Thursday 8 December 1994

Audit Act amendments

Court system

Vision and hearing tests


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

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

*Acting Chair / Président suppléant: Crozier, Bruce (Essex South)

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

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

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

*Marchese, Rosario (Fort York ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

Martel, Shelley, (Sudbury East/-Est ND)

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

Perruzza, Anthony (Downsview ND)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Murdock, Sharon (Sudbury ND) for Mr Perruzza

Sutherland, Kimble (Oxford ND) for Ms Martel

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Peters, Erik, Provincial Auditor

Clerk / Greffier: Decker, Todd

Staff / Personnel: Anderson, Anne, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1009 in committee room 1.


The Chair (Mr Joseph Cordiano): Members of the public accounts committee, on our agenda this morning, There are two items. We'll proceed with the first item of business. I would like you to refer to the document that Anne Anderson has made available to everyone this morning. I believe you all have a copy. There is an outline in this document regarding hearings on the Audit Act amendments.

Before we look at this document, the auditor has a statement with regard to those hearings and how we might proceed, so we'd like to hear from him first and then we can move on to discuss how we might approach the hearings around the Audit Act.

Mr Erik Peters: The public accounts committee has been very supportive of this office's views and concerns respecting the current limitations of the scope of inspection audits under the Audit Act. Since 1990, the committee has been voicing its desire to give the Provincial Auditor the legislated authority to perform value-for-money audits of organizations receiving government grants.

Given the continued support on the part of the public accounts committee, it must be the expectation of the legislators and the general public they represent that I as Provincial Auditor can fully comply with the Audit Act in all my audits. This means I can take account of economy and efficiency and can report on the adequacy of procedures established for the measuring of and the reporting on the effectiveness of programs in conducting my examinations in respect of the expenditures of all -- and I underline "all" -- public funds appropriated by the Legislative Assembly.

From my office's perspective, the only way for the Provincial Auditor to meet the expectation of legislators would be through an appropriate amendment or amendments to the Audit Act. As I wrote in my May 2, 1994, letter to this committee, "inspection audit" in the current Audit Act is narrowly defined as "an examination of accounting records" and has a scope limiting financial audit connotations. The proposed amendment would therefore expand on the current discretionary inspection audit provision to permit the Provincial Auditor to perform discretionary full-scope audits, including value-for-money audits of grant recipients.

As well, many large grant recipients receive funding from various public and private sources. Based on limitations imposed on our past inspection audits, we firmly believe the Provincial Auditor's right of access should extend to all relevant -- and I stress "relevant" -- records of grant recipients.

Accordingly, one approach would be to broaden the definition of section 1 of the Audit Act to read, "`Inspection audit' means the audit of such records and information as the auditor deems necessary to perform the duties under this act." In my view, this is the only substantive change to the Audit Act required at this time.

As well, the committee may wish to consider a companion amendment to section 13 of the act so as to clarify that individuals receiving transfer payments such as OHIP or family benefit allowances would not be subject to audit by the Provincial Auditor; however, the programs under which these payments like OHIP and family benefits are made are now and will continue to be subject to full-scope audits by the Provincial Auditor. So the programs we can audit, but we cannot audit the individuals.

The current Ontario Audit Act came into effect in April 1978 and gave the Provincial Auditor the authority to conduct inspection audits of transfer payment recipients. The granting of this authority effectively recognized the significance of transfer payments in government. In Ontario, transfer payments to organizations currently represent about 55% of provincial expenditures. That means over $30 billion a year.

Given the multiplicity of transfer payment recipients, it was not feasible nor was it intended that the Provincial Auditor undertake inspection audits on a broad scale. Instead, it was left to the discretion of the Provincial Auditor to determine an appropriate level of activity. Initially, the Provincial Auditor conducted inspection audits only on an exception basis, where, for example, evidence obtained in ongoing ministry and agency audits indicated that such audits were advisable. However, consistent with the generally increasing emphasis on government accountability during the period 1984 to 1991, the office expanded audit activity to include the major recipients of transfer payments.

In 1984, in response to concerns expressed by the public accounts committee, the office undertook a special review of a college of applied arts and technology. This review included all the elements of an inspection audit. Our findings were reported directly to the committee. Subsequently, we conducted inspection audits at two more colleges. The results were included in our 1985 and 1986 annual reports.

In 1987, the office decided to extend its inspection audit activities to the university community. In response to and to contain the office's planned inspection audits, a legal opinion on the authority of the Provincial Auditor and the scope of an inspection audit was obtained by the Council of Ontario Universities.

This legal opinion focused on whether there are any limitations on the authority of the Provincial Auditor to perform an inspection audit of a grant recipient. The opinion concluded that there were two such limitations. Firstly, the inspection audit should be limited to an audit of the grant payments received by the university and, secondly, it must be limited to an examination of the university's own accounting records.

It's rather interesting -- and I'll make a little sideline -- to see what the legal opinion excluded from being accounting records. For example, universities' internal audit reports were considered not to be accounting records and therefore not accessible. Recommendations made to management by external auditors, which they have to have under their statute, were also considered not to be accounting records and therefore not accessible by us.

Subsequently, in 1989, the office decided to extend its inspection audit activities to the hospital community. Again, as in the university situation, legal advice was sought by two hospitals. A legal opinion obtained by one of the hospitals focused on whether medical records of the hospital should be considered accounting records and whether the hospital is required to disclose these records to the Provincial Auditor during the conduct of an inspection audit under subsection 13(1) of the Audit Act; and whether the hospital is required to disclose financial records regarding ancillary operations -- for example, the parking lot operation of hospitals -- to the auditor.

The legal opinion concluded that medical records cannot be considered accounting records and therefore the hospital is not required to disclose these records to the auditor. The opinion stated: "These records are for purposes of patient care and there is nothing in them of a financial nature. Although they may be used for statistical purposes, they are not relevant to an inspection audit."

We have to talk about what meaning medical records may have, because medical statistics are certainly of interest in value-for-money audits. I'm departing from my text for a moment. Having dealt with the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation's discourse on effectiveness of hospitals, it was saying that, for example, one measure which was a straightforward one was the incidence of bed sores in hospitals because it would be a tremendous performance indicator for the quality of nursing care provided, so statistics should be made accessible, not individual records. These are some of the things we might want to get into when hearings are held.

Regarding ancillary operations, the opinion concluded that "The hospital is not required to disclose financial records of its ancillary operations except to the extent that these operations are funded by grants from the consolidated revenue fund and the auditor's examination is in relation to such grants."

This legal opinion also considered the issue of the limitations on the authority of the auditor to perform an inspection audit. In essence, the legal opinion obtained by the hospital noted the same scope limitations as provided in the legal opinion obtained by the university community.

Within the boundaries set by these legal opinions, the office completed inspection audits, and I won't go into those at length.

In 1990, the office decided to extend its inspection audit activity to the school board community, and those audits added value for money and were actually considered useful by that community. Just in this particular regard, very recently, just a week ago, the Coalition for Education Reform issued a little document of theirs, "Report Card: Could Do Better: What's Wrong With Public Education in Ontario and How to Fix It." It's very interesting to note that they are saying on pages 64 and 65, "Audit procedures need to be reformed, with regular value-for-money audits of randomly selected boards by the Office of the Provincial Auditor being an especially attractive near-term step." So it's a direct quote from this document. I don't know whether that was made available to members of the Legislative Assembly. It's a little red book that came out about a week ago.

This generally describes our recent experience with inspection audits. The legal opinions referred to above made it clear that the full scope of the Audit Act does not apply to inspection audits. Rather, as defined in the current Audit Act, inspection audits must be limited to audits of grant payments received by the organizations and can therefore not be more than financial and very limited compliance audits.


The Office of the Provincial Auditor does not dispute the conclusions reached in the above-noted legal opinions. On the other hand, this narrow interpretation appears to be inconsistent with the current emphasis on accountability for grants, be they conditional or unconditional. From this office's perspective, there is an implied expectation that the funds provided to organizations will not only be spent for the intended purposes, but will also be spent prudently with regard to economy and efficiency, and that adequate procedures are established for the measurement and reporting on the effectiveness of programs.

Recent events have made this issue even more urgent, some of which I would like to raise with you.

Two weeks ago before this committee, the Deputy Minister of Finance explained that he would like to see recognition of capital assets in the provincial statements. Most of the province's capital expenditures are in the form of capital grants to municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals. As well, the accountability framework is not adequate to ensure proper management of these capital grants as capital beneficial to the province, nor have appropriate accountability mechanisms for these capital transactions been put in place to ensure that all grant recipients actually utilize the grant for capital purposes, let alone whether value for money is achieved.

As you know, I've been advocating the establishment of a legislated accountability framework. However, progress has been very slow. Central agency officials have stated their preference to pursue non-legislated ways to strengthen the accountability framework.

The proposed strengthening of the legislative audit regime over transfer payments may well serve to expedite, but should not replace -- and I emphasize should not replace -- the establishment of a workable legislated accountability framework.

In the Minister of Finance's September 27, 1994, letter to this committee, he encouraged the public accounts committee to undertake public hearings on the proposal to expand on the current discretionary inspection audit provision to permit the Provincial Auditor to perform full scope audits, including value for money, of grant recipients.

To get the ball rolling on these hearings, I believe some logistics need to be ironed out. As touched upon at the last subcommittee meeting, perhaps the best approach would be for the committee to write to all deputy ministers to inform them of the consultation process -- that would include the Ministry of Finance, incidentally -- and hearings that the committee is planning during the intersession. The deputy ministers could be requested to inform their respective transfer-payment-receiving organizations of the underlying policy supporting the proposed amendment and the process to be followed by these organizations interested in being heard. If this approach is acceptable to the committee, my office can work very closely with and assist the clerk and the researcher in the preparation of pertinent information to be included in the letter to the deputy ministers and of course in the whole process.

Thank you very much for allowing me this time to make this presentation.

The Chair: I suppose we will have some discussion around the statement made by the auditor, but I'm not sure how we want to do it. Has everyone had an opportunity to read this document? This attempts to outline how we might go about the process that might be required in terms of hearings.

Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I think as a committee, the amendments to the Audit Act have to be our first priority. This has actually been a priority of public accounts through two different parliaments and in fact for about the last six years. I'm concerned that if we don't get something concrete done during this Parliament that again it will be left to another public accounts committee with a different makeup of members, and we'll be back to the starting block.

I think this is critical that we do it during the intersession, that this should be our first priority. No matter how much time we get, the first priority should be to do the Audit Act amendment.

Secondly, I would suggest that if we are going to have a fairly comprehensive hearing process, we should give the transfer agencies as much time as possible to put together a brief. They are going to be quite concerned about this. I know in other committees I've been on, often we've allowed very little time for these transfer agency partners to put together their case and their recommendations, and we have come under some criticism. If we are going to be inviting them to present to our committee and make concrete recommendations, I would say we should be asking the House leaders that it not be January that we meet but probably the latter part of February, to make sure that by the time the transfer agencies and other witnesses we might like to call come forward, they will have had at least six weeks in which to put together their material. I think it's a very critical issue both for them and for us. That would be my recommendation.

I've been looking through what Anne has recommended here and I would suggest, as long as the rest of the committee members agree, that perhaps the auditor provide us with a list of his recommendations of some of the private sector corporations, for instance, that have been very involved, and whether there are people in the federal government who have expertise in this particular area, because I know they're going through similar exercises, and that he prepare a summary of possible witnesses that we could start from. That's all I had to recommend.

Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I've had a chance to look at the statement by the auditor and I concur with my colleague that this has been an issue that's been around as long as I can remember, certainly as long as Mr Peters has been here. How many years have you been here, Mr Peters?

Mr Peters: Two.

Mr Callahan: In report after report, we have urged the government to take those steps. If any of the members over there are thinking that this is a political jab, it's not. Mr Laughren actually indicated, six or eight or 10 months ago, that these things were at the level of being ready to go. Maybe it's just a question that it's not considered to be, within the framework of legislation, the most important thing to pass.

I think the public accounts committee has to tell the Minister of Finance that this is in fact an essential amendment which, as the auditor has indicated, will allow the auditor to do more than simply drop in and look at the documents in a transfer-payment group. What's the point of using the auditor for that purpose? If he's going to have any meaningful purpose, it really is to ensure that value for money is being obtained from those transfer agencies.

I think we as public accounts have a responsibility on a unanimous basis -- forget the politics of it, because I think the auditor has a responsibility regardless of who's the government. We as taxpayers should be requiring that the dollars being spent, which are very minimal these days, are being spent in the best possible way.

I would certainly hope that we could urge the entire committee to remind the Minister of Finance and any future ministers of Finance that this is a high priority for this committee. It's our responsibility to ensure that the dollars of the taxpayers of this province are spent wisely and well. I suggest that any delay in implementing the additional authority for the Provincial Auditor is dollars that are simply being wasted perhaps, so I would urge all of the members of the committee.

I've looked at the report. I would think we should probably hear from a broad cross-section of people. I don't think we should just limit it to transfer recipients. I think we should have perhaps the opportunity to interview people from other provinces. I don't know whether other provinces have a more expanded audit act that does allow them to have -- Anne's nodding yes, so I presume they do. We might want to hear from them as to how this has impacted on the success they've had in terms of being able to monitor and improve the services being provided by transfer recipients.


It's interesting that the auditor is able to do that internally within government operations. I see no difference between that and transfer recipients. I think they're equally an arm of the Legislature, in a sense, and the dollars should be well spent.

I would have no difficulty endorsing that: hearing from some people from other provinces as to what their experience has been. I think it's suggested that perhaps we should have even a broader review. We should have people from the private sector come here and expand on it and perhaps reinforce some of the things the auditor has said and perhaps give us a perspective of just how we may be missing the boat by not having this power included in the Audit Act.

I would certainly encourage my colleagues on this committee, which is known for its non-partisanship, to endorse this because we do have the privilege, I guess, of being one of the few committees in the Legislature where our responsibility is no different whether you're in government or in opposition: Your responsibility is to ensure that public moneys are spent wisely and well. That's particularly significant in days of dwindling dollars or tight dollars, so I urge all of you to support this and that we should not let it become partisan.

Finally, I would say, as I began, Mr Laughren knows about this, as I'm sure his parliamentary assistant can attest to. In fact, I recall his parliamentary assistant telling us on one previous occasion -- I'd have to dig out the Hansards -- he in fact was the one who purveyed to us the information that Mr Laughren had the amendments sitting there, they were all ready to go. I believe it was you, I may be wrong, but it was certainly the parliamentary assistant to the Finance minister who said that the amendments were there, that there was no objection to them being brought forward. Perhaps, with unanimous consent of the House, this being our last day, perhaps they could be brought -- I'm not saying that as a partisan shot, believe me.

Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): No, I know you're not.

Mr Callahan: I am saying that, if we delay and there happens to be that inevitable event that takes place every five years, and if the government should change hands, you may find the public accounts committee, with all due respect, going through this same exercise the next time. I think it's time to strike while the iron is hot. You people have lots of influence. Maybe you can get it on today.

The Chair: If I may, Mr Peters would like to make a comment on something you said, just to clarify matters.

Mr Peters: Very quickly, to put into perspective that it was not any foot-dragging by the government.

Mr Callahan: Oh, I know that.

Mr Peters: It was actually my office that caused the delay, because my insistence was that we get an accountability framework going first and then I could audit in that framework. They came forward with that notion in February 1993, so there is no -- I just want to squarely accept the blame for this delay. What happened is there is no progress on the accountability framework, so we have to ultimately push ahead, otherwise we are going to lose the audit right over those $30 billion.

Mr Callahan: So we can't bring it before the House today, eh? Well, then I urge you to press ahead with the accountability framework so we can get on with the legislation.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have some different views on what's been expressed to date. I can understand where the auditor is coming from and what he's trying to do, but I think the powers you're asking for are far more sweeping than they appear to be, and I guess I'd have a couple of questions.

The clause you're asking us to adopt here is, "`Inspection audit' means the audit of such records and information as the auditor deems necessary...." Is that specifically just to transfer agencies or is that to all of the business you do? Is this solely to give you the ability to audit a transfer agency? Or is this also a question of enlarging the scope of your responsibility vis-à-vis, for an example, the Ministry of Education and Training; not just looking at the financial numbers, but looking at policy etc.

Mr Peters: No, because I related directly to the duties under the act, I am not asking for any enhancement at all of power or of enhancing the duties under my act. I am just asking whether we could do the audits of transfer payment recipients that we currently can conduct in ministries and other government organizations. It's just to go parallel. We have stopped right now. I can't go.

Mr Bisson: The way I read that -- and I'm not reading it in context of the entire act and I'd want to go back and do that -- it seems to me what you're asking for is a broadening of powers, not just the ability to go after transfer agencies.

Mr Peters: No, not at all.

Mr Bisson: Let me carry on. I'll tell you why I'm a little bit concerned. In your preamble you talked about a couple of things that for me don't sit well. When we talk about value-for-money audits, it's a nice thing to say, it sounds like the financially responsible thing to say, but how responsible is that? At what point do we stop? Is it good value for taxpayers' money that we do bypass surgery on a patient who smokes cigarettes? Is it good spending of money to build a road to a place like Detour Lake or Attawapiskat? Probably not. It probably makes absolutely no sense financially, but from a societal point of view it makes a lot of sense sometimes to spend money on some areas that need to be serviced in one way or another.

That whole issue of value for money, the connotation is that if it doesn't make sense economically, you don't do it. I think the responsibility of a government to its people is not strictly whether it makes sense from a financial perspective, but does it make sense from the perspective of being able to deliver the services to a community?

For example, we know that in northern Ontario to deliver services through children's treatment centres, and you're probably aware because I think you actually did an audit -- no, actually it was a ministry review that was done in regard to children's treatment centres. If you look at the amount of dollars spent per child on a northern Ontario child versus a southern Ontario child, the amount of money in the north is quite skewed. You would say that they're richer in northern Ontario, that they get a lot more money, that they're somehow not spending their money wisely, but the reality is that there are some differences as to how we provide services in the north versus how we provide services to a more geographically concentrated population, as we do in southern Ontario.

When we start getting into value for money, that scares me a bit, because I went through a process with my children's treatment centre for a year and a half -- actually, it started under the Liberals, and we carried on that whole review that was started under the Liberals, and we just concluded it, where we held up the ability for the children's treatment centre in my area to move forward in providing services to the community of the Cochrane district based on solely that concept, that we were not using the money wisely. When you looked at the numbers, they were skewed. What we found in the end after spending a whole bunch of money was that northern Ontario is a big geographical area that has people living at both ends of the province, not separated by the 407, that type of thing. That concerns me.

The other thing you're getting at, and I guess I want some clarification, is when you talk about a legislative accountability framework, what are you talking about? The last time I checked, I'm accountable to the voters I represent. If I pass legislation that is, to be quite blunt, wacky -- and some people would believe that from both sides of the House; Liberals have passed wacky legislation, the Tories have passed wacky legislation and so have we, from somebody else's perspective -- that's for the voters to decide. I'm not quite sure I understand what you're getting at when you talk about an accountability framework, and if you can comment on the latter, I would be interested. The first one was a comment in regard to value for money.

Mr Peters: I am very glad you raised these points. Dealing with the first point, very clearly, we do not evaluate, assess or report on policy. So if it is a health policy to do these operations you describe or whatever, that is perfectly within the purview of the people who administer this; I have no right to talk about this from an audit perspective. We do not audit the merits of policy. It's very straightforward; we have not done so, my office has no record of doing so and I have no intention of doing so in the future. So if the policy is to do an operation on a smoker, that is the policy, and I have no problem.

When we talk about value for money, let's make abundantly clear that there are three elements to that: there's economy, there's efficiency, and the third one is effectiveness. On effectiveness, right in the act, the duties of my act are limiting us on effectiveness, and that's the area you're talking about. On effectiveness, we can only ascertain whether the ministry, and now the transfer payment recipient under this, actually measures and reports its own effectiveness. Do they know if they are doing a good job? That's really the fundamental question that we're entitled to ask. We're not judging whether they're doing a good job or not; we are just asking the hospital or the youth centre or the children's centre that you're describing, do they know if they're doing a good job, do they know if they are effective? That's all we're allowed to ask. That is on the first question you raised.


On the accountability framework, it is very straightforward. If we, as auditors, are coming in now and are looking for, for example, value for money, whether we receive value for money from a university operation, as an example, what is of concern to me and continues to be of concern to me is that we would then be entitled to raise questions with the university administration which the ministry is not currently entitled to ask.

That's why my original stopping this process was to say, "Please put something in place so the ministry can ask these questions first before we ask them," because it's very often a negative impact if the auditor is entitled to ask questions that the ministries are not entitled to ask. But there is no framework currently in place under which the ministry can ask this question.

Mr Bisson: But understand where I'm coming from here. If you look at the cost of delivering a service -- and this is what concerns me -- for example, if we want to extend post-secondary education on the James Bay coast, we know that's going to cost us a bundle of money. If you try to account for it person by person within the system, it won't make any financial sense, but from a societal point of view, it might make a lot of sense to do that. That's what concerns me.

When we start talking about value for money and we start talking about a legislative accountability framework, I know the spirit in which you present it, and I know what you intend to do is not something that is totally out there. But my fear is that there is a very right-wing view in this province that's been coming over not only here in Ontario but I think all of North America and Europe.

We only need to look at the United States and what's happening with the whole movement to the right since the 1980s, going into the 1990s. That whole movement is happening here in Canada. We've now elected a Reform Party. All of the parties have moved to the right, including mine. My fear is that we're going to get to a point in this society where we're going to say, "If it don't make any sense financially, we ain't going to do it."

I believe we have a responsibility as a government and as legislators to make sure that people within our jurisdiction have fair access to the services that we deliver. I think there are people who understand this differently than what you propose it to be. It might make sense from an economic standpoint -- and I only use that as an example -- not to offer post-secondary education on the James Bay coast, but from a societal standpoint it may make a hell of a lot of sense.

Mr Peters: I differ with your view. What I would like to say to you is that indeed the current duties and powers under my act would force me to make the very statements that you're currently making, because I cannot look at any other records that would justify the transaction.

Take your example of expanding school. I'm only allowed to look at the financial statements of that school board. Therefore, I'm totally limited to talk about the financing, but I cannot look at any records that justify the transaction. So I'm very limited.

Mr Bisson: I understand. I don't want to hold the committee up, and I want to let it go at this point, because I'm only trying to make a point. It's not that I'm opposed to the direction the auditor is asking us to go -- I understand what he's saying -- but what I'm saying is that I'm somewhat fearful, looking at where society is going in regard to the shift to the right over the last 15 years, that people read this differently.

I want it on the record that I think it's important that we offer services to our people based on their needs, not based on the economic, sometimes. I know some people may see that as not being responsible, but for the people living on the James Bay coast, sometimes it's a bloody necessity. I'll leave it at that.

The Chair: I just want to comment in terms of the committee's mandate and also the auditor's mandate, and just put that in perspective. It's not within the purview of this committee to examine government policies. We would examine the accountability of those policies. So if the government chooses to expand schools in whatever area of the province it decides is appropriate from a policy standpoint, then what this committee and what this auditor would be entitled to do is to examine accountability for that, and value for money is an extension of that accountability. It's a way of determining that in fact what the government said it wanted to achieve and the objectives it set out would be achieved.

Mr Bisson: I understand very well what you're saying, and I understand what the auditor is saying, and I understood what the opposition members said, but I'm just trying to put on the record what I personally feel about this thing.

I understand where he wants to go, and I understand we need to try to do something to give the auditor the power to schedule other agencies outside of direct ministries. I haven't got an argument with that, but with this whole shift to the right, that if it don't make sense economically we don't do it, I want it on the record that quite frankly that's not what I stand for.

The Chair: But please understand, this is not the role of this committee. It does not have the mandate to determine questions like that. It can only examine what the government has determined is --

Mr Bisson: I don't want to get into debate with you, but the reality is that you can take a look at any policy of any particular program within any government, no matter what the party, and make an argument financially that it doesn't make any sense. We all know what politics is about. I use those politics to my advantage. I just wanted to put on the record where I'm coming from. I'm not holding up the committee, and I'll let it go at that point.

The Chair: Mr Kimble. I'm sorry. Mr Sutherland.

Mr Sutherland: That's all right. A lot of people do that around here, Chair. That's no problem.

Certainly the minister, both in his correspondence to this committee and to the auditor, has indicated his support for having hearings on the Audit Act. I'm not quite sure that I'm willing to say, "Let's go ahead with the proposed changes as have been put forward without having any hearings." I think it's good that we have hearings, and I think the comments about some of the folks we want to have in -- transfer payment agencies -- my understanding is there are several people who are now in the private sector of accounting who have worked either here or federally for the Auditors General who have been involved with the accountants' institute or advisory groups to provincial auditors or whatever. There's a group of expertise there that we could call upon for some advice.

I also, though, believe that we shouldn't leave it solely to the transfer payment agencies. If we're going to be doing this, I think the employee groups should be invited in: teachers' federations, faculty associations, unions, CUPE, service employees etc. Those groups should be invited in for some comment on this issue of accountability. If you're talking about universities, the student groups should be invited in to provide some comment on these proposed changes. I'm just saying I think it should be a broader group than what has been talked about so far, and invitations should go out for them.

I believe the auditor reaffirmed his view about what type of things he wants to do in terms of the transfer payments to organizations, not transfer payments specifically to individuals, and his comments about the medical records, not the individual ones but the statistics from them. I think those are good things.

I just want to put a couple of comments on the record. My understanding is that at some point there have been other issues related to changes to the Audit Act, and not having been on this committee all the time, I don't know whether there has been some discussion about broader changes to the Audit Act as a whole rather than this specific change and at what point this committee would be looking at that, the whole act rather than one here, which needs to be examined.

I guess some clarification, then, as the legislative accountability framework is developed, in terms of how the auditor views this process: as a complementary process to that in terms of auditing the transfer payment agencies, or as something to do in the short term until that framework is developed, or as an ongoing process in conjunction with the accountability framework. I think that would be interesting. I just ask for some clarification on that and hope we'll be able to proceed. When we proceed is maybe a different question in terms of whether it's intersession or when the House resumes in the springtime, but certainly I think everyone believes that we do need to proceed on the issue.


Mr Peters: If I may comment on, firstly, the matter of the other changes to the Audit Act, the main thrust of the other changes was actually to move this office forward more squarely into value-for-money work; in other words, increase the value-for-money work and reduce the attest work. Quite frankly, I do not propose that, simply because the attest area has lately become far more important than it may have been in the past with the developments that have taken off in the industry, and with the ministry now going along with the PSAAB accounting rules we have a closer relationship. So we would like to retain the attest auditing and not do value-for-money auditing at the expense of attest auditing.

I think attest auditing remains the mainstay for us as far as the public accounts are concerned and as far as other activities are concerned. This was supported also by the one initiative that you particularly are familiar with, the capital investment corporations. I think we cooperated very well in establishing it, and also we now do, through the act, have the value-for-money mandate on those as well as the attest mandate, and we are pleased with that. So no amendment really shifting the audit activity of this office is necessary.

There's another reason for that, and it's to safeguard the independence and objectivity of this office, and that is rather to let us choose the kind of audits we want to conduct as opposed to having somebody else influence us in that way.

The second point you were raising was whether this is parallel. What I hoped for really in a way, and I tried to get at that in my statement, is that the audit activity will sort of kickstart it and pull the accountability framework in, because ultimately, when it is not something that is an interim measure that we can delete when it is in, what will happen is that my audits will be a lot more efficient when the framework is in place, because right now I have to free-form them, and these audits are expensive.

I'm very glad, and I want to re-emphasize this to this committee, these are discretionary audits; that means I only can do them if I have the resources available. If there is no legislative accountability framework, these are expensive audits. They're more expensive than they should be without that framework. That's why I had some fear and trepidation in putting this forward because I very often -- and I've used the phrase before -- am forced to audit into a vacuum, and you know what happens when we go all over the place. Those are two concerns.

When you talk about the accountability framework and the relationship to attest and value-for-money auditing, that is the other part why I made actually that comment about the involvement of the Ministry of Finance, not the minister. The minister is the sponsoring minister, but the Ministry of Finance, the bureaucrats in Finance are an audit team, just like any other ministry. So when you call for witnesses, we are certainly very pleased to hear from them as witnesses what their views are. But the amendments to the act are really a tripartite deal between the minister, this committee and my office.

The Chair: I've provided wide latitude. I'm going to try to keep a speaking list: The first on the list gets to speak and so on. I'll just to try to keep it as informal as we can. I have Mr Crozier, then Ms Poole and then Mr Marchese. If you want to switch places, sure.

Ms Poole: I thank Mr Crozier for trading places with me because I have to go upstairs in about five minutes. I wanted just to make a couple of comments, first, about looking at the Audit Act as a whole. I think Bob Callahan and I are the only two members of the committee who were actually in the last Parliament on public accounts and are still on public accounts, so I think we have a fairly good perspective of how things have evolved, although some of the auditor's staff have also been around a long time as well.

The Audit Act, if you've ever seen it, is not a 100-page act; it's fairly short. I think it was seen that there was only really one gap in the act, and that was that the auditor has the right to go in and audit ministries and look at all sorts of records but the auditor does not have that right with the transfer agencies. It's not a matter of giving the auditor new powers for anything other than, with the transfer agencies, to give him the same rights as with the ministries.

Secondly, I understand the member for Cochrane South's concern about the auditor going in and deciding that something isn't worth it because it only serves a small number of people. As the auditor's pointed out, his job and his mandate is not to look at policy. So he would never, in any circumstance, be looking at whether that was a good policy. What he would be looking at is whether, given this policy, the ministry or the transfer agency is actually spending the money wisely to accomplish that goal. He doesn't question the goal, he just questions the accountability of how that comes about.

I would like to propose that this be a significant area for public accounts in the intersession, because as I say, if we don't deal with it now, I am convinced it will end up being left up to another Parliament. With people like Larry O'Connor and Rosario, who've been on this committee for several years now, and also Dr Frankford, I think we've got a certain level of -- I wouldn't say expertise; that's going too far -- knowledge among all of us as to the issues, and I'd hate to waste that potential.

Ms Sharon Murdock (Sudbury): Thank you very much to you too.

Ms Poole: But you weren't on all the time, Sharon.

Ms Murdock: No, I was referring to your own comments about yourself.

Ms Poole: I think it's really important we do this during the intersession. I would like to propose that we do it, as I say, towards the end of February, so that we would be sure to give everybody lots of notice; that we include the kinds of groups Mr Sutherland talked about, so that it's quite broad-based; that we spend a good part of the first two weeks in the hearings and then maybe the last day or day and a half we could go in camera to discuss a report. By then, I think we're into the March break, which would give Anne an opportunity to come up with a draft. Then if the House comes back, we then deal with it in committee when the House comes back, and if the House does not come back, we could use hopefully our third week that the House leaders would have granted us to in fact write the report.

I think there's also a special provision that the committee can table a report when the House is not in session. I would also propose that we avail ourselves of that opportunity, because at this stage we're very uncertain about the next year, since it will definitely be an election year. It has to be an election year. We don't know when that election will come. I'd really hate to see the efforts of all members of this committee over the last four years be fruitless because we never had an opportunity to wrap up some of the thoughts we had on this very important issue.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Just a few comments in support of this: I think this committee's objective should be, and in fact probably is, to take whatever steps are necessary so that the government and we can be accountable to the public. Therefore, I was surprised to find out that roughly 50% or 55% of the spending of the government isn't accountable to the public in this way. I think we should take steps to correct that.

I'm anxious to hear some of the witnesses in that in the past it would appear there were some transfer payment recipients who didn't care to have the Provincial Auditor into their domain. I would relish getting some of those witnesses before the committee to find out why it is that they're concerned about that.

I think sometimes we look at audits as being negative and damaging. I've gone through a number of audits in the private sector, being in business. Audits can be, and I think for the most part are, positive and helpful. So I think anyone receiving government money and anyone concerned about the spending of government money would find that these audits can really be positive and helpful.


As far as when we should start is concerned, my opinion is that these hearings should not be part of any strategy. I think it's incumbent upon us to get at it as quickly as we can. In fact, I disagree to some extent with my colleague. I would like to see these hearings start no more than four weeks away, or the end of January. Possibly it can't be done before that, but I'm sure there are some witnesses who will be ready to go and we could hear them, and there will be others who will need more time to prepare and therefore we can hear them towards the end of our hearings.

I'm certainly supportive of this and I would urge the committee to move with it as expeditiously as possible.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Just some quick things for the record: I support the role of this committee, and the role of it is to make everything that comes out of ministries more accountable and clear. I support the role of the auditor; I think his job is to do exactly what he's been doing. He and others have made the statement that it's not for him to set the policies but rather to make a judgement on what we then decide arises out of those policies in terms of fiscal accountability. I support that a great deal. More than making politicians accountable, he makes the civil service accountable. Sometimes we worry that we as politicians are under greater scrutiny because of it. I argue that we make the entire civil service much more accountable for the decisions the politicians take. But if even in the process it makes us as politicians more accountable as a result of it, I think it's important to have that role, because I think for too long we've been much too lax. So yes, the various agencies and ministries have their own accountants, but in my past experience and present experience it's easy for accountants to make things clear in terms of their own objectives in the agency and the ministry, but it doesn't make them any more accountable in terms of the larger generic picture. This is where I think our auditor comes into play and I support that role.

I want to support Kimble Sutherland's comments about people we should be interviewing and I think it should be much wider in terms of the people who can comment on those things. You'll have people at the top commenting, and that's fine, but we need people in the middle and at the bottom commenting as well in terms of getting the various perspectives we need to hear, because everybody has a different sense of how we are spending or wasting those dollars that are committed to them. I think we need to have a wider net of people who should be coming before this committee.

The Chair: I'm going to take the Chair's prerogative and surmise that we've reached agreement in principle on this matter being the subject of hearings in the new year. I will suggest and recommend that we meet with the subcommittee, those of us who are on that subcommittee, to appropriately determine which witnesses will appear before us and make provision for that. Once we understand what time is granted to us for those hearings, we can make those determinations and move forward.

Before I do that, I would also say that the outline that has been presented to us by Ms Anderson is something that we should follow in terms of our framework and proceeding. It just essentially determines that we would support the statement that's made with respect to -- the actual wording of the amendment that has been suggested by the auditor is included on the front page of that statement.

With respect to witnesses, I think the subcommittee can deal with that a little more fully and in detail, but essentially we've heard today that we would hear from as broad a viewpoint and perspective and include as many people as possible who would likely be affected by this amendment. We will endeavour to do that with respect to inviting witnesses before the committee.

Mr Sutherland: I certainly support what you're putting forward in terms of the subcommittee determining appropriate witnesses to invite. I just wanted to clarify, then: If we agree with what you're saying, you're suggesting that the committee endorse having hearings during the intersession. Is that correct?

The Chair: I took it that there was agreement in principle on that, and that we would proceed in that fashion. We've already asked of the House leaders for time to be granted to the committee for hearings.

Mr Marchese: When did we do that?

The Chair: We always ask for time in the intersession. That's normal for us to do.

Mr Marchese: We have to formally request that.

The Chair: We have formally requested it by letter.

Mr Sutherland: We have for this one already?

The Chair: Yes. Well, not just for this, but by way of correspondence between the Chair and the House leaders we've requested time, as we normally would, in the intersession. We set out that one of the items to be determined or to be discussed is these hearings. They will get back to us with whether we will be granted time to have hearings, or indeed any time to do anything on this committee. What we decide to do is our business.

Mr Callahan: If they come back and concur with either what we've asked for or something more or less, is it then up to us to set the dates for these hearings?

The Chair: No.

Mr Callahan: They set them.

The Chair: Well, we can suggest.

Mr Marchese: We formally ask, they agree or disagree, and then we set our own times.

The Chair: We can suggest.

Mr Callahan: No, I understand we don't.

Mr Marchese: We suggest three or four weeks and they agree to that.

The Chair: The actual time that's granted to us is determined by the House leaders.

Mr Callahan: Yes, but are the dates as well?

The Chair: The dates, I should say.

Mr Callahan: The dates are, so they tell us when we can sit.

The Chair: We're going to nudge them in a certain direction, obviously, having heard that we do need time to establish which witnesses will appear before us and the time lines, but that's a determination made by the House leaders.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): In dealings with other committees I've been part of, it seems to me that the House leaders have suggested that the committees deal with the time for the intersession and request time or not, and that it be dealt with by the full committee and not by the subcommittee and not left up to the House leaders' decision. So what they're looking for is a recommendation from the entire committee, and that recommendation from the entire committee --

The Chair: It's not a difficult problem. We can write to the House leaders again, informing them that the committee did meet and that it is actually requesting a time for these hearings specifically and what those times are.

Mr O'Connor: I don't think the committee has actually dealt with that as a motion.

The Chair: It's not necessary. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Mr Marchese: Yes, it is. The committee has to request.

The Chair: But for the Chair to have asked for time, as we normally have asked for time. In fact, we did discuss this at previous meetings. There was reference made to the request for time during the intersession.

Mr Marchese: That was a while ago, though.

Mr Callahan: Why don't we formalize it?

The Chair: If the committee would like us to write to the House leaders and suggest that there was an error made, that in fact we're not requesting time, we can do that as well. It's up to the committee.

Mr Sutherland: I'd like to make a motion to the following, in fact: that the subcommittee be empowered to prepare a witness list for hearings on the proposed changes to the Audit Act and that those hearings are to commence when the House resumes in March.

Mr Callahan: Who says it's going to resume in March? They could bring us back any time.


The Chair: Let me back up for a moment to accurately give you what has occurred.

We had discussions in the fall session around possible hearings on amendments to the Audit Act. There was a consensus at that time that we would during the intersession sit down, as we normally would, to discuss the auditor's report. That I took to be the case.

The House leaders then asked the clerk, if we require time, then the Chair should write to the House leaders and request time. Regardless of what business we were to discuss, the clerk and I discussed the fact that there's an auditor's report that has been released and there is certainly enough business for us to attend to in the intersession that regardless of what agenda we set for ourselves, we would request the time that's required.

If I'm hearing today that the committee desires that that not be the case, that we in fact not sit, that's an entirely different matter than what I've heard to this point. So please be accurate in what you're saying, because we have suggested on many occasions that this committee would meet in the intersession. If you'd like to make that the case now, we need to discuss that further.

Mr Crozier: I just want to say that if we don't get at this as quickly as we can -- as in my remarks before, I don't see this as a strategic thing; I see it as a necessary thing to do. For whatever reason, it's been left to this date. The auditor has said there were reasons for delays. I'm afraid that, as was commented by my colleague, if we don't get this dealt with before the end of this session, someone may be sitting here four or five years from now and doing the same thing again. I think it's extremely important that we get at this matter, and I'm not sure why the member doesn't want to deal with it during the intersession. If it's simply a matter of cost, I'll volunteer my time, because I want to see this done and I'm shocked that the auditor has been restricted in this way in the past.

The Chair: For my own clarification, Mr Sutherland, am I to understand that it is your request that this committee not meet in the intersession?

Mr Bisson: I thought there was a motion on the floor.

Mr Sutherland: That was the motion I put on the floor, Chair.

The Chair: Well, I have to clarify that.

Mr Sutherland: Yes. That motion was put on the floor.

The Chair: If you want to put that in writing; otherwise, I will endeavour to --

Mr Sutherland: Yes, that's the motion I've put on the floor.

The Chair: Let me read what I think we understood your motion to be, and the clerk has kindly written it out:

Mr Sutherland moved that the subcommittee be authorized to complete a list of witnesses to be invited before the committee to comment on possible amendments to the Audit Act. Such hearings shall be held following the resumption of the House in the spring sitting.

Mr Callahan: Mr Chair, first of all, it's obvious we don't have our members to vote here and I have no idea how the government's going to vote on this issue, so I'm going to ask that it be deferred till the end of the hour so that people can get here. But the concern I've got is that we're proroguing, as you know, this afternoon, and when you prorogue, the government can call us back whenever.

Ms Murdock: March.

Mr Callahan: Our calender says March, but they could call us back in September if they wanted to. I would join with my friend Mr Crozier that this is an issue of paramount concern. We don't want to let it sit for another three or four years in that it could get caught in the cuff, and that could happen. I don't understand why, and maybe the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance can tell us why, specifically, he does not wish to deal with this during the intersession. Maybe then I'll be able to understand better and vote in an appropriate way. But I don't understand why you're resisting it being done now and delaying it to when we come back because, as I say, there is no guarantee we will be back. It's up to the government.

Maybe I could ask a question of the parliamentary assistant. Can you give me a specific reason why you want to delay it to when we return as opposed to dealing with it during the intersession? If it is, as Mr Crozier says, that you're concerned about the fact that we're paid during the intersession, I would concur with Mr Crozier. I'd be prepared to do it on the cuff because I think this is important enough that it should be dealt with. Maybe you could tell us so I can vote intelligently --

Mr Bisson: You always vote intelligently.

Mr Callahan: -- for the first time probably in the entire history of this place.

Mr Sutherland: Mr Callahan, let me just say this. I've indicated to you certainly my support and the Minister of Finance's support for proceeding with the hearings. I'm optimistic that we are going to be returning relative to our normal time according to the calendar. I think it's important that we get the witnesses lined up so that we don't have to go through organizational processes when the House is back; we can get right into the hearings at that time. That's why the motion's put forth. But I think we can begin that process when the House comes back.

Mr Callahan: But you realize that if we prorogue, when we come back we will have to go through the organizational meetings and re-elect an entire -- I think I'm right, Mr Clerk. We will have to in fact go through the organizational meetings of re-electing a new Chairman and so on. So the first meeting of the committee when we get back would be for that purpose, and we have a number of things on the agenda.

I'm sorry. You may be optimistic about us coming back, but there's no guarantee of that, and I think this is of such an important nature that if we want to hear from these people, now is the time to do it. I endorse your suggestion that we have people from the labour movement and so on. I think that makes good sense.

Mr O'Connor: I have a question of a technical nature, as was raised by my friend Mr Callahan. Can the subcommittee meet in the intersession or would it require unanimous consent in the motion that will be presented in terms of the bills that will be carried over through the intersession when the House is prorogued? Would it require something to be part of that motion?

The Chair: Technically, the amendments could not be upheld because the subcommittee would be disbanded once the House prorogues. Therefore, there is no subcommittee to meet.

Mr Sutherland: All right. Then I guess the motion's out of order.

The Chair: It's somewhat out of order.

Mr Sutherland: Okay, fair enough. That's the ruling.

Mr Callahan: Mr Chair, to bring this thing to a head, I move that we adopt the report, that the subcommittee get together and decide on the witnesses, set them up, and that we sit as soon as we're able to get time to sit.

The Chair: Let's try and clarify a couple of things here. I know Mr Callahan is moving something, but just to finish off on the motion that was put forward by Mr Sutherland, it is not technically out of order, but I would say that it would be if we did not have a motion that would have this committee continue to exist and that we would request that. I believe we would have to make that request, that the committee continue to exist.


The Chair: There are so many ifs. It requires a number of things for this motion to be technically correct. If we're granted time by the House leaders to sit any time after today, technically we would continue to exist, if that's what in fact the House leaders would permit us to do. That needs to be satisfied first, I believe, in order for this motion to be technically correct. I mean, we would assume by this motion that the committee would continue to exist, but it would hinge on whether in fact the House leaders would permit us to continue to exist. So this would technically be in order for you to place the motion. It would die along with the committee, shall we say.

Mr Callahan: Our existence is tenuous.

The Chair: Right. That's a moot point. If we do not get permission to sit, then this motion would cease to exist.

Mr Sutherland: That's fine. I think, though, given the information you've presented, I'm just as prepared to let the motion go.

The Chair: You withdraw the motion, Mr Sutherland?

Mr Sutherland: Yes.

The Chair: We'll deal with Mr Callahan's motion.


Mr Callahan: I move that we adopt the report produced by our researcher and that we conduct hearings on a broader scale than perhaps mentioned in here, including unions and so on, but that that be left up to the subcommittee to determine, and that we conduct those hearings during the period of time that the House leaders give us permission to do so.

The Chair: While we try to write this out, is there any debate on Mr Callahan's motion? I will re-read it.

Mr Callahan: Do you want me to reiterate it?

The Chair: The clerk is making it easier for you by writing it out.

Mr Callahan moves that the direction for Audit Act hearings suggested in the research officer's paper be adopted and that hearings be held during the intersession if the committee is authorized to meet.

Mr Callahan: I had added the enlargement, but I guess that's something for the subcommittee.

The Chair: Yes.

Mr Bisson: Which research paper is that?

Mr Sutherland: Anne's, the one outlining the format.

Mr Bisson: Outlining this here, you mean? That's the one with the auditor's comment.

Mr Callahan: Call the question, Mr Chair. There doesn't appear to be any debate.

The Chair: Mr Callahan calls for the motion to be now put. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is defeated.

Mr Callahan: Well, goodbye.

Mr Crozier: I can't believe this.


The Chair: We have Mr Callahan's two notices of motion which are to be discussed and debated this morning. These are noted on our agenda.

Mr Callahan: I'll be very brief, Mr Chair, and I hope that this doesn't go the same route as the last vote did. I don't understand why they voted that way. It strikes me that we have now become a partisan committee, for some reason. There seem to be notes being passed from people in the audience to members on the committee, particularly the assistant --

Mr Bisson: Politicians.

Mr Callahan: I find that really incredible, and I'm not satisfied with the reasons from the parliamentary assistant as to why this is being delayed. Having said that, I've probably just blown my two notices of motion.

But let me deal with them in reverse order, if I might. The first one is, as you all know, Ontario suffered a shocking situation, and no, this is not a political comment at all. It was a backlog of cases in the courts where some 50,000 cases had to be withdrawn or stayed, cases ranging from impaired driving charges to assault charges and so on.

I think it's of some importance that despite the information that the Attorney General, I think in good faith, tries to provide to the House, I would prefer to have an independent person, ie, the auditor, under section 17 of the Audit Act conduct an audit -- and it would not be an extensive one. I discussed with him earlier last week privately. It could be as much as just simply asking the chief judges of these courts to comment on the six items that I have listed in the notice of motion, namely "initial date proceedings commenced, number of adjournments, number of pre-trial motions, date trial is to be held, number of criminal cases that have or will reach their second-year anniversary before being heard, such further and other information as may affect the expeditious use of judicial resources."

I think this is of some significant importance. You may have read in the paper, and certainly there was a commentary in the House, about Mr Justice Wren staying a sexual assault charge which had reached its second-year anniversary, and I would submit that that certainly gave us an indication that on the horizon there might possibly be -- that may have set the benchmark for further Askov or stay of cases under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I think the real danger is that if we don't have the information collected by the auditor in an independent way so that the Legislature as a whole -- and I wouldn't think just the government -- can consider what steps might be taken in a deliberate and time-available fashion to preclude the possibility of us being faced with a similar situation that occurred in Askov, I think all of us, of all political stripes, will recognize that when something hits the fan that we weren't expecting, more often than not the decisions made in terms of trying to rectify them or cure them or slow them down are made in a precipitous fashion and perhaps are not the best way to do it.

I believe, and I can tell you from anecdotal evidence -- I have talked to crown attorneys, I have talked to judges -- this province is on very shaky ground in terms of Askov 2 becoming a reality. That being the case, I suggest that we should use this time before the bomb drops to have the auditor independently secure these facts in order to allow the government and, as I said before, the entire Legislature to perhaps in a non-partisan way deal with this issue.

My experience over the years has been that there has been very little movement by governments of whatever political stripe in terms of the judicial system. I think maybe that's because justice is not a terribly politically sexy issue until you have Askov or until you have cases where it impacts on us politically, and then it seems as though there's very significant movement.

So I'm hoping that members of the committee, despite my shot at you about the other issue, would view this as a true issue that should be one reflected in the non-partisanship that normally prevails in this committee and that we can in fact ensure that we're not going to be caught in the crunch. I suggest to you that if this happens either before another government is formed or before this government is formed, that they can't deal with it promptly, it could be disastrous. You could have very serious, dangerous people wandering the streets who had in fact been granted a stay and walked away from the whole circumstance.

From the perspective of the public, that would be devastating. The public would view that as a failure of the justice system. They would no longer feel that the justice system was appropriately looking after their needs and it could result in what we've seen in the United States: vigilantism. Maybe you consider that to be farfetched, but we've come a long way in terms of emulating the United States in terms of what the results are of --

Mr Bisson: That speaks to my earlier point.

Mr Callahan: Okay, yes -- but emulating the United States in terms of our justice system. We are possibly facing that fact. Every time the government is required to move to deal with the justice system in a precipitous fashion, without well-reasoned plans or approaches as to how we're going to cure it, we cause the justice system to lose just one more notch in the eyes of the public, and they'll take the law into their own hands.

So I would urge you to vote for that. Maybe, if I could, I'll put the other one forward and then I'll shut up and you people can debate it.


The other one gives me really serious concern, and that's the motion I made that's before you. I've read it into the record before. What I'm calling for is a rethinking by the Ministry of Health and --

The Acting Chair (Mr Bruce Crozier): Mr Callahan, should we not take these one at a time?

Mr Callahan: My concern, Mr Chair, is that if I do that, I'll never get the second one on. We're going out of existence; we're dying today, according to the recent motion, so --

The Acting Chair: You can get the second one on and then we'll discuss them one at a time.

Mr Callahan: Okay, and then we can discuss them together.

Mr Sutherland: We'll let you get the second one on.

Mr Callahan: As you know, for those members who have been continuing members of the public accounts committee -- and I think Rosario was, Dr Frankford, Mr O'Connor and others -- we did a report on Correctional Services and we ascertained that some 80% of young people in young offender lockup are learning-disabled -- again, an issue that from a political standpoint is not a terribly sexy political issue, but I think from a human interest and a human value purpose, we have failed these kids in this province by allowing them to slip through the cracks.

We heard from Dr Hurst, who came before us. I recognize that he anticipated that we had read all his material so perhaps he was not as clear in terms of telling you what his process was, but I can tell you that there is at least one board, the Muskoka board, that's interested in implementing his program; there was the success he had in the United States with this process, and just his association with a guy like Marshall McLuhan tells me that the man is credible.

I also had a friend who is a professor at the University of Toronto who dealt with kids at, I think it's Dellcrest, for a considerable period of time. She hires, I guess, or trains teachers. I had her sit in this room -- you may have seen her -- while Dr Hurst was talking, because she in fact doesn't believe there's any such thing as a learning-disabled kid. We have had many arguments over that. When it was finished, I asked her, after she had heard what Dr Hurst had to say -- she said to me, "That man has got his finger on something very significant." You recall that was dealing with the question of eye tests.

Here we are -- and I understand the reason. Perhaps it's a conservation of money or cutbacks, or perhaps it's laying the responsibility on parents to ensure that these kids get their hearing and vision tested at an early stage. If you look at it against the facts we've discovered, that 80% of the kids in young offender lockups are learning-disabled, that tells me that you're relying on parents to first of all be observant enough to ensure that the child is examined. I don't want to cast any aspersions on families, but I think families today are so busy trying to keep their heads above water by both of them working, and if they have a number of children it becomes very difficult for them to address this issue. They think it's being addressed in the school.

So if we allow this process to be withdrawn, I'm suggesting that we may very well have more than 80% in young offender lockup. When you look at the overall cost of that, which came out of that report, that the average cost of each young person in young offender lockup was about $100,000 -- if we want to just look at it from strictly a fiscal standpoint, which I guess is the responsibility of the public accounts committee, that's an outrageous cost. If you want to look at it from the standpoint of retrieving these young people and ensuring that more of them don't join the ranks and wind up in there, then I think that we should be doing everything possible in order to ensure identification and treatment of these young people at the earliest possible moment.

I suggest to you that the actions by the ministry and the public health departments in this regard, although it may have been considered to be an appropriate measure -- I think if they had waited against our report, perhaps, and what we've heard as committee members here in terms of the flotsam and jetsam that have resulted from the type of activity that has gone on to this point, they might have had a different approach to the entire process.

So I urge my colleagues again that I hope you would vote with your heads and not take to heart when I castigated you for being a bit partisan in terms of voting against the intersession hearings. I hope you would look at both of these from the standpoint of them being very important. They have no political ramifications, as far as I'm concerned. I have no intention of trying to use this to score political points. I'm genuinely interested in both of these issues, in having the facts sufficient for decisions to be made by us as opposed to getting anecdotal stuff. That's all I really have to say about it. I'd certainly be interested in hearing the comments of other members of the committee.

Mr Sutherland: If I could just respond to the first motion, I think Mr Callahan's concern is certainly a valid one. All of us are concerned about the integrity of the justice system. Askov certainly did create some challenges for the system, but I do believe the ministry has responded very effectively.

I'll also note that the Provincial Auditor did do a significant audit of the criminal law process in the 1993 audit and there were recommendations outlined in that. It's also my understanding that as a result of that initial audit, officials from the Ministry of the Attorney General are supposed to be meeting with the Office of the Provincial Auditor some time shortly to go over an update from the 1993 audit. I don't know if exact meeting times or anything like that have been established, but that's the information that's been made to me, that there was supposed to be some discussion occurring shortly between the office of the auditor and the Attorney General to update on the results out of the 1993 audit.

I don't know whether that's satisfactory to Mr Callahan, that some of the issues he wants examined will be raised through those discussions that are already planned. That would seem adequate to me, but I'm not sure whether it will be to Mr Callahan, that the auditor will be following up on issues that were outlined in the 1993 report. I don't recall offhand, but I assume that some of the issues around dealing with the Askov decision were certainly reviewed by the auditor in that report.

Mr Callahan: Is anybody else dealing with the first one?

Mr O'Connor: Actually, the third one, but the first one you put.

Mr Sutherland: The justice one or the health one? Let's classify it that way.

Mr Callahan: Okay. Does anybody else want to deal with the justice one? Maybe I can respond.

Mr O'Connor: Go ahead. I want to deal with the health one.

Mr Callahan: I think the difficulty you have is that the auditor's report in 1993 dealt with Askov in the framework of what do we do to try to solve it, and I agree. I can tell you this as a practical matter, that there have been what they call pre-trials now to try and determine how issues can be shortened and how they can get the trials on for a faster hearing. But I have to tell you that despite the very remarkable and capable suggestions that were made, the reality of the day is that they're not working. You know what happens? Don't shake your head. Let me tell you what happens at a pre-trial.

At a pre-trial, the counsel go before a judge, the judge asks them a few things and they say: "We can't determine this yet. We don't know whether this'll happen." In fact, most defence counsel consider the pre-trials to just be an opportunity by the crown to find out what their defence is, and they're not about to tell them. So the pre-trials have become, in the main, a waste of time. In fact, they've even exacerbated the whole system because in most jurisdictions, if not all of them, I think as a result of the directions perhaps from the Attorney General, you cannot set a trial date, at least in the General Division you can't, without having a pre-trial. In some of the jurisdictions you can't set a date in the family court without a pre-trial.

Maybe there are no issues to discuss at all in the pre-trial, so what happens is that you have a built-in delay because you have to set the pre-trial, and by the time you get to the pre-trial and you say to the judge, "Well, there's nothing to discuss," the opportunity to get a trial date has now advanced down the line by about three or four months.


I've heard the Attorney General in the House, and I'm not for one minute suggesting that she's not being frank with the House about the experience of trials being dealt with, but what I am suggesting to you is that based on what I've been hearing out there from people who are in the system, she is not getting a full accounting of what's going on out there. I understand what you're saying and the auditor said that to me as well, that he didn't think at first -- I don't know whether he's changed his mind, because he had done this audit in 1993. But the audit in 1993 was to identify the problems, suggest solutions, and I think the ministry came up with some solutions to it and I give it full marks for it.

But the fact of the matter is that it's not working, and that's the whole gist of my motion: Let's see how the policies that have been brought forward as a result of that audit of 1993 are doing, from an independent source. Then we're in a position to try to deal with the issue.

I understand what you're saying, Mr Sutherland, about the previous audit, but they're two different animals. That audit was an audit in response to an explosive issue that occurred, and I thought it was dealt with in a reasonable fashion. It had a tremendous impact on the public, as I said before, and I won't repeat it, in terms of administration of justice. Victims out there were astounded that these people just walked because of the delay.

What I'm saying is that we now have at least a year and a half of that process in place, and do we really know whether or not, through these techniques, we're achieving that result of ensuring that cases are not going to be stayed because of delay? It appears not. Justice Wren -- a two-year trial. You go up to Newmarket and you'll find that the trials up there are approaching Askov. You go to other areas and you'll find that they're approaching Askov. I think that's a very significant concern, and all I'm saying is, don't leave it to the last minute and then try to remedy it, as happened with Askov. Every time you do that you reduce the public's confidence in the justice system and you make it more difficult for these people: these judges who are sitting long hours to try to accommodate this whole situation; you make it tough on witnesses who show up for a trial and some counsel moves a stay and it's successful; it's tough on the police because they have to watch the people they've just arrested walking because of delay.

I suggest to you that what the auditor did before was great work, but we may have to press him into service again if we don't in fact send him out now on a little bit of a fact-finding mission to see just how we've done, measure the waterfront.

Mr Sutherland: If I could respond on this issue, then maybe we can bring this one to close, because I know we wanted to comment on the health one. Let me just say that pre-trials wasn't the only initiative instituted by the Ministry of the Attorney General. There were all kinds of other initiatives. You mentioned longer sittings, better management of court facilities, evening sittings in some cases, other initiatives like that. Of course, we've had the Martin report. It outlined some initiatives and also talked about how a lot of cases were settled through the use of pre-trials.

You mentioned that what the auditor did then was fine but we don't know whether those initiative are working. I assume, if the auditor's going to be meeting, that's what they're going to be asking, and they're going to be looking for those measures to prove the initiatives are working. All I'm saying is that I think what you're asking for is going to occur because the auditor's office is going to be meeting with the officials from the Ministry of the Attorney General to follow up on those issues, and those issues would be the implementation of the initiatives to deal with the Askov decision.

Mr Marchese: Very quick so we can get to the other matter, just some other quick points. I don't know whether Mr Callahan mentioned that, but there has been an alternative dispute resolution pilot project set up in Toronto which I think will go a long way in dealing with a lot of these problems that we have, and Toronto's a particularly terrible area for this.

The Civil Justice Review task force was established. I'd be interested to know whether there's any progress or what progress has been made with respect to the committee. If you were interested in that, I would be too, in finding out where they are at and what progress they're making with that committee; and would recommend as well, given that it is our understanding that the ministry officials are planning a meeting with the auditor, that we urge for that meeting to occur as quickly as possible. We might recommend that as well so that we can get that process out of the way.

The fact that we made some considerable progress since 1990 is of significant importance to me. Some of the statistics I have seen here say that in 1990 there were 205,000 criminal court charges pending and 74% of the charges were over eight months old, and as of September 9, 1994, the number of criminal charges pending had been reduced to 135,000 and the percentage of charges greater than eight months old had been decreased by 23%.

Mr Callahan: Whose report is that?

Mr Marchese: These are some statistics that I have seen from some ministry folks. I suppose if that's available to me, it would be available to the rest of you, but what that tells me is that we are seeing some reduction, and some of the practices in place may be working. But also the meeting that will take place with the auditor will continue the work that he had begun, so I would think the sooner they meet, the better. Are those useful suggestions?

Mr Callahan: Since the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance had not wanted us to meet during the intersession on the question of the auditor's enlarging of powers, perhaps we could meet on this issue and have those people who are serving in the ranks come forward, as an alternative to the auditor doing it, and have these people from the ranks come and tell you what I believe to be the actual case. I think if you don't, you risk --

The Chair: Surely you jest.

Mr Callahan: No, I'm serious. I'm absolutely serious. You could have police officers or you could have a whole host of people coming before us to try to tell us whether our justice system is quite as healthy as seems to be suggested.

Mr Marchese: It's getting better, is the point.

The Chair: I think we should bring this to a conclusion. Shall we deal with the question before us? Those in favour of Mr Callahan's motion?

Mr Callahan: Recorded vote, Mr Chair.

The Chair: Recorded vote. Those in favour of Mr Callahan's motion, please say "aye."


Callahan, Crozier.

The Chair: Those opposed?


Frankford, Marchese, O'Connor, Sutherland.

The Chair: The motion is defeated. We shall deal with the second motion by Mr Callahan.


Mr Callahan: I understand there are comments to be made and I'd be happy to hear those.

Mr O'Connor: I'd like to respond first to some of the issues my friend Mr Callahan has with some information I have been given by the Ministry of Health.

First of all, there was no decision made by the public health branch to rescind any funding for the portion of funding that goes for the pre-screening programs for the healthy children program. So the ministry hasn't made a decision in this light, though there are boards of health that have chosen to withdraw the screening process program. They've been related to efficacy and community effectiveness and then of course cost-effectiveness. In doing that, the public health branch has said: "Well, let's wait a minute. What's going on here? Let's review this." There is actually a technical review committee that's been designed to take a look at scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of the program and what not, and they're expecting that the task of the review committee should be finished by the spring of 1995.

Perhaps what Mr Callahan might suggest is that the committee or himself, as member, send a note or a letter to the minister suggesting that the evidence as presented to us in committee by Dr Hurst be reviewed by this technical review committee of the public health branch. There is no decision made by the Ministry of Health to rescind the funding, is the point I want to make. Of course, the review that's going to take place will take a look at the role of the board of health with early identification of vision, hearing, speech and language problems. There is actually work being done in that regard. I'm sure Mr Callahan, if he wishes, and I can talk further about this and maybe send something jointly, if not through the committee, to this branch within the ministry. I know my colleague Dr Frankford also had some comments he wanted to make in this light.


Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I think we should listen carefully to what the parliamentary assistant has said. I think it's reassuring that the matter is under study and review. I don't feel any arbitrary decision purely based on funding has taken place at all. I think, even more than that, there is an examination of policy around screening. Although I found the presentation quite interesting, the point that there may well be problems of offenders that relate to unrecognized visual and hearing problems -- and that's an interesting thesis to pursue -- I think we should be looking at policies around screening, whether they are universal or targeted. I think this is well worth looking at through these hearings that are going on within the ministry.

There's a risk if it's a blanket screening that will largely be looking at normal children, which is something that will happen if you make something a stringent blanket recommendation -- or in fact be identifying children who have been previously identified. I think when we're looking at resources and just the effectiveness of screening approaches, there's a lot to be said for looking at populations at higher risk.

One population, I think it's fair to mention, at high risk around hearing is the native population. I think I'm correct in saying there are significant overall hearing problems in certain areas relating to ear infections. If there is targeting based on significant identified factors, I think that's going to be much more effective than calling for an overall policy from public health. Public health certainly can make requirements, and we see that in the requirements for immunization around school entry, which I think is agreed on as a valid policy, although even there you get into questions about what happens when parents refuse it on grounds of belief and, perhaps more seriously, what happens when children come in from other jurisdictions as immigrants, when there is a risk that the immunization records may not appear complete, what is the school and public health policy supposed to be?

I just also note that there is a series of recommendations about periodic health exams which are guidelines for practising physicians, and that certainly does put in recommendations about hearing and vision screening. These things mentioned I think are likely to be coming up at ages which are not related to school entry. The flag might well be raised at an earlier age in a child care situation. Again, there are some recommendations around health in child care centres. There are immunization requirements. I think the whole situation is a lot more complex than just going with this recommendation would suggest.

Since, as the parliamentary assistant stated, there are broad-based discussions on policy going on, I think we're much better off just leaving it at that and not making any motion that Mr Callahan has brought forward.

Mr Callahan: I've spoken with some of the members of the government and I don't think this is going to pass as is, but there was a helpful suggestion made. I'm going to ask that, either through unanimous consent or a vote, this be referred to that health committee as a public accounts motion, which may give it a little more recognition. I don't know whether everybody would be in agreement with that.

Mr Marchese: Sure. You can move that or we can.

Mr Callahan: I'd like to move that, seeing as how part of the loaf is better than none.

The Chair: I think what's required here is that you withdraw the motion and then, by agreement of the committee, we will forward it to the other committee.

Mr Marchese: It's the technical review committee.

Mr Callahan: Fine. I'm content to do that. Finally, since we self-destruct in about two minutes --

The Chair: On this matter?

Mr Callahan: On the matter of our self-destruction.

The Chair: No, Mr Callahan. I think if you did that, we'd have to allow everyone to have a say, and I don't think it's appropriate at this point.

Mr Callahan: I'm just curious. I asked Mr O'Connor, and this is going to be my Christmas present to you, that there must be a reason you're clearing the decks. Does that mean there's going to be an election before we come back? I suspect that must be the case.

Mr Marchese: It's a rhetorical question.

The Chair: Let me have the final say here, since we are ending this session. Should we in fact by some fate not reconstitute ourselves or see ourselves on this committee as we have been for some time, I'd like to thank everybody on the committee for having participated in what I think has been a generally good experience for all and I think a very positive one. Even though we haven't made the strides we would have liked to have made, I think we have made some strides in fact and have contributed a lot. I'd like to thank you, and I think Mr Peters would also like to say something.

Mr Peters: Yes. I'd like to express to the members who are here my appreciation for the work you have helped me do.

Mr Marchese: Likewise.

The Chair: Thank you very much and have a good holiday season, if we don't see each other. We're adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1158.