Wednesday 27 August 1997
Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1996, Bill 99, Mrs Witmer /
Loi de 1996 portant réforme de la Loi sur les accidents du travail,
projet de loi 99, Mme Witmer
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Présidente
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East / -Est L)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North / -Nord PC)
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale ND)
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North / -Nord L)
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph PC)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent L)
Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew PC)
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls PC)
Mr John R. O'Toole (Durham East / -Est PC)
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North / -Nord PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre / -Centre L)
R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough PC)
Clerk / Greffière
Ms Donna Bryce
Staff / Personnel
Ms Lorraine Luski, Mr Ray McLellan, research officera,
Legislative Research Service
Mr Russell Yurkow,
The committee met at 1532 in committee room 1.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION REFORM ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 PORTANT RÉFORME DE LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
Consideration of Bill 99, An Act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system for injured workers, to promote the prevention of injury and disease in Ontario workplaces and to revise the Workers' Compensation Act and make related amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 99, Loi assurant la stabilité financière du régime d'indemnisation des travailleurs blessés, favorisant la prévention des lésions et des maladies dans les lieux de travail en Ontario et révisant la Loi sur les accidents du travail et apportant des modifications connexes à d'autres lois.
The Chair (Mrs Brenda Elliott): The standing committee on resources development is called to order for the purpose of receiving the subcommittee report, dated August 20. Is there a mover for this motion?
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): So moved.
The Chair: Any debate or discussion?
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): The government intended to wrap up clause-by-clause by September 15 and start clause-by-clause earlier than we have, so I would like to make a motion to amend the subcommittee report to replace the dates -- really only two dates -- to be September 3, 8, 10 and 15, which will give all caucuses two weeks to look at all the amendments and, I think, plenty of time to do so.
I therefore move that the subcommittee report be amended by deleting the following dates, "September 8, 10, 22 and 24," and replacing them with the following dates, "September 3, 8, 10 and 15."
Mr Christopherson: I'd like to know what the hell is going on. We had a subcommittee meeting where we spent the better part of an hour. I had other things to do at that time, as did other members, but made that a priority because it is important. We sat and we had representatives from the government, from the official opposition and from the third party and there were a lot of different dates being kicked around.
We haggled over them, talked about them and eventually reached a compromise, as you know, Chair. I remember you acknowledging with some glee that it was nice for you to see this group agree on anything and indeed we did agree on those dates. Then we picked up the rumbling that the government wasn't happy, that this didn't suit their needs and they were planning to roll in here today and use their majority to upset that unanimous decision, and that's exactly what we're seeing.
My point to this is, what the hell's the point in the subcommittee meeting? I could appreciate it if Mr O'Toole had come into that meeting, or anyone else as a representative of government, and offered up dates that the Liberal member and I could not agree with and ultimately it was brought here and the will of the government would prevail because you have the majority. I wouldn't be happy, but I would understand that that's the process we live in. That's not what happened. We were told by Mr O'Toole on behalf of the government that these dates would work, that he could live with this, and we walked out of that meeting with total agreement.
I would say to the government, you've got all the tools available to a majority government in Ontario to at least handle a little subcommittee meeting and make sure whoever comes in has the right marching orders. If you can't do that, if you're so incompetent that you can't even manage a subcommittee meeting, then it's not our problem; it's your problem.
I take great exception to the fact that we would sit down and reach agreement with a representative of the government, and if that representative did not have the mandate or the information to bring to that subcommittee meeting, fine. Change the time of the meeting; don't have the meeting, go straight to full committee. But it's not right that you would come into that subcommittee with a representative who would lay out what his needs are on behalf of the government, and we would begin to haggle and spend the better part of an hour coming to agreement only to find somebody high up in this government has decided they want veto power.
I would say to the parliamentary assistant, through you, Chair, if that's the way you're going to run this place, why bother having subcommittee meetings? Why even pretend that you care what we have to say? Why don't you just admit the reality and ram through whatever the hell you're going to do? What hurts is the charade and the sham of holding a meeting and coming up with agreement. We went into that meeting as people of goodwill. We really did. This wasn't the nuts and bolts of Bill 99. It was merely setting up the dates to do the clause-by-clause. There was no reason we couldn't sit down and come up with an agreement, and we did just that.
It's very troubling and very upsetting to find that somebody wants to have a veto power over that decision. I resent the fact that this meeting has been called for the sole purpose of overturning a decision that had the unanimous support of the three parties involved. I would ask the parliamentary assistant to have the integrity to withdraw this motion and recognize that it's not morally in order and that that's not the way we do business. If you wanted something different, you should have been at the meeting yourself or sent in someone else with a different message, but to do this after the fact is absolutely unacceptable.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I would underscore what Mr Christopherson just said. We were not told of any date on the 15th, by the way. We were informed that the government wanted to see this through and dealt with by the end of September. That's one of the reasons why the recommendations for September 22 and 24 were made, that it was a week prior to the end of the month and that seemed satisfactory to the members who were on the subcommittee. That's what it was.
I believe there was a problem for Mr Christopherson on the date of the 3rd. There's a problem for me on the date of the 15th in being here; I won't even be in town. But I take his point that there's no point in having a subcommittee if the government is just going to say, "Here's the way it is," and you're just going to process us. "We're busy and we can do other things." Nobody likes to be processed.
You said it would give us a couple of weeks to look at some of those amendments. When we had less than a week to put in amendments and that was the final date in the time allocation motion, that meant we were pushed and pressured with the amendments we even have in now. That's the time you need. You need time to consider your amendments that you put in, not after the fact because it's too late now to make any amendments. So that does no good. That has no value for us.
It would be an embarrassment, I think, to say that there's any value in having a subcommittee when in fact you had a prearranged set of dates and you should just have come in and said that and we would have worked with that or whatever. Even with your revised schedule, sticking so closely to September 15 is a problem.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I would take some difference with the views expressed by Mr Patten and Mr Christopherson. As they know, those meetings were held and they were interrupted by a vote, and in that process, when I first came in as the substitute for the parliamentary assistant on that subcommittee, I had some knowledge at that time that the government's objective was to complete the hearings and the clause-by-clause by September 15. I made that very clear and I want to go on record as making sure that statement was very clearly made, Mr Christopherson, in the very first phase of that meeting.
When we came back in the second phase of that meeting, both Mr Christopherson and Mr Patten had extenuating circumstances, which could be whatever kind of tactic you want to imagine, and I'm not suggesting that, but to impugn me by saying that I had agreed would be to say -- I think we tried to facilitate, but I didn't feel as a substitute that we were pre-empting it beyond the week. I think this amendment recognizes that there are really two dates that are changing. The other two dates that were agreed on at that meeting are still in place, so I don't see the failed process in the subcommittee meeting.
I suspect, being a substitute, I wasn't fully empowered or mandated to make exclusive decisions on behalf of the government and I'd make that very clear, but there were other parties at the meeting and perhaps they would like to state. I don't feel that we've compromised the utility of the subcommittee meeting or anything else. At the end of the day, I listened to everyone else and there didn't seem to be any problem, except we had to exclude one week for one reason and one week for another reason, which pushed us past the 15th and I clearly said the 15th was the drop-dead date.
Mr Maves: I just want to reiterate that the legislation has been out for almost a year now, so there has been plenty of time to prepare amendments and there was a week following committee hearings. I think it's time to move forward on the bill. As Mr O'Toole has just reiterated, we always intended to wrap up by September 15. We believe that two weeks to go over the amendments is plenty of time. With regard to schedules of individual members, I think all members of this Legislature know that we can't run committees at the whimsy of individual members' schedules.
Mr Patten: Yes, the legislation has been out for a while, but what you are suggesting, Mr Maves? There's no point in listening to the representations of the hearings?
Mr Christopherson: Exactly.
Mr Patten: Because we did wait until we heard what people had to say, and all of the people.
Mr Maves: And so did we.
Mr Patten: You can't say you're going to draft your amendments six months before you even have hearings and listen to the public and the people who are affected most by this legislation. With all the resources you have available to you, which is 10 times what we have available to us, we have to do this ourselves, like two people who are not lawyers going through all of this making recommendations, so that's quite different.
I would ask Mr O'Toole if he did not suggest that the end of September during that particular meeting was not the overall framework we were working on, because I recall vividly saying if we work with September 22 and 24, this will still give you a week before the end of the month, and I believe that was said.
Third, if this was just, "We'll see how this works out," why then would you have a subcommittee recommendation that says, "Your subcommittee met on August 20, 1997, and agreed to recommend that clause-by-clause review of Bill 99, the Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1996, take place on" the dates that now you want to overturn?
Mr Christopherson: I would ask the parliamentary assistant to please not insult us by suggesting that something trivial took place at the subcommittee meeting in terms of picking these dates. At least be big enough and adult enough to take responsibility for what you're doing. Don't try to justify it by saying there was something that went on at the subcommittee that shouldn't have, and when you say "at the whimsy of individual schedules," you damned well know, you've been around here long enough now, that when you hold meetings like that to make decisions like this, that exactly what people do is try to accommodate each other's schedules.
The Liberal critic was at every one of those hearings across the province, as was I, and it's important for our party and our perspective to be at those meetings. You do compare schedules and you take a look at other things that are happening. That's exactly why you have a subcommittee meeting. Please don't suggest that it was kind of whimsy.
Further to that, Mr O'Toole talking about tactics, I can't believe you're sitting here and offering up this drivel. You also know that at that meeting we were all trying to accommodate one another and trying to reach agreement. Nobody was being petulant, nobody was being difficult. We were all trying to find four dates that would work for all of us so we could get on with the business at hand as ugly as it is.
I'm not going to say that you didn't state the September 15 fact at the beginning. I didn't take detailed notes of that. But I do remember at the very end I said, "Okay. It looks to me like we've got agreement," and I recall very clearly when I asked you, "Have we met all the marching orders that you've got from the government?" you said, "Yes, I was to make sure this was wrapped up by the end of September." My recollection supports Mr Patten's as to that date.
I don't think we get anywhere by talking about every single little thing we all said at that meeting, but if you want to spend all afternoon doing that, fine. At the end of the day, you're still going to do what you want; you've got the majority. But I would at least expect you to take responsibility for this and have the decency to apologize for the fact that you screwed up rather than trying to justify that which is impossible to justify.
I would really like to hear the parliamentary assistant on behalf of the government say, "Yes, we screwed up and that's why we're having this meeting today and that's why we're using our majority to set it right." Have at least the decency to do that.
The Chair: Any further debate?
Mr Patten: I'd like to know whether there's any flexibility on the new dates, or is that a fixed motion?
Mr Maves: It's a fixed motion.
Mr Patten: The parliamentary assistant knows that I will be representing the Legislature of Ontario -- that's why I would not be here -- at a two-day conference, which was voted by a committee of this Legislature.
Mr Christopherson: They don't care. They don't give a damn about anybody but themselves.
The Chair: Further debate? All right then, I will call the vote on the amendment that's before us, please. All those in favour?
Mr Christopherson: Recorded vote, please.
Galt, Hastings, Jordan, Maves, O'Toole, Spina, Stewart.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
The Chair: The amendment carries. We now move to the subcommittee report as amended. Any discussion?
Mr Patten: What's the point?
The Chair: Then I call a vote on this. All those in favour? All those opposed? It is carried.
The committee adjourned at 1548.