The House resumed at 8 p.m.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE OMBUDSMAN
Consideration of the fifth report of the select committee on the Ombudsman.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Before I begin my remarks on the report proper, I would like to say a few words about the members of the committee I worked with over the past several months on the select committee. I think they have been terribly effective in what they have done. They have provided an access on the part of the Ombudsman institution to the Legislative Assembly that is seen working so well in no other jurisdiction that I am aware of.
They have worked in a non-partisan fashion which I find in this province to be quite rare, and again in this case quite effective, with excellent results. I am quite proud to have had the opportunity over the past several months of serving with them. They have been very fine colleagues to work with.
Also on a personal note, members of the assembly may have read in the press, in the record of the committee publicly, that some individuals had been less than happy about the way in which the committee’s counsel had conducted himself in the committee. I would just like to take this opportunity to share with my colleagues in the assembly the opinion of the select committee that it has had every confidence in the job done by its most excellent counsel, John Bell.
When I tabled the report on November 9, you will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I took the opportunity to bring the attention of members to four highlights, or what I consider to be highlights, in the report. First, I touched briefly on the committee’s concerns about North Pickering and what is happening in regard to that situation. The second was the question of the committee’s recommendations in respect of making public the Workmen’s Compensation Board adjucative policy.
The third was to point out to members that for the first time in any of its reports the committee had found itself in the very happy position of supporting the Ombudsman on specific cases in which his recommendation had been denied by the head of a governmental organization. Finally, the other area I pointed out at that time was that the committee had established eight areas wherein it was going to be making recommendations in regard to rules for the guidance of the Ombudsman.
I suggested to our colleagues that this debate would present an opportunity for members to comment on those. The committee could then continue its work so that in the very near future we would have those rules in those areas.
The debate we are having this evening is not the debate I had hoped, as a member of the committee, we would be having. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that when we debated the third report of the select committee, which dealt with the Ombudsman’s second report, the format was indeed quite different. For about the first half of the debate members of the cabinet, to whom specific recommendations of the committee had been directed, rose in their places in the assembly and expressed their opinion in regard to the committee’s recommendations and shared with their colleagues in the House what action they would take in those regards.
That was a terribly effective way to handle the debate, because it was able in some sense to delimit it, it was able to provide focus and direction for the debate, so that the debate didn’t shoot off in a meaningless academic argument but was brought very closely to those areas in which consensus had not yet been established.
In this debate, I had hoped we would have again that same sort of focus and direction. For reasons which have not been made clear to me, that is not going to happen this evening. The select committee will be forced into a more cumbersome, drawn out procedure of asking the ministers to respond, I assume, through written correspondence. I hope that they would at that point at least deign to give some answer to the committee’s thoughtful and quite excellent recommendations, although I don’t know. The process could continue endlessly and this committee would then go the ineffective way of a lot of select committees we have seen in the past in Ontario.
Frankly, that would be quite a shame, because we are dealing with the Ombudsman institution, an institution or a function that can only recommend and can in no way oblige the government to do anything. It’s terribly important, especially given the reality of minority government, that we in the assembly have some chance to correct the ministers when they’ve gone the wrong way and to get them back on the right track.
It could get even worse than that, I submit. A failure on the part of the heads of the governmental organizations to respond satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily to the committee could lead us into a situation where the committee would be obliged to submit an endless number of single-page, one recommendation reports seeking their adoption by the assembly to bring some conclusion to the process. I submit that would be an unfortunate development in regard to the Ombudsman process in Ontario.
Perhaps I can put that to the House by way of example. Let me deal with one aspect of the committee’s work that’s always been rather close to me because of the riding I represent, that is the question of the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the Minister of Labour. Members will recall when we had the debate on the third report there were something in the order of nine recommendations the committee had made. The Minister of Labour at the time (Miss Stephenson) was able to come before the House and in effect make eight responses that were to some degree satisfactory to the select committee, and one response which the committee felt was unsatisfactory. That was the recommendation regarding the writing-off of over-payments by the Workmen’s Compensation Board. It very much streamlined in the process.
We could then congratulate the minister for her enlightened attitude in the cases in which she had agreed and work on the issues where we had failed to reach consensus. As I said earlier, that provided focus and direction for the debate. It became a very meaningful debate and one of the better debates I’ve had the privilege of entering into in this assembly. I think everybody was well served in that debate; the people who had gone with the original complaint to the Ombudsman’s office, the Ombudsman process, the people of Ontario and members of the assembly.
With the fifth report, the cabinet ministers have in effect chosen or conspired virtually to ignore the 52 recommendations of the select committee by their sheer absence from the House this evening. The select committee made some terribly significant and important recommendations in regard to the Workmen’s Compensation Board and the Ministry of Labour. In the Ombudsman’s third report, the committee recommended on four individual cases, three of which recommendations were denied. In the fourth report, there are the two recommendations in regard to the Workmen’s Compensation Board’s throwing off its shroud of secrecy -- we’ve even lost the government House leader now -- in regard to the adjucative process.
Mr. Worton: Keep it up and we’ll lose them all.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Actually, it was procedural affairs.
Mr. M. N. Davison: Finally, from the fourth report there are 13 recommendations dealing with specific cases that touch upon the work of the compensation board. There is a total of 19 recommendations in this report of the select committee that deal in one way or another with the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
We have no response. The Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) is silent, and indeed absent from this debate. That’s unfortunate and that makes the process very difficult.
The purpose of this debate, as I see it as a member of the committee, is not to have an opportunity to persuade members of the government or members of one of the opposition parties that there’s some value or validity to any particular recommendation or indeed to all the recommendations the committee has made. I think that is largely done by the words on the paper, and in most cases I suspect would find wide agreement; it was a three-party committee.
The purpose is for us to enter into a fairly specific kind of debate arising out of the ministerial responses. Each minister would have that opportunity to express their opinion in regard to a recommendation addressed to them. They would have the opportunity to inform members of the assembly as to what actions they intended to take. In that sense, we could delimit the debate and give it focus and direction, and something useful could come out of it.
The format we’ve arrived at doesn’t offer that. It doesn’t offer that kind of give and take on the ministerial responses which we achieved so successfully in the third report of the select committee.
The cabinet’s decision, frankly, baffles me. I don’t understand their reasons for deciding not to participate, to indeed boycott the debate of the select committee on the Ombudsman. It is decidedly a poor decision.
As chairman of the select committee I find it frustrating; but then I find a lot of things about this place frustrating. Perhaps that’s something that’s not unique, perhaps it’s something that’s not too important to other members of the assembly.
Considering the example I gave and considering the fact that I represent the riding of Hamilton Centre, which has such a high number of people with workmen’s compensation problems, I’m angered by the lack of response, particularly the lack of response by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Elgie) to these --
Mr. Worton: Call a quorum.
Mr. M. N. Davison: -- terribly important recommendations that would go a long way to help injured workers trying to get some justice from the Workmen’s Compensation Board; and indeed in trying to understand the process of the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
It’s too late to change the attitude of the cabinet for this debate. We will spend two and a half hours in what may at some points be useful discussion, but one which will not reach the kind of resolution I would seek from the debate.
I trust that what will happen is some members of the cabinet will at least read those parts of my remarks tonight that deal with their attitude --
Mrs. Campbell: Don’t hold your breath.
Mr. M. N. Davison: -- so that when we have the debate of the sixth report of the select committee the cabinet will have had the opportunity to reflect and see that their position and their attitude is not a terribly helpful one to the Ombudsman process, or indeed a terribly useful way to serve the people of Ontario, and will decide to attend and participate in the debate on the sixth report.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, if I can turn my attention from the approach of the cabinet, which I find so very poor, to say that on occasion the select committee on the Ombudsman has come in for some criticism -- sometimes fair, perhaps sometimes unfair -- by other members of the assembly.
I would like to share with those members -- few of whom are here tonight also -- one observation. I would again ask them to take a look at recommendations 25 and 26 of the select committee’s report. Those two recommendations, if adopted, would require the Workmen’s Compensation Board to open the doors in regard to its adjudicative policies and let injured workers know, for the first time in Ontario, the rules of the game.
In the three years I’ve been here that’s perhaps the most important recommendation, or indeed the most important initiative, I’ve had the opportunity to work on with other members of the assembly. Personally, I’m proud of those two recommendations. Indeed from my knowledge of, my memory of and my understanding of the Workmen’s Compensation Board, I suspect it’s the most important initiative that’s been undertaken in many a long year.
With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I conclude my participation in this debate.
Mrs. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, in rising to join in this debate I would just like to say that this report from the select committee is different from other committee reports in one very important way. In no way am I rising to denigrate a report of any committee, be it standing or select, but I think we have to recognize that basically this committee and its report to this House, on recommendations denied particularly, is really the final and ultimate sanction of the Ombudsman himself.
We have appointed two outstanding citizens of this province to this function. The committee in its past reports recommended, perhaps in the purest fashion, that the Ombudsman should himself complete his procedures before finally coming to the committee.
The final step, of course, is to go to the Premier (Mr. Davis).
This has not been an effective procedure, for whatever reason. I don’t think I need to go into the reasons of it --
Mr. Hennessy: No, you don’t.
Mrs. Campbell: -- but it has not been an effective procedure.
When the Ombudsman then comes to our committee, it seems to me that at that point we are the ultimate sanction, or we are a part, at least, of the ultimate process. In that connotation this report is somewhat different from any other report of any other committee.
I have been in this House since 1973. I can’t say how many times I have been involved, in one way or another, with attempts to take a good look at the Workmen’s Compensation Board and to try to effect change.
I think one of the things that has caused me most concern is the application of a definition of “the benefit of the doubt.” It is supposed to operate in favour of the injured workman, but through all the times we’ve looked at it -- at estimates and on other occasions -- we have never really been able to come to grips with the matter of the benefit of the doubt. I am very proud that as a result of the concerns of the Ombudsman, our committee really worked on the matter of benefit of the doubt.
We were absolutely astounded to find that in several cases the Ombudsman, seeking information from the Workmen’s Compensation Board, did not himself receive a proper answer. In fact, there were conflicting answers. The Ombudsman, being learned in the law, tried to focus his attention on specific cases in accordance with the definitions with which he was supplied.
This, of course, was an intolerable situation. If we did nothing else, it seems to me that in zeroing in on this problem and in finding the different definitions and the way they were applied, the Ombudsman and the committee working together have really performed the yeoman’s service for the injured workmen in the province and, I hope, although it is not apparent, for the benefit of the members of this Legislature who are called upon to be of assistance to these injured workmen.
I am I guess rather appalled, Mr. Speaker, that we do not have with us at this point even the House leader, because undoubtedly what is going to happen is we are going to have to come up with a procedure by which there is a mandatory answer to recommendations. Otherwise we have nothing but impertinence in appointing a new Ombudsman of the stature of that new Ombudsman and expect him to be placed in the same position as was the first Ombudsman. As I said, both of these gentlemen have been and are substantial citizens, highly respected in this province.
We have found that some of the procedures have become awkward. I refer now to the whole matter of the Pickering situation. I had sincerely hoped that we might have come to grips with a solution there by this time, so that a new Ombudsman was not beset with that burden as he took over his new offices. Unfortunately that too is wishful thinking.
There are many matters which we have discussed which have an emotional import and that is one of them. It is a situation which is not going to go away and yet there has been no real effort to come to grips with it. I had certainly hoped by now that there might have been some solution. So the committee will go back and review that situation and bring forward a recommendation. But you know, Mr. Speaker, we have got to find some better way of presenting to the Legislature the recommendations of the Ombudsman for proper and adequate consideration by the ministers to whom the recommendations are addressed or who are responsible for a board, commission or agency which is under discussion by the Ombudsman.
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I think I was the one who was most cynical about continuing in this kind of fashion to debate this report. It is true that on one occasion that we did have some response, but it seemed to me that for us to debate something of this import with a handful less than a quorum I suggest, Mr. Speaker -- but I would not like to bring any minister from wherever he is to bother about the recommendations contained in the report because it wouldn’t be meaningful and he wouldn’t answer.
I just want to say that I am frightened that we are getting into a kind of position where there almost has to be confrontation in his House with reference to the work of the Ombudsman if we are to get any kind of response. That is really not the way that an Ombudsman function should be carried out.
There are lots of occasions when a minister may have a very honest difference of opinion; when he may have very good reason for not accepting the recommendation. I am not precluding that in my remarks, but what I am saying is he or she ought to accord the Ombudsman an answer. There ought to be an answer; first to the Ombudsman and then, where it is a denied recommendation, to the committee of the Legislature as the court of last resource so far as the Ombudsman is concerned. I use the word resource rather than resort because I think they have two different meanings.
There is no point, in my view, in our going into the details of this report. They are available to all the members. We worked long and hard. We have suggested rules, as has been stated, or guidelines. The reason they are not incorporated is that although we asked for input from the members of this assembly the response was something less than unanimous.
Mr. Hennessy: Zero.
Mrs. Campbell: No, that is not true. Actually many of the cabinet did respond to our suggestions as to guidelines. But, of course, if the cabinet alone responds, or with very few others responding --
Mr. Hennessy: That’s where the brains are.
Mrs. Campbell: -- then the matter becomes distorted somewhat. That is why we took the position that we should indicate the areas where we would want to bring in guidelines and hope that this stirring and scintillating debate would help us to come to some conclusion about the guidelines.
I have said all that I can. I am expressing my disappointment. I am expressing my concern that we will have to find another procedure by which we process this report. I can only hope, and I mean this sincerely, that we can find the procedure where we will not find ourselves in confrontation with the ministers involved in the report, but rather they will respond to it as they see fit, so that we may then have some useful dialogue for future reference.
Mr. Villeneuve: In taking part in this debate, it was a pleasure to work with members from different groups representing this Legislature, and perhaps get an insight into the functions of the Ombudsman’s work of which we had no knowledge.
Being realistic, I think he was a great credit to this province in setting up that office in the manner in which he did. Possibly some of us felt he went a little far in his jurisdiction, but when members hear all sides of the complaints they will find that he was a very human individual who tried to help those who were not in a position to be too helpful to themselves. In particular in going to the Workmen’s Compensation Board, because of his professional background he knew more than anyone else that the average man going with a complaint certainly was approaching a group of professionals who knew their work very well, while on the other hand average individuals were not always able to convince the board of their real needs or the injustices they felt were rendered to them in the way of judgements. Therefore those individuals found in the Ombudsman and his office a very worthy friend and a place in which they could express their views and ask for assistance. In that manner, perhaps, those of us who sat on this committee got an insight into his true value. What he was trying at all times to do was to help, if he possibly could, the people who had gone to see him with a sound complaint.
It is very true, as we all know as members in this House, that many of our constituents bother us a little bit more than we feel is necessary, but as public servants we have to accept that as part of our responsibility in order to perform the service which they feel they elected us to perform. Therefore, I say that although there may be some differences of view, I think a man of Mr. Maloney’s stature is not easy to replace.
I do hope that in the setting up of this office, which is something new to us all, with the experience we have now gained from other jurisdictions, possibly there is a solution to having better working harmony with some of the ministries. I realize that sometimes it is a difficult situation; but nevertheless, as I stated, I do appreciate the position of the Ombudsman in bringing to the ministries and different departments his views and expressing his desire to see that these people, where it was justified, were properly compensated. Therefore, I think in that manner he has contributed a great deal to bringing better understanding to the population at large.
I would just say that the recommendations we have made are, I believe, very worthwhile, from the experience gathered and information obtained, as more or less a guideline. I too am sorry to see that there are not more ministers in the House at the present time. I realize they are busy, but there is not much sense in discussing a report if there is nobody here to listen to it. However, I am not making apologies for them. That is something they can answer for themselves.
Mr. Eakins: Put Mickey on the front bench.
Mr. Villeneuve: I am sorry, as I say, that more of them are not here.
I will say it is a pleasure to work in harmony. This is one committee where there wasn’t partisan politics played, and an exchange of views from different groups is always helpful. We tried to work as one to condense our ideas and consolidate them into what we thought were sound recommendations.
I do want to commend our chairman who was very helpful to us all and conducted the meetings very well and made everybody feel as if we were rather important, whether we were or not.
I see our counsel is here this evening, and most certainly I would say without his knowledge and his counsel it would be impossible, in particular with other jurisdictions, to obtain the information and get into the root of problems. He was able to direct questions and obtain answers that we, as visitors to other jurisdictions, would be pretty well embarrassed to have to ask. I certainly cannot praise him highly enough for the enlightenment he obtained for us all in approaching these problems in that manner.
It is only, I suppose, from asking questions that we get answers, but sometimes as visiting dignitaries, as we term ourselves, it is not always easy as total strangers to walk in and ask pointed questions. Having counsel with us and introducing him as such, made it possible for us to get to the core of some of the problems we wanted to obtain information on. That certainly was beneficial. I can only speak for myself because I have no legal background and most certainly some of the points he brought out I have no knowledge of at all, but with his experience as legal counsel he was able to obtain the information.
I join with the other members in suggesting to the different ministers to read these recommendations over pretty carefully. I feel they were well worth while and I think we are on our way to having difficulties ironed out more satisfactorily because I think perhaps the members of this committee understand the functions of the Ombudsman much better than they did before and the problems that confront him, and realize that in the performance of his duties perhaps we may not always agree with him but he was trying to be a servant of the people who needed assistance.
On that basis, I think he is going to be a hard man to replace, if I may say that personally.
I sincerely hope his successor, from the knowledge he has brought to that office, is able to carry on in a manner so that perhaps he will not have two strikes on him before he starts, and in that respect I believe it will be better for all concerned. Thank you.
Mr. Lawlor: Mr. Speaker, the consuming lack of interest in the report of the select committee on the Ombudsman consumes me. I don’t really mind. A week ago today in the House we did the report of the statutory instruments committee and I would have excused everybody, I could well understand; but considering the amount of both plaudits and resentment that this particular office has aroused over the last period of time, I would have thought that particularly the snipers would have shown up in abundance simply to unload their shotguns.
What do we have? We have a peaceful little gathering, basically composed of members of the select committee who have seen fit this evening, with a few invited visitors, to have a public meeting together so that we who spent most of the summer talking to one another can talk as blitheringly as we please in public. It is disappointing on that aspect, but it seems there’s a gradual arteriosclerosis taking place in this House. The deadening starts from the head and I think it has just about reached the waist. Perhaps the Christmas recess will revive the corpse.
As far as the cabinet is concerned, either they are indifferent or their refusal to appear here tonight casts some aspersions and a dim light upon the work of this committee and upon the Ombudsman’s office as such. That is a renegade gesture on the part of the cabinet ministers who might have appeared.
On the previous occasion I thought it was a fruitful and worthwhile debate. In open assembly they made accounting for the various points made by the committee. This House is going to have to recognize that the work of this committee has two features. One, that it covers the waterfront in a sense as no other committee does. Select committees and even standing committees are focused upon particular issues, but if members look at our report they will see it covers the widest diversity. The whole governmental apparatus falls possibly and to some degree actually within our purview and ambit; we are hearing one case on health and another case with respect to reform institutions, and the role of the Treasury with respect to ex gratia payments or any number of other features come to the fore in the work of the committee.
It makes the work of the committee very interesting because of the wide diversity of matters with which we do deal and the insights gained into various disciplines which we -- at least people like me -- don’t normally deal with. Again, that might have been a source of attraction, but so be it. We are to have a new Ombudsman, putatively. And the government, slickly, surreptitiously; how did it do it? Whatever way the government manages to do these things, it has leaked the news of Mr. Justice Morand’s putative appointment.
I won’t say anything about that tonight. When it becomes official, I become official so to speak. But it’s before us; and speaking to that ghostly figure -- because it is a ghostly figure at the moment -- speaking to the ghostly figure, I would welcome him -- or her, if there should be a change of mind -- and cast, Cassandra-like, certain warnings.
The task that the Ombudsman faces is monumental. The office is not running all that well internally. That’s all there is to it. It is taking too long a time to close the cases from the time they come in until the time they go out. There’s a wringing of hands and a plea that they need more staff and that they can’t process the work. That has to be severely scouted and deeply looked into by the new Ombudsman.
Hon. Mr. McCague: You might be the third Ombudsman.
Mr. Lawlor: I doubt it.
I just think there’s a snafu in there and that the wires aren’t untangled. I put a case in here during the hearings last summer. It was not three nor five but seven weeks, I believe, before they even answered the letter to my constituent. You can imagine, Mr. Speaker, that in the meantime my constituent felt that I had departed, not just the country but the universe. When he finally caught up with me at my constituency office, I couldn’t believe my ears that he hadn’t been well contacted by that time. That kind of thing is very personal as it’s my own case. There are these long delays without even responding, even meeting people’s needs or even getting out necessary letters and keeping them up to date. All that, which is the most elementary part of the administrative function of any particular office, is not being duly attended to.
Apart from that, Lord help him, he has Pickering to contend with. We would like to gyrate a little in the committee and seek to assist in that Pickering thing somehow. It can’t stand the way it is. The Ombudsman, being brought into the middle of that mess, is not being offered roses, not even a cantaloupe. It won’t go away. I think the government thinks it will dissipate into thin air just by sheer attrition of time and delay. It won’t.
If the past Ombudsman thought that there was -- and I have very severe doubts whether he was right about this -- there was any severe mulcting of the individuals and that they weren’t getting their just desserts with respect to land compensation in the Pickering area, if he thought so -- and he did and he came down strong on it -- then that is one of the highest offices in this province which has to be contended with, answered and met. It is not being done, there is a shying away.
The Ministry of Housing is questioning the existing agreement arrived at between the parties through the auspices of this select committee two or three years ago. I wasn’t a member of it then, thank heavens, but they did yeoman service in bringing about some kind of tentative accord. One would think there of some relationship between Beirut and Jerusalem, from the way things have turned out, and there’s no reason for it.
That leads me to my next theme, the overall position I take. I will reiterate it and pound the desk, because this House has never come to an understanding of what the function of the Ombudsman is or its relationship to the Ombudsman. I will concede from the very beginning it is a very difficult thing within this kind of assembly. The British had trouble enough; and what did they do? They have an ombudsman who is beholden to the individual members. We went off on a wider pattern, the Swedish or Israeli pattern, with respect to this. We in a sense are subordinate ombudsmen within our jurisdiction. Within our locales we have second ombudsmen in our midst and we are trying to work out the interrelationships between his functions and our functions.
Ours are minor or minimal as compared to those of the cabinet. The cabinet under these auspices is subject to a thoroughgoing investigation. The files are open to the Ombudsman. It’s the way it has to be. But for recalcitrant stiff-neckedness, getting one’s back up, resisting all along the road, causing all the snags and pitfalls one can in the way of the new office instead of accommodating oneself to it as has been the general tenor -- not with all ministers, some have been quite good; but we’ve had sufficient references to recalcitrant ministries before our committee to show this is not a pervasive mood, nor does the understanding go very deep.
That was half of Maloney’s trouble, the other half was himself.
I trust the new Ombudsman will try to realize as quickly as possible that this is a curious assembly. All kinds of currents run through it, pathological mostly. The strange twists and turns and every particular shade of opinion is represented -- from the most anti-Ombudsman members, who are very quiet tonight, thank heaven; to those who are flamingly in favour, as we were all supposed to be on that grand afternoon when we all stood up, put our left hands to our foreheads and said “aye” to the office being brought into being.
If the office is to be efficacious, this committee is necessary. I wish this committee would get some support in its role. We act as a buffer between the Ombudsman’s office and the Legislative Assembly. The Ombudsman’s office probably couldn’t function without the committee, now or at any time in the future. To play the committee down, to smirk or to snipe, or do anything else starting with an “s” with respect to that committee, does it very little service.
The Legislature couldn’t possibly do the overseership of the individual cases that are at issue in this forum. That can only be properly done in relatively leisure time, namely in vacation time, when the committee sits all day long taking it case by case. These mostly or very often are those cases where the recommendation of the Ombudsman to the minister in question has been denied. The committee reviews all those in order to set up some basis of reconciliation, if possible; because there’s very often a misunderstanding as between the two parties, both as to the factual context in which each is speaking and the law that’s applicable in the particular circumstance.
In any event it tries to bring their heads together and have certain basic understandings -- I won’t say concessions but that’s probably what it comes to. That’s the committee’s work; it’s a pacifying, clarifying agency. It takes time and it’s not exactly the best fun in the world. One could go to Coney Island in the afternoon and be less crowded.
I’m speaking at some length because I doubt if there are that many more speakers, if I may say so.
Mr. Conway: Go on, Patrick, go on.
Hon. Mr. McCague: He might be the next Ombudsman.
Mr. Conway: Patrick for Ombudsman.
Mr. Lawlor: For this committee not to get a fully reciprocal response to what it has set down with some pain in this kind of arranged debate is quite disheartening.
At small number four of the committee’s fifth report which we’re debating, we say, “The committee is looking forward to meeting and working with the new Ombudsman. It is vitally important for the Ombudsman of Ontario to have a means available to carry on a comprehensive and continuing dialogue with the Legislative Assembly in an organized and effective way. This is in large part the role of the select committee.”
Then it goes on, quoting from the fourth report: “The committee learned that a deep personal respect is necessary to the function of the office, the sense, which has not been developed in Ontario, of the dignity and integrity of the office.”
If the new Ombudsman should be Mr. Justice Morand, I do not believe he has any great rapport or hobnobbing relations, so to speak. I don’t know if he goes to lunch with members of this Legislature or not or ever has.
Mr. Conway: But you hope so.
Mr. Lawlor: I rather doubt it; judges don’t go to lunch except with judges.
Mr. Conway: It’s called judgeitis.
Mr. Lawlor: Usually they go alone, I think. They have to ruminate, not just masticate. They’re a lonely group, even when lunching.
This sense of the mutual relationship between the two can only be engendered and maintained by a mutuality of understanding on the part of the Legislature and the government generally toward the office and the person of the Ombudsman, whoever that person may be from time to time; and by the Ombudsman toward the elected members and all others touched by his functions.
Somehow or other it is going to be necessary for the new Ombudsman to have a sense of the workings of this House, a sense from time to time on the particular issues involved and of the sentiment of the consensus of this House. One never gets a sentiment of the plurality, there ain’t none.
Mr. Gregory: There are not any.
Mr. Conway: Watch the Queen’s English. They don’t say that even in Mississauga.
Mr. Lawlor: That’s going to be a very difficult thing. As members of the House, we all know that we can get away with certain things and that we can address the House in a certain way. Obtuse as the members may be, we know what might just possibly penetrate at some time early in the morning.
The Ombudsman will not have that. I suppose it means that we’re going to have to go even further; we’re going to have to be more sensitive to this particular unawareness in order to make this information felt so that we will avoid these unnecessary wrangles and completely beside-the-point quarrels, which much of the quarrelling has been, as much quarrelling always is in these things.
This report goes on to say something that is very important in regard to the constitution of the office, particularly from the beginning: “However, there was never at the time” -- at the time the act was passed in 1975 -- “a clear statement from the Legislature to indicate what role the Ombudsman should play within the system of government in Ontario or in what context the Ombudsman was expected to perform his role. This is not meant as a criticism but as a statement of fact.
“At the time the act was introduced, there was a lack of understanding of what an Ombudsman was, how an Ombudsman should function in Ontario and, significantly, what the implications would be of an Ombudsman’s function in Ontario. Other countries, Israel and England, preceded the creation of the office by a parliamentary study, thoroughly canvassing the significant issues, namely, the necessity of the office and the most appropriate concept of an Ombudsman within the particular parliamentary system.”
I won’t read much more but it goes on and says: “The new Ombudsman must not be placed in a position where he is constantly looking over his shoulder, concerned with the committee’s, the Legislature’s and the government’s reaction to any particular course of conduct.”
Then we wind it up with that highly rhetorical, but nevertheless true -- true because rhetorical -- statement about the office generally: “As possible with no other public office, however independent by statute, the relationship between the Ombudsman and Parliament is perforce and necessarily trusting.”
That trust has been lacking on both sides. It has been felt as an undertow in every conversation. It has undermined most of the things we’ve sought to do in the office. Let this not any longer be so with the new Ombudsman coming into office. Otherwise the thing will flounder and fail. And it does serve. It’s going to serve an even more necessary function in 1984 than it ever hopes to serve today for the very reason it was initially brought into being. The last sentence is: “It is a unique and delicate flower in any democratic system and its preservation and growth requires almost infinite and endless care.”
I want to say a word about the press on this particular sentence. They’ve quoted that sentence time after time to indicate -- I think, I’m not sure; I’m never sure what the press is trying to indicate -- I think it is, equivocally, that we are pussyfooters. We are tender-hearted legislators, et cetera, cajoling and mincing up to placing narcissuses under the nose of the Ombudsman. That is quite untrue and if you read our report you can see that’s not the position we take or ever did take.
But when I read the editorials, say in the Globe and Mail, I don’t suppose anything other than controversy is news. For two people to understand one another is not likely to elicit headlines, but a misunderstanding may come pretty close. To approach the whole society in that ambit, the way they do -- and, namely, everything has to be adversarial, everything has to be conflict. Unless you’re quarrelling you’re not alive, and the tenor has been, “So be an Ombudsman.” You can spit if you wish. You can gnash your teeth. It’s Mickey Hennessy’s four corners. It’s the ring every time and, “Come out fighting, boys,” otherwise it’s a poor contest.
It’s not the way in which the Ombudsman’s office can possibly fight. It will be eternally at loggerheads, not in a positive way. To come to grips with something, to disagree, can on occasion -- seldom but sometimes -- bring about fruitful exchange of points. It depends upon the nature of the aggression involved and the kind of things that has been going on in this province, and being egged on by the press, does nothing to bring a fruitious determination, or an understanding, or any solution to the various conflicts in which we’ve been engaged, including the Pickering situation.
Mr. Conway: You sound like a man named Trudeau.
Mr. Lawlor: When the Ombudsman does anything that is particularly positive and which receives the accolades and assent of this House -- basically, for instance, the investigation of the correctional institutions -- that is not received in quite the same degree of fanfare and advertisement.
If the office is to be efficacious it’s simply going to have to have a far more smooth going; not truncating one another; not cutting down the role of the Legislature by way of public statement or, contrarily, the Legislature moving in on the Ombudsman.
Mr. Hennessy: It’s got to be Christmas for that mood.
Mr. Conway: It sounds like Pierre Trudeau talking about the press.
Mr. Hennessy: Come over here.
Mr. Lawlor: Oh, Pierre, he’s an antagonistic whelp too. He believes in the adversary system, being trained in the law, you know; he thinks everything a fight, for Heaven’s sake. Half the reason for the trouble in this country at the present time is because he won’t seek to reach basic accommodations. He stands: That fellow Clark is going to sell out to Quebec, but never Pierre, no sir.
Mr. Hennessy: That’s right.
Mr. Lawlor: You’re in the wrong party, Hennessy, but you don’t know it.
Mr. Hennessy: Have one more.
Mr. Eakins: Back to your corner, Mickey.
Ms. Lawlor: Anyhow, the office is evolving with acute growing pains and with the new man coming in I suspect there may be a simmering down. The government may be proposing this particular individual to the House precisely as a cooling mechanism. Maybe there was a little too much flamboyance, a little heating up, et cetera, to get the office known as a flare in the night, but let’s get down to refining the oil later in the day.
Mr. Conway: Patrick, it’s called Irish charm.
Mr. Lawlor: The second thing the Ombudsman is going to face is a fairly thoroughgoing revision of the statute itself. Our report makes mention of it but doesn’t go into it very deeply. During the hearings, the old Ombudsman’s emissary had a quite lengthy list of new amendments to this legislation to make this office function a little better.
One of the most obvious things that would have to be done would be to clarify his jurisdiction. The Ombudsman, after all these years of investigation, is not quite sure of where he has power and where he doesn’t. We have been proposing that this be set down and clarified in a detailed way and that the Attorney General’s office work with the Ombudsman in this regard. Perhaps a schedule to the statutes should be set up; perhaps in our guidelines we would embody these terms.
We don’t know how many boards and agencies there are in the province and that may be the problem. Somebody estimates there are around 400.
Mr. Conway: They are all in Lanark.
Mr. Lawlor: There may be four or five very critical ones that no one has thought about that are working out there in total darkness. I am sure they are doing very good work. Whether the Ombudsman has jurisdiction or not is a moot point.
Another one is the role of the Premier in this regard.
Mr. Hennessy: Right.
Mr. Lawlor: When a minister turns down the Ombudsman’s recommendations for some change in his department and he is forced to send it up to the Premier, the Ombudsman has said that he didn’t have to do that, he could come directly to the select committee. The select committee has been very strict about that, and probably right now that I begin to read the statute correctly.
That should be changed. It shouldn’t, in every instance, go to the Premier before it is to go to the committee. Why? Because he doesn’t do anything about the recommendations anyhow. I don’t think there is a single instance in which he has done anything but affirm the position of the minister, which is of course quite understandable. He would be somewhat loath to run against his minister or even call him in and try and get him to rectify the situation.
Besides, he is an overloaded man. He has all these conferences in Ottawa to attend. With that in mind, one couldn’t expect him to look at these massive reports coming through from the Ombudsman’s office. That is no doubt a rather minor consideration in the overall picture. Therefore it should, in my opinion, come to the select committee in every instance and may or may not, according to the Ombudsman’s option go forward to the Premier.
Then there is the area of ex gratia payments. There would be great resistance to that. In both instances, it seems to me, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Ombudsman. It is not like any other office in the province. By its constitution it is beholden to this assembly in a direct way, and this makes it unique from any other agencies of the crown that have been set up. It’s a totally distinctive kind of office. If the Ombudsman recommends some of pecuniary benefit to individuals, provided that the minister in charge agrees, then that should be legitimate authority enough for a Management Board order or for a money order to go out from the Treasury to pay that particular item. It should not use the argument that constitutionally this must be kept within the close confines of the Treasury itself.
The office is unique also with respect to its relationship with the Premier. It ought not undergo the same being turned aside as happens in any number of agencies seeking to address the highest ministry of the province.
There is a whole area with respect to jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional problems, as to what handling the Ombudsman is prepared to give to that or not give to that. It is ongoing work that has all to be sorted out. We haven’t attempted thus far to do so. We look forward to the new office and to a fresh look at that whole position.
In non-jurisdictional cases -- that is cases over which the Ombudsman has no authority or power and can’t do anything for the individual, because the legislation says he can’t, yet he goes ahead, quite rightly up to a point, and tries to assist them; but perhaps spends too much time, goes too far in this particular area -- if that is eating into the time of the legitimate cases or the jurisdictional cases, then that obviously will have to end.
There is the problem of confidentiality within the office. Members will see in our report we say we do think that the Ombudsman’s tongue is too tied. For all the noise members have heard, he is very severely restricted, and his staff extremely restricted, with respect to what disclosures they may make, either to the public or to those with whom they are conducting the investigation. This is very close to the chest; a bit more give and take in this particular area probably would be of benefit to the Ombudsman and obviate a lot of the difficulties with which the committee is faced.
One of the chief areas we have had to deal with, I suppose, as members of the House -- I think every one of us will say and the Ombudsman will certainly tell you -- was that his heaviest work load was with the Workmen’s Compensation Board. I won’t go into the interstices of that mess.
Hon. Mr. McCague: Why don’t you? We have an hour and a quarter.
Mr. Conway: Please do.
Mr. Lawlor: But it is certainly an aggravating issue.
Mr. Gregory: Would you elaborate on this, Pat?
Mr. Conway: Go on, Patrick.
Mr. Lawlor: My resources, my energy, my ennui is so great that if I tried to describe all that -- there are 15 or 20 cases, something like that -- I would fall asleep in the process.
Mr. Hennessy: Maybe you’re asleep now.
Mr. Conway: We want you to be a good judge, Pat.
Mr. Lawlor: Anyhow it is all there, laid out for your good reading, for your bedside reading at any time you may care to crack the book, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Eakins: This is a family show, Pat.
Mr. Lawlor: The problem is, though, we simply can’t in a debate like this go by without mentioning the problem of the lamp, that bemused us to some extent.
Mr. Eakins: The heat lamp.
Mr. Lawlor: Yes, it was a heat lamp. I am sure that is the most costly heat lamp in creation. Aladdin’s lamp has nothing comparable to it. The kind of lamp the Ombudsman thought the injured workmen should have would cost $245. The kind of lamp the Workmen’s Compensation Board said that within its muzzy rules it was prepared to give the man was $25 or $30?
Mr. Hennessy: Two dollars and 98 cents.
Mr. Lawlor: A fight went on over that, almost interminably. I am sure that lamp cost very close to $5,000 by the time they were finished. We have recommended that lamps be more available, so to speak, and there are three pages of this report taken up with the lamp. If you wish some enlightenment on that subject, Mr. Speaker, there you are.
Mr. Conway: Democracy marches on.
Mr. Lawlor: As the chairman who has done yeoman service on the committee, I wanted to thank our counsel, John Bell, too.
Mr. Conway: Great man.
Mr. Lawlor: As I said a few moments ago, the signal may be only -- gosh knows, the only effective thing that we managed to do in the committee was to obtain a pile about two feet high of internal information with respect to the operation of the Workmen’s Compensation Board, and the way in which they reached their decisions. This has always been a mystery. It didn’t seem to either come or go, here or there. The whole problem of reasonable doubt -- I argue reasonable doubt in practically every case on which I appear. I didn’t realize they have three definitions; and they must be using the definition that I don’t agree with because they never seem to think my doubts are reasonable.
Mr. Conway: You can’t fault them for that.
Mr. Lawlor: I had some reasonable doubts about them, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker. My doubts were more than reasonable by the time I found this was never laid down properly; it was presented to us and disclosure was finally made. What is the policy of the board with respect to reasonable doubt? Does it fall in favour of the injured workman or does it work against him? What is the operation? Finally, we have been able to do something about it; we’re going to get a definition, we’re going to get something clear in that area.
Apart from that, there are all these manuals and all these opinions, the basis upon which decisions are reached; all have now been delivered into the hands of the committee. They are open for public scrutiny in this regard, so those people who are handling workmen’s compensation cases will know in advance what the board’s policy is in any particular regard. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that’s an enormous advance, because up to now we have been arguing in the dark; you just go in and present the case the best way you know how and get out of there.
That’s the one thing we’ve accomplished. One doesn’t even have to be cynical to think we haven’t accomplished all that much more.
There are many recommendations to the Ombudsman, to most of which the Ombudsman has replied. I would only like to make reference to the position the committee has taken with respect to the Ombudsman at page 74 of this report. It says: “There are some who would urge that the committee of the Legislature, when all things are equal, as in certain cases we are dealing with, support the recommendation of the Ombudsman, notwithstanding the appropriateness or adequacy of the governmental organization’s position.
“The committee cannot agree with this view. It envisages many occasions when, notwithstanding that the governmental organization decides not to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendation, that decision is nevertheless adequate and appropriate. It is open for this committee to agree with the decision of the governmental organization, just as it is for the committee to support the Ombudsman’s recommendation in any given case.
“The Ombudsman in this province must recognize that his recommendations will not always win the day. Likewise, government organizations must realize that they cannot consistently deny Ombudsman recommendations and not endure appropriate consequences through this committee and the Legislature.”
Since they’re not going to endure anything, obviously, through the Legislature, we still have, thank heavens, the committee with which to confront the ministries in this particular regard.
Mr. Conway: Thank heavens.
Mr. Lawlor: Altogether, in the report, there are 52 separate recommendations given to this Legislature, on which I would hope it would act with the utmost precipitation and goodwill.
I want to make mention of just one case, at page 56 of the report. That is a case on which I would particularly have liked to see the minister here tonight. It has to do with complaint summary 45, a question of bias, a question of doctors in relation to hospital appeal boards; doctors being able to gain a position in a hospital and to have their patients admitted to that hospital, under their supervision, and not taken away from them and necessarily transferred over to the care of some other doctor who, because of certain kinds of cronyism, is able to get himself appointed and maintain himself on the board and exclude other members of the same profession, who are probably equally as competent as he, and who in any event have these patients to be looked after.
Mr. Maloney agreed with the doctor in question and claimed the statutory composition of the hospital appeal board and the quorum which presided at this particular hearing were both questions which were adverse to natural justice.
Some of the legislation was amended but amended in such an adroit way, if I may put it that way, that it was completely useless. The same condition obtains to this day. This is the kind of case we are handling. This particular case will no doubt come on before the select committee in the next vacation period and I trust that we can bring pressure to bear on the ministry in this particular regard.
Again, when the ministry isn’t even here to meet these objections, then it becomes something of a lacuna, which means a vacuum or empty place. When I talk about an empty place, I mean it. These recommendations and the work of this committee will not end because of neglect. Certainly the committee is dedicated enough. It spent long hours at these particular tasks. We would appreciate from the members of this House their continuing feed-in. When they were circulated and asked for their thoughts with respect to what guidelines the Ombudsman should adhere to and which would be proposed to the Ombudsman the list of individuals who responded was very small indeed. In every case but one -- that of you, Mr. Speaker -- they were all cabinet ministers.
Mr. Conway: Those terrible cabinet ministers.
Mr. Lawlor: Maybe we didn’t do the member for Rainy River (Mr. T. P. Reid) justice. I think he wrote in too. In any event, there wasn’t any overwhelming response and for all the recriminations one hears in the hallways, et cetera, one would have thought like Santa Claus we had been reading the mail coming in until Christmas.
Mr. Conway: You have been hearing things.
Mr. Lawlor: Such has not been the case, nor has such been the case tonight. So be it. The work will go on and we look forward to the institution of the new Ombudsman in this office and a harmonious, almost heavenly ongoing conversation, a dialogue which will resemble nothing in terms of silly antagonism.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The member for Haldimand-Norfolk.
Mr. Eakins: A great member.
Mr. Conway: Now the truth.
Mr. G. I. Miller: As a member of the select committee on the affairs of the Ombudsman, I would like to make a few comments on the fifth report. I know it has been covered quite thoroughly by the other members of the committee who have already spoken, particularly the member for Lakeshore (Mr. Lawlor). He has given a detailed account as he sees it. I would like to point out I did enjoy working on the committee, although there were a lot of legal matters and a lot of reports given which weren’t exactly my expertise. I am concerned about the function of the Ombudsman and how he fits into the picture for the good of the little person in Ontario and of the province of Ontario.
I have been a supporter of the Ombudsman’s office. I feel he has done much good on behalf of the citizens of Ontario. He needs co-operation from the government because that is really how we get value for that money. We have to have the recommendations from the Ombudsman and then it is up to the government to implement them.
As we all know, there is much red tape that has to be cut as the average citizen doesn’t know where to go. The office was set up in 1975 with Arthur Maloney as the Ombudsman. I had a lot of respect for him and I think he has done much good in getting the office off the ground.
Again, the office has received much criticism from many members on all sides of the House. I suppose the biggest criticism was the budget that has gone up to nearly $5 million; that is a concern of mine also. I think if you are going to spend that kind of money, Mr. Speaker, you have to have some results and in order to get those results, I think you have to have co-operation between all members of the Legislature and particularly of the government.
As this report was presented, I think the recommendations are there. It is an indication of what should be done by a committee of all members of this minority government and I just know if the government is thinking at all that they will listen and try to implement them, because it is an unbiased report. The Ombudsman takes the point of view of the average citizen. That is the way he used to function. I would like to point out that from my point of view -- and I know some of my colleagues have indicated that maybe the office should be abandoned -- I really think with the right man at the helm, I think it can do some good.
For example, we had a problem with our fishing industry in Lake Erie and we had dissatisfied fishermen at Port Dover. They came to the Ombudsman and because of his input, because of his research, the fishing industry has already improved. From a fishing point of view -- and I have said this many times -- Lake Erie produces 50 per cent of the freshwater fish of all of Canada which a lot of people don’t realize -- 50 per cent of all the freshwater fish are caught in Ontario, in Lake Erie -- and so it plays an important role in our economy. It needs to be protected by the fishermen because they realize they have made a living off that lake for many generations already and I hope they can do that for many generations in the future.
I would like to think that the Ombudsman played a little role in changing the direction of the fishing industry. I know it perhaps wouldn’t have happened any other way but by having somebody with expertise get in at the grass roots, because of the manner in which the political system works. For the last 35 years in Ontario we have had one government and I think they can keep things buried and they are difficult to get at but, again, the people on Ontario spoke in 1975. They are looking for answers and the Ombudsman is in a good position to help give those answers.
If the government really wants to make it work successfully, they can co-operate. I think they can use it to their advantage. If the recommendations made in this report were utilized as put forth, they would make much more effective ministries. They can take it up from where the report leaves, off.
As a member of the committee, I was concerned about the length of time the select committee was sitting. I think in the beginning we had it scheduled for something like two months, but fortunately we were able to cut it down to four weeks in August and a week in October.
We can’t change the decision. It is the government that has to change that decision. We can only make a report and once that report is made our function is completed and then it is up to the government to respond.
Mr. Speaker, again, I believe our counsel did a tremendous job; all members of the committee had a tremendous amount of input. There’s one other thing I would like to mention before I sit down. It happened that we had the opportunity of discussing a report which I think came in in December of last year. Our committee made a trip overseas to look at the functions of the ombudsman’s office in Europe and Israel. I did have the opportunity to go with the committee, but I turned it down as I felt we had representation from all three parties who could come back with a report that would be beneficial to the working of the Ombudsman’s office.
It was independent of the Ombudsman’s office itself and it will be utilized, maybe not this year, but may be next year. I don’t begrudge the other members taking the trip.
Mr. Conway: I do.
Mr. G. I. Miller: It is good public relations among countries. It was a worthwhile venture and in the years ahead it will prove to be that the report they helped prepare was a good one. All you have to do is read it to see what they accomplished, Mr. Speaker.
While we have to be concerned with the budget, I still believe the little person has the right to have the answers, and he can get those answers through the Ombudsman’s office. I am concerned that tonight we don’t have somebody who wasn’t a member of that committee making some remarks on behalf of the government so we might feel that we are getting through to the ministers. The only way we can make this committee function, and the office function, is to have some debate in the Legislature. I hope that before the evening is out, one or two members from all parties who weren’t on the committee might get up and make a few remarks in order to get a response.
Mr. Speaker, it has been a pleasure for me to be on the committee and have some input into the direction it is going to go.
Mr. Conway: Didn’t he look good on television Saturday night?
Mr. Eakins: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate and agree with the remarks of the member for Haldimand-Norfolk that the committee was well served by those who attended the tour of Europe and Israel. I only regret that he was not able to hear the rendition of the member for Lakeshore when he exercised his vocal cords in the old city of Jerusalem.
Mr. Conway: Oh, no. He’s a religious fellow.
Hon. Mr. McCague: He can be on both sides now.
Mr. Conway: Is there any difference between the NDP caucus and the wailing wall?
Mr. Lawlor: Or the day I baptized Taylor in the Jordan.
Mr. Eakins: I just want to speak very briefly. I think it is not necessary to speak very long tonight, with the very few members in the House, especially the ministers who should be very interested in this report. I regret they are not here to participate. Since much of this report deals with their ministries I would have hoped they would be here to speak in that regard.
I just want to say that I have appreciated very much serving as a member of the committee. The members have certainly worked very hard and been very non-partisan in their deliberations. I want to pay particular tribute to our chairman who I believe has done a very good job indeed, and has been very conscientious in his work as chairman.
I also want to commend our counsel, John Bell, for his work. He certainly has been most co-operative and has worked very hard in the production of this report in co-operation with the members.
I also want to express appreciation for our former Ombudsman, Mr. Maloney, and for the office of the Ombudsman. There has been a great deal of discussion, but many of the people who have been critics of the Ombudsman’s office are not here tonight. Having had the opportunity to take a look at other jurisdictions in Europe and Israel, I have come back with the feeling that the office of the Ombudsman in Ontario is perhaps better known than that of any other jurisdiction we have been able to study. It has been my feeling that many of the jurisdictions now are following the same path that the Ombudsman here has taken, and that is to let the people in that jurisdiction know about the office of the Ombudsman.
I suppose the Ombudsman in Ontario could have started with a very small staff and over a period of time have increased that capacity. But the Ombudsman chose to let the people of Ontario know the office of the Ombudsman was available to them and so he went out to meet the people and to make that office known. I think the office is now very firmly established and the people of Ontario know not only that there is an Ombudsman but who the Ombudsman is. I want to express my appreciation for the work of Mr. Maloney in his three years as our Ombudsman.
I just want to make a couple of observations. The member for Lakeshore has mentioned one, and that is the great time and expense of discussing an item such as a heat lamp. I don’t know, I think it must be the most expensive heat lamp we will ever hear about. I’m sure it must have cost a couple of thousand dollars for the committee to discuss it. This is one area in which I would hope the office of the Ombudsman and the Workmen’s Compensation Board could resolve their differences or problems in a much better fashion than they did in this regard.
There’s one particular area I would hope to see a great improvement in and that is the dealing with the non-jurisdictional complaints, which I feel have taken a great deal of time. Surely there must be some way of dealing in a different fashion with these complaints. I think this too, is perhaps one of the reasons why, with a great number of non-jurisdictional complaints, I wouldn’t want to see the Ombudsman become involved with complaints about municipal government. I’m sure it would escalate into a greater bureaucracy than it is at the present time.
I just want to echo some of the comments that are in the report. I believe it refers to the fourth report. I’d just like to place on record, because I think it’s very important, where it states: “This report does not pretend to be the dictionary for the definitions considered necessary, nor the exclusive source for the much-needed interpretation, nor is it a panacea for all the problems confronting the Ombudsman in the Legislative Assembly. It is intended as a starting point to the creation of those definitions and interpretations whereby the Ombudsman can function with certainty and with clear understanding of the exceptions required of him and his office by the Assembly.
“We do not see these proposed rules, definitions or interpretations as legislative restrictions or impositions on the Ombudsman, but as a means to I make more plastic the ongoing good relationship between all parties so necessary to the harmonious, as well as efficient, operation of this valued office. In the spirit of this report which is hopefully and intelligently conciliatory and designed to unify and not divide and to enhance and not to diminish the interdependent autonomy of the office in relation to the assembly and the government, these governing principles in their formulation should be arrived at in an open and free consultation with the Ombudsman.”
I just want to close by saying I look forward to working with the new Ombudsman in good faith, mutual respect and co-operation and with open and free discussion between the committee and the Ombudsman.
Hon. Mr. McCague: Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the House.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Is there any other member who wishes to participate in this debate?
Mr. Conway: I did wish to make just a very brief comment or two and I shall do so.
Hon. Mr. McCague: Go right ahead. Would it be on the fourth or fifth report? Your predecessor was speaking on the fourth report.
Mr. Eakins: On a point of clarification, I was speaking on the fifth report. I believe I placed on record that some of the comments in this report were from the fourth report.
Mr. Conway: Having perused the fifth report of this committee, I want to make a brief comment or two about the office of the Ombudsman. I listened with great interest to the member for Lakeshore and took some guidance from his approach to the topic. I want to make a brief series of comments on this report and the office to which it directs its attention.
As all members who have spoken in the debate have commented, the office has now been in place for some three years and it has not been without some controversy that it has been received into the political system. Like my colleague, the member for Victoria-Haliburton, I want to go on record this evening as expressing a personal note of appreciation for the outgoing Ombudsman who is not only a friend of mine, but is someone who comes from a part of the province that is dear to me.
I think Arthur Maloney did a lot for the office of the Ombudsman. He did perhaps more than some expected him to do. I think his challenge to the Legislature and the politicians in the Legislature was a good one. I personally found the sensitivity and the thin skins in this building, and this chamber surprising sometimes.
I felt some of the responses of members to the office of the Ombudsman were justified. The member for Lakeshore highlighted a few of those points. I don’t intend to review them at this point in time. I do think he really did give the office the kind of beginning it would have required. It was certainly something this party supported and continues to support. I think Mr. Maloney gave as well a sense to the people of Ontario that the government and the Legislature intended to make this a function that would be visible and important. By and large, I think he succeeded admirably in that respect.
I think the adversarial role that did develop or the adversarial concept that seemed to characterize the relationship between the just retired Ombudsman and this Legislature during my time here was unfortunate. It seemed to me to be far more concerned with personalities than it was with the issues at stake.
With the arrival of the new and with Mr. Maloney’s having made the tremendous impact he did in creating a first-class function, I hope that we will now be able to get beyond that and beyond some of the unfortunate and personal niggling that characterized the first three years and to settle into making this an even more effective function.
As one member of the Legislature, I have had the opportunity to avail myself of the facilities of the Ombudsman’s office. I have found them at all times to be very helpful and by and large very productive, but not always. I would caution -- and I think this report makes a series of remarks and references to this point -- that in some cases the office may be becoming as bureaucratic as the very government it seeks to untangle, and they need an untanglement, if there is such a word.
Hon. Mr. McCague: You’d better speak to your whip.
Hon. Mr. Welch: Disentangle.
Mr. Conway: Disentangle. The member for Dufferin-Simcoe seems to be somewhat disgruntled, as he points a threatening finger at anyone who cares to look at him. There are those of us who speak as private members here tonight, notwithstanding the comments and the feelings of certain people, some of whom I’m sure are on this side of the House --
Mr. Worton: Here’s one.
Mr. Conway: -- who have always indicated less than a total desire to support fully the principle of the office as it’s developed. We all know of the confrontations that have characterized the relationship between the office and members of the assembly. I well recall statements attributed to my friend and colleague, the member for Renfrew South (Mr. Yakabuski), who found certain of the functions and certain of the attitudes that were coming forward to be unacceptable.
I well remember great amounts of time being spent on how much the chauffeur in the office of the Ombudsman was being paid and what this meant for the province of Ontario. I wonder whether or not that’s perhaps as relevant as what the chauffeur of the Chairman of Management Board is paid. It seems to me to be an irrelevant point. I’m making the observation for at least the benefit of the member for Dufferin-Simcoe that I think it would serve us all well to get beyond --
Hon. Mr. McCague: That has nothing to do with it.
Mr. Conway: -- the personality confrontation that seems to have been more on politicians’ minds than I would like to have seen it and get on with making the office an important and very useful adjunct to the parliamentary system that has been in place for some time.
I want to say again, as the member for Renfrew North, that I think we, the people of the province of Ontario, and the members of this Legislature owe the outgoing Ombudsman a great vote of thanks. I think he -- not without some error, not without some misjudgement but, by and large, with great effect -- carried out the mandate to which he was elevated some three years ago. I think Arthur Maloney is certainly one of the finest public servants it has been my pleasure to deal with in some time and I only hope that his successor, whoever he or she may be, is as fortunate.
Mr. Gregory: That’s terrible.
Mr. Conway: What is terrible?
Hon. Mr. McCague: Have you got enough for the paper yet?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Would you please disregard the interjections?
Mr. Conway: I will try to disregard the interjections and simply say again, Mr. Speaker, that the point of my rising here tonight is to say that on the occasion of his retirement I think Arthur Maloney deserves a vote of praise and thanks from members of this assembly. I wanted to take the opportunity tonight, as one member, to thank him for the job he did for me as a member of this assembly and for the people of the province he was selected to serve.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are there any other members who wish to participate in this debate? If not, that concludes the consideration of the fifth report of the select committee on the Ombudsman.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Welch, the House adjourned at 9:52 p.m.