Thursday 8 October 1992

Status of special audits

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)

*In attendance / présents

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Jim F. Otterman, acting Provincial Auditor

John Sciarra, administrative assistant to the Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffière: Manikel, Tannis

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

The committee met at 1009 in room 151.


The Chair (Mr Remo Mancini): The standing committee on public accounts is called to order. You will see the agenda before you. We can always add any other items that members wish to add when we complete our printed agenda.

The report by Jim Otterman, acting Provincial Auditor, re status of special audits requested by the committee: Jim, maybe you could review for us what we had asked you to do and where we're at on each stage of the audit, if you don't mind.

Mr Jim Otterman: In order of completion, the Toronto Hospital: This report will be available for submission to the committee early next week or, if the committee wishes, we can submit it to the committee at next Thursday's meeting.

The registrar general: The field work is nearing completion and we expect to have our completed report to the committee in the latter part of November. Possibly, that could go into early December.

Regarding the Office of the Ombudsman, we've had several meetings with representatives of the Ombudsman's office, and the Ombudsman and we have not been able to start that audit yet. I believe the latest information the Ombudsman conveyed to me is this letter you have. Although I didn't have a copy of it, she did advise me she had written the committee requesting a meeting with the committee, as she had outlined in her special report concerning the request that we perform the audit.

I should also mention that we do get into a bit of a logistics problem in the timing of this audit. I believe the request was to complete the audit within the fiscal year, meaning March 31, 1993. The Ombudsman's people advised that it would not be convenient to their operations to do any audit work in the January-to-March period because of their year-end, getting their annual report ready and getting their work in process as up to date as they can. If we were able to go ahead with this audit, we're now running into limited time. We could probably do interim work up to December and then finalize the audit some time after March 31.

That's the status of the three assignments.

The Chair: Do members have any questions on the Toronto Hospital audit, or do you want to wait until you get the report next week? Shall we table it in committee next week? Could we get it in advance of next Thursday? Maybe members could have a chance to look at it for a day or two and then we could appropriately discuss it. If there are any areas of the audit report we might want to discuss in camera, we could always do that at the time. Does that sound appropriate? Mr Tilson, is that okay with you?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have no problem.

The Chair: The registrar general's audit, as Jim said, is in process. When might it be completed?

Mr Otterman: At this point, we're looking at the latter part of November. However, I was talking with the director yesterday, and there could be some slippage into December. If I may add, the director wanted me to ask you if the committee might consider a different method of reporting on that one; it's just offered as a suggestion. He wondered if it would be appropriate to have an oral presentation of our findings, followed by the issuance of the report to the committee. It's an innovation and I thought I would mention it in case you were interested in trying something different.

The Chair: What's your opinion of it?

Mr Otterman: It would be experimental. I can't guarantee --

Mr Tilson: My concern is that the subject of the registrar general has been such a controversial area. All members of the Legislature have received concerns on the operation of the registrar general. I have no problem with someone coming and presenting orally, but I do think we should have something in writing because of the controversial nature and the urgency with which I'm still getting, as I'm sure other members are, queries from people.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): You could die before you find out whether you were born or married or whatever.

Mr Tilson: So I would not be in favour of an oral presentation, exclusively, at least.

The Chair: I guess there's no consensus for that. I thank the individual for the suggestion, anyway.

I guess we should then discuss the letter we've received from the Ombudsman.

Mr Callahan: It's an amazing letter.

The Chair: It's an amazing letter, as Mr Callahan has said. I hope you've all had a chance to look at it. I'm being asked -- I'm being invited -- to meet with the Provincial Auditor and then set up a second meeting with the entire committee. That's the way I read the letter. That, along with the information we received from Mr Otterman this morning --

Mr Tilson: Mr Chairman, if I could interrupt you at this point, the letter goes on, "If you would like to invite members of the opposition and third party and/or the Provincial Auditor to attend." If we're going to have a meeting, I think we should have representatives from all three parties and a representative from the Provincial Auditor's office.

It is a rather remarkable letter. I don't want this committee to get into a battle that one of the other committees is into right now. We are going to audit her; it's as simple as that. But if we can do it in a way that's agreeable, then that's fine too. If we have to listen to her, I'm prepared to listen to her, but I think all three groups -- or all four groups, including the Provincial Auditor's office -- should be present at that meeting.

Mr Callahan: It's going to be a most unusual audit because, assuming this is an accurate statement, that she's not governed by the government's Manual of Administration, how do you --

The Chair: Let's deal with Mr Tilson's concern first, and then we'll get to Mr Callahan's point. Both of them are excellent points.

Mr Tilson: On that point, Mr Chair: Mr Callahan, I don't think we need to get to that yet. If it requires having a private meeting with her -- it's similar to the Toronto Hospital issue. The Toronto Hospital issue blew up for some unearthly reason; I don't know what happened. If Ms Jamieson wishes to have an in camera meeting with us, I have no problem with that. I just believe that all of us should be present.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): I'd agree with Mr Tilson. If a meeting is to take place to maybe clarify some of the points, to make the Ombudsperson a little more comfortable with the audit, so be it. Probably the best way to do it would be with the subcommittee or a representative from each caucus, as Mr Tilson has suggested.

The Chair: So it's the wish of the committee, from what I've heard, that we write back to the Ombudsman, Ms Roberta Jamieson, to let her know that we would be more than pleased to meet with her. I understood you wanted to meet with her in camera. Is that your wish?

Mr O'Connor: It may make her feel more comfortable with what is going to happen. Going through an audit is certainly a process nobody looks forward to, and she may have some questions. It may make her feel more comfortable or it may not --

Mr Tilson: We may be able to help her.

Mr O'Connor: She can feel more comfortable or less comfortable, but we will proceed with the wish of the committee. I think we've all decided that's an area we want to pursue.


The Chair: I am at the present time, unless convinced differently, uncomfortable in meeting with the Ombudsman in camera to discuss this matter. Our request to the Ombudsman was a very straightforward piece of work by this committee. Mr Otterman, the acting Provincial Auditor, has met with her, and my understanding is that all the facts, as described by us, have been put on the table very clearly. My reading of the letter is that she wants to discuss how this audit should proceed, if it should proceed, and I think it should be done in open committee. That's my personal opinion, unless I'm convinced differently.


The Chair: As our clerk just said, if something really sensitive comes up that involves personnel or contracting or something that might in some way not be appropriate to discuss in public at that particular time, then we can always go in camera for a few moments, resolve it, and come right back into a full, open meeting.

Mr Callahan: My concern is that in looking at her letter and the special report attached to it, I have a feeling we're going to run into the same thing the Ombudsman committee did. Despite the belief by the Ombudsman that she or whoever holds that office is somehow not required to account to anybody, I don't want to see this office get any more scars. I mean, maybe she's wrong, maybe she's right.

But I think we're going to get into the same battle. We're not going to get her here if we're going to go open right off the bat. I think we should have her here in camera to discuss the situation and perhaps start off on a better leg than perhaps the Ombudsman committee did. I think they started off, with all due respect to everybody who was on it, with sort of a chip on their shoulder, and she had a chip on her shoulder, and I think nothing happened.

The Chair: From hearing the members of this committee speak today, and from what I've heard from the members before, I don't think the members have a chip on their shoulder, and I don't think we're in any way --

Mr Callahan: No, no, I appreciate that.

The Chair: I think the members here have responded to a legitimate concern. We've undertaken a process that is normal, something we normally do when matters like this are brought to our attention. We had nothing to say other than, "Let's send our very best professional staff over to the office to do the work they are obligated to do, then report to the committee and report the findings to the public." We have not done anything out of the ordinary in any way whatsoever.

Mr Callahan: In a sense, as I read the report, we don't have the same authority. Assuming that it's correct in this report, we don't have the same authority, or the auditor doesn't have the same authority, in terms of auditing the Ombudsman that we do with other bodies.

The Chair: I disagree with that.

Mr Callahan: I'm assuming that this was part of the report of the Ombudsman committee to the Legislature. It says: "The Provincial Auditor audits the Ombudsman annually under section 10 of the Ombudsman Act....The Provincial Auditor does not have any direct authority to" --

The Chair: Mr Callahan, this is the report from Roberta Jamieson and the Ombudsman's office to the Ombudsman committee. This is her opinion. Her opinion could be correct; we're not saying that it's incorrect. But as far as I'm concerned, this committee has the authority and the responsibility to carry out the audit in the manner in which we have asked it to be done.

Mr Callahan: Might I suggest that we find that out first, whether she's right or not? If she's right, it could get into a cause célèbre by her saying, "I'm not going to let you audit me at all," and I don't think that's in the interest of anybody.

I think what we want to do is find out if we have the authority to do it, or, in the alternative, that we accede to the letter by having an informal discussion first. Let's not get ourselves into a beehive -- I certainly don't want to -- because I don't think it will be productive and I have some real concerns about the image of the Office of the Ombudsman becoming tarnished in the eyes of the public. I don't think that's what anybody on this committee would want.

The Chair: Let me just say that the public accounts committee in no way can hurt or tarnish the image of the Ombudsman's office with the public simply by requesting that the Provincial Auditor do an audit, which is something that is carried on on a regular basis here in this province.

Mr Callahan: I agree.

The Chair: But I do want to get back to one point you made, Mr Callahan, as to whether you think we have the authority to do this.

Mr Callahan: I don't know.

The Chair: I'd like to ask the acting Provincial Auditor his opinion on this. I have my opinion, but I think we should have his opinion also.

Mr Callahan: Fine. Why don't we get that?

Mr Otterman: It's our opinion that we have that right under section 17 of the act. In our discussions with the Ombudsperson to understand the nature of her special report, I think she really has agreed with us that she's not going to push the legal interpretation aspect of this, and we certainly haven't sought a legal interpretation; we never had to in the past. But the substance of her report, if I understand it correctly, is that it's not whether you have the right to request the auditor to conduct such an audit; it's whether it is appropriate. This, I think, ties in to the whole independence matter, which is important to the Ombudsman.

Mr Callahan: I'd like to see section 17 of the act. I got the impression that she was saying that she's not a crown corporation, she's not an agency of the government; that goes to what you're saying, that she's stressing her independence. I suspect that 17 says you have the right to audit crown corporations, agencies, boards and commissions of the government. Is that pretty close to what 17 says?

Mr Otterman: Section 17 doesn't spell that out but it does mention that it isn't restrictive to any type of entity. But clause 1(a) of our act defines an agency of the crown and refers to "or other body." We've interpreted that section to mean it brings it under the purview. We're actually the appointed auditor of the Ombudsman's office.

Mr Callahan: Is there also a provision under the Ombudsman Act for an audit?

Mr Otterman: Yes. That's where we're actually appointed under: section 10, I believe, of her act.

Mr Callahan: If that's the case, fine, but I didn't want to get into another knock-down, drag-out battle here. I think that's counterproductive to the image of the Ombudsman's office and the integrity and existence of that office for future purposes. If we're not going to have that problem, fine. I have no difficulty with the initial meeting being in open session with us going in camera if anything sensitive arises. I'd be agreeable to that.

Who is chairing the meeting, by the way?

Interjection: He's at the coffee machine.


Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I think I was next in line to speak. I haven't had time to read all of this, but looking at the back page, there is a recommendation here; presumably it's from Ms Jamieson, but it could also be from the committee. This is asking the public accounts committee to reconsider whether it's appropriate to instruct the Provincial Auditor to do a special audit of the Ombudsman. I see that in the paragraph above they make the case that the Provincial Auditor is audited by a private firm. That's correct, is it?

Mr Otterman: That's correct.

Mr Frankford: It would seem to me that the offer is being made that the same arrangement should apply to the Ombudsman. It would seem that one question is whether the audit is going to be around value for money. If the Provincial Auditor's office and this committee were getting into that, then I suppose they would be making the case that this would constitute interference with an independent agency. I guess I can see the case they're trying to make. Whether it's correct under the Ombudsman Act or the mandate of this committee I'm not sure, and I'd be very interested in hearing what people say on that.

Mr Otterman: My understanding of this part of the second recommendation is that it's more future-oriented, trying to set the motion for the future of the way things should be done, whereas the first recommendation pertains to the specific request right now by the public accounts committee.

With her recommendation for an audit scenario as she's described, similar to the private sector firm auditing the Provincial Auditor office now, with the added value-for-money every fourth or fifth year, I guess you're asking whether it would appear to be infringing on independence if, in the future, the public accounts committee so requested the Provincial Auditor to do an audit. I would still think, under the present wording of the Audit Act, that her operation would be captured by the powers of the Audit Act and the request could be made and we could conduct the work if we were allowed to do so. It would be less likely that that would come up, though, probably, because every fourth or fifth year she would have this value-for-money audit done.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I couldn't agree with you more. I was going to say some of the same things you were saying. The audit office couldn't be audited by itself; that would be a conflict, and that's one of the reasons an outside firm comes in to audit the Office of the Provincial Auditor.

Let me ask a question: The Ombudsman is one of the six offices of the Legislative Assembly. How does the audit office treat the other five offices of the Legislative Assembly?

Mr Otterman: Under the Audit Act, we are the appointed auditor of each one of them, I believe, under the respective legislation, with the exception perhaps of the conflicts commissioner.

Mr John Sciarra: Yes, there's no audit provision.

Mr Otterman: I don't think there's any audit provision for the conflicts commissioner, but their expenditures run through the Legislative Assembly and we can look at them there. I believe this year we might have taken a look at them. It's not a big component of the total operation.


Mr Otterman: It's the commissioner and one staff person. They use the resources of the assembly to do their other work.

Mr Duignan: One of the problems of the officers of the Legislative Assembly is that there is no uniform reporting mechanism or debating mechanism. That's something the Legislative Assembly committee will be looking at in the very near future, trying to bring all that into line and having a common set of policies to do things. The audit aspect could be one of the items that committee looks at, how it's done for all the officers of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr Tilson: I've been listening to some of the comments that have been made, and it would seem to be appropriate that the Provincial Auditor's office proceed with the audit. If there's a problem, they can come back to the committee and inform us -- if there is one, and so far there doesn't appear to be one. There are letters. If there's a problem, I'm sure the Provincial Auditor's office will tell us. We will then debate the position this committee will take. If Ms Jamieson wishes to come to this committee and discuss anything, we'd be pleased to receive her.

Interjection: That's very clear.

Mr Tilson: Otherwise, by our getting going on something, are we creating a snowball down a hill that could turn into something we really don't need to get into? The Provincial Auditor's office has dealt with many different personalities and many different groups. I have every confidence that they can conduct the audit the way they see fit and the way the legislation authorizes them to proceed. If Miss Jamieson wishes to come and discuss that audit with us, we would be pleased to receive her.

The Chair: Any further questions or comments or advice?

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): One further point: I'm just reading through the letter, and the sense I get from the argument being made here about the independence of the Ombudsman's office with respect to the government's Manual of Administration is that it's her contention that the auditor's role is really to audit the government. I think the question that was put before, with respect to the legislative departments that come under the Legislature, the six areas you still audit, is the point that really needs to be made. I don't think the Ombudsman in her letter understood that when she was making that point. I think her view is that the auditor can under his mandate do value-for-money audits with respect to government departments, but that she's an officer of the Legislature and that somehow those officers of the Legislature have independence apart and away from the auditor. I think it's a point that needs further clarification.

The Chair: With that comment, I'm not sure, unless you want to add some more clarification, Mr Otterman?

Mr Cordiano: I think the point was made by Mr Otterman, but I just want to emphasize that we --

The Chair: The point being --

Mr Cordiano: The point being that all the other departments -- this point was made; I'm just trying to re-emphasize that I think it is a significant point. It needs to be reiterated.

The Chair: What we're saying then, in the view of the committee, is that we're not doing anything out of the ordinary or irregular and we're going about it in a normal way. So I hear the committee. I will write back to the Ombudsman, Ms Roberta Jamieson, and tell her that the committee has reviewed her letter and that we've asked the Provincial Auditor to continue with the work, and if, at the same time, she wishes to come in to discuss something with us, that's also possible and fine.

Mr Cordiano: Could I make one last point? In my estimation, I don't believe there is any department in the legislative precinct or with respect to government departments or agencies which the auditor cannot audit where there's an expenditure of public funds. I don't believe any of these departments could be independent of that kind of scrutiny.

If that's the case, then we have a fundamental problem with the way this committee is structured and mandated. It's as simple as that. We're trying to hold the sanctity of this process up for that kind of scrutiny. It's not a challenge that's been put to us that's raising our backs; that has nothing to do with it. It's a fundamental principle that this committee and the auditor have that right, and that is what's called public accountability. If we don't have that, then obviously we have a fundamental difference of opinion and a fundamental problem, in my opinion.

The Chair: Any further discussion on this matter? No.



The Chair: The next item on the agenda is discussion of the work we're going to undertake for the rest of this session. I'm assuming we're going to be dealing publicly with the Toronto Hospital report when we get it and with the registrar general's report when we get it. Anything else?

Mr Tilson: We've been through all this, Mr Chairman. We raised all this last spring and these guys shot us all down. So that's fine; let's not waste any more time.

The Chair: I'm always anxious to give this committee a chance to undertake certain initiatives.

Mr Tilson: We had all kinds of ideas we put forward to this committee, which the Liberal Party put forward and the Conservative Party put forward, and we were shot down at every angle by the government members of the committee. So this is a silly item to put on the agenda. In fact, it annoys me.

The Chair: I get the feeling that the committee doesn't want to discuss this matter at this time.

Mr Callahan: Can I make a response to that, Mr Chairman?

The Chair: I think you should discuss it with Mr Tilson before you bring it up, Mr Callahan. No, go ahead. I'm sorry.

Mr Callahan: Maybe that's our specific function, to send the auditor out to do an audit and then discuss his audit, but I'd like to see this committee take a more pro- active approach within the framework of our standing orders.

For instance, we did an investigation of the alcohol and drug treatment centres in the US with a view to producing a report that might give us some idea how we could do that here and save the cost of going to the US.

The Chair: It was a pretty good report, actually.

Mr Callahan: I think there are other areas like that. For instance, I've just discovered that bone marrow testing can't be done here. It's done in the United States at $45 per blood sample. I have a young boy in my community who is going to die, because it's not covered by OHIP: It's done in the US and they have to do a very large sample of people, yet that information is fed into a data bank, I understand, at Sick Kids' hospital, so we do get the benefit of that information from it. In fact, these people have to go out and get private donations to do it, and if they don't get enough donations and the family can't afford it, or if you can't get a special LG order to cover it, what happens?

I think those are the areas we should be covering. Maybe it's close to policy and maybe it's not, but I think we could investigate whether part of that cost should be borne by the taxpayers. I don't know, but that's the type of stuff I'd like to get into: how we can better serve the people of the province with the limited funds we have and not throw dollars away and, at the same time, perhaps throw lives away. I don't know quite how to put it, because I don't want to get outside our mandate, but I'd like to find a way to look into that.

I'd also like to find a way of looking into the question -- again, it may be borderline policy, which we're not supposed to touch -- of why OHIP covers psychiatrists and doesn't cover psychologists in dealing with examinations of young people, or older people, to discern whether they have a learning disability. The proactive nature there is the fact that I think the money we save in doing that is money we won't spend in correctional facilities or drug and alcohol treatments down the line or welfare and the whole bit.

That's where I'd like to be proactive. I'd like to get some idea as to whether we would be overstepping our bounds to take that and whether the auditor can assist us in any way in determining -- it's really an auditing of the effects of not doing that, of not carrying out that planning and ensuring that individuals get these assessments done.

I'm not going to be very much longer, Mr Chairman, but I think where we miss out is that many people, the ones who need it the most, the poor, cannot afford the $1,200 or the $2,000 for an assessment of their child, and if the school board doesn't do it for them or if the court doesn't order it, these kids never get assessed and they just go on having a learning disability and wind up in our court system or in our jails.

The Chair: Thirty seconds, Mr Callahan.

Mr Callahan: I think that's a very unfair arrangement and I think those are things we should be looking at. It's the question of whether or not that's value for money. Is paying for psychiatrists value for money? With all due respect to them, most of them are either drug therapists or verbal therapists, but I don't think they're necessarily the ones who should help these kids. I think it should be psychologists.

The Chair: I think you've made your point, Mr Callahan. Any further discussion on the matter?

Mr O'Connor: I think you've laid out where we're going to be headed quite clearly. We've debated what we'd like to see put on the agenda in great detail during the last session. I'm looking forward to reviewing what the auditor has prepared for us next Thursday for Toronto Hospital. That probably is going to be more than we'll be able to -- it'll certainly keep us going for the next little while without looking for new ideas, but I'm sure there are a lot of new ideas we could take a look at. We didn't look at the psychologists who are on staff in some of the school boards when we had that opportunity, but there certainly are a lot of different areas that I'm sure would intrigue all of us. But I think we've laid out our agenda pretty clearly. I also wonder why it's on our agenda this morning.

The Chair: It's on the agenda for two reasons. Let me be very clear to the committee. One is to remind the committee members of what is coming forward, and that was the Toronto Hospital audit and the registrar general audit. It's been some time since we discussed the matter of the work the auditor's going to do in the Ombudsman's office. we discussed it very late last spring and the early part of the summer. I thought it would be only fair and proper to have members speak on the matter, because a period of time has gone by and sometimes what seemed unimportant two or three months ago all of a sudden becomes very important.

Mr Callahan has brought up a couple of items which are very important in the field of social policy and health care, and maybe, based on what he's told us this morning, we can think about what he's asked us to consider. I know for a fact that Mr Tilson and Mr Cordiano have concerns in areas that have already been discussed. I don't know if their concerns have been alleviated yet.

My feeling is that we should have as complete and open a process as possible on this committee. If we decide we're not going to proceed down one road or another, then that's our decision to make. But to me, just because we said in June that we're not going to discuss something or a variation of different things, it doesn't mean it's been closed for ever. I think I hear the committee. The committee's telling me that we have an agenda between now and Christmas and that's all we have time for.

Moving on: Unfortunately, because this Legislature sat through the entire month of July, members of the committee were not able to accompany myself, Mr Otterman, the clerk and a researcher to the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees conference. It would have been very useful for members to have been there.

Mr Callahan: Did you bring us back a lobster?

The Chair: A lobster? No, we didn't bring back any lobsters, but we did spend time making a presentation on the OHIP report this committee had done; it was discussed before the entire delegation and received extensive questions, as we've already noted for you in our report we made when we returned.


It's our responsibility this year to host the conference. As you know, the conference is attended by representatives of every province, the government of Canada and the territories. The chairperson of every public accounts committee and a delegation are invited.

We have placed before you this morning some work that has been prepared by staff as to how we should organize and run this conference. If you're prepared to discuss it this morning and put forward some ideas or concerns you may have, that's fine. If not, we'll have it on the agenda again for next Thursday if you'd rather take a few days to think about it.

Mr Cordiano: It's worth making mention of the fact that very few people -- I'm not sure whether the members of this committee constitute a group that's had experience in this regard. I don't know how many members have gone on one of these things: one, a couple maybe? I don't know what we can discuss, members not having had the opportunity to experience one of these conferences; therefore, what's going to constitute the conference with respect to this committee, as we were not allowed to go to the last conference?

I don't think this administration has a great deal of concern for conferences like this. I want to make that point, because I don't think it was necessarily something the government took seriously when the conference was being held outside of the province. We should ask them. Are they going to take this one seriously because it's going to be held in Ontario? I'd like to know that before we proceed, before I actually make suggestions and work on setting an agenda and do any work with this at all.

Mr Duignan: The House was sitting. That was the reason most of the members of the committee didn't go. Plus there's the economic situation in the province.

Mr Cordiano: Excuse me, I have the floor. Let me finish what I was saying.

The government's concerned about members travelling outside of the province, particularly opposition members. I don't feel that the government has been forthcoming with respect to its members travelling around to various conferences. I have no idea what they're doing.

Personally, I don't like to travel, so it's got nothing to do with a personal like for travelling outside of the province. But I do believe there has to be a point at which the government says these things are important or are unimportant. I don't want to have this responsibility unless I know it from the government, because it holds the purse-strings and the House leader can determine whether or not members will participate on these various committees.

We know from past experience that there are conferences that continue to go on despite the economic times. I want to know from the House leader if he takes this seriously, if he's going to allow us to move forward in this regard and make the necessary plans with some view to what's being asked of us here today. I think we should appropriately ask that of the House leader.

Mr Duignan: Can I make a suggestion, Mr Chair, that he bring it up in discussion with his own House leader and that the three House leaders meet and discuss it at the next House leaders' meeting?

The Chair: I don't like that suggestion. I am not, as Chair of this committee, going to run to any of the House leaders to seek permission to host the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees, when we all know that that is our given responsibility for this year. I am not going to do that.

Mr Duignan: I quite agree with you, Mr Chair, but it's been raised by one of your own colleagues.

Mr Cordiano: I raised the point. He doesn't have to agree with me.

Mr O'Connor: For the member opposite who's been raising some significant queries around the ability of this committee and the thoughts of the government, the House was sitting when the last conference did take place, and as to the conference previous to that, this committee had two tasks before it at that same time. It was at the direction of the committee -- in fact, the entire committee went to the Board of Internal Economy and came up with the suggestion that half the committee go to the conference and the other half carry on with the investigations that were taking place into the financing and running of drug treatment facilities. It's not something the government has taken lightly and said, "No, you can't do it"; it's something the committee had directed.

I think it's important that we continue with this. I agree with the Chair that it's something we have before us. But there could be a lack of knowledge of what does take place at these conferences, because not all the members of this committee have been to those conferences. During the previous summer when the conference was in Winnipeg I was part of the delegation from this committee looking at the drug treatment facilities, so I never made it to the conference. Maybe we could hear from some of them. I think we have a responsibility to the public accounts committees right across the country. If you have a concern around that, I guess that's something we'll hear from the Board of Internal Economy about.

Mr Cordiano: I do, and that's why I raised the issue. In response to that, I don't think the exclusive reason we did not attend this latest conference was the fact that the House was in session.

Mr Callahan: The board refused us money, did it not?

Mr Cordiano: Well, speaking about the last conference, I don't know if we all decided that we weren't going to go and that the chairman exclusively was going to attend this conference. I don't recall a discussion around that. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The Chair: As to the question of whether or not we had the money, our budget was never discussed and still has not been discussed.

Mr Cordiano: I think there's a serious question here about what we do with these conferences, perhaps not only on this committee but on others. If the government, in its wisdom, would like members of the Legislature not to travel to these various conferences because times are difficult, then make that clear. I think you will find opposition members will be responsive to that, but I think it's incumbent upon the government, the administration, to make its intentions clear.

Mr Callahan: I didn't realize the budget had not been approved. I think I'm between the two members' ideas. I'd like to discuss it because I think it's important but, on the other side of the coin, more and more -- and this is not a partisan shot; this is a shot I think committees are going to have to take a stand on, regardless of who's the government -- the independence of the committees has to be maintained. We can't be told through indirect ways, either through refusal to approve our budget or whatever, that we can't do this, that or the other thing. Either committees order their own business and that's sacrosanct, or it's not.

The Chair: Under the rules we govern ourselves by here, we do not order our own business. We have to go to the board --

Mr Callahan: But it's been my understanding that the tradition of the House is that a committee orders its own business.

The Chair: Yes, the committee orders its own business, but if the business ordered by the committee requires funds to be spent, that has to be approved by the Board of Internal Economy.

Mr Callahan: But that's precisely my point.

The Chair: I'm not disagreeing with the point you're making. Frankly, I don't know why the members of the committee do not join me at this conference. I have no idea why.

Mr Cordiano: That's the point I'm trying to make, Mr Chair, with respect.

The Chair: Anyway, I want to move forward.

Mr Cordiano: On that point --

The Chair: Order. I want to move forward with what we're going to do here.

Mr Duignan: I was going to suggest the same. We're hosting the conference next year?

The Chair: We're hosting it.

Mr Duignan: I'd like to move a motion to the effect that we do host this conference, and possibly we could set up a subcommittee of this committee to start to look at the arrangements for that conference and the agenda for that conference.


The Chair: Any discussion on the motion?

Mr Cordiano: I'd like to know in advance what kind of funds are being committed to this budget, what the intentions of the Board of Internal Economy are with respect to spending. If we're dealing with an austerity program on the part of the government, then I'd like to know that. I'm not prepared to plan ahead until I know that. That's my personal point of view.

Mr O'Connor: If I may, I guess what we'd like to see, perhaps, is a suggestion from across there that we have a budget drawn up that could be sent to the Board of Internal Economy, which would be the process we would go through in any case. I think what you've got is a suggestion that would flow with my colleague's suggestion.

Mr Callahan: I think what Mr Cordiano has said makes sense. We'd look pretty silly passing a motion today saying we're going to host it if, when we prepare this budget, we haven't got any dough to do it. I'd prefer to do it the opposite way, which is to prepare a budget. We can discuss how long it will be, how much the registration fees are and all the rest of it in order to prepare the budget. But I don't think we should have on record a motion that we're going to host it. We're going to look stupid, really stupid, if we don't get the funds. I think the budget comes first, and if we get the dough or we get anything near it, we can pass the motion. I guess indirectly we're doing what you want to do.

Mr Duignan: I don't care how you word it. If we're going to draw up a budget to do a conference and then present it to BOIE, it's giving a kind of semi-agreement that we want to host it anyway. Maybe we should strike a committee to look at the budget and the agenda and then present it to the Board of Internal Economy if you want to do it that way, but let's move on from here.

Mr Callahan: How do you strike a budget when you --

The Chair: Well, I don't think we've decided anything; that's the truth of the matter.

Mr Callahan: Well, we could hold it in Brampton at the Holiday Inn; it's close to the airport. Or we could hold it in Windsor and let them gamble themselves to death. I don't like that idea, though; I think Brampton sounds better.

Mr O'Connor: There's Georgina Inn, right on the south shore of Lake Simcoe.

Mr Callahan: No, Brampton's just perfect because it's just close enough --


The Chair: Order. What I'm going to do is ask all the members to review the documentation you have before you. It will be put on the agenda again for next Thursday. What I also want you to do is to consider the time frame for the hosting of this conference. It's traditionally been held -- yes, Mr Tilson?

Mr Tilson: I don't care what the wording is. I tend to agree with the concept that's been put forward by Mr Duignan that perhaps we should refer this to a subcommittee.

The Chair: But there are several things we have to accomplish before we do that.

Mr Tilson: Well, the subcommittee can come forward with recommendations and then the committee can tear it apart.

The Chair: Yes, we usually have to do things three times. I'm trying to avoid that, if it's possible. Can we look at this documentation for next week? We'll spend 10 minutes on it at the next committee meeting. I want you to consider the location. We had discussed two possible locations: Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Mr Callahan: And Brampton.

The Chair: Those were the locations we had discussed previously. Brampton, Mr Callahan, was not on the previously discussed list.

Mr Callahan: Well, it should be.

The Chair: Yes, it should be. I agree.

Mr Callahan: We've got world-class facilities.

The Chair: We also want to discuss the time frame. It traditionally has been held early in July, if you want to continue that or if you want to push it back into August; I want you to consider that. Then, when we at least get those two or three small matters out of the way, we'll form a subcommittee and go over in detail the agenda for the conference and what we can possibly do to make it as good a conference as possible and as helpful to all of the legislatures, to the territories and to the House of Commons. It's going to have to be given a lot of thought, as far as I'm concerned.

Mr Duignan: A couple of small points. Again, as Mr Tilson -- you're asking us to decide on a location for this conference, but how can we do that when we have no idea what the costs are going to be?

Mr Callahan: We have no idea whether it's available either.

Mr Duignan: Yes, so why decide on the location right now, when we have no idea of just those two simple points? Why don't we let a subcommittee look at where the conference can be held, the costs of the locations and whether those places are available to hold a conference, and then come back to this committee with a report? To make a decision on a place to hold a conference when we don't know the costs or the availability of the venue --

The Chair: I don't think there'll be much difference in the cost of the venues, Mr Duignan; I think you know that. I think you're aware that the cost of the venue is not going to be much different, whether we have it here or there.

Mr Callahan: Here or in Brampton.

The Chair: Or in Brampton. We've got to make some decisions and we've got to get the ball rolling.

Mr Callahan: We can get you a special rate.

Mr Frankford: This conference will take place regardless, will it not?

Mr Duignan: No, we haven't we reached that decision yet.

Mr Callahan: It may be at Kortright Conservation Centre.

Mr Duignan: The way we're going, it may be 1994 before we can make a decision on 1993.

The Chair: I would find it very interesting to receive notice from the government of Ontario that it's not prepared to host the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees. I would find that very interesting, and we'd deal with that when the matter came up.

Mr Tilson: Mr Chairman, I believe we will be hosting the conference and --

Mr Callahan: We're not going to Orangeville.

Mr Tilson: My question is to the clerk. I'd like to hear her thoughts as to time frames for reserving facilities, sending out material to other committees across the country, as well as -- I can't remember the name of the group, the accountants; I don't know how that worked, but they met at the same time.

Mr Otterman: The Conference of Legislative Auditors.

The Chair: That's it. Presumably there needs to be some coordination with that group, and all this other business could be worked out. I'd like to hear from the clerk as to what her thoughts are.

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): With your first point on times frames, I really believe we have to get going right away on booking something. If we're looking at the beginning of July, which is the traditional date, it could be very tight, and that could actually be a component in when we decide on the time. If we're doing it later in the year, of course that gives us a little extra time, a calendar month. So we do have to decide on that and where it's going to be. Those are two very important things.

I anticipate that the subcommittee that will be set up will be working very closely with the group from the auditors on the joint aspects of the conference, mainly the banquets, social events and the joint session between the auditors and the politicians.

The Chair: I hope you appreciate the sense of urgency I was trying to convey earlier on. Please review the material. We'll discuss it for a few moments next week.

Mr Callahan: Just a second. I was on the list.

The Chair: We said we're going to consider Brampton.

Mr Callahan: I want to speak to that, Mr Chairman. Let me put this to you. This is for the benefit of the subcommittee. When we went to the conference in Winnipeg, in order to save money -- and I think we should be interested in that, as the public accounts committee -- many of the sessions were held in the Legislative Building. I don't remember passing Niagara Falls; I love Niagara Falls, but if we do Niagara Falls, it's going to be a lot more costly because we're going to have to get space for the --

The Chair: I said we would discuss the site and location next week.

Mr Callahan: That's why I'm suggesting Brampton, Mr Chairman, because it's close enough to this area --

The Chair: I appreciate that. So the members are clear now on what we're going to decide next week. Please review your material. We need to decide the time, we need to decide the location, we need to strike a subcommittee to work out all the details. Is there any new business? The committee stands adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1109.