Thursday 10 October 1991

Closure of registry offices

Peter Fallis


Chair: Mancini, Remo (Essex South L)

Vice-Chair: Brown, Michael A. (Algoma-Manitoulin L)

Abel, Donald (Wentworth North NDP)

Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South NDP)

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton NDP)

Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls NDP)

Marchese, Rosario (Fort York NDP)

Mammoliti, George (Yorkview NDP)

Murdoch, Bill (Grey PC)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Scott, Ian G. (St George-St. David L)

Turnbull, David (York Mills PC)


Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC) for Mr Turnbull

Dadamo, George (Windsor-Sandwich NDP) for Mr Mammoliti

Hansen, Ron (Lincoln NDP) for Mr Bisson

Mahoney, Steven W. (Mississauga West L) for Mr Mancini

Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L) for Mr Scott

Sorbara, Gregory S. (York Centre L) for Mr Brown

Also taking part:

Jordan, Leo (Lanark-Renfrew PC)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel)

Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville)

Clerk: Deller, Deborah

Staff: McNaught, Andrew, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1005 in room 151.


Resuming consideration of the designated matter pursuant to standing order 123, relating to the closure of 14 land registry offices.

The Chair: The committee is continuing the work that was commenced some weeks ago regarding standing order 123, concerning the government's closure of certain registry offices across the province. Officially, the motion reads that the committee will be dealing with the matter designated pursuant to standing order 123 relating to the decision of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to close 14 land registry offices. That is why we are here this morning.

I understand from the clerk that we have one hour and 20 minutes remaining to complete our work. I assume the committee's report also has to be debated within that one hour and 20 minutes. We do not have a lot of time left.

Mr Arnott: Mr Chairman, I have a motion I would like to present at this time.

The Chair: Mr Arnott moves that this committee recommend to the minister that she immediately reopen the Arthur land registry office and that further closings be put off until the final report of this committee is submitted to the House.

Do you have any opening comments on your motion?

Mr Arnott: Yes. It is a very simple motion. I think it is absolutely critical that this motion be passed. We have seen in the last week very heavy-handed tactics brought forward by this ministry to close the Arthur registry office, when in fact this committee still has not had an opportunity to present its recommendation. I feel this is a gross example of a government that is not interested in the legislative committee process, the work of this standing committee.

The thing that bothers me the very most is that in my areas this past summer I invited some very fine people from my community -- Doreen Hostrawser, Gil Deverell, Bob Janzen, Derek Graham, Robert Shaw and Warden Bert Moore -- to come down to this committee, to take time off work to present their case, and it has been entirely to no avail. That disturbs me greatly. I think this motion has to be passed if we have any respect for those people and any respect for ourselves as members of this committee.

Mr Tilson: I notice there are only two members of the government party here. I do not know whether they are prepared to vote on this motion now or whether they are going to be asking for their usual 20-minute recess until their members appear. I know I have some substantial remarks to make, and if other members of the government are coming, I hope they will be here so they can hear those comments. I guess my question to Mr Abel is whether or not he intends to have other members of the committee here this morning.

Mr Abel: Yes, it is our intention to have our full committee here very shortly.

The Chair: Do you want to withhold your comments?

Mr Tilson: There really is no point in our proceeding on a motion such as this because I know perfectly well what they will do. They will simply say, "We're going to recess for 20 minutes," so they can round up their troops. We might as well do that now, if they can undertake to do that.

The Chair: Before I ask whether or not we should recess the committee for a while, I think we should clear up the list we have.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I find this motion very acceptable simply because it has almost always been the tradition at Queen's Park that when a committee is studying a major matter such as this which affects many communities, the minister allows and certainly gives every bit of consideration to the work of the other legislators on the matter.

I am quite offended that we are not being given the privilege of presenting our report to the minister in person and that we are not having the decisions delayed at least until there is a chance to study that report. I am sure the minister has been aware of the hearings and I do not deny that she has read the Hansards as she says she has, but this committee has not completed its work, as you indicated earlier this morning, and often, particularly on these kinds of matters that are opposition matters, the last one and a half hours is a very critical discussion point because that is when we make our final resolutions. I will be supporting this recommendation.

The Chair: There seems to be a wish that we adjourn for a period of time.

Mr Tilson: I do not want to get hung up on some technicality. I do not want to adjourn for a few minutes, have our debate, have you call the vote on the motion and then they ask for another 20-minute recess. I do not want to get stuck up on that one. I want to make it clear as to when the government members are coming to this committee.

The Chair: The Chair cannot be of help in that regard.

Mr Tilson: If they do not want to be here to hear us, then let's proceed.

Mr Marchese: Mr Chairman, in fairness, what I have tried to do is to make sure that our members are here. I expect that they will be here shortly.

Mr B. Murdoch: It is an insult. There is no one here to hear us.

Mr Tilson: We will proceed, Mr Chair.

Mr Abel: You have done the same thing.

Mr B. Murdoch: It is an insult. Where are your people? Do you not think this is very important? Come on. Ask for a recess and get them here. What is going on here?

Mr Villeneuve: I will participate in the debate. There is a private members' hour going on in the Legislature and you, sir, have a private member's bill coming forward. I want to be part of the debate there, so I will participate now.

My riding now has three registry offices that are being closed; the riding of S-D-G & East Grenville will be left without a registry office. We now have three. Does this mean that this government is now going to consider Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry as one? Does that mean they are going to close the three agricultural representative offices? One is in Glengarry, one is in Stormont, one is in Dundas and one is in Grenville. Does that mean this is the kind of government we are going to have, without consultation? Indeed we sat in this very room when a large delegation came down from Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to express very deep concern against the closings. Not one person was in favour of the closure except some of the ministry officials for their own empire-building.

What do we have here? We have a government that is proceeding like a steamroller. I was very annoyed the other day when the minister, in reply to my colleague the member for Wellington, said that what my colleague was saying was not true, there was not a group of Ontario Provincial Police involved. I am sorry, but there was a group of Ontario Provincial Police to move, of all things, the documents in a registry office at 6 o'clock in the morning. I let slip out that it sounds like a police state. I withdrew and I do not want to make it sound like a police state, but it could be a police province or it could be very heavy-handed government bureaucracy moving in against the wishes of all concerned.

Information has been given to me that the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations is looking to spend money in the Cornwall registry office, not only to accommodate the documents but to accommodate the much heavier traffic that will be forthcoming: three times as many people going to Cornwall, no parking, no room. No one talked about the capital costs. The same thing is happening in Brockville, where the Prescott registry office is moving. They do not even have facilities for wheelchairs.

There will be considerable capital expenditures in the receiving registry offices. No one spoke about that. It is absolutely ludicrous to go ahead in the dead of night or early dawn shutting down registry offices with provincial police assistance and saying they are doing it for the good of the people. It is absolutely ludicrous.

Mr Jordan: I represent the riding of Lanark-Renfrew. The case in that riding is a little different from that in some of the other ones, in that one year ago, August 1990, we opened a new $1-million building after three years of study by the previous government on the need for a registry office in the town of Almonte. The previous study, as I understand it, not only covered the northern part of Lanark county but looked at a section of West Carleton and the city of Kanata, which the Almonte registry office was servicing.

I had a delegation travel 600 miles at their own expense. I had Dorothy Finner, the mayor of Almonte; lawyer Pat Galway; Garth Turner of the real estate board; Reeve Barr of Pakenham; Paul Finner, the warden of Lanark county, and Jonathan Robinson, the president of the NDP riding association, who was certainly upset and understands the situation in my riding. He was doing his very best, not on a political basis but on the actual needs of the office in Almonte and for the people in that area, which he understands better than people who are not familiar with the area. He was willing to assist, as I say, not on a political basis but just as an active person in the community.

When we came and made our presentation to this committee, one of the government members basically referred to our group as a bunch of lobbyists who were actually brought here by myself, which is so far from the facts. These people came on their own initiative, at their own cost. What bothered them so much was they had gone through three years of indecision with the previous government because the old registry office was so small. They did the needs study and went ahead and built the building. One year later, 1991, this government, without any consultation with the mayor, without answering any of the correspondence that started in May -- it was later answered in about August, but there was no consultation, no communication -- just went ahead and made an announcement that on October 18 this year the new office would be closed.

We find that to go ahead with that decision before this committee has reported is undemocratic. It makes a joke of the whole system. Not only am I witnessing it at the committee level but also, as you saw yesterday in the House, announcements are being made without giving us a chance to debate. Even though the people of Lanark-Renfrew have elected me, at times I really wonder what role I am going to be allowed to play in government as far as the province of Ontario is concerned.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I would like to speak about the same office that Mr Jordan is speaking about. Certainly the people in Almonte are still in a state of utter shock and disbelief. I know they came here. I did not happen to be here that day, but they certainly met with me and several of my colleagues from the Liberal Party when we visited Smiths Falls. They have also been in contact with us in the Ottawa area.

The study that took place under our government certainly was a long process for the people in that community. The building was built to today's standards and that is not the case with the office to which this group is now being asked to move. I find it very hypocritical, as Mr Villeneuve said, that there is really no study about the costs to adapt all these other buildings. I was very perturbed by the minister's statement the other day, "Oh well, people have to travel 200 kilometres to do this anyway in lots of parts of the province." We have done a very preliminary study about that and certainly it is 200 kilometres in only the most unusual northern Ontario circumstances.


I find it difficult that on this matter the government has taken absolutely no consideration of people's time -- because time is money -- people's convenience, the expense that is involved and the taking of some business out of Almonte. "Oh well, they can get a lawyer in the other communities." This does not help Almonte or any of these other communities at all, nor does it help the citizens or the small business people.

The impact of these closures has not been studied. That is my ultimate conclusion. I think if it had been studied, the decision would not have been made. To do it according to some formula where there is one office in a county does not seem to me to be terribly logical when people's patterns are not totally governed by the boundaries of counties. I find that is the way this decision has been made. It has no reference to the social habits, the economic conditions or the convenience of those people we are supposed to represent in this Legislature.

I feel very strongly that this has to be rethought and that the decisions and the recommendations from this committee have to be given consideration. It was in the middle of the summer and, as Mr Villeneuve has said this morning, with very short notice that people came here and made their presentations. Is that all for naught? Is this government not going to have any movement at all when ratepayers come with logical and very real reasons that this will change their lives and the economies of the places where they live?

Mr Tilson: We have seen much in the last number of weeks that has given members of our party, and I think members of the public throughout the province, great concern as to the whole process of how this government is operating with respect to the closing of registry offices. I think the most shocking news came yesterday when we were informed by Mr Arnott in the House, in a question to the minister, of the process by which the Arthur registry office was closed. Police were literally brought into the picture. Members of the Ontario Provincial Police were brought to the building. The closing actually took place at 6 o'clock in the morning. These people have never been up that early in the morning. It is absolutely shocking that a government would operate in such a clandestine, cloak-and-dagger fashion. It is unheard of.

I have never heard of a government operating in such a sneaky, underhanded fashion as the manner in which this registry office was closed, the whole process from start to finish. In the House I asked the minister whether she felt the process was fair and equitable. My question was, should the closings take place when this committee was still deliberating on this subject under section 123? Should the process not be allowed to finish it out? Why do we have section 123? Why have it? The minister is just going to go ahead and close the registry offices. She has no care at all.

The orders in council were passed, as I understand it, on July 18. This was after the decision to hold these hearings, which took place in June. In other words, the decision to hold these hearings took place in June. These hearings took place in August. I do not know what we say to people around this province -- lawyers, accountants, surveyors, the president of the Canadian Bar Association -- people who took time to come and speak on this issue when it was all a charade, a joke.

Why bother? Why have section 123? Why are we here, Mr Chairman? You must feel unbelievably embarrassed when you know perfectly well that what you are doing means nothing. All this, together with ministers making statements outside the House is just adding to how this government is operating, and it thoroughly disgusts me.

The minister has not appeared once before this committee to explain her actions. The assistant deputy minister, Mr Daniels, came to express the government's position. The deputy minister has not appeared; the minister has not appeared. We were informed that she was on holidays in the Maritimes, and subsequently I understand there was a funeral, which is regrettable. But she has an opportunity to be here now. She knows perfectly well this is an issue. She knows perfectly well there are court proceedings that precede it. The people in these ridings are very upset.

There are two lawyers here this morning representing people from the community. Mr Janzen of the firm Smith, Janzen and Alaimo, I believe, from Arthur is here. Peter Fallis from Fallis, Fallis and McMillan is here not only in a legal capacity but representing the people of those ridings. They are most concerned. Legal proceedings took place this past week and I have received letters, portions of which I am going to read to you, Mr Chair, where a group, in the form of a coalition, made an application for injunction proceedings to stop the government from closing the Arthur registry office.

Two days were spent in Osgoode Hall on this subject in an effort to prevent the closing of the registry offices in Arthur and Durham. It occurred on Wednesday and Thursday, October 2 and 3. Mr Deverell from the law firm of Grant, Deverell, Lemaich and Barclay of Mount Forest has written to me explaining the events of those court proceedings. Those were confirmed by a subsequent letter from Peter Fallis, who is here and who, I might add, has requested that he be allowed to address the committee. I explained to him that unless the committee gave its consent, that is unlikely to take place.

On October 2 and 3, these proceedings came before Mr Justice O'Driscoll. The judge reserved his decision and it was finally dismissed on Friday October 4. Then, of course, there were the final events, the clandestine events. Why would the government act in such a fashion? They have a judge's order saying what they were doing properly and yet they continue to try and close things in the middle of the night. Why would they do such a thing? Why is the minister not here today to explain her actions and her government's actions?

One of the arguments put forward to Mr Justice O'Driscoll related to the fact that the standing committee on general government had not yet reported back to the Legislature. So there is a legal issue and there is also the general perception of this committee which I hope this committee will look at, because if this committee does not do something, then as far as I am concerned we should never again have any meetings on section 123 because they are absolutely meaningless. What we are asking the government not to do while we are in the process of conducting our proceedings, the government goes ahead and does anyway. They have closed Toronto, they have closed Bowmanville, they have closed Arthur. What is next?

Mr Jackson: Almonte.


Mr Tilson: Almonte is next and Durham is after that, all within the next two weeks, yet this committee has not even submitted its report. We have not even finished debating the subject. That is how this government operates.

The argument was put forward as a matter of law that because the standing committee on general government had not reported back to the Legislature or otherwise concluded its intentions as expressed by you, Mr Chair, on July 30, and the matter with respect to the registry office closing was designated for a committee hearing on June 25 -- and it was. This was of course before the closings.

The most dastardly remarks of all came at these judicial proceedings. Submissions were made by the solicitor for the ministry. J. M. Haberman, who is a solicitor acting presumably on behalf of the Attorney General but also on behalf of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- a solicitor acting on behalf of the province of Ontario -- argued against the need for the minister to await any input whatsoever from the standing committee on general government. That is fair; she has the right to do that. It is how she did it, in speaking on behalf of the government and the minister.

These were her submissions as to why it would serve no purpose whatsoever to delay, and I state these. I do not have the transcript. I do not even know whether a transcript is available, but I have two letters in which the identical comments were made by individuals who were present at those judicial proceedings. One is Gil Deverell, whom I am referring to in this letter, and the other was Peter Fallis, who is here this morning. I confirmed outside these hearings whether this was in fact said.

This is what Ms Haberman said as to why it would serve no purpose whatsoever: (1) the general government committee is of no significance; (2) the general government committee is really just a way of creating political heat; (3) the general government committee is composed of six members of the NDP and five from the other two parties, and all the NDP members could be absolutely counted on to stick to the government's position of closure.

That is what this government thinks of section 123. That is what this government thinks of you, Mr Chairman, and of this committee.

Why are we here? Why are we here debating this? My guess is that they will turn this motion down because that is what their masters have told them to do. What are we to tell Mr Manning, Mr Carter from Orangeville and the other people who appeared before this committee who took time out, prepared written briefs, spent hours preparing and came down here?

The Chair: I am going to ask the clerk to try to obtain court transcripts. I am very concerned about what you are telling us this morning.

Mr Tilson: You should be, Mr Chairman. I find it absolutely shocking that a solicitor acting on behalf of the Attorney General of Ontario and the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations would make these statements before a judge of a court of Ontario, Mr Justice O'Driscoll. It is absolutely shocking and there will be more to be heard, I can guarantee you that.

Let's all talk about the Charter of Rights. The Charter of Rights says the administration of justice must not be brought into disrepute. I say that is what this solicitor has done and what this government is doing. They are bringing this whole procedure to a point of disrepute. Why have it? Unless you do something about it, Mr Chairman, unless this committee does something about it, we may never again meet with respect to section 123. Why bother?

Mr B. Murdoch: Let's call the vote.

Mr Tilson: I have no further remarks.

Mr Abel: I am sorry Mr Tilson feels that way, because the whole consultation process we have gone through on this section 123 has helped. It certainly has helped me a great deal in understanding why it was done. I went into this whole matter with an open mind. I was trying to be objective, I was listening to all the presenters.

Mr Tilson: You do not have an open mind. The solicitor has already said how you are going to vote.

Mr Drainville: Mr Chairman, that is unacceptable behaviour.

The Chair: All members know that interjections are out of order.

Mr Tilson: We will check the transcript and see what she said.


The Chair: Order, please. Mr Abel has the floor.

Mr Abel: One thing I learned was that consultation is the cornerstone of this government. I also found out that we cannot govern by opinion polls. Our responsibility is to act on behalf of the people of this province, and I feel that the report this side of the committee has submitted -- obviously, Mr Tilson, you have not read it, because you made the comment earlier that we had not submitted a report. Well, we have. It should be in your package.

Mr Tilson: The decisions to close the registry offices were made before you even thought of making a report.

The Chair: Order, please. I understand why members are perturbed this morning, but all of us need a chance to speak. All members know the rules by which we govern ourselves. Mr Abel has the floor.

Mr Abel: There has been a great deal of concern over the proposed closing of the land registry office in Almonte. After hearing several presentations and having listened to a great many concerns, in our report -- and perhaps I should read this, as obviously you have not read it -- the first recommendation was:

"In an effort to exercise fiscal responsibility, we need and support this cost-cutting integration plan. However, while the majority of users will be better served by the integrated offices, we feel that in the county of Lanark, the community would be better served if the Perth office was closed and Almonte office expanded to serve the county."

That was one of the government's recommendations. I take offence at some of the comments Mr Tilson has made. I think they are unwarranted, unjustified and very narrow-minded. I suggest that Mr Tilson read our five recommendations before he comes in here like a fanatic zealot, shooting from the hip. That is all I have to say.

Mr Drainville: Let me just say that the viewpoint put forward by the counsel to the Attorney General in saying this committee had no significance was totally unacceptable. It is unacceptable at any time for any counsel representing a ministry to say such a thing.

Mr Chairman, I need your attention on this. It is very important that you look into that and that a comment is made from this committee to show that we do not accept at any time for such counsel to be making such comments about this legislative committee or any committee of this House. I want to make that perfectly clear, first off.

The Chair: Mr Drainville, once we have received the transcripts, I will make them available to all members of the committee. We may want to meet, depending on what is actually in the transcripts, to discuss what is there and what we wish to do as a committee. Frankly, as the Chair of this committee, I am not going to be held responsible for the actions of any party that is represented on this committee and/or the government and the government employees.

I want to make it very clear for the record, for anyone who is watching, for all the witnesses who came, that my duties here are to make sure that we have orderly meetings, that we conduct our work properly and that we report to the Legislature on a timely basis, which is our responsibility. I can in no way control what anyone on this committee wishes to do as far as putting his views on the record, and least of all can I control a solicitor working for the government.

Mr Drainville: Absolutely, Mr Chairman. That was not my intention. My intention was to let you know that it does not take just an opposition member to be affronted by such language and by careless disregard for the Legislature and the rights of the Legislature. We on the government side also do not accept that kind of behaviour and those kinds of public statements being made. Let's be very clear about that.

As to the other things that have been said by Mr Tilson, let me deal with them. First of all, Mr Tilson asked why we should do these 123s. The reality is that section 123s are the opportunities for the opposition to bring forth issues that they want to discuss in committee. It gives them a forum to be able to discuss issues that are considered to be important for them. That issue has been brought forward to this committee. I believe the committee has done some justice towards that.

I can understand some of the feelings of the honourable member in terms of the communities that have lost the registry offices. I myself would feel very similar if I had lost a registry office as well, so I can understand some of the feelings around that.


Stating that the honourable member has some understandable feelings does not allow for some of the emotional rhetoric that has come forward this morning. In fact, by implication, he has said some things which I do not think are acceptable in terms of the response of the government. Certainly the government members of this committee have endeavoured to do their best to try to address this issue. That there is a difference between the opposition --

Mr Tilson: What have you done? You have ignored everything. You have not done boo.

Mr Drainville: Take a look at the report.


Mr Drainville: Obviously you think that by doing a section 123 you can force the government to change the course it has decided upon.

Mr Tilson: All we want to do is to have you listen. You are not listening; you are closing the registry offices.

Mr Drainville: In fact the minister has indicated very clear reasons why she is moving in the particular direction she is going.


Mr Drainville: Is this a debate or do I have the floor?

The Chair: Mr Drainville deserves the chance to express all his views without constant interruption.

Mr Drainville: The point I am trying to make, Mr Chair, is very simply that all this emotion and all this rhetoric we have heard this morning is not particularly helpful to this debate. We have heard witnesses; we have put forward the various positions. That is what this forum is for. To say, "We won't go through with section 123 again," is patently ludicrous in the extreme, because all you would be doing is lessening your own power as an opposition to have certain elements and certain issues focused on. It is just pure and absolute rhetoric that you would not do any section 123s. I await the future with some interest to find out whether there are any put forward by you, Mr Tilson, in the near future.

The last point I would like to make is that in terms of the government's position, it is a difficult position when you make decisions that are going to affect local communities. I have experienced that in the past and I have fought against certain decisions that have been made by government in the past. I applaud members for bringing those things here to committee, because they deserve to give support to their local communities on those issues.

I also say the government has to make difficult decisions at times which are not happy decisions for local communities. That is something we have been forced into for financial and other reasons. The government has put forward its position, and obviously we on this side will have to consider that very intently.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I certainly want to begin by saying I am glad the government has reconsidered the Almonte decision. For members whom I have related to and for members of the community, that is very good news, but it still leaves all the other offices.

It is really an accountability issue. We have a study going on of a really focused situation in this province that affects a few of the 800 communities, and I find it very difficult that the government's timetable could not at least be respectively delayed until the section 123 report was presented. That to me is really offensive.

I also want to remind you that every transaction -- and we have done a very intense study on this -- is now going to cost about $100 more for many communities. These are individuals who will have to pay $100 more either in travelling, in engaging a lawyer who is outside their community or other related expenses. We are talking here about a lot of people. We are talking about people who are property owners, municipal officials, financial institution employees, surveyors, law clerks, independent title researchers, appraisers, paralegals and even historical societies. These people are all affected and, as my colleagues have mentioned, lawyers and accountants. This is not a simple matter. It often involves repeat visits to land registry offices.

That being said, it is convenience, it is certainly economy, and I feel very strongly that there needed to be a much slower process engaged here. I cannot understand the necessity for speed on this matter.

The other side of the coin which I have a great deal of difficulty understanding is moving to facilities that now need to be upgraded when we are in facilities that do not need that expenditure. We are talking about expenditures in times of recession. We have offices that are not automated and we are now going to move them to offices that are even less automated. All that ties together, in my mind, with a government decision that has not been well thought out -- the impact studies are very minimal -- and a decision taken with far too much haste and even disrespectfully taken before this committee has presented.

Mr Sorbara: Let me begin by saying it is a pleasure to participate in your committee on this 123 matter. Although I guess it is my first opportunity to address you and this matter in the standing committee on general government, I do bring a particular perspective, I think, to the debate inasmuch as I had an opportunity from August 2, 1989, until September 30, 1990, to be the minister responsible for the land registration system in Ontario and therefore as well the minister responsible for the offices and systems that collectively make up our land registration system.

I am delighted that this committee has chosen to examine this question under section 123 of the standing orders. I say that because the determination, so soon in the mandate of this new government, to close these land registration offices simply discourages a former minister.

I just want to advise you that the pressure in government ministries to close offices, to close down programs and to restrict services is always there, in every ministry. My friend Mr Marchese will know that during his time as Culture and Communications minister there would have been a number of proposals to find money here and cut programs there because of the lack of public resources to do everything you want.

But as I recall during my time there, our discussions were not directed towards closing offices to save money but towards enhancing the effectiveness of the system and looking at a number of other things that could be done in land registry offices to create down the road a kind of government services store where you could go into an office that formerly just took land registration documents and perhaps get your licence, deal with matters relating to OHIP and a number of other things. That is what we were talking about. I ask the government members, what happened?

Let me propose to you what I think happened. You have a series of weak ministers responsible for the ministry, with no disrespect to them. While Mr Kormos, the member for Welland-Thorold, was there, he devoted virtually all his time to issues relating to automobile insurance. He fought the valiant fight. He tried to get the government to honour its commitment, and he lost. He lost more than that battle; he lost his opportunity to sit on the executive council.

Then Ms Churley takes on the responsibilities. It is sad to say that this is a perfect example of a minister's inability to understand the political and substantive ramifications of matters the bureaucracy is pushing at her. That is the long and the short of it.


What many ministers do not understand is that they really are responsible. They have the opportunity to say to government bureaucrats, "No, we're not doing that. I understand why you want to do that and that you think this is going to be more efficient in your system's management. But our responsibilities are not to you, the bureaucrats. Our responsibilities are to the people of the province, to the people of Arthur, to the people of" -- the list is here; I do not have to go over it.

Do you know something else? This little bit of system reorganization is simply a rather public plea on behalf of a branch of government for some more money to maintain a specific level of service. If you want to see the evidence, sir, I have it right here before me. If you care to turn to page 1 of the research done by our researcher Andrew McNaught, entitled "Background Provided by the Ministry," let me tell you this represents the ministry's view of this matter. Look at the first sentence in the last paragraph, "This situation" -- that is, maintaining a number of additional offices in counties -- "could be maintained as long as the budget allocated to the system was sufficient to do so." I have never seen a clearer plea by a government department for a little more money to maintain the system.

What New Democratic Party members of this committee should be doing within this context is thinking about the people who actually use the system and supporting the ministry's plea for more money. That is all you should be doing, not defending a cut that some systems analyst says will make the system more efficient. That is just bureaucratic hogwash.

These offices are not important in communities because some landlord is receiving rent; they are important because they represent the ability of a community to deal with its business expeditiously. Do you know how much a lawyer is going to charge to get a document 100 miles down the road to be registered by 4:30? Do you know what the cost for a simple house transaction is going to be if somehow that lawyer does not get there by 4:30? He or she has to go back tomorrow. The simple answer to this is a little more money in the system to maintain offices that are needed by communities.

I want to point out, as quickly as I can, the mistakes the government members have made in their recommendation. I turn now to page 3 of Mr Abel's letter of October 3. The first recommendation -- I think he read part of it into the record -- was, "We need and support this cost-cutting integration plan." Systems analysts in the bureaucracy do not need your support; they need critical analysis from politicians. You do not really support it. You do not know the first thing about it. You are just told to support it. Then you go on to say, "Okay, we'll deal with the one office in Almonte." Big deal. What about Arthur? What about all the other communities?

Your second recommendation was, "That everything possible be done by the government to find new tenants for any government building that is being vacated because of these integration plans." My God, here are government members arguing for landlords. The landlords do not need your help. The landlords have lots of empty buildings. They are suffering very badly in some communities, but for you to recommend that somehow they get preference is absolutely ludicrous. What about the other landlords sitting there with empty buildings? Surely this debate is not about whether or not landlords are going to lose some more tenants.

The third recommendation was, "That all ministry employees receive the support necessary to make any transition they must undertake as a result of this integration." Give me a break. Is this a human resources issue? No, it is not. We have all those systems already in place. It is not a human resources issue; it is a services issue in smaller communities.

The fourth recommendation -- and I will be done in a moment, Mr Chairman -- was, "That each individual and group that wrote to the minister receive a timely acknowledgement." Is this 123 business about public relations? No, it is not about public relations at all. I repeat, it is about services to communities. You, as elected politicians, have a responsibility not to think about public relations but about services to constituents, not just yours but constituents all over the province because you have the majority in the House and you form the government.

Your final recommendation: You strongly recommend that in the future the regular user groups be consulted, to paraphrase the recommendation. What you are saying there is you simply want to apologize for the terrible mistake that has been made here. But you do not need to apologize. You need simply to change the government's mind.

If you could speak to the minister and the Treasurer and the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet and say, "Why don't we do the right thing here, acknowledge the plea of the ministry for a little bit more money and keep these offices serving small communities open?" you would have discharged your responsibilities as politicians and the people ultimately would thank you for it. I am not sure they would re-elect you -- I hope they do not -- but they would thank you for discharging your responsibilities.

I plead with you to abandon these recommendations, to support the notion that these offices should stay open and that the funds necessary to keep them open be provided.

Mr B. Murdoch: I want to know how stupid you think we people are over here. I cannot believe you sat over there, Mr Abel, and said that you were listening. Right off, the very first day, on Monday, July 29, Mr Ferguson, who now happens to be a minister, of all people, when we asked for the minister to be here to hear these proceedings -- and this was before we heard that she was away on family problems; it was before that came in that we asked for her to be here -- Mr Ferguson said the minister is on record as stating that she has put forth the reasons and rationale behind it.

Quite frankly, I just do not see at this point any good reason why we should ask the minister to come and appear before this committee. What kind of crap is this? They are not even going to listen. Right off, the very first day, that was brought out by the government. You have not listened since.

The minister does not care. You talk about having this process. What is the sense of having the process if nobody is going to listen to it? The person who has to listen is the one who is making these decisions.

Madam Chair, since they have finally all arrived, let's vote on this motion. They think they are going to help us out, so here is a chance to help us out. The facts are that Arthur is closed and this committee is not finished, so you did not listen, obviously. You did not wait. You have no democracy left. It is your way or no way. It started right after you got here. You told us you were all going to listen and you never did. So Madam Chair, I want to see how they are going to vote on this motion.

The Acting Chair (Mrs Y. O'Neill): In order to do that, I have to ask, those in favour of taking the question at the present time?

Mr Sorbara: This is the acid test.

The Acting Chair: Actually that would be a tie vote, because --

Mr B. Murdoch: I would like a recorded vote.

Mr Sorbara: Let's just take the vote again.

The Acting Chair: The way I see it, there are only two PCs permitted to vote on this issue. So I ask again, who is in favour of taking the question at this time? That vote is lost.

Next speaker, Ms Harrington.


Ms Harrington: First of all I would like to say that the duty of this government is to listen, certainly, to our constituents and to listen to the people of this province. Our ultimate duty is to make decisions, and I am sure you all realize that.

The question of the role of this committee is very important, and that is what has been brought into question here, and the role of the section 123. Certainly I think the role of this committee is important. With regard to the question of the role of the 123, this was scheduled for last July. Now it happened that for some reason we did not use the total 12 hours, and that is why this hour is here on October 10.

The real question is, when a government decision was taken -- which was announced in the House, I believe, last April -- and the dates of these closings were announced, and the opposition has asked to deal with this issue in the general government committee to hear the people involved -- we say, "Yes, we are willing to do that" -- how does the report from the standing committee on general government impact on the decision of the government? I would like to ask the researcher if he could at this time tell me if in the past any report of a committee dealing with section 123 impacted -- changed or delayed -- the decision of the minister to go ahead with these closings. The problem, of course, is the timing. If the researcher cannot answer now, I personally would like to get the answer whether this has happened before.

Mr Sorbara: I appreciate Mrs Harrington's interest on whether a 123 motion has ever changed the mind of the government, although I suspect the reason she asked that is to try and come to grips with her own responsibilities here. The error that is probably being made, and I have seen this being made by many members of the New Democratic Party who sit on committees -- I want to remind them that they are not government members; they are members of the Legislature who are part of the government party. You are free here to try and exercise your responsibility as a member of the Legislature to try and influence the government in the same way opposition members are. You do not have to be speaking on behalf of the government.

In my own memory we have so little experience with 123 motions. They just came into the rules very recently. But I can tell you frankly that during the time the Liberals were in power --

Mr Marchese: If I could interrupt, the member here has the floor to speak. I do not know why Mr Sorbara is commenting on this matter.

The Acting Chair: I thought this was a supplementary. Let's have the researcher comment. I feel it is a very difficult question, but we will ask.

Mr McNaught: I cannot answer that.

The Acting Chair: That is fine.

Ms Harrington: We can finish off.

The Acting Chair: I think Mr Sorbara has certainly given some light on that, from my own experience. In any case, if the researcher at a future date wants to have a conversation with Ms Harrington, that is certainly permitted.

Ms Harrington: First of all, I would request that I personally receive information with regard to the status of 123s in the past because I think that would be helpful. Second, the reason I asked this --

The Acting Chair: If I may be realistic, and I have very limited experiences, Mr Sorbara said the first 123 was in January 1989. I think we, as a committee, could ask the researcher to list all those items that have been dealt with under 123s. Then I think we could make a judgement as legislators whether changes were made. I would ask that.

Ms Harrington: Fine, I would appreciate that. To finish my comments, the reason I ask this is for the edification of Mr Tilson especially. He felt so slighted with regard to this committee, and certain words were used here which I do not think should have been used. I think it should be clear to him what the mandate of section 123 is.

Third, with regard to the remarks of Mr Sorbara just now about what our role is, I should tell you that I feel I have the right. I have gone to the Office of the Premier about this issue. I have gone to the minister, I have gone to her staff, and that was last July. I have listened and talked to people from the community, such as Mr Fallis, so I think that is what my role is.

The Acting Chair: Mr Arnott has the floor.

Mr Sorbara: After Mr Arnott, I would just like to respond.

The Acting Chair: There is another speaker ahead of you, but in any case you cannot continue to have supplementaries, Mr Sorbara, unless they are directly related. Mr Arnott, please.

Mr Arnott: I would just like to make a few additional comments to what has been said by the government member specifically. The member for Wentworth North talked about the government's continued commitment to consultation. I do not know what his definition of consultation is. This government's definition of consultation has become so bastardized that it is the opposite now, I submit.

We had every single presenter come forward opposing the registry office closings. I received a copy of a letter from the president of the Wellington NDP riding association pleading with the minister to reconsider her decision. Another member of the NDP executive in Wellington county made a presentation and he mentioned the fact that he was a member of the executive at large of the Wellington NDP association. He pleaded with the minister to reconsider.

The minister stated in the House within the last week or so that she had not been informed that this committee was going to be hearing presentations under section 123 on registry office closings, when in fact the member for Lanark-Renfrew and myself on June 27 personally approached her outside this building and told her this was going to be coming. We invited and encouraged her to come. She was wrong and she was not telling the truth in the House.

The Acting Chair: That is a difficult statement. You have the same rules here as we have in the House, Mr Arnott. I ask you to withdraw those remarks, please.

Mr Arnott: Okay. She misinformed the House.

The Acting Chair: Are you completing your remarks at the moment?

Mr Arnott: Yes. Something that has not come up -- it was mentioned by the member for York Centre, but I think it has not been brought to this committee today -- is the importance of these offices to rural Ontario specifically. In my community of Arthur and in north Wellington, in rural Wellington county generally, there is only one other provincial government office. We in rural Ontario deserve a minimum basic level of provincial government service available locally to us. We are not getting it. You are closing this office down.

Interjection: Drive to Guelph.

Mr Arnott: You are saying we can drive to Guelph. That is not acceptable, and that is further evidence of this government's total misunderstanding of rural Ontario.

Mr Villeneuve: I have just a few closing remarks. Presently there will be litigation to identify whether it is legal for the government to close down the only registry offices in Glengarry county, Dundas county, Grenville county and Russell county. Those are the only registry offices in those jurisdictions. Presently there is litigation by some members of the legal profession who were here. Mr Ferguson, the member for Kitchener, now Minister of Energy but then a member of this committee, actually belittled these people. He had an élitist, arrogant disposition and a disdain for the actual process that was happening here. I cannot forgive him for that. It is a rather sad situation.

With a stroke of the pen the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is closing down 14 registry offices, three of them in the jurisdiction I represent provincially, some of which date back to 1795. They are not johnnies-come-lately. Yet she does not have the authority to give a charitable group Nevada tickets. It does not make any sense.

Not once did the minister address the cost. We know that in Cornwall and Brockville, both registry offices that will be receiving the business of those that will be closed down need considerable capital expenditure, if not new expenditure. The assistant deputy minister said, "We have room to accommodate the files." The question of whether we have room to accommodate the clients was not answered, and we know very considerable capital expense will be needed in both Cornwall and Brockville.

I have to appreciate that Ms Harrington was here and showed respect and concern. I thank her for having been at least understanding, which is better than I can say for Will Ferguson, her colleague.

In closing, I wonder about these hearings. When this type of steamroller action is allowed, what are we doing here? Thank you.

The Acting Chair: I now have Mr Marchese.

Mr Marchese: I am happy to be a member of this committee. It is a very different experience for me, but this is quite an important one. I am enjoying it already.

The Acting Chair: He should have been here the first day, should he not, Mr Drainville?

Mr Marchese: I am sure it was exciting that day. Like Mr Drainville, we are not happy about those closings. I understand why most of the members here, all the members opposite who are here, are unhappy with those closings. I also accept much of the emotion that people have been putting into their arguments. It is understandable. We do not necessarily disagree with a lot of that emotion. Nevertheless, we have to make decisions. When we do there is disagreement and we accept that. That is part of this natural process. But decisions have to be made, and I want to make a few arguments about why they have to be made and how different our views are when we make them.

Mr Sorbara made a comment, "All we need is a little more support; support this ministry for a little more money." He made reference to the position I held just a while ago. In reference to that, there were thousands of organizations, big and small, that could use just a little more money. There is constantly a need in that ministry, indeed in every ministry, for just a little more. The point is, we do not have the resources. You well knew in your previous position, as indeed we now know, that we do not have the resources or the money to satisfy all those needs coming to my colleagues here, the Conservative members, who constantly berate us about our spending and talk about fiscal restraint all the time.


Mr Villeneuve: You are going to save money by leaving them open, sir.

Mr Marchese: I understand that. They present some contradictory positions, and it is a very paradoxical problem that we face and they face all the time.

Mr Jordan: On a point of order, Madam Chair: I have just received word that the deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister are in Perth at the present time announcing the change that Perth will be closing and Almonte will be the registry office, the new building.

Mr Tilson: Another statement outside this House.

Mr Marchese: Madam Chair, the member raised a point of order. Could you rule on that?


The Acting Chair: Mr Murdoch, please. I am sorry if you do not want to listen. There are speakers on the list and I will hear them, so if you do not want to listen, you will have to leave the room. Mr Jordan, you made a point of order, but Mr Marchese has the floor. You have made a statement. I do not think it is a point of order; it is a point of information.

Mr Marchese: I just want to point out the paradoxical nature of their comments, and the contradictory nature of their comments is something that I think needs to be stated and elucidated all the time. We feel the reduction of the number of locations is the most prudent thing for us to do at a time when we face a fiscal reality that is most difficult. I believe we have done the right thing.

The Acting Chair: We have less than 15 minutes left. I have Mr Sorbara and then Mr Murdoch.

Mr Sorbara: I just urge that we vote on this now. I want to remind members that nothing will happen if they support this. The government will still make up its own mind and Ms Churley will still consult with her officials. This does not automatically open up Arthur; it just gives you an opportunity to express your own views, not the government's views.

Have you not heard every political commentator and every leader talk about the fact that we need to give more freedom to MPPs to express their own views? Well, the freedom is waiting there at the east door. It is right inside here. All you have to do is express your personal view here, rather than the corporate view. If you expressed your personal view, I am damned sure you would support this motion on Arthur. Then the government might do something else.

Support it. Lightning will not strike. The world will not come to an end. You will have discharged your responsibilities. Do it, and MPPs will suddenly have a greater sense of freedom. I have not seen one instance in one year and three months when any member of the NDP has voted against the party line in committee. Let's have a national celebration today and let's see it here today.

Mr B. Murdoch: If they call for the vote, I am ready to vote.

The Acting Chair: All right, I have to ask the question again. All those in favour of calling the question? We now have a majority of people.

Mr B. Murdoch: A recorded vote.

The committee divided on Mr Arnott's motion, which was negatived on the following vote:

Ayes -- 3

Arnott, Murdoch, B., Sorbara.

Nays -- 6

Abel, Dadamo, Drainville, Hansen, Harrington, Marchese.

Mr B. Murdoch: May I say something?

The Acting Chair: Yes, you may. There are 10 minutes left.

Mr B. Murdoch: Of my two minutes, I will just take a minute. You bunch of socialist crap. It is the inmates running the asylum. That is what it is. The inmates are running the province. I am going to leave this committee. Go on and do what you want. There is no democracy left, and that is it. I do not know what the hell is going on here. You guys --

The Acting Chair: Mr Murdoch, please.

Interjection: Take your ball and go home.

The Acting Chair: We have about 20 minutes left, but the party that presented the 123 -- I do not know whether that means --

Clerk of the Committee: It is still an item before the committee now.

The Acting Chair: If there are further comments for the record, it has been declared by the clerk that we may proceed.

Mr Sorbara: We see it is the same old Tory party, as well. They also act in unison and walk out in unison. It is really too bad that it has degenerated to this extent.

It is too bad, as well, that at least one or two New Democratic Party members of this committee were not able to break ranks and simply support the people of Arthur on this motion.

I reiterate that the only issue here is one of resources to maintain these offices. This is not macroeconomics or new fiscal policy that would somehow put the Treasurer's budget out of whack. We are talking about perhaps $750,000, $1 million or $1.5 million.

Mr Abel: You have to start somewhere.

Mr Sorbara: My friend Mr Abel says you have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, you are starting at exactly the wrong place. You are starting, unfortunately, where every government seems to want to start when it gets a passion for fiscal restraint -- and it happens to every government. We thought there was going to be some freshness from the NDP, but every single government, when it gets enthusiastic about fiscal restraint, starts in small-town Ontario with fundamental services.

Do you not remember Frank Miller was going to close all the little hospitals, and your party and your leaders in opposition -- I guess it was Stephen Lewis at that time -- fought like the dickens? They said, "If there's need for fiscal restraint, why do you always start in small-town Ontario with fundamental services?" You know why? Because they are vulnerable. They are easy pickings. They can be nipped off without the kind of brutal political pressure that no government wants to sustain.

Twenty years ago it was Frank Miller and small hospitals. He said: "We're going to close small hospitals because" -- you could almost find the words if you reviewed Hansard today, words that are coming now from the government members, the Tory members on the government side -- "this will be more efficient. We will deliver services more expeditiously." Those were the words the Tories used when they wanted to close small hospitals in small communities all around the province.

The reason you see it coming up again is that you have basically the same culture in the Ontario civil service now as you did then. These are not bad people. These are people who are trying to obey some sort of new enthusiasm for fiscal responsibility in a New Democratic Party government which is having a terrible time establishing priorities. If you wanted to be a new New Democratic Party, you would have started from some different place, not small-town Ontario and not with fundamental services. You would have looked for new opportunities.

I will just give you one example of what you could have done. You could have abandoned your Sunday shopping bill. Do you know why? Because nobody cares any more whether or not I go out and buy a toaster oven on Sunday. We had a month of public hearings and most people who came said, "We think maybe we should just make up our own minds whether or not we open up our stores or whether or not we shop on Sunday." We could have saved millions. Do you know how much we spend on police forces, paying policemen to come into stores on Sunday and measure them?


Mr Abel: On a point of order, Madam Chair: Mr Sorbara is not talking about the 123. He is giving us a big, long sermon on everything but the 123.

The Acting Chair: Would you please sum up, Mr Sorbara?

Mr Sorbara: I am just arguing by way of example. I am talking about closing small registry offices in small communities. I am trying to argue that you are making the same mistake as Frank Miller made. Do you not understand that? If you want to be a new government, look at some new areas. We could save several million dollars if we just said, "Whoever wants to shop on Sunday, go shop on Sunday." We could have saved several million dollars if we had used a little bit of restraint with the civil service wage package, when everyone else was feeling the restraint. But this is classic Toryism.

It is so ironic that the Tories walk out. This is the greatest irony, that they just abandoned the committee. Sure, they abandon the committee because the television cameras are outside and it is great public relations and they are going to get the stories. The truth is, the bad old Tory government is still in power. Take it out on small communities, which have much less political power to affect results in the government, Frank Miller's strategy. Do you not understand it? Do you not see it? In opposition you used to champion the cause of small-town Ontario and the more vulnerable. Why do we not close the big registry office here downtown and establish a number of small registry offices around Metro? Maybe that would be more efficient than renting $100-a-square-foot space in downtown Toronto.

Think about it. Think of what you have been tricked into. You have to realize that this happens, and when you are in government it happens all too quickly. That is why you should have used this 123 to put enormous pressure on the minister and Ross McClellan, who seems to be running the bloody government, to say, "Don't do this, Ross, because we'll bleed in small-town Ontario."

Remember what happened to Frank Miller. This will not go away. The 123 is not going to do all that much, but this issue will not go away because when you pick on small-town Ontario, you pick on the real Ontario. You should not have done it. You should have just said: "No, we're not going to be like the Tories were in the bad old Tory times. We're going to take a different approach to government." You could use this 123 to say to your political masters: "Gee, we're getting beat up in there. Why don't we just do something about this? Why don't we reverse our position?"

There is some class in reversing positions. I think Bob Rae has given it a good name. Automobile insurance, congratulations. Well done.

Mr Dadamo: You are straining a little bit.

Mr Sorbara: Madam Chair, I am arguing that these folks reversed their position on this, and they use a 123 to reverse the position. This is just a tool, like every other legislative hearing. It is a tool to try to affect the outcome of public policy. So where do we sit? It is made available to you. Most backbenchers, I should tell you, are really opposition members. You will find that out as this first and last term of your government transpires and the time passes.

Mr Abel: In your dreams, Greg.

Mr Sorbara: Government backbenchers are opposition members because government decisions, cabinet decisions, Ross McClellan decisions, Bob Rae decisions, affect you in the very same way they affect us. More important, they affect small-town Ontario. You are elected from small-town Ontario, really, because you are elected by the real people of Ontario. So stick up for them. All they want is a registry office, not a big deal. Give it to them. They deserve it. They have had it.

The Acting Chair: Mr Sorbara, I would like to remind you that the committee only has three more minutes to meet and I have one more speaker.

Mr Sorbara: I do not think the government members have anything more to say, but that is the end of my comments, Madam Chair.

Mr Abel: Sifting through the rhetoric, I take it that you are accusing us --

Mr Sorbara: It is not rhetoric, it is a plea.

Mr Abel: -- of dumping on rural Ontario. That, sir, is the farthest thing from the truth.

Mr Sorbara: I say you are abandoning them.

Mr Abel: No, sir, we are not abandoning them.

Mr Sorbara: You are closing down the registry offices.

Mr Abel: Thirty per cent of the remaining registry offices are in rural Ontario, and they only account for 8% of the workload.

Mr Sorbara: Thank you, Frank.

Mr Abel: Now explain that.

Mr Sorbara: I do not have the floor. I am not about to explain government policy. I used to do that and I do not have to do that any more.

Mr Abel: I am not asking you to explain government policy. Those are the figures, so do not accuse us of dumping on rural Ontario.

Mr Sorbara: All I want to tell you is that Frank Miller had figures as well. The system is designed to produce those figures. You can get any figures you want. You can get figures that say this is going to save the government $1 million or this is going to cost the government $1 million. It is just what you put in them. Do not make the mistake of believing all the figures that come out of the Ontario public service. Gee, you guys are aging more quickly than -- I do not have the right metaphor; you are just aging.

Mr Abel: I bet I'm getting greyer.

Mr Sorbara: Yes, you are.

Ms Harrington: I would like to ask on the record if it would have been possible for us to have received these reports in the House yesterday, the day before the committee's meeting. Would it have been possible for us to have received them in the House, had them delivered to us?

The Acting Chair: I am sorry, are you talking about the minority reports that are in this folder?

Ms Harrington: Yes.

The Acting Chair: What are you requesting, Ms Harrington?

Ms Harrington: Would it have been possible for us to have had these delivered to our desks in the House yesterday?

The Acting Chair: I can only ask the clerk.

Clerk of the Committee: I should apologize to the committee for that. Part of the problem was that I had them ready to deliver to the House yesterday, but there was some confusion from every caucus about who in fact would be attending this committee this morning, so I did not really know whom to deliver them to.

Ms Harrington: I understand. If this situation arises again, it would be very helpful to get them just the day before.

Mr Sorbara: Could we have a pause in the action, Madam Chair?

The Acting Chair: The time is up. We have about 30 seconds.

Mr Sorbara: Madam Chair, could I just table the report on behalf of my colleagues the Liberal members in those last 30 seconds? I will not go into the details of the report. Suffice it to say that the recommendations are --

The Acting Chair: I think the time is up.

Mr Sorbara: I will table it in the last second then. I table the minority report of the Liberal members for the committee.

Mr Fallis: Madam Chair, it is an unusual request to ask for the floor for five minutes. I do not think the system of justice would come crashing down if I asked for it and you were to grant it. The time is up anyway.

The Acting Chair: Sir, I could ask for unanimous consent. Identify yourself first, though, before I do that.

Mr Fallis: My name is Peter Fallis. I appeared before the committee on July 30.

The Acting Chair: All right. May I have unanimous consent to hear Mr Fallis for five minutes?

Agreed to.


Mr Fallis: I am here in very troubled circumstances. I have listened to the debate this morning. I do not have political partisanship; I am not a member of any party. I am here today as the ghost of Arthur. The government hung us on Friday and I am here to hear why we should hang or not hang on Thursday of the following week. It is a sad comment on the system of justice of this province when the very government that is holding hearings into the process allows the executioner to execute the victim before the hearing as to whether he or she should be hung is held. That is what has happened.

Second, this government has indicated that there is absolutely no association of the reason for closure with automation, with Teranet and Polaris. That statement was made in the House in answer to the question by Mr Arnott and it was made last week by the honourable minister to Mr Tilson. The minister indicated to the House that there is absolutely no association with the automation process, that it was not a reason for closure.

The assistant deputy minister told this committee on July 29 -- it is in the Hansard -- that there is no association whatsoever. I was present and listened to the presentation of a crown lawyer, an officer of the Attorney General, who made a presentation to the court in front of Mr Justice O'Driscoll and indicated to the court that it was a reason for closure. That has not been stated here today, but I think it has to be stated on the record that the statement was made. It is an outrageous position when you have two different people saying two different things to two different bodies. If the court has relied on it, then it has been misinformed; if the House has relied on it -- one or the other has to be wrong, because they cannot say diametrically opposed things and both be right.

The other thing is that I asked the Chair via letter -- and the clerk of the committee has it; it was faxed here on August 2 -- to investigate the disappearance of 100 years of instruments from the Durham registry office. The Chair unfortunately, and I am saying this on behalf of the coalition which I represented, never responded in writing of any sort to myself or my committee as a complainant as to where those instruments went. They have disappeared. It is against the law to remove instruments. There has been no response whatsoever by the Chair of this committee to that request. In addition, that removal was effected by the --

The Acting Chair: Mr Fallis, I think we will have the clerk investigate and discuss it. As you know, I am Acting Chair.

Mr Fallis: I realize that.

The Acting Chair: I would like that to be clarified, so I will instruct the clerk to clarify with the Chair and trace your letter.

Mr Fallis: The letter was forwarded by the clerk with a copy of the submissions that Mr McNaught did, so I know they have it. It is there and I have 25 copies if you want it. They are right here.

The Acting Chair: I will ask the clerk to investigate.

Mr Fallis: The other thing is, I would advise the committee that my information is that the removal was authorized by Mr Arnie Warner, who is the regional manager for a series of registry offices. He asked that the instruments be removed on that particular day and engaged a member of the Guelph registry and a member of the Durham registry to effect the removal to Owen Sound.

That same person removed from the Arthur registry office an antique desk that belonged to the county and later a complaint of theft was made to the Ontario Provincial Police. The OPP challenged him and he caused the desk to be returned last Thursday to the office. This is the same individual who has caused these documents to be removed. I want to be on the record as stating that. This is the ministry. Mr Murdoch referred to it as "the inmates are running the asylum," and that is the perception we have of the problem. It is a very serious problem.

I realize we are beyond the 12-hour period. I do not know where you go from here. You do not have enough members to form a judgement. All I know is, I am here as the ghost of Arthur to say you killed us on Monday. I am here to say, damn it, you have a last opportunity to do something about it. There are other registry offices.

I hear today that they have closed Perth without an ounce of consultation with the lawyers in Perth. That is a great recommendation for this government to make -- from Ms Harrington, whom I had very good feelings about in the hearing before because she was very compassionate in her outside conversations with me. For this government to be closing yet another registry office without any consultation, closing by press release today, this morning, outside this committee, another registry office -- it is not that they are reopening one, they are closing another. That is exactly what is happening.

I think this is a sad comment. It is a sad day for democracy in this province. It is a sad day for the Legislature when the government treats this committee with such contempt. It is a sad day when the officials of the government take things out of the registry offices, take a desk, take all the instruments, without accounting to anybody. This committee has been asked to investigate that and has done nothing. What do we do?

The Acting Chair: Mr Fallis, your time is up. I will not be able to have any more input. The committee is adjourned until the call of the Chair. Thank you all very much.

The committee adjourned at 1133.