or would you rather wait until November?


Mr Otterman: I have no authority under the Audit Act to make that individual report available.

Mr Cousens: Then we're not going to ask for it. Mr Chairman, my point is that timing may not be as good as it could be for this motion, though I like the intent behind it.

The Chair: Very good. We have Ms Poole and Mr Frankford on the list and then Ms Haeck.

Mr Cordiano: I didn't finish speaking to the point of order.


The Chair: Order, please. The point of order takes precedence.

Mr Cordiano: When I had my turn to speak, I thought I was speaking to the point of order, not on the list you had running.

The Chair: The point of order was whether Mr Cousens was going to direct a specific question to the Provincial Auditor, which was done, because I got the feeling at the time that the committee wanted that to happen.

Mr Cordiano: I understand, but I thought I was next in turn to speak, because I wanted to add to the motion that's here --

The Chair: So what you're telling the Chair is you didn't get a chance to finish your presentation.

Mr Cordiano: Absolutely.

Ms Poole: Mr Chair --

The Chair: Is this a point of order, too?

Ms Poole: I just want to perhaps be helpful to the committee. I think Mr Cordiano's intervention was a supplementary to Mr Cousens's discussion and he actually did not have an opportunity to speak to the rest of his concerns.

The Chair: I've already concurred with that. Okay, the list is Mr Cordiano, Ms Poole, Mr Frankford and Ms Haeck.

Mr Cordiano: I wanted to include in this list a direction with respect to matters surrounding the measures undertaken by the Ontario Housing Corp to implement security programs at the various projects. I specifically refer to housing projects in my riding which have had some pilot work done to implement security systems and implement better security measures for the residents of those buildings. This is an ongoing matter, and I think the time has come perhaps to include with this review an undertaking to see if in fact the Ontario Housing Corp is doing anything about security in these projects, as the matter has been raised repeatedly by a variety of my constituents and other people throughout the province, and to ascertain whether that should be a priority for the Ontario Housing Corp with respect to dollars that are being spent and just what the state of affairs is with that whole issue now.

I'd like to include in that motion some words to the effect that we undertake to assess what security systems have been implemented by housing authorities where a need has been expressed for such measures to be undertaken and what kind of expenditures have been made for those new systems to be put in place.

The Chair: I think we get the message, Mr Cordiano. We'll work on some wording that may be satisfactory to you.

Ms Poole: I would like to comment on this particular resolution and some ways in which it may not be quite adequate. There's no doubt that the four points contained in this resolution are very important ones stemming from the auditor's report from 1991 and that there is a need to look at these four particular areas. There has been some evidence, again stemming from the auditor's report, that there have been problems with referrals, with determining deep need and consistency in the program.

However, there's another side to this, which I believe the auditor's office is looking at right now, and that's the whole non-profit program. It would seem to me that if this committee were to look at these four points without waiting for the auditor's report and commenting on the balanced picture, it would be premature.

I want to give you an example. Since coming into office as the government, the NDP has made a number of commitments in non-profit housing. The first is to complete the 30,000 Homes Now Liberal program that had been initiated before the NDP came to office, and they are now in the throes of completing that particular program. But a year ago the NDP announced in its budget 10,000 more non-profit and co-op homes, and this year announced in its 1992 budget a further 20,000 non-profit homes that would be developed over the next three years. Yet this steamrolling effect continues and there has been no attempt to stop and do an evaluation and assessment as to various aspects of the program.

For instance, there's been no evaluation of the extent of the need and the extent that the need is being satisfied by the Homes Now program. There's been no evaluation of whether there are other programs that could tie in to help assist this need, including rent-geared-to-income. There's been no evaluation of the efficiency of the non-profit program. There has been no evaluation of the delivery and, finally, there has been no evaluation of whether the process itself is working: whether the need is being met, whether the time frames are being met and whether in fact a streamlining of the process needs to occur. All these things are happening and yet we as a province are committing billions of dollars to this program without making these vital assessments.

I don't agree with my Conservative counterparts that we should abandon the non-profit co-op program. I do believe there should be a balance of rent-geared-to-income in existing buildings, for which we can get quite a considerable bang for our dollar, and non-profit. But the way this is framed right now, without including what the auditor is looking at and will be reporting on in November, appears to me to be quite deficient.

By coincidence, I just happen to be subbing on this committee today, but I'm also the Housing critic for the official opposition and I think it would be a waste of this committee's time to only look at a small portion of the picture when the auditor is currently engaged in looking at a much broader picture. After we conclude the discussion, I would be happy to assist with amending this motion to ensure that when we look at it, it's really effective in making sure that the taxpayers' dollars are being well spent.

The Vice-Chair (Mr Cordiano): Mr Frankford is next.

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): Housing is a very big issue in Scarborough East and all of Scarborough. I can see some very helpful aspects to this motion. For starters, I think I'd respectfully disagree with your wish to add to the security aspect here, because it seems to me that this is rather separate to the thrust of this. I would suggest that it might be more helpful to make a separate motion on that or to combine it with other reports on Ontario Housing.

It seems to me that this is dealing with housing more broadly, because it ties in the relationship between the public Ontario Housing and non-profit and co-op, and that's a topic that is of great interest to me as we see more and more interest and proposals for developing non-profit and, to some degree, co-op housing in my area. I think it will be very helpful to try to take a more unifying approach, and this can also get into other innovative suggestions that have been raised as to whether one should actually be changing the status of some of the types of housing.


For instance, there is a proposal where one could have some pilot projects for converting Metro housing or Ontario Housing, whatever one wants to call it, to a co-op arrangement. I think generally that's of considerable interest. If we understand better what is going on, which is suggested in this motion, it could be very helpful for getting into some innovative approaches, some of which, I would suggest, could well improve the quality of life and security for people there, as much as looking at physical security measures, which I think was the intent of your amendment to the motion.

Ms Haeck: I wanted to lend a voice of agreement actually to some of the comments Mr Cousens made earlier, also supported by Ms Poole, in light of the fact that the motion as it stands really doesn't include the auditor.

I know in the work before I joined this committee, the kind of background material you've provided to us, to question witnesses and get a good overview of the particular topic we're investigating, your assistance is integral and extremely important. So I have to concur with Mr Cousens about putting this somewhat on a back burner until your report is released and we can link up the kind of comments you've made with what is being put forward here.

Like Mr Frankford, at this point I would like to put the security programs a bit aside because I think the general concept of housing in the non-profit sector, as outlined also by Ms Poole, is such that it affects each and every one of our ridings. We've all had questions coming into our offices about how people get into the various facilities available. Like everyone else, I would like to have some of those things clarified.

I would like to have it on the record, for those people who are wondering if I am pro or con co-op housing, that I was the president of an incorporating board for a co-op housing project and spent four and a half years of my life getting one of those projects built. It's running quite successfully, I might add. I would like to see how this has been put together and how well the whole program is running because I still have an interest in that area.

The Vice-Chair: To use the Chairman's prerogative, if I may, I would like to respond to the previous two speakers with respect to the motion I put forward earlier. I tend to agree with some of the comments you've made with respect to my motion, that it certainly doesn't fit within the parameters of the thrust of these four points we've made under this review. But I think it's important enough that if we're going to deal with this area, which this committee has not dealt with for some time -- correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe we have, the whole area of Ontario Housing and non-profit.

Interjection: It's been a few years.

The Vice-Chair: It's been a few years. So this is something I do not want to miss an opportunity to examine, because it may not come up for some time again. I think the point I've raised is of great interest to a lot of people at the present time and I would not want to see us delay the opportunity to examine this at some point too much into the future.

I would concur that it may not fit in with the general thrust of this particular motion as it's been written here, but I think it also was intended that we not restrict our study to these matters, that we should be able to include other matters, and mine was only perhaps one of possible other items that could be included in this list. So the committee's work might be conducted over a period of time to examine other aspects of Ontario Housing that are of a pertinent nature at the present time. That was really the thrust of my motion.

I am going to move to Mr Cousens first, and then Mr Frankford next.

Mr Cousens: Mr Chairman, with all due respect, I think we're very close to where we want to be. To continue this, maybe what we need to do is, Ms Poole has tabled some good suggestions that allow it to have a more expanded view of existing programs, and there are other concerns that are being raised. Why don't we just leave and then we can come back to it? We could keep talking for hours. I think we're really close to where we want to be. We can have the communications committee put together a motion we're going to agree on, and make sure Ms Poole is there and Ms Haeck and one of us. I think we can come up with something that's very responsible. It's not going to happen this summer, but it'll happen in the fall and we can make it happen.

Ms Poole: On a point of order, Mr Chair: We have talked about various suggestions and motions. I have written out -- in somewhat scribbled form, but nevertheless written out -- a possible amendment. If you want me to read it now, it could then be sent back to the steering committee. But I am not a regular member of the committee and I'm not sure that I would necessarily be involved in future discussions, so I wondered if I could make the suggestion and then the committee could --

Ms Haeck: We're always open to suggestions.

Mr Cousens: She's the Housing critic too, which I think makes it very valid.

The Vice-Chair: Oh, absolutely.

Mr Cousens: She has some very good insights on this particular subject alone.

The Vice-Chair: Can I just do this? Can we possibly entertain a deferment of this matter, as was suggested by the chair of the committee earlier, that we review this in conjunction with the auditor's findings and report in the fall and then at that point structure our review to include those matters and any other matters so we look at this question once again in the fall?

Mr Cousens: Could you hear what Mrs Poole has to say, though?

The Vice-Chair: Yes. That was something I think we can put off doing --

Mr Cousens: I don't like to do any favours for the Liberals, but --

The Vice-Chair: Actually, I have Mr Frankford on the list first, and then we'll go back to your amendments, Mrs Poole.

Ms Poole: Sure.

Mr Frankford: I wanted to ask if it's customary to solicit public submissions or have witnesses, because it seems to me there are many people who would like to bring forward their experience on these questions.

The Vice-Chair: I've been on this committee for a variety of years. We have had witnesses from time to time, but not generally. We usually call before us the bureaucracy, people from the various ministries, other expert witnesses, if you will, but we have not conducted public hearings of the kind that would be conducted in other committees where you would have hearings over an extended period of time. That's not generally what the committee's work is about.

Mr Frankford: It seems to me that if one doesn't go to the grass roots, there are at the very least housing advocacy organizations in the non-profit and co-op sectors which I think have considerable knowledge in this area.

The Vice-Chair: Your point is well taken, Mr Frankford, but again other committees have more appropriately done that kind of work with members of the public at large coming before the committee and having extended sittings over a matter like that. This committee's work is structured so we're a little more efficient in terms of our time and we get to value-for-money questions or expenditures, usually conducted by way of the various ministries coming before us or other agencies, if you will, as we've had.

Those are kinds of public witnesses we've entertained before the committee. To conduct kind of an inquiry, if I hear what you're saying, I think would sort of steer away from what traditionally the committee's work has been. We can do whatever the committee members decide to do; that's for certain. I'm just trying to give you some background on what the work of the committee has been.

Mr Frankford: If I could just respond, I can see that this committee doesn't have all that much time for the many interesting areas it wants to get into.

The Vice-Chair: Absolutely.


Mr Frankford: But I would think there are people with experience in these areas. I'm thinking of organizations that might well want to put in written submissions. I think that could be very helpful.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, we can bring in people to advise the committee in one area of expertise or another. Certainly we can do that, but we'll have to review this matter if it's going to be somewhat lengthier. I think we need to focus our efforts on this committee to questions surrounding value-for-money audits. Those kinds of focuses are really what this committee's work is all about. The minute we get into policy discussions, I think it moves us a little bit beyond our mandate as a committee. I think you begin to change the nature of the focus of the committee.

Ms Poole: I have one suggestion that might make Mr Frankford feel a little better about it. On several occasions in the past, when I have been a member of this committee, we have had investigations into, say, the firefighters, psychiatric hospitals, where we actually went for an onsite visit. It may be that we are able to do that type of thing, or I guess I should say you, since I may not be here. We're able to go out on location and talk to people in Ontario Housing and to people like that, so you may get an overview that way. That's one suggestion.

Mr Frankford: If I can just respond, we have a great variety of housing types in Scarborough. I would be delighted to welcome the committee there.

Ms Poole: I was going to propose that the steering committee take back to discuss an amendment that would go somewhat like this:

"Following the release of the auditor's report in November 1992, the standing committee on public accounts review the activities of the Ontario Housing Corp and other aspects of non-profit housing. The review should study, but not be restricted to studying" -- and then make the four points that are currently on the resolution, and add a fifth point -- "an assessment and evaluation of the non-profit program, including but not restricted to the need, the efficiency, the delivery and the process, including such things as time frames and streamlining."

That is just for your suggestion for future debate. I would then move that we table this matter at this particular time and leave it to future meetings of the public accounts committee to discuss further.

The Vice-Chair: I have a motion on the floor then. Is that your desire?

Ms Poole: Yes.

The Vice-Chair: Before we do that, Mr O'Connor was on the list. I think I'll give you an opportunity to speak.

Mr O'Connor: At this point I'd like some direction and clarification. We have two motions on the floor at this time. Do we deal with the latter and then the first? The first one should be either withdrawn or amended as suggested to be tabled to a later date. I guess we're into a procedural matter that I'd ask the Chair to try to clarify with the assistance of the clerk so that we can try to do this with the right procedures in mind.

The Vice-Chair: We can do a variety of things, all of which is to say, if we do want to deal with this matter and we agree that -- I'll be willing to withdraw my motion to amend if you would do the same. I believe the original motion was yours. If now there is agreement to do that and if there's agreement also to entertain Mrs Poole's amendment as a consensus agreement, then we can move in that fashion or we can defer the whole matter. If I understand correctly, there is some sort of a consensus around Mrs Poole's amendment now, so I'll withdraw the amendment that I originally proposed, if you would do the same, Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor: Thank you, Mr Chair. I appreciate that. I'll withdraw the original motion. If Ms Poole would bring forward her amended motion, then perhaps we can table it because at least we'll have something on our agenda to be looked at in the fall when we do have more time before us.

The Vice-Chair: So we'll entertain Ms Poole's amendment. If you'd like to read the whole amendment, if you have it ready, it now becomes the motion.

Ms Poole: Mr Chair, my only limitation is that I'm the next speaker in the debate in the House, so I have to get up there probably immediately, but I am writing this out right now for the clerk.

The Vice-Chair: The clerk advises me that it's not necessary for you to read the motion into the record at this time. We have an understanding that we'll be entertaining this in the fall, so we'll deal with the matter by way of the clerk looking at the record and therefore preparing a motion to that effect at some point in the future. You'll circulate it to all of the members and it will have been dealt with. So can we proceed in that fashion? Do I have agreement?

Ms Haeck: Yes.

The Vice-Chair: We move on to the next matter which is actually a motion that I put forward, if I read it correctly, several weeks ago. Would you take over the chair, Mr Brown?

The Acting Chair (Mr Michael A. Brown): Mr Cordiano, would you like to put this motion on the record?

Mr Cordiano: Thank you, Mr Chair. I have an addition to this motion that I'd like to add to the motion at this time, but perhaps it would be better to proceed by way of reaching a consensus. Maybe we should have some discussion around this.

The Acting Chair: Perhaps you could put the original motion on the record first.

Mr Cordiano: I can add it in and then discuss it. Let me do it that way. Everyone has a copy of the original motion, so what I intend to add to this is something to the effect that the --

The Acting Chair: Would you just read the complete motion, with the addition?

Mr Cordiano: Yes. We can do it that way.

I move that the standing committee on public accounts requests that, under section 17 of the Audit Act, the Provincial Auditor perform an audit on the office of the registrar general. The audit should include, but not be limited to the following: processing of requests from the public; general administration such as problems processing requests from the public.

I'd like to add these matters:

Questions for the Provincial Auditor to undertake a review of the current number of staff in relation to the projected number of staff as will be determined by the 1992-93 estimates of staff salaries and wages; the number of staff before moving to Thunder Bay in relation to the processing times of applications and the number of staff after moving to Thunder Bay in relation to the processing times of applications; any staff increases and/or decreases since the move to Thunder Bay and how they have affected the office's productivity.

So what I'm attempting, if I could just clarify --

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Mr Cordiano.

Ms Haeck: Just as a point of clarification, and I would welcome a correction on behalf of Mr Cordiano after I've put forward my idea, some of this is rather cumbersome wording and it sounds like I wrote it at 12 o'clock at night.

Mr Cordiano: I did.

Ms Haeck: I appreciate the fact of what you've just tried to put forward, but I think the thrust of this is around staffing and I think that a simple focus would be adding -- even under general administration you're talking such problems as processing requests and including also staffing that existed before and after the move. I think there are a range of things that you've put forward which I think would reveal themselves to the auditor as part of that process and your reactions to my statements would be appreciated.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Ms Haeck. Perhaps the way to deal with this is to deal with Mr Cordiano's motion. If he wishes to make a friendly amendment or we wish to reach some consensus, that might be the best way to proceed and it will allow Mr Cordiano to speak to his motion.


Mr Cordiano: It was not my intention, Mr Chairman, to actually put this as a motion or as part of the motion. I was attempting to find proper wording which would distil all the facts I've put forward before you in this motion. Anyway, we can work that out in terms of the wording, can we not?

I think the net effect of what I'm saying is surrounding staffing and productivity gains and looking at the differences between staffing arrangements now and staffing arrangements prior to the move to Thunder Bay, because it's important to get to the bottom of what is the problem. If it's the fact that funds have not been allocated in sufficient quantity to do the job, then we need to know that.

If we want to move a friendly amendment, we can come to some sort of wording which would say something to the effect that we would examine the level of staffing at the present time, as have been included or determined by the estimates that are being presented to us in the 1992-93 series, as compared to spending patterns prior to that and the level of staffing in comparison to what was there before. We can find wording to specifically deal with that as long as there's agreement that's what we intend to look at.

Ms Haeck: Did you want to put a time frame on that? I think we should really be looking at from some time in 1990 prior to the move, but you could in fact have to go back several years. So the question comes in as to the time frame in which you would like to structure that.

The Acting Chair: I'm running a list. I think the most helpful way to proceed is, first, if we could get a copy of your additions to this motion, Mr Cordiano, and then as the discussions proceed, perhaps we will arrive at a consensus of the correct wording.

Mr Cousens: I think Ms Haeck was offering worthwhile amendments to it. I know our caucus strongly supports anything that can be done to get the auditor to look at this and come back with a review, so let's just put the words together.

I think there isn't a riding office across the province that doesn't have some genuine concerns. I'll bet you the only ones that are happy are the ones in Thunder Bay, because they don't have to pay the long-distance costs and maybe they can run down and get some service. But everybody else has to be crying, screaming, shouting, complaining, and I'm sick of it. If we can get this done and, just to take Miss Haeck's point further, expedite it -- if the Provincial Auditor is able to give us a time frame, "Here it is", and tell us how we can do it rather expeditiously so that we can get on with this one, because this is a sick baby we want to heal.

Mr Johnson: You want to be younger? Now's the time to do it.

Mr Cousens: That's right. I'd like to do that. I'm not going to get younger around this place.

Mr O'Connor: And your hair --

Mr Cousens: And hair, I've lost that. And I lost my apartment. I don't have very much any more.

Mr Frankford: I was out of the room so I may have missed some of this, but one thing I was very interested in is around computerization, information systems -- whatever one wants to call them. I think the registrar general's is essentially an information system.

I think there is a specialized area here and this might be a useful exercise. I don't know how much the auditor in the past has reviewed the technical performance of information systems. If not, I think this is really quite a specialized area which I'm sure is going to get commonplace as time goes on. I just hope that whatever motion we pass would at least make some reference to this aspect and not just purely talk about the human resource side.

The Chair: I think the auditor might be able to help us at this point.

Mr Otterman: Yes. I may have mentioned at the previous meeting or in the steering committee meeting that quite apart from all this, long before we had the public accounts committee's concerns brought forward to us, we decided to audit the information technology under this new system. That audit is just getting under way now.

Mr Frankford: Thank you. That's helpful.

The Chair: Anything else on Mr Cordiano's motion? Do we need to re-read the motion?

Mr Johnson: Yes, I think that would be a good idea.

The Chair: Mr Cordiano moves that the standing committee on public accounts requests that, under section 17 of the Audit Act, the Provincial Auditor perform an audit on the office of the registrar general. The audit should include, but not be limited to, the following: processing of requests from the public; general administration such as problems processing requests from the public; the current number of staff in relation to the projected number of staff, as will be determined by the 1992-93 estimates of staff salaries and wages; number of staff before moving to Thunder Bay in relation to the processing times of applications and number of staff after moving to Thunder Bay in relation to the processing times of applications; any staff increases and/or decreases since the move to Thunder Bay and how they have affected the office's productivity.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Does anyone have any new business?

Mr Cordiano: Dare we ask?

The Chair: I have one item I'd like to deal with immediately and then I have another item I'd like to deal with in camera. As the general community becomes aware that Ontario is seeking a new Provincial Auditor, members of the committee and myself will probably be receiving résumés in the mail and possibly even phone calls. I've received several such résumés and phone calls. My position is that I'm not accepting any phone calls, and every résumé I receive will be turned over to the Clerk.

I think it would probably be wise for all members of the committee to refrain from speaking one on one to individuals who wish to lobby on their own behalf or on behalf of someone else. I think the process has to be, and has to be seen to be, above reproach in every sense of the word. I don't think it would be appropriate for myself or any member of the committee to be having these conversations or be accepting these representations. I've left standing orders in my office as such. I think that will work to our benefit and to the benefit of the process and it will help us get through the process in the best possible way.

Mr Cordiano: On that point, I would agree that if there is an established procedure that is agreed to, then obviously it makes it a lot easier for each individual member not to have to deal with the onslaught of requests for interviews of a one-on-one nature. I'm just saying this as a member now. It's difficult in our positions not to be discourteous to people when those kinds of requests are made. These people are professionals. Perhaps they have the requirements, the qualifications etc, but if we have a process we all agree to, then that is basically the way in which we can proceed to tell people that there is a procedure we're going to be following and we will not violate that procedure.

I appreciated what you were saying this morning and I was going to raise the matter with you privately, but I'm glad we're discussing this before the full committee because I would like to proceed in that fashion.

I've also been approached by someone already whose résumé I have in my office and I would like to put that forward to you. I think we can receive résumés; I don't think there's a problem with that. I guess it would be appropriate to turn them over to the Chair of the committee. Is that a good way to approach this? Each of the members of the committee can receive résumés and turn them over to you.

The Chair: I don't think the members of the committee can prevent the receiving of résumés.

Mr Cordiano: Right.

The Chair: I would prefer that the résumés go directly to the clerk, who will then send them on to human resources branch. That way we have one person to send the résumés to and there's one flow of information. I appreciate your comments, Mr Cordiano.

Mr Cordiano: Thank you.

The Chair: Anyone else on the matter? Ms Haeck.

Ms Haeck: I would concur. I think, Mr Chair, the way you've proposed this is really the most efficient way and definitely puts us all above reproach. I commend you on bringing that forward today before we get into that whole selection process.

The Chair: Okay. Any further business before we go in camera? Seeing none, the standing committee on public accounts is adjourned and the members will go in camera.

The committee continued in camera at 1121.