Thursday 19 December 1991

Pre-budget consultations


Agenda during winter recess


Chair: Akande, Zanana L. (St Andrew St Patrick NDP)

Vice-Chair: Sutherland, Kimble (Oxford NDP)

Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre NDP)

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk NDP)

Kwinter, Monte (Wilson Heights L)

Mahoney, Steven W. (Mississauga West L)

Phillips, Gerry (Scarborough-Agincourt L)

Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC)

Stockwell, Chris (Etobicoke West PC)

Ward, Brad (Brantford NDP)

Ward, Margery (Don Mills NDP)

Wiseman, Jim (Durham West NDP)


Morrow, Mark (Wentworth East NDP) for Ms Kwinter

Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L) for Mr Kwinter

Also taking part: Carr Gary (Oakville South PC)

Clerk: Decker, Todd


Anderson, Anne, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

Campbell, Elaine, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 0905 in committee room 1.


The Vice-Chair: The standing committee on finance and economic affairs is called to order. The Treasurer has another commitment to attend at 10 o'clock and there are several items we wanted to discuss. Among those issues is one I believe the Treasurer has mentioned: opening up the budget consultation process and pre-budget consultation process. As the Treasurer knows, this committee has done some, so we look forward to hearing his ideas. Probably committee members will have questions about other issues related to this committee's mandate.

Hon Mr Laughren: I appreciate very much the committee reorganizing its schedule to accommodate mine. I know this is not your regular meeting time and I appreciate that. Having chaired a committee for some time, I know how difficult it is to make that happen, because people do have other plans as well.

I want to talk to the committee basically about two things: One is the whole question of pre-budget discussions and the other is the question of budget secrecy, and the two are related.

As you know, historically there have been all sorts of pre-budget meetings that start some time around now and go through until February and March. I engaged in that process last year. I thought at the time it was terribly self-indulgent for everybody to have the Treasurer sit there, and in some cases the committee as well, and have a group come in and make its case almost in a vacuum, stating what it wanted or thought was best. Then the next group would come.

I often use the example of one case last year where the flue-cured tobacco growers came in and then in the next hour, the next group coming in was the non-smokers' association making exactly the opposite argument. I thought afterwards, why were they not in the room at the same time, listening to each other and hearing each other's argument? That is really why I used the term "self-indulgent". It was not their fault they were being self-indulgent; that is the way the process had evolved over the years.

We are determined to make a change in the process and make it more of a challenge to people who come either before this committee or come into Treasury. We really want to make the discussion leading up to the budget more broadly based so that people hear each other.

About two weeks ago, I had a request from the Minister of Colleges and Universities to meet with the university management people. I said, "No, if we want to get the students' representation and the faculty representation and the university management administrators there, that's fine, but not one on, one off." It actually happened, and it was an interesting discussion. One person would say, "If you're going to give us a low transfer payment, you had better bring in wage controls." Then the faculty person would respond, "Wait a minute, we have an opinion on this too." It really did force the groups to deal with each other and to listen to the other arguments.

We very much want to do that this year. I think that slowly the budget process will become a year-round process as opposed to everything crunched in a period of a month or two months. I would very much like to hear from the committee its views on this and to what extent the committee can help us do this and make it more meaningful for the committee too.

If that is to happen, there has to be more sharing of information, otherwise you are dealing in a vacuum. What we want to do is put out the economic outlook for the province on December 10. That is stage 1. It tells how we see the outlook for the province, puts it in a kind of context. The next step will be in January. We want to release a document that is going to be more of a popular kind of document, a very user-friendly booklet of 20 or 30 pages that will explain the budget process.

If you want more detail on that, I have a draft of a table of contents to show what we have in mind. It is not done yet, but we want to distribute it widely. It would go to whomever wants it. We have a 1-800 line set up and the booklet will be available to people who call, as well as groups who come in and talk to either us or the committee, if that is what you decide to do. I really do hope you decide to take part in it. I know you set your own agenda, I do not set it, but I very much hope that you will see this as a useful exercise for everybody concerned.

The second stage would be the release of a document that explains the budget-making process. A third stage would be the release, and we are working hard on this now, of what for lack of a better term I would call a fiscal framework document. This would lay out the scenario of what we are staring at next year -- some people will call it the abyss; I would not be quite so pessimistic -- what our expenditures are headed for, what our revenues look like, and therefore what the potential deficit is if nothing is done.

We want to be much more open about that. Why would we not want to share that information? Why should we internalize that, not just because it is a problem, but why would we not want people to have a look at that? I do not think the pre-budget discussions are very meaningful if they are not done in the context of the problems we are facing.

We will be looking for advice from people on how to deal with the problems that will be shown to be there in the fiscal framework we put out, soon we hope. I am getting very leery of giving dates, because I remember backing down on them it seems, referring to transfer payments in particular, when I vowed we would get them out in December, but we will not.

I really would like to get this part of the process done in January. Then in February and part of March we have set up 11 sectoral discussions we are trying to work on. The one that kicks it off is on January 29. The date is fixed in my head because the next day is the next meeting of finance ministers in Ottawa. On the 29th there are two Premier's councils, one on health and one on the economy, and I would go and make a presentation to the two of them together. It will be very much a cross-sectoral representation because of the makeup of those two Premier's councils.

Following that there would be a series of roundtables. Beforehand, people would be sent all the information we have and be briefed before they come to the meeting so that they did not come in cold and listen to me for an hour on the fiscal presentation, which would mean we could have a more meaningful discussion when it actually occurs. That is our goal.

The second issue I wish to refer to is secrecy. As you members will know, the whole question of budget secrecy flows from the British parliamentary system, where it was terribly important because of the possibility of someone realizing some material gain because of a budget leak and so forth. But it became more than that; it became shrouded in a mystique that if anything leaked from a budget it was seen to be serious and there were calls for resignation of finance ministers and treasurers. They never did resign; I cannot find anybody who did. Nevertheless it was always a very hectic time, with calls for resignation, or in some cases they offered resignations that were not accepted, and so forth.

Mr Phillips: You have really studied this.

Hon Mr Laughren: I have studied this. I don't think I want to open this thing up.

Mr Phillips: For your job security.

Hon Mr Laughren: I hope it is not seen to be self-serving, because I think if we are going to show more information to people and share more information with people, then we have to get into a different mindset on what is secret and what is not secret.

Obviously you cannot reveal every single thing, because of that question of material gain that somebody might realize. But aside from that fairly narrow aspect of the secrecy that surrounds the budget-making process, it seems to me we can be a lot more open and we would really like to be. As I say, I hope you do not regard it as self-serving. If we are going to engage in meaningful pre-budget discussions, we have got to be more open about the information we have, and that leads to the whole question of what is secret and what is not secret. I seek your advice on that as well, what way to do that, what can be revealed without its being called into question and to what extent you would like to see it formalized. I do not know what the advice of the committee would be and I am not presuming anything, but we really want to make it more open.

On the other hand, I would seek your advice on the way in which we deal with interest groups who historically have been able to come in and just make their case, and how to get people together and make the discussion more meaningful, and the role that I very much hope the standing committee would play in this, because we cannot do it all alone. I would be pleased if the committee decides, in its wisdom, that you would play a meaningful role in this whole process.

I will stop talking and look forward to your comments. If you want any information on this booklet we are going to put out, please let me know and I will go through the headings we are working on that will give an idea of what will be in it.

The Vice-Chair: We have about 40 minutes left. I wonder if we could spend at least the first 20 minutes focusing on the Treasurer's comments about the budget consultation process. Then if there is a great demand for questions about other topics while the Treasurer is here, we could do that in the last half.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the discussion. I am not sure the Treasurer is aware of the level of cynicism we have right now. Believe me, I trust you, and I think the province is fortunate to have you as Treasurer. But I have become very suspicious of the process here. You were here just before we headed out on our summer budget hearings and you were saying you would look forward to them. They were probably the biggest waste of my time in my life.

Hon Mr Laughren: It was not because we insisted on its being done.

Mr Phillips: No, but I will tell you what happened. The Premier's office phoned groups that, note, support the budget. I believe that to be the case; if you can prove me wrong, I would be happy to know that. At the end of it, it was a useless exercise and I became very cynical about it. On the final day of hearings, before we even discussed it, there was a sort of a press report declaring the results of it.

The Consultation Central Co-ordinating Committee document has quite significantly undermined the process, because in that document, as you know, it says things like, "Consultation kickoff is planned for the NDP provincial council at the end of November.... We will have workshops based on the budget approach last summer," which was, I gather, the approach the NDP used. Central to all of this are the pre-budget consultations. "The Treasurer announces plans for pre-budget talks," and what not.


I have been following the Fair Tax Commission work a fair bit and I am becoming increasingly worried about that. I see it has hired 20 community animators. It is doing many of the things the CCCC planned. We have a big hill to climb here for some trust, because I have this feeling I am merely, as this committee member, a part not of an honest, pre-budget consultation process, but of a political agenda. When you start from that, it makes it very difficult to know whether we are playing a straight game here -- not with you. I assure you I have total confidence in you, but I am not sure that you are in control of this other thing. Before we begin the process, I think we need some assurances that we are not simply being used.

Hon Mr Laughren: I appreciate your directness, although I regret that you feel that way. There is no question that process last summer was very politically driven. There is no question about that. It was very partisan. I am not saying this critically. I have been through this myself in opposition. The hearings were demanded by the opposition and we resisted. Then we conceded and held the hearings. That happens. You cannot take the politics out of politics.

When that happens the three political parties -- presumably they would be pretty stupid if they did not -- will phone and get people to come out to express their views on the budget. I do not think there was anything underhanded about that. Mr Phillips, you will recall what happened with the labour legislation.

Mr Phillips: I remember the conference.

Hon Mr Laughren: No, I am thinking of when the standing committee on resources development went across the province and held hearings on the Workers' Compensation Board, Bill 162.

Mr Phillips: I was Minister of Labour around when the coffins were brought out. That was Bill 208.

Hon Mr Laughren: Bill 208, yes, you are quite right, not Bill 162. I can recall the way in which that was orchestrated as well. I think that is a totally separate phenomenon, when something like that is forced. First of all, it is a force fit on the system because traditionally that has never happened before, so the opposition won. That is fair game and they got the hearings, but it was a very political activity. I draw a line underneath that and say that happened.

This process involves the bureaucracy at the Ministry of Treasury and Economics, and that is not a political bureaucracy, I can assure you. I have every confidence. I never felt that before and I do not feel it now.

Mr Phillips: I agree with that totally.

Hon Mr Laughren: We want to change the budget-making process, without any kind of hidden agenda, so that it will be more open. It will help us and I think it is meaningful. I hope that is not everybody's sense. I understand where you are coming from, but I hope that is not the sense around this process because that is not in any way connected to that committee you referred to. This is being run by the Ministry of Treasury and Economics; it is not being run by anyone else, so in that sense it is not a political activity or a political agenda at work.

The Vice-Chair: Do you have a second question, Mr Phillips?

Mr Phillips: Why not go around? That will give everybody a chance.

Mr Carr: I want to thank you first of all for coming, Treasurer, and also for opening up the consultation process. I would like to be part of it. If I could make a suggestion, possibly when you have dates available for these you could send them to the committee clerk who could then send them out to some of the members -- since I am not a permanent member, Todd, perhaps you could remember to include me -- and then we could come into some of the meetings. The way I see it working, if there is a date you are meeting with a particular group -- and I think it is great that you have them all together; I want to credit you for that process -- then I can say, "Yes, I'd like to go," and Mark can say, "That's of interest and I'd like to go." That might be the best way to do it.

One of the things I want to talk about is the process and how it ties in with the Fair Tax Commission. I have been telling people that the Fair Tax Commission has the potential to be the biggest change in the history of this province on taxes. The process is laid out. We had in Hugh MacKenzie who laid out the process: very detailed and very complex.

My big concern is that in spite of all the advertisement and the talk about it, the average person does not know about it. I am saying to business groups we have this Fair Tax Commission that is going to be the biggest change in the history of the province. All the polls are saying taxes are the big issue. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says that in the polling it is doing taxes are the all-time high. That is not just you, that is federally, provincially, Mulroney and everybody. It is a real key.

One of the concerns I had when speaking with you was that the Fair Tax Commission corporate side is going to report, and after reading some of the reports and hearing some of the discussions, I do not know if it is going to come up with an agreement. They will have something in January. The way I understand the process, they will report and then your budget will incorporate the decisions that are being made. I am just wondering how in your mind you are tying the two together. When a lot of businesses come in, they will be talking to you about tax information, for example, when you are meeting with them. In the pre-budget they will talk about that when they sit down with you, and all the other things.

There is also this Fair Tax Commission that is then funnelling into you. I want to get a sense of how you see it working, because it is very confusing. I understand that in the budget what we will see are major corporate changes from this Fair Tax Commission. Meanwhile, the business community has not had a chance to funnel in. The intent is to get a tremendous amount of input, and I believe you when you say that. But the fact is there has not been much, other than the same old groups, the manufacturers and so on. We have not had a chance to go to Stelco, which I as an individual would like to do.

I want to know how you see these things tying together with the Fair Tax Commission plus this pre-budget submission.

Hon Mr Laughren: On your first point about letting the committee know, we certainly undertake to do that with regard to when the discussions are going on and so forth. On the Fair Tax Commission, the question of whether or not everybody knows about it, I think a lot of people know about the Fair Tax Commission, but beyond that, not a lot. The tax commission consists of the commissioners and the working groups. I know Tom Sweeting is here. I think there are eight working groups working with the commission and each has a specific tax area for which it is responsible. They got kicked off in the summer. I can't remember the exact date now. It was a kickoff for all the working groups. The working groups could have anywhere from ten to 20 people on them, so it involves a lot of people.

We worked very hard -- we are supposed to work hard -- on trying to make those working groups representative, because it made no sense just to load them up with people who will have only one point of view. That is why, for example, there have been reports about differences of opinion on the corporate minimum tax. That is fair. Why would there not be? They are churning away now. Partly because of the high profile of a couple of the taxes we talked about a lot in opposition and during the election campaign, namely, the corporate minimum tax and the land speculation tax, we asked them to fast-track those two and try to report to us in calendar year 1991. They cannot do that. They are going to report in the new year though, I think, on the land speculation tax first and I think within a month or so. The corporate minimum tax is causing them problems. It is not because there was any deliberate attempt to hold back information from the federal government, but there was a real problem getting the information and it is going to take longer than they thought. I gather now it is February or March before we will get the corporate minimum tax. I just want to make that clear.


I do not even know how the Fair Tax Commission is going to do it, because believe me it operates very much at arm's length from us. I have one person on staff to whom they report and come through, but I have very little day-to-day operations with them. I sign the letters that appoint people to the working groups and so forth and that is about it. Their job is to go out and hold some hearings on the different taxes. I hope they will travel a bit in the province. I do not know what their plans are in that regard. That will be next year.

When they are finished, the working groups will present their reports through the commission to me. Then it is up to us as government to decide what to implement from those reports. They will be public, so we cannot hide and pretend they say something they do not. In the end, the responsibility is for us to decide what we do here. A corporate minimum tax is a good example. If they come back and say, "This is loony tunes. Don't do it," and decide the capital tax is a form of minimum tax so "don't bother," then we will have to make a judgement as to what we do. Or if they say, "No, there is room for movement," then we will do it. They understand this very clearly. It was laid out right from the beginning that the Fair Tax Commission has an arm's-length relationship and then reports in an advisory way as it completes its reports. At the end, I hope they would be able to take a look at all the work they have done and give us some kind of summary or synopsis of the tax system in Ontario.

Mr Carr: Do I get a short supplementary?

The Vice-Chair: No. We are going around. We will get back to you.

Mr Morrow: Gary, I apologize for that. Floyd, thanks a lot for being here this morning. I understand there have been some hearings or dialogue with the group, and you will excuse me if I do not have the name correct. I think it is called MUSH. Is this process going to be repeated? Is it going to be done again?

Hon Mr Laughren: I am not sure what you mean. The MUSH sector is the group we traditionally call MUSH because they represent the municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals. They are the recipients of the transfers from the province, and that represents 30% of our budget. Perhaps that is what you are referring to. When we make the major transfer announcement in the new year, they will be the happy recipients of the transfer of money from the province to them.

The Vice-Chair: Representatives from those different sectors together have already come before the committee. Is it your suggestion or advice that the committee do that again with those individual groups in the new year or just deal specifically with different areas, or are you looking at pulling one from each of the four areas of MUSH?

Mr Morrow: That is what I was going for.

Hon Mr Laughren: Okay. Part of the problem in that is that presumably we will be making the major transfer announcements, I hope, in January, and after that I question to what extent it would make sense to have the MUSH sector either at the committee -- not that we would not welcome them -- or to talk to me, because the big decision would have been made by then on the transfers to them. That is the only problem with what you are suggesting.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling?

Mr Phillips: Are we going by person or by party?

Hon Mr Laughren: It is an important distinction.

The Vice-Chair: Sorry. Mr Phillips.

Mr Phillips: Sorry, Norm.

The Vice-Chair: I had not seen you put your hand back up for another question. That is why. But go ahead.

Mr Sterling: The trouble with you, Gerry, is you filibuster when you do not know you are filibustering.

Mr Phillips: Exactly.

Hon Mr Laughren: Where do you think the term "Phillibuster" came from?

Mr Phillips: Just to summarize on that first point, I still have some concerns about the process and I hope you understand why. On the status of the budget and where we are at for this year and next year, we are trying to get a feel for that.

There are two big aspects, I think, to this year's budget. I know you are staying with the $9.7-billion deficit, or lower, which is good. Corporate tax and fiscal stabilization are both important elements of it and, as you know, we have some concerns about both of those. I know you feel confident about the fiscal stabilization plan.

As you know, the federal numbers are out now for the end of October for the corporate tax, and I assume you now have the fiscal stabilization application prepared. Can we feel confident that the fiscal stabilization plan will in fact be approved by the federal government and that we are not looking at any significant changes in the corporate income tax for this fiscal year?

Hon Mr Laughren: I can reply with more confidence on one than on the other. The fiscal stabilization application is going in, I think, perhaps even tomorrow. I am not sure, but it is going in within a matter of a day or two.

Ms De Koven: Hopefully the end of this week or early next week.

Hon Mr Laughren: So it is going in almost as we speak. The number we released a couple of weeks ago was $585 million. There is nothing magical about that number. When there is a major downturn in a province's revenues, it kicks in on a per capita basis and it is $60 per capita. I think that is correct. If you multiply it by the population, you get the $585 million, so that is the number. However, that is the cap. The cap says $585 million. It would be a lot more than that if it was not the cap.

So we send in the application and the next question is whether or not they give us the money this fiscal year, whether or not they process it quickly enough to get it in this fiscal year. For obvious reasons, we hope they do. Last week I made the point as best I could to the federal Minister of Finance, Mr Mazankowski.

They have to look at the application very carefully because it is quite complex. It involves an assessment of what the stabilization fund would be if certain tax changes had not been made at either the federal or provincial levels. So it is not just a magic formula. The $60 per capita is straight, but then it has to be applied to the extent that taxes were changed during the two years for which it applies. They have to look it very carefully, and I understand that.

The point I made to Mr Mazankowski was that since the number without the cap would be way in excess of the $585 million, treat the $585 million as an interim payment and get it to us. To what extent he will buy that argument I do not know.

Mr Phillips: Is your application a public document?

Hon Mr Laughren: Not at this point because of the negotiations that go on with the federal government. Quite frankly, I think that is a fair question. We really do not want to debate the intricacies or the niceties of it in public. We would like to sit down quietly with the federal government, rather than try to turn it into a media show or whatever, a political sideshow. We would sit down in a very methodical businesslike way and work out the numbers, and not make it into an accusatory kind of situation where we are demanding this and accusing them of that, because that really is not where it is at on this one. I think it is a case of coming to an agreement on the way the numbers are calculated. We very much want to proceed that way rather than having a big public fight over it.


The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling.

Mr Phillips: What about the second one?

The Vice-Chair: Sorry. Mr Laughren, you talked about fiscal stabilization. I thought you talked a bit about corporate tax.

Hon Mr Laughren: No, I did not.

The Vice-Chair: Did you have any additional comments on corporate tax?

Hon Mr Laughren: What was the question about corporate tax?

Mr Phillips: I even remember it. I said the federal numbers are out now which show about a 25% decline at the end of October.

Hon Mr Laughren: Yes, I am sorry. I have no doubt that we are entitled to that fiscal stabilization fund. There is absolutely no question in my mind that it will come to us.

Mr Phillips: By the way, the numbers I see show revenue increases each year.

The Vice-Chair: Sorry, we are on the corporate tax issue.

Hon Mr Laughren: On the corporate tax, that makes me nervous, I can tell you. We took a big hit last year, over $1 billion. We projected a substantial decline in corporate tax revenues this year. To what extent it was enough I do not know, because it is pretty tough out there. Because of the way the corporate sector reports, I gather we will not even know our corporate numbers until March because of the timing of the reporting.

On that and the sales taxes also, we have the October numbers now and they are not very good. We do not have the November numbers yet, of course, nor the big Christmas numbers. That is another area where we are very anxious about what they will be, because the recovery is very slow. I do not know whether that answers your question. On the corporate tax, there is some nervousness about the numbers, but at this point we do not have any numbers that show we are not going to get what we predicted.

Mr Phillips: At least the economy is doing better.

Mr Sterling: Just two quick questions. On the Fair Tax Commission, the working groups are going to be producing reports. Where are those reports going to go?

Hon Mr Laughren: They go through the commission up to me. The commission does not change them. They go through the commission for information and then to us.

Mr Sterling: When do they become public? When do they become accessible?

Hon Mr Laughren: As far as I know, they are public documents when they come through to us. They are not meant to be secret documents or anything like that. I have not got in my mind the process by which they suddenly become public, but we want them to be public documents.

Mr Sterling: Floyd, I would like to ask you more of a general question, a question that bothers me. There is a lot of difference between the fiscal policies of this provincial government and this federal government. Whether you agree with one side or the other, we are going through a constitutional battle at this time, or not a battle but a readjustment.

I am not really concerned about the differences that exist at this time, but if you look at the voting patterns of the public in the past, it seems that the Canadian way is to elect different provincial governments than it has at the federal level. How are we doing to get out of this dilemma where we have differing fiscal policies at the provincial and federal levels really nullifying each other? In other words, you have one government acting this way and one government acting that way and therefore confusion reigns.

Mr Phillips: Not a federal NDP government.


The Vice-Chair: Okay, can we keep focus here, please.

Hon Mr Laughren: The answer to the question lies in the question itself.

Mr Sterling: But there is a real problem. I am of course not objective about which one is right, but the problem is there are no solutions if one is fighting the other.

Hon Mr Laughren: I do not know who was in the House yesterday when we did the supply bill, but in very brief comments I remarked on the fact that we have a federal government that disagrees with our fiscal policy and a provincial government that disagrees with the federal government's economic policy -- monetary policy is a better way of putting it. Yes, that is a concern and it is one of the reasons, though not the only one, that I am not cynical about the first ministers' conference on the economy, which hopefully will lead to other meetings as well. I think these things have to be sorted out.

I know the federal government thinks Ontario should not have run up a deficit this year. They think we should have battened down the hatches -- without being pejorative about using that term -- and dramatically cut spending, like $10-billion worth, or some portion thereof. I remain convinced that to have done that would have been just so disruptive to the social fabric of this province that I certainly would not want to be associated with it.

Anyway, I do not think that is dealing with your question of how we reconcile a federal government with a certain set of monetary policies and a provincial government with a certain set of fiscal policies.

Mr Sterling: No, it is not.

Hon Mr Laughren: I do not think there is an easy answer to that other than to sit down and try to work things out. I do not see anything contradictory, for example, about the province of Ontario sitting down with the federal government and saying, "We all know there are economic problems." I do not think we are going to convince the federal government and John Crow in the short run to change their monetary policy.

At the same time, there is nothing contradictory about working with us, for example, on a program, whether it is housing or whether it is some other kind of infrastructure, improving the infrastructure of the province with federal assistance. That is not really contradictory to their monetary policy; it may be somewhat contradictory to their fiscal policy, because they do not have much room to move, but we can surely work together on that. I do not think one precludes the other. So I am not as pessimistic about the differences in philosophy on that.

Mr Wiseman: I am going to change direction a little bit here and talk about the budgetary process itself. Over the last few weeks we have had different sectors come in, the municipalities, the universities, the schools and the hospitals. One of the things that was common to all their presentations, I think, was the fact that they get the word so late in their own budgetary process. Is there some way of multi-year budgeting or changing the beginning of the fiscal year so that there is a greater synchronization, so that there is not as much of an unknown when the municipalities are doing their budgets, and the hospitals and universities and schools? This is one of the things they are really concerned about.

Hon Mr Laughren: I think that is a fair comment. I have even had representatives from those sectors say to me: "Look, for heaven's sake, even if it's bad news, give it to us soon. Don't leave us hanging out there." That is why I have always been a strong believer in getting the announcement out some time in November or December. We did not do it this year, but one reason we did not get it out in time this year is because we do want to move to a multi-year arrangement with them and tell them, "This is what we want to transfer to you this year and this is what we see in the next couple of years as well." That has caused us some problems, because it is harder to do.

It is more than three times as hard to do a three-year announcement than it is a one-year, because it gets more complicated as you move into the other years and think about the annualized costs of programs and enrolment projections or whatever. It has been more difficult than I thought it would be to do a multi-year plan.My own sense is that we are better to take the extra month and do the multi-year plan, rather than get out the one-year plan now. In the end, that was really what it came down to. That is why we delayed. But I agree and I think the MUSH sector would be much happier with the multi-year plan. Then, as you say, it can get its house in order.


I think this is an important point: There has to be a basic restructuring of the MUSH sector out there, whether it is the universities or the hospitals or the school boards, because in the past, and particularly in the health care system, there was always more money to fix it up. They could always find more money. That is not the case any more, so there will have to be a fundamental restructuring out there. You cannot expect them to do that in a matter of a couple of months. That is why it is so important, I think, to have the three-year numbers out there so they stare at those numbers and say, "Holy mackerel, if we're going to cope with enrolment increases and an aging population and still cope with these kinds of numbers" -- whatever they will be, and they will be low -- "then we're going to have to do things differently." That is why I think it is to everyone's advantage to get the numbers out there for more than a year in advance, so they are not caught by surprise.

Mrs Sullivan: Mr Chair, Mr Phillips has a question. I want to be put back on the agenda, however, because I have one as well.

The Chair: Okay. The Treasurer has to leave in about six or seven minutes, so we may not get back to you if we go to Mr Phillips.

Mr Phillips: It is a fairly fundamental one and I wanted to make sure I got it on. The budget you are preparing now sounds very much like the budget many people thought you should have prepared a year ago. There are many people who feel a year has been wasted in getting on with tackling restraint -- not laying off thousands, but trimming back. I know you stoutly defend the 1991 budget, but you are saying some very different things now about 1992's budget. Could you at least acknowledge, in the interest of getting on with this debate, that perhaps if you had to do it all over again, you might have started the restraint program 12 months earlier?

Hon Mr Laughren: I have very little interest in encouraging a headline that says, "Treasurer Admits His Budget Was All Wrong."

Mr Phillips: There are no press people here. We will not tell.

Interjection: We will be sworn to secrecy.

Mr Christopherson: Just us friends, right, Gerry?

Mr Phillips: That is right. This is not a trick question.

Hon Mr Laughren: I am looking forward more to Barbara Sullivan's question.

There are a couple of points to be made though. I think it is a serious question and I do not want to trivialize it. One is that if I were to lean towards your view of the world, I would say that we formed the government on October 1. It takes a little while to find where your office is and to get to know the bureaucracy and to get the whole thing moving. If we had done anything different, it really would have been across-the-board cuts, like a 10% cut in everything. I am picking a number out of the air. It would not have been a very methodical or strategic way of doing it. That is sort of putting your spin on it. We could have done that, I suppose.

What we did instead, and this is a defence but it is fair, I think, was establish an internal mechanism called the treasury board, which is looking at all major expenditures and all potential sources of revenue with a view to reallocating, and in a very fundamental way, I hope, we will see what shakes down. Every time you tamper with something that is well established out there, the water gets very heavy. Your government did it when you simply, with some help, banned extra-billing. We are getting it, running into heavy water, with the threshold limit on doctors' billings. If we change the OSAP system, there will be major noise about that.

Every single thing we do is going to cause major problems out there. I am totally committed to making some of those structural and fundamental changes, but doing them in a way that is thoughtful and keeps in mind to what extent we are picking on one group versus another and to what extent we are making all groups share the burden of a whole new world out there.

We had an absolute decline in revenues this year and it will be flat next year. That is two years in a row. That has never happened. How can you cope with that, with increasing enrolment, all those pressures that you know as well as I, without fundamentally altering priorities, restructuring programs and perhaps cancelling some? It is just not possible to still control the deficit, even at the numbers we are forecasting, which are historically high. To have done it any other way than we did would not have been very smart. It would have been like taking a meat axe to it.

Mr Carr: I have been travelling around the province, speaking to businesses. I was up in Waterloo. They are saying to me: "We don't believe the Treasurer believes us when we say we're going to leave. We don't need to be political to you" -- meaning me -- "We know you agree with lower taxes and not bringing in the labour legislation." They honestly and truly believe that the Treasurer believes they are still going to stay. When you look at some of the statistics -- I think you have seen the Crossroads report. A number of businesses were going to leave. They did it graphically.

Hon Mr Laughren: Is this the Canadian Federation of Independent Business?

Mr Carr: Yes, the CFIB. They did it by sector.

The groups I am meeting with, for example some of the German bankers, are saying, "We're telling our people `Do not invest in Ontario.'" One of the people up in Cambridge said that as well. He said, "We used to get calls from all over the world about investing, and when they call us now, we're saying, `We can't honestly tell you to come here and invest.'" When I say to them, "Could you come out and talk about that?" they say, "We don't want to; we've got a corporate image." Very few of them will, other than Ken Harrigan, who I think did it reluctantly, because you do pay a political price if you do it.

Hon Mr Laughren: He sounded enthusiastic to me.

Mr Carr: Actually not. I know Ken, and the reason he did that, some people say, is because he only has a year left and he is at the point now where he is doing things. You have to appreciate that people do not do this lightly. You have had discussions.

I have a very big fear, because of some of the concerns out there, that it could get worse. In terms of revenue, if these companies do leave, they are just going to devastate your numbers.

From a political standpoint, the best thing for us to do would be just to let you go ahead. Four years later you self-destruct, because everybody has left and you are terrible, and either we or the Liberals will take over.

I want to convey to you the tremendous concern out there. My big concern is that between now and budget time, four months, General Motors is going to make decisions, the mom-and-pops. Is there anything we can do now? I appreciate all you are doing about getting input. The big concern is that four months is a long time and a lot of people will make some decisions. Is there anything you can do to convey a feeling that you are not going to do anything in terms of increasing corporate taxes to drive them out? Is there anything you can do that I can take back to these people and say, "I had the Treasurer in the finance and economic affairs committee and he said, `Don't worry, this is what we're going to do'"? Can you give us some sort of feeling to try to help out that way?

Hon Mr Laughren: We would be very foolish to do anything knowingly that would cause any of those kinds of problems. I think there is concern in the province about the government and its agenda, whether it is labour legislation or taxation.

I had breakfast this morning with bankers, believe it or not. They tell me when they talk to investors outside Ontario, whether it is in the United States or Japan or wherever, there are a couple of questions that are of higher priority than what is happening in Ontario: What is happening to the Canadian dollar and what about the Constitution? I got that when I was in Japan and other parts of Asia in the summer.

Externally, internationally, the business community has worked with social democratic governments in other places, in Germany and so on, and done very well. It does not have to be total confrontation because it is a social democratic government. There is no God-given right for the Tories and Liberals to exchange power in Ontario for ever. I know you think that, Norm.


Mr Carr: Oh, that it were so.

Hon Mr Laughren: I know you wish it was so.

It seems to me it does not serve anybody well if the business community climbs into its bunker. You put it quite well when you said, "Wait it out four years and that'll be it." It does not serve anybody well if we develop that kind of bunker mentality where the business community says: "They're a bunch of social democrats. We're not going to deal with them." Then government develops a bunker mentality and says: "Why should we talk to the business community? They won't talk to us anyway." That is really self-defeating on both sides. I hope you take back to the business community that we do want to deal with them and talk with them.

We have an enormous number of meetings with the business community, we really do. We do not put out a press release on all of them and we do not invite the media to all of them. That is not the purpose. We have the Ontario Business Advisory Council, which was established by Mr Davis, I believe, continued by Mr Peterson and is continuing now. There are the Premier's councils, there is the Fair Tax Commission and there are always other meetings, such as the breakfast meeting I had this morning. They are going on all the time. We are trying very hard to talk to the business community, because we know that, more than any other party, we have to earn the trust of the business community. We are very much aware of that, believe me. If we were not aware of it when we formed the government, we would be now. We are very concerned about that, because corporate profits are in our interest as well.

Before I finish, I want to get a couple of commitments or a sense from the committee, if not today, to report back. One is the whole question of budget secrecy -- I do not know how you want to handle this, Mr Chair, whether you want to think about it or whatever -- to what extent you agree with opening it up and what that means, because there are implications to opening it up and making more information available. I would be very interested in knowing if you would be willing to host some of these roundtable discussions on the budget where you get the different sectors together, different players in a sector, and to what extent you would be willing to receive individual briefs the way we have all done in the past.

If you would think about those three things -- I do not expect you to give me an answer today -- I would very much appreciate it, because it helps us decide in Treasury how we handle it as well, whether we have to do it all or whether you would be willing to help us. Obviously, I hope very much that you take part in that process.

I thank you very much for your attention and your willingness to change your schedule to meet at 9 o'clock.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for appearing before the committee with your ideas today. We appreciate that.


The Vice-Chair: At this time, we can do one of two things. We can continue with some discussion on the points the Treasurer has raised. I believe we had a bill referred to this committee out of the House, the one regarding worker ownership issues. We could have a brief discussion about that. Of course, we could take the rest of the morning to think about this and come back and discuss these issues this afternoon.

On the agenda given out for today, it talks about consideration of the draft interim report on the MUSH sector and also meeting during the winter recess. In terms of the meetings during the winter recess, that would be based on what discussions we have, what the Treasurer said and how we want to handle the worker ownership issue. I would invite some comments right now from members as to how they feel we should proceed at this stage.

Mr Wiseman: I think we should proceed. I do not see any point in putting this off until this afternoon. If we have those three things to deal with, maybe we could have some preliminary discussions now. Also, we still have to do the interim report on the MUSH sector and I would very much like to get on with that as well.

Mr Carr: I was interested in the second part in light of what the Treasurer said, what subjects and so on, and some of the weeks to hold hearings. Just from a personal standpoint I would like, as was offered by the Treasurer, to participate in some of these discussions. I do not know from a practical standpoint how it would work in terms of time.

I suspect that during the pre-budget hearings we are going to have a full agenda as we do every year and that fitting in something new, some of these roundtable discussion groups, may be more difficult. But I do believe, because of the economic circumstances out there, that this committee should be willing to assist the Treasurer in that. I suspect from the way he asked it that there are tremendous numbers of requests and we as a committee can assist with that. Regardless of what happens in the end when the budget is done, if the public get a chance to air some of their feelings and if we can help with that, then I would be prepared to do it.

We may need to increase the amount of time we have historically taken. I guess that will be judged on the number of people who would like to appear. I would be willing to participate. I am not a full-time member, but I fully anticipate being subbed in in those hearings. I would be willing to say to this group that we should be prepared to work whatever amount of weeks it takes to get all those people in. How we work that with the Treasurer should be worked out, but I think it can and should be done. I would be willing to do that and I suspect I will represent my party.

The Vice-Chair: I will put one other idea. Last year when we had our pre-budget consultations, the committee's report identified certain groups we had not heard from. The committee may want to focus on some of those groups we did not hear from last year before the committee. Further comments?

Mr Carr: Just on that same point, one of the concerns I have was raised by Mr Phillips and the Treasurer. Historically we have heard from a lot of the same groups, Canadian manufacturers and the various labour groups. I do not know how it could be done, but I would like to have more individuals, the big problem being, how do you get to those people?

In spite of what we think, most people do not know there are pre-budget hearings, even some of the people who work at Stelco, or even Stelco itself. How we get to those people to invite them to participate if they choose to do so, I do not know. The only thing I would like to do is expand it so that we hear from, not necessarily the large groups, but small groups and individuals, even down to the point of as many groups as we can.

I would just leave it up to others to decide how you get to those people. The big problem is that a lot of people would like to attend but they just unfortunately do not know we are out there unless they have a professional lobby group or an association that monitors it.

Mr Phillips: As I said in my remarks to the Treasurer, I am very cynical about the process. Having said that, I could take another run at it, but I am keeping my elbows up because I am not naïve about this thing. I have the suspicion of being manipulated.

The Vice-Chair: Do you have some sense yourself as to how you would like to see the process go along?


Mr Phillips: I think we should take two to three weeks. To me, the most valuable stuff is hearing from the people whose business this is, some of the economists and the people who study the total economics. I found that useful last year. Although in hindsight, if we go back a little over the track record of the economists, I think most of them were mildly more optimistic than reality. I would throw that on the table.

Maybe the subcommittee has to meet. Maybe we should take three weeks between now and when we return. I think we are committed to two days on worker ownership and I would hope we reach out to the Ontario Securities Commission because some of the people have prepared briefs on that, so we can get some input from them. Of the three weeks, I would think we take two of those.

Personally, I do not think there is a need for the committee to travel across the province, unless some others do. That is just based on my last experience. It was sort of like, "See who we can round up to come in." I would look at the first couple of days being used for thoughtful comments and that sort of stuff. I do not personally have a problem with the Treasurer's suggestions of various representatives talking here.

On the secrecy thing, though, I am not sure what it means. I really do not. I would like to know what stuff one would like. I think we have to take a day or so to talk about that. What stuff that is not public would you want to make public? In theory I am a big believer in full disclosure and everything. I do not know what is secret or what is public. In reality it may be very difficult even to float the idea of something that may or may not appear in the budget from a practical point of view.

So three weeks, with two days on the worker ownership thing to lead off.

The Vice-Chair: At least a day or two of the macro picture?

Mr Phillips: Yes.

Mr Sterling: When we are looking at the budget process, perhaps Anne Anderson, our researcher, would have the opportunity to provide some comparative models, not necessarily within the British parliamentary system, that are more open. If she can find some that are more open within the British parliamentary system, an adaptation of it, fine and dandy.

I have had some experience with the idea of putting a committee under some confidentiality provisions. I understand it is done in Germany for instance. When a committee is provided with confidential information, they are asked to take an oath that they will not divulge that information outside the committee and the committee meets in camera for those kinds of things. I would like to consider that aspect as well.

The Vice-Chair: You said there are specific jurisdictions in Germany. Or is this the German Parliament?

Mr Sterling: I am not certain. It could be a state or it could be the federal Parliament. I am somewhat interested in developing that, not only for this committee but for other committees in terms of what happens.

Regarding worker ownership, I do not think we should spend a great deal of time on it. I would like to have some solid information on what is happening in British Columbia and Saskatchewan on that, particularly with regard to the definitions as to who can participate. I would like to get some information from the policy people at the federal government as to why they made some limitations on their plan for unions. Those are questions that will arise.

What else are we going to be working on? I do not think we should meet with regard to any of the MUSH people after they come out. I agree with the Treasurer on that. I expect him to go and follow the Agenda for People and start on his march towards 60% funding.

Mr Phillips: That is over five years.

Mr Sterling: Yes, over five years. At any rate, on the pre-budget consultation I think what we should aim for is that at least 50% of the presenters would be within the group Mr Phillips outlined, people who are looking at the overall situation in an analytical sense.

The Vice-Chair: Doing projections.

Mr Sterling: Plus people who generally speaking provide wealth to the tax system, as opposed to people who take wealth from the tax system.

The Vice-Chair: So you are talking about anyone who pays taxes? Is that what you are saying?

Mr Sterling: No. I am talking about people who represent the sector that produces wealth. It is so easy to get the committee tied up with people who want more from the taxpayer. I think there should be a balance with the people who are responsible for providing the jobs, who are responsible for creating wealth at the primary source. I think it should be evenly split between those two blocks: the revenue side versus the taking side.

The Vice-Chair: You mentioned primary. One of the groups we did not hear a lot from last year was the resource sector, I believe. Were you looking at some people from there?

Mr Sterling: Yes, I think that is important.

The Vice-Chair: I should inform the committee that Anne is going to be moving on to a different committee and Elaine Campbell, who has been here for the last couple of meetings, will be taking over as the researcher for this committee.

Mr Sterling: In that regard, I would like to thank Anne for all her help over the past year. I am sure other members would too.

Mrs Sullivan: Hear, hear. She has done a good job.

Mr Christopherson: I also add thanks to Anne for her excellent work with this committee over the last year.

Based on Gerry's earlier comments to the Treasurer and his comments about some of the cynicism, I thought it was important that it indeed be the opposition parties that led off with their thoughts on how we ought to approach this. He was trying to minimize and mitigate any feelings that there is any overmanipulation going on above and beyond the usual politics that exist between the three parties. I would like to respond to a couple things that were mentioned. First of all, the time frame, I think, is fine. I do not have a problem with the three weeks and the two days. Staying in Toronto is fine. I do not know that from an economic point of view the kind of travel we did last time was difficult. Part of the benefit of being out there is to get a feel for the regional economies and to hear from local areas. When you are bouncing from hotel to hotel, day to day, I do not know that we really got as much as we could or should have. I will just throw that out. I am not going to push it in any way. It is just a feeling I had coming out of that process.

Still, the idea of getting out into some of the regions and having a chance to talk to some of the folks and get a flavour for the large, different makeup of this province is, I think, important for a committee like ours. If there is any way we can start to bite off that kind of plan so that at the end of this Parliament we have been to every major corner and major regional centre and some of the outlying areas, then I think we would have achieved something.

I would like to follow up the track record of the people who came in and gave us the macro. I have always felt, and support very much both opposition parties' suggestion, that we should deal as much as possible with the macro picture. It is the kind of advice we are to be giving the Treasurer. I think a good way to start is to take a look at what we heard last year versus what the reality was, to give us a sense, not of the winners and losers or who is right and wrong, but for those of us who are not economists, of how close you can be in some areas and just how far apart you can be.

The confidentiality Norm talked about, I think, has some real promise. Above and beyond any formal contact we have with the Treasurer, I am going to follow up the personal discussions with him, because I think he would be open to that kind of approach if it is possible. I think it just fits his style. Other than that, Mr Chair, I have not heard anything from the other parties that I could not agree with.


Mrs Sullivan: I want to speak to several of the issues the Treasurer raised, the first being budget secrecy. Frankly, in my view, that is a moot point. Budget secrecy effects, frankly, only enter into the discussion after the decisions have been made. Until that point, there is no conflict of interest. There is no opportunity for anybody to benefit until those decisions have been made, whether they are revenue or expenditure decisions that may have an impact on investments or other decisions that are made as a result of budgetary decisions. That is where the budgetary secrecy is important. That is where the issues become vital.

If the Treasurer is asking us if we would be secret about presentations that have been made to us, or if we see that as a necessity, frankly, even in my experience, even in discussions with the Treasurer in pre-budget scenarios, there is nothing secret that is put on the table. Companies, by example, do not come forward on an individual basis and put before the Treasurer details that would have an impact in any way other than that they are put on the table in a normal, public manner; if they are public companies, through their annual reports that are received in the investment community. There is nothing in any budget discussion I have ever seen, having been on the inside and on the outside, that is secret or subject to secrecy during that process.

The Treasurer is certainly going to have to ensure that there is secrecy around his decisions in the period of time between the final decision-making and the printing of the budget and the presentation of the budget. That is the only issue of secrecy that matters and it is the only element of secrecy on which the Treasurer himself is vulnerable. Budget secrecy affects the Treasurer. It is the Treasurer who is vulnerable. It is the Minister of Finance who is vulnerable. Hosting roundtable discussions, yes, I am sure we could do that. However, we had the health care sector here in the MUSH sector pre-budget hearings. The Ontario Nurses' Association was not present; the Ontario Medical Association was not present. In fact, it was an unreal pre-budget consultation. If you are going to take a sectoral approach, then all the players have to be at the table and involved in the discussion. I did not think that was very useful. The doctors have negotiated a joint management agreement. Many of the issues in relation to that agreement are on the table now and are creating enormous problems for the government. The Treasurer raised some of those issues. They should have been here to participate in that approach. I do not think we will get full participation, so I suppose that in my view we can go ahead, but unless all the players are at the table and willing to speak frankly about the issues, it is not going to be much help.

On our receiving individual briefs, I think there is no reason the committee should not receive individual briefs. For the most part, if the sectoral approach is being taken, the individual briefs will be addenda, probably for our reading rather than for cross-examination.

The other thing I want to say about this pre-budget process is that I listened in the House and I was very offended -- I wish I had had the chance to put this on the table with the Treasurer -- when the Treasurer stood up and said this was the most extensive briefing ever given out in the history of budget-making. In fact, it is not. This briefing book is the traditional economic outlook paper. It has a few more pages in it, but it certainly is in no more depth.

In this booklet, there is nothing that the previous Treasurer used to do to indicate what the current projections of revenue base are with no change and what the current projections of expenditure base are with no change. The previous Treasurer did that every year. It was a functioning part and the initial step the committee had in order to conduct hearings. It became an issue when recommendations were being made. What is the base with no changes? Where does the Treasurer have freedom to move? Where does the committee believe the Treasurer has freedom to move? Without those projections, we are just whistling in the wind.

Mr Christopherson: I have a question on the roundtable idea. In spite of what Mrs Sullivan has said in some of her remarks, I assume we are still going to give that a further shot.

Mrs Sullivan: Sure.

The Vice-Chair: I think that is on the table for discussion right now.

Mrs Sullivan: But you have to understand that if the players are not here, the process is going to be flawed.

Mr Christopherson: All we can do is provide the most appropriate means for the public to participate, and if certain parts choose not to do so, that is their choice.

Mr Wiseman: Silence means consent in the British system.

Mr Sterling: If we are going out to hear other people's views from across the province or whatever, I would like to do it a little differently this time. Rather than going to a hotel in Timbuctoo and putting an ad in the paper, I would like to go to some major businesses, maybe different types of businesses, and ask the management, and if there are unions or representatives of workers ask them, to come and meet with the committee and tell us what the problems are associated with their businesses, both from a management standpoint and an employee standpoint.

In that way, we are then dealing with the real situation of jobs and what is affecting those particular industries regarding the Ontario government. I think we would get a truer line on what is really bothering people or what is the concern of the people in those particular industries. We could do the steel industry, the car industry, the auto parts industry, some of the resource industries, as you have mentioned. We might, for instance -- I am sure it could be arranged -- have an opportunity to view the particular site as well as meet with these people so that we would have a little bit of a feeling for what those industries might be experiencing. I think that would be as beneficial to us as going into a community and inviting people in to talk to us. That would be a different approach.

Mr Carr: Along those same lines, maybe tying up a little bit further how I would see it working, again getting back to the big problem we have, the average person out there does not know it is happening, and timewise you cannot afford to spend it with too many individuals, because there are groups. That is why we work through groups, because presumably those groups funnel into the organizations. But I think there is a feeling out there that different groups are not being heard, not because we do not want to but because we have not reached out.

I will just throw this out for discussion from some of the other members. I will pick somebody in my area, Ford Motor Co as an example, that has been fairly critical of the government. I have not talked with them or any other groups because it was something we just recently talked about. The way I see it working, we could send letters on behalf of the committee to Ford, General Motors, Dofasco, Stelco, whomever, outlining that we would like to come to their facilities and see if they could help organize it with their own groups.

In Oakville, as an example, the way it would work is that they could have some members of their management staff who would be there in the same room outlining their concerns along with the Canadian Auto Workers, or the representatives. Hopefully it could even be done where it would not be just some of the executives or the shop stewards. We could actually have some of the people involved who would sit down and discuss some of the items, with a bit of an agenda laid out in terms of giving them some guidance on some of the things we would like to do. In other words, we would send a letter out and say, "These are some of the topics," because if you do not get a focus, of course, people get all over and talk about things we really cannot do anything about.

I am just wondering whether, on behalf of the committee, we could not send out some letters. I would be prepared to help, as I am sure some of the other members would in their areas or right across the province. We could ask if, for example, Ford would be prepared to do that, the dates we would be looking at, and see what type of feedback we get. We may get a reply saying: "No, we are too busy. We cannot afford the time because we are having enough trouble trying to compete and survive. We do not believe in the process." If a particular company like Ford says, "No, we cannot," then I do not think it can come back and be critical when something comes out in the budget it does not like.


What has happened in the past is that everybody waits until it comes out and then jumps up and down and screams and says it is terrible. If we took, for want of a better word, a more proactive approach to it, I think it would be very helpful. The way we do it now, of course, is we put ads in the papers and people can call in. But unless you go to them, people are not willing to participate, for a lot of different reasons. I think this would be a way of reaching out to them and showing that we are a little bit different than in the past.

As you know, going out to the various communities is the way everybody has done it. This would be something unique. I think we have to be unique in this day and age because of the perception that politicians at all levels and of all political stripes are not listening to the people. That may be a very effective way to get around that and we might find some very interesting discussions that we could then report back, as part of our discussions, to the Treasurer. If we did the meeting out in Oakville with the Ford Motor Co, again as an example, we could report back to the Treasurer on what is being said right down on the shop floor. This is what that individual who is putting the tires on the car feels about the economic situation in the province and what she or he would like to see.

I suggest we do that and be proactive in writing the letters right now, so that timewise we can see what comes back. With the Christmas spirit, we might get some replies. I think it might be worth while. As part of the process, we can then see that we have 20 replies and then we can approach some of these people and do it. If, for example, we got some in an area, we could maybe bunch them together. Say, for example, that it was the Ford Motor Co, and that somebody surrounding could not do it, Ford, which has a big facility, could then invite some of the other groups and we could expand it. I think it would be worth doing. I do not know what the comments of the other members are, whether they like it or not, but it is something unique that I think we should throw out.

The Vice-Chair: Just on the point of sending out letters, I believe at this stage we still cannot confirm what dates we are going to be sitting as a committee, due to other events going on right now.

Mr Carr: Yes, it is all tied in; I understand it.

Mr Christopherson: I do not think what Mr Carr has suggested is that far away from something that might allow us to achieve a number of things we have talked about. Norm expressed an interest in talking to what he calls the generators of wealth. I mentioned trying to get out and get some kind of regional representation. The Treasurer obviously would like us to try the roundtable idea where we bring in the various pressure players from within a sector so that they can understand our collective problem, the recession and budgetary constraints etc. I think it might be something we could pursue that would allow us to hit a number of our short-, medium- and long-term agendas. The only concern I have is, as we know from experience, there are an awful lot of independent groups and a lot of organizations that need, want and appreciate the access they have with this committee by virtue of coming in and getting their 10-, 15- or 20-minute slot and being heard. If we do too much of what you are suggesting, it may mean saying no to some of those groups, and I do not know whether that is healthy or in the public interest. That would be my only concern. Other than that, we may be able to meet a number of things that we would like to do.

The Vice-Chair: Just on that last point, I think it was brought up earlier that we could still accept individual briefs from them, but we would not have them formally presented. They would just mail them in to us to receive.

Mr Phillips: I think they all have various ideas and maybe we can pick a couple of sectors, maybe three sectors -- auto, steel and something else -- and say, "Let's take a run at it."

Interjection: Tourism.

Mr Phillips: That could be lengthy. Just try three days of that. We have two days of the other thing, worker ownership, and we are down to 10 days left.

The Vice-Chair: If we say we have two days on worker ownership, two days on the macro picture, there is one of our sitting weeks, and that would leave what, two other sitting weeks?

Mr Sterling: We can spend those two weeks comparing the recession and how governments are handling it here with the southern United States.

Mr Christopherson: Clarification: When we were talking about three weeks, were the two days for worker ownership included or exclusive of the three weeks?

The Vice-Chair: I was looking at it as being part of the three weeks.

Mr Phillips: I would think so. There are limits to how much time we get.

The Vice-Chair: I do not think we are going to get much more than three weeks, due to the fact that some of the other committees have some heavy schedules.

Mr Carr: I have not spoken to the other members, but the point about some of the other committees spending five weeks -- I do not know about the other members, but I see this as fundamental to the problems out there. This is more critical than what is going on in other committees. You have other committees that are going out for five weeks, and yet we limit ourselves to less time when we are in a crisis situation. Quite frankly, I think if you ask people what they would like to talk about, it would be issues that we should be in as finance and economic affairs. I would have no problem with requesting to expand it, because David's point is very valid. I do not want to exclude anybody else. Getting to a different group does not help if another group then feels isolated or left out.

The only way I see that working, if we get the numbers, is by expanding the time period. I know from a personal standpoint that it is very difficult to do that, because when you are going out -- during the summer it was very difficult -- you are leaving on Sunday and not getting back till Thursday. But I am prepared, as one individual, to do that and even request more time, to expand the amount of time that is being looked at. I think it is that important and so I would be prepared to request even more time.

Mr Jamison: When you talk about going and seeing the basic resource industries, the major manufacturers in the province, I simply have to say that going to Dofasco or Stelco is not like going into an office. If you are going to look at the operation, at the technology --


Mr Jamison: No, I worked there for 20 years.

If you are going to look at the technology between plants, the Hilton works, to use Stelco for an example, works with older technology and some problems are inherent to that and some walls are built up that we talk about bringing down. You have Lake Erie works within the same realm that is a much different plant with much more future-looking labour relations. Again, you are not going to accomplish that in one day.

If you are going to look at those things, I can tell you very clearly that if those companies were invited in, they could do a tremendously good job right here in giving you the information that you need on all those areas. Going out and tromping around the steel mill may be a wonderful public relations exercise, but unless you know the industry, unless you know the auto industry, the parts, the motor manufacturing sector of GM, the assembly plants, their subsidiaries, their suppliers, it is a tremendously difficult job to get around and absorb that.

I understand the intent, but our time is limited. If we express the desire to understand the true condition of our basic industry in this province, I think it can be much better accomplished by letting those companies know that we want to hear from them based on that. I really do not think the time spent walking around a Hilton works or a Lake Erie works is going to equate to our sufficiently doing our job that way. I understand, at the same time, that we are saying we want to really get a feel for things. These companies we are talking about can certainly provide that in a very explicit manner by coming in and making even a two-hour presentation to us. By going to Stelco you would have to see both plants. By going to GM or Ford you would have to see their full facilities. Doing that in person is going to be major time-consuming, and I really believe that many of the issues we have to come to understand about our basic industries can be brought forward just as clearly here.


Mr Carr: I did not mean going for tours. I had a chance to go out to a meeting and was up at the Toyota plant in Cambridge. I had the tour of Dofasco and so on. I did not mean we would have a tour. What I am saying is to use their facilities, ie, their boardroom or whatever, and have some of the people off the shop floor who could then come in. If you get into tours it is very fascinating, but it is definitely not worth our time to be taking the tours. We should be doing that individually, myself as critic and you as well. Failing that in terms of time, I think it could be worth while saying to Stelco: "We want to come meet with you in your area. You organize some of the people you would like to have come." If we could contact people like Stelco in a letter and say: "We would like to hear from you. We're going to give you a half-hour slot. Would you please bring some of your workers with you?" they could then sit down as a group, and I think we could accomplish the same thing. If people like Stelco and so on are prepared to come in and do that, I think it would be worth while being proactive in terms of asking them.

The problem I see is that from a logistical standpoint -- I may be wrong; your idea would be great if we could get them coming in here -- I see somebody, for example the president of Stelco, saying, "We cannot afford to spend half a day to come to Toronto, even though we're fairly close." Certainly the other areas could not do it. As a sort of compromise, if people think it is unwieldy, I would certainly be prepared to be proactive to write some of these people and offer the time in Toronto if you think that would be more productive.

It certainly was not my intent to get out and do tours and say, "What does this machine do?" and so on. It was just a very focused meeting in their facility, saying, "These are the topics we would like." If we cannot do it logistically, then I think, great, as a compromise we should send proactive letters out saying, "This is what we'd like you to discuss, but could you please bring your supervisor?" Just a couple of people so that the average person out there can then go back and say on the coffee break: "I went in. This is what we talked about. They are listening." As a compromise I would be pleased to look at something like that, Norm. I think that would be great.

The Vice-Chair: Just before we continue, I think we have had a lot of good ideas put on the table and different suggestions as to how we could proceed. It would be my advice that for the time being we should recess and come back at 4 o'clock and everyone should talk it over as individual caucuses and figure out where they want to proceed. I think we have a bit of a consensus on what we are doing in the first week in terms of two days on worker ownership, two days with macro projections, some of the economists, what have you. The question is what we are going to do for the next two weeks. I would suggest we leave it at this, because I think we are starting to get into specific details on specific proposals, and then go from there if there is a consensus on that.

Mr Wiseman: Two quick questions if we do that: The engine of the economy and the sector of the economy that creates jobs is not the multinational sector; it is the small-business sector and small manufacturing. I think it would be absolutely crucial, if we do this, to include them in the process. The second question is, are we recessing now until this afternoon when we have other work to do?

The Vice-Chair: Yes, until 4 o'clock.

Mr Wiseman: Why?

The Vice-Chair: If you look at what is there, particularly the winter recess, which weeks to hold hearings, we cannot decide some of that stuff yet, due to the nature of what is going on in the House.

Mr Wiseman: But we can talk about the consideration of the draft interim report on pre-budget consultations. Are we just going to forget about doing that and the people we have heard, or what?

The Vice-Chair: My sense is that we would still have time to discuss that this afternoon along with the other subjects.

Mr Wiseman: We have an hour and 15 minutes now.

Mr Phillips: You will have to get to your riding.

The Vice-Chair: That is part of the reason. I have to get into the House to speak on the bill.


The Vice-Chair: That is right. That is not the only reason. I just thought we were coming to a bit of a standstill in terms of new ideas.

Mr Wiseman: We can end this and go to the draft report. We have some things that have been put before us in draft by the MUSH sector and if we do not do it today we will not get it to the Treasurer in time for his announcement. As far as I can see, if we do not do that, then what are we doing it for?

The Vice-Chair: My sense was there had been some debate in this committee as to whether we would do an interim report per se or whether we would just include it in the overall report.

Mr Wiseman: I am not without some ideas that I would like to see considered by the committee in terms of this report. If there is some reason we are not going to do it now, then I would like to hear it.

Mr Carr: I agree with Jim that we want to get it in, although we heard the Treasurer say today that it was his intention to already have it done by now. If he had hit his timetable, we would not have a chance to do it. I am wondering about the poor people who came in. If he had hit his date, we would not have been able to do it anyway. Because he has not hit his date, if we can get a report in, I would be prepared to do it.

I have a couple of points -- it is not going to take that long -- that I would like to see in there, and whether we do it now or later does not matter to me. I am not going to be very long on some of the points I want to see in the report, but I definitely concur that we should report to the Treasurer before the transfer payments go in, because the people will feel, "Why the heck did we come in and make a presentation to this group?" I do not know, timewise, whether we can still do that this afternoon. If we can, great.

The Vice-Chair: Any comments?

Mr Phillips: I will do it either way.

The Vice-Chair: What is the consensus? Should we deal with the interim draft report on pre-budget consultations right now?

Mr B. Ward: I thought you had to go and speak. I can take the chair and you can go up.

The Vice-Chair: It will be a little while yet. We have some time. Someone else can come in the chair if necessary.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate that my colleague had some ideas and I am sure we would all like to hear them. My only concern -- I do not know about the other two parties -- is that we have not yet caucused on the document. Our tentative plan was to try to get together at 3:30, and we would meet very briefly then come back here at 4 o'clock. You would at least have some sense of where we were and we would have some sense of where we were.

Mr Phillips: Why do we not proceed right away?

Mr Carr: Now that you have told us that --

Mr Christopherson: That is fine. It was not contrary to your initial reaction. It was more that it would give us a chance to move more quickly, because what I am worried about is that we start down the road and all of a sudden we throw the brakes on and say: "Wait a minute. We are going to have to get back in on that." We either have to break now or break later; that is the only thing. But if there is a clear feeling that we ought to march ahead now, that is not a problem with us.

Mr Carr: Let's wait then, and when we come in we will have it clear and concise, because my fear is that we might spend an hour talking, whereas we could, when we get in here, have a clear consensus. We could do it individually. So let's wait till this afternoon, come back with clear, concise, short answers and away we go.

Mr Phillips: Just to show where we are coming from, if the transfer payments do not meet the expectations of the transfer payment agencies, I think we will be saying the government has a responsibility to spell out its responsibility for it and, where it can, to be pulling back on the mandated programs for the hospitals, municipalities and school boards. Our overall comment will be about downloading, and if that happens, that the government assume the responsibility. I want to tell you that so you will know.

Mr Christopherson: Gerry, I appreciate that, and I think we all, especially those of us who are new, have been appreciative of and most thankful for the professional, fair and upfront way everybody has dealt with reports. Gary, so far, where we can find common ground, we do, and then we try to make accommodations, but there is an understanding that at the end of the day we will use our majority to put through the majority report, and that is fine. We recognize the opposition parties will put in their minority report. They have, and that is fine too. It works well for us and it is a good group that way. What you hear Gerry saying is indicative of the fact that we do not agree on an awful lot quite often, but we do agree to respect each other's rights to take our positions and to move things along quickly and not get bogged down in a lot of cheap politics.

Mr Wiseman: With all due respect, it is more than just saying whether or not the MUSH sector is going to get what it asks for, because quite clearly there are some problems in the way the system works in terms of allocation of funds from the province to the municipalities, as to what the municipalities do with it.

Mr Phillips: I just want to tip my hand on what we are going to say this afternoon.

Mr Wiseman: Having not caucused on this, this is my own sense of what I have accumulated for the last year or so, and I think there are some serious structural deficiencies in the way the municipalities, the universities, the schools and the hospitals get their funds and then what they do with them. There is no accountability in terms of whether or not they are meeting the program needs within the sectors as they have been outlined by the province.

For me the question is far bigger and the recommendations I would like to have discussed go beyond talking about the simple transfer of money. I would like to talk about the whole notion of whether or not it should be an open-ended grant system where the municipalities come in and say, "We want you to give us this amount of money and we will then do with it what we want." I tell you, I have some very serious problems with that in my own municipality, which is building an administration building that is going to cost millions of dollars more than it needs to because of some political finagling within the municipality.

Mr Phillips: Why not make it part of our report, then?

The Vice-Chair: Mr Wiseman, I do not think anyone wanted to disagree with that coming forward as one of the issues that should come forward.

Mr Christopherson: We will talk about it. You struck a responsive chord with me. I am beginning to see a consensus.

The Vice-Chair: Do we have a consensus then that we will come back at 4 o'clock and spend some time on the MUSH report and try to figure out how we are going to do our three weeks of public hearings? Then we will be adjourned until 4 o'clock.

The committee recessed at 1052.


The committee resumed at 1637.

The Vice-Chair: I call this meeting to order. We are trying to get hold of a Liberal representative to have here very shortly. We are holding over from this morning. We are going to have some discussions around the interim report and pre-budget consultations and then have some further discussions on what we are going to do around the winter hearings.

I believe we had come more or less to a consensus on what we do in the first week. There was a question of what we should do for the other two weeks, keeping in mind too that since that time we have also had a further piece of legislation referred to this committee, Mr Morin's private member's bill regarding charging for cashing of government cheques. Let's deal first with the issue of consideration of the draft interim report on pre-budget consultations.

Mr Christopherson: After the House routine business was completed, we spent as much time as we could reviewing and coming up with the position we wanted to present. Unfortunately, all the private member's bills that were presented for second and third reading held us in the House much longer than we were anticipating this morning, and so we really just barely had a chance to scratch the surface of the issue we want to discuss.

We want to raise the possibility, with our colleagues across the way, of doing what we have done in these kinds of crunch situations in the past, that indeed each party would submit its own report. If there is a time we could meet and look at it, discuss it and debate parts of it -- although that has not always been necessary -- the three reports would form the full report that would go to the Treasurer. We acknowledge that the majority of the report would be ours, because of the majority of members. Then the other two reports would be added, as we have done in the past.

Basically what I am saying is that we have not had a chance to do what we had hoped to do. What we are asking is that maybe the three parties go back, draft up their positions and submit those to the clerk, that the three constitute our total report and that it be forwarded to the Treasurer in a timely fashion.

Mr Carr: The only thing I would add, from the standpoint of our Treasurer, is that I did not get a sense today of the date he was looking at in the new year. In order to get it in his hands and read it, what were you suggesting timewise, David?

Mr Christopherson: I have been very reluctant, for obvious reasons, as we have approached this, to give actual dates. As you can see in Floyd's comments this morning, it is still a moving target. I would just say, as I have said in the past, that we should do it as quickly and as early as possible to have the maximum impact. How soon we can realistically produce three reports and get them in the hands of the clerk and how quickly he can turn them around into something that can be handed to our Treasurer ought to be our target. Maybe Todd could give us a sense of what that reasonably might be.

Clerk of the Committee: With the consent of the committee, I could provide the Treasurer with an advance copy of the report in English only, which would allow him to be aware of what the committee recommendations are, and subsequent to that have the report translated, printed and bound in the normal way for tabling in the Legislature later on.

Mr Christopherson: How long do you say it would take, Todd?

Clerk of the Committee: On a same-day basis, really. On the day I get the three components I could turn that around and provide it to the Treasurer and within a couple weeks have it available to be released publicly.

Mr Carr: What about doing some of the reports? Obviously we are under the gun, timewise, to get a nice report that gets to him in time. I am thinking now of some of the staff with Christmas; even though we are working, they might not be. I am trying to get a sense of whether I go back to some of the people who will be helping with this and say, "Get it ready. Sorry, come in the day after Christmas," or whatever, or whether it would be better not to have as detailed a report but just to have something with a few recommendations that we could kick around now, that would not be as detailed as we would like, that could get out to him in time to be practical, with a provision to the Treasurer saying we would have liked a little more time to put a more detailed report together.

I am saying what is the sense? Do we have something that is good that is not timely and is therefore ineffective, or do we do something that is maybe a little bit quicker but where the Treasurer at least will have a bit of the sense of some of the direction? I do not know. I need discussion on that.

Mr Christopherson: Yes, we could. I do not think we have any objection. I suspect, given past experience and the mood of the House and everything else that is happening and how exhausted everyone is, that there probably will not be an awful lot of agreement. I suspect that at the end of the day two of the three reports might be somewhat similar and that the third would be very different. I am referring to two opposite --

Mr Carr: Mine.

Mr Christopherson: Yes. I do not want to deny the member the opportunity to have a debate and have it recorded on Hansard, if he feels that is important. That is not what we want to do. In all fairness to him, I would just ask how much success he thinks we might be able to have this afternoon on these issues. If you take a look around, without naming who is here and who is not for the record, it is clear that we would not exactly have full debate.

Mr Carr: That is true. I will say just very briefly for the record that one of the things Norm and I have talked about is the amounts. As you know, for the various people who were through, a very high percentage of their costs are salaries.

Some of them are contracts renegotiated with maybe 5%. The only provision I would like to see, and Norman concurs with this as well, is if the Treasurer decides to give less than that. I will use the example of the school boards that have have already got 5%. If he chooses to give less than 5%, which will be almost a certainty, I would like to see implemented what the public school boards wanted, which was corresponding legislation saying for example that if he gives them less than the 5%, then the provincial government should legislate that they will not get the increases they may have already got.

That is the only point that I think would probably be different. We would like to get that done up in a report. That is the only thing that may be different from what you would want that is out of the ordinary.

The Vice-Chair: Can we put it in this focus, some suggestions on a time line as to when a date would be? If you are going to submit individual reports, I imagine all three parties will have some staff support in there. Not knowing how staff work over the Christmas holiday period timewise, is some time in January, the first week back, an appropriate time, or something like that? Does that focus the discussion?

Mr Christopherson: Given the importance of this, the members on this side, non-cabinet members, have as much desire as opposition members to actually get a document in the hands of the Treasurer that he can consider prior to making some decisions. In that vein, I have had a chat with my executive assistant, Ari Rozin, and if need be we are prepared to work around the clock to get something in the hands of the clerk by the first of next week.

I have heard from Todd. They are going to be here anyway. If we can give them a final product from the three parties, we can get it together and get it over to Floyd.

As Floyd's PA, I am prepared to ensure that the document is available by Monday, faxing drafts to my colleagues across the province. I think we could do that if the opposition is interested and if it has the staff support. If they are not, then obviously it does not make sense for me to work my staff that hard towards Christmas, but if they can meet that kind of time frame and would like to, I and my colleagues are prepared to commit that we will meet it also.

Mr B. Ward: Can you get yours in early next week?

Mr Carr: Yes, ours is going to be fairly concise and to the point. It is just a matter of taking those ideas and doing them up. I do not see a great deal of integrated work for somebody. That would be fine.

Mr Christopherson: We will just have to assume that our Liberal colleagues would also have the same desire and ability to do so.

The Vice-Chair: I think we just saw on the screen Mrs Sullivan leaving the House, so hopefully she will be down shortly to give some comment.

Mr Christopherson: Do I have to repeat everything? You would not submit yourselves to all that, would you?

The Vice-Chair: We will do a very quick précis of what you have said. That is no problem whatsoever. It looks like we will just about have a consensus on that when the Liberal representative shows up. If not, we will have to go by that.

You said possibly Monday. Do you want to set a time? Is it Monday at noon you want to get it in?

Mr Christopherson: We are prepared to meet whatever time frame the opposition feels it can meet.

Mr Carr: Tuesday makes it the 24th. I am just thinking in terms of when it gets over to the Treasurer. I assume his officials are going to be working right up to the last minute. Let's say Tuesday.

The Vice-Chair: Let's be clear, though. The idea actually is to get it in by the end of Monday so that something can be done Tuesday with it to get it over to the Treasurer's office. Is that the intent?

Mr Christopherson: It sounds good.

The Vice-Chair: Okay, Tuesday noon at the absolute latest and hopefully sooner. Probably your staff will want to get it in too.

Moving on to the next issue, or were there more issues related to that? How does this integrate with the draft report, what is there, in terms of the language?

Mr Christopherson: The only thing we have is the list of recommendations.

The Vice-Chair: Oh, no, we have a more updated document.

Mr Christopherson: What I would suggest is that all three parties consider the documentation that is currently available, include what they are comfortable with and exclude the rest. Again, ours will form the majority report and the two opposition parties can add theirs as minority reports.

What we will do is make sure, Anne, that your people are apprised of what we are looking at with the majority report. Are your people available on Monday? My assistant Mr Rozin will be in touch with you to complete that.


Mr Christopherson: I am willing to take the risk. It probably will not, Gary, but if you are, when we get back I will be glad to speak into the record that you did.


Mr Wiseman: I have a couple of recommendations I would like to see included in the report that have not been made by the groups that came before us but none the less come from what they were saying to the committee. How would I make sure those are included?

The Vice-Chair: If we are suggesting we are going to have individual caucus reports, then I would think you would want to go through your caucus to get those ideas put down on paper and involved in the process that way. That would seem like the most appropriate way to me, given what we have said we are going to do.

Mr Wiseman: All right.

The Vice-Chair: Just as you are coming in, Mrs Sullivan, regarding the interim report, we have had some discussion on that. I think we have consensus on this with the other two parties here. What we have suggested is that each caucus would do up a report on it. Try to have it in by Tuesday morning to the clerk. The clerk will compile them and make sure a copy is sent over to the Treasurer. Then it will formally go through the process of translation, being bound and submitted to the House.

Mrs Sullivan: It sounds fine with me.

The Vice-Chair: You do not expect any problems in terms of whether staff is helping out? I do not know how your staff are operating over the holidays or whatever up until Christmas.

Mrs Sullivan: I think we can manage. Our remarks will be short.

The Vice-Chair: We got that issue out of the way then.


The Vice-Chair: Moving on to trying to plan what we are doing during the recess period of the House, the winter hearings, as I said earlier, I think we had basically come to the conclusion that in the first week we would spend two days dealing with worker ownership. I guess we will need to appoint some group; maybe a subcommittee group will have to decide who should be invited to comment on that. Then we are going to look at the macroeconomic picture, a couple of days there, hearing from some of the people and organizations that provide some analyses and projections and where some of the key indicating figures are going to be. That was week 1.

We were trying to decide, if we were sitting three weeks, how we were going to approach the following two weeks. We had many suggestions put on the floor. The other thing that fits into that is Mr Morin's bill that was referred to this committee. We have to figure out how we are going to deal with that one.

I would certainly be willing to open up the floor now, hoping that people have had some time to sit back and reflect between this morning and now as to how they think the committee should proceed.

Mr Carr: Norm and I had a quick chat on the way out, along the same lines of some of the concerns we voiced about going out. I was trying to explain a little bit about how it would work. Failing that, because I did not think there was much of a consensus for that, the one thing I would suggest we do is maybe through the clerk make it known to some companies that the hearings are coming up. Possibly he could write and advise of the hearings when we do in fact get a date.

I still stand by what I said this morning in hopes that we could expand the amount of time. As Jim rightly pointed out, we will spend five weeks on some of the garbage hearings, and I think that is a very important issue of this day. In terms of the timing, I am very flexible. In terms of the amount of days, I think it should be enough that everybody will be heard and we should encourage a lot of people who have not been heard from in the past.

In terms of what the Treasurer said this morning about some of the roundtable discussions, I would love to see us be able to participate in that process as well. My basic feeling is that whatever amount of time we need, we are prepared to do.

Mr Christopherson: Maybe we could ensure that we are reaffirming what the parameters will be and then just mandate the subcommittee to fill in from there, the problem being that we are not going to be back together until it is time to actually start working. Unless we are going to make those decisions right now or plan and ensure that we meet again next Monday, we are probably going to have to mandate the subcommittee to take care of those details for us.

Mrs Sullivan: I think there are several issues that have to be dealt with by the subcommittee. One is of course the dates, which have to fit in with the sitting of other committees. I gather that the dates for other committees, while they have been discussed in House leaders' meetings, have not yet been finalized. There is an overlap of members on the various committees and that is of some importance.

The other thing is that while the government is excited and interested in this new process of consulting on the budget, it has yet to be determined if in fact the groups who are interested in doing pre-budget consultation are interested in participating in a roundtable discussion. These are trying and difficult economic times, and to sit in a meeting simply to chat and have a cross-fire or debate of views is something companies, associations and others who may otherwise want to present their recommendations in relationship to the budget may simply feel is not a useful way to spend their time.

I do not know if we have had feedback from some of the significant sectors on their views of this process, the resources sector, for example, or the automobile manufacturers, who are clearly drivers of economic affairs in the province. We know we had less than great success in gathering all the players to the table when we were dealing with the transfer agencies. As a consequence, I think the subcommittee must have the opportunity to have some time to review what kind of response and what kind of indication there is that people really want to participate in this process, if they really feel there is any validity to it or it is a waste of time.

I think we cannot discuss any further the matters relating to the time or the nature of the hearings until we have other information and it is probably not very useful for this committee to be providing more direction to the subcommittee. I think the subcommittee is going to have to make a lot of the decisions.

The Vice-Chair: Can I just ask, in terms of those issues -- times, actual format, who comes forward -- is there any way the topics of focus of these hearings could be established? I think if that were established, it would make it a lot easier. In other words, do you want all the groups outside the MUSH sector, which came in last year, to come in? Do you want the target groups or specific areas that did not appear last year, or do you want to take some of the ones from last year you feel are most important and say: "We are going to focus on three or four topics here. Let's have the people from those areas come in in some type of format"? I think if that type of question could be answered in some form, that would probably make the subcommittee's job a lot easier, to figure out specific format and times and dates and who the presenters will be.


Mr Carr: Just on that, my feeling would be certainly, at bare minimum, anyone from last year who appeared in these hearings. I did not sit on the hearings but, as Todd will know, got all the presentations and came in on some of them. I think certainly at a bare minimum those people.

I am fairly open to how we reach out to some of the other people, ie, what we talked about this morning. I would look for some guidance, but certainly the idea and the premise of sending something to a Stelco, for example, to invite it to come in -- notwithstanding the fact that many people are too busy, notwithstanding the fact that a lot of them say, "We come in and do a presentation and the government will do whatever it wants," I still think there is a chance to impress upon the Treasurer before he makes these critical decisions what needs to be done.

The only thing I would suggest is that we keep some of the groups that appeared last year, and have historically, and try to expand that. The only thing we may have to look for, certainly from the clerk, is the timing of that. If we are going to stay to the weeks and everybody appeared who appeared last year, as an example, we may not be able to ask anybody else just because of the time frame involved. I still think what we should then do is expand the number of weeks to accommodate those people. But if we cannot, then certainly the bare minimum is the people who appeared last year.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. Further comment on those specific issues.

Mr Christopherson: Mr Carr suggested earlier today the idea of some form of clustering, and I think we ought to be following through with clustering of some sort in order to get the roundtable going. There may be disagreements on how effective it will be. We will not know until we actually try it. I think it is worth saying that, up until now, I am only aware of one major group which said, "No, we don't want to come," and I think that was the same group which said no last year under the regular process, but I could be wrong on that.

What we are trying to do is sincerely find a way of allowing the groups to participate in the decision-making by hearing the same sorts of things we are hearing. Coming in in isolation and saying, "Here's what we need in these times," is not as effective as it might be if we tried something else, and that really is the whole approach. I think Mr Carr is buying into that experiment, if you will, to at least give it a shot.

I think we are going to have to call on the subcommittee to take a look at just making the commonsense decisions. Obviously, anybody who wanted to get to us last year and could not should be given a priority. Out of two years, everybody should get a shot if it is at all possible.

Mr Carr: Were some left off last year?

Mr Christopherson: I think there were some.

The Vice-Chair: Sorry. I do not think it was a question that people were left off who we were able to accommodate. There were certain sectors that were obviously --

Mr Christopherson: That we did not focus on.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, they were obviously not evident in appearing before us.

Mr Christopherson: Everyone got to submit, but not everyone got to come in and make a personal approach.

We did not come back to the idea of whether we wanted to actually try and get out to at least maybe even one region per consultation, or one or two regions. I realize you would like some assistance from us, Mr Chair, but I think a committee needs to sit down and look at the track record from the last time and take a look at what Todd can produce in terms of who did come in and who did not and what sectors maybe did not get as much attention. I am prepared to stand by what your collective wisdom would bring back to us.

The Vice-Chair: I guess as long as people understand that there may be some -- as a result of putting that to a subcommittee without any degree of parameters, I think we all have to realize there would be some limitations on whom we are going to be able to go after, and it will probably have to be done a lot more with direct invitation than necessarily public advertising for those hearings, other than maybe public advertising saying, "You can submit a brief so it will be considered."

Mrs Sullivan: I am quite concerned that even before the subcommittee meets there has not been adequate background work done to ensure that the subcommittee can indeed determine where the invitations ought to go and how they would be seen and could be seen to be valid. For example, if we are looking at the automobile sector -- and we have talked about that as being a driving force in the Ontario economy -- there are a number of players who could participate in a roundtable discussion in relation to economic matters: the unions, the automobile parts manufacturers, the automobile manufacturers' associations, various economists who are part of the consulting organizations, the spinoff in terms of the retail sector that distributes the parts and so on, environmental organizations that are involved in pushing for gas tax changes for environmental concerns, and which may well ultimately have a direct effect on automobile sales and the rate of recovery in that sector.

If that is the kind of roundtable participation that the Treasurer anticipates this committee would be involved in, we would, first of all, have to hire a hall. Second, the determination of who would participate and what issues are likely to be on the table is going to have a significant weighting on the success of the outcome of the committee hearings. Frankly, in my view, we are not at that stage. That work has not been done. The analysis has not been made. We could do the same thing about the resources industries. We could do the same thing about the the health care industries.

I will suggest to you that one of the reasons the MUSH hearings did not work is that in health care we know who was here and we know what sectors were missing. The pharmaceutical manufacturers were not here. The generic drug manufacturers were not here. Long-term care people were not here. The Ontario Medical Association was not here. The nurses' association was not here. Yes, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario was here, but the union was not. The medical laboratories were not here. Many of those sectors have had the focus of their activities changed significantly by decisions of the government, some of them budgetary, over the past year. Frankly, in hearing from three or four participants in that sector, what we heard was not a picture of the issues affecting that sector.

I do not understand. If the subcommittee feels they can do it, I suggest to you that our research assistants and our clerk are going to have to be working all weekend and over the next week and a half, and if the committee is going to meet on Monday, they are not going to have the material with which to make recommendations in relation to sitting time and so on. I think the committee is behind the eight ball on this.

The Vice-Chair: Just as one comment, I do not think anyone thought that when we were to deal with the hospital aspect of health care and we had them in -- if there are aspects of the budget related to health care outside of hospitals specifically that the committee wants to focus on, that is certainly still well within its mandate, I would think, but the focus was to be on the hospitals.

Mrs Sullivan: That is not the point I am making.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. Mr Carr.

Mr Carr: I think the process we had last year where the people come in is still very valid. The way I was reading it with the Treasurer -- correct me if I did not hear right -- was that the Treasurer was meeting individually with people as well. The way I see it working is that we still have the hearings the way they have been done in the past. But what I saw was the Treasurer saying he had the individual meetings, I presume at the Treasury office, and that he is planning to do that, only this year, instead of having them come in one at a time, he was opening up the process, as opposed to the past where they met with the Treasurer and the officials and there was not anybody, for example, from these hearings coming in.

I think Barbara misunderstood. I think she got the impression that we were going to change the hearings and make them into roundtable discussions. That is not what I was saying. I was saying that in addition to that, now members of this committee would be able to participate. What I was hoping to say to the Treasurer, and I think I made that clear, is that if he has the dates when people are coming in, then people could participate. Barbara might not want to go on one when the auto sector comes in. The Treasurer is meeting with these people anyway. I think just quickly, before Barbara leaves, she misunderstood and thought we were going to have roundtable discussions instead of the hearings. That is not what I meant. I think what we have done traditionally is very important. All I am saying is that we can expand it beyond that.

I am sorry Barbara whipped out there, but if anybody else thought that, that is not what I was saying, that we were going to change the hearings process into roundtable discussions and only do that. It is the same way it has been. In addition, if that means roundtable, where not all of us appear, I would just like to have the opportunity to go and sit in.

I might add that I spoke with somebody at lunch today who is an accountant and so of course has a lot of customers. We were talking about the economy and how bad it was and so on, and I said to him, "If in fact there was a process where you could have some of your clients come in, like George's Taco Stand, and speak to the Treasurer about what their concerns are, do you think your clients would want it?" He said, "If you let me know the date you're looking at, we would contact them, and I really believe they would like to speak to the Treasurer and/or his officials and/or somebody on these committees." That is all I was saying. Hopefully that clarifies it a little, but I think, by the nods, that is what everybody else understood.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. Mr Christopherson.

Mr Christopherson: I think Mr Carr is reflecting quite accurately the approach we were suggesting, and I suspect that Mrs Sullivan, by and large, and her colleague Mr Phillips are also in agreement with that. I will move that the subcommittee be mandated to set the details of our three weeks, taking into account -- sorry?

The Vice-Chair: Of the three weeks or the final --

Mr Christopherson: Of the total amount that is finally allocated by the House leaders, taking into account the number of issues that have been raised here and, I think, the general level of consensus as to how we approach the spring sitting.

Motion agreed to. The Vice-Chair: Seeing that, if that is the case I do not know if we have anything else to discuss on the agenda at this time. We will go forward from there and see what we can come up with based on the times.

Mr Carr: One last thing. We hopefully will see each other next week, but if I do not see you individually, all the best for Christmas to you and your families.

The Vice-Chair: Actually, Mr Carr, I think in many respects we hope we do not see you next week so we can enjoy the holidays a little more. Meeting adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1712.