Thursday 13 May 1993

Interim statements

Annual report, Provincial Auditor, 1992: Ministry of Health


*Chair / Président: Cordiano, Joseph (Lawrence L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Présidente: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

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

*Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

*Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

*Frankford, Robert (Scarborough East/-Est ND)

*Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent ND)

*Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*Murphy, Tim (St George-St David L)

*O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

*Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview ND)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

O'Connor, Larry, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffiére: Manikel, Tannis

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

Research Service

The committee met at 1018 in room 228.

The Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): Order. Members of the standing committee on public accounts, we are going to be dealing with a number of matters this morning on our agenda. Mr Murphy is not here.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): He was here.

The Chair: He was?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): His stuff is still here.

The Chair: Yes. As long as his stuff is here, we can reserve that first item on the agenda until Mr Murphy gets back.


The Chair: Can we go on to number 2 on the agenda and deal with that first? I perhaps can turn to Ray for his advice on how to proceed with this.

Mr Ray McLellan: Following the hearings in January and February, legislative research was instructed by the committee to proceed to prepare four interim reports. The committee has since decided to change that title from interim report to interim statement. Maybe I could just take a minute and run through those four brief reports or statements.

Perhaps the first one we'll look at will be the registrar general's. In the case of the registrar general's statement, on page 1 we make reference to the standing committee's request for a special audit by the Office of the Provincial Auditor.

Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): I'm sorry, can you lead us through this in terms of the document? I just want to make sure that I'm following this correctly, so if you can identify the documents for us.

Mr McLellan: The document is entitled Interim Report on the Audit Report on the Office of the Registrar General and the report number is 0060. I believe the clerk's office has appended that to the back of this document. The document that I'm holding up right now says, "Meeting of Thursday, the 13th of May 1993." There are seven items listed on there and the fourth one deals with the interim report. It's clipped on to the back of that document. Hopefully we have that before us now.

The first one says "Registrar General," and on page 1 of this statement -- two pages in length -- what the committee asked legislative research to do was to --


The Chair: You don't have that?

Mrs Marland: Well, I have this complete package.

The Chair: Right. You have to go through that and find the one referring to the office of the registrar general. That's what we're dealing with first. Perhaps you can take us through that, Ray, since there's some interest in going through it.

Mr McLellan: I'll just briefly refer to this statement. The interim statement says as follows:

"The standing committee on public accounts instructed the Provincial Auditor to conduct a special audit of the office of the registrar general in June 1992 to include but not be limited to the following."

The Provincial Auditor's report addressed the bullet points outlined here, the processing of requests from the public etc. So those are the terms of reference for the auditor's report.

Then the next paragraphs say:

"In January 1993 the committee held hearings on the Provincial Auditor's report on the office of the registrar general.

"Prior to the committee's request for the special audit, the Provincial Auditor began an audit of the new imaging system in the office of the registrar general. The Provincial Auditor described the new imaging system as follows."

The thrust of the meeting and the decision at the end of the meeting was that the Hansard for the hearings would be our report and that we would await a subsequent report on the new imaging system by the Provincial Auditor. I've outlined the thrust of that report at the bottom of page 1, saying:

"During the period 1987 to 1990, the ministry studied and selected imaging technology. This technology was designed to increase service levels, transform the workplace and reorient the focus from paper to clients." That's the thrust of the new imaging system.

"According to the Provincial Auditor's report, the audit will focus on efficiency, cost-effectiveness and security of the new system. The results of the audit are to be reported in 1993."

I've been informed, in discussion with the Provincial Auditor's office, that this report will go to the registrar general's office, but it may not necessarily be reported in the 1993 annual report. So I think it may be appropriate for us to delete that second sentence on the top of page 2 saying, "The results of the audit are to be reported in 1993."

If the committee decides that it wants to look at that report, a motion could be passed for it to be brought before the committee and to consider it.

And the final statement:

"The interim report of the standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee has conducted a review of the audit report dated December 1993 on the office of the registrar general and that the committee will decide whether to address the audit report on the imaging system when it is released."

What happened on these four statements, the committee, rather than getting into lengthy reports, decided that Hansard would be the record, and if specific issues, for example, the imaging system, came to the fore and were outstanding and the committee felt they should be addressed, we made a note of those.

This is actually a change in our format from the past. In my time on the committee over the last number of years, we haven't done this before. But anyway, in the winter of this year, it was decided that we would follow this format.

If the committee is in agreement with deleting that second sentence on the top of page 2, the first paragraph, we can let that statement stand. This would be an exhibit, not a report of the committee. In other words, it's a public document but it's not a report to the House, so it wouldn't have the status of a report. It's more of a working document and a note for us if, say, in the future we may decide to pursue this report on the imaging system by the Provincial Auditor.

Mr Farnan: So we've deleted that sentence.

The Chair: There's some interest in this. I have Dianne Poole on the list first.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I just had a question regarding the last paragraph. I wasn't on the committee at the time this audit and report were discussed, but is there another date, other than December 19, 1993, that would be accurate? Would that be December 19, 1992, perhaps?

Mr McLellan: You're right. Sorry. Thanks very much, Ms Poole.

The Chair: Any other discussion, comments?

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I would just like to make a comment, to state that I think this committee should be very much getting into an understanding and an ability to review technology. I have no objections whichever way this goes, but I would like to ensure that here or with other discussions we will get into a good audit of information technology systems.

The Chair: I think it was our intention to come back to this, so we're certainly not going to leave it behind.

I have just one comment that I'd like to make, if there are no other members wishing to discuss this matter. Perhaps it's not really within the realm of this, but I think we need to do a little further work in this area, because I personally am not convinced that we've seen the efficiencies that have been described to us. I have a personal example of the inefficiencies of the office and I continue to be bewildered a little as to the efficacy of the measures that have been taken.

I personally do not feel that these areas have been adequately resolved and I would like to come back at some point and see if those measures are now in fact working and if what we're recommending is being pursued. I would like to revisit this subject at the point in time when we hear from the auditor on the imaging system and then review some of the other items that, unfortunately, we thought we had resolved. I don't believe, as I say, from a personal point of view, that this is the case.

Mrs Marland: I support your suggestion.

The Chair: Thank you. We can probably move on to the next item.

Mr Erik Peters: Mr Chairman.

The Chair: Yes, the auditor has a point.

Mr Peters: I don't know how to bring up the point, but in the resolution we certainly are willing to report. Now, there are two mechanisms available to us to report to you on this basis. One is by including this in our annual report in December, if you wish to wait till then. The other alternative is to deal with section 16 of the Audit Act, under which you have the right, where it says, "The auditor shall examine into and report on any matter referred to respect of the public accounts by a resolution of the committee."

I just wanted to present to you that you have an option here of either waiting for us to include it in the report or instructing us to do so, or we can report separately and especially to the committee on this matter. I just wondered what the wish of the committee is on this.

The Chair: If I may just comment on that, just before we go forward, we need some further clarification from the clerk, but I believe that what we initiated here was in fact under a section 16 motion to conduct a special audit of the office of the registrar general and therefore we are continuing to pursue that. If we want to revisit this in the form of a report that you give back to us, I think it just follows on the initial motion that we made, but I stand to be corrected.


Mr Peters: Technically the first audit of the registrar general was conducted under section 17. But the imaging system which we brought to your attention that we were doing when you followed up on that section 17 audit was left a little bit up in the air as to what you wanted to do about our report on the imaging system. So that is what I'm seeking clarification on.

The Chair: I stand to be corrected then. As a result of that, I think we can follow through with your advice.

Mr Peters: If you want to have it recorded too under section 16, I think that would be fine.


The Chair: Mr Farnan, do you have trouble following this? I'll try to clarify it for you.

Mr Farnan: I just want to get a handle on it so I understand where we're at. The sentence that we deleted, "The results of the audit are to be reported in 1993," is that separate from what you will be reporting in December? Is that a separate report or is it the same report?

Mr Peters: In a sense the December report is a judgement call, because it does bring to the attention of the Legislative Assembly all those matters that we consider to be brought to the whole assembly. So there's a certain judgement call made in the selection of items that are reported at that particular time.

If, for example -- not prejudging, because we are currently waiting for the response from the ministry on our draft report on the imaging system, so I cannot -- it depends very much on their response whether we have an item that we will include in a report to the entire assembly. What I'm pointing out, therefore, is that if this committee wishes to have a report regardless of whether we decide to report to the entire assembly or not, one way of doing this would be to have a motion under section 16 that you wish the Provincial Auditor to report to you, as the standing committee on public accounts, on this issue.

The Chair: If I could try to put it in an understandable form, at least my understanding of this would be that the request has to be made under section 16, because our original motion was made under section 17 for a special audit and something like this would then have to fall under section 16, so we need another motion, just as a housekeeping matter, if we want this report to come to the committee. Does everyone follow that?

Mrs Marland: Yes.

The Chair: So it's really a decision we need to make.

Mrs Marland: I'd be happy to move that. Mike, I didn't want to interrupt you if you still have the floor.

Mr Farnan: Yes. I'm trying to understand whether or not this is a necessary exercise. If indeed there's a report in place, and then there's an end-of-year audit, what are we adding to that? I mean, there's a report that I presume -- according to the notes that were given out by legislative research, the results of the audit are to be reported in 1993. So although that's deleted from the text, there is an understanding, I believe, that there's going to be some kind of report there that's available to the committee.

The Chair: My understanding is that the auditor will go through an audit and he will report, based on whether he decides to do this or not, to the whole House, and he can choose to do that. If we want him to report to us the results of this special audit, we need to do that by way of motion in order to enable him to report to us as a committee. What he decides to do in his annual audit is entirely within your purview and not at our discretion, so if we wish to pursue this matter in more detail as a committee, we need to do that by way of motion authorizing him to report to us as a committee.

Now, having said that, if I may, once the auditor releases his report, we may then at that point choose to follow up with our own committee process on items in the annual audit report, which we normally do anyway. So either way it's really a housekeeping matter. I think it's more of a technical matter if we decide to do it now or to do it at the point of time he reports in his annual report.

Mr Farnan: Doesn't it make sense? This is what I'm trying to get at. This is going to be done in the auditor's annual report, coming back to us --

The Chair: It may be done.

Mr Farnan: But it's at the discretion of the auditor, and the auditor, I would think, has the good judgement that if he thinks this is a necessary decision to make, it's something he will pursue. Therefore, I would put my confidence in the auditor's judgement on this. He may have other priorities, but if it is indeed, in his estimation, to be a priority, he will pursue it. Therefore, I feel there's no need for us to be giving direction. I feel comfortable with the fact that the annual report in December and the auditor's discretion will give us whatever information is necessary.

Ms Poole: Mr Chair, would it be possible to leave it that at the time the auditor makes the decision whether it is included in the 1993 report, in the event it is not included in the report, that the auditor would bring this to the attention of the committee at that time, and we can make a decision, based on the auditor's advice, as to whether we look at it? Because as Mr Farnan has pointed out, if it's going to be included in the 1993 report, it may not be necessary to review it in this committee prior to that time.

Mr Peters: Yes, that's a fair request. The offer was mainly put on the table to guarantee that you get a report, because some of the matters, particularly dealing with computer technology here, that we may be finding are strictly of an internal housekeeping matter which may not be of interest to the assembly as a whole; it would deal with the ministry.

Mrs Marland: I wasn't going to bother getting into very much detail, because I thought we were perhaps going in a direction that was fine with me, but I just want to give you why I personally am concerned about the internal housekeeping of this particular office. It may well be that the imaging technology, as it says here, was to increase service levels, but as recently as last November, I had a family in my constituency who had been -- they called me finally in November, but the father died in June. They couldn't access the bank account or anything without the death certificate, and I had heard that they would accept the death certificate from the funeral home. Apparently, they couldn't accept it.

It's no big deal, but I personally loaned this family some money. I knew the family. I didn't know them personally as friends; I knew them as a family in my community for a long, long time. I thought, "This is just blooming ridiculous." It wasn't that there wasn't money there for this widow and three children, but it was just that they couldn't access it. In the end, it took six months less a day, I think, to get that certificate.

I'm just saying, whatever it is that's going on up there and whatever it is we're investing to improve the service levels, it's not working, and we have to have a remedy for that. Every one of us in this office with a constituency office deals all the time with birth certificates, primarily, for people who have to travel in an emergency and so forth. I mean, we know all that stuff, but this was the first time I had seen such hardship over a death certificate. One of the kids had gone all the way up there by bus to see if doing it in person made any difference. It was a horrendous story. So that's my personal frustration with the registrar general's office.

Mr O'Connor: We all get that, Margaret.

Mrs Marland: You have it too, Larry?

Mr O'Connor: Sure we do. All of us have it.

Ms Poole: I think we've all had it.

Mrs Marland: I'm just wondering, where is there a solution? Can this committee help find a solution?

Mr Farnan: I think Dianne has put forward a suggestion that makes some sense. We've had a three-year period when the ministry studied and selected the imaging technology. The whole purpose, as Margaret knows, is a determination -- and that was during the previous administration -- to improve service. If indeed that is not the case, I think we want to know about it and we want to see how it can be improved, so that the objectives of all of the members of the House can be achieved.

So I think it's something we don't want to lose sight of, and the suggestion that if it's not in the auditor's report that it will be highlighted to this committee so that we can then sort of red flag it for the future I think makes good sense.

The Chair: Good. Then I take it there's a consensus around that and we'll leave it at that.

Shall we move on to the next item? I think, Ray, you want to deal with the Workers' Compensation Board report.


Mr McLellan: Thanks, Mr Chairman. The next item is the Workers' Compensation Board, and that should follow from the previous one on the RG.

Essentially, this is a short statement saying that:

"On November 26, 1992, the standing committee on public accounts adopted a motion instructing the Provincial Auditor to conduct a special audit under section 17 of the Audit Act on the WCB's decision to relocate certain head office functions," with information on the relocation.

"The committee adopted the following motion on this matter," and it's outlined in that central paragraph, "...that the Provincial Auditor review the Workers' Compensation Board's plans to build a $200-million office tower to serve as their new headquarters.

"As part of his consideration, the auditor should," look at the cost issues, cost per square foot and availability of office space in Toronto.

And ending off: "Prior to the commencement of the special audit, the committee held hearings in January 1993 to review this matter and to identify issues and concerns to be addressed in the audit report. The committee decided at the time that it would be premature to report on the initial findings in January 1993 and that it should await the completion of the special audit."

"This interim statement," it should say, as opposed to "interim report," "of the standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee will address the special report of the Provincial Auditor when it is released."

Mrs Marland: And when will that be?

The Chair: Perhaps we could get some update from the auditor as to the timing of that in general terms.

Mr Peters: We are hoping to have it completed by the end of June.

Ms Poole: Mr Chair, I'd just like to confirm with the Provincial Auditor that this is a special report so this could be released prior to your annual report in December.

Mr Peters: Yes. This is a section 17 audit that will be released, as soon as completed, to you.

The Chair: To the committee.

Mr Peters: To this committee.

Ms Poole: Our committee has set the agenda, I believe, until June 3. Does the auditor anticipate that this report would be ready before the end of June, while we are actually still in session?

Mr Peters: I cannot guarantee that for one very straightforward reason: We will be probably in the position within the next two weeks or so to present the draft report to officials at the Workers' Compensation Board, and I do not know how much time they will ask for to respond.

Ms Poole: So I guess with that one we'll just play it by ear and see when it actually comes out. Thank you.

Mrs Marland: Is it true that as we speak, the footings are being poured for this building? Does anybody have the answer to that?

The Chair: You're asking the auditor or myself?

Mrs Marland: The auditor or his staff.

The Chair: It's the first question I've been asked in a long time.

Mr Farnan: What's the question?

The Chair: Have the footings been poured on the building at Simcoe Place.

Mrs Marland: We know that the land is leased, we hear that it's being stirred up, but I'm just wondering about the frustration of this. I'm not criticizing that it's going to take till the end of June to get the report: We knew that when we last discussed it in this committee, because I was here that day, but I'm going to be very distressed if the report comes in and tells us that the building shouldn't be going ahead and in the meantime we've been waiting for the report and the building's going ahead. I haven't driven past the site slowly enough to identify what's going on at the site, and I just wondered, Erik, if your staff knew.

Mr Peters: We know that the hole has been dug. Yesterday one of our people went by. I didn't have a chance to hear the report back as to what was happening on the site this morning before I came here, so I'm not sure what progress there is, but there definitely is construction activity going on.

Mr Noel Duignan (Halton North): I was going to say the same thing. But maybe as a point of clarification on this particular issue, on January 12 didn't the committee pass a motion that the committee's deliberations on this item be concluded?

The Chair: That was a question of whether or not to continue with hearings. It did not really preclude the report. The report still has to be completed and conclusions drawn from that report and reported back to the committee. That, I don't think, is in question. I think the motion there dealt with the conclusion of public hearings, and that was done.

Mr Farnan: Maybe this is a question of clarification, again to get an understanding. When that report is completed, does that go to the House, to the whole House? Is it a public document that is reported to the whole House?

Mr Peters: That is within the purview of this committee, but it is a section 17 report which goes specifically to this committee. That is a report that you as a committee have asked for and you will get as a committee. The disposition will therefore be at your decision.

Mr Farnan: No, is it a public document at that stage? I mean, when it is delivered to this committee, it's a public document? Yes? Okay.

Mrs Marland: Could be embarrassing.

Mr Farnan: No, I don't think it's embarrassing at all. I mean, this is an arm's-length agency. The government does not have control of these agencies. But certainly I'm sure they make their decisions based on all the factors that impinge upon the efficacy of the decision before them. There certainly has been a lot of discussion around the merits of this particular decision. I think it's good for the public interest that the information be available and made public.

I think that when we passed the motion that this committee's deliberations be concluded, we were agreeing, Mrs Marland, that this decision has already been made, the train has left the station. Certainly the public should have all that information so they can look at it, but what is the point of this committee then spending valuable time on something that is already a fait accompli when there are other important matters that have to be discussed?

What does this report tell us, the interim report? It says that the report is coming down the tube. It also suggests, and this is what I would like clarification on, "The standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee will address the special report of the Provincial Auditor when it is released." What does that mean?

Mr Peters: Just for clarification, what happened at the time when I believe this motion was passed to terminate the hearings of the officials was that I went to the Chair. I do not recall whether we did this in open meeting or in subcommittee, but I asked for clarification of the status of the audit, and at that time we had either a real or a straw vote under which the committee as a whole decided that the audit should continue and that there should be a report to the committee.

I do not want to prejudge particularly the content, but I would think that, as a minimum, one of the items that will come out of this report is really the question of accountability of these agencies to the Legislative Assembly. I think that would be a very important issue for this committee to deal with, regardless of what happens.


Mr Farnan: Okay. If I could just conclude that, I appreciate the clarification of the auditor. In that regard, then, I would support this matter coming back to the committee for deliberation. I think this whole area of the relationship between government and crown corporations and arm's-length agencies is an issue that probably all legislators and the public at large are interested in.

Mrs Marland: I want to confirm what my position is on this matter, because I was at the hearings in January. In fact, I think it was my resolution that requested that the vice-chair, Mr King, bring before the committee the legal opinions which he stated that he had that the Workers' Compensation Board did not require an order in council to exempt its use of the investment fund, I think it's called, for the building of this office tower. It was at that point that we got a little rattled as a committee, because the next morning he produced one opinion, whereas he'd told us that he had three opinions on that matter.

The perception of some of us on the committee from then on started to be, I think -- certainly speaking for our caucus -- that we were gravely concerned that the building of this building contravened the Workers' Compensation Act and went beyond what its board had the power to do without an order in council. We got into the questions in the House, to the Minister of Labour etc, about whether they were happy with the building proceeding and whether they had the right to proceed with the kind of funding arrangements that they were in. It was at that point that I think whoever it was, whether it was Mr Duignan or not I don't recall, moved a motion that we end the deliberations on this matter.

Of course, four or five opposition members had no power on this committee to continue the deliberations once that motion was brought forward. I think it's very important, however, that this report today, which is what we're discussing this morning, is brought back to this committee. I appreciate the fact that Mr Farnan is making that suggestion and agreeing that this report of value for money be brought back to this committee, because that surely is the mandate of this committee with any government ministry or agency of the government. I think it's terribly important for the integrity of this committee for this report to come back, as is being suggested in this interim report.

The Chair: Mr Duignan, on the same point?

Mr Duignan: Just a point of clarification: We didn't move closure on this particular audit; it was just on the particular delegations and hearings that were going on at that time.

Mrs Marland: That's what I just said, Noel, if you were listening.

Mr Duignan: I was listening, Ms Marland. On the other item, we have no problem with this report coming back to this committee, and I suggest that the subcommittee deal with this issue and schedule a time for discussion at this committee.

The Chair: Then I'm to understand that there is some consensus about the report coming back to committee and that the subcommittee will deal with the scheduling of it. Is that agreed?

Mrs Marland: Agreed. Fine.

The Chair: Okay? Good.

We'll move on to the next item, elevating devices. Is that correct?

Mr McLellan: The Ombudsman.

The Chair: Oh, I'm sorry; the Ombudsman report.

Mr McLellan: On page 1 of the interim statement on the Office of the Ombudsman we have two motions. I can read through them quickly.

"In June 1992, the standing committee on public accounts passed a motion requesting that the Provincial Auditor conduct a value-for-money audit on the Office of the Ombudsman." This is in response to the standing committee on the Ombudsman. "The committee's initial motion was as follows:

"...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."

Following the passage of that motion in 1992, a report came out from the Office of the Ombudsman addressing this issue and a number of other issues.

"In January 1993, the standing committee on public accounts met with the Ombudsman to discuss the proposed special audit on the Office of the Ombudsman. At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee passed the following motion on the timing of the special audit and the instructions for the Ombudsman to table the report with the Board of Internal Economy:

"`That the standing committee on public accounts direct the Provincial Auditor to conduct a value-for-money audit of the Office of the Ombudsman during his next regular financial audit of the Office of the Ombudsman and that this report will not be tabled with the standing committee; but, the Ombudsman will table the report with the chair of the Board of Internal Economy within 30 days of receiving the report from the Provincial Auditor.'

"This interim report of the standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee has discussed the intent of the motions with the Ombudsman and that the committee is not required to address the special report of the Provincial Auditor on the Office of the Ombudsman, unless it is referred to the committee by the Board of Internal Economy."

There is precedent for the Board of Internal Economy to refer reports to committees, so that last sentence is in keeping with precedent. In other words, it could be referred to this committee.

Maybe I could just take a minute. The standing committee on the Ombudsman reported on this issue in its report of April 1993. I didn't distribute copies of that large report, which is in the order of 100-odd pages. I'll just refer to page 128 of that report of that committee. This section is entitled "Review of the Audit Results." I could read the three or four paragraphs and their recommendation, if the committee wants me to, or just the recommendation. Do you have a preference on that?

Mrs Marland: Let's just start with the recommendation.

Mr McLellan: The recommendation is as follows, recommendation 41 of the standing committee on the Ombudsman, "That the Provincial Auditor report the results of the audits of the Office of the Ombudsman to the public accounts committee which shall refer them to the standing committee on the Ombudsman."

As we've said in this interim statement, the report of the Provincial Auditor would go to the Board of Internal Economy. This committee passed a motion in January 1993 instructing the auditor to report to the Ombudsman, and in turn that the report would go to the Board of Internal Economy.

Mrs Marland: Really what's happening now, then, is that the whole subject of the audit of the Office of the Ombudsman is actually out of the hands of this committee, because first of all it's referred directly to the Board of Internal Economy, and then it's only its choice is about whether it comes back to this committee or not. Is that right?

The Vice-Chair (Ms Dianne Poole): Mrs Marland, perhaps we could ask the auditor for a confirmation. That was certainly the way I read it.

Mr Peters: Yes, I'm concerned about the same thing. I'm just wondering if the committee might want to consider to what extent it wishes to constrict itself in dealing with this report. The last paragraph reads "that the committee is not required to address the special report of the Provincial Auditor on the Office of the Ombudsman, unless it is referred to the committee by the Board of Internal Economy." That would, in my opinion -- and I think we may want to do a little more research on it -- actually contravene section 17. Under section 17, I am instructed to report to this committee.

Mrs Marland: It's a pure contradiction.

Mr Peters: Yes. Regardless of what happens, I will report to this committee and this committee will have to deal with the report as it sees fit. I'm not sure whether the committee at this stage wishes to muzzle itself.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chair, if I may continue --

The Chair: If I may, Mrs Marland, I'm just getting clarification from the clerk that we had a second motion following on the original motion that indicated that you would report to the Board of Internal Economy, so I think that clearly gives direction to the auditor with regard to where he is reporting and in fact it would go to the Board of Internal Economy. I recall that discussion. I think it was pretty clear in terms of its intention that it would go back to the Board of Internal Economy.

If I can just refer to this motion that indicated "but, the Ombudsman will table the report with the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, within 30 days of receiving the report from the Provincial Auditor."

Mrs Marland, you have the floor.


Mrs Marland: Why is this happening? It is a contradiction to the original section 17 request. Did we suddenly decide to shut down the public review of the Ombudsman? Are we going to treat the Ombudsman differently because she's an officer of the Legislative Assembly? Is that what's going on here? I think that's a little scary. I don't think the Ombudsman would want the audit of her office to be treated differently than any other office. I'm well aware of what happened at the Ombudsman committee and all those events involving the Ombudsman.

Who placed the motion, Mr Chairman, that this report under section 17 end up going directly to the Board of Internal Economy rather than coming back here? Are we involved in a public process here or are we involved in keeping everything under the carpet?

Mr Farnan: On a point of clarification, Mr Chair: I think the record probably will show that the Ombudsman came to the committee and requested specifically that this would be a solution to the difficulties she perceived, and it was at her specific request that this resolution was brought forward. It's as simple as that.

You are aware, I don't have to remind you, of the history of the last couple of years vis-à-vis the Ombudsman's office, and I think there was goodwill on the part of the government, on behalf of the Ombudsman, to try and find a solution. It's to the credit of the Ombudsman that she came along and said this is the only way the integrity of her office could be maintained. This was accepted by the committee and, I do believe, unanimously by the committee.

The Chair: Mrs Marland, you have the floor, but if I may --

Mr Farnan: My apologies.

The Chair: No, if you're complete --

Mr Farnan: Mrs Marland may not have been at that committee and may not have been aware of the suggestion of the Ombudsman.

The Chair: Can I answer the question you asked? I believe you moved that motion, Mrs Marland.

Mrs Marland: Did I?

The Chair: According to our records, yes.

Mrs Marland: That it go to the board?

The Chair: If I can put it in context, and I'll try to be as helpful as I can --

Mrs Marland: If I did that, I don't think I understood that it originated as section 17, and probably that was the problem of me subbing on the committee for a day.

The Chair: Could be. I just think we need to put things in context, and at the time I believe it was a compromise position which enabled us to move forward on this matter and to do it in the most sensitive fashion possible, because I think it was really after quite some discussion that we came to the conclusion that we could do that, and at the same time it does not preclude the auditor from reporting to us any items which he feels are of the utmost, crucial importance for us to know, and that still holds true.

Mrs Marland: It doesn't. It doesn't for --

The Chair: No, it does. The auditor is not precluded by any of the motions that are carried by this committee from reporting to us items which he feels absolutely essential.

Mrs Marland: Well, that's fine.

The Chair: Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's my interpretation.

Mr Peters: You're absolutely right, and that is in the part of the discussion of the motion that I put on the table, that if matters came to the attention of my office that I should raise with your committee, this motion did not muzzle me in that regard.

Mrs Marland: Erik, a few minutes ago you said you were concerned. You started to say that I had raised a matter that you were concerned about, which was the report going directly to the board, so why are you concerned?

Mr Peters: I was only concerned about the last sentence, which is a very absolute statement that said the committee is not required to address the report. What I wanted to alert you to was that there may be matters -- there may be matters; I don't know at this point -- that I might want to bring to your attention which you may wish to address.

It is right now an absolute statement that unless it is referred to the committee, you cannot address the report. I just wanted to clarify that in our discussion, if there are matters, yes, this committee can still address them.

The Chair: Mr Farnan, on the same point of clarification.

Mrs Marland: Can I just finish?

The Chair: You still have the floor.

Mr Farnan: It's Mrs Marland's point. Does the authority of the auditor to single out items to bring back to this committee override that last sentence? If not, then I think it should be deleted.

Mr Peters: It could be interpreted in that way. That's my concern. It can be interpreted in that way, and that is my concern.

The Chair: Mrs Marland still has the floor, if she would conclude her remarks. On a point of clarification, Mrs Poole?

Ms Poole: Yes, Mr Chair. I think if you look at the resolution that was passed, it says "this report will not be tabled with the standing committee." That's the report itself. There would be nothing, I would view, from this particular sentence to preclude the auditor from discussing the report. He just wouldn't officially table it.

The Chair: If I may, all these interjections, but I think that was the intent, that the report first be tabled with the Board of Internal Economy, but that would not necessarily preclude us from discussing it. Mrs Marland, you have the floor, and then Mr Duignan.

Mrs Marland: I think you've answered it now. For a minute there, I thought maybe Erik could talk to us if there were items he wanted to bring to us, but we wouldn't be able to address them. But if he brings them to this committee, Mr Chair, we can address it. I'm just asking you, if the auditor brings anything to this committee, the committee then can address it. We can't just listen, but we can discuss it.

The Chair: Unless the auditor has difficulty with that, I don't believe that was the intent of the motion. I stand to be corrected. I leave it up to the committee to decide whether that statement is going to preclude us. I don't think it does, but I stand to be corrected by members of the committee. So as far as the auditor is concerned, he has indicated that he can raise matters with us. I don't believe that's necessarily a statement that would preclude him from doing that. Ms Poole, you have a point of clarification?

Ms Poole: Yes. I was going to make a suggestion. I feel much more comfortable now that I know the auditor can discuss the report with us. What I would suggest is that once the report is tabled with the Board of Internal Economy and the auditor discusses the report -- he doesn't, obviously, table the report, but once he discusses any concerns he has with the report with us -- at that stage, we could perhaps write the Board of Internal Economy and ask them if they would refer it to our committee. So at least the Board of Internal Economy would be aware that the public accounts committee is interested in this particular report, and it can deal with our request.

It just might formalize the process a little bit more and make the Board of Internal Economy cognizant that members are quite concerned about the Ombudsman's office and its relationship with the Legislative Assembly in light of some past events.

The Chair: Mr Duignan, I'm sorry, I've forgotten now if you had your turn or not.

Mr Duignan: I didn't.

The Chair: You haven't. I apologize, because I interjected. I apologize for that.

Mr Duignan: I was going to make a lot of the points that have been made by Mr Farnan and indeed by yourself. I was going to indicate that Mrs Marland indeed moved that motion earlier on. But we had an agreement with the Ombudsman to refer this report to the Board of Internal Economy, and I think any deviation from that would break our confidence with that of the Ombudsman.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chair, I want to clear something up. Apparently, my motion did not say that last part of the sentence. Apparently, my motion did not say "unless it is referred to the committee by the Board of Internal Economy."

The Chair: I would have to ask the clerk to clarify that, if you would like.

Mrs Marland: I think it's important because I don't have any difficulty with the report going to the board, but I think I do have a concern that we can't discuss it unless the board refers it back to us.


The Chair: I'm informed, Mrs Marland, that the motion, as it was read into the record and recorded, is exactly as it appears before the document dated April 28, the document we're dealing with. That is verbatim, the motion as it was presented and moved.

Mr Farnan: I really believe we're dealing with a very, very sensitive issue. It's an issue that caused grave concern in terms of the role of the Ombudsman as perceived by the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman's ability to be independent and effective.

The Ombudsman was very tough, very focused and very clear as to how she saw her role. Certainly, it created some tensions. We all want to believe that the Ombudsman is clearly independent; it's vitally important for the role that the Ombudsman retains that independence. It's to the credit of the Ombudsman that she very effectively stood by that independence and she came to the committee with a possible solution to what appeared to be an impasse, and all parties agreed that this was a workable solution. I think we should indeed let it work. That means the Ombudsman reports directly then to the Board of Internal Economy.

If there is something substantive, if there is something of an extraordinary nature that the auditor believes needs to be addressed, then the auditor will indeed bring this to the committee, but I don't think we should be saying we want the nitty-gritty, some details that have to be worked out, brought to this committee. I think we have to put our trust in a solution that was honourable and workable and put our trust in the auditor. If there is something outstanding, something very serious, then he will bring it to the attention of this committee. That is the way I think this can work, otherwise we break faith with the trust we've established with the Ombudsman, and I think that would be a very serious mistake.

Mrs Marland: That's fine with me.

The Chair: Mr McLellan wants to clarify one point, and then I have Mr Duignan on this point.

Mr McLellan: If I could possibly address the last paragraph and refer Mrs Marland to it: Obviously, the text of the motion is above that, indented; that was the committee's motion. The last paragraph and the preceding two paragraphs are my words. In trying to develop a statement on this, I've outlined, as I have here, a possible alternative.

The committee perhaps could consider the following, that in that last paragraph the sentence end as follows: "The interim statement of the standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee has discussed the intent of the motions with the Ombudsman." Then the next sentence would deal with the matter that the Provincial Auditor, at his discretion, could report on matters as he decides may be of interest to the committee. And the last sentence may refer to a point that Ms Poole had raised, and that is that if the committee decides, it could write to the Board of Internal Economy for the report to be referred to the committee. Those are three points that have been raised.

Mr Farnan: Let's go back to the first point.

Mr Duignan: Hold on a minute here.

The Chair: Let's have some sense of order. I think, Mr Duignan, we had you on the list, so I'll start with you and then we'll --

Mr Duignan: I think the auditor has made it very clear -- I mean, we're just going around in circles here -- that if he feels there are substantial problems that he finds in the audit, he will bring them to this committee. Is that correct?

Mr Peters: That's correct.

Mr Duignan: And at that point, the committee could so choose to write a letter to the Board of Internal Economy requesting a copy of the report, correct?

Mr Farnan: I thought the Ombudsman.

Mr Duignan: I have some real concern. We went through this debate way back in January, and Mrs Marland moved a motion and it was all agreed by everybody that this was the course of action we would take. I have a real concern about us deviating from that course of action at this point in time. The auditor has said that if he finds anything substantial, if there's a substantial problem he finds in the audit, he will bring it back and discuss it with this committee. Why are we going around in circles?

Ms Poole: Mr Chair, further to what Mr Duignan just said, I am a little concerned by all this. I wasn't on the committee at the time, and I am concerned, not knowing what the tone of the debate was at the time, that if we've made a deal with the Ombudsman in order to get the information before the Legislative Assembly, and if we have agreed that the Board of Internal Economy will handle it instead of public accounts, then I would be somewhat reluctant for public accounts to interfere if we have made that agreement. But I really don't know what the agreement was. Did we say at the time the motion was made that this would then be out of the hands of public accounts unless it was referred by the Board of Internal Economy?

Mr Duignan: That's the way the motion reads.

Ms Poole: Yes, that's how I would read the motion.

Mrs Marland: No, that isn't what the motion reads. Excuse me. If you read the motion, and I think we should all read it, "That the standing committee on public accounts direct the Provincial Auditor to conduct the value-for-money audit of the Office of the Ombudsman during his next regular financial audit of the Office of the Ombudsman." I want to stop there because I recall that the wording, the "next regular financial audit," was very important to the Ombudsman. She didn't want a special audit. Am I correct? She didn't want us to go in and do a special audit; she wanted it to be part of your next regular audit. She didn't want her office intruded upon as though suddenly there had to be a special audit, so that's why that was worded that way. And as I'm thinking, this is now coming back to me about what the discussion was. That's why it says, "during his next regular financial audit."

Then it says, "and that this report will not be tabled with the standing committee," so there was a decision made that it would not come back here because of some of the arguments that she made at the time, but instead of it coming here the Ombudsman would guarantee -- that's what she said to us -- that she would table that report with the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy within 30 days of her receiving the report from the Provincial Auditor. In other words, she would have 30 days to look over it and then she in turn would guarantee that the report would go somewhere in the public domain, which was the board.

However, the resolution does not say that the committee is not required to address the special report of the Provincial Auditor on the Office of the Ombudsman unless it's referred to the committee by the Board of Internal Economy. It doesn't say that. The motion doesn't say that.

Now I agree, Mike, with what you said about not breaking faith with the Ombudsman, and obviously that's why the motion was put the way it is, because we were trying, as you said very well a few minutes ago, to find a solution to what was a difficult situation. What has been said this morning, the commitment by the auditor, is perfectly satisfactory to me; that we go with the motion as it stands and we recognize that, if there is something of concern, there is still the latitude for the auditor to bring something of concern to this committee, which is the only thing that all of us are probably concerned about.

Mr Duignan: Can I have a point of clarification? As you know, there is a standing committee on the Ombudsman. Is the Board of Internal Economy or the auditor required to send a copy of that report to that committee? No?


Mr Peters: I don't believe so. To the best of my knowledge, we're not. In fact, it was the standing committee on the Ombudsman that first wanted to have an audit done. They had no authority to order it up. Only you did. Only this committee did.

Mr Farnan: I think we're reaching consensus. Maybe you can clarify. I heard Dianne say before she left that she was sensitive to the fact that some form of agreement had been made and therefore we should work within that area. Therefore, I would say to legislative research that the three points that you read out are clearly not the three points that the committee agrees to. The third one has to be removed. What we are agreed to is that it goes to the Board of Internal Economy and that if the auditor wishes to raise an issue of substance -- because clearly, if it was a minor issue, it would break faith -- but an issue of substance can be brought to this committee. That's the agreement and I think it covers all the bases, so I think there is consensus.

The Chair: I think I'm going to suggest that there is a consensus and that we move on and leave that subject.

The next item to be considered is elevating devices. Mr McLellan, would you take us through that, please.

Mr McLellan: On the issue of elevating devices, the interim statement is as follows:

"In January 1993, the standing committee on public accounts held hearings into the audit report on elevating devices, Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations" in the 1992 annual report of the Office of the Provincial Auditor.

"The Provincial Auditor's objective was to assess the adequacy of elevator inspections to ensure compliance with safety standards. The ministry is in the process of addressing these concerns through a new system. According to the ministry, `an automated licensing, registration and inspection system...will provide management with a sophisticated risk management tool.' The system was described by the ministry as follows:

"`Phase 1 of the Inspection, Design, Engineering, Data Cross-Reference System, Index, has been implemented. Phase II [of] the inspection system is expected to be implemented in the fall of 1992."'

Prior to the meeting, I spoke with the Provincial Auditor. The Provincial Auditor has been in touch with the ministry and, according to the Provincial Auditor, the date of the fall of 1992 has been revised now and it appears it will be 1993. That quote from the ministry will have to be amended. To carry on:

"`When the new database is fully populated, the branch will have the ability to cross-reference the inspection history of an elevating device, its technical specifications and the performance record of its maintenance contractor in order to assign a periodic inspection cycle based on the identified risks for each device. This cycle may be annual or it may as high as every five or six years.'

"The Office of the Provincial Auditor has indicated that a report on the Inspection, Design, Engineering, Data Cross-Reference System will be prepared following the implementation of phase II. The committee has decided not to report on this matter until it has had an opportunity to review the Provincial Auditor's report on the Index system.

"This interim statement of the standing committee on public accounts confirms that the committee has conducted a review of the 1992 annual report of the Provincial Auditor and that the committee will consider the Provincial Auditor's report on the Index system when it is released."

The Chair: Any discussion, debate? There being none, then I gather we have consensus on this report.

I think that concludes the discussion of interim statements. We've covered all the areas.


The Chair: Perhaps now we can turn our attention to the first item on the agenda, since we have Mr Murphy in attendance. Mr Murphy, would you like to deal with that motion?

Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): I moved it last time. Do I need to re-move it, Mr Chair? We just deferred it, I think.

The Chair: Yes, I think it would be safe to have you re-move that item, because it was deferred, so we can then discuss the matter. I stand to be corrected by the clerk, however.

Mr Murphy: I move that the Provincial Auditor conduct a follow-up audit to section 3.10 of the Provincial Auditor's 1992 annual report and that the scope of this follow-up audit include, but not be limited to, the procedures used by the ministry to eliminate the unauthorized use of health registry cards.

The Chair: Now that the clerk is here, I can ask if it was in fact necessary to do that. It wasn't. Now that you've read it, it was just read into the record again for purposes of discussion.

Mr Duignan, you have a point of clarification?

Mr Duignan: Yes. A similar motion was moved February 22, 1993. Can we maybe clarify that?

The Chair: It was actually originally Mr Callahan's motion, as moved now by Mr Murphy.

Mr Murphy: It was moved last week, I believe, and then deferred so that government caucus could --

The Chair: It was deferred to today. But it was Mr Callahan's motion back in February of this year, and we decided to deal with these motions.

Mr Farnan: There was a notice of motion.

The Chair: Right, there was a notice of motion dated at that time. The discussion of these matters came up last week and we deferred till this week. I think it was Mr Farnan who deferred it. So we now have this motion on the table for discussion.

Mr O'Connor: As you know, during the intersession I didn't have the opportunity to sit on my favourite committee of the Legislature, which of course is public accounts, because being a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health required me to be on the committee of social development, where we were taking a look at long-term care.

But there was one week during the spring intersession when I did have an opportunity to sit with this committee. In fact, we had the Deputy Minister of Health before us for a great deal of time. The deputy minister did come forward with a lot of information and shared with us a lot of facts and certainly did give us a great deal of insight and shared a lot of the history of the whole program and what not with us. I felt that as parliamentary assistant, and being new to the Health ministry, that was a great education for myself, and I hope the other committee members felt so as well.

At that time, of course, there was a great deal of discussion, and further, within the ministry there is a deputy minister's committee that is looking into this. They will be putting together recommendations, and I believe the committee would be reporting around June. I don't think it would really serve the committee well to take a look at something that we don't have all the information for. I'm sure that at the request from this committee to the Ministry of Health, that report could be made available, because when we take a look at health care, it's something that is very fundamental to not only Ontarians but all Canadians. The medicare system is something that we're all very proud of, and I'm sure that report, whether or not we decide to go through the entire process we just went through already this spring, is necessary at this time. I think that report would still be quite interesting to all committee members, especially when I'm sure we all have a great deal of keen interest in preserving health care in this province.

Mrs Marland: I think this motion is very specific and I think what Mr O'Connor has just said is very broad. I think it's as simple as that. We're not here to discuss the health system as a whole if we're going to deal with this motion. I really support the motion 100%. I think that anybody in the government must support the motion 100% because it simply says, "the procedures used by the ministry to eliminate the unauthorized use of health registry cards." I would think that when you know the millions of dollars that are involved with unauthorized use of our health cards, it would be not too difficult a motion for you to support, in the interests of saving the taxpayers of this province money.

Mr O'Connor: If I might respond --

The Chair: We do have a speaking order, and I'm going to move to Mr Murphy, who asked to be on it next.

Mr O'Connor: By all means.


Mr Murphy: I just want to say that I think, given the number of cards that were identified in the Provincial Auditor's report as possibly being available to be misused, I guess is the best way to put it, to be as many as 300,000 to 500,000, and in the context of a restraint program that everyone's participating in, to find out ways to eliminate what could be millions of dollars of misuse and misapplied government funds is, I think, a very important thing to do.

I'm certainly glad to have as part of the report this follow-up audit, the report referred to that might be coming out in June from the deputy minister. I'm sure it can be included in the scope of the review. But I think, as Mrs Marland said, it's a very specific motion directed to a specific problem, one I think we can all agree is worthwhile focusing on and trying to solve.

Mr Duignan: I guess for a number of reasons this side will not be supporting this particular motion, but also, Mr Chair, are we not as a committee still looking at this whole issue arising out of the auditor's report from the spring? Aren't we meeting with a number of people dealing with the whole question of smart cards and the whole question of the health cards in the coming weeks?

The Chair: If I may, we are certainly still looking at the report, section 3.10 of the report, and we will be, I believe, on June 3 having further presentations made by two groups, one on smart cards and one that hasn't been made available to all members of the committee, but there's another group that will make a presentation to us about alternative technologies. So you're correct; we are further pursuing this matter.

Mr Duignan: Well, we support the intent, but I believe there are other avenues that are being explored, such as what we're doing right, plus the fact, Mr Chairman, that the last audit, as mentioned by my colleague, on the registration system was concluded in February of this year. I believe another audit would be very disruptive and focus energies away from the tasks that need to get done.

My colleague Mr O'Connor has referred to the deputy minister's report. I believe at this point it would be premature to have another audit on the registration system.

Mr Murphy: On a point of clarification: I was wondering, was Mr O'Connor indicating that he was undertaking on behalf of the government to produce that report to this committee?

The Chair: I'm not sure. It's a question that you may wish to determine. Mr O'Connor, do you want to --

Mr O'Connor: For clarification, I said that the deputy minister's committee and the minister's policy committee are taking a look at a report that will be coming out in June and they will be taking a look at this entire issue, because of course it is an issue that all members of the Legislature find very important. As I said, should this committee feel that that report would be useful to the committee, then the committee is open, of course, to request that, and I'm sure the ministry would be willing to make the report available to the committee.

An important thing, I guess, that really stems from this is the fact that in the motion it says "but not be limited to." So it's not a very direct motion, really. It's pretty broad-speaking.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr O'Connor. I do have other members wishing to speak, but, Mrs Marland, do you have a point of clarification?

Mrs Marland: No, I just want to get on the speaking rotation, please.

The Chair: Okay. I have Dr Frankford next then.

Mr Frankford: I concur with my colleagues who are pointing out that this committee is still doing a lot of work on a number of things to improve the whole system.

Perhaps I can point out to the new member across the floor, who I don't think was at some meetings before, that there's a significant problem of underpayment in this. I think it's been in the general press; it certainly is very much in the medical press, the problems of slowness of payment in relation to the version number question.

I think maybe this will be something which could come out in a report, but I think this is opening up a huge area which I don't think the auditor should be looking at at this time but we should be looking at, and working on ways of streamlining the whole process, which I think --

Mr O'Connor: Imagine how much money and time we've spent on a week of committee hearings already.

Mr Frankford: If this doesn't happen, then there are going to be problems around making the system work that open up the possibility even of direct billing to patients if the problem of invalid cards becomes overwhelming, which I believe is becoming quite a significant problem to practitioners.

The Chair: I have Mr Farnan next, and then Mr Murphy.

Mr Farnan: I think when you look at the big picture and you look at the Ministry of Health, certainly in the life of this administration the outstanding record of achievement that this ministry has had in pursuing cost-effective measures and maintaining standards of service --

Mr Murphy: Elinor was a great minister, wasn't she?

Mr Farnan: -- I do believe that the government can be truly proud of its accomplishments.

My colleague Mr Murphy refers to a colleague of his in the previous Liberal administration as being a great minister, and I have great respect for Ms Caplan. However, I have to preface that or qualify that with the point that during the previous 10 years, health costs in Ontario spiralled at an outrageous 10% increase per annum over a period of 10 years, and this is through Conservative and Liberal administrations. Now they were different times. There was lots of money around, and unfortunately there wasn't the necessity for cost-effectiveness to be such a high priority. I think everybody in the House realizes that cost-effectiveness is important.

So we're talking about a ministry that has, in the past year, held costs down in the health field to 1%. You compare that with what happened over the previous 10 years of 10% and 10%, and now here's a ministry that's oriented in a very cost-effective manner. So certainly we must always be concerned about efficiencies that can be gained, and there is no doubt -- I can give the committee members the assurance, and I believe the parliamentary assistant to the minister has already done so -- that wherever cost-effective measures can be made, at the same time watching the levels of service etc that have to be maintained, we want to be at the forefront of that kind of positive, constructive approach to government.

So we have a situation where the branch in question, the registration program branch, has been in existence one year this month, long enough to have identified the problem but not long enough to have fixed it. So what has happened is, this ministry, which has a tremendous reputation for cost-effectiveness, is vigorously approaching this issue. They've set up the machinery by which the issue can be resolved, and before we give them a chance to come to grips with the problem, we're talking about another audit. We haven't given them the kind of time I believe -- because they have proven, indeed, their serious intent.

So another audit so close on the heels of the last I believe would be disruptive and would take energies away from the task that needs to be done. This ministry recognizes the problem, set the machinery up to address the problem, and we're saying, "Hey, we want to get into there again." Now, I think we should go in there again; absolutely I think we should go in there again. But I think, in all fairness, we should say, "Hey, we've identified the issue; the ministry has already identified the issue, already set up the machinery, is already working on it, has a proven track record of cost-effectiveness," and I think we should say, "Keep up the good work, Ministry of Health, on turning this around" --

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): Gold star or silver star?

Mr Farnan: -- because indeed this is one of the great success stories of this government, the fact that previous administrations have had 10% per annum and the Ministry of Health has successfully reduced it to 1% per annum.

I would say that as a committee the members of the government share --


Mr Farnan: Excuse me. I can accept heckling from the opposition members, but I'd prefer if my own colleagues would listen.


The Chair: Order, please. Mr Farnan has the floor.

Mr Farnan: We agree with the opposition that this is important, that it needs to be addressed and monitored, but I think, knowing the fair-mindedness of the opposition members, you don't put unreasonable demands in terms of putting one audit on top of another when we know that the ministry intent is clear, that the machinery is in place. I think that at a judicial point of time, we can say, "Yes, we want another report back or we want another audit," but right now I think the reality of the matter is, let's just say to the Ministry of Health: "Well done. What a great job you're doing. Keep up the good work."

Mr Callahan: They're applauding outside.

Mr Farnan: Let's continue to ask the ministry to be cost-effective. That's basically my point.

The Chair: I'm sorry. I must apologize to Mrs Marland, because she should have been next, but I'm going to turn --

Mr Farnan: Do I get my turn after Mrs Marland?

The Chair: No, Mrs Marland and then Mr Murphy and then I have Mr Callahan.

Mrs Marland: You know, it's a very --

The Chair: I just want to point out before you start that we have a short period of time left, so I'm going to allow those speakers and then I think we'll deal with this matter.

Mr Callahan: They were applauding that decision too, Mr Chair.

Mrs Marland: It's really interesting to listen to Mr Farnan for five minutes, because it reminds me of a captain of a Cunard liner who just takes over the ship, finds that there are rats in the hold of the ship and defends that. The thing is that as a new government you have a wonderful opportunity, but I also want to tell you that you had been the government a year and a half when this auditor's report came out, and in this auditor's report it is identified that the province potentially could cost the province $1 million because --


Mrs Marland: Larry, if you want to listen, in fairness I think --

Mr O'Connor: I was just --

Mrs Marland: I just want to read you this paragraph on the subject of the number of registrants in terms of the provincial health care system:

"The ministry therefore could not explain the difference of as many as 300,000 people. Every 700 cards issued to ineligible or non-qualified persons could potentially cost the province $1 million a year, based on average annual claims of $1,400."

Mike, in fairness, I really did listen to you, because what I want to know is this: If you're saying that your Ministry of Health is investigating this as a result of the auditor's report of 1992, and that you want us to wait for that report and the report is going to be out in June, I will sit here today on May 13 and tell you that I will wait for that report till June, but I will only wait if we can agree to table this motion this morning, because if you aren't willing to table this motion based on the fact that you have a report coming, then what that would say to me is that the report that's coming isn't going to address the motion.

But I am willing to say to you, okay, if you can assure us that the ministry is looking at the problem that is addressed in the motion, which is the unauthorized use of health registry cards, sure, I'll wait another month for that report, but I will do it on the condition that this motion is tabled. I say simply to you that if you're not willing to go that route, I will start standing on the public platform, saying, This province, this provincial government which wants to cut back jobs is not willing to have the Provincial Auditor try to solve the problem of potentially a $1-million loss with the misuse of these cards." It's as simple as that. It's very straightforward.

I think if you're going to defend one thing, you've got to be willing to say what is going on in your house, and if your house is an interministerial report or a ministry investigation within the Ministry of Health alone and you're willing to make that public when it's due, as Larry said, in June, that's fine with me. But I need to know that, and maybe Mr Murphy, as the mover of this motion, might be willing to table it until we get the report from the Ministry of Health in June. But we're not going to play with this all year and we're not going to see people lose jobs in this province while $1 million is being lost where it need not be lost.

The Chair: Mr Murphy.

Mr Murphy: I'm going to change the order, if I may, Mr Chairman, and let Mr Callahan speak first.

The Chair: Okay. Mr Callahan.

Mr Callahan: I guess one of the hallmarks of this committee is that it attempts to be as non-partisan as it can be. I think that this matter, this motion and the reason I put it forward was that it's necessary, and I'll give you just one example; I think there are lots of them. You may recall, and I'm not sure, Mr Farnan, whether you were here when we had the Deputy Minister of Health, now the social contract putter-together, here before us. He showed us a form that you could fill out in order to get a card, and my recollection of it was that the form allowed you to be described in eight different ways. For instance, Mike Farnan could be M. Farnan, could be -- is your middle name Patrick?

Mr Farnan: Liam.

Mr Callahan: Liam. All right, it could be Liam Farnan, it could be L. Farnan, it could be M. Farnan; there were eight ways you could be described. I suggested to the deputy minister that recognizing the fact that there are those cards out there, and recognizing that they're fraught with the possibility of fraud, of people getting more than one card and using these cards for whatever purpose, cross-border -- call it cross-border health care, out-of-country health care, anything you want to call it.

I suggested that by giving somebody eight ways to describe himself, you give him the potential of getting eight separate cards. So I suggested to the deputy minister that they have only one possibility, and that would be referable to the document that was presented as proof of who they were.

Interestingly enough, the next day the deputy minister came back and said, "We have decided to do that." I think it's admirable of the ministry to do that, but I have to say that's one example of what may be turned up by a further audit by the auditor. How many more interesting little scenarios are out there? It's not an indictment of your government, it's not an indictment of our government, it's not an indictment of the Conservative government; it's an indictment of how the process takes place and how effective it is to reach the goal that I think all of us as legislators and guardians of the public trust and guardians of the public treasury should be concerned about. How many other instances of that exist within the framework of this whole card system? That was the reason for the motion.

Mr Farnan, you waxed eloquent in your finest Irish. I sat here just in the brief part I heard of it and was mesmerized by your Irish, but in fact what came through loud and clear to me was that, you know, we don't want to have another luck -- and I think that will be borne out --

Mr Farnan: Tsk, tsk, how unfair.

Mr Callahan: No, just a second. That will be borne out by the way your caucus votes on this. If your caucus votes to defeat this motion, then I regret to say that I can draw no other conclusion from that vote than that you want to cover it up, and I don't like to say that because, as I started out by saying, this is a committee that I at least believe is as relatively non-partisan as may be, because we have a responsibility different than any other legislative committee in this House.

Mrs Marland: Then you shouldn't refer to his Irish the way you did, Bob, really.

Mr Callahan: I shouldn't what?

Mrs Marland: You shouldn't have referred to Mike's Irish the way you did if you want to be non-partisan.


Mr Callahan: Oh, I see. All right. But I believe that the job of this committee, unlike any other committee -- all the rest of the committees, unfortunately, are partisan. That's because of the stilted position we have in terms of Parliament, which Mr Drainville has spoken about ad nauseam and I have in terms of what these committees should be empowered to do.

But I would think that this committee here, of all of them -- we should be able to walk away from this committee at the end of each hearing and say, "We've done something to protect the public purse," particularly in times when we have such a deficit outstanding, and again that's not an indictment of your government. This deficit has not accrued overnight; it has accrued through a number of administrations.

But, as I say, if your vote is against this, then I regret to say that the only conclusion I can draw is that this committee no longer is non-partisan, that your government caucus is not interested in looking after the financial wellbeing of this province, even though they're going to tax the living daylights out of them in the next budget, which is coming down shortly. I have to draw that conclusion and I will in fact send out copies of this Hansard to every person I can find to demonstrate that, because I believe that this committee should not be that way.

However, if you are prepared -- Mr Farnan makes the case, and I suppose he's got his hand up again and is going to make the case again that we should defer this because we don't want to interrupt the Ministry of Health at this early stage with the audit having just been done -- what, a year ago, I guess, or whatever the date, a year ago. They've had a year. I guess we should give them a little more.

If Mr Farnan truly means that, then at the very least, if Mr Murphy sees fit or -- I guess he moved it -- sees fit to table this motion, then I would hope that the government caucus would support that. But I would suggest that it be tabled not without a date or sine die but that it be tabled with a fixed date, and I think Mr Farnan -- somebody help me out. When did Mr Farnan say that this review or this report would be coming out from the Ministry of Health?

Mr O'Connor: Some time in June. I don't have the direct date.

Mr Callahan: Okay, perhaps we should table this for the last public accounts, and if that's going to be the resolution of this, if in fact I'm reading your faces right that you're going to vote it down if we try to move it now -- but I have great faith. I think you people are non-partisan and you will support a tabling of this motion to a fixed date which would be in fact the final Thursday. What's the date in June? We can have a great opportunity on that date to discover, to give the auditor the summer over which he can look into anything that perhaps is untoward.

I happen to believe that deferring it is not the appropriate thing to do, because I think in light of the example I've given about the application forms there may be hundreds of worms under the rock, mistakes that have been made, not intentionally, by civil servants, but perhaps in their desire to satisfy their masters and to get things done quickly, they may have done it too fast.

I think that's the reason the auditor is here, to give us the opportunity to be able to determine what are those and can we solve them and can the Mr Decters of the day -- who is a very reasonable man in saying, "Yes, we agree with you that is something we should do." Perhaps if we had Mr Decter back after we get the auditor's further report, we may have several others we'd say to Mr Decter, "Well, Mr Decter, you know, this, this and this should be tightened up." He may go back. He seems like a flexible guy and he may go back and say, "Yes, that's right."

Who are the winners in all of this? It's not the NDP, it's not the Liberals, it's not the Conservatives. The winners are the people who pay the tab, pay your salary and my salary, and pay the brunt of the taxes of this province. It's the companies who pay the health care tax to ensure that it's properly managed and that we come out of it even better.

So I urge you to do one of two things: Either give me some idea now as to whether or not you'd pass the motion -- that would be my first wish. Could I canvass the members opposite?

The Chair: Perhaps I can help, Mr Callahan. In the interests of saving some time, I would point out that we're quickly running out of time. We can continue this discussion, if members so choose --

Mr Callahan: Can we do a straw vote?

The Chair: -- but is there an agreement to defer this motion to -- June 24 is the last date that we could meet. Mr Farnan.

Mr Farnan: I think we -- you know, Mr Callahan has run out the clock.

The Chair: We have a few minutes left.

Mr Farnan: Basically this committee was late in starting, and I think if we're serious about our duties we'll get the business started at 10 o'clock. We lost 20 minutes at the beginning. We all have responsibilities to go to now. I certainly have responsibilities that I have to go to immediately. So I am going to move deferral of this issue to the next meeting of this committee, which is next week, and we can pick up where we left off at that stage. I'd ask for a vote on the deferral.

The Chair: Mr Farnan moves that the motion be deferred again to next week's meeting. Is there agreement on that?

Mrs Marland: That's fine.

Mr Callahan: Let's have a debate about this.

The Chair: It's not debatable. If there's consensus, we'll see to that then.

Mr Farnan: I'd move adjournment of the deliberations of this morning.

The Chair: Agreement to adjourn?

The committee adjourned at 1156.