Thursday 23 April 1992

Election of Chair

Election of Vice-Chair

Business subcommittee



Chair / Président: Hansen, Ron (Lincoln ND)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Sutherland, Kimble (Oxford ND)

Caplan, Elinor (Oriole L)

Carr, Gary (Oakville South/-Sud PC)

Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre ND)

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk ND)

Kwinter, Monte (Wilson Heights L)

Phillips, Gerry (Scarborough-Agincourt L)

Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC)

Ward, Brad (Brantford ND)

Ward, Margery (Don Mills ND)

Wiseman, Jim (Durham West/-Ouest ND)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

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

Miclash, Frank (Kenora L) for Mr Kwinter

Clerk / Greffier: Decker, Todd

Staff / Personnel: Campbell, Elaine, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1536 in committee room 1.


Clerk of the Committee (Mr Todd Decker): Honourable members, it is my duty to call upon you to elect one of your own as the Chair of the committee. Are there any nominations for the position?

Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): I nominate Ron Hansen.

Clerk of the Committee: Are there any other nominations? If not, I declare nominations closed and Mr Hansen acclaimed as Chair of the committee.


The Chair (Mr Ron Hansen): I guess the next order of business is the election of a Vice-Chair. Do I hear any nominations for Vice-Chair?

Mr Johnson: I nominate Kimble Sutherland as Vice-Chair.

The Chair: Everybody in agreement? Anybody opposed? Congratulations, Mr Sutherland.


The Chair: I guess the other order of business is the establishment of a subcommittee on committee business. Does anybody want to make the motion for the subcommittee representatives from the three parties?

Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): Gary Carr will be our representative on the subcommittee.

The Chair: Okay. Thank you, Mr Sterling.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'll nominate Ms Caplan.

The Chair: Okay, Ms Caplan from the Liberals and automatically, Mr Sutherland, you'll be the subcommittee chair.


The Chair: The next item on the committee's agenda, item 4 on the list you have before you, Bill 150, An Act to provide for the Creation and Registration of Labour Sponsored Venture Capital Corporations to Invest in Eligible Ontario Businesses and to make certain other amendments, the honourable Shelley Wark-Martyn's bill. That will be coming before the committee, I believe, on May 7.

Mr Sterling: It is before the committee now, as I understand it. I have not had any communication from the minister at this point. Neither I nor any members of my caucus have any indication from the minister that she's ready to proceed at this time. It was sort of taken off the table unilaterally by the government. Therefore, it may be her desire to go ahead on May 7 but I think it would be proper courtesy for her to forward the changes she may have to the bill, to give us a little bit of warning before we schedule a time for her.

The Chair: Maybe the parliamentary assistant can wind up.

Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I was just wondering if Mr Sterling and any members of the Liberal caucus had had an opportunity to be briefed on the changes -- obviously not, or you wouldn't be suggesting what you are.

Mr Sterling: Who's the critic for Revenue? It used to be Yvonne O'Neill but that's changed. I'm sure we'll work it out.

Mr Phillips: There's a file here. We're fairly interchangeable; we all know.

The Chair: Have all members of the committee received a copy of Bill 150?

Mr Sterling: We don't seem to have received amendments. Historically, for those members who weren't on the committee before, we were going to go into this in February. On the Thursday before the Monday when we were to start the hearings the minister indicated that she didn't want to proceed and unilaterally withdrew and said, "We're not going to go ahead." That was done without consultation at that time and I voiced my objection at that time.

So I'm going to be very obstinate this time in terms of letting the minister run the committee. The committee should make the decision on the basis of information. We don't have any information in front of us now and therefore I suggest, Mr Chairman, we postpone this until we have some kind of communication from the minister as to what her amendments might be.


Mr Johnson: I can say that at this time I would like to think that between now and May 7 you would have an opportunity to see the new package as it is, with those amendments. I think the reason it was withdrawn or taken out of the committee was because there were some concerns with the particular legislation as it was drafted. So there have been some changes and that is why it's being brought back now.

Mr Phillips: The member for Carleton recalled to the committee the facts as they are. Both himself and myself had some significant reservations when the bill was introduced. We raised them and we were told that they were unfounded and that the only way to proceed was the government's way.

As the member indicated, we were all set. On a Monday and Tuesday, I recall the hearings were set. Then, on the Thursday before the hearing, we were told that somehow they were being pulled. My problem is that without knowing what those amendments are and having a chance to discuss them with my caucus, there's a risk, as we head into that session -- they may be substantive. They may be things that we want, that I have to take to my caucus to get some feedback on. So I would have appreciated having been -- even before today's meeting -- briefed to go over with our caucus.

The Chair: Mr Johnson, is it a possibility that the members of the opposition parties can be briefed on this?

Mr Johnson: I think that's most appropriate. I wonder, how much time in advance of bringing this before the committee would the members of the opposition like?

Mr Sterling: It's not only the members of the committee who have to be informed, but the reason that we ask for this to be sent out to committee is so that people who were interested in the bill might have an opportunity to make a presentation. As I understand it, these amendments have not been made public. There's been no statement. I would think that the minister might want to make a statement in the Legislature and say, "These are my proposed amendments." Let the people out in the public have a little bit of time with it -- I'm not saying an extensive period of time, but that again depends on the extent of the amendments -- so that groups who have expressed an interest will have the opportunity to come.

I think we were going to have public hearings in February. Perhaps the clerk can help us out here. Were there groups that were going to come in front of the committee in February, and how many were there?

Clerk of the Committee: I didn't bring with me the schedule that existed at that time, but there were a number of groups. There were the United Steelworkers of America, the Algoma salaried employees, three or four ministries of government -- Labour, Revenue, Treasury and Economics -- I'm not sure of the fourth. I believe there was a fourth.

Mr Sterling: I have received a communication from a workers' co-op in the Kitchener area which I am sure would want to appear as well. In order to give those people the proper opportunity, I think that there has to be some time between --

The Chair: Can I go to Mr Sutherland for a minute?

Mr Sutherland: I think the sense was that you would start that process on May 7, I believe, or whatever. We had two days of hearings scheduled with groups to come in. I think there would still be the sense that we'd continue on with two days of hearings of that. I'm wondering if maybe --

Mr Sterling: We don't want them in here complaining about a section that has already been changed by the minister.

Mr Sutherland: Right.

Mr Sterling: We may not have to spend two more days on it.

Mr Sutherland: Okay, but maybe what I'm suggesting is that the committee meet next Thursday morning for a few minutes to decide where things are at, as to whether those concerns you've raised so far have been addressed adequately enough that we could proceed on May 7.

Mr Sterling: Perhaps what we can do, in fairness to the groups that have already indicated an interest in this, is wait until they have an opportunity to see the amendments. Once the minister produces the amendments, they're mailed to these various groups, or they're communicated. Ask the groups how much time they need in order to prepare a response or to prepare their public presentation. If they can make it by May 7, we'll do it by May 7. If they can't, if the minister doesn't produce them in public until May 6, then we can't. We can't sit on May 7.

The Chair: So you're saying the amendments in with the package that goes out to these groups so they can see what the amendments are.

Mr Sterling: Yes. Then we have to have an opportunity, as Mr Phillips says, to discuss them.

Mr Phillips: One of the problems I think is that the reference from the Legislature gave us two days of hearings on this thing, if my memory is correct. What I want to avoid is being trapped with scheduling the two days of hearings before we've seen the content of the amendments, because I have a feeling that, if it broadens it to what we actually originally thought should be in there, there could be a series of employee groups that will want to come before the committee. I'm just saying that to reference this for two days, and May 7 is one, the opposition doesn't leave itself much leeway for --

Mr Sutherland: I think too a couple of groups that might have been originally on that list may not want to participate, just given that there are a couple of the Algoma groups that were on there. My understanding is that they didn't really use this procedure; they came up with a different procedure, so they may not still want to be here. That may open up some room for a couple of other groups.

The only problem with Norm's approach is that if you go and ask them, "How long do you need?" and you wait, they come back, it could be June before we decide to have the hearings. Then of course, if there are amendments, I assume there will have to be votes at the committee stage here on those amendments, or something of that nature.

While we want to make sure we get input from the groups participating and from the public and they can have some time to comment, I don't think we want to be having those presentations in June either. The sooner we can get on with this and move forward, the better, because I'm sure there'll be other issues the committee will probably want to deal with as well.

The Chair: Okay. Ms Caplan.

Mr Sterling: That's not our problem.

The Chair: Excuse me. Ms Caplan.

Mrs Caplan: I think I was going to follow along the line of thought Mr Sterling just interjected. This is a very significant piece of legislation. As the Revenue critic, one of the things I've just heard today is that there are a number of potentially significant changes in this bill, changes that could be significant enough to warrant really a lot more thought and discussion, or significant changes that may have satisfied a lot of concerns.

I think today's discussion is premature. I think there has to be an opportunity for all of us to be fully briefed, to have a chance to discuss it with our caucus and then determine when we are ready to come and have hearings at committee. It seems to me that until we've been briefed and seen what those changes are, it's unreasonable for the committee to expect us to make a determination as to timing.

The Chair: Maybe Mr Johnson can wind up with a little more clarification here.

Mr Johnson: I don't know if I can wind up with more clarification, but I'd like to think we could come to some agreement with regard to the time we can expect this to come before the committee, and I'd like to think --

Mr Sterling: You're not providing us with any information.

Mr Johnson: Absolutely, and I understand that. If it's possible to get an adequate briefing from the ministry staff and to have this widely circulated to the necessary parties before May 7, could May 7 not be a tentative date?

Mr Sterling: Why don't we discuss this after you've taken the correct steps? The minister has treated us, as members of the Legislature, really in a way she should not have. We didn't make a big stink about it at the time. We said, "Okay, do you want to meet on Monday?" She unilaterally closed down the schedule of this committee without even coming in front of the committee and explaining what it was all about. I received no communication from the minister as to what the amendments were or what were not. We are talking about this Never Never Land. Why don't we just postpone the discussion of this until the minister shows her hand?


Mr Sutherland: I was just going to suggest again, as I suggested earlier, that maybe we can meet next week in the morning and hopefully be able to answer those questions. Maybe if the minister is prepared at that time to come forward with the amendments, that will give you time between then and the following week, which is May 7, to go to your caucuses and discuss the issue, based on what's there, and whether you feel more time is needed. If that's the case, I guess that would be worked out between the House leaders as to whether there would be more time, but you could still get prepared to try at least to move forward with the dates of having hearings. If you felt there was more there, then that would be fine.

I understand there were concerns expressed about our not dealing with it when we originally had it scheduled, but I think the minister has attempted to respond to some concerns and is coming forward with some amendments, which I believe both of the opposition parties were calling for in the first place. I don't think we can be too upset about the fact that it was pulled and wasn't discussed there pending the fact that amendments were coming forward.

Mrs Caplan: I think you missed the point, and I'd like to be helpful. The point is you obviously have information that we don't have. In order for us to determine how we are going to proceed, we would really like to be fully briefed by the minister. What might be helpful is if you could agree and we could agree to perhaps have that briefing and set a time for the briefing now if we could. Maybe it could be next Thursday morning at the normal committee meeting when the minister would come in and brief all the committee members, and we would all have the information. We could take that back and discuss it with our caucuses and then come back and decide when we're prepared to proceed with the bill. I think that's a reasonable approach.

Mr Sutherland: I don't think there's a problem with the minister coming before this committee and letting it know the intent of what the amendments are going for. I think she has the full intent of doing that at some point. It's a question of when you want to schedule that and then there is the question of, when she comes forward and does the briefing, your going back to your caucus and then deciding whether we are going to proceed or not. That does delay the process. If you want more time, that can be worked out.

Mrs Caplan: With due respect, you're missing the point. We can't, in advance, tell you how we're going to feel about it until we have the information. You're asking the questions in the wrong order. First you have to give the information, Then we have to have a chance to discuss it. Then we can decide how we're going to proceed. It's unreasonable for you to say, "Tell us now how you want to proceed and then we'll give you the information." It just doesn't work that way.

Mr Sterling: I don't know if there is some tie-up with the budget in this. She may not want to come in front of the committee before the budget is laid out next Thursday afternoon. I don't know that.

If that's not the case, I think what Mrs Caplan has suggested is probably a good and logical thing. Next week we could not only have the minister come and talk about the amendments, but have some of her officials here so that members of the committee can ask them not only about the amendments but about the other parts of the bill. I had a briefing on this bill some time ago, before second reading, and the predecessor to Mrs Caplan as the Revenue critic had a briefing on the bill. However, members of the committee have not had that same advantage in terms of dealing with the thing. If you're really anxious to get it going, we're open to the idea that the minister come here next week with her officials, maybe before we start into it two or three weeks later; we won't have to be bothered doing that in the morning and we can get right into the public hearings.

Mr Johnson: Maybe there's been a misunderstanding here. I was under the impression that the minister was going to come on May 7 with a package so that all of us on this committee could have a package, and she was going to give a brief statement. We were all going to have the packages made available to us.

At this point in time I believe there's still some information that even I'm not familiar with, that has yet to come to me or to any of the other members of the committee. If it's not appropriate that the minister come in on May 7, give everyone a package, make a presentation and then we take it from there, if that's not appropriate use of committee time, then we'll have to do something else, I guess.

Mr Sterling: It's quite appropriate that the minister come and explain the bill to the committee. The problem is that we have the impression that the amendments are not small amendments, that there are some significant changes, because if they were only small amendments we would have gone ahead with the hearings in February. We're of the impression that there's been some rethinking. Quite frankly, I congratulate the minister on her rethinking and going ahead and, "Let's try to work this thing out." But if that's the case, then the proper pacing of legislation, in order to get the best piece of legislation, is to allow the people who are then going to comment to have it up front.

If you want to wait until May 7 to have the minister and the amendments here, that's fine and dandy, but I can tell you, if they are substantial, then you're going to have trouble with us in going ahead with public hearings for a period of time thereafter. All we're trying to do is help you and advance the process.

Mr Johnson: It's much appreciated. Recognize that some of these amendments are the result of some of the concerns raised by members opposite in the Legislature. I think that is certainly a step -- I agree with Mr Sterling -- in the right direction. We've made some amendments prior to bringing this before the committee.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I think the opposition members are trying to be helpful. I think we're all just trying to get the horse in front of the cart. That's my sense. I'm not seeing any kind of games or any such thing. The PA is indicating at this point that he's prepared to commit the minister to coming on May 7. I'm hearing some opposition members say, "If that's the first we see of the amendments, and they're significant, we may not be prepared to start right into public hearings that afternoon or commit to when we will start them." I can appreciate that. I think if I were sitting over there, I'd ask for the same kind of consideration.

Could I suggest, assuming that the PA and our whip are comfortable with it, that we acknowledge right now that May 7 will be scheduled for the minister to appear and make whatever presentation she's prepared to make? If during the interim she's comfortable sending out a package of information and providing staff to give briefings to the caucuses before then, to try to facilitate a time frame, so be it. If we come here and meet next Thursday and there's new information about how we might facilitate opposition members' needs for information, so be it. But for today, if we agree that we'll have the minister come in on May 7, that request will go out and we'll take it from there. You have our assurance that we understand the concerns you're raising. I think they're very valid, as I think all my colleagues believe they are. We'll try to accommodate them in as timely a fashion as possible to allow all of us to get on with this.

The Chair: I guess the biggest thing I can see here is that all people agree that the day the minister comes is not one day of the hearings, that there are still two days left. That was the main area I could see.

Mr Christopherson: May 7 is not necessarily the day.

Mr Sterling: You raised another issue, Mr Chairman, and that was that originally two days were set out for hearings on this bill, which had nothing to do with the content of the bill and nothing to do with the interest in the content of the bill. It had nothing to do with anything save and except that the House leaders were negotiating before the Christmas break how many days committees could sit. The limitation that was put on this committee at that time, as I understand it from our House leader, was two days, based on the fact that we were sitting on other matters. So the two days are not carved in stone, as far as my House leader or we are concerned. If 30 parties come up and say they want to speak on Bill 150, we may need 10 days of hearings. As far as we're concerned, so be it.

Mrs Caplan: I think we've gotten to a point where there can be some agreement. I think I heard that there's agreement that if the minister is available on the 7th, we will convene then, have the briefing and then make a determination after that as to when we're prepared to have the hearings and also, at that point in time, how extensive the hearings will have to be. I think Mr Sterling makes a good point, that the length of time for the hearings was based on previous information and may have to be reconsidered.

The other point is that if the minister is prepared to come to the committee before that, I think members of the opposition would be more than willing to accommodate that -- next week, if that's possible. So certainly if the parliamentary assistant could let the Chair know and if it's possible to arrange a meeting where we can have the information and be fully briefed by the minister, we can get on with making the decisions that will put this bill to public hearings and also give our caucuses the opportunity to have the kind of information they will need to be able to see this bill move forward.


The Chair: The clerk just noted to me Mr Morin is ready to move on his bill, Bill 154, so there can be that buffer zone and that period in between of looking at the amendments and so on. So we can wind up dealing with his bill in between. It's a suggestion from the clerk.

Mr Johnson: I will certainly convey to the minister the information Mrs Caplan has mentioned. If it's within her means to meet earlier, I'll notify the Chair, who can notify the clerk, who can see if we can arrange some meeting prior to May 7. Otherwise, I think the minister is prepared at this point in time to come before the committee on May 7.

Mr Brad Ward (Brantford): Just a point of clarification: I thought I heard the opposition members not so much request that the minister come to two meetings, but that the information be made available prior to May 7 if possible. I don't think the minister has to come and brief us. It could be ministry staff, with the assistance of the PA, and then on May 7 the minister could give the formal briefing or the formal presentation.

The Chair: Is that acceptable, information ahead of time and ministry staff and then the minister?

Interjection: That would be great.

Mr Christopherson: What it does is it underscores what Mrs Caplan was saying, that we will schedule to meet here next Thursday, which is a regular sitting day of this committee --

Mr Sutherland: In the morning only.

Mr Christopherson: In the morning only, yes, if we've got something scheduled, and we'll cancel it if there's nothing there to fill. If there's anything we can do to move this thing along, we'll slot it in and do it.

Mr Sterling: No, I think that leads to a bit of a problem in dealing with Bill 154. I think we should just say that on May 7, the minister comes. The more information she provides before that time, the sooner we can get on with things in terms of dealing with them in committee.

If we want to give Mr Morin an opportunity to have our committee deal with his bill, I think we should, with respect to his rights, deal with that bill next Thursday morning and give him his opportunity. I don't think we can allow the minister to knock him off the schedule at her leisure. I think we have to make that decision now. The minister hasn't provided us with the information we need. I think we have to deal with Mr Morin now that we have made that decision.

The Chair: I was just talking to the clerk. There are groups that want to appear before the committee on Bill 154 that possibly would not be prepared to appear Thursday either. There's that possibility there. Mr Morin would be able to wind up making his presentation before the committee and then the other people who want to make presentations could make them after that.

Mr Sutherland: What are the other groups that want to present on Mr Morin's bill?

Mr Sterling: I think there are the people who represent the people who cash the cheques.

Mr Sutherland: I was aware of them. Who are the other organizations?

The Chair: Bankers' association and cheque cashers.

Clerk of the Committee: There are cheque-cashing businesses, the Canadian Bankers Association, and I think the Consumers' Association of Canada, or of Ontario.

Mr Sterling: Why don't we try to at least have some of those, and then ask Mr Morin as well if he wants some time during next Thursday morning?

The Chair: So we got (a) and (b) done. I think the other part, (c), will follow after we get through, not having to put a schedule on there -- "Unresolved issues concerning budget secrecy, the budget-making process and the pre-budget consultation process" -- unless members of the committee need some research done ahead of time so we don't have any lag time. Again, has anybody any suggestions on this or should we just let it follow?

Mr Christopherson: I don't have a complete package to offer and I'm open to anything. I suggest the Treasurer would probably be interested in coming. He's the one who initiated this and I've said all along, and I think it has been shown, he's very serious about changing the process and he really wants the input of this group. We've done as much as we can. I don't know that we've provided earth-shattering suggestions, but we've been there. I think Floyd would probably want an opportunity to come back after the budget is released and his schedule permits, to come in and talk about what has happened this time, how it was different from the time before and initiate some discussion about how we might make further changes for next time. Maybe that's a good starting point for us.

Mr Sutherland: We'd like him to respond to what the committee -- we've had some brief discussions, came up with a few ideas and we sent him Hansard copies of what we had discussed. So if he's prepared to make any comments -- there were a few suggestions that have come forward as well.

Mr Sterling: I think we should schedule the minimum number, if possible. That's fine and dandy with me. We have two other pieces of business as far as I can see which would take priority, but as soon as we get an opportunity let's ask him in.

The Chair: I just wondered, on item (c), whether there was anybody on the committee who had some ideas and would like to have some research done before the --

Mr Sterling: The only question I have is whether this research has already been done. Have any other jurisdictions changed their process with regard to budget secrecy?

The Chair: This is why I was throwing the question out whether anybody had any suggestions in this particular area, so we don't come to a meeting like this one today and say, "Okay, now we have to take a look at the research that takes another two weeks before we get this information back."

Mr Sterling: I don't know of any other jurisdiction that has dealt with this issue and changed the rules, and how it has changed those rules, if anyone has.

The Chair: You're talking about the other provinces that have changed some of their budget process?

Mr Sterling: There are other parliamentary institutions. I assume that it's --

Mr Sutherland: Is there any update from the report we got from research? We were given a report from research.

The Chair: I wasn't Chair at that time, so I'm going to let the researcher here wind up.

Ms Elaine Campbell (Research Officer): We had a presentation in February from Irene Ip from the C. D. Howe Institute and she spoke about several provinces. The committee expressed interest in what was happening in Nova Scotia so I have obtained some information from the Department of Finance in Nova Scotia. We'll have a paper ready for next week on what changes have occurred there within the last two years.

The Chair: Thank you. Is there any other business of this committee?

Mr Sterling: Mr Chairman, I move that we do not get special pins for this committee.

Mr Christopherson: I just want you to know that's in conflict with what Margaret wants.

The Chair: I see a lot of people wearing blue ribbons. They're acceptable at these committee hearings with a safety pin. This committee is adjourned for the day.

The committee adjourned at 1609.