Thursday 20 May 1993

Subcommittee report

Committee budgets

Annual report, Provincial Auditor, 1992: Ministry of Health

Accounting principles

Interim statements


*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

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls ND) for Mr Farnan

Marchese, Rosario (Fort York ND) for Mr Perruzza

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffiére: Manikel, Tannis

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

The committee met at 1009 in room 151.


The Vice-Chair (Ms Dianne Poole): Good morning. I see a quorum, so I would like to begin this session of the standing committee on public accounts. We have a number of things on our agenda this morning; we'll start with the report of the subcommittee.

The subcommittee met on Thursday, May 13, and your subcommittee discussed the committee's budget.

"It was agreed that the subcommittee adopts the budget in the amount of $103,537 and recommends it to the committee.

"Your subcommittee discussed the budget for the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees conference of legislative auditors. It was agreed that the subcommittee adopts the conference budget in the amount of $30,000 and recommends it to the committee.

"Your subcommittee discussed the committee's agenda."

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Madam Chair, I would move that we accept the report as circulated in the printed form, to save you reading it.

The Vice-Chair: Certainly I'm prepared, as long as it will form part of the official Hansard. Is there any discussion on the subcommittee's items? Could I therefore have a motion that --

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I don't think we need one if we have unanimous consent, do we? Do we need a motion?

Mrs Marland: Yes.

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Tannis Manikel): I think Mrs Marland moved adoption.

The Vice-Chair: Oh, did you move adoption? I'm sorry, Mrs Marland. All in favour? Any opposed? Carried. The report of the subcommittee is adopted.


The Vice-Chair: The next item on the agenda is consideration of the committee's budget and conference budget. The report of the subcommittee was adopted, which did recommend two budgetary items. All members of the committee have a copy of the two budgets in question. Are there any questions on the budgets?

Mrs Marland: I think, Madam Chair, we should put on the record that we're not approving a conference budget for this committee, in case the taxpayers are concerned that that might be what we're doing. We're simply moving the necessary budget for the committee's operation, and the conference budget is a national conference that it is the province of Ontario's turn to host in Toronto. So we're not going off on a conference at the expense of the taxpayers. I think it's important for us to let the public know that's what we're approving this morning.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for pointing that out, Mrs Marland. It is quite correct that the conference budget is for a national public accounts legislative auditors' conference, and that money will be used to ensure that the members attending the conference from across Canada are able to share information which will be valuable to the functioning of public accounts.

Are there any other comments or questions on the two budgets in question?

The clerk has advised that we do have to have an official motion to adopt the two budgets, even though we did adopt the report of the subcommittee. Might I have a motion to adopt the two budgets?

Mr Callahan: Just before we adopt it, I chaired the standing committee on regulations and private bills for a number of years, and I have to commend the subcommittee on the budget. I always thought regulations and private bills had the lowest budget of all. I think you people have done a good job in terms of putting this together and I commend you for it. I move adoption of the budget.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Mr Callahan. Mr Callahan moves that the committee budget be adopted as well as the conference budget. All in favour? Any opposed?

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): Madam Chair, I was just wondering if perhaps the subcommittee that has been working on the conference might want to, at this point, give us an update on how things have been going, or maybe the clerk would have the information on how it's been proceeding. I know we haven't had an update in a while: how many people are registered and maybe just a bit of an update on the conference.

The Vice-Chair: I would ask our clerk to provide us with up-to-date details of where we are in the conference planning.

Clerk of the Committee: I'm just trying to find my report for the subcommittee. Basically, and it might be easier if I made additional copies of this, I've gone through the business agenda and highlighted possible speakers. With the approval of the subcommittee, I was going to start contacting them.

As to people indicating that they will be attending, the deadline for that is next Friday, a week tomorrow. So far it's been very slow. I've talked to a few people and I will be contacting all the provinces.

There are a few things: I believe it's New Brunswick that's having its election next week, so I won't have any response from them for a while. Alberta has just called its elections, so again, they've indicated that they're hoping to send someone, but at this point they can't give me numbers or anything. I believe at this point the only confirmed registrations we have are from the Northwest Territories.

Mark Hill, whom you may have met at other conferences, who works with the Auditor General's office and attends this conference as an observer, has sent in his registration form. I was in Ottawa yesterday for another meeting and I did talk to some people there and was told that they would be sending us their registrations. They were busy preparing their sections of the agenda and would have something from a continuation of last year's conference.

Are there any other details, any specifics that you'd like to get into?

Mr O'Connor: I think that's given me a bit of an update.

Mr Callahan: I just want to inquire. Recognizing that there are elections going on in other provinces and recognizing that there are also constraints on other provinces, is there a point at which -- I'm not talking about the auditors' conference, because obviously they will have their people there from the various provinces, but it may be that elected representatives of public accounts committees may decide, either on their own or with their arms twisted by their various premiers, that they should not use the cost of attending at Toronto for this conference.

What I want to know is, I'd hate for us to go out and get all involved in this, spend a lot of time and perhaps commit a lot of dollars if in fact the net result is going to be -- I don't mean this in a demeaning way -- that we could hold it in a telephone booth. Is there a thought that if the deadline by which a response has to be given and if the response doesn't demonstrate a large commitment, that we have a way of turning off the tap, as it were?

Clerk of the Committee: I guess all I can tell you is that the subcommittee has thought about this, exactly what you're saying: What do we do if nobody appears to be attending? What the subcommittee has decided to do is wait until the next subcommittee meeting on June 3, and at that point we should have enough information in to say whether or not there will be enough delegates to continue with the conference and to make a determination at that time. Also, as you say, there may be some idea that if the numbers are much lower than we anticipated, we would look at other facilities or maybe revise what we're doing.

Mr Callahan: So we do have enough time to perhaps get out of those commitments, rearrange them, or at the worst scenario, terminate them. We could do it.

Clerk of the Committee: As far as the hotel goes, there may be some cost there. I would have to look into it at the time. Again, their deadline is a year to eight months ahead of time that you could cancel without any penalty.

Mr Callahan: A year and eight months?

Clerk of the Committee: Eight months to a year.

Mr Callahan: The governor would have to call to save us from that execution, I guess.

The Vice-Chair: It is interesting to point out that some of the provinces have had difficulties with financial restraints. One of the provinces in fact said that there would be no money for its political representatives to come to the public accounts committee. I believe it was Manitoba. In fact, the two representatives from Manitoba are coming on their own money, because they are so committed to the idea of coming to this conference and sharing information. Certainly that attitude is really to be commended. It may be much more difficult if you're coming from BC or Newfoundland, with the incurring of transportation costs.

Mr Callahan: I notice the Northwest Territories is coming, and that's well beyond BC.

I wonder if I might ask another question. I notice that the professional accounting side of this is being held in Ottawa in November. Is that right?

Clerk of the Committee: There's another conference, the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation.

Mr Callahan: They're holding theirs in November. It would be my humble submission that if it looks like we're going to be lacking in participants because of the constraints -- I guess the question I'm asking is whether there is some way we could join forces with that conference in November, even though recognizing that it's our turn to host it here in Toronto, in order to ensure that it came off. I think it's important that we do have it come off; perhaps that's a consideration. I don't know whether the subcommittee looked at that or not, or whether it's possible.


Clerk of the Committee: The only comment I could make is that the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation is totally separate from public accounts committees. Ontario, Ottawa, a few jurisdictions -- and BC -- have sent some people to that conference as well, but not all jurisdictions send delegates to that conference.

Mr Callahan: Have they not been held together at one point? I remember going to Alberta and I think they were held together at the same time.

Clerk of the Committee: No, I believe you're thinking -- in Alberta, if I remember correctly, when I went to the public accounts conference, that has traditionally been held in conjunction with the auditors. The last time I went to Alberta with this CCPAC conference, the Canadian Parliamentary Association conference was held in Alberta the following week, and it was sort of piggybacked there.

Mr Callahan: Just one final question: Are there any other committees that have planned some type of function for professional purposes in Toronto around that time so that we could maybe join with them, or maybe if we had to release our hotel rooms, they could take advantage of that?

Clerk of the Committee: None that I'm aware of.

Mr Callahan: Okay, fine.

The Vice-Chair: If there's no other discussion on the conference budget, then we'll take the vote. All those in favour of approving the two budgets?

Mrs Marland: We did vote on this.

The Vice-Chair: We did vote. I'm sorry. That's right; we're having the discussion after the fact.

Mr Callahan: They have short attention spans.


The Vice-Chair: The next item on the agenda is Mr Murphy's motion. Mr Murphy is in London, Ontario, this morning and has asked that Mr Callahan make the motion on his behalf.

Just for information of the committee members, the steering committee agreed that debate on this motion will be limited to 15 minutes, should there be any debate, and it will be equally divided among the three parties.

Mr Callahan: That sounds like time allocation to me. That's not time allocation, is it?

Mrs Marland: We spent an hour on it last week.

Mr Callahan: Okay. Thanks, Margaret.

Mr Murphy moves my motion, actually:

"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 Vice-Chair: Actually, Mr Callahan, you did point out quite validly that this was the motion you originally introduced. If you would like to speak on behalf of the Liberal caucus, you have up to five minutes.

Mr Callahan: Let me first say that the auditor brought to my attention a document that's just recently been released -- it's public -- dated March 1993, which is Registration Analysis Project. He's drawn to my attention the fact that there are numerous of the problems that were identified in the auditor's report that have some suggestion of how they might be dealt with.

Although I've not had a chance to look at it, I'm inclined to think that it might be premature to press this motion. I wasn't aware of this report last week at this time, and rather, to give the people who have put together these recommendations an opportunity to --

Interjection: That's confidential.

Mr Callahan: Oh, I'm sorry. I see up on the top something I shouldn't have spoken of.

Mr Erik Peters: I apologize.

Mr Callahan: In any event, perhaps we should be in camera for that. Can I retroactively say to Hansard that those comments were in camera, Madam Chair or Madam Clerk? I've never run into this before. I think perhaps we should instruct Hansard that this -- is this being televised as well?

The Vice-Chair: This is being televised, Mr Callahan.

Mr Callahan: Oh well. I have to explain to the public out there. I didn't see a certain item on the --

In any event, moving right along, I think there may be some reason to perhaps allow some time. I think I'd want that on the undertaking that we would get some of this information I'm referring to, that each member would have it, because I think it's important that we have it so that we know where we're going and what we might instruct the auditor to do afterwards.

Finally, I would like to say that I felt this motion was essential because, as I said on the last occasion, nobody has the totality of truth. I remember when the Deputy Minister of Health was here, Mr Decter, who is now engaged in other activities. I mentioned to him the fact that you could, on an application form, list yourself eight different ways. For instance, if I wanted to sign up for a health card, I could sign it as R. Callahan, B. Callahan -- my middle initial is V -- V. Callahan.

Mrs Marland: We went through all this last week.

Mr Callahan: I appreciate that, Mrs Marland. I have the floor and an opportunity, I think, to let the --

Interjection: He's in camera.

Mr Callahan: No, I'm letting the public know what my views on it are, and I think they're important.

Mr O'Connor: I'm sure they would have seen the deputy here.

Mr Callahan: Yes, that's right. They would have seen the deputy here. All I'm saying is that was an opportunity for us to say to the deputy: "Here you have a problem with health cards. You've got 25 million out there for 9 million Ontarians. Because of the fact that you've got them out there, why would we not tighten up the process to prevent further fraud from taking place?"

We've had indications from people who've come before us to the effect that these cards have in fact been fraudulently used. They're used for all sorts of purposes. I called it cross-border medical care: People coming from the United States and other countries dropping in for medical services and getting the services for free at the expense of the taxpayers of this province. I think that's wrong. I think we all think that's wrong.

But just to go to what happened, we suggested to Mr Decter that there shouldn't be eight ways to describe yourself. If you produce a document such as a birth certificate or a passport or some other documentation that's official, that should be the name that appears on the card. To his credit, the next day he came back, I believe, in these hearings and said: "I agree with you. We're going to do that."

I'm not trying to put forward any accolades for myself in having suggested that to him, but I think that's the type of help we can give to our civil service and to the people in government as to how they might possibly tighten up this whole process to ensure that, with the limited funds we have in our health care system, we can properly provide and continue to provide -- not to use a pun -- a heathy health system for all citizens of Ontario.

Even though I'm perhaps speaking at it both ways, I'm saying I think we should defer it, because of comments I made earlier, to allow time to deal with that. I think it's pointless to send the auditor in to audit something that's not going to give us any further information.

I do want to say, and this is a bit off the motion, that there were suggestions that we have people come before us -- and I hope they're going to come before us -- from the banking industry who will tell us how you can enlarge on these cards, because although I haven't read through this material, I don't think it talks about the smart card, where you can put everything on the card. I think it's important that we have that type of people come before us either now or during the intersession.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan, I believe you had suggested a deferment or to table this particular motion.

Mr Callahan: Yes. I'd like to table it, though, to a definite date, and I said that on the last occasion. The government members wanted to table it. I can't remember who it was; I think it was Mr Hayes. I want to table it to a definitive date and I would suggest that that date should be our first public accounts meeting after the House returns for the fall session. Would that be enough time, do you think, Mr Auditor?

Mr Peters: I'm wondering if you could delay it just slightly. The ministry itself is really under quite a bit of pressure at the moment largely with, also, Mr Decter gone. If November would be acceptable to you --

Mr Callahan: I'm easy, but I'd like it tabled and adjourned to a definite date rather than just left out there in the ocean. So perhaps the first meeting in November that the public accounts committee is reconvened. I pass on to my good friend Margaret Marland for her comments.


The Vice-Chair: Mr Callahan has suggested tabling his motion until the first meeting of the public accounts committee in November. Mrs Marland, would you have a comment?

Mrs Marland: I do agree with tabling this motion, but where we were leading to in our discussion last week -- Rosario, were you here last week? I know Larry was. What came up last week, Madam Chair, and you will recall this, was that the ministry is in the process of developing its own report following its own investigation on this matter of health cards.

I think what Mr O'Connor told us last week was that the ministry report should be ready some time in June, next month. We also have scheduled at least two deputations coming back to our meetings in June to talk about different alternatives as they pertain to health cards.

I don't know that we need to table the motion as far off as December. I think we could deal with the motion, say, at the end of June, the last meeting of this committee before the House recesses at the end of June, recognizing that by then we should have some report from the ministry, if only an interim report.

I would rather that we table it, Mr Callahan, until that meeting in June when we have the ministry report and we've had the two deputations on other alternatives to health cards; at least that it comes back and we look at it then based on the ministry information. It may be that what the ministry tells us will indicate that we should table this motion till November, but I don't want to table it from now till November. Let's get the report from the ministry, which it's working on now, and then make the decision by the end of June.

Mr Callahan: I'd be content with that. What, the last meeting in June?

Mrs Marland: Yes. That gives the ministry time to report to us.

The Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): Mr Frankford, Mr Marchese and then Mr O'Connor.

Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I'm perfectly happy to see this tabled. I just wonder whether we should go ahead with the planned deputations from the Royal Bank, and I'm not sure who else, because I'm really not sure if they're going to have answers to problems. I think what they're going to offer is going to be rather limited.

If we are going to hear more people from outside to talk about it, I would suggest that we get the OMA and/or other provider organizations. I believe we've really overlooked another very important aspect of health cards, which is lack of payment, underpayment, blocked payment because of the version code thing. From reading the medical press and discussion with my colleagues, this is a very major problem which I'm sure my physician colleagues would be very happy to make some presentations about. I think perhaps we should scrap the whole idea of any deputations until we've received the report which is being discussed.

The Chair: Mr Marchese or Mr O'Connor, whichever one was first; you decide.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have no problems with the deferral motion because I think it's correct, given that the ministry's dealing with it. I thought there might have been some information that would be available by the end of June, but I'm not certain. So it's not a matter of wanting to be contrary to it. But, given the kind of difficulties they're having in the ministry in terms of other matters they're dealing with, and that we may not have the kind of full report you're asking for, even though you're asking for a progress report of some kind, then it might --

Mrs Marland: Even an interim report from the ministry would be helpful.

Mr Marchese: Yes. You see, I'm not certain whether or not we might get the kind of information you're asking for, and that's why I thought that November, given the kind of workload they have, might be the more appropriate time. But we didn't want to appear as if somehow we are not in agreement with that, because I wouldn't mind a progress report, but I'm not sure what kind of information we're going to get in June and therefore I would think that November might be the more appropriate month.

The Chair: Mrs Marland, do you want a point of clarification on this?

Mrs Marland: Mr Chair, I'm very concerned. I mean, the subject we're dealing with here is the misuse and the abuse of health cards. I'm not willing to postpone it another six months, from May till November, before this committee discusses this again. Dr Frankford's suggestion that we bring in the OMA and the users, namely the medical profession and so forth, is another issue apart, I think. I don't want to broaden the scope of this investigation, because we can't even get a handle on the scope that we're trying to deal with now.

It's unfortunate that Mr Duignan isn't here, because he has mentioned a firm in Mississauga, with which I'm not familiar, actually, and the Royal Bank alternative. I thought we had these people scheduled to come in in June to talk about some alternatives to the health card as we know it today. But I don't think that this committee should sit back on its heels for another six months and say, "We'll look at this issue in November."

The only reason that I agreed to tabling Mr Murphy's, formerly Mr Callahan's, motion last week was because Mr O'Connor said the ministry was preparing a report that should be ready some time in June. I'm willing to deal with that report when it comes at the last meeting of June, and if they don't have a report, then they can come in and say they don't have a report. I think the motion should be to defer this motion to the last meeting in June. We will have heard from some people with some other ideas on the subject of health cards, you can come in and tell us what the ministry's up to at that point and let's just talk about it then.

The Chair: Mr Marchese, you had the floor. This was not a point of clarification.

Mr Marchese: The intent was not to be contrary, because I too would like to hear what the ministry's doing. So if we defer to the end of June, ask for an interim report because we expect that they're working on it and need more time, then we're asking for a progress report on that matter with the full knowledge that we'll get a fuller report some time in November. That would be fine with me.

Mrs Marland: Some time later.

Mr Marchese: Some time later -- November.

Mr O'Connor: In a manner of trying to be fair to the hardworking people within the Ministry of Health, this is something that this committee is very concerned about indeed. We have had top bureaucrats within the OHIP system here, as well as the deputy minister, to discuss this in great detail. The committee does have a lot of concerns about it. The committee is dealing with it. There's going to be a report within the ministry within June. I don't think there would be a problem in having some sort of information package being shared by the ministry, but I don't think that for us to go into any great detail and to start up the entire process that we just finished a couple of months ago would be a wise use of this committee's time.

I was pleased by Mr Callahan's move to recognize the hard work being done within the Ministry of Health and put it off until the fall. I appreciated that. I'm sure that the hardworking people within the Ministry of Health appreciated that, on the recommendation by the Provincial Auditor.


Should this committee decide that we're going to deal with this in June, I think it's going to be placing far too great a workload on the ministry to come up with any definitive answers. There's been a lot of work that has gone into it and there will continue to be a lot of work going into it. I think if the committee was to request an information note or something to explain some of the progress, that wouldn't be a problem. To go into it in any great detail I think would be a waste of the committee's time, given the time frames that have been expressed.

What I would suggest is, it is always in order for any member to bring a motion to this committee. That being the case, then what I'm going to do myself is vote against the motion, and it's always an option to committee members to bring forward another motion at a future date so that we can deal with it at another time. I think we've spent a great deal of time on this motion. It's something that we all take very seriously and is of great concern, and I would recommend voting against it.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We had an agreement to allow for 15 minutes of debate on this matter. I do not hear that there is a consensus from committee members. There was some suggestion that the motion be deferred. There's not agreement on that, I take it, Mr O'Connor.

We therefore have to deal with the motion that's before us today. I need further clarification as to whether we're going to have someone move this motion for consideration today and, if not, we can have a motion on whether or not to defer and you can deal with that, which is what is really before us today.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I had thought for a while there was going to be consensus on deferring the motion because there have been concerns raised as to what the ministry is doing in the meantime, and there's no point in proceeding until we know what is happening in that regard. But if we are going to proceed with a direct vote, I'm afraid I'll have to call for a 20-minute recess, which I'm reluctant to do, because Mr Callahan has just had to go over to the finance committee, so we would need time to get our members. I wonder if there is any alternative.

The Chair: We had a motion before us for consideration today, and no one moved the motion to be deferred. We could deal with the motion as is, or, since there is no consensus on deferral, what you're telling me is you'd like to deal with the motion as is presented to us today.

Ms Poole: No. In fact, Mr Callahan had very clearly stated that he intended to have a deferral on this particular motion.

The Chair: Then I need someone to move that deferral.

Ms Poole: I would move that this motion be deferred and be tabled until the last meeting of the public accounts committee in June, which I think was --

The Chair: Would you like to clarify that, Ms Poole, as a deferral, that consideration be deferred?

Ms Poole: Yes, that consideration be deferred until the last meeting of public accounts in June.

Mrs Marland: I support that. I really thought that's what we had a consensus on last week.

The Chair: Okay. Ms Poole moves the motion as read. Shall we read it again?


The Chair: Order, please. We're just trying to get the motion straight. I'm going to ask the clerk to read that motion again as it was read into the record by Ms Poole.

Clerk of the Committee: What I've written down is: Ms Poole moves that consideration of this motion be deferred until the committee's last meeting in June.

The Chair: Okay. That's the motion before us on the floor.

Mrs Marland: I have a question on that. My question is, if the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health wants this motion defeated, then I guess I have to ask, through the Chair to that member, if you don't want to discuss this again at the end of June, even though last week you said -- unfortunately we don't have the Hansard -- but last week I felt, Larry, that you were quite positive about being willing to look at what the ministry was doing at the end of June, if you're going to come in and say no, now, to discussing this at the last meeting in June, I'm wondering why we're going to bother having deputations come in and look at health card alternatives. I mean, I just don't know where we're going now.

The Chair: Any further debate on this motion? Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor: As has been stated here earlier this morning by Mr Callahan, following his conversation with the Provincial Auditor, he's pointed out, quite rightly, that there's an awful lot of work being done right now by the Ministry of Health around the whole billing process, a lot of work that the auditor, I feel, and maybe we should ask the auditor to clarify -- that is being worked upon by the Ministry of Health. For us to spend a lot of time with it, I don't think that, given the way process is within government, we're going to have the complete answers.

I don't see there being any problem as to this committee asking for some sort of a submission from the ministry as to where they are going with it, but to spend a great deal of time on it I don't think is a good use of this committee's time.

So what Mr Callahan had suggested, that we deal with this in the fall, seemed to me a very reasonable approach to this. Of course, every member of this committee knows that we can bring in a motion at any period of time to take a look at anything, and we can look at this in the fall, as was suggested by Mr Callahan.

I think that for us to spend a great deal of time on it now and to not be able to have answers -- I think there are a lot of different issues that the committee has raised that we can be looking into in the meantime, and I think that it would be a good use of this committee's time to look at other issues. We've spent a week on this issue with the top people from the OHIP system here, the deputy minister. A lot of concerns were raised, and in fact, as Mr Callahan pointed out this morning, his concern over the names on the OHIP cards, and the deputy minister did say that there are some difficulties and they would be looked into. I think that to allow the ministry to take a look at this and come in with corrective action is what the Provincial Auditor wants as well.

The Chair: I'm going to go in rotation. I'll turn the floor over to Ms Poole.

Ms Poole: The problem I have with Mr O'Connor's comments is that in public accounts we're always going to be in situations where the ministry is conducting an internal review. That has always been the case, and it's the case now. If we didn't look into the Ministry of Housing because they're conducting an internal review or the Ministry of Health because they're conducting an internal review, or any other ministry, then I don't think we're doing our job as the public accounts committee.

Mr Callahan, I think, is very sensitive to the fact that the ministry is doing ongoing work. He in fact brought that up as a point this morning. It's not a matter of interfering; it's a matter that our work should continue at the same time. I don't think anybody was expressing the opinion that it had to be a lengthy debate or period of time, but surely this committee would be entitled to do an update at the end of June to see what our expert witnesses had said and to perhaps offer some guidance and direction to the ministry at that time. It might very well be that with what the ministry is doing, there is deemed to be no necessity of pursuing it, but to arbitrarily cut it off at the knees and say, "Well, we're not going to discuss it because the ministry has this well in hand," I'm not sure I would agree with. I know the ministry is reviewing it, but they're hardly an objective body on this, and that's the job of public accounts, to provide that objective analysis.

The Chair: Further debate? Mrs Marland.

Mrs Marland: Ms Poole has just said it beautifully. She said exactly what I would say, so I'm not going to repeat any of that. Every single thing she said is the point of why we're here and what we're dealing with. I think it's disappointing that I don't have last week's Hansard in front of me, because last week Mr O'Connor was very open and, interestingly enough, I didn't realize last week that you were parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, but now I almost get the feeling that you've gone away and had your little ears tweaked and you've come back with your marching orders from the minister's office, which I think is unfortunate.

Mr O'Connor: Ask the auditor.

Mrs Marland: If what you're suggesting now, as Ms Poole said very well, is, "If the ministry's doing it, leave it alone," I'm sorry. I'm just not willing for us not to hear anything about it for six months. We're simply saying -- oh, thank you. This is the Hansard from last week.


All we're saying, Larry, is, "Come in and tell us what you're doing," and maybe we'll back right off and say fine, the ministry's certainly making progress on looking at the use or misuse or abuse of health cards. We've got lots of work for this committee. We don't want to duplicate anything the ministry is doing. All we're saying is, "If what you're doing is so good, come and tell us." That's all. And everything else that Ms Poole said, I agree with.

The Chair: Further debate?

Mr Marchese: Can I just ask a question? If we had an interim report, which is what is being asked for, are you looking for a 15-minute, half-an-hour kind of discussion on that report, or what kind of time are you looking at?

Ms Poole: If we could reach a consensus on it, I'd be agreeable to one hour, which allows each caucus 20 minutes, to take a look at what information we have to date. By then, we will have had completed two different meetings on the smart card technology and that type of issue. I think at that stage we'd be able to have basically an interim report, a status report, and decide whether further action is necessary. It may well be at that stage that we decide there is no further action necessary at this stage.

Mr Frankford: I am worried that we're getting tracked into just a card approach and a fee-for-service approach. I believe the whole question of payment for health services is much broader. I would love to have a discussion about the payment options that exist right now. I didn't feel that the presentation we had on smart cards was at all helpful. If anything, it pointed out that this is not the way to be going. That was my impression, but I stand to hear other opinions.

Similarly, I have the same feelings about the presentation we're scheduled to have with the Royal Bank. With great respect, I think they're probably very good at credit card arrangements, but I don't in any way accept that health services are an item for a credit-card approach. I think there are other things, which I would be very pleased to discuss. If we're going to devote more time to this, then I would like to have some very broad discussions, which I think would be very fruitful for all of us.

Mrs Marland: Mr Chair, I do have the Hansard now, thanks to the clerk, for last week. Mr O'Connor says, on page 1130-2, "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."

I'm glad to have that confirmation, because that's what I do remember Mr O'Connor saying last week, that there would be a report coming out in June. He doesn't even say "the end of June"; it's just "in June." All we were saying was, okay, let's wait for that report.

The Chair: I could allow for more debate, but I'm not going to do that because I feel that there is really no consensus on this matter. I think we call for a division on this. Ms Poole, do you require a 20-minute recess? Should I ask for that? I think Ms Poole made a point that she requested that, so I would ask her if she still requires that.

Ms Poole: Quite frankly, I'm looking at the number of government members who have just come in, and even if we have our division to call more opposition members, we don't have enough to defeat the government on this. So I will not call for a 20-minute recess.

Mrs Marland: Are we sure which way the government members are going to vote?

The Chair: All those in favour of consideration of deferring the motion as it was put? All those against? In my opinion, the "ayes" have it. So the motion shall be deferred as put in the motion.


The Chair: The next item on the agenda is "Provincial Auditor: briefing on the accounting principles."

Mr Peters: I raised a number of issues with the committee in the meeting of April 29th with the intention of putting them on the agenda. The accountability issue, as I understand it now, has been agreed to by the subcommittee to be discussed on June 17.

I would like to ask the committee, which already seems to be indicated, to defer the accounting principles issue that I raised with you until after July 1993 for the straightforward reason that the discussion that ensued after I raised this matter in this committee has greatly helped.

As a result of those discussions, I've received a letter from the Minister of Finance and the Chair of Management Board. I've advised the Chair of your committee of this letter. Both ministers indicate that they consider these concerns as very important and they need to be resolved.

It would therefore be preferable, from my perspective, that the entire matter only be brought before the committee once the audit examination of the consolidated revenue fund is completed and the audit opinion on that consolidated revenue fund is determined.

We expect that there will be an opinion by the end of July on this matter. So I would like to have this on the record that there has been very positive response. Discussion is now taking place between ministry officials and my staff on the accounting issue. So with the committee's indulgence, I'd like to report back to you once the matters are resolved rather than interfering in the process through early activity.

Mrs Marland: Which minister is this?

Mr Peters: Finance.

The Chair: We shall deal with the matter once it has been resolved. That, I think, will be dealt with by the subcommittee for scheduling, so we'll refer it to the subcommittee.

Any further discussion on this item? If not, we'll move on to the next agenda item, and we're going to move in camera.


The Chair: I just want to say on the record that I will be removing myself from my position as Chair on the committee, as I am the Housing critic for my party. I want to be able to sit in that capacity during our deliberations on this committee. I will ask your indulgence, as committee members, to allow me that possibility as I will be moving, in my capacity as Housing critic, out of the chair. I want to make that clear.

We will be moving to an in camera session. The clerk is informing me that we have revised copies of the interim statements we dealt with last week, as reported by our research officer, Ray McLellan. The clerk is going to distribute those. If there are any questions on those, perhaps we could deal with that very quickly. I'd like to move on to closed session to deal with the report that is before us on non-profit housing, but if there are any questions to be raised at this time, we'll deal with them first.

Mrs Marland: We're dealing with what the clerk has just handed out?

The Chair: Yes, she's just handing out the revised copy of the interim statements.

Mrs Marland: And this "Confidential: For Committee Use Only" is not applicable any more?

The Chair: They're interim statements. It's not a draft report. That "Confidential" was there by mistake. The statements are that: just interim statements. They're not interim reports; that's the revision we made on all of these. There are a couple of other things. It's really a housekeeping matter with respect to the references made to a "report" and it being changed to a "statement."

Mrs Marland: So these highlighted areas are just all the areas we requested the changes on?

The Chair: Yes.

Mrs Marland: I'll move approval of the interim statements.

The Chair: Mrs Marland moves approval of the statements. Is there agreement on that? Agreed? Thank you.

We now move into in camera session.

The committee continued in closed session at 1102.